MindStir Christian Book Publishers Releases New FAITHWRITERS book

Trials and Triumphs published by MINDSTIR Christian Book PublishersFaithWriters.com is the #1 website for Christian writers, with over 64,000 members worldwide and growing. It’s been helping Christian writers and spreading the Gospel for around a decade. It’s known as an “encouraging community of Christian writers … A great place to learn and grow in a safe, caring environment…”

Christian book publisher MindStir Media recently partnered with Faithwriters.com to create an inspirational book, Trials and Triumphs: Hope Beyond Circumstances: 40 Life-Changing Testimonies, through which Faithwriters intends to share the hope of Jesus. The stories included in the book come from the winners of a recent contest hosted at Faithwriters.com. The top 40 stories were chosen for inclusion in the book. Christian book publishing is MindStir’s specialty, so this publishing partnership is a perfect fit …

In early March 2014, the paperback became Amazon’s #17 Christian Evangelism Bestseller. The Kindle edition spent time as the #1 Christian Evangelism Bestseller and #2 Christian Inspiration Bestseller!

Buy TRIALS AND TRIUMPHS by Faithwriters (2014, MindStir Media Christian Publishers)

Amazon.com | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million
Published by MindStir Media, top Christian book publishers, USA
$14.99 (softcover), $6.99 (ebook)

Read the MindStir Media press release (3/25/14)

Interested in publishing with one of the best Christian publishers in USA?

Give us a call at 800-767-0531 or email us at authors@mindstirmedia.com

Reading as a Writer

what do you read
It’s the start of a new year and no doubt you’re thinking about and setting your writing goals for 2014. In the midst of that, let me suggest you set your reading goals as well. One thing I know about writers is that we are readers. I’m no different. I typically have at least 4 books on my “currently reading” Goodreads shelf. In 2014, I want to be more purposeful in my reading, so I’ve come up with three key categories of books I want to be sure and read this year.

Writing Craft books
We continue to learn and grow as writers, so I picked out the 5 writing books listed. Now I’ll be reading these in small chunks, giving myself time to absorb and put the new information into practice. (You’ll notice I also threw in a couple on business and professional side of writing. I can always use help there).

  • The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass
  • The Power of Point of View by Alicia Maisley
  • Writing 21st Century Fiction by Donald Maass
  • Finding Your Voice by Les Edgerton
  • Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan
  • APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch
  • Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt

Fiction
I don’t read enough fiction. Period. Reading good fiction, in your genre and outside of it, provides a case study in character development, story construction, description and dialogue with each and every book. So I have four good solid books on my list – not including the one I’m reading right now – and any number of lighter ones when pool season arrives.

Research
I need a good handle on the issues my characters struggle with, so I read a stack of psychology and counseling type books, and memoirs each year. These types of books help me build deep, realistic characters. And I admit, they are my favorites. Usually the trouble I have with these is having far more books than time to read them.

As a writer, what do you read?

Paula Wiseman is an award-winning, bestselling author. Paula has published six books with book publisher MindStir Media. Her sixth published book, Sanction, was released earlier this month. She also had the honor of appearing on Lifetime TV’s “The Balancing Act,” where she discussed her books. Learn more about Paula Wiseman at her website/blog: www.paulawiseman.com

MindStir Media Facebook Page Reaches Millions in 2013

book publishing company MindStir Media on Facebook

As the president and founder of book publisher MindStir Media, I have access to Facebook Insights for the MindStir Media Facebook page. It’s been a lot of fun watching the page grow throughout the years. I’m so incredibly pleased to announce — both here and on Facebook (as a milestone) — that the page saw a ‘total reach’ of over 9 million Facebook users in 2013.

4 Things to Look for in an Early Reader

Your-early-readers-will
Last post we looked at how having a small group of readers can help fine tune your work. I have an amazing group of early readers who let me bounce ideas off them, who act as guinea pigs for my stories and who share in every milestone. I wouldn’t want to write without them. They freely offer encouragement and priceless feedback on each project. If you’d like to assemble or add to your group, here are some things to consider.

Experience – They read, and have read, a lot. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the genre you’re writing, although that’s helpful, but they have well-developed instincts about what makes a good and bad story.

Candor - They can be truthful with you about your baby. If it’s ugly they need to say so, and you need to hear it. I told one of my early readers, “If you don’t tell me when things are bad, I won’t believe you when you say they’re good.”

Investment – They are sold on the story and its underlying message and want to see it in the hands of other readers.

Commitment - They are willing to stick with you through the whole process. Granted, they aren’t committing raising your kids for you, but for a writer, it’s close. They need to be available for emails or some face to face time over a period of months, maybe even years.

So go through your list of family, friends, and writing buddies, choose 2 or 3 and test the waters. “Hey I’ve been working on this story in my spare time. It’s about … Would you care to take a look at it for me?” It’s that simple.

Your early readers will help turn your solitary pursuit into a team sport. Trust me, there are few things as enduring as the bonds forged during the creation of a story.

Paula Wiseman is an award-winning, bestselling author. Paula has published six books with book publisher MindStir Media. Her sixth published book, Sanction, was released earlier this month. She also had the honor of appearing on Lifetime TV’s “The Balancing Act,” where she discussed her books. Learn more about Paula Wiseman at her website/blog: www.paulawiseman.com

3 Types of Early Readers and How They Can Help You Write a Stronger Story

My-early-readers-keep-me
Writers need feedback almost as much as we need sharp pencils. Early readers can give you that precious information while your work is in progress. Their comments can rescue an errant plot, rehabilitate a wimpy protagonist or even reveal the true core of your story.

Now first off, let me say I’m making a distinction between reader and editors/proofreaders who are looking for mechanical mistakes as well as critiquers, other writers who are looking at the craft aspects of your work.

My first early reader works with me on a scene by scene basis (sometimes sentence by sentence). She helps me smooth out the language and dialogue and ensures I’m not leaving out any key details or giving characters sudden ESP. We’ve worked together enough that she has a great feel for my characters and story and shares my desire to communicate those elements. She lets me know when my characters need to reveal their thought processes so their actions make sense. She’ll tip me off when things are moving ahead too quickly and when she’s having trouble “seeing” the scene.

My next group of readers, and by group, I mean 2 or 3, get the chapters as I’m finished with them. Their feedback lets me know if I’m building tension or suspense, if my characters are hitting the right emotional buttons and if my plot is compelling. If a plot point or a money line doesn’t resonate with them, then I know I have some work to do.

My last group of readers, again 2 or 3, get the last draft. They read the whole thing at a natural pace. I want them to tell me if the story flows. If there are rough places or slow spots, I want to fix them before the editor gets the manuscript. I want to know how they respond to the characters. I’ll ask them a series of questions like … are there threads hanging? Is the ending satisfactory? Did the surprises work or did I leave too many clues? Did you identify with the protagonist? Did his or her course of action seem reasonable? And my favorite question– was there a point when you had to finish the book, when you could not put it down again?

My early readers keep me honest. They won’t let me write lazy or shallow. They constantly challenge me and keep me focused on delivering the best end product I can.

Next post will be on what to look for in an early reader.

Paula Wiseman is an award-winning, bestselling author. Paula has published six books with MindStir Media book publishers. Her sixth published book, Sanction, was released earlier this month. She also had the honor of appearing on Lifetime TV’s “The Balancing Act,” where she discussed her books. Learn more about Paula Wiseman at her website/blog: www.paulawiseman.com

National Novel Writing Month

We are mid-way through National Novel Writing Month (“NaNoWriMo”). It’s an annual thirty-day frenzy in which writers of all types undertake the challenge to complete one 50,000-word novel. Outliners, plotters and seat-of-your-pantsers all give their internal editor a bus ticket for the month and just write. I am 28,000 words into my NaNoWriMo book (slightly ahead of schedule, averaging about 2,000 words a day). Last year I was editing a book and opted not to participate, and I kind of missed it. Here’s why:

  • Creating new stuff is the best part of writing. It’s fresh, exciting, full of energy and possibilities.
  • Delivering that many words day after day is a challenge to my creativity. I love stretching those muscles.
  • NaNoWriMo is a legitimate reason to walk away from mundane things to write. Just don’t get too far away. You’ll need those things when it’s time for a brain recharge.
  • The NaNoWriMo site keeps track of your progress and adds it to all the other writers participating. Ah, stats and graphs and word counts. I love that kind of stuff.
  • My earliest readers get bombarded with 3 or 4 news scenes a day instead of one.
  • I get to compare notes with my NaNo-ing daughter. (She is crushing me in the word count department right now.)
  • Two words – writing snacks.
  • NaNoWriMo makes me feel like a noveling superhero.

Like the idea but don’t want to start late? Try having your own pro-rated NaNo. You could try the 15 day – 25K word plan. Or start today and go for the next thirty days. Or simply make a mental note and join us next year. I think you’ll be glad you did. If not, happy writing all the same!

Paula Wiseman is an award-winning, bestselling author. Paula has published six books with book publishing company MindStir Media. Her sixth published book, Sanction, was released earlier this month. She also had the honor of appearing on Lifetime TV’s “The Balancing Act,” where she discussed her books. Learn more about Paula Wiseman at her website/blog: www.paulawiseman.com

What running has taught me about writing

Photo by Josiah Mckenzie, Flickr


A few years back, determined not to carry post-pregnancy weight with me to the grave I started running. I have never been especially athletic so this was a new adventure. I soon discovered that the things I learned from running I could easily apply to writing.

1. Be patient. Progress comes slowly. Good grief, it took forever to build up any real endurance. In the same way, writing progress, building a reader base, hearing from folks you submitted work to are all slow-moving things requiring tremendous patience.

2. Good habits are critical. Even the bad days count. Some days the best thing I can say about my running is that I got sweaty. However, that habit of getting up out of bed, putting on the shoes and logging the miles, day in and day out, builds the discipline that leads to achieving milestones. As a writer, some days the best thing I can say is that I really know my alphabet. Making the commitment to putting words on the paper every day is what brings success.

3. Mentors and buddies are a tremendous help. I usually run by myself. (Not too many people want to haul out at 5 a.m. It’s okay I understand.) But I have running friends who speak my language. I know experienced runners I can ask questions, and I follow sites and Facebook pages of runners and coaches. I do the same thing with writing. I have writer friends who get the anguish of rejection letters, who know how hard writing back cover summaries can be, who love a beautiful tweak of a sentence. I also rely on coaching from great writing blogs, and get a dose of encouragement from Facebook and other social media.

4. Results may surprise you. And that’s not bad. I started running to lose weight. It was four years before that happened. However, my cholesterol and other metrics dropped almost immediately. I started writing with a goal of publication. What I didn’t expect was connecting so deeply with readers.

5. At some point, it’s good to test the training. Yes, there are real tangible benefits from just running for fun, for health but when you take the plunge and sign up for a race, you make a public statement that ‘yes, I am a runner.’ In the same way, there is beauty and benefit in artistic creation even if you are the only one who enjoys your writing. However, there is something encouraging and validating when you take the risk and enter a contest or submit a piece for review or undertake self-publication.

Have you learned any writing lessons from your hobbies or other pursuits?

Paula Wiseman is an award-winning author. Paula has published five books with MindStir Media book publishers — all of them have spent time on Amazon.com bestseller lists. Her sixth book, Sanction, will be released later this year. She also had the honor of appearing on Lifetime TV’s “The Balancing Act,” where she discussed her books. Learn more about Paula Wiseman at her website/blog: www.paulawiseman.com

Writing Lessons from Downton Abbey

Highclere Castle from Downton Abbey - Courtesy of Bas Sijpkes (Flickr)


I am a latecomer to Downton Abbey, the British period drama featuring the subtle intrigues of an upper class family and their household staff. But even if the show is not your cup of tea, the storytelling offers some real takeaways for writers.

Strong characters – Downton Abbey isn’t heavy on action or special effects so it depends on strong characters that the audience immediately responds to, whether positively or negatively. There’s the no-nonsense butler who has a typically hidden but endearing gentle side. Then there’s the white knight who can’t seem to connect with the eldest daughter when it’s clear they are in love. There’s also the conniving footman in cahoots with her Ladyship’s maid. No matter what genre you write, you will never go wrong developing strong characters. Give your heroes a flaw. Give your villains a sympathetic reason for their villainy. Make them opinionated and active, because they are the reason your readers keep turning pages.

High stakes – The series opens with the death of the presumptive heir in the Titanic sinking from then on, the stakes remain high. The possible loss of the centuries old family estate. A death penalty murder conviction. Futures and reputations facing certain ruin. In your story, make sure you keep the stakes high throughout, that your protagonist is constantly in danger of some sort, whether physical, financial or relational. If the risk isn’t there, the readers’ interest won’t be there.

No let-up – At Downton, the family and staff face one disaster after another. Yes, we make it through the Great War but then the Spanish flu hits. We celebrate a marriage just as a risky investment goes south and a fortune is lost. No one would watch if the show was just gloom and doom, but the tension never goes away, even in the lighter moments. In the same way, you can give your readers a breather, but never let them relax. Also place those breathers in the middle of a chapter rather than at the end. That way there’s never an easy spot to put the book down.

Memorable dialogue – Downton memes and quotes are everywhere, especially ones featuring the Dowager Countess. (She gets all the good lines.) Your dialogue must burst onto the page, with flabby words trimmed, weak words strengthened, bland words colored and each line amped with energy.

Tight editing – Downton only has about an hour each episode so to keep things from dragging, they maintain pacing with editing. In one scene, a daughter might say, “I need to tell Papa…” The next scene is NOT the daughter telling Papa, but Papa ACTING on what he’s been told. There was no need to rehash things the viewers already knew, and the episode keeps moving forward. As you edit, make sure each scene propels the plot forward rather than just helping it ooze along.

Writing the Downton way is very simple. Write tightly edited scenes featuring strong characters speaking with snappy dialogue in a near relentless succession of high stakes scenes and situations.

Paula Wiseman is an award-winning author. Paula has published five books with book publisher MindStir Media — all of them have spent time on Amazon.com bestseller lists. Her sixth book, Sanction, will be released later this year. She also had the honor of appearing on Lifetime TV’s “The Balancing Act,” where she discussed her books. Learn more about Paula Wiseman at her website/blog: www.paulawiseman.com

Defining Success As A Writer

How do you measure success as a writer?
A target is a lot easier to hit once it’s been identified, so it makes a lot of sense for you as a writer to spend a few moments and nail down a personal, specific measure of success. Of course, that definition can be reworked as needed, but it’s helpful to give yourself a reference point.

How do you arrive at a definition of success?
It can be as easy as completing this sentence: I will be a successful writer when I ________.
If you’re having trouble filling in that blank, consider the following questions:
Is writing for your own personal pleasure your goal? (By the way, it’s easy to pass over this one, but it is a valid goal, worthy of pursuit.)
Is it enough to finish the project you’re working on?
What happens after publishing your current project? Do you want to keep writing?
Is there a certain number of units you want sell?
Do you want to earn enough to write full-time?
Are there awards or other recognition you want to garner?
Do you want to win a movie deal?
Are you hoping to gain a million followers on Twitter?
Are you looking to log ten thousand visitors each month to your blog?
Realistically, how much time, effort and money are you willing to invest?

Why does it matter?
Here are some quick reasons why you want to be the one to define what your personal writing success looks like rather than measuring yourself against someone else.

It removes some of the angst that comes with wondering if you’ve arrived. You set a specific tangible goal and there will be no doubt when you reach it.

It means you’re no longer waiting for some person or group to validate you. Success is as unique and personal as the writer pursuing it.

It helps with time and resource management. You can’t do it all, so if an activity isn’t moving you toward your goal, you can bypass it, no matter how intrinsically awesome it may be.

Let me give you a personal example. When I started writing, I decided my definition of success would be to build a reader base big enough that self-publishing would be self-sustaining. In other words, the revenue from one book would fund the next one. Since building my base was key to success, I focused on finding and making connections with readers. We set up lots of free promos with the first book and the first book in the new series. I ran social media ads that were genre-targeted. I enlisted some early readers who would leave reviews for me. I take time to respond to every email, every Facebook message and every tweet. (I don’t, however, respond to flaming criticism.) We reached our goal somewhere between books four and five. That means I can keep doing what I’m doing which makes me very happy. I can keep my readers supplied with a new book every nine to twelve months which makes them happy. For me, that is success.

Paula Wiseman is an award-winning author. Paula has published five books with MindStir Media — all of them have spent time on Amazon.com bestseller lists. Her sixth book, Sanction, will be released later this year. She also had the honor of appearing on Lifetime TV’s “The Balancing Act,” where she discussed her books. Learn more about Paula Wiseman at her website/blog: www.paulawiseman.com

Identify Your Marketing Focus

After crafting a terrific story, one of the most important steps you can take to ensure your success is to identify your audience. It helps in two key ways. Last time, we looked at how it helps focus your writing. Today we’ll discuss how it helps focus your marketing.

Very few of us have unlimited budgets or schedules to devote to marketing, so it’s critical to get the greatest possible benefits from our investment. Marketing is also the area that I am least comfortable with and bring the least knowledge with me in the entire book-writing adventure. However, because I’ve taken some time to identify my audience, I’m less tempted to follow every new fad or sure-fire solution touted by the hottest gurus. With each avenue, I can critically evaluate whether it’s a good fit for me and for my readers, and if the answer is ‘no’, then that frees me up to focus on the things that do. Let’s talk about some concrete examples of how identifying your audience helps focus your marketing.

Remember those shelves and tables heaped with gleaming copies of your newest epic? Remember the folks who stopped to check it out and eventually made the purchase?

What caught their eye? Hands-down it was the cover art. It is essential to invest in high quality cover art, but if you know your audience, you can work with your graphic designer and ensure that art hits your target. Again, genre will partially drive this, but age and gender will factor in. My audience is primarily women, but my covers are not especially girly, so I don’t alienate my males readers.

Are they book people, e-book people, or audiobook people? Each format has some unique ways to reach readers. If they are primarily e-book readers, look into ways to get discounted or free versions of your books into their hands. E-books can also open the door for international readers. For traditional books, indie booksellers and libraries are great way to connect. For audio, try podcasts or internet radio.

Where do your readers hang-out online? (Do your readers hang out online?) I’ve found I connect best with my readers through email, blog posts, Facebook and for overseas readers, Twitter has been helpful. I’ve learned that cost of sending a paperback to a book blogger is an extremely cost effective way to get introduced to my kind of readers. Targeted Facebook ads were fairly successful starting out, too. Your readers may frequent Pinterest or Goodreads groups more often, so utilizing graphics or finding a group leader who can be an influencer may be a better strategy.

What else can you offer? I have a good number of book club people, so we always offer a discussion guide with each book. Often times readers are dealing with some of the same issues the characters are, so sometimes I list the books I’ve read for research. I’ve seen other authors offer recipes from their books, or craft instructions. Non-fiction authors can offer all sorts of resource tie-ins, like tip sheets, infographics or videos. Just keep your audience in mind.

In my experience, marketing takes a lot of flexibility, old-fashioned hard work, a little bit of voodoo and some luck thrown in, but at its core it’s about connecting the most enthusiastic potential readers to the best possible literary experience you can deliver. The better you know your audience, the more likely you’ll make that connection.

Paula Wiseman is an award-winning author. Paula has published five books with MindStir Media — all of them have spent time on Amazon.com bestseller lists. Her sixth book, Sanction, will be released later this year. She also had the honor of appearing on Lifetime TV’s “The Balancing Act,” where she discussed her books. Learn more about Paula Wiseman at her website/blog: www.paulawiseman.com