The Power of Critique Groups

Someone will critique your work – it’s inevitable, and you don’t want it to be your publisher. Today’s Writers Chat digs in to why critique groups can be helpful for your writing career.

Critique Group Tips

  • Keep critique groups small.
  • Find Critique Groups
    • Your local librarian should have suggestions. They know local authors and can link you to other writers.
    • Also Word Weavers International is a great place to start. They have local in-person chapters, but also have groups to join online.
  • Attend writers conferences.
  • Have “Early Readers” and what Bethany calls, the “Yes” Reader.
  • WATCH OUT for someone who tries to change your “voice.”
  • Have your critique group members be close to your skill level.

Watch the replay here:

Fitness for Writers: Get Off Your Seat!

Fitness for Writers: Get Off Your Seat!

Fitness and writers are two words that don’t often go together. A common joke among writers is “Q: How do you write a book? A: Bottom in chair.” Today we’re talking about how to get your rear out of the chair! It’s awesome to have April Carpenter with us sharing tips and resources to make sure we’re taking care of our bodies and not just sitting forever. Check out her Facebook page!


Exercise Pyramid

1. Stop sitting so much.

2. Choose the active way. Move 30 minutes every day. PLUS aerobic exercises each week.

Banish Excuses

“If you complain, you will remain.”

When I’m writing, I get on a roll and can’t stop.

What if inspiration strikes while I’m on a walk? I’ll forget it.

April’s Personal Tips

  • Flip-flop water and caffeine throughout the day.
  • Nibble in the mornings.
  • Yogurt every other day.
  • Know your triggers. Sit properly at the computer.

Top Ten

  1. Make Exercise a Priority.

    Schedule the time with yourself daily.

  2. Make NO Excuses – readjust when necessary.

  3. Combine your writing goal with your workout goal.

  4. Products & Tech:

    • FitBit
      • do FitBit Challenges with your friends! 10,000 steps is a good goal. Drink water!
      • Bethany’s: FitBit Charge HR
    • MyFitness Pal app – free
    • Stability ball instead of desk chair – works on your posture
    • Stress ball
    • Resistance bands – can stretch your shoulders at your desk
    • Use a recorder or voice memo on your phone in case inspiration strikes, can also type in notes.
    • Wear a running belt to run or walk to hold your phone and headphones
    • Massage therapists, physical therapists, and chiropractors
    • Good shoes *Bethany’s tip*
  5. Prayer

    • What are you afraid of? Time? Muscle soreness? Losing inspiration?
      Fear and faith demand hope without seeing.
    • Rhythms of Growth devotional
  6. Develop Your Own Rule

    Example: For every 20 minutes, drink 2-3 oz of water.
    For every hour of writing, I’m going to ________________.

  7. Stretch.

    God’s called you to do a work. You must take care of your instrument.
    Long-term, we need to be stretching every day.
    You lose flexibility every day that you don’t stretch.

  8. Take care of the whole package.

    Mind, body, and spirit. Relax. Eat healthy and yummy snacks: Kind bars, Pop chips, Larabars

  9. Get accountable.

    1. Join a gym.
    2. Call a friend.
    3. Do FitBit Challenges.
    4. Join a class at a community center or church.
  10. Connect the Spirit

    Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and Walking in this World: the Practical Art of Creativity

    1. Take a weekly walk.
    2. Make a date with yourself.
    3. Create your brain dump list in the morning.
    4. God will use us and unfold us in different ways.


Publishing and Radio

Publishing and Radio

Athena Dean Holtz is the co-founder of Redemption Press and host of Always Faithful Radio Group, mentions the book Nam Vet: Making Peace with your Past (paperback here | e-book here) and how it sold 10,000 copies before it got a press behind it and has gone on to sell hundreds of thousands. Self-publishing can be an incredible tool, especially if you have an already-built audience.

Athena’s Publishing Tips

  • Be teachable!!! Use an editor, and critique group!
  • Have someone critique who isn’t your “yes” person and doesn’t know your entire back story. Too much familiarity can cause your reader to subconsciously fill in the gaps.
  • A speaker (or anyone who has a built-in audience) may need product right away – and self-publishing is a great way to fill this need.
  • Recommends Lightning Source for Print on Demand
  • Take the Time to Set Up:
    • Cover
    • Editing & Critiquing
    • Layout
  • Walk around Barnes and Noble and check out what you like. Write down your themes and commonalities so you can get the branding you want.

Always Faithful Radio Show

Athena is the host of the Always Faithful Radio Show on You can check out her author interviews on Fridays at 1 PM and you can catch her Periscoping the live interview and the replays here!

Tips for Being Interviewed on the Radio

  1.  Make sure to have suggested questions so you know where the conversation is going.
  2. Have your answers to the questions ready!
  3. Think through a sound byte answer {15-30 seconds max}, and give that first. If they ask more, they will ask.
  4. Don’t be long-winded. The host needs to pop in and “refresh” with the audience.

Keep Up the Hustle

What an amazing Writers Chat session today! Kevin Buchanan, author of The World Needs Your Hustle, (available Jan 2016) shared his 4 Steps to Accomplishing ANY goal, and we shared why and how to use a word for your year’s resolution.

Check it out here:
Helping others accomplish their goals helps you accomplish yours. @kevinbuchanan

Kevin Buchanan’s 4 step system to accomplishing your goals:

  1. Get specific – What do you want? What is your goal? Now narrow it. Get even more specific to focus your on your goal. 
  2. Determine your why. Why do you want to accomplish that goal? There is always a deeper reason WHY you want to accomplish your goal. 
  3. Create an action plan. What can you do this week to get you closer to your goal?
  4. Celebrate your accomplishment! What can you do to reward yourself after 30 days.

What is your word of the year for 2016? 

Mine is mogul.[Tweet “Helping others accomplish their goals helps you accomplish yours. Via @kevinbuchanan”]

Setting Goals

  • Don’t announce a huge goal at the beginning of Jan
  • Start from the smallest to the largest goal 
  • Starting small is ok because bigger opportunities will come
  • Be realistic – you can’t do it all in one day

What do you have to do today to get you goals accomplished by the end of the year?

Writing Goals and Dreams for 2016

Are you prepared for this new year? We are spinning off of Tamsen Horton’s Quarterly Planning system (click here to see it!). See how Bethany, Jean, and Johnnie each plan out their writing and business calendars here:

How to set realistic goals:

  1. Know what works your business may not work for everyone and vice versa!
  2. Know your core why or reason you established your business. Your why is crucial to your goals, dreams, and living a fulfilled life.
  3. Planning helps you respect your time, including the weekends and rest time!

Writer’s Chat Overview

Tip: Turn off the computer to get more things done! Be sure to establish boundaries for family time and sleep, although as an entrepreneur, you are going to lose some sleep.

[Tweet “Your why is crucial to your goals, dreams, and living a fulfilled life. @_kevinbuchanan”]

I am currently reading Essentialism by Greg McKeown {kindle version here}. – This has inspired my weekly goal setting idea.

Jean’s new book Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room, an advent devotional just released on Amazon. {Click here for the kindle version.}

Final Thoughts

  • You can control your platform, your pitch, and your proposal to further your writing career.
  • Get serious. Join the Serious Writer Academy.
  • Don’t forget about upcoming Florida Christian Writers Conference in 2016. Be sure to sign up and dedicate your time to becoming a better writer.
  • As @Jeanwise says, “You can’t plan all day, you have to take action!”

Q&A with Literary Agent Tamela Hancock Murray

Tamela Hancock Murray headshotAsk the Literary Agent

Bestselling and award-winning author Tamela Hancock Murray understands what it takes to get published. She has been an agent for over 12 years and is currently with the Steve Laube agency.

Watch the show or check out the Q&A below.

Q: How can I get started as a writer?

  • Pick a topic you are passionate about
  • Read in the genre you are interested in writing
  • Fiction writers: Read in your category
  • Know where your book “fits on the shelf”
  • Nonfiction: Ask yourself what else is out there in my category?
    • Check the local book stores
    • Check Amazon
  • Appeal to a broad audience, but be specific
  • Blog once a week or start a newsletter once a month

Q: Are a lot of publishers looking for agents to pitch the book?

A: It depends on the publisher. Micropublishing can be successful as well, but that does not involve using an agent.

Q: How does a literary agent help authors? An agent is your first line of defense to pitch to publishers. Agents:

  • Tailors your message to publishers
  • Give advice on writing edits
  • Get with the right personality
  • Help with light editing
  • Knows which writing contests authors should enter
  • Helps you read and interpret your contract

If you are considering working with an agent, choose an agent that knows your category.

Well-known Reader Markets

Q: How established does my social media platform need to be in order to be published?

  • There is no set amount of followers needed to be successful
  • Your agent will know the best publisher for you
  • Agents look for quality followers, not quantity
  • Your active Facebook group connections can help add to your numbers
  • Establish a presence online

Don’t let fear paralyze you to submit your best work (preferably in a word document) to an agent.

Q: Does being self-published help you get published by a large company?

A: No. Not unless they have sold 60,000 at 9.99.

Q: Should I get an editor before sending to an agent?

A: If you feel that you need your work edited, yes, please do so, although it is not required. Agents are not allowed to recommend editors.

Are you a new writer looking for an agent?

  • Look for a personality that would fit with yours
  • Find someone you want to work with as a long-term partner
  • Identify why that agent could help you with your writing career
  • Attend a writers conference to stand out to agents and publishers

How to stand out to agents

  • Be marketable
  • Be knowledgeable in your category
  • Have a fabulous title that draws in the reader

Connect with Tamela on Facebook and Twitter, or better yet, join us February 24- 28, 2016 at the upcoming 28th annual Florida Christian Writers Conference located in Lake Yale Conference Center, Leesburg, FL!