Blog, Spiritual Gifts

Writing and speaking tips

This week I contacted several professional writers and speakers to get tips for success. They were very generous and helpful. They were so encouraging, but also were very honest about the challenges, especially for those just starting out in this field. Here is a sprinkling of their tips:

For writing:

  • It’s a calling from God. It’s your passion.
  • Have a point. You’d be surprised how many people don’t have one. Your writing must be relevant to today’s needs, and useful. Most people want to know, “What’s in this for me?”
  • Write. It seems obvious, but writers often avoid writing by decorating their writing room, organizing drawers, reading writing books, etc. You’re a writer, so write. Not just postcards from London or letters to your sister. Email, Twittering, and Facebook interviews don’t count as serious writing.
  • Write more. Re-write. Don’t be so in love with your own words that you can’t bare to part with any of them. Be your most relentless editor and critic.
  • Read, read, read. Writers learn to write well by studying other writers’ great works and by writing.
  • Buy the 2009 Writer’s Market, an invaluable resource for helping you to find out where and who to send your queries and proposals to when you are ready. It includes over 3,500 listings for book publishers, magazines, journals, and literary agents. It also has samples of queries, great articles from successful writers and editors that are very practical. and helpful writers’ organizations and websites.
  • Learn how to write an excellent query letter.
  • Rejections are part of this business. If you can’t handle them, do something else.
  • Rejection letters are not a personal attack against you. Editors have piles of articles and manuscripts on their desk. They may reject your submission for a number of reasons: there was no query, they don’t accept unsolicited submissions or they only use agents, it doesn’t fit their publishing needs, they are publishing something very similar, your writing needs work – or worse, it stinks. Most editors send standard rejection letters.
  • If you do not know the proper format for an article or book manuscript, it will probably be rejected.
  • Go to writers’ conferences and workshops, such as Mt. Hermon’s Christian writer’s conference.
  • Join a writer’s group to critique each other.
  • Buy Sally E. Stuart’s Christian Writers’ Market Guide 2009, a great tool for the Christian writer, very similar to the Writer’s Market.
  • Go to CLASS training.
  • Build a speaking platform. Writing and speaking go together like a hand and a glove.
  • When you send a query and/or article or manuscript to an editor, do not call him or her to chat about your work. He will put your precious baby in the slush pile. Wait at least 6 to 8 weeks before contacting an editor or publisher after submission.
  • Be professional, not a spoiled, overly-sensitive brat. Editors want to publish good writing. They don’t have a personal agenda against you. Listen to their wisdom, which comes from a lot of experience. Many editors are writers, too.
  • Writing now requires other qualifications; for example, knowing how to market your own work, speaking, technology skills, etc.
  • Build a speaking platform.
  • Network. You never know who might be able to help you get your foot in the door.
  • You will have to get over a fear of promoting yourself. It is essential today.
  • Learn from the professionals. Be teachable. Glean all you can from those who have the success that you desire. Emulate their ways of success, but have your unique flavor, too.
  • Develop a mission statement. Who is your target audience and how do you want to help them specifically?
  • Get a website and a blog. Do all with excellence. If you have the money, hire a professional to design them. Use your website, blog, Facebook, Twitter for advertising your product.
  • Create or hire someone professional to make professional business cards, promotional brochures or flyers, etc.
  • Initially, you may not make any or a lot of money at this. Very few people make it “big.” But do submit your work to magazines, journals, online ezines, etc. Get published wherever you can, to build writing credibility. Writers who have had articles published are taken more seriously by editors when it comes to publishing a book.
  • When you get published, sell, market, advertise your product everywhere. Get the word out there. Your publisher will help you, but many books are sold outside the bookstore!
  • Have a few close friends who are your prayer covering. You will have warfare.
  • Be yourself. Find your voice. Be real and genuine. No one likes someone who is fake. Stop trying to be Miss Perfect. God will use your pain and heartache to minister to others.
  • You are God’s scribe. Listen for His voice, and then share His message of good news with others to glorify Him and to encourage others.
  • Don’t stop writing. If you don’t absolutely love writing, get out while you can. Keep writing! You will see your dreams come true if you don’t quit!

For speakers:

  • It’s a calling.
  • Have a point! Some people don’t. Have something important, valuable, and useful to say. Most people don’t want to know about the Austrian who has the world record for building coffins, or about your uncle’s gall stone surgery that he miraculously came through with no problems. We’re glad your uncle is okay, but unless there’s a gem of wisdom in the story that will help us today, we don’t need to hear about it.
  • Join a Toastmasters Club. It will sharpen your speaking skills, and you will meet wonderful people from all walks of life who have a passion for speaking. Toastmasters International has clubs all over the U.S. and the world. You can find a local club in your area. The Toastmaster’s web site is a wealth of information for speakers, with free resources.
  • Build a writing platform.
  • Attend professional speakers training, such as CLASS.
  • Don’t point out your problems: “I’m really no good at public speaking,” or “With my scratchy, horrible voice, I’ll try to read this.” (courtesy of CLASS)
  • Record and video yourself speaking. Work on not saying “um,” “you know,” or “ok?” Pay attention to any irritating mannerisms while speaking, such as scratching yourself, playing with your hair, touching your face, putting your hands in your pocket, having dull facial expressions or speaking in a monotone, reading your speech, etc.
  • Take voice lessons if you need them. People like confident, passionate speakers. Don’t whine, speak too low, race through your speech like you’re being timed, or mumble. Please, do not chew gum.
  • Your message is the most important thing, but appearance does matter. No one wants to look at a frumpy speaker in outdated clothes, with unkempt hair, no makeup and fuzzy, caterpillar eyebrows. Be a professional.
  • Network with speakers and other professionals.
  • Get over any fear of promoting yourself. It is necessary today.
  • Create or hire someone to make professional business cards, promotional brochures and flyers, etc.
  • Get a website and a blog. Hire a professional to design them, if possible.
  • Get a logo and a brand. Have a mission statement. What makes you unique from the thousands of other Christian speakers out there?
  • Always record. You never know when you are going to give a speech that is phenomenal and you want a recording of that one. Learn from your bad days. Make cd’s and other products of your best speeches, and sell and market them. There are professional duplication companies who can help you with this, who can remove background noise, hisses, etc., and can help you produce and market your product.
  • Professional speakers charge. Initially you may have to speak for free, then only earn about $100 for one day of speaking. As your skills sharpen and you become more in demand, you can charge more. The “A” list well known speakers, such as Florence Littaeur and Liza Curtis Higgs, start at $2500 and up. The “B” list, who have some name recognition and are typically published with a house, receive $800 to $3,000 with all expenses paid. The “C” list, or beginners without much name recognition, charge $25 to $800. (courtesy of Marita Littauer, CLASS)
  • You may not make any money or much at all when first starting out. Many “big” speakers today are struggling right now due to the economy and changing trends; women are not coming to events as much now. You may have to do this as a side business. Seek the Lord on what to do.
  • Take advantage of social media to share your messages, such as podcasting and Blog Talk Radio.
  • Many pastors do not want “outsiders” coming into their churches, and possibly “tainting”, “influencing,” or “stealing their sheep.” Male pastors can be weird about women speakers, so expect some resistance as you are stepping out in faith to do this. God will open doors of favor for you, as you seek Him.
  • Be real and transparent. Nobody likes fakeness. Stop trying to be perfect. Your pain and struggles may be the very thing to minister to someone else.
  • Remember you are a messenger of hope and encouragement to others. Use your gift of communication to glorify God and to bless others.
  • Don’t let the enemy silence you. God wants to use you to share His words of truth and life with others. You will achieve your goals of success if you do not give up!

For all of you who shared some of these things with me this week, a big thank you from my heart. You really blessed and encouraged me!




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