Writing and The Ups & Downs of Social Media

I’m linking up with Sarah Markley today discussing social media in the writing world.

In college and seminary, I wrote primarily for magazines. I had no idea who my readers were personally. I didn’t have a blog, Facebook, Twitter or an i-Phone.

Shortly after I got married, I joined Facebook. Then after a writer’s conference in 2007, I was encouraged to start a blog. A few years later I joined Twitter for the purpose of networking with other writers and authors but I wasn’t sold on it for a while. I questioned:

Do I really need one more thing to put my energy towards? Will this become a distraction? Do I really need to be on it?

After becoming a stay-at-home mom in 2010, I started to see that being heavily involved in social media was a big deal in order to be a successful writer. You had to let others know about your work and gain a following. And you needed social media to build relationships that could lead to being published.

I understood the necessity of having a good platform but my love and passion for writing was getting shoved under the bus by the hype and noise of social media and self-promotion. I realized this more vividly through Jeff Goins, who helps writers get back to the basics of loving the craft. I wondered:

Could I just write for writing’s sake because I loved it, felt close to God through it, and wanted to encourage others?

Social Media and the Heart of it All

I felt like I couldn’t keep up with everyone else in the social media world. I found myself overwhelmed rather than enjoying it as a tool for connection, edification, and outreach. My heart desired to be noticed by others and my mood was sometimes dictated by how many retweets, responses, blog stats, comments, likes, and shares I had.

After a lot of wrestling the day came when I realized I had to make a choice. My time spent on social media would have to be limited and I would have to be okay with not being excessively involved for the sake of my relationship with the Lord, my husband and children, and my love for writing.

As I started to ask God to help me live in moderation, I found more freedom from the desire to people please, compare myself to others or feel like I wasn’t “being” or “doing” enough in the online world.

The Art of Disconnecting & Connecting

I wrote when I sensed God leading me to write something. I got on Twitter and Facebook a few times throughout the day but it wasn’t the end of the world if I went several days without sharing anything or reading other feeds. I practiced the art of turning my phone on silent so I didn’t feel the urgency to respond to every chime or notification. I set limits on how often I would check email and blog comments. It was more challenging than I thought!

I connected with people and readers more individually through email or a personal message rather than publicly. I started to enjoy the benefits and blessings of social media rather than feeling exhausted or overwhelmed. 

With the ability to share posts on Facebook and Twitter, God has given me the opportunity to connect with friends and readers I never guessed were reading and minister to them in unique ways. He’s also given me the opportunity to guest post for authors that I love and to become a contributing writer to a few sites.

I’ve learned new things and gained fresh insight through social media. And probably the thing I love most is getting to know readers and connecting with them in a more personal way that can’t be done through magazine writing.

Life is Happening Where You Are

I don’t have it all together when it comes to balancing the benefits of social media. It’s a daily choice and discipline to make sure my heart is in line and I’m using it for the right purposes.

Will I continue to use social media in the future? Absolutely. But as a writer, wife, and mom my time will be guarded. Life is happening where I am right now and I don’t want to miss out. There will always be time later to post, share, reply, connect, and write.

What about you? Do you ever struggle with finding a balance with social media? What do you like/dislike about it?

 

“Resting” in the Writing World

Today before John’s nap we read the book I Knew You Could by Craig Dorfman. It’s a children’s book I highly recommend full of inspiration and encouragement similar to the classic, The Little Engine That Could. But I beg to say it’s even better.

The words at the end rang true for me today:

When your belief in yourself doesn’t feel quite so pure, and your “I think I can” doesn’t sound quite so sure.

That’s when to push and to strive and to strain, to show the world you’re not a giving-up train. And you’re wise if you know that doing your best means that sometimes you should just slow down and rest.

Speeding through your whole trip will bring only sorrow, so slow down today to be happy tomorrow.

I’m such a dreamer and often want things now. Starting this new site and recently accepting offers for new writing responsibilities has been so exciting. I could write all day if there was time. But my priorities are the Lord, my husband, children, and managing my home.

All of which means that writing comes after all of that. And I know that in order to do my best in the writing world requires me to slow down and rest. Dreams take time and the most important things in life can’t be sacrificed.

I’ve seen the opposite happen (dreams happening fast at the expense of spouse/children) in lives of highly talented and successful people. Some are still making it but some have crumbled and it’s so sad.

As I enter a new season of writing, my prayer is to strive and strain towards my goals but to slow down and rest simultaneously so that I’ll be able to stay at writing for the long haul. If that makes any sense at all.

What about you… How do you balance your dreams with reality? Do you find it easy or hard to rest?

Heartshot Headshots with Katie Bowman

My friend Katie and I recently went on a little excursion here in Dallas to a district called Deep Ellum and a trendy little coffee shop called The Pearl Cup that serves the best chai tea lattes in big porcelain mugs.

The purpose of our outing was to take some headshots for this blog and for Start Marriage Right.

Katie is a very gifted photographer, writer, and do-it-yourself guru. Both of us have seminary degrees, our husbands are both currently in seminary, and we both live in seminary housing. Go figure! We also went to the same college in Virginia and have spoken on/taught abstinence in public schools (Katie still does).

I guess you can say that we’re like peas in a pod when we get together.

It’s always awkward to have pictures taken of yourself (with no one else in them). It can feel vain and weird, but I knew Katie would be the best person for the job. She did an amazing job putting me at ease and captured exactly what I was hoping for. And it helped that she always has a way of making me laugh!

Head on over to her blog, Shades of Grey, to check out her work and give her some comment love.

10 Tips to Becoming a Better Blogger

In September 2007, I attended the North Texas Christian Writer’s Conference. At that time, I was a year out of getting my Master’s, I’d interned for two well-known Christian publishing companies, I’d been published in several magazines and contributed to two teen books.

But I was itching for more. I just couldn’t put my fingers on what it was.

That’s when I sat under the writing workshops of authors James Watkins and Christopher Maselli. I took to heart their advice:

Every writer needs to have a blog.

Christopher had a workshop dedicated solely to helping you start a blog. I wrote down all his notes, came home, and started what you’re reading today on WordPress.com.

I didn’t know much about blogging, I just wanted a space to write and the opportunity to hear from readers. The same is true today.

Sure, I research how to write good blog posts. I subscribe to CopyBlogger.com. I frequent blogs of writers and authors I enjoy and respect. But at the end of the day, I simply write from my heart. I figure a day will come when blogging is no longer cool, and that’s okay because I’ll still keep writing.

One of my newest readers, Meg Pieroway, asked if I had any tips or advice about blogging as she’s launching a Christian blog soon. I smiled when I read her comment because I was already thinking about writing something about my journey in blogging. So thank you, Meg, for the nudge.

I hope these tips will help many of you as you pursue your passion to write.

10 Tips to Becoming a Better Blogger

1.) Be Yourself. You’ve heard it over and over, but it’s true. Learn and grow from bloggers you love, but remember their voice is not yours. Take advantage of the fact that there is no one like you in this world and that’s how God wanted it to be. There is someone who needs to hear your voice.

2.) Write When You Don’t Feel Like It. Emotions come and go, but the truth is that you love to write. Take the first step and start typing. I’m pretty sure you’ll fall in love again and get hooked into some kind of post. Either way, you’ll be glad you chose discipline and commitment over your feelings.

3.) Never Publish Your First Draft. Writing is an art and takes time to craft. Write your post, sit on it for a few hours or a day, and come back to it to edit, shorten, proof-read, simplify, and tighten. You’ll be amazed at what you want to change and reword to make the post better.

4.) Don’t Get Hung Up On Blog Traffic. It’s exciting when you get 500 hits a day on your blog and you check the stats throughout the day to watch them soar. But in my experience, blog traffic can be a major distraction and can put you in a good or bad mood.

You’re writing for God, yourself, and your tribe or niche. Stats are important to make sure people are actually reading, but keep first things first.

5.) Reply to Readers’ Comments. Your readers are responding to your posts partly because they want you to know they’re reading. And deep down, they’d love your response. Who wouldn’t? This doesn’t mean you have to respond to every. single. one. but you want them to know you care.

6.) Work Hard at the Craft of Writing. Discipline always requires sacrifice. The writing life isn’t an easy road and success doesn’t happen over night. Some bloggers are successful right off the bat and their blog turns into a book. But for the majority of bloggers it takes years to hone your skill, know your audience, and find your voice. Writing on a regular basis will pay off.

7.) Share Your Blog Posts on Facebook, Twitter, & Other Social Networking Sites. Who needs one more post in their news feed, right? Well your post might be the one that someone desperately needs to read on that particular day. Social networking sites are a perfect way to get the word out about your blog and to connect with readers. And they’re great for finding other writers with your interests.

8.) Be Discerning With Self-Promotion. In the publishing business, having a platform and being willing to market yourself is crucial. That’s just the rules of the game. As writers who follow Christ, there is a fine line when it comes to the sins of pride, vanity, and boasting.

I haven’t figured all of it out yet, but be cautious and discerning in the ways you let others know about your work. Check your motives and your heart. Is your purpose to draw attention to yourself, or to edify and equip?

9.) Mark Your Writing with Authenticity. Our generation craves it and the Lord knows the church needs more of it. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable or share your weaknesses and struggles. People will relate to you all the more if they know you’re human.

When I read posts, I often ask: Where is the conflict or struggle? If one doesn’t exist, I question it. Conflict is a natural part of life.

10.) Don’t Ever Give Up. I wanted to quit blogging at one point. It was difficult and I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted, in the timing I desired. I eventually discovered that it was all about me and God showed me I needed to get out of the way. He had bigger plans for my writing. And he used many people to encourage me in that, especially the words of a friend and reader, Scott McCreedy.

There were also times I wrote to please people and that did nothing but hinder me. So I renewed myself in my passion to write and didn’t worry about those latter things. Now, I see blogging as another tool for God to use my writing however he wants and I’m just happy to get to do what I love.

If writing is a gift God has given you, push back whatever lies are roaming around in your head and keep at it! This world needs your voice.

Now it’s your turn to chime in. What have I left out? Blogger or non-blogger, what do you think it takes to be a great blogger? 

Above photo credit: lsgeekster.blogspot.com

New Facebook Page

For a while now, I’ve loved using Facebook to post info about new blog posts and articles on the account Jeremiah and I share. It’s been great getting feedback from friends I know personally. Well on Friday it dawned on me that I could create a Facebook page specifically for writing.

My hope for this new page is to better connect with you as a reader, and I’m really excited to use this page as a platform for writing and ministry.

Thank you so much for your continued support and for reading my thoughts on faith and life. Click here to “like” the page and feel free to tell your friends. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Author/Editor Interview: Brandy Bruce

I’d like to introduce you to Brandy Bruce. Brandy and I went to the same college and interned together in book publishing at Focus on the Family in 2003. She is a special friend of mine and an up-and-coming Young Adult Fiction writer. She recently published her first book Looks Like Love with Westbow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson.

I thought her writing journey would be helpful to those of you interested in publishing/self-publishing, and of course, I wanted you to get to know her and her book. If you have any questions for Brandy, leave them in the comment section below.

Samantha Krieger Interviewing Brandy Bruce:

Samantha: So, tell us what your book Looks Like Love is all about.

Brandy: Looks Like Love is about a twenty-something marketing consultant, Kasey Addison, who’s starting over. After a devastating break-up, everything Kasey thought she knew about love suddenly feels like a lie. So she takes off on a journey to rediscover life and faith and love. Her adventure begins in London while she’s visiting her best friend. When her little whirlwind trip to England is over, she comes home to find herself suddenly on the marketing team for LETA, a growing cosmetics company. When LETA decides to release their very first fragrance, Kasey’s challenged to find out what love looks like and find a way to sell it. Along the way, Kasey learns that love looks like what she least expected

Samantha: What is the main takeaway for readers after reading your book?

Brandy: That love doesn’t always come wrapped in neat little packages. It can be messy; it can be painful; it can be hard. But it’s worth it. And that no matter what we go through in life, God’s love is always available to us.

Samantha: When I read and edited your book, I saw a lot of your preferences in the main character, Kasey Addison (coffee and cheesecake just to name a few!). Was this intentional? Explain a little bit about those similarities.

Brandy: I’m sure some of my personal characteristics come through in Kasey, but it wasn’t intentional. My characters weren’t inspired by real people or anything like that–just small characteristics. For example, I used to know a guy whose eyes either looked blue or green, depending on what he was wearing. I gave that quality to Lincoln. Once, when my dad came home from a trip overseas, he brought me a Toblerone bar of white chocolate. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to make Kasey a white-chocolate lover. Little things like that were inspired by real experiences. But the story as a whole and the characters were all just dreamed up.

Samantha: Talk a little bit about your publishing  journey.

Brandy: I actually wrote Looks Like Love several years ago. Once I finished it, I showed it to an agent (Chip MacGregor) who liked it and signed me as one of his authors. That was a great day. Then came the hard part—selling it. We came really close with a couple of publishers and got some great feedback, but just weren’t able to sell it. Because I’d received such positive feedback from editors I know and respect, I really didn’t want to give up on my book. So I told Chip I wanted to self-publish it, and he was totally supportive. Working in the industry myself, I know how difficult it can be for new people to break into the business. So I self-published with WestBow Press and it’s been a wonderful experience. I had a few authors come alongside me and give me some great endorsements. I had editorial help from fellow editors (like my wonderful friend Samantha!) as I polished my story. So I felt really blessed with all the support and encouragement I received. Now the book is out there and I am thrilled with the final product.

Samantha: What advice would you give to Christian writers/bloggers interested in both traditional publishing and/or self-publishing?

Brandy: I would say “Go for it!” But understand that it’s a tough business to get into and you’ve got options if it seems as though doors are closing for you. Try traditional publishing first. Create a spectacular book proposal and go to writers conferences. Pitch your proposal to agents and take their feedback seriously. Join a critique group. And really think about what your goals in publishing are. Do you want to make a living from writing? Is publishing a book just one goal on a bucket list you have? Are you hoping to be rich and famous and see your name on the New York Times’ best-seller list? Do you just have a story in your head that you love and would like to see in print, regardless of how many copies are sold? Are you doing everything you can to build your platform now (such as blogging and being active online)?

Samantha: So with being active online via Facebook, Twitter, blogging and other forms of social media, do you think it’s easier than ever for writers to build a platform and brand for themselves? How so?

Brandy: I definitely think those outlets are good for building a platform, but it takes work. Lots of time spent online, which can be hard to come by when you’ve already got a busy life. But being an active blogger and making your presence known online can definitely help get your name out there to people who might not otherwise hear of you.

Samantha: And finally, what projects are you working on for the future?

Brandy: Well, as an editor, I’m currently juggling two book projects. That takes a lot of my time. But I’m also working in a little time to write. My sister and I have been working together, co-authoring a fantasy YA (young adult) novel. I’m super excited about it!

Brandy Bruce holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Liberty University. She currently works as a developmental book editor for Focus on the Family. When she’s not chasing after her two-year-old daughter, she spends much of her time reading, editing, working with authors, and trying to keep up with deadlines. She’s the author of the newly released contemporary novel Looks Like Love. Brandy makes her home with her husband and daughter in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Check out the book

New Header Design by Tekeme Studios

A few months ago, I had asked you for some feedback on this blog. Your comments were so helpful and encouraging. I was able to find more clarity and direction for what I write in this little space.

Along with your feedback, I was keeping a new header design in mind- a design that would reflect what this blog is about. About a year ago, I heard about Tekeme Studios through a tweet by author Mary DeMuth. I saw samples of their work and was so impressed by their creativity. This past December, I contacted them and began the process of creating a brand new header.

Husband and wife duo, George and Ashley Weis, worked with me to design the header and had me fill out a detailed questionnaire about my passions, what this blog is about, the look and feel I wanted to create, my preferred color schemes and more. I wanted a look that represented growth, life, and faith. I wanted the feel to be warm, inviting, and calm.

A few weeks ago, George (the designer) finished the header. I think he hit the nail on the head and I’m really happy with the end result. If you want a new design for your blog or website, I highly recommend checking out Tekeme Studios and looking into the services they offer.

Submit a Post: Win a Signed Copy of Lazarus Awakening

Recently, I had dinner with best-selling author Joanna Weaver. You may be familiar with one of her books, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. Joanna was a delight to meet and get to know. Her newest book (brand new in fact) by Waterbrook Press is called Lazarus Awakening. Here’s what it’s about:

You believe that God loves the world… but sometimes you wonder if He truly loves you. For many of us, moving the truth of God’s love from our heads to our hearts is a lifelong process. As we consider our inadequacies or grieve our shattered dreams, we find it difficult to believe that God cares for us personally.

In this life-giving book, Joanna Weaver shows you how to embrace the truth that Jesus loves you apart from anything you accomplish, apart from anything you bring. Just as He called Lazarus forth to new life, Jesus wants to free you to live fully in the light of His love, unbound from the graveclothes of fear, regret, and self-condemnation. Love is calling your name.

I thought it would be fun for us to try a little contest, so here it goes. To win a signed copy of Lazarus Awakening:

  • Write a blog post on how love has changed you by this Friday, Feb. 11 (until midnight)
  • Must be less than 500 words
  • Submit as a Word doc to:  samantha [at] samanthakrieger [dot] [com]  Subject: Love Post
  • The winner’s entry will be published as a guest post on this blog Monday, Feb. 14- Valentine’s Day, in addition to receiving the signed book
  • All other entries will be considered as future guest posts

I can’t wait to see your submissions!

contagious inspiration

I go through weeks where I’m inspired to write and weeks where I just write regardless if I’m inspired or not. The latter is definitely the hardest and not what I prefer, but it’s reality. For a while now, I have forgotten about the things in my life that help keep me inspired and motivated when it comes to using my gifts specifically in writing. Joys and delights like:

Slowly, I’ve been rediscovering these joys more intentionally and I’m realizing that whatever inspires me should in some form or another, inspire another person to move to action. To do something different.

Inspiration should infect other people. It shouldn’t be hoarded. Contained. Or kept a secret.

If the inspiration I receive is all about me, that would be a tragedy. The people who have inspired me the most in life, gave themselves away. And what they had to give was contagious, producing a ripple effect.

I know inspiration in writing will still come and go in the seasons of life, but I want to keep at it. I want to inspire others to take action in ways I will never know about.

What inspires you?

Made to Make a Difference with Max Lucado

For the past few months, our creative team at Bluefish TV has been in the process of creating three video-driven youth Bible studies with Francis Chan, Max Lucado, and Doug Fields. In early August, the studies released and it’s been so neat to see the final outcome. I had a blast writing copy, editing, finding real-life stories, and networking with some really great people on this project.

Made to Make a Difference was the Bible study we worked on with Max Lucado and his daughter Jenna. This study in particular is so unique as it challenges students to get beyond themselves and to step out and make a difference in the lives of others.

Here is a 2 minute glimpse into the study. I get chills every time I watch it. I hope you’ll pass the info along to anyone you know involved in the lives of youth.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSvCA_wXTU8&feature=player_embedded]

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