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Right Writing News, July 17, 2004, Issue #011
July 17, 2004
Welcome to the eleventh issue which highlights a best-selling author's writing life, writing articles and some writing tips. This publication appears bi-monthly. If you are reading this issue forwarded from someone, be sure and use the link below to get your own free subscription.
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Table of Contents1) The Power of A Melody Don Moen By W. Terry Whalin
2) Writing Great, Unique Dialogue By Thomas B. Sawyer
3) The Title Bout By Dr. Dennis E. Hensley
4) Writing Opportunity -- A Call for Stories
5) Rolling through the Writing Cycle By David E. Fessenden
6) Sell Less for More: Tips for Negotiating with Magazine Editors By Kelly James-Enger
7) Getting Through the Publishing Noise
8) Called To Times of Refreshment By Sandy Brooks
9) Facing Rejection By Cecil ("Cec") Murphey
10) How to Become An Irresistible Author By Karen O'Connor
11) First Impressions Count By Marita Littauer
12) Writing Tips
13) New Links to Check
The Power of A Melody--Don Moen
By W. Terry WhalinDon Moen regularly leads thousands of people in stirring worship. His first album was Give Thanks and remains one of Integrity Music's most popular recordings, which achieved Gold Status. Moen has written numerous choruses like "Blessed Be The Name Of The Lord," "God Will Make A Way" or "Worthy You Are Worthy." Recently he reflected on the origins of his love for music and a good melody. Growing up in Minnesota, the Moen family would take vacations in their lake cottage. During those rainy days, Don would sit for hours and crank the old fashion record player and spin a Frank Sinatra record which crooned, "Day by day, I'm falling more in love with you ". The experience began to teach Don the power of a beautiful melody.
One of four kids, from second grade through eighth grade, Don endured piano lessons under duress. "I hated it," Don says. Despite his dislike, Moen was drawn to music and his talent was revealed early on--but he ignored the sign. While in the ninth grade, Moen won a state violin competition. He received an opportunity to take a summer school music classes at the University of Minnesota. His composition instructor assigned the class to create three melodies and Don completed his assignment in "five minutes." Returning the paper, his instructor wrote, "Young man, you have an incredible gift for writing melodies. You need to pursue this." At the time, Don ignored the comment because creating melodies was always something simple. "I can make up ten of them as I fix breakfast for my children," Moen, who has five children, explained.
Several years later, Moen attended the University of Southern Mississippi on a violin scholarship. Music was never very important to Moen. It was something, which came easily. While he played with an orchestra in Jackson, Mississippi, Don felt the power of the orchestra as they played Beethoven's Fifth. "It gave me shivers," Don recalls. Then in the orchestra pit, Moen played the music of Puccini like La Boheme or Madama Butterfly.
The melody moved him to tears and he decided, "If I loved music this much, it has to be a sin." Raised in a strict fundamental background with many rules, dos and don'ts, Moen was quick to discount his music because it gave him such pleasure.
Don quit college, moved to Minnesota and became a lumberjack. Looking back, he says, "I wish someone had been there to tell me that my emotion wasn't bad and the chill was from God, then encouraged me to embrace it." But no one was there.
Eventually while driving a bulldozer in weather 30 degrees below zero, Moen came to his senses and thought, "Maybe music isn't so bad in my life." He admits praying for five days before he went to see the classic film, The Sound of Music. Moen began a personal quest to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit about his music talent.
One day Don went to visit a friend at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and had an opportunity to audition for a college professor. He pulled his violin from his car trunk and earned a music scholarship to ORU, where he attended for a year and a half. After graduating from ORU, Don began to travel with Living Sound International. Co-founded by Larry Dalton and Terry Law, Living Sound preformed concerts on five continents. Moen worked extensively in Eastern Europe during the Cold War days, a concert at the Vatican with Pope John Paul II, and the Conference on Evangelism with Billy Graham (Lausanne). "I saw many different cultures and different types of churches and worship," Don recalls. "Eventually I learned the truth of Matthew 5 and the distinction between the traditions of men and the doctrines of God."
During his years of traveling with Living Sound, Don had many opportunities to lead worship. "I'm amazed that I do it," Don says. "I never had a voice lesson and I don't like being the person up front but Terry Law forced me into these situations." One night at the piano, a boom mike was positioned as Don led the worship. As he sang choruses like, "I Exalt Thee," he took a bold step to perform in public and the experience transformed his musical experience.
"The normal guy can relate to me," Don said. "I don't have an outstanding voice but I've found the Holy Spirit takes over with my gift of worship." A participant wrote Don about his leading worship saying, "You came across so incredibly normal, I found myself worshipping before I knew what I was doing." It's the exact result that Moen wants to come from his music.
Then in 1984, Integrity President Michael Coleman approached Moen about serving as worship leader on the seventh Hosanna! Music live praise and worship recording. Eventually, Don became the Executive Vice President of Creative at Integrity. His stamp as an executive producer is on almost every one of the Integrity products. Many of these records have touched millions of listeners. Beyond his role as a music executive, occasionally Moen returns to his worship roots. He can play four or five different instruments including piano, violin, trombone, guitar, bass guitar, banjo and harmonica. After his first album, Give Thanks, came a string of other best-selling recordings like God Will Make A Way, Rivers of Joy and I Will Sing. Don has also recorded several projects in Spanish including Trono De Gracia (Throne of Grace) which releases next month. This spring at Regent University, Don led a packed house of worshipers to record the live album, Thank You Lord, which is a fresh blend of new songs, hymns and worship favorites. To learn more about Don Moen, go to his Web site at: www.donmoen.com or for more about Integrity go to: www.integritymusic.com.
Beyond worship, Don finds great creative worship in writing choruses like Let Your Glory Fall. To write, Moen tries to slip away from his Integrity responsibilities and his family. "I have writing deadlines and put demand on the craft, then I write," Don explains. "When I start writing, it's like I'm there but I'm not there. The Holy Spirit is in control. There is nothing I would rather do than write a song and lead worship."
Today after years of working in the Christian music industry, Moen has grown comfortable with his leading of worship and his writing. He knows firsthand the power of a melody.
W. Terry Whalin understands both sides of the editorial desk--as an editor and a writer. He worked as a magazine editor for Decision and In Other Words. His magazine articles have appeared in more than 50 publications including Writer's Digest and Christianity Today. Terry has written more than 55 nonfiction books and his latest is The Complete Idiot's Guide to Teaching the Bible (Alpha Books). See more about his writing at www.right-writing.com/whalin.html. For more than 12 years Terry has been an ECPA Gold Medallion judge in the fiction category. He has written extensively about Christian fiction and reviewed numerous fiction books in publications such as CBA Marketplace and BookPage. He is the Fiction Acquisitions Editor for Howard Publishing. Terry and his wife, Christine, live in Colorado Springs, Colorado. © 2004 W. Terry Whalin
Writing Great, Unique Dialogue
By Thomas B. Sawyer"Unique Dialogue" Defined
In the area of dialogue writing, I have a few heroes. Novelists Dashiell Hammett, Elmore Leonard and John O'Hara, playwrights Lillian Hellman, Harold Pinter and Clifford Odets, screenwriters Joe Mankiewicz, Bill Goldman (also a first-rate novelist), Callie Khouri, Anita Loos, Budd Schulberg, Dorothy Parker and Robert Towne. I do not include William Shakespeare because to me, having virtually invented the English Language as we know it, he occupies a realm of his own. I know that if I live four lifetimes I'll never be in the same league with those people, much of whose dialogue I would kill to have written. But it's a standard I try hard to achieve. To go for dialogue that -- in every word or sentence uttered -- delineates that character -- could only be spoken by that character.
And yet is unexpected.
Now, that's a tough assignment -- but you might be surprised by how do-able it is. Maybe not with the brilliance of the above-mentioned writers, but respectably.
Again, it's partly mindset. Deciding that that is how you're going to write.
The next paragraph is, for me, among the top two or three things I've learned in writing scripts for film, TV and theater, all of which are of course mostly dialogue. It may be the single most important lesson you'll find in this book:
If you can assign a block of already-written dialogue to another character without rewriting the dialogue, you are doing it wrong.
It almost deserves to be a chapter all by itself. Read it again.
If you can assign a block of already-written dialogue to another character without rewriting the dialogue, you are doing it wrong.
Even if the content of the speech is nothing more than "Hello, how are you?" Or even just "Hello."
No two characters that you create -- if you are doing your job, which means if you are listening to them -- should express the same thought the same way.
Ideally, every line that a character speaks should be a Character Line -- that is, it should help define that character, be unique to that character. Ideally. Each word we put in the mouth of a character -- the way that character speaks should be -- distinctly, the singular way the character filters the world he or she occupies the world we've created -- as well as where the individual is coming from at that moment in our story. As only that character would say it.
I hasten to re-emphasize that I do not mean dialogue should be self-explaining, self-expository. That is a major no-no.
Self-Explainers (and Other Works of Fiction)
Characters who can clearly, lucidly explain themselves explain why they're doing this or that should be at most a rare exception. As when your bad guy is doing his aria, telling us as in James Bond movies, how and why he is going to rule the world.
Is it ever appropriate for them to explain themselves say obliquely?
Sometimes. One of the very best one that I wish I had written is the monologue almost a soliloquy delivered toward the end of Three Days of the Condor by Joubert, the enigmatic assassin (marvelously played by Max von Sydow), in which he quietly, guiltlessly expounds on the pleasures of his chosen profession. He might have been describing a career as a floral designer, or an academic. I've used that speech as a model in several of my scripts.
But self-deluding, or unable to see themselves as others view them -- that's even better than articulated self-knowledge.
Outright lying to themselves -- that's often as good as it gets. Why? Once again, because your audience will connect. Because of the character's universality. Because it's what most of us do.
Moreover, fictional characters who can tell us all about themselves are not well written. How many people do you know who're really able to explain who they are? Elderly people, sometimes (though in real life I suspect the age/wisdom equation is overrated). Younger ones, almost never.
But there's an even more compelling reason for not having your characters really understand themselves: accurate self-knowledge is generally not entertaining.
Rephrased, I don't know about you, but when I'm presented with a character who can and does explain him-or-herself, or who seems to truly understand what motivates him, I tend to not believe that character. Ergo, I zone out.
Okay but suppose your story requires that some of that character-appraisal stuff be said, not by your novel's narrator, but rather, in dialogue. As stated before, one way to achieve this is by giving those personal insights, those pithy observations, to another character.
Why is that more believable? Think about people you know. Think about yourself. Most of us seem to have the answers to our friends' problems and/or shortcomings, yet very few of us can solve our own. Nor, I suspect, are most of us consciously aware of them, though they may be obvious to others.
Before moving on to other techniques of dialogue-writing, I want to impart another of my personal no-no's.
Never, never have one of your characters say, "What th'...?" Not ever.
Unless you're writing satire.
In any other context, it makes a statement about you as a writer as an ostensibly creative person that you really will not want said. If I encounter "What th'...?" in a manuscript submitted by a writer looking to me for work I read no further. Why? Because nobody outside of comic books ever says it. Because, worse than a clichι, it is the almost quintessential example of mindless writing a nearly sure-fire indicator that there will be more of the same elsewhere in the material. That too much of it will be beyond fixing.
Once you've gotten past that first, get-it-all-down-draft (if that's your M.O.), mindless writing has no place in your work.
There is no mindlessness in good writing.
Hearing Your Characters' Music
In the early days of TV there was a hit sitcom called My Favorite Martian (Cr. Jack Chertok). Ray Walston, a veteran character actor with a wonderful, Broadway-trained sense of comic timing, played the Martian. Scanning the script for an upcoming episode, Ray was stopped by a particular line of dialogue written for him, and announced -- perfectly seriously -- "A Martian wouldn't say that."
When you're really cooking, your own characters will say things like that to you. Listen to how they sound. The tempo. Their individual rhythms. You'll know when you get to that place. And it can take awhile. You may not hit it the first time out -- but don't give up on it.
Simply put, when employed in dialogue, subtext is people talking about things that have meaning on more than one level. Like most of us do in real life. A lot.
Viewing this from a slightly different angle, one of the most telling, most cuttingly precise critiques of another writer's work that I have ever heard was delivered by a fellow writer/producer as his reason for not hiring a particular freelancer: "All of his characters say exactly what's on their minds."
There is a genuine, resonant lesson in that comment, one that I keep near the top of my self-editing list. And significantly, the writer about whom it was said had a very abbreviated career. The rest of his stuff from story-structure to scene description was as on-the-nose as the dialogue he wrote.
Which is another way of describing an absence of subtext. In an essential way, subtext is the opposite of on-the-nose. And while sometimes, of course, subtext will be communicated by a character's actions, here we're addressing the phenomenon as it applies to dialogue.
The most legitimate uses of subtext in writing dialogue are, as in real life, in situations and/or places in a relationship where the individuals involved feel uneasy about confronting a subject directly. Where instead they talk around it. Sometimes by employing metaphors.
Can subtext be overused? Sure. As when writers get too cute -- too indirect or symbolic, causing the audience to become confused about the author's point. But properly handled -- and admittedly, like most art, the choice is part inspiration/instinct, part judgment call -- such veiled exchanges can often be far more effective -- and believable. Even more importantly, it is more entertaining, more intriguing than on-the-nose dialogue.
Functional Dialogue and How to Avoid It
It's been my observation that many inexperienced writers create dialogue that I call utilitarian (another word for on-the-nose) -- they write words that convey the surface-meaning -- contain the basic information -- of what they want the character to say, and then they leave it at that.
The result is flat, boring, uninteresting nuts-and-bolts dialogue. Functional dialogue.
Writers who have a knack for dialogue -- and some experience -- may also start with utilitarian first-draft speeches, but then they rewrite them, make them fascinating, vernacular, idiomatic, colorful, tantalizing, elliptical and/or inarticulate! Make them Character Lines.
Suggestion: next time you write dialogue, examine it from that point-of-view. Once the words contain the essence of what you want the character to say, read it aloud so that you hear how stilted and obvious it is. Afterwards, rework it so that it sounds like real speech. Then try reading it aloud again.
Listen to the Silences
While it isn't an essential part of the curve of learning to write effective dialogue, working with actors has for me been a revelation. Hearing and seeing them read lines I've written observing which ones work, which don't, and best of all, which because of an actor's skill come out better than they were on the script page, is an experience I wish all writers could have. And one of the most vital lessons I've taken from that medium is how the really good actors employ silence when delivering their lines.
For me, silences are perhaps the most important -- and most overlooked -- aspect of good dialogue-writing. When one character responds to the words (or actions) of another with a hesitation before speaking -- or frequently even more telling -- without saying anything.
Sure, most of the time the exchange will be verbal. And continuous. But another lesson from working in the collaborative arts of film, TV and theater is that in acting good acting how a particular line is spoken is often of less importance than how the actor listens and reacts to what the other players are saying and/or doing. It is one of the reasons why the better TV writers include (when necessary) judicious stage directions (pauses, gestures, emphasis) in their teleplays. Novelists can profit from thinking this way when writing dialogue.
While on the subject, though it has become a convention to refrain from including such directions in stageplays and screenplays (in the latter, largely because of prevailing fantasies such as the Auteur Theory) it is one with which I disagree, and ignore.
Writing for the visual media, I try to use the actors as more than just mouthpieces for my dialogue. I try whenever I can to suggest to spell out in my stage directions how they should react -- with body language, what they should say without speaking. And when I write a novel, I do the same thing. Ergo, when I write dialogue, then rewrite it and rewrite it again, one of the final tests to which I subject it is -- does this or that really need to be said?
Far more often than not, it can use cutting. Fewer words --shorter speeches. More elliptical.
But -- I never fail to be amazed by how often no words are even better.
How often silence is more eloquent. How many instances in which the character can convey his or her thoughts more dramatically -- or more comically -- with a look, a stare, a shudder, averted eyes, or -- more actively and obviously, say, a clumsy gesture such as dropping an object or almost knocking over a glass of wine?
A common criticism one hears in TV writers' rooms is that this or that material "reads like a radio script." Meaning: with radio, the writer must communicate without picture with sounds only most of which are the words spoken by the actors. Conversely, one of the tests of a well-written screenplay, teleplay or stageplay is that, in order for the audience to get it, it should be necessary to watch the show as well as hear it.
Comedy, incidentally -- is all about non-verbal reactions -- also referred to as "takes," the way the actors respond to something funny that's just happened. In plays and movie comedies such reactions help to cue the audience that it's okay to laugh, that what they've just seen or heard is funny. And in a theater, the laughter is then supposed to become infectious. Which is one of the reasons TV sitcoms have those often-intrusive laugh-tracks. Typically, the show is going to be viewed in rooms occupied by only one or two people, and the prevailing wisdom (I use the term with tongue inching toward cheek) is that such small audiences, not having the luxury of communal laughter afforded by a theater-setting, need additional prodding in order to enjoy the jokes. The other, and perhaps primary reason for laugh-tracks is that most of the material isn't funny. But that's another story.
Excerpted from Fiction Writing Demystified: Techniques That Will Make You a More Successful Writer All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.
Novelist, screenwriter, playwright Thomas B. Sawyer was Head Writer/Producer-Showrunner of the hit series, Murder, She Wrote, for which he wrote 24 episodes. Tom has written 9 network TV pilots, 100 episodes, and has been Writer/Showrunner or Story Editor on 15 network series. He wrote, directed & produced the cult film comedy, Alice Goodbody, is co-librettist/lyricist of Jack, an opera about John F. Kennedy that has been performed to acclaim in the US and Europe. He is co-creator of Storybase software. The bestselling mystery/thriller, The Sixteenth Man, is his first novel. Both his latest book, Fiction Writing Demystified: Techniques That Will Make You a More Successful Writer, and Storybase are Writer's Digest Book Club Selections. His next thriller, No Place To Run, will be published in 2005. Mr. Sawyer has been nominated for an Edgar and an Emmy. Tom, his wife Holly, and cats live in Malibu, California. You can learn more at his website:
www.ThomasBSawyer.com or his site for writers: www.storybase.net.
The Title Bout
By Dennis E. HensleyIn recent years certain religious publishing houses have tried to make the Bible more "marketable" by printing and releasing it under such new titles as Living Letters or Scripture or The Message or simply The Book. As a freelance writer, this has caused me to speculate about what would happen if these publishers carried this a step further and started giving new names to the books of the Old Testament.
Theoretically, every book of the Old Testament could carry the title of a well-known best-seller: Joshua could become Battle Cry; Leviticus could become "Law & Order"; Song of Solomon could become Love Story; Daniel could become Future Shock; and Jonah could become Jaws. You get the idea; the list is endless.
The same cannot be said of the New Testament, however. Every book found there has but one focus, one message, and, therefore, would need but one title: Jesus. His birth and death, His sermons and lessons, His miracles and healings, even His resurrection and second coming are all chronicled in minute detail. It's a best-selling story that has carried many titles, yet always the same message: "Christ died for our sins" (I Cor. 15:3). And because of this story, we, too, have been given a new title. No longer are we known as "the lost sheep" (Luke 15:6), but, instead, are now "called children of God" (I John 3:1).
It's very comforting to know that the writer who gave us this new title was none other than "Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2). This, then, is the only time when the title of a story is also the end of the story.
Dr. Dennis E. Hensley is a professor of English at Taylor University Fort Wayne, where he directs the professional writing major. His 40 books include such titles as How to Write What You Love and Make a Living at It (Random House) and Alpha Teach Yourself Grammar and Style in 24 Hours (Macmillan).
Writing Opportunity -- A Call for StoriesThe God Allows U-Turns series is moving to Harvest House Publishers with a new story focus. We are now looking for Answered Prayer stories. Two new volumes in the true short story compilation series will release this March and will premier at CBA in Denver in July of 2005.
God Answers the Prayers of Moms and God Answers Prayers (general topic)
Story Submission Deadline Is August 30, 2004
We are looking for very compelling, dramatic and emotional stories of answered prayers. Whether you make us laugh, make us cry, and/or make us praise the Lordyour story must make us believe in the mighty power of answered prayer. One-time rights. 500-1500 words. We will accept reprints if you own the copyright. We are paying $50 per story published, along with one copy of the book and 100 color postcards to use in your personal mailings. You may submit as many stories as youd like to one or both volumes.
Specific guidelines are available on our website:
Submit your stories using this email address:
Please email the editor personally if you have any questions. Feel free to inform others of this urgent deadline. A significant marketing and advertising campaign will be conducted on these two books. This is a great opportunity for both new and established authors.
Allison Bottke, Editor/Compiler
Rolling through the Writing Cycle
By David E. FessendenIf you're anything like me, you probably have several, if not dozens, of writing projects that are in various stages of completion: half-done, in rough outline or still no farther along than a collection of ideas scratched out on scraps of paper. The only time you ever seem to get anything done is during those rare and beautiful periods when you're "on a roll"--the words are flowing, the structure of the piece is clear, and there are no distractions. (Deadlines imposed by others can work as well--there's nothing quite so motivating as an editor breathing down your neck!)
But rather than waiting for a perfect alignment of the electrons in your body (or whatever it is that causes those "on a roll" experiences), you can keep a project moving ahead if you pay attention to the dynamics of what I call "the writing cycle" -- the natural progression of a writing project from concept to completion.
There are eight steps in the writing cycle (at least, the way I conceive it):
1. Brainstorming: developing the idea, coming up with related concepts, and putting these thoughts down on paper. Don't worry about organizing or judging the merits of your material at this point. Have fun with this part!
2. Research: reviewing what Scripture and other authors have to say about this subject. If you find anything you may want to quote later, note the book and page number. You'll be glad you did!
3. Outlining: taking the notes from your brainstorming and putting them into a structure. A lot of writers avoid this step (myself included) for fear of coming up with something artificial. Such a fear is groundless. You don't need to create the kind of symmetrical outline that would have made your grade-school English teacher proud. All an outline is intended to do is to "map out" the project in a way that works for you.
4. Selling: writing a query letter (for an article) or a proposal (for a book). Some writers may wonder why I put this step here. Shouldn't this occur after you complete a final version of your manuscript? Absolutely not! If you wait until then, your energy level for the project is so low, you are less likely to do a good selling job. "Please buy my manuscript; I'm sick of looking at it" is not a convincing argument! Besides, in preparing to sell the idea to an editor, I often find myself asking questions about the project that I missed when I was brainstorming and outlining: Who is the audience? What is the main point of the manuscript? What is the take-away value for the reader?
5. Drafting: writing the first draft. And that's what this is--a draft. It's not a masterpiece; in some cases, it may be little more than an expanded outline. But this can be a much more pleasant experience if you decide that your goal is to get words on paper (or on the computer screen, as the case may be), and not to achieve perfection.
6. Rewriting: expanding, revising and trimming the draft into something approximating a completed manuscript. This is where the real writing starts.
7. Finalizing: preparing the manuscript for submission. This means adding page numbers, your name and address, etc.--all the little details necessary to ready the manuscript for submission. Like outlining, this step is often skipped or done poorly, and many manuscripts are rejected for this reason alone.
8. Submitting: sending the manuscript out to an editor. If you've done a good job with step #4, the editor will be waiting to see it.
Often I find that when I am stuck on a project, it is the result of not spending enough time in one of the steps. For example, if I am having trouble writing may first draft, perhaps I haven't worked hard enough on selling of the idea to an editor to keep me motivated. Or maybe I haven't clearly outlined the project. Maybe I even need to go back and do some research or brainstorming, because I haven't clearly thought out the point of the article, story or book I am writing.
Another thing to remember is that the order in which you perform these seven steps is up to you. I jump around a lot with the seven steps, and I find that they feed on each other. For example, maybe I'm preparing the final version of the article (step #7), and something about it just isn't working right. Of course, I'll review the rewriting I did (step #6); perhaps I deleted some essential information. I will check my draft (step #5) to see if I can find where the problem originated. I may even look over my query letter (step #4)--especially if I received a positive response from the editor. Maybe the final version doesn't deliver what I promised in the query--so no wonder I'm stuck! And that means I should go back to rethinking my outline (step #3), or even doing some more research (step #2), or brainstorming (step #1)!
With all this backtracking over previous steps, does a project ever get out of the writing cycle? That is the reason for step #8. The editor is not going to come to your house and pull the manuscript from your white-knuckled hands. You have to come to a point where you say, "Well, it isn't perfect, but it's the best I can do," and you stick it in the mail with a prayer that God will honor your diligence. That's when you get to step #9--celebrate! You've completed the task God has called you to do and you've put it in His hands. If it gets accepted and published, that's just icing on the cake!
David E. Fessenden is a freelance editor and consultant for Honeycomb House Publishing. The author of four books and dozens of articles for magazines and newspapers, he also serves as a columnist for Cross & Quill and a mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. Dave and his wife, Jacque, have two adult sons.
Sell Less for More: Tips for Negotiating with Magazine Editors
By Kelly James-EngerYour phone rings. Good news--it's a magazine editor who's intrigued by your recent query and wants to assign the story. The two of you discuss word count, deadline, angle, and possible sources. Then she offers you $1/word--for all rights to the piece.
What do you do? You can either accept the assignment, turn it down because she's asking for all rights, or try to negotiate a better deal. While the last option is often the wisest one, I've found that many writers are either afraid to negotiate with editors--or they'd like to, but don't know how to broach the subject.
When I started freelancing fulltime four years ago, I accepted whatever editors offered me and signed work-for-hire and all-rights contracts without complaint. (With a work-for-hire agreement, the publisher owns the copyright to the story; with an all-rights agreement, you own the copyright to the story but transfer all rights to the publisher.) I soon realized, though, that every time I did so, I was also giving up any possibility of making more money from that particular story by reprinting it. I started asking for better rates and more writer-friendly contracts instead of automatically agreeing to the editor's offer, and my strategy has paid off. I've made more money on individual stories, and today reprints comprise nearly 10% of my income.
Still, negotiating can be stressful, especially when you don't know where to begin. Read on for some strategies that can help boost your bottom line--without turning off editors:
Set your Standards
You can't effectively negotiate until you know what you want, what you're willing to concede on, and what your absolute bottom line or "walk away position" is. When I started freelancing, I took on every assignment regardless of pay. I focused on developing relationships with editors, building my portfolio, and improving my writing abilities. Today, however, I usually don't write for less than $1/word, and I strive for more. (Sometimes it is worth it to me to accept less. For example, as a contributing editor at a bridal magazine, I'm paid less than that but have the benefit of being listed on the masthead as a regular contributor and doing travel stories for my editor as well. And if an editor will pay, say, $500 for a 1,000-word piece that will only require a few hours to write, I'll take the assignment.) Usually, though, if an editor offers me a story at a lower rate, I say something like, "you know, I'd like to work for you, but I get $1/word and up for most articles. Can you match that?"
Prove your Worth
If the offer is decent, I usually don't ask for more money the first time I work with an editor. I figure even if you have hundreds of clips to your name, she's taking a chance on you--there are plenty of talented writers who are lazy about deadlines or turn in sloppy copy. After you've done a great job on your first piece, you're in a better position to ask for a higher per-word rate for the next story.
I'll often ask for a "raise" on my second or third assignment, using language like, "you've worked with me before, so you know I'll do a good job, meet my deadline, and that the story will fact-check out OK. Considering that, can we bump my rate up?" I used this approach on my third story for a fitness magazine, and my editor raised my rate by 25 cents/word--not bad for a five-minute phone call.
Make your Case
Being assigned a straightforward story that will require minimal research is one thing. If, however, you're asked to write a piece with a tight deadline or one that will entail significant legwork and time, use this fact as a bargaining point. Last year, an editor I'd worked with before called to assign a 2,000-word piece on oral contraceptives that included five sidebars--and then offered $1/word. I said something like, "I really want to write this piece, but obviously this story is going to take me weeks of research and interviews, especially with all the sidebars. I don't think $1/word is really fair for this particular story. Can you do better than that?" She agreed that the story would require extensive research and bumped the rate to $1.50/word.
Back it Up
Rather than just turning down an all-rights contract, explain why you don't want to sign it. In one case, an editor and I had agreed on the basics of a story--$1/word rate, sources and format. Then came the killer--the magazine's all-rights contract. I said, "I'm really excited about this story and I want to work with you, but I usually don't sign all-rights contracts because I make a significant amount of income from reprint rights. How about if we agree that you can have all rights to the piece for a certain period of time which they will revert back to me?" She agreed to this compromise and we used the same contract language for future stories as well.
Offer an Alternative
If the contract asks for more rights than you want to sell, suggest a compromise. Three years ago I was assigned a story about how to determine your "exercise personality" for a fitness magazine. The editor sent me a work-for-hire contract, but I knew the story had definite reprint possibilities. I called my editor and suggested that I sell first North American serial rights with the provision that I wouldn't write about the same subject for a competing magazine for six months after which the piece was published. The editor accepted that language, and I've reprinted that story twice since it first ran.
Ask for More Money
In rare occasions, I will sign a work-for-hire contract--if certain circumstances are met. I consider how much time the piece will take, whether it's unlikely to be reprinted, and how much money the editor is offering. For example, I recently wrote a short piece on new birth control developments for a magazine that requires writers to sign work-for-hire agreements. However, the story would only take a few hours to research and write because it was a subject I was familiar with. Because of the nature of the piece, it would immediately be outdated and reprinting it wasn't likely. And the editor was offering 1.50/word, certainly a decent rate. Even then, I explained why I usually don't do work-for-hire stories, and asked the editor if she could boost her usual rate. She offered an additional 50 cents/word for the story, and I took it.
Know When to Walk Away
Of course not every negotiation will go the way you want it to. In some instances, an editor may refuse to offer better terms and/or the money you were hoping for. At that point, you must decide whether the money and clip are worth it to you. Several months ago, an editor offered me $800 for a 1,500-word story that would require a lot of research--and then insisted on an all-rights contract. In that case, I had no qualms about turning down the work. If he had offered $3000 for the same piece, my decision would have been more difficult.
Sure, it's easier to simply say "yes" or "no" to an offer than to try to negotiate with an editor--but that's no reason not to try. Take a deep breath, summon your courage and ask if the editor can do better. You can usually find a compromise that will make both you of happy--and pay off in the long run as well.
Freelance journalist Kelly James-Enger is the author of Ready, Aim, Specialize! Create Your Own Writing Specialty and Make More Money (The Writer Books, 2003.) She can be reached through her website at: www.kellyjamesenger.com.
© 2004 Kelly James-Enger. Used with Permission.
Getting Through the Publishing Noise
According to some estimates there are six million manuscripts and proposals in current circulation in various publishing offices. With the intense competition to get the editor's attention, how can you cut through the publishing noise? If it's a nonfiction book that you want to write, the best way to cut through the noise is with a well-done book proposal. As an editor who has read a lot of this material in circulation, Terry Whalin knows the rarity of finding a well-done book proposal.
Terry Whalin has written more than 60 nonfiction books (all with traditional publishers). He understands what is required to produce a nonfiction book proposal. He has collaborated with a number of different people on nonfiction book projects. Also Terry is an acquisitions editoroften the first person to read these nonfiction book proposals. This book contains his insight and experience regarding book proposals that sell. His stories and insight will show you how to avoid the pitfalls of rejection.
If you want to write a nonfiction book, then you need Book Proposals That Sell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success and you can have this product in a few instant clicks for only $19.95. Besides the ebook, Book Proposals That Sell includes a real nonfiction book proposal that Terry wrote (and an agent sold) for a six-figure advance from a traditional publisher.
Besides several valuable appendices in this ebook, Terry includes several bonuses with each purchase.
Called To Times of Refreshment
By Sandy BrooksAs the editor of a newsletter for writers, I often see discouragement among writers. Sometimes it's a well-published author who is bogged down activity but little on spirituality. May we not forget that we are citizens of another kingdom, heirs of another world, and we must be marching to the drumbeat of a different drummer. As the Phillips translation says, "Don't let the world squeeze you in to its mold" (Romans 12:2).
"The discipline of journaling, of standing and watching to see what God says in the quiet place, in the Word of God, in the prayer closet, and then recording insights from your encounter with God is one of the wisest and richest ones you can practice and one day pass on to your family. Then they can say, 'What din the middle of a manuscript with the deadline pressing in. Other times it's a writer who has been highly productive in the past, but good ideas and significant words seem to have vanished. Most often it's new writers. They have invested time, energy, and money in good writing books and conferences. They have followed the advice of the pros and the editors to the best of their ability, but the wonder of publication is still an elusive dream.
What can you do when nothing works no matter how hard you try? Where can you go when frustration sets in and your mind feels as barren as an oak in winter? Although his words weren't specifically directed to writers, my pastor, Rhett Wilson, spoke eloquently about times of discouragement and loss of momentum in the Lord's calling and purposes. Let his words soak into your heart as they have soaked into mine.
"Several years ago, I wrote in my journal, 'God puts us on the mountain where the vision is exciting, clear, and exhilarating. He gives us His Word, and His voice is distinct from all others and trustworthy. His precepts make sense to the spiritual mind. Then the Lord puts us into the valley of testing with only His voice and a memory of the vision to lead and inspire us. He breaks our reliance on external things and ourselves. He dries up our wells so that we can learn to drink from Him alone. It is in this valley of testing, where He is working His principles into the bloodstream of our lives, where we are sometimes discouraged. The vision seems distant and even unrealistic. Our circumstances provide no help or encouragement. All that we have left is leaning on His Word: His character, names, principles, promises, and ways. If we go on with Him here, then it is here that He proves us and shapes our hearts to please Him. He teaches us to trust Him.
"In these times of testing, dryness, of quietude, when we can either abandon the journey or we can choose the wiser option; we can abandon ourselves to God. Oswald Chambers once wrote, 'I never see my way. I know God who guides so I fear nothing.'
"It is exactly this attitude, one of quiet submission to Christ, that keeps us on target when our ship is battered by the storms. Or by the valleys in which God allows us to walk.
"One discipline that helps me endure the storms of life is that of journaling, of writing down periodically what God is teaching me, what promises He is speaking to my heart from His Word, what areas of life He is filling or stretching. God's people, as they are marked by encounters with Him, set up memorials and altars to remember Him and His activity throughout the Bible. Abraham, Jacob, and Samuel set up stones to remind themselves of the Presence of God and His promises to them. The omer of manna stood as a statement of God's faithfully providing the Israelites with food in the desert. The twelve stones from the midst of the Jordan River, so that when the children asked "What mean these stones?" the parents would have an opportunity to tell of their God and what He had done.
"The prophet Habakkuk wrote, I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer when I am corrected. Then the LORD answered me and said: 'Write down the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it, because it will surely come, it will not tarry. ... but the righteous shall live by his faith,' (2:1-4).
"Unfortunately many today are too busy to practice the words of Habakkuk. It has been said that the curse of our day is busyness, and we are not deep into the things of God. Our society is high on o these stones mean?'"
Occasionally, writers need to pull aside for refreshment. We need to spend focused time with Him re-discovering why we've accepted the sometimes overwhelming task of writing for publication. We need to give Him the opportunity and joy of reassuring and refilling us with the excitement of writing for Him -- or more correctly with Him. Ask Him to build your manuscripts and career His way -- one stone at the time.
Sandy Brooks has been writing professionally since 1980 and has served as CWFI director since 1993. Part of that role includes serving as editor and publisher of Cross & Quill, The Christian Writers Newsletter. A frequent faculty member at some of the nation's largest writers conferences, she specializes in nonfiction. She wrote the nonfiction units of At-Home Writers Workshops, a correspondence course for Christian writers. Recently, she has begun serving as a consultant on layout and design of children's books for a major Midwestern publishing house. The author of 12 childrens books and co-author of Religious Writers Marketplace, Fourth Edition, she's sold thousands of articles, devotionals, curriculum, poems, and columns to almost every denominational and non-denominational house in the Christian marketplace.
© 2004 Sandy Brooks
By Cecil ("Cec") MurpheyTwenty-two years ago, I sent a manuscript to Christianity Today and within weeks I received a rejection. Inadvertently, I sent the manuscript back to the same magazine. Two weeks later, the same editor not only accepted my article but also asked if I wanted to write paid book reviews. (Not being stupid, I said yes.)
I'm not encouraging writers to follow my example but only to point out that rejection is often a subjective response. The clichι goes, "What one editor hates another editor loves." That's often true.
Here's another truism: If we're going to submit material for publication, we'll receive rejections. That's a guarantee.
At a writers' conference in North Carolina in 2001, the speaker asked those of us who had received more than ten rejections to stand. More than half the conferees rose. "How many have received twenty? twenty-five? thirty?"
As the numbers increased, fewer of us remained standing. At the end, only two of us hadn't sat down: Well-known novelist T. Davis Bunn and I. Both of us admitted to having received more than a hundred rejections. I've been writing longer, so I assume I had more than Davis Bunn. Neither of us felt embarrassed. In fact, we saw rejections as our red badge of courage--we had fought the battles and those turndowns were our wounds.
Because rejection is such an unwanted-but-necessary part of professional writing, I've chosen to write about it for this article.
One of the most painful lessons to learn is that when editors say no, they are turning down the material and making no judgment about the writer. Although I knew that intellectually, for several years I went into an emotional downswing every time I received a rejection.
We put so much of ourselves into writing, that many of us can't separate the professional response from personal rejection. Here's something I used to say when I received turndowns: This reflects the work I submitted; it says nothing about my ability as a writer.
I also want to encourage those of you who are reading rejection slips: Don't allow rejection to shake your faith in a piece, or in yourself. If you believe in something you've written, keep sending it out--a dozen times if necessary--until it's accepted. Occasionally manuscripts are accepted after twenty or more rejections. I ghosted a book proposal in 1992 because I believed in it. Nine publishers showed no interest and we dropped in. In 1999, I began to think of that book again and my agent sent it out again. This time twelve editors shook their heads. My agent loved the material and I believed in the book, despite the turndowns. In the summer of 2002, an editor from Baker Books approached me at a writers' conference and said she wanted to publish something by me. "Do you have anything?" Guess what I showed her?
The end of the story is that Baker bought It All Starts at Home: 15 Reasons to Put Family First and published it in February 2004. It is a success story, especially when I realize that I had twenty-one rejections before I had an acceptance.
Why do editors reject our writing? Aside from personal taste, here is a list of the common reasons:
1. They're the wrong publisher for that type of article. Professional writers don't make that mistake.
2. It's the wrong topic. Presbyterians Today doesn't want personal experience-testimonial articles. Sending them one is an excellent way to increase your number of rejections.
3. It's the wrong slant (or treatment). Focus on the Family might like an article on abortion--but not if you try to present a pro-abortion stance.
4. The writing or the material isn't distinctive. Here's an example of what I mean by that statement. A few months ago, I received a book manuscript from a writer who wanted me to endorse it. He was thoroughly orthodox and totally boring. Everything was true, but I think most of the illustrations originated during Moses' lifetime. Today's writers need a fresh approach to any topic.
By contrast, I wanted to write an article about getting an agent. That's usually considered ho-hum material because articles appear like that annually in every writers' magazine. How could I make my article different? Simple. I shifted focus and called it, "Why Would an Agent Want Me for a Client?" The editor bought it and I've had the article reprinted several times.
5. The magazine recently did an article on that topic. This happens, especially when a topic is hot. Don't let that discourage you because it means you're going in the right direction, but you're a few minutes late in arriving.
6. The manuscript doesn't look professional. When editors get manuscripts that are single-spaced, filled with spelling errors or written in either 10-point Algerian or 14-point italics, they know they're dealing with an amateur. The thinking is that if those individuals can't present a professional looking manuscript, how could they write good material?
The cause for rejection I want to focus on, however, is when the writing isn't good. I believe this is the major reason editors rush the material back to senders. Many new writers assume that because it comes from their hearts and they've used Spellchecker they have created an excellent piece.
"Most of the manuscripts I read," said an editor at Broadman and Holman, "are barely above stream of consciousness."
The message is simple: Badly written manuscripts don't sell. As soon as some people read that, they're quick to point out popular-but-dreadful writing. They may be correct, but some editor liked the writing. That also doesn't excuse us for sending in less than the best.
Through my association with conferences and writers' groups, I read hundreds of manuscripts a year, so I know what's being written. Most agents accept less than one percent of submissions. Magazine editors tell me that they toss back at least ninety articles for every one they buy.
Just sending to more publishers isn't the answer. Even if fifty-three editors see the same badly written piece, the answer will be the same. Instead, if you have sent out a piece at least a dozen times and everyone rejects it, assume that you will need to re-work the material before you send it again. At least get some professional help in looking at it.
Rather than moaning about rejections, I wanted to offer a few suggestions to beat the odds.
1. Make sure your writing deserves publication. This is an on-the-job training field. We grow as we write and publish more. Join an editing group. Pay a professional critique service to read and assess your material. Some material just isn't publishable no matter how hard we work at it.
2. Resist the temptation to ask the editor for a critique. Most editors don't have time. If you interrupt their work, they're likely to remember you--and turn down anything you send. Don't call editors and demand to know why they rejected your manuscript. (Yes, a few writers do such things.)
4. Be patient. Persist. Those who succeed in the writing business are those who keep at it for years, despite rejection and setbacks. Keep writing--and keep trying to improve. Read books about writing. Attend writers' conferences. My friend Jim Watkins went seven years without an acceptance. Today, he's a full-time writer because he persisted.
5. If an editor rejects the material but says positive or encouraging things, send that editor something else. If he/she says the piece came close, consider rewriting it and sending in the rewrite.
Yes, rejections are part of the business of writing, but it's only part of the business.
Cecil "Cec" Murphey received two rejections this past month. Despite hundreds of rejections, he has written, co-written, or ghostwritten more than 90 books, both fiction and nonfiction. His Gifted Hands, the autobiography of Dr. Ben Carson, has now sold nearly two million copies since its publication in 1990. He ghosted Franklin Graham's autobiography, Rebel With a Cause, which won an ECPA Gold Medallion. Reader's Digest magazine condensed I Choose to Stay: A Black Teacher Refuses to Desert the Inner City (Kensington) and Disney has optioned it for film as"The Mighty Bishops." Kinetic Pictures has optioned 90 Minutes in Heaven, written for Don Piper(Revell). His recent books include When Someone You Love Has Alzheimer's (Beacon Hill) and Committed but Flawed: Finding New Ways to Grow Spiritually (AMG). You can learn more about Cec at his website located at: www.cecilmurphey.com.
© 2004 Cecil Murphey. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.
How to Become An Irresistible Author, Ten Steps to Success
By Karen O'Connor1. Know Your Topic and Target Your Audience
Before you proceed with your book or magazine piece, state your purpose for writing, your expertise, and the audience you intend to write for. This may require some preliminary research, interviewing, reading, etc. It's absolutely essential. Don't skip this important step. You must be able to show the editor what you want to say, why you want to say it, and why you're the one to say it.
2. Become a "Temporary Expert"
Commit to learning everything you can on the topic you wish to write about, the approach you wish to take in writing the book, and the accepted method for reaching a publisher. Avoid guessing! Take the process seriously and you will be miles ahead of most people who think they can dash something off in their spare time and hit the best seller list. Read books on writing and talk with published authors.
3. Study Publishers' Catalogues, Sample Magazines, and Writers' Guidelines
Send for these materials directly from the publisher or publication. You can locate specific names and addresses by checking the Book Publishers section of Writer's Market published by Writer's Digest Books.
4. Know Your Competition
Use the Subject Guide to Books in Print (in reference section of public library) to see what books have been published in your subject area. Check back issues of magazines for published articles and stories.
5. Read Publications for Writers
Monthly magazines such as Writer's Digest, The Writer, and Publisher's Weekly, provide ongoing marketing tips, leads and ideas about where to submit your work and what editors are looking for. (Available at libraries, through subscription, and on newsstands and in bookstores. Some have on-line forums and services, as well.)
6. Invest in Professional Help
Join a local critique or writers' support group or consult with a professional before submitting your work. You can save many hours of time and effort by investing in this help before you spoil a market by submitting prematurely or incorrectly. Look into writers' conferences, as well. Over 300 are offered annually throughout the U.S.
7. Prepare a Professional-Looking Query Letter, Book Proposal or Completed Manuscript
Consult Writer's Market or other books for writers, for samples of the accepted format, and for submission guidelines. You have only three seconds to grab an editor's attention. Make them count. Present yourself and your writing as professionally as possible.
8. Query Potential Magazine Editors, Book Publishers, and/or Agents
Send a brief letter describing your project, mention your credentials, and ask if editor or agent would be interested in seeing the complete proposal (for a book) and sample chapters. OR send a cover letter summarizing your project along with a one-page (overview) proposal. For magazine submissions, send a query letter by postal or e-mail. Sample queries are available in most books on writing. If you get a positive response, then forward the completed material.
9. Become Familiar with Publishing Terms, Contracts, and Rights
Articles on these topics appear each year in the current edition of Writer's Market and other books for writers. The U.S. Government Printing Office publishes a comprehensive guide to copyright laws. Check the Internet for more information.
10. Hang in There!
A rejection does not necessarily mean the project is invalid or poorly-conceived. If you believe in what you are writing and you have followed the steps above, continue to scout the marketplace and/or engage a literary representative. The Left Behind series was turned down by many major publishing houses until it landed at Tyndale House. The rest is history!
Karen O'Connor is a sought-after speaker and award-winning author of more than 45 books for adults and children, including the best-selling Help, Lord! I'm Having a Senior Moment (Regal Books), Getting Old Ain't For Wimps, (Harvest House) and In Step With Your Step-children (Beacon Hill). She is a wife, mother, grandmother and writing mentor for the Long Ridge Writers Group (www.longridgewritersgroup.com) and for the Christian Writers Guild (www.christianwritersguild.com). Karen is known for her wit and wisdom on the platform and in print. Visit Karen on her web site for more information: www.karenoconnor.com.
© 2004 Karen O'Connor. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.
Editor's Note: While Marita Littauer slanted this article for speakers--every word is also relevant to writers. If you are attending a conference or someplace where you will see editors face to face, you can gain a lot of wisdom from this article. wtw
First Impressions Count: Dressing for the Platform
By Marita LittauerWe have all heard the saying, "You never have a second chance to make a good first impression." While this is a universally accepted adage, it is especially true for those of us who are speakers. It is during those first few seconds in front of an audience when they form their original opinions about you. Often these opinions can't be shaken by even the most eloquent presentation. How you are put together is important and it reflects a sense of confidence, or lack of it and an air of creditability. Someone whose clothing is out of date, tired and worn, dirty or poorly coordinated implies that the message may be the same; out of date and invalid.
Just like some people are naturally gifted speakers and other have to work at it, some people naturally look great no matter what they put on, while others struggle with even the most basic outfits. The good news is that even those with little natural closet coordination can learn some basic principles which transcend trends and will allow them the confidence needed in front of an audience. I developed the following concepts years ago when I was working as a professional color consultant. They majority of the clients who came to see me were those in the less coordinated category. These were the ones who needed help and knew it. I spent a couple hours with them selecting the correct colors and advising them how to use them. Yet, when I would see them later, usually wearing their "colors," something still wasn't quite right. After eight years as a professional color consultant I came to the following conclusion: You are better off wearing the wrong colors right that wearing the right colors wrong. You may need to read that twice. Translated, it means if you are going to have only one part right, putting things together correctly is more important than the exact color. I got out of the business.
While I no longer do color consulting, I still take great joy in teaching these wardrobe coordination techniques. I call these ideas "Looking Your Best Without Spending the Most." Looking good is not a matter of money, but rather knowing how to put things together. These concepts work equally well for men and for decorating. In most cases the examples given will be in the female version. If you are a man reading this article, please continue. You will learn a lot about putting your polka dotted ties with your striped shirts and you'll pick up helpful hints about shopping for the woman in your life! Remember, class doesn't have to cost and first impressions do count.
An exciting way to cerate a fun and dramatic look is through the use of two or more compatible prints. Many designers plan their separates collections to incorporate this look or you can put your own combinations together if you know the basic guidelines.
One day I was in my favorite discount department store. There was a new collection of pieces with a combination of solid colors and mixed prints. As I was enthusiastically looking over the sweaters, blouses and skirts and fingering the fabric longingly, two women entered that particular aisle. They looked at the same pieces I was admiring and said, "I hate it when they put several different prints on one outfit. They look so confused." Not everyone likes this look, but I love it.
If you, too, are attracted to that free-spirited feeling, here are some guidelines to help you use mixed prints effectively.
The prints must have the same basic colors in them and they must not be "extremely similar." You could mix two different prints that do not have the exact same colors as long as the basic colors are the same. For example, you could mix one print which was blue and white and another with red, white, and blue, as long as the blues are the same. But, you wouldn't want to mix red, white and blue with another print of green, orange, and purple. Remember the basic colors need to be the same.
Also, the prints, must not be "extremely similar." You could mix a floral with a stripe or a check with a polka dot. Neither of those would be "extremely similar." But you could also combine two florals, or two stripes, however, you will need to be especially careful that they don't look like you tried to match them and missed. Use a large floral and a small floral together but not two small florals. The small floral prints would be too similar. Likewise, you would combine a narrow stripe with a wide one.
In men's wear, this same rule could be applied when combining a subtle checked jacket, a narrow striped shirt and a paisley print tie. The colors need to be basically the same and the prints not "extremely similar."
This applies to decorating also. You may have a plaid sofa, a floral throw pillow and striped wallpaper or an oriental rug. Keep the colors in the same family and don't use prints which are "extremely similar."
Watch the magazines, mail order catalogues and store displays. You will see prints mixed effectively and creatively which can spice up your wardrobe and offer new ways to use old pieces.
One other suggestion for using prints effectively is to use them to tie together two or more solids. This is easy to picture in men's wear. Let's take a typical men's outfit. A camel colored sportscoat, nay slacks and a light blue oxford cloth shirtthree solid colors. To pull the colors together and "tie" the whole outfit together, the tie should be a combination of all three colors. It may be a stripe, a paisley, or even a floral, but it should have the camel, navy and light blue colors. The tie "ties" it all together.
The same idea holds true for women's clothes. While there is nothing basically wrong with wearing a black skirt with a white blouse, it isn't unique and lacks flair. Simply adding a scarf or belt with both colors and maybe even one or two more colors gives the outfit pizzazz. Even a vest or cardigan can do the trick. Picture first a black skirt with a white blouse. Now picture the same basic pieces bat add a "hand-knit" looking sweater with a pattern of black, white, red, yellow and green flowers. Maybe it has black and white checks along the bottom of the sweater and along the button area, but has flowers on the main body. Can you picture how much more dramatic the outfit will look just by adding one piece? How about some red beads and read earrings? With a little creativity, you can turn a plain skirt and blouse into an outfit! Add a necklace and/or earrings with the colors of the solid pieces and maybe one or two additional colors and you have changed the overall effect from plain to pretty!
Remember, looking your best is not a matter of spending a lot of money, but rather knowing what to do with what you've got. By following these suggestions, you can be assured you are making the right choice. From time to time fashion will feature styles which break the basic rules and if your budget allows, feel free to play with some of the more fashionable looks. However, it is important to realize that fashion is fun when it is "in" but once that look is passed, it looks old and dated. Avoiding extremes is a safer way to build your wardrobe on a shoestring!
Common Sense Reminders:
Here are some common sense reminders I have collected over the years.
Aim for a polished, put-together look.
Have a professional look on the job; save frills for after hours.
Replace buttons if they aren't good quality. Plastic looking buttons cheapen even an expensive suit.
Don't overdo your makeup or your hairstyle. Be consistent in the image you want to convey.
If you are short, it is better to stay with a single color. Breaking up the color line will tend to make you look even shorter.
Learn where the hem line of a jacket should hit your hips. Never stop a line at an obvious flaw in the body. (My favorite hint!)
Don't choose corduroys unless you are thin.
In deciding where to spend money, remember you will be viewed more from the waist up, so look for extra quality blazers, jackets, blouses and sweaters.
Before leaving home, view yourself in a mirror from all angles.
Start wearing the makeup that matches your skin tone and clothing.
Begin to build your wardrobe around basics.
Whether you are at home, at work, traveling, doing something recreational, visiting with friends, or shopping: It takes so little to look your best. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, we need to take a few moments to "put ourselves together" the best we can before leaving our home. When we are at home, it just takes a few extra moments to add some lipstick or comb our hair. By looking your best wherever you go, you are saying to others, "I care!" This kind of attitude builds others up and it shows them they are worth looking your best for. You have an opportunity to shine right where you are. Are you making an effort to "look your best without spending the most?"
Marita Littauer is the author of 13 books including Journey to Jesus; But Lord, I Was Happy Shallow; Personality Puzzle; & Talking So People Will Listen, and is the President of CLASServices Inc., an organization that provides resources, training and promotion for speakers and authors. She can be reached through her website: http://www.classervices.com.
© 2004 Marita Littauer. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.
Writing TipsDon Moen took a while to discover his gift of music and writing music. It could be the same in your life. Try different types of writing to discover which kinds are a perfect match for your abilities.
Dialogue is an important key to good fiction and Tom Sawyer tells us how to write great dialogue. This article is loaded with deep insight from an award-winning writer.
Doc Hensley gives us something thoughtful to think about in the area of titles. It's a key to a successful writer--then he turns the article for us to think about the writer who gave us a new title.
Where are you in the writing cycle? Return to David Fessenden's article and make sure you are moving forward with your writing.
If you want to increase your earnings in the magazine area, you can follow the sound advice from Kelly James-Enger.
Where do you find refreshment as a writer? You can pick up some solid clues from the article that Sandy Brooks includes in this issue.
Cec Murphey has published more than 90 books yet still faces rejection. It's a life-long lesson whether you write a little or a lot. You can gain tremendous encouragement and insight from this article.
If you want to become irresistable as an author, you will repeatedly return to the advice in this article from Karen O'Connor.
You can only make a first impression, once. It's a lesson that many writers have ignored at conferences and also in their submissions. Marita Littauer has some great insight for writers in her article about First Impressions Count.
New Links to CheckNext month from August 1-5th, you can learn more at the Oregon Summer Coaching Conference
Want to find an audience for your book or any other type of writing? Your best option is to build a theme-based website. Learn more at:
Some people have written that articles are incomplete or broken in the newsletter. If you have this problem, then check the link for the back issues--which is availble to subscribers:
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