Thursday, May 25, 2017

How To Take Your Career From Whine to Shine

Feeling frustrated that your career isn’t where you want it to be? Do you wonder why with every passing year you don’t seem to be any closer to success? How can you turn that frustration into a win?

I encounter other writers who share your frustration. Here are 6 things I believe will help you take your career from “whine” to “shine!”

1.    Define your goal.

Be as specific as possible. What is it you want? If you don’t define your goal, if you don’t know exactly what you want, how can you expect to get it?



When I was starting out as a writer, my goal was to have a career as a novelist. I wanted to write books for a living. I didn’t want to write as a hobby, I wanted a career. I discovered the basic steps: write great novels, sign with a good agent, get published, etc. But as I worked through the steps, I never, ever forgot the original and ultimate goal, which was a career as an author.

2.    Be single-minded, a.k.a Count the cost.

This is where I see so many writers—good, talented writers—steer themselves wrong and delay the attainment of their goal. Being successful requires focus. Laser focus. The focus of a heat-seeking missile. It requires asking oneself hard questions. It requires tuning out voices giving you bad advice. 


One of the pieces of advice that is like nails on a chalkboard to me is: “You gotta get your name out there.”


What does that even mean? I recently had a conversation with a fellow published author. When I asked her why she was writing short stories and novellas and self-publishing them, she said, “To get my name out there.” I asked her what was the goal of getting her name out there, and she said, “To drive readers to buy my book.” 


“Is that working?” I asked. The look on her face answered my question. “No.” 


If you want readers to discover your books, you need to write more books. If you want to have a career writing novels, you need to write more novels. If you’re agreeing to write novellas for novella collections with other authors, and writing those novellas is keeping you from writing more novels, you need to ask yourself the hard question: “Why am I doing this?” “Is this helping me attain my goal?”


I had a similar conversation with another writer friend who announced she was starting a blog and she was going to set herself a strict schedule of blogging three times a week, because that’s what gets followers for one’s blog. This writer friend had been trying to get the same book published for years and had not written any other books. I asked her why she was writing a blog instead of starting on her next book. She said it was to get her name out there.



Sigh. If you want to get your name out there, write more books, and work at getting them published. Ask yourself, “How is having a blog going to help me accomplish my goal?” If you can’t definitively answer that question with anything other than, “It won’t,” then skip the strict blog-writing schedule. Skip anything that keeps you from writing the next book and getting it published. Let me repeat that. Skip anything that keeps you from your goal.


My point is that you have to count the cost of anything you decide to do, because when you divide your time doing things not directly focused on your goal, then it’s just going to take you that much longer to reach your goal. Know your goal, and know your limitations. 



3.    If what you’re doing is not working, try something else.

If you’ve been working on your craft, practicing said craft by writing several books, and trying to get published, but no traditional publishers are interested in the kind of books you write, it might be time to go indie and publish your own books. Thankfully, we live in an amazing day and time when such a step is a viable option. Many writers have done quite well for themselves by self-publishing. And I love that we have that opportunity and that today’s technology makes it possible to have great success as an independent.


Work hard but work smart.


4.    If success is eluding you and you can’t figure out why, read a book.

But not just any book. I just finished 9 Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Love and Life. It’s by Dr. Henry Cloud of Boundaries fame. With points like “Make decisions based on how they’ll affect the future,” and “Don’t make decisions based on your fear of other people’s reactions,” it’s definitely worth reading, and it might help you identify ways you are sabotaging your own success.

5.    Ask yourself the hard questions.

 
 
Am I making excuses?   Am I burying my talents by not pursuing my dream?   Am I doing “busy-ness” instead of fulfilling my purpose in life?   Am I spending too much time with marketing and promotion? Is what I’m doing helping me or hindering me from reaching my goal?   Am I praying about each commitment before committing?

 6.    Pray about everything.

I mean it. Ask God to make clear to you what your goal should be and what you should be doing with your limited time and energy and finances. Pray for success. Pray before you accept that offer to become the church librarian. Pray before you agree to write a novella to contribute to your friends’ anthology. Pray before you sit down to a marathon viewing of an entire season of “Blue Bloods” instead of working on your WIP. And pray before you agree to write a blog post for that blog that has only three followers. (Sorry, but let’s be real.)


Be humble. If contest judges and critique partners (or reviewers) have given you constructive criticism, really look at what they’re saying and try to make the changes that will improve your writing. And don’t be jealous of the writers who are getting the things you always wanted. Easier said than done, I know! But take a hard look at whether you have jealousy in your heart, and surrender it to God. 


And while you’re at it, surrender your writing to God. I can remember the day I held out my hands and, with tears streaming down my face, surrendered my writing to God, telling him I was okay with whatever he decided to do with it. It was not long after that that things started happening and I got my first contract.

Realize that success may not be exactly what you expected it to be. I thought being a successful author would make everyone love me. Boy, was I wrong! I lost more friends the more successful I became, and the rejection I felt from those friends, alongside some one- and two-star reviews, was nearly crippling. I also know published authors whose expectations of income have been dashed. When you do attain your goals, you may still end up disappointed. 


So don’t set your heart on success. Set your heart on the One who is able to give you what you need.


And really listen for God to speak to you. David inquired of the Lord before making decisions. Why should we not do the same? Be diligent in prayer. God is faithful. If anyone asks for wisdom, he should believe and not doubt that God will give it to him. If we seek him with all our hearts, we will find him. Knock and the door will be opened to you. Ask and you shall receive. 


My favorite parable starts like this: “One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up.” Luke 18:1 


Keep on praying! Never give up!


So now it’s your turn. If you have reached your goal, what do you think has been the secret to your success? If you feel less than successful, what is something you need to change in order to attain your goal? 


Leave a comment today for an opportunity to win a copy of The Noble Servant. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition. Melanie is generously giving away THREE copies of her release. Thank you, Melanie!

 
The Noble Servant

 She lost everything to the scheme of an evil servant.

But she might just gain what she’s always wanted . . . if she makes it in time.


The impossible was happening. She, Magdalen of Mallin, was to marry the Duke of Wolfberg. Magdalen had dreamed about receiving a proposal ever since she met the duke two years ago. Such a marriage was the only way she could save her people from starvation. But why would a handsome, wealthy duke want to marry her, a poor baron’s daughter? It seemed too good to be true.


On the journey to Wolfberg Castle, Magdalen’s servant forces her to trade places and become her servant, threatening not only Magdalen’s life, but the lives of those she holds dear. Stripped of her identity and title in Wolfberg, where no one knows her, Magdalen is sentenced to tend geese while she watches her former handmaiden gain all Magdalen had ever dreamed of.


When a handsome shepherd befriends her, Magdalen begins to suspect he carries secrets of his own. Together, Magdalen and the shepherd uncover a sinister plot against Wolfberg and the duke. But with no resources, will they be able to find the answers, the hiding places, and the forces they need in time to save both Mallin and Wolfberg?

 

 Melanie Dickerson is the New York Times bestselling author for whose success she gives all the credit to God. Her two favorite time periods are Medieval, which she has combined with her love of fairy tales, and Regency England, which stems from her love of Jane Austen. She earned her bachelor's degree in special education from The University of Alabama and has taught children with special needs in Georgia and Tennessee, and English to adults in Germany and Ukraine. Now she spends her time writing novels like a highly motivated woman on a mission, and being with her husband, two daughters, and two guinea pigs near Huntsville, Alabama. Visit her on Facebook and at http://www.MelanieDickerson.com.

123 comments :

  1. Powerfully motivating post Melanie!! And I'm not even a writer :-)

    I really like #3:If what you’re doing is not working, try something else. I think it can apply to anything. I've had to find a different way to do something because the old way wasn't cutting it anymore. And I don't like change...period! God's working on me in that area and I think I'm a little more adaptable. :-)

    #6 Pray about everything & while you're at it surrender your writing to God.
    Ok, as a non-writer I can insert whatever word after "surrender" that would apply to my situation :-) I've learned to pray about everything and wait for that (sometimes) still small voice to lead me. Other times I don't get a clear answer so I have to put my faith in action by doing what I feel is right and rely on Him to direct me in the right path. Also for me anyway, if I don't have peace about a decision or what-not, then I've learned not to proceed. Every time I've gone against that, it's turned to disaster!
    Surrender is harder for me, but I think that's for everyone. It's hard to give up our own will to His. I just need to remember that He has my best interest in mind and He knows what I need. I love this line "Set your heart on the One who is able to give you what you need." What a great reminder! Something to print out and save somewhere where I can see it :-)

    I would love to have my name in the draw for your newest book "The Noble Servant"! I have just about every one of your fairy tale re-tellings on either my shelf or my Kindle. Love them :-) Thanks so much!

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    1. Aw, thanks, Trixi! Yes, it definitely does apply to more things than writing!
      I've gotten to the point that I'm too terrified to trust my own judgment! I want God to send me a very clear message! But that doesn't always happen. Sometimes I just have to step out in faith, just as you described.
      I'm glad you are setting your heart on God! And working on surrendering, which is definitely a hard thing for me too. I get my heart and mind set on something and I think I have to have it. But that's an immature attitude that God has been working on in me. I can be a painfully slow learner.
      Thanks for your kind and insightful words, Trixi! God's Spirit is in us, enabling us to do the good works he has planned for us since before we were born. :-)

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  2. Melanie, what a powerful post! Thank you for joining us again and sharing your wisdom.

    I love this quote that really spoke to me: "So don’t set your heart on success. Set your heart on the One who is able to give you what you need."

    Amen to that! I'm still learning that God's perfect timing isn't always what I want, but it's what I need. God is showing mercy even when I don't realize it at the time.

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    1. God is good! Thank you, Missy! Yes, he knows what's up ahead for us, and he protects us from all kinds of things, I'm sure. Sometimes the most merciful thing for him to do is to not give us what we ask for when we think he should! Even Jesus had to say, "Not my will, but yours be done."

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  3. I'm so proud of you, Mel. And you are so right!!!

    Love you!

    (And I already have the book ;).)

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    1. Proud of you right back, Carol! You are the woman!!!
      Love you!

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  4. "Being successful requires focus. Laser focus. The focus of a heat-seeking missile. It requires asking oneself hard questions. It requires tuning out voices giving you bad advice."

    Oh my goodness! I love this so much! Every now and then I get an attack of the guilties for not doing guest blog posts or blog tours or crowdsourcing or thunderclap or bookfunnel or what have you. I have SO LITTLE TIME. I have to focus, shut out the noise, prioritize, and ignore the newest fad in marketing or social media. I have to be myself, just as I am, and not worry about having a persona or a "profile" or a tribe or street team, etc. Just write and hope to be a better writer every day!

    I'm really, really happy with where I am right now and my projects, so it's hard for me to pick a future goal, but hmm.... I'd like to get to where I don't have to do author talks for libraries or other book clubs. I dread them. Absolutely dread them. But they do seem to sell books, so I put on that game face and go chat with strangers! Lol. How I'll get to that point exactly, I don't know. Probably just keep writing more books. I keep praying God will tell me, "You know, just hang out in your writing cave or at the baseball field or with friends. No need to put on the extroverted author hat." But no such luck so far...

    I just finished Łowczyni z Ciernistego Lasu and loved it! It will be winging its way across the Atlantic to my friend Agnieszka tomorrow. :) Thanks again for the book!

    Oh, here's Poland's version of Goodreads in case you want to check it out your books there. Kind of fun!
    http://lubimyczytac.pl/ksiazka/3976704/lowczyni-z-ciernistego-lasu

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    1. Hey there, Mary Jane Hathaway! Wink-wink.
      Well, you definitely have my permission to skip whatever is not getting you closer to your goal, especially if you're just tempted to do it out of guilt! Just keep writing those books. Ignore the requests for this and that. And honestly, I've said this before, but all that marketing stuff they tell you you should do? I don't think it helps get you sales. Most of it is a waste of time. And the little bit I do end up doing, I always feel like it was a waste of my time! I still have a hard time saying no, which is crazy.
      I actually enjoy speaking, especially to writers. I never imagined I would ever say that, either! But the more I do public speaking, the more I enjoy it. Still, I know I have to protect my time, so I turn down most requests. In fact, I'm doing one speaking thingy--in Seattle on June 5th, actually--this whole year, and I have one scheduled for next year, and that might be all I do. I just can't afford to lose days of writing time. And if you don't enjoy it, you have my permission to JUST SAY NO!
      And wow! Thanks for the link to the Polish Goodreads! :-) I was BEYOND EXCITED that my book got translated into Polish! It's the first foreign language edition of any of my books! So I am thrilled. :-)

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  5. Thank you for the great post Melanie. I believe it is sound advice for any area of one's life.

    I love the cover of your new book and would love to win a copy. Thank you for the chance.

    Blessings,
    Cindy W.

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    1. Thanks, Cindy! Good luck in the drawing!

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  6. Great post, Melanie! I agree with Missy...that quote nails it. I've got no secrets, just hard work and putting God and my family first. Thank you for this motivating post. Congratulations on your success!

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    1. Thanks, Jill! Yeah, that about covers it! Ha! God is good.

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  7. Great motivational kick in the keister, Melanie! So many great nuggets to think about. Thanks!

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    1. Thanks, Jackie! :-) I actually worried about this post being too "in your face" and bossy, (kind of like a Ruthy post! Haha!) because I'm normally an encourager, but hopefully people will take what will help and in the spirit it was meant. :-)

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  8. Melanie, I couldn't agree more. The work hard... but work smart. And write more books. Keep writing books. Yes. Write more books!

    That is the big scary secret.

    Keep writing.

    Write, write, write. And love what you do, because if you don't, it's likely to show.

    GREAT POST, and you were right, it worked so well with mine yesterday.

    Go get 'em, smart girl!!!

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    1. Haha! Great minds think alike, Ruthy! :-)

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    2. Ruthy, I needed to hear your words today, too! Thanks!

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    1. Thanks, Ruthy! Because I don't drink coffee and I don't know how to make it! Ha! But I will offer my Rose hip black tea, just like I used to drink in Ukraine. It is heavenly. Try a cup.

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  10. Malanie, this is a good post in a week of good posts. Honestly, everything on the blog this week dovetailed, at least to a point where I needed it.
    I admit to having been seduced by the "get your name out there" Lothario (how's THAT for an image?) and wasted a lot of time writing for a couple of blogs that don't matter in the big picture. (For one thing, they had absolutely nothing to do with Christian fiction.) I think you're right, just as Ruthy was right yesterday. Focus is so important, both because publishing houses are closing/consolidating/dropping fiction, and because none of us are ever going to be LESS busy. I feel an urgency because I'm in my late 60s, but I have to remind myself that it's God's timing, not mine.
    I am at a low ebb this week, tired a lot and being assaulted with things OUTSIDE the writing. It will be okay, it just isn't okay now.
    Thank you, Melanie.
    Probably won't be back again today, I have two newspaper assignments, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and the filling in THAT sandwich is lunch with my crit partner, so there's that.
    Talk to you later,
    KB

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    1. KB, I so understand! I understand the urgency, I understand having to remind yourself that it's God's timing, not mine, and I definitely understand being "tired a lot and being assaulted with things OUTSIDE the writing." I feel that! So much of the time. The last two months have been really frustrating for me. But I know have to force myself to focus. So it was good for me to remind myself! :-)

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  11. hi Melanie
    I love this post. Encouraging with a soft kick in the keister. I know exactly why I am where I am - I also am aware I don't have a solid goal (which is also why I'm where I am). I love this list. I especially love the pray about everything and hanging success on what the Lord wants for me - not what the world defines.
    Thanks.
    I love how God sets up Seekerville posts to build on each other and dovetail so well. So many times a week's worth of posts bring me exactly what I need. Yay God! Yay Seekerville!

    p.s. would love my name in the draw for your latest. your covers are ALWAYS gorgeous, btw. Not the only reason I LOVE your books (awesome reads) but, wonderful to look at too.

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    1. Aw, thanks, Deb! You sound like you're definitely on the right track! God has a way of bringing us back to where he wants us, but the journey teaches us so much, even when we veer off for a while. :-) So glad to be a conduit!
      Keep working at whatever God is showing you to do! I wish you the best.

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  12. Great inspirational, goal-motivating post! "If you’ve been working on your craft, practicing said craft by writing several books, and trying to get published, but no traditional publishers are interested in the kind of books you write, it might be time to go indie and publish your own books." How do you know the difference between your book is ready to be self-published, and it's not ready and that's why traditional publishers won't publish it?

    My husband retired April 1. I'm still trying to figure out what's going on. It went from him going to bed early in the evening, since he got up at 1am, to he's up all the time I'm home. Writing, house work, everything I'd do when he was gone or in bed, seems so much harder to do. Now it's almost June and there is no routine. Focus. I need to focus. Thanks for this post!

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    1. Wow, that is an EXCELLENT question, Sally, and exactly what you should be asking yourself, your critique partners, and praying about! Have you been entering contests and getting feedback from the judges? Have you been poring over books on writing and revising and revising your strongest book? Personally, I entered tons of contests and revised my first published book, The Healer's Apprentice, over and over for three years before a publisher picked it up, but it still got a lot of editing, several rounds of editing, from my publisher. (And during that time I also wrote two more books.) But I have a friend, Carol Moncado, who wrote several books and entered lots of contests and finally started self-publishing, and she's doing quite well. So, it's a hard question to answer, but it is definitely the question you should be asking! So, great job!!!

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  13. Good morning, Melanie!

    I have to admit that I've tried setting a rigorous blog schedule in the past to "build my platform". But what I really need is more submissions. Focus, focus, focus! I loved your message today. Especially to pray about everything.

    I love the Medieval era! I've even considered writing it, but I must focus on my Western romance and be content to read your genre instead. ;-). Please throw my name in the hat for a copy of your book.

    Thanks again for your encouragement.

    ~ Renee

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    1. Hi, Renee! I'm glad the post was helpful! It's all stuff we already know, but I know I need the reminder every once in a while!
      Medieval seems to be pretty hot right now, but I understand if you have found your niche in Westerns. I also write Regencies, which are doing just as well as my Medievals, so it is possible to branch out, especially once you're established, just as Ruthy talked about yesterday! I loved her post! Anyway, thanks for your kind words. God bless you on your journey, Renee!

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  14. MELANIE, thank you for the spot on advice!

    I brought chocolate chip scones!

    Please enter me in the drawing for a copy of The Noble Servant.

    Blessings!

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    1. Thaks, Caryl! Oo, chocolate and scones! Two of my very favorite things! :-)

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  15. Hey, Seekers!!! So sorry I'm late to the party this morning. Um, I kind of forgot. LOL And in a few minutes I'll have to take my daughter to school, but I'll be back, I promise!

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  16. Well, Melanie, good morning and shine, not whine to you!

    Getting out my laser and my to-do list for today!

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    1. Haha, Tina! My post almost sounds like Ruthy today, no? LOL!
      We'll have to declare a no-whine zone.

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  17. Good morning Melanie. Great advice. I think I will put a sign over my computer reminding me to shine, not whine.

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    1. LOL! Thanks, Cindy! Well, I'll be the first to tell you, I let myself whine, probably more than I should, but as Ruthy might say, after a short time of being upset, we have to pull up our big girl pants and get to work! :-)

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  18. Good morning Melanie and welcome back to Seekerville. So good to see your smiling face. Thanks for such a great post. We can always use a bit of encouragement. Have a fun day and happy writing

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    1. Thanks, Sandra! I'm all about encouragement! :-)
      Hope your day is awesome!

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  19. I LOVE, LOVE common sense posts, and this is it! I feel like I'm in a Dave Ramsey class for finances or hearing Dr. Phil ask, "how'd that work for you?"

    Instead of blinding moving and doing writerly things, know what you're after and how you're going to get there.

    “Make decisions based on how they’ll affect the future,” and “Don’t make decisions based on your fear of other people’s reactions,”

    I'm afraid I do this sometimes.

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    1. Connie, you know my motto... LET IT GO!!!!! Sing it with me!!!!! :-)

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    2. Thanks, Connie! I definitely couldn't have written this post a few years ago, or even last year, probably. But God is growing me up in my thinking. I still read books that give me solid advice and wise counsel. And I still make lots of mistakes. In fact, this post was for me as much as anyone else. I have to remind myself of these things often! I'm too easily guilted into doing things that don't contribute to my goals and aren't needed.

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  20. Melanie, SO good and such truth! Preach, gal!

    As I've grown into my writer big-girl pants, I've realized I'm not Wonder Woman and I really don't have the desire to be (though...I did give it my best shot about a decade ago.)

    I love social media and I do blog, but I'm not a slave to those things. Visibility is important, but they shouldn't overshadow our craft or our mission-- to WRITE. For those who can do it ALL, have it ALL, be it ALL -- kudos to them. I hung up my Wonder Woman tights a long time ago. Lol (But I still have the spin down.) :-)

    LOVE your parable reference of Luke 18:1. Oh, my gosh. How different would our day be if we began thinking about prayer the way Jesus referenced? I mean, we pray...but do we really believe it can change things or do we just go through the motions? I'm a firm believer in the power of prayer. I've seen, firsthand, how it's changed events and outcomes. And I LOVE your point about surrendering our writing to God. YES!

    Congratulations on The Noble Servant. Sounds wonderful!

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    1. Thanks, Cynthia! Prayer is a challenging thing for me. I wish I always took the time to pray before saying yes and committing to something someone has asked me to do. I am challenged to do better in this area, since I nearly always regret saying yes if I haven't prayed about it!
      I'm definitely not Wonder woman either! I have health challenges that force me to slow down and think twice, especially about things that I have to leave the house for. The truth is, I'm a low-energy person who wishes she could do more! But that just forces me to focus more on what I know God wants me to do. His grace is sufficient.

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  21. Hi Melanie, this is outstanding advice! I’m jotting these little nuggets of wisdom down for my post-it note reminder board.
    You said:
    “So don’t set your heart on success. Set your heart on the One who is able to give you what you need.”
    It’s so easy to get caught up in the Do and not the WHO. I’ve discovered when I write WITH God, I may accomplish 5,000 good words versus a day of struggling and frustrating 10,000 terribly, awful what-on-earth-are-you-thinking, without Him words.
    AND
    “Pray about everything.”
    AMEN and AMEN! My direction finder has major nearsightedness. I desperately need wisdom in every aspect of my life, especially those people-pleasing moments when I commit to things that suck the life out of me.
    AND
    “I lost more friends the more successful I became, and the rejection I felt from those friends, alongside some one- and two-star reviews, was nearly crippling.”
    This part made me so sad! I hope that the ones you lost were replaced by much better friendships along the way. And I know my college aged daughter, who reads ALL of your books gives you a hearty five out of five stars every single time. So, on her behalf and mine, we’d love to be tossed into the drawing for The Noble Servant. Blessings to you!

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    1. Sharee, so you can get in 10k awful words a day??@#$@ That's 10 times the amt of awful words I can get!

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    2. Wow, thank you, Sharee! Please tell your daughter thank you! :-)
      Sharee, it's definitely easy to get caught up in the Do and not the Who! I love the way you put that! So very true. But 10,000 words in one day? I've never accomplished that in my life! LOL! Even 5,000 is extremely rare for me. Keep up that pace and you'll be as prolific as Nora Roberts!
      And I so agree about "those people-pleasing moments when I commit to things that suck the life out of me." I am so with you on that! Been there and done that too many times!
      God bless you! Good luck on winning The Noble Servant! I'd love to sign one for you and your daughter!

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    3. Haha, Connie! I thought the same thing!

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  22. So many genres and so little time. It is hard to focus when you want to play in other genres. HA!

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    1. Tina, I understand that! But Ruthy had some great advice about that yesterday. I believe she was quoting someone else when she said something like, stick with one genre until you're established, then you can branch out. I'm paraphrasing. :-)

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  23. Now, Melanie, there was a time there when you were feeling positively crazed with deadlines. How have you taken yourself into laser focus mode? What have you learned as you go forward?

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    1. Yes, I'm sure I seemed crazed, but no more than I felt! That was when I was writing and going through edits on 3 books a year! It was a little too much. But that's actually when I learned I did need that laser focus. I was forced to say no on a lot of things. I just couldn't get my deadlines met if I did everything people asked me to do--blog posts, interviews, marketing stuff, judging contests, etc. I felt guilty sometimes, but I had to do it.
      I've taken myself out of that crazy pace and cut it down to 2 books a year, so I have been committing to a little bit more, but now I'm having to remind myself, Okay, the important thing is writing the books! Time to scale back after agreeing to a few things I wouldn't have committed to at this time last year.

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    2. Good game plan! The books! Protect the Work!

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    2. Bless your heart, Laurie, about the broken arm! I hope it heals quickly. That's one of my biggest fears! That I'll break a bone in my hand or arm and not be able to type!!! But you did well!
      I realize this advice does run counter to what publishers and agents--and a lot of other people--say to do, especially as far as marketing and social media. Truth is, I do love facebook and I'm on there a lot, and I do a fair amount of marketing, such as multi-author giveaways on blogs. But I also say no to a lot. I've just seen too many other writers dividing their time just trying to keep their name out there, when what they really need to be doing is focusing on writing their next book. Don't let the writing suffer, I guess that's my point.
      My observation about medievals being pretty hot right now is based on the few of us who are writing Medievals. Tamara Leigh, me, Jody Hedlund, Heather Gilbert, Debbie Lynne Costello, and oh dear, a couple others' names are escaping me. What's that sweet girl's name who just got married who writes Medievals??? Ack. I'll think of it.
      But oftentimes publishers are the last to catch on to a trend. And they may never see Medievals as a good niche, but sometimes authors have to self-publish to find their audience. I hate that there are so few options as far as publishers these days, but the flip side of that is that we can publish our own books and sometimes do really well at it. I definitely wish you the best!

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    4. Laurie, I'm praying for your wrist and elbow and sending gentle {{{HUGS}}}

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    5. thank you Cynthia - it's been a weepy, painful day today.

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  25. Melanie, this was such a great post. Just what I needed to read. As I read your post, I was thinking about my schedule. I've cut out almost all the things I was involved in when I began writing. But I still don't have much time. I think I need to evaluate our boys' schedules. They're not involved in a ton of stuff, but the activities they're in take time. I'm going to be praying about 1) how to get them on board with my dream/goal of becoming a published author and 2) what needs to change in how we're doing things as a family.

    Thank you for giving me such good food for thought, Melanie.

    And PLEASE put me in the drawing for your book. It sounds amazing!

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    1. Jeanne, sometimes we do have to look at schedules and figure out what to cut. But I've also figured out how to get words in ways I never would have thought of before, when I was desperate! I have taken my laptop with me to pick up my kid and written 300 or 400 words while sitting in the car rider line. I take my laptop with me when I go to the salon to get my hair colored--you know, there's that time when you're just sitting there while the color sets. I was taking my daughter to her church youth group once a week and having to wait for her for an hour, so I would go to the nearby Panera Bread and write during that time. Sometimes that was the most words I got the whole week! So, I've just started taking my laptop almost everywhere. It works! I also don't watch TV--hardly ever, although I do watch movies in the evening when I'm too tired to write.
      Sometimes it does take some planning and sacrifice on our family's part. The last few summers we really didn't take a vacation at all, mostly because I just could not take the time away! But I've scaled back some, so we are actually going somewhere this summer.
      I wish you the best, Jeanne!

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    2. I love your suggestions. Some of them I already do, but I can do others of your tips. Thanks for sharing! And, I get an entire week in June. To myself. Cannot. Wait. ;)

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  26. Hi Melanie:

    You hit the nail on the head! This is some of the best marketing advice I've ever read directed at authors.

    To sell more books, write great books!

    Don't settle for good enough to get published. Edit and revise again and again -- not to fix mistakes -- but to make the reading enjoyment as rewarding as possible. Write shorter books and write a lot of them. Always be having cover reveals and new book launches. A new book generates its own attention.

    Be sure to have each book sell every other book. Remember the last chapter sells your next book. Make it your best work! Write a 'stand up and cheer' ending that makes the reader want to immediately download another one of your books -- even before she takes a book from her TBR pile.

    Add a lot of value to your fiction besides the interest in your plot. Have locations readers want to visit or revist, occupations readers find interesting, events a reader would love to attend, hobbies that are fascinating, activities that tempt the reader to experience them, historical time periods that make history intriging and make the reader of roamnces feel like she is also learning something of value.

    I call the above 'adding value' to reading experience.

    I read Nevada Barr because each story is set in a National Park which makes visiting that park so much more enjoyable. I read Donna Leon because it lets the reader become a citizen of Venice as well as providing an entertaining Venetian Police Procedural. I read Tony Hillerman because of his insights into the Navajo reservation life. I read Steven Saylor because his stories take place in ancient Rome, he is a Latin teacher, and his history is simply wonderful in its depiction of daily life. Without the 'added-value' these authors provided I would not be reading any of them.

    I know the names of over 1000 authors but that alone won't sell their books. I buy many books from authors I've never heard of but because I like the cover art or theme of the books.

    Once again I want to mention James Patterson, who is said to sell more fiction than anyone else, because his single focus was and is to sell more fiction than anyone else! THAT'S YOUR NUMBER 1 WITH A BULLET!

    Patterson spends two to three months writing the outline. Not just to make the book good enough to publish. No, he wants the book to be a best seller. Each chapter is its own scene and moves the story along quickly. Patterson also rewrites each scene six to eight times. I call this 'packing the scene' with rewards. A scene can accomplish one goal or it can do over a dozen things!

    Patterson said he has just one 'brand': all my books, whatever age level or genre, will deliver an entertaining, page-turning, experience. As far as all the Patterson books I've read so far, he does this very well.

    I think this is how success is done. Do all the things you mentioned in your post: all are excellent marketing points. Also have the goal to create books that are interesting enough to be best sellers. Then as you start to make money, hire almost everything else done and devote your working time to writing more great books.

    QUESTION: I'm trying to recall what fairy tale your new book "The Noble Servant" reminisces. Is "Oedipus Rex" too serious to be it? Please place me in the drawing.

    Vince

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    1. Hi, Vince! It's always fun to see you here!
      The Noble Servant is a Goose Girl retelling. It also has shades of The Prince and the Pauper for the hero's story.
      It's always good to have something readers can't resist. I hope my draw is that I write a satisfying and exciting romance story, and also that the reader can pick out nods to a familiar story or fairy tale. And of course, I have some historical aspects. But everyone reads for different reasons and different payoffs. Definitely Patterson has something people like! The same with the other bestsellers, like Nora Roberts. And certainly neither Nora nor Patterson are spending their time doing things that don't bring a big payoff. As writers, we only get paid for writing--and selling--the next book. We have to be smart like that too in order to make the most of our careers. Nobody's paying me to write blogs for Seekerville, but I enjoy it, a lot of my fellow writers read it, and I want to give back, so here I am. :-) So not everything is about the bottom line, but most things should be.

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  27. Hi Melanie,

    I got caught up in trying to get my name out... We are supposed to promote, promote, promote. But i pulled back on that and started to concentrate on my stories just in time for fog to sit in.

    My laser focus went poof. I sit down and struggle to find words. Actually to think. I stopped carrying my computer cause everytime I had the story running through my head I would open the computer and my unwritten words would disappear like mist. I started carrying drawing supplies to use when my creative side needed an outlet. I still have pencil and paper and write some, but I have been dwelling in brain fog land it seems.
    My doctor assures me it happens in this time of life.

    I see hints of light at times and am praying the fog lifts soon.

    Blessings

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    1. Tina Pinson. Long time no see. Great to have you here. Fog is the worst. Ear plugs help me.

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    2. Hi, Tina! I'm so sorry about the brain fog difficulty! I drink a couple of herbal teas that seem to help me, both from The Republic of Tea. One is Brain Boost and the other is Get Smart.
      Yeah, the advice to promote, promote, promote can really run you ragged! We have to have balance, and realize that writing is the main thing.

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  28. WOW! I've just been throwing around those words "LASER FOCUS" for days now!!! I can see God's Huge Smile as He is waving in my face & saying "Yes it's time!"
    I'm going to pray for the specifics like time, space, laptop, energy, focus, health, motivation, discipline, etc.
    It's TIME to Write again!!! YEA!!! I am so Excited!!!!
    Thank You, Melanie! You made a difference today! (that's so very cool!)

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    1. I hope you get tons of writing in this summer, Jana! Woohoo!!! Thanks!

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  29. MELANIE!!! It is soooooo good to see you here, girlfriend because I miss seeing you!!

    And WOW, WOW, WOW ... what a GREAT blog!! Tons of things you said jumped off the screen at me, but I will TRY (notice I said "try") to keep my comments on them to a minimum. Yeah, good luck with that! ;)

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this: "If you want readers to discover your books, you need to write more books. If you want to have a career writing novels, you need to write more novels."

    In my opinion, this is the #1 thing in becoming a "successful" author because I cannot tell you HOW many authors I have seen put out 4-5 books a year and before long, BOOM! There numbers steadily climb. Of course, with the indies, they couple this with freebies and 99-cent books in the first few years of 4-7 books a year, and that appears to be the magic formula for at least six best-selling indie authors I know.

    LOL ... LOVE this too: "Skip anything that keeps you from your goal."

    I needed to hear this because I tend to be the type of person who likes all my ducks in a row before I write (i.e. devotion/worship/prayer time, exercise, e-mail, Seekerville, critiques, etc.), which of course, never happens because ducks seldom swim in a row except if they're brand new, so your statement helps define one of my biggest problems. Now. To address and resolve it is the key!!

    You also said: "Realize that success may not be exactly what you expected it to be."

    Oh, WOW, did I learn this one the hard way. I don't know if my goals were too lofty or not, but my idea of success did not match up with God's, which is why I took a sabbatical two years ago. Hopefully now they are more aligned, especially since I am more peaceful and happier with my writing life.

    Finally, you said: "So don’t set your heart on success. Set your heart on the One who is able to give you what you need."

    That is EXACTLY what I set out to do in my sabbatical two years ago, and I have to say that it saved my life. He is my primary focus now, although I will admit as a highly competitive person, I do still occasionally struggle with the whole "success" thing from time to time. But whenever that happens, I just dump it back on God because He is WAY more capable of handling it than me! ;)

    SO good to see you here, girl, and SO very proud of all you have accomplished!

    Hugs and more hugs,
    Julie

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    1. Hey, twin Julie! I know you understand that this blog post was aimed at me too! It's hard to stay focused, and yet not drive yourself nuts trying too hard! Trying to write three full-size novels a year was turning me into a complete work-aholic and a stressed-out one at that! I've scaled back to two books a year, but this is my full-time job, and my family needs the income, so I just feel really blessed that I can support my family doing something I love. But I definitely know the feeling of struggling to force success to happen, then realizing . . . I can't force much of anything! If it happens it will be because God made it happen. The one thing we can (sort of, most of the time) control is how many books we write. We can write, write, write and stop trying to control our own popularity. :-)
      So happy you are feeling more peaceful now, Julie! Stress can ruin your life. And make God feel very far away.
      Love you, Julie! Keep writing wonderful stories that your adoring fans love!!!

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  30. LOL ... I just looked at my comment above and laughed. I told you I couldn't do a short comment, but that ends RIGHT NOW!!

    Just wanted to say I LOVE the title of the blog -- sooooo cute!!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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    1. I love every word you write, so don't worry about writing long, Julie! :-) Love you just the way you are!

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  31. Such great advice! Thanks for not pulling any punches! I found myself applying these tips to other aspects of my life as well. I especially appreciate the last one, to pray about things before we commit to them. I need to do better at that :)

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    1. Hi, Heidi! You're welcome! :-) You and me both about the praying before we commit!

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  32. Wow, what great words of wisdom! I am learning something new every day on here.

    I think I will return to this post several times to remind myself of the need to pray, commit to writing, and not waste valuable time when I could be further exploring his will through writing. Thank you!

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    1. Kristin! Welcome to Seekerville!

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    2. You're welcome, Kristin! Thanks for leaving a comment! With your commitment to pray and write and not waste time, I predict you will do very well! :-)

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    3. Thank you, Melanie and Tina!

      It is so true, God would not inspire us to something that he does not will to help us grow in some way or another. Peace and all good! :)

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  33. Excellent advice, thank you!

    May God bless you and all of Seekerville!

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  34. Melanie, I absolutely love the title: From Whine to Shine. I do tend to whine (my poor husband) and I love the reminder to make sure I'm giving it up to God and not relying on myself. So yes, sometimes I do feel less than successful and that's usually when I read a post like this and am so thankful God put reminders in my path about not whining, buckling down and getting to work. I told my critique partner last week that I think I'm overthinking writing, and I need to get back to the basics of telling a story and concentrating on what feels right for the characters. So a huge thank you as this post was a great reminder to ground the writing in God, not whine, and keep moving forward.

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    1. Tanya, I can do my share of whining, too! But we just do our best, keep our chin up, and keep working!!!

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    2. Tanya, I'm sure I stole that title from somewhere, I just don't remember. LOL
      There is definitely something to be said for just telling the story and doing what feels right for the characters. You can definitely bog yourself down trying too hard to follow all the "rules."
      And I'm probably the biggest whiner of all, but I know I have to hit the pause button on the whining and realize that my energy is better used for working toward my goal. ;-)
      I wish you the best in your writing!

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  35. Thank you so much for such a wise, insightful, tough-love post! There's so much in here I'm going to have to read it several times to digest it!

    Your post is a relief to me! Aspiring authors are inundated with advice, instructions, and articles with "Must" or "Should" in the title, and it can get overwhelming. Start a blog! Post all the time! Do it right now! Build your platform! Get thousands of followers! Do it right now! Comment! Get your name out there! Network! Attend conferences! All! Right now!

    Oh. And write your book.

    It is SO nice to hear from someone who's been there, done that, that all this stuff isn't as essential as all those panic-inducing articles make it seem. Yes, platform is important, and yes, you need to meet the right people...but that is not all dependent on you!

    Throughout my writing journey, I have found myself clinging to God tighter than ever. He knows each agent, each publisher, each editor, each reader. He knows which ones are right for me, and He knew before I even wrote a word. This writing thing is so huge and so overwhelming that even a control freak like me is forced to acknowledge that I don't know everything, but God does, and it is SUCH a relief to leave it in His hands and watch Him work. And the doors that have opened for me so far have been amazing, and I know He is responsible for all of them.

    So, since God knows everything and everyone, He also knows which of the articles I need to read, and which of the instructions I need to take to heart. I can't do it all. No one can. He knows exactly which steps I need to take, and in what order, to move my writing to where He wants it to go. When I focus and remember that, it doesn't seem quite so overwhelming.

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    1. True, and well said, Amanda! We can't do it all, and God knows the plans he has for us, plans for our good and not for harm. He knows everything you need before you even ask.
      I sort of hate all that advice to build your platform and get your name out there, yada yada yada. You're right, it does induce panic! Especially since the writing is the thing you really need to focus on. I'm glad you're moving in the right direction. Keep praying and working hard! May God bless your writing journey.

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  36. I love fairy tale retellings, many of the stories I wrote when I was just starting out in this biz were fairy tales. Out of the five completed manuscripts I have written three are fairy tale short stories. I'll have to admit that I tend to like a little more magic in my retellings, but then again I just like magic in my stories, it's kind of my thing.

    I'm focusing getting books written these days, considering writing for some traditional publishing companies, not to mention finishing my self published series which I'm halfway through.

    My goal, to have a career as an author.

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    1. Way to go, Nicki! Keep writing and working toward your goal. And lot of people love a little magic in their stories. :-)
      I wish you all the best!

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  37. I've got The Noble Servant right here. I can't wait to read it! I love your books, Melanie

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  38. Sorry to be so slow checking in today. Love having you on, Melanie.

    You've got so much talent it's now a bragging right that I was once YOUR mentor.

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    1. Haha! Well, I still brag that you are my friend! You were always really encouraging and supportive, and I appreciate that more than I can say.

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  39. And here I was trying to decide how best to market my books...

    What is my goal? To bring glory to God always. To give a taste of the truth to those who I may never get to meet in person. And to be famous like Jane Austen before I die. We can't all be perfect.

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    1. Sounds like a good goal, Boo. May God bless you to bring glory to him always.

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  40. Thanks for a great post. #5 especially hit home to me!

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    1. DARLENE!!!! Delighted to see you! Welcome back.

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  41. Melly are you a big panster or plotter or combo? What are you of the laser focus working on next?

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    1. Haha! Tina, I'm more of a pantser. I do a little bit of characterization, a few notes, but really not a plotter.
      Right now I'm working on an Aladdin story. It's to be Book 8 in the Hagenheim/Fairy Tale Romance series.

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  42. Melanie, laser focus is what I need. My mind bounces around and I tend to be easily distracted.

    Losing friends as you gain success shouldn't happen. How very sad for you. Unfortunately it does happen.

    I'm off to focus!

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    1. Way to go, Terri! I wish you well as you focus.
      And I do have some really sweet friends. I am blessed.
      Thank you, Terri!

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    2. And I forgot to say please put me in the drawing!

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  43. Oh this post! It's absolute gold! I've been running myself ragged doing exactly that - getting my name out there. Balance is something I haven't quite mastered as it feels I work long days, harder not smarter. You hit the nail on the head for me Melanie. I feel I've lost my way a bit. Time to go deep in prayer for guidance. Thank you!

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    1. Christina! Great to see you stepping out of lurkdom. Always a pleasure to see you in the Village.

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    2. Thanks, Christina! I was preaching to myself as much as anyone else. It's really hard to achieve balance. It's a constant battle.
      May God bless you with direction!

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    3. Thanks Tina! I really miss hanging around Seekerville :)

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    4. Oh, I agree, Melanie. I would love to know the secret to balancing writing, marketing...life in general lol. I'm determined to do it. Thank you so much and many blessings to you in your writing.

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  44. Great post Melanie! I found myself nodding with each point. I sometimes have to force myself to focus, but I have to if I want to become a full time author in the next few years. I also loved your point about praying before committing to anything.

    I would love to be put into the drawing.

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    1. Thanks, Dana! God bless you. Forcing myself to focus is my struggle all the time! Daily, actually, especially lately, as there seems to be so much going on. I wish you great success!
      Good luck on the drawing!

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  45. Melanie, I'm sorry I'm late in Seekerville! You make so many great points in your savvy post. I've been praying for God to show me His will since learning the LIH line will close. But I'm so grateful for the opportunity the line gave me and so many others.

    Your covers are all beautiful!! I love the sound of this story, though I'm not as familiar with the fairy tale. I'm tickled by all you and God have accomplished.

    Hugs, Janet

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  46. That's so sweet of you, Janet! Thank you. And I wish you even greater success as you chart out the new waters ahead. I have no doubt you will do amazing things. God bless.

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  47. Wow, such a timely post for me. One of those days. Loved this: "And while you’re at it, surrender your writing to God." Thank you! And congratulations on your book! "The Noble Servant" sounds so interesting.

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    1. Thanks, Laura! I pray you have wonderful days ahead. :-)

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  48. Terrific post, Melanie! You wouldn't believe how timely it is for me. Must read this through several more times -- and answer the questions you pose. Thank you for the guidance.

    Nancy C

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    1. Thanks, Nancy. And you're welcome! I hope it was helpful. ;-)

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  49. Hi Melly!! :)
    Sorry I'm sooo tardy stopping by today - - not really sure what happened to the day!
    Wonderful post, and may I echo what Laura said in her comment before mine. I LOVE your statement about surrendering our writing to God. I need to copy this on a LARGE sheet and place it beside my computer!
    I am sooo happy that your writing has done so well. You are a sweetie and deserve good things!
    Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo

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    1. Aw, thanks, Patti Jo! You are so sweet! Thanks for being my friend. :-) I love all the Seekers! God has been really gracious to me, and I'm very thankful, but I have to keep reminding myself not to overcommit and to keep surrendering to God. But he is faithful.
      Blessings to you, Patti Jo!

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  50. I absolutely needed this post Melanie. My word for this year is 'balance' and I have been feeling out of balance recently which has reflected in my writing (or lack thereof). I need to re-evaluate my priorities to get back that balance so thank you for the encouraging words.

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  51. Melanie, thanks so much for spending the day with us! I know you are a busy gal and we appreciate you sharing your time with Seekerville. Praying for continued writing success for you!

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  52. Good realistic advice! Thanks for sharing!

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  53. Thanks for the post. I'm retired and I don't write but I guess I am a bit of a procrastinator. I really need some motivation! Thanks! Would love to win your book!

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