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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

How to Become a Successful Writer--Part 4: Katie Robles

When I first read Author Katie Robles guest blogpost, I have to admit I did a double take on the post's title. If Katie's book is as vivacious and witty as her following blogpost, and I'm sure it is, I'm eager to read it. Read more about her path to publication below.

A Sexy Soupy Path to Publication
by Katie Robles

If you had told me ten years ago that I would publish nonfiction, I would have laughed in your face. If you had told me that it would be a diet book, I would have rolled on the floor in hysterics. You see, I rarely read nonfiction (I find it mostly boring) and have never been a diet girl (because diets rarely involve butter or brownies). Ten years ago I wrote my first novel, a fantasy. Over the next few years I wrote three more novels, all romances of varying subgenres. I attended a writers conference and acquired an agent—or, rather, he acquired me. At the conference that year there was a big emphasis on blogging. If you want to be a writer, you must blog. Blogging is the future! Platform is key to success! I came home and started a blog the next day.
I had no idea what an author’s blog should look like, especially a yet-to-be-published author, but the year before I had lost over twenty pounds and my cup ranneth over with healthy living tips, encouragement, and ways to make weight loss fun. (That’s right, I said fun! Read the blog.) I started a blog called Sex, Soup, and Two Fisted Eating. I figured I could learn this blogging thing and later use those skills to start an author blog. I posted once a week and learned as I went. Some weeks I was brimming with ideas and other weeks I slumped in front of the computer hoping inspiration could be found at the bottom of my coffee mug.
Two years passed. My agent and I had nibbles, but no bites on the novels. I gathered two years worth of Sex Soup posts, edited them into a book by the same title, wrote a proposal to go with it, and shopped it around at a writers conference. I got lots of positive feedback, but no interest from editors. One month later my agent emailed with good news: I had been offered a contract from a small publishing house. The book Sex, Soup, and Two Fisted Eating: Hilarious Weight Loss for Wives is coming out this summer. This is not where I thought I’d be when I started writing ten years ago, but I love where I am.

What works for me:

Beta readers you can trust – Before I submit any articles, short stories, novels, etc. I often have my parents read them and give feedback. Parents as beta readers doesn’t work for everyone, but mine are avid readers and aren’t afraid to critique my work honestly, so it works for us.

Writers conferences – I’ve only been to the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference, but I’ve been four times. Conferences give you a look at how the industry works, gives you leads for writing opportunities you might not have considered before (devotionals, articles, etc.-some of which pay, imagine that!), gets you face to face with agents and editors, and connects you to a community of fellow writers.

Blogging – Let me clarify here. Blogging ultimately led to publication for me, but when I signed the contract, I had less than 500 followers, so it wasn’t my platform that attracted the publisher. The value I see in blogging is the discipline of writing a succinct, catchy, interesting post every week. In short, it improves your writing skills. Is an online presence beneficial to writers? Yes. Am I convinced that you must have thousands of followers to succeed as a writer? No. That might be wishful thinking since I’m releasing a book and I don’t have thousands of followers, but it is what it is.

Letting my work breathe – once I have a rough draft revised once or twice, I try to step away from it for a couple weeks or months and then come at it with fresh eyes to do the final revising.

Love what you do – writing is work and success is not guaranteed. It won’t always feel fun, but if you write what you love (and/or learn to love writing what sells and to write it in your own unique voice), then there is joy in the work.

Katie Robles spends her days raising four sons, teaching part time at the YMCA, writing, gardening, and sneaking vegetables into baked goods and entrees. Her blog Sex, Soup, and Two Fisted Eating: Hilarious Weight Loss for Wives can be found at

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

How to Become a Successful Writer--Part 3: Beth Ziarnek

I'm excited to welcome a fellow author from my literary agency, Beth Ann Ziarnik, for part three in my How to Become a Successful Writer series. She has quite the inspiring success story. Read more below and check out her novel here:

Making a Dream Come True
By Beth Ann Ziarnik

When on January 2 this year, Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas released my first novel, Her Deadly Inheritance, I was thrilled. At last I reached my elusive dream of becoming an author of romantic suspense—my favorite genre.

What followed astounded me.

Readers raved about it, saying they couldn’t put it down. I would say, “Really?” As it remained on the Amazon bestseller lists for months (and at this writing still is), again, I’d say, “Really?”
If these things entitle me to be named a “successful author,” I confess I did not achieve this alone. Hundreds of friends and professionals helped me during the many years I worked toward learning the fiction writing craft. When Her Deadly Inheritance debuted, hundreds more joyfully helped to promote it. I will be forever grateful.
If you are an aspiring writer or book author, here is my best advice on how to realize your dream of publication. They made a difference in my life. You may find them helpful, too.
BELIEVE in yourself and the writing gift God has given to you. Work hard toward making your manuscript the best it can be. Read and study those books and magazines on writing. Take courses online, at your local college, through the mail. Read the kinds of books and articles you would like to write. Most of all--write, write, and write some more! Reach for excellence.
NETWORK by joining a local writers’ or critique group. If you can’t find one, start one. You’d be surprised how many writers live and dream near you. I helped organize Word & Pen Christian Writers which celebrated its 30th anniversary this year and still attend its meetings. Participate in online writers groups like American Christian Fiction Writers. Encourage other writers and let them encourage you. You will grow much faster toward publication.
Go to writers’ conferences and seminars. I try to attend at least one each year—such a worthwhile investment of time and money. This year it was Write-to-Publish where I was named “Writer of the Year” and the Green Lake Christian Writers Conference.
You will have fun, make many wonderful writer friends, and become a familiar face to agents, editors, and publishers. Through attending conferences, I connected with my agent Jim Hart, my book’s publisher Eddie Jones, and my editors Rowena Kuo and Christine Richards.
PERSEVERE. No matter how long it takes to achieve your dream, don’t quit! I had to cling to this piece of advice, especially towards the end when sorely tempted to stop trying. If I had quit, I would’ve missed seeing my dream come true by mere months. The closer you get to publication, the harder it is to hang in there. But don’t quit. Keep honing your craft and marketing your manuscripts, and one day you will hold your published work in your hands.
PRAY and ask others to pray as you work at your writing and marketing. Each week I send reports to my prayer team, telling them what I’ve accomplished and what I intend to work on so that they can support me in prayer. In my humble opinion, every writer needs a caring prayer team. Writing can be a lonely pursuit.

BIO: A long-time fan of romantic suspense, Beth Ann Ziarnik offers her first novel with all the twists and turns, cliffhangers and romantic tension she and readers have come to love. She is a co-founder of Word & Pen Christian Writers in Northeast Wisconsin and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. In addition to her 450 published pieces (several included in anthologies), she is the author of Love With Shoes On, her ten-year devotional column about love in action and based on 1 Corinthians 13.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

How to Become a Successful Writer: part 2--Michelle Lazurek

Excited to welcome Michelle Lazurek to my blog for part two of my series on how to become a successful author. Read her five pieces of advice below and check out her new release here:

Five Pieces of Advice for Aspiring Writers

A lot of people ask me, “I am an aspiring author and want to write a book. What advice would you give me about how to go about it?”  Although I’m still learning about this process, I can say I have learned a lot in the seven years I have been a writer. Here are five of my best tips to becoming an author:

1)     Writing is a calling, not a hobby- I say this because a hobby is what you do in your spare time. Often people think they can scribble to some quick words, click the publish button and they will magically become an author. In some ways, that is true. But I have also learned that the thing that separates authors and writers is calling. Writers jot down words on a page, but don’t always want to do the hard work of editing, marketing and publishing their books. An author is the one who toughs it out, no matter how much time, money and resources they need. The calling is what gets an author out of bed and at the computer. Writers stare at a blank page after a year; authors hold their shiny books in their hands.
2)     Platform is king- No matter what anyone tells you, it is simply not enough to have a great idea or even be a good writer. Both of these help, but it’s not what puts your proposal into the hands of a publishing board. The clincher is and always will be if you can sell the books you write. The bigger your outlets for getting out your message, the better.  However, after seven years, this still remains an enigma to me. There is no magic formula to becoming an author large enough to become published. But hard work and hustle do help. Speaking engagements, guest posting on largely known sites and driving traffic to your blog all expand your platform, helping you to build it plank by plank.
3)     Read. Write. Repeat- If you don’t read, you’ll never hone your craft. Who are some of the most memorable writers you know? What makes them good writers? The only way you’ll know that is if you read their work. Reading about the mechanics and process of writing also help you develop your skills.
4)     Utilize those around you- in the words of the Beatles, we get by with a little help from our friends. Critique groups, editors and mentors all help you develop your skills effectively. Find people in your area (either in person or online) and meet regularly to discuss writing. Give them your word and solicit feedback. Isolation never helped anyone; constructive criticism from a trusted group of friends does.
5)     The book is the marathon; the blog is the sprint- One of the first pieces of advice I give to anyone is to start a blog. Wordpress and blogger both have free hosting sites to help you get started. Pick a topic and write everything you can on it. I mean everything. Write until you know nothing else about it. Establish yourself as an expert. Then branch out into other areas of writing interest. You’ll spread yourself too thin if you write about a bunch of random topics. Pick a topic you know well and tell the world about it. When you finish, post your work to social media. Get the word out about who you are. Slowly, you’ll build an audience that no matter how big your platform, will always gather to hear your message.

Michelle Lazurek is an author, speaker, pastor’s wife and mother and loves to help people reach their potential. She has been published over one hundred times for places such as Christianity today’s Gifted For Leadership,, and Charisma Magazine. She teaches at writers’ conferences and mentors new writers. Please visit my website