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‘Tis the Season: The Seasons of a Writer

‘Tis the Season: The Seasons of a Writer

Ask any artist about their work-life balance and you’ll most likely get a great big belly laugh in response. Family, friends, finance, spirituality, creativity, errands, exercise… It’s impossible to give equal attention to everything on a day-to-day basis — especially when there’s a project in the works (and there’s always a project in the works).

Once writers surrender to this truth the process becomes a lot smoother. Because, while daily balance is like finding the Holy Grail, there are seasonal patterns an artist goes through that just might balance out the imbalance when it’s all said and done. Here are four common seasons that many writers cycle through and why they’re so darn important.

The Writer’s Cave – Season of Isolation

Ah, the isolation… A close relationship with a writer comes with a level of understanding: there will be weeks (sometimes months) when these people are just not available. They’ve gone to the dark side and will return when the deed is done.

During this time the writer hopes to have enough food in the fridge to survive – can’t risk going to the grocery store and throwing off the flow. Dress code ranges from bathrobe to pajamas. Oftentimes men don’t shave and women leave their makeup behind. It’s raw, it’s precious, and it’s extremely private. Phone off, head down, creative antenna up.

Picasso nailed it when he said, “without great solitude, no serious work is possible.” We need mental space for our creativity to come out and play. Collaboration is a beautiful, necessary part of the process but it’s crucial to explore our own instincts and urges or they’ll never be fully realized. The irony is, when we’re alone and tapped into that thing that we’re all striving to tap into, we never feel alone. It’s one of the most fulfilling experiences an artist can have.

The Deadline – Season of Panic

Not to be confused with the writer’s cave, deadline time usually feels 10 percent creative and 90 percent panic. “Will I meet my deadline? Will they like it? I’m a genius! I can barely read and write.” Imposter syndrome comes knocking and a lot of emotional energy is expelled just trying to convince ourselves we can actually do it.

This period feels the most isolating for many because no one can completely relate to our concerns. You’ll want to vent, confide in and get sympathy from your close relationships, but as soon as you say something like, “I’m trying to decide if this character’s spirit animal really is a jungle cat or if I should scrap all of chapter eight and write her as the flamingo she’s grown to be.” You’ll get a few crickets, and then have to leave the dinner table early to figure out chapter eight all by your lonesome.

Necessary? Absolutely. Something magical happens right after a project is finished: all that worry drains from the body and there’s peace. There’s pride in the completion and relief that you survived. This season is quite possibly one of the most unpleasant parts of the writing process but it instantly separates the women from the girls. So if you come out on the other side without developing a drug habit, you’ve won at life. And while the next deadline might not be easier, your muscle for it will be stronger. Every. Single. Time.

The Promoter – Season of Celebrity

This is the shaking hands and kissing babies season. Your project is launching and you know its success rides on how much you put it out there – so you hold your breath and dive underwater. Depending on your personality, this could either be a heaven or a total hell. Since many writers claim to be introverts, it’s not looking good for the majority.

You’ll meet a lot of people, gain new fans, and possibly feel a little unnatural as you talk about your book and hand out business cards. You’ll catch yourself wondering how long this season will last because all you want to do is go home and put on fuzzy socks. The bright side? This season can manifest exciting things. You meet people you’d never meet at home, put faces to email addresses, and run into old contacts you haven’t seen in years. You’ll remember that you’re actually attractive with your hair done and bathrobe off and there’s a part of you that starts to enjoy these social events. You’ll get some lovely photos for your website and think, “Wow, I look like a successful writer.” And while you try to meet as many people as possible, you know that sometimes it just takes one connection to get you to that next step. Simply put, the possibilities are worth putting a comb through your hair and driving across town.

The Fresh Air – Season of Fulfillment  

In this season, you’re like a gopher popping its head up from the ground. The daylight is blinding but the fresh air feels delightful. You miss your friends and family desperately and feel like you’ve been so busy writing about life that you haven’t gone out there and lived. You set up one-on-one time with loved ones, plan a trip, and finally go to that place everyone hangs out at called the ‘grocery store.’

As diligent entrepreneurs, it’s easy to work a weekend here and a weekend there. Creativity might hit us hard one night and before we know it, it’s been twelve hours of grind. While putting our butts in a chair and words on a page is important, we must remember there’s a whole world out there – one full of inspiration. You can spend an entire day at home crafting a new character or bump into her at a museum. Life is meant to be lived, not just written about.

Each season contains necessary elements for growth in several areas of our life. That’s why this process is so diverse (and because hanging out in one season too long could drive anyone crazy). So if you’re struggling with balance, accept that you’re probably in a season – one that should be enjoyed because as soon as you get comfortable with the weather, it will change.

David L. Hancock, Founder

‘Tis the Season: The Seasons of a Writer 2017-12-16T01:13:58+00:00

Hot New Releases for December 12th 2017

Morgan James Publishing is excited to announce these Hot New Releases for this week!
Each of these are available at your favorite bookseller or online starting this week.

Contributor(s): Marshall, Bethany (Author); Burton, Jessica (Author); Allen, Zac (Author)

Annotation: Team KO, a group of Obstacle Course Racers and Martial Artists, featured on NBC’s new TV show Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge, band together to share their secrets to success in overcoming obstacles in both life and Obstacle Course Racing (OCR). By compiling their life struggles–cancer, addiction, and poverty–readers alike find relatable guidance to overcoming their own challenges.

Spartan Strong introduces each team member–Bethany Marshall, Zac Allen, Jessica Burton, Andres Encinales–before identifying 19 qualities the team has used as essential tools to incorporate in everyday life. Each chapter includes an opportunity for immediate reader response in the form of a practical takeaway with an accompanying journal prompt.

These four team members emphasize they are not superheroes and they are no different than anyone else. Their message encourages readers to join Team KO’s community and take steps towards overcoming their own obstacles in life, no matter what those may be.

Contributor: Nemeth, Mike

Annotation: 128 Billion to 1 Reveals the ten secrets to winning the March Madness(TM) office pool.

Hot New Releases for December 12th 2017 2017-12-13T21:06:18+00:00

Hot New Releases for December 5th 2017

Morgan James Publishing is excited to announce this Hot New Release for this week!
Available at your favorite bookseller or online starting this week.

Contributor: Pope, Sharon

Annotation: A guide to help women who have the dream marriage, but struggle with why it still doesn’t feel like enough.

Hot New Releases for December 5th 2017 2017-12-06T17:36:57+00:00

How We Ended Up In The New York Times – And You Can, Too

How We Ended Up In The New York Times – And You Can, Too
When our team returned to work this week after taking a brief break for Thanksgiving, we learned we had something to celebrate. No post-holiday blahs for us! Instead, it was high fives all around!

The exciting news that greeted us was that Jay York, our senior social media and marketing strategist, had been quoted extensively in a New York Times article headlined “Brands Heed Social Media. They’re Advised Not to Forget Word of Mouth.”

Every day we work to get our clients just this sort of placement, but on occasion, when the moment is right, we practice what we preach and do the same for ourselves.

And, as it turns out, there are lessons for you in how this opportunity came about for Jay and EMSI.

To begin with, the New York Times reporter did not seek out Jay. Instead, she wanted to talk with one of our clients, who happened to have the expertise her article needed.

This particular client had served as a source for the reporter before and she obviously liked working with him, so it didn’t surprise us when she asked to interview him once again. But we encountered one not-so-slight problem. When the client heard about the topic, he felt he didn’t have any creative thoughts to offer the reporter. So he declined the interview.

For one brief terrifying moment, it looked like we would need to tell the New York Times reporter we had nothing for her! Then one of our print campaign managers, Miguel Casellas-Gil, had a marvelous idea! Since the topic related to social media and marketing, he asked Jay if he would feel comfortable answering the reporter’s questions.

“Sure,” Jay said.

Soon he and the reporter were chatting away. Obviously, Jay supplied the kind of information the reporter wanted because she quoted him more than once in the article.

So how can you duplicate this success? Here are at least three factors that contributed to making this happen and would work for you:

  • Be on a source list. If you’re like most people, the media – especially the major media – have no idea who you are. That means a call or email from a reporter requesting an interview is unlikely. You need to find a way to get in front of those journalists, either through direct contact with them or by connecting with a public relations firm that can do the work for you. For example, the media know we have sources available on a variety of subjects, so we routinely field requests from them, matching the right client to the right article.
  • Make yourself available. I’ve said this many times before, but I’m not sure it can ever be said enough. It’s crucial to make yourself available when the media come calling. Journalists often work on tight deadlines. If you say you’re too busy to talk right now, they’ll just move on to the next person on their list. Not long ago, one of our clients – much to our dismay – turned down a chance to speak with a USA Today reporter. Thank goodness another client quickly grabbed the opportunity – and reaped great rewards as a result. More than 80 other newspapers reprinted that USA Today article! Yes, we did some high fiving that day, too!
  • Provide quality content. Even if you get the call and take the time, you could end up on the journalistic version of the cutting-room floor if you don’t have something worthwhile to say. You need to provide the journalist with quality content that’s communicated in an engaging and easy-to-understand way. If you know ahead of time what questions the journalist will ask, jot down the key points you want to make and the phrasing you want to use. It never hurts to think in terms of sound bites, even with print journalists.

You never know when media opportunities are going to knock on your door (or arrive in your email inbox). You just need to be prepared to take advantage of those moments when they happen.

Handle them the right way and you, too, will be celebrating!

High five!
Marsha Friedman
EMSI Public Relations
Guest Post
If you’d like professional help getting coverage in the press, or being interviewed on radio and TV, give us a call. We’ve been providing this service to clients for 27 years. We also offer a comprehensive social media marketing program for select clients, where we do it all for you. If you’re interested in our help, please call us at 727-443-7115 Ext. 208. We’d love to hear from you!
How We Ended Up In The New York Times – And You Can, Too 2017-12-03T19:49:14+00:00

How do you know when your book is ready to go to an editor?

One of the most common questions we get on sales calls, and even on our pre-edit consultations, is: ‘How do I know if my book is ready to go to an editor?’

It’s a nerve-wracking time. In many cases, your editor is the first person who will see your book and, until you get their feedback, it’s hard to know whether what you’ve written is any good. You’re proud of your effort, but does that mean it’s decent? Or you can see everything that needs fixing – are you being too hard on yourself, or do you just have an accurate view of your book’s flaws?

Having worked with over 150 authors now, I’ve found that your book is ready to go to an editor once you’ve hit one of two points:

  1. You’ve gotten your book to the best possible state you can.
  2. You’ve stopped making meaningful progress.

Option 1: Get it in the best possible condition you can

You got your 30,000-50,000 words over a few weeks or months. Then you let your book sit before revisiting it. You reviewed everything, filled in the gaps, reorganizing content where you could, and cutting back the bits that (when you were being honest with yourself) you knew weren’t that good.

After months of writing, tweaking and polishing, your draft is now a sparkling jewel. At least, you know it’s as good as you can get it on your own.

This is the perfect time to send your book to an editor. The better the book you send to your editor, the better the edited book you’ll get back.

While we can work with very rough books (in fact, you could argue that this is our specialty), this usually means that the edit we send back will still be a bit rough. Some chapters will read perfectly, while others will have big holes that need to be filled, and even bullet-point notes from us to guide your writing.

In some cases, your edited book might feel more like a skeleton than a completed draft.
If your book is already in good condition, on the other hand, even if we make significant changes to the structure and content, the big difference is that all the major pieces are usually already there. This means that the edit we send back will read like a completed book (though we’ll still make suggestions about where you could flesh things out in more detail, or make your argument more persuasive).

Option 2: Send it when you stop making meaningful progress

You’re banging your head against a wall. You did your 30,000-50,000 words and, while you got the words out, you know they’re not great. You know they need work. You just don’t know how to make them better.

You’ve tried looking at your book time and time again, but you don’t know what to do about it. You open the document every few days and find yourself staring at a page of text, or adding flowery sentences or waffle that you know doesn’t add much value.
Ultimately, you’ve stopped making meaningful progress.

What do I mean by ‘meaningful progress’? Meaningful progress is progress that makes a difference (ideally an improvement!) to your book. It’s realizing that a point would be much stronger if you shared that client example to demonstrate it, then adding that example in. It’s discovering that you’ve written about goal setting in three separate chapters, and trying to move them all to the same chapter. It’s realizing that a chapter is nothing but waffle, and deciding to delete it.

Unfortunately, when you get too close to your work, it’s hard to see what might make a meaningful difference. You know something’s off, but because you aren’t sure what it is, you start doing anything, just in case it might improve things.

You move around sentences. You expand paragraphs, but you do it without adding any new information. You think that maybe if you copied and pasted an article or an interview into your book, that would add more depth.

The problem with most of these changes is that they don’t add value, they lower the quality of your book as a whole and, when you finally send your book to your editor, they will all get cut anyway.

Instead, consider sending your book to an editor as soon as you hit that brick wall.
If you aren’t making meaningful progress, this is where a good structural editor can help. A structural editor will discuss your goals for the book, who your readers are and any concerns you have about what you’ve written, then they will pull your book apart and put it back together in a way that helps achieve those goals, targets your readers’ needs and addresses those concerns.

While what you get back might be a bit light on content, your editor will send it back with a new, clean structure and concrete guidance about what you need to add. Then, rather than going around in circles (or thinking that, if you keep at it, your head will eventually break through that wall), you’ll know exactly what you need to do to turn your book into a great one.

Where’s your book?

Where are you and your book right now? Just reply to this email with your thoughts, and I’d be happy to diagnose whether you’re ready to start the editing process.

– Jacqui Pretty, Publisher
Morgan James Publishing AUSTRALIA

This great article was originally published on Jacqui’s Grammar Factory Site here

How do you know when your book is ready to go to an editor? 2017-12-01T16:36:49+00:00

If You Want Something Done Right, Write it Yourself

If You Want Something Done Right, Write it Yourself

If you’ve ever…

Walked out of a movie early.

Read a book that put you to sleep.

Browsed a blog that offered words but no content.

You’ve just been hand-delivered a gift. No doubt unfulfilled stories are disappointing, but if you’re a creative, these annoyances could very well be the motivational shove needed to create what you crave into existence.

The Gift of a “Bad” Experience

A bad experience is a matter of opinion. When we’re disappointed by another’s work – left feeling unfulfilled or mislead in some way – consider it a precious, precious gift. Why? You’ve just been offered a puzzle that’s waiting to be solved. Instead of just reading books about writing, experiment with your new skills on this story.  So much growth can occur when we take the time to identify what felt unsatisfactory.

Pinpoint what’s missing from your experience. Explore ideas that could have made it better. Ask the question, “How would I put my spin on it?” Then go off and make sure your next project delivers the goods.

If a server eats at a restaurant, for example, and her waiter is rude and unhelpful, she’ll most likely return to her serving job more motivated to provide her customers with a pleasant experience. She was fine at her job before, but the blessing of that experience was a direct reminder of what it feels like to be on the other end. Be the change, so to speak.

Fill the Gap

“I wish there were more female-driven stories.”

“There should really be more diversity.”

“I’d love to spend a day in the shoes of _____.”

Writers have the gift of creation – the power to take a blank page and fill it with what’s in our heart and soul. And as Spider-Man’s Ben Parker said, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Part of that responsibility is to tell the stories we want to see. Why does it matter what you think? Collective consciousness tells us that if you’re having these thoughts, others are having them too. Pay attention, not only to the ideas you know you can write well, but the ones your soul aches for.

Be an Outsider

“But I don’t know anything about this character. How can I, a young Indian woman write about a Black man in his 60s? How could I possibly capture all of his life experiences, wisdom, hopes and fears?”

Every story should be given the justice it deserves, but that justice will never be done if you block yourself from writing unfamiliar things all together. There’s a difference between a lack of knowledge and a lack of interest. If you’re only lacking knowledge, don’t let that deter you from creating something that you’d love to see.

Research, interview, study. The beauty of being an outsider is that you’ll ask questions that insiders won’t. You’ll see things from another angle, appreciate details that are considered normal, and bring light to things that would otherwise stay in the dark. Do everything in your power to create truthful worlds but also embrace your unique viewpoint. When you surrender to that, you might become the best possible person to tell another’s story.

The Game-Changing Question

How do you think Morgan James Publishing came into existence? As big as this business has become, it started from something quite small: one man’s dissatisfaction with the publishing process.

Was the goal to become the go-to publishing house for entrepreneurial authors? Not really. Was the motivation to have six offices across the map? Nope. Was the catalyst to become one of Publisher’s Weekly “fastest growing publishers in the nation?” Not at all. The goal for this movement started with a bad experience that produced a longing for a better one. The result? Not only has Morgan James Publishing created a better experience its founder; it has gone on to provide a better experience for authors, publishing houses, and readers everywhere.

One man saying, “Hey, this is more difficult than it should be,” produced positive results for many because, as we’ve learned, if one person is thinking it, others are too. Most people would have complained and moved along, but David L. Hancock asked a game-changing question: How can I make this better? This one question holds the power to create change in the world.

What kind of change can you create today?

David L. Hancock, Founder
Morgan James Publishing

If You Want Something Done Right, Write it Yourself 2017-12-04T20:44:58+00:00

Hot New Releases for November 21st 2017

Morgan James Publishing is excited to announce these Hot New Releases for this week!
Each of these are available at your favorite bookseller or online starting this week.

Contributor: Ridgway, Brian D

Annotation: What if self-improvement is booby-trapped?

And what if there is actually a way to change one’s life – in all areas, all at once – by finding and shifting the ONE hidden issue that has been creating all of the stuckness all along.

Coming out of an abusive childhood and then living with the outcomes of that on-going pain, Brian Ridgway invested over $300,000, 30+ years and tens of thousands of hours on self-help, personal development, and business/money/success courses – as his life got worse and worse.

Finding himself homeless, desperate, suicidal, and stuck, he experienced an awakening that took him from homeless to living the dream in Hawaii in less than 90 days. In that awakening, he was given the Level 5 Paradigm.

Since that “miracle moment,” he has been able to help people around the world to take their first steps into true freedom.

Hot New Releases for November 21st 2017 2017-11-21T20:31:09+00:00

Morgan James Radio Episode 019: Cultivating a culture of trust and leadership among people

Morgan James Radio Episode 019: Cultivating a culture of trust and leadership among people

Today’s episode is all about growing things.

Jeff McManus grows things.  As the Director of Landscape Services at the University of Mississippi, he grows plants… he grows people… he grows ideas.  Jeff is a problem-solver, understanding that doing more with less is a 21st century mandate.

Oftentimes, most people think that what they’re doing is irrelevant and will not really affect other people. They have a small regard for their job and doesn’t think that they can actually do great things out of it. A true leader does one step ahead of the others when he thinks of how he can make his people feel valued and how he can help them grow and be great at what they do.

Morgan James Radio Episode 019: Cultivating a culture of trust and leadership among people 2017-11-21T20:02:32+00:00

Mining For Gold in Your Cliché Idea

Mining For Gold in Your Cliché Idea

That’s it! You’ve got it. Your idea is funny yet sweet, sweet yet somber, with a strong ending. It’s a story about a guy who’s in love with a girl, but that girl doesn’t know this guy even exists. Yet… YET. All this crazy stuff happens and by the end? He gets the girl! She falls in love with him too!

Crickets.

Why oh why are there crickets?

Because it has been done, my friend. You’ve just fallen victim to a cliché idea. But don’t put your head in the sand yet – there is good news. Like stereotypes, cliché ideas exist for a reason. This story has already been done because it shows us real slices of life (or how we wish our life were). This cliché idea came to you in your totally original mind. You saw something you’ve never seen before, not entirely anyway.

If you’ve become passionately attached to a story idea that has been done more than eighty (thousand) times, here are a few ways to unchain yourself from a stereotypical hell, and step into an authentically designed heaven.

Flip It On Its Head

This is just what it sounds like. Take that boring family photo, hang it upside down in your entryway, and watch guests do a double take. While doing something “artistic” just for attention is a worse offense than writing an overdone story, experiment with how your baby might change when you do the opposite of what’s expected.

Look at Pixar creation, A Bug’s Life. This movie took familiar personalities and relationships then infused them into bugs. This interesting take grabs our attention and changes the audience’s perspective, while still allowing us to relate to these familiar characters.

Put it in Space

A common joke among industry creatives. You go to a TV network, pitch a show you’re passionate about, and the executives LOVE it. Yay! But there’s a catch – they want to put their original spin on your small town love story so they say, “Let’s put it in space.”

Why not do this yourself? If you have a killer set of characters but your story lacks originality, put it in space.

The Notebook would have been a charming love story on its own, but the element of mixing past and present stories enhanced the depth of this couple’s connection and resulted in exciting storytelling. A Midsummer Night’s Dream probably started off as a common love triangle until Shakespeare plopped these couples in a magical forest and made half of them fairy-like creatures. The result? Audiences enjoy a seemingly unique tale about emotions we can all relate to.

Role Reversal

When you have a cliché idea on top of cliché characters, you can do one of three things: 1) Walk away. 2) Accept that your story will help people everywhere take an epic nap. 3) Incorporate role reversal.

Our world is more openly diverse than ever, kicking the door open for unconventional relationships, characters, and drama. Enjoy experimenting with different POV’s, genders, races, time periods and see what comes to the surface.

What if When Harry Met Sally was set in prison? What if Hamlet was a woman? Don’t sell out by inserting wacky story elements without a purpose, but do let yourself experiment with the big changes that can occur by shifting minor details.

Magic happens when an unrelatable world becomes relatable through familiar characters. After all, our basic needs, wants, joys, and pains are universal. If you do this successfully you’ll expand the viewpoint of your readers and win major brownie points from the creative gods above.

A Big Blow

If you can draw your audience in with dynamic characters or a fascinating world, take your cliché idea and set the audience up for a big surprise. Let them think they’ve figured it all out. Make them think they know just what’s coming next. And then? Change it. It’s like lulling someone to sleep then sounding a blow horn. It might not be favored, but if you do this just right you’ll create a powerful storytelling impact. This tool should be used for good and not evil.

Regardless of which route you take, any idea is original if you let your own voice and unique sense of play come out.

David L. Hancock, Founder
Morgan James Publishing

Mining For Gold in Your Cliché Idea 2017-11-15T19:32:20+00:00