By Jackie M. Johnson

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Life is full of challenges. You want to lose weight but the pounds stick to you like super glue.

A friend needs a new job or is having marital problems. Your niece is wondering if she will ever get married. Our country is divided on political issues. And on it goes.

As believers, we are taught early to “trust in the Lord.” But what does that really mean and how do we do it?

Trust means letting God be God. Not freaking out when the bills pile up like snow in the Rocky Mountains. Not striving to make things happen on our own. Trust is releasing worry and surrendering stress. It’s letting go of the problem and believing that the One who loves us most will take care of our situation.

So when you submit a book proposal, you don’t keep calling your agent every few days to see how it’s going. Or, if you don’t have the money for rent or the mortgage, you don’t worry incessantly. You pray and take action, and trust God will provide instead of trying to control outcomes and letting the stress keep you awake at night.

As you pray, God acts. He may ask you to do something or he may direct you to wait and be still. Either way, you learn to lean, not on your own understanding of how things should be, but on the strong shoulders of Jesus Christ. He has the wisdom to know what to do, even when the next step seems unclear. He has the strength and power to make real and lasting changes. And, he acts out of ultimate love for his daughters and sons.

God will do what is best, in His way and in His timing. On that we can rely.

Trust in His goodness. Rest in His love.

Jackie M. Johnson is the author of the popular Power Prayers for Women, the helpful breakup recovery resource When Love Ends and the Ice Cream Carton Is Empty, and Praying with Power When Life Gets Tough. She also writes a blog for single and single again readers, Living Single, on Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk website. Connect with Jackie at www.jackiejohnsoncreative.com.

 

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Jackie Johnson

Jackie Johnson

Greetings from Jackie M. Johnson!

Are you working with a literary agent for the first time? Or, are you looking for ways to improve the working relationship you have with your current agent? If so, here are six essential things you need to know.

As an author, it is vital to know what your agent does—and what he or she does not do. Knowing this information can help alleviate misunderstandings and create a sense of realistic expectations.

 

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A Jackie M. Johnson photoGreetings from Jackie M. Johnson!

What do Olympic athletes and contestants on reality music competition shows have in common?

They both practice their craft intensely. Knowing that swimmers, runners and artists who sing their hearts out practice for hours each day, humbles me; it gives me pause to think about my own dedication to the writing craft.

Over the years I’ve written books, articles, blog posts, marketing collateral and other material. Like those athletes and artists, I’ve have to make hard choices.

When I am writing a book, I judiciously guard my time. If I didn’t remove distractions and focus, I wouldn’t meet my deadlines. But, it helps to keep in mind that it’s only for a “season.”

Whether you write professionally or on a freelance basis (either full-time or part-time)—or, you’re a writer wanna-be—it is essential to choose to make time for your writing. Easier said than done, right? Life happens. I get it. Despite our best intentions, we get busy with family, friends, church activities, sports, hobbies, work, travel and more.

How do you find time to write even when life is full? Here are some ideas to consider:   

Schedule time to write. Yes, you may have heard this before. But, don’t freak yourself out. The key here is to start small and build momentum. Whether it’s a block of one hour or ten minutes, put something on the calendar for writing time.Then, just start. And, as you do, you will find yourself writing more and increasing your time working with words. 

Some writers I know block out entire writing days or weeks. Others don’t have that luxury. No matter what your life looks like, schedule a few hours a week on your calendar. They could be all at once, or one per day, or whatever works for you. 

Here’s the thing. Some people find their efforts stalling, like a car on the freeway, when they attempt to write and edit at the same time. Instead, just write—no matter how good or bad it is—then return to the piece later and edit what you’ve written.   

Find “pockets” of time. I am notorious for jotting down ideas on a napkin at a restaurant or on the smallest possible scrap of paper because I don’t want to lose a good idea. Keep pen and paper (or electronic device) in your purse, in your car, near your bed, in your kitchen to capture your thoughts before they fleet away. 

Create a writing place. Some writers set up a desk and deem that their “writing place.” Others write on their laptop or other portable device while sitting on the couch or lingering at a coffee shop. Find what works for you so when you get there, it signals, “Time to write.” 

Deal with procrastination. Recently, I heard a good phrase that is supposed to help people do something they don’t want to do: Do it anyways. The key to getting things done, in my opinion, is to break the task into smaller pieces. I mean smaller pieces. Go buy a few reams of paper. Turn your PC or MAC on. Sit in the chair. Write something, anything, just to get warmed up. Baby steps can be helpful for people who just need to begin. 

Make your writing a priority. If you want to write and you never seem to get around to it, then your writing is a back burner item. It’s an afterthought, and you need to make it a priority. Put it on the front burner of your life, like a pot of soup that’s bubbling over. You need to attend to it now! 

Limit your social media. This may be hard for some people, but if you’re going to make your writing a priority—and your life is already full of activity—then cutting down on social media can shave minutes (or hours) from your jam-packed schedule and free up time to do what you say you want to do: write. Set a timer (like the one on your kitchen stove or smartphone) for a set number of minutes. Engage in your social media, and then stop. Don’t keep checking your phone, tablet, laptop or desktop or other device. It’s time to focus. 

Create a prayer team for your writing life. We need the power of God to work in us and through us to be efficient and effective, even when life pulls us in myriad directions. A number of writers I know have created a prayer team for their writing life—or for a specific project (like while you are writing a book). I do this too. 

Ask a few friends if they would be willing to pray for you and your projects on a daily or weekly basis. Send email to update them on your progress and your prayer needs. You may want to ask for specific prayer items (such as time, energy, creative ideas, and for God to order your steps) or keep it general; it’s up to you. 

Before the busy fall starts, decide when you will write. Set appointments with yourself. Make it a priority. 

It all adds up to this: If you want to write and you’re too busy, then you’re too busy. Something’s got to give. You’ve got to want it. Add to your passion for writing the other steps of planning, prayer and perseverance. 

It’s about choices. Choose wisely, and watch your writing life come alive!

 

Jackie M. Johnson is an author, freelance writer and book publishing consultant. Visit her blog, A New Day Cafe, or website for more information.

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A Jackie M. Johnson photoGreetings from Jackie M. Johnson

Most people are familiar with “brands” for products and services. For instance, a can of Campbell’s soup (the original line) is always red and white with the name in a unique cursive font. It’s instantly recognizable on a grocery store shelf crammed with different brands of soup.  

As an author, your brand is essential too. First, you need to know who you are and how you want to be perceived. Then, get your message to your readers—and do so consistently. By being immediately recognizable, you are in a better position for readers to find you, to connect with you and, ultimately, purchase your books.   

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Greetings from Jackie M. Johnson! 

In today’s market, finding a literary agent is no longer and option, it’s an essential. A good agent is your advocate, the person who represents your book ideas to potential publishers and aims to get you the best book deal possible. He or she negotiates the deal in terms of advance, rights and royalties.  

So, how do you find an agent? First, know what you are looking for in a potential agent. Some agents specialize while others are more generic in the types of manuscripts they are looking for. For instance, an agent may work only with nonfiction. If that’s the case, and you write novels, then you will need to find an agent who deals with fiction authors. 

As you connect on the phone or in person, ask yourself if this is someone with whom you want to have a working relationship. Finding the right agent is about “fit” as much as it is about business because you will be working with this person for years to come. 

Second, know what agents are looking for in a potential author. You can’t just hire an agent; they select you if you are right for their client list and objectives. 

Alice Crider, an agent with WordServe Literary, provides some helpful insight: “Agents (and publishers) are looking for these three elements from an author: excellent writing, remarkable content, and a strong platform. If you have two out of three of these, your chances of landing an agent who can help you land a contract with a traditional publisher are good. If you have all three, even better.” 

Alice continues, “Writers these days need to do a lot of groundwork to build a platform and a lot of homework to know their market. They may also have to spend a great deal of time working on their craft in order to stand out above the competition. Above all, agents are looking for authors who are ready for publication–those who can deliver a message or a story that masses of people can access easily, relate to, enjoy and share with others.”  

So, you’ve honed your craft. You’ve written a query letter. You’ve written your manuscript or at least part of it, and you’re ready to find an agent. Here are some of the best ways to look for a literary agent: 

Ask your writer or editor friends who they know, or whom they would recommend for a literary agent. You’d be amazed what can happen when you simply start asking around. 

Consult the Christian Writer’s Market Guide by Jerry B. Jenkins. This comprehensive resource is reprinted annually (so be sure to have the version for the current year). In addition to listing book publishers and magazine publishers, there is also a section listing, by state, some of the literary agents in the CBA market. 

Obtain a free list—sent directly to your email inbox. Terry Whalin is a former literary agent and acquistions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He provides a Free List of Literary Agents online when you submit your first name and email, you can receive a list of more than 400 agents agents, names, addresses, websites and phone numbers. “A great research tool for any author,” says Terry. 

As you commence your quest to find the best literary agent for you, remember these two important things:

1) Agents do not charge you a fee. Literary agents who represent traditional publishers get paid the industry standard 15% (and this is paid by your publisher after you have a book deal, not by you).

2) Follow the agent or agency’s submission guidelines. Generally, they are listed on the agency website. 

My hope is that by following these helpful ideas, you will have a long and successful career as a published author—and your words will bless others in ways unexpected. 

P.S. Check out the new FaithHappenings website for events, conferences, concerts, blogs and other Christian resources. For authors, it will soon be a place where you or your publisher can promote your events and books. 

Jackie M. Johnson is an author and freelance writer in Colorado. She also helps writers as a book publishing consultant. Previously, she worked at the premier literary agency, Alive Communications, and the CBA-publisher, WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. Visit her encouragement blog, A New Day Cafe, or website for more information.

 

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