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Right Writing News, March 4, 2004, Issue #003
March 04, 2004

Welcome to the third issue which highlights a best-selling author's writing life and some writing tips. This publication appears bi-monthly.

If you like what you see here, please forward this copy and use this link to subscribe.

Table of Contents

1) Committed to the Craft of Writing -- "Doc" Dennis Hensley

2) Full-Time Freelancing: It's More Than Manuscript Sales by Dr. Dennis E. Hensley

3) Writing Tips

3) New Links to Check

Committed to the Craft of Writing

-- "Doc" Dennis Hensley

Editor's note: Dr. Dennis Hensley submitted an article about writing which follows this profile. wtw

Despite being awarded six combat medals, two unit citations, and five letters of commendation, author Dennis Hensley returned home from Viet Nam without a scratch. Used to difficulty, he decided to pursue a dream: full-time freelance writing. The first year he worked frantically and earned $308. One night while sleeping under an air conditioner, Dennis permanently damaged his left facial nerve and spent three weeks in the hospital with Bell's palsey. "While lying in the hospital surrounded by doctors, I decided to get a doctorate in English," Dennis said. "The Bell's taught me I needed more education."

Moving his family to Muncie, Indiana, Dennis began his studies at Ball State University. "By day I studied great classics for a doctorate in English, and at night I pounded a beat for The Muncie Star." Hensley learned to interview people, meet deadlines and cover the gamut of tasks that journalism demands--politics to features to hard news to theater reviews. In 1982, Hensley quit a job as a college professor and turned to full-time writing. In the second story of his home in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Hensley works at a circular card table. Surrounded by three floor-to-ceiling bookcases which hold his reference materials, he admits, "I could stay in there for hours." Often, he does. His exercise bike sits in the corner, but even while he rides it at least 45 minutes each day, he is working. "I love listening to sermons and books on tape," Dennis says. "As an author, I've got to feed mentally on something every day because so much of my information drains out of me."

Hensley likes to write first drafts in longhand on a yellow pad for his articles or books. Then he transfers his material to a computer and edits it again. "It's a good way to double check everything I'm doing," he says.

For 22 years, he was a correspondent for Writer's Digest. Dennis has written six novels, more than 150 short stories, 31 nonfiction books, and more than 3,000 articles for prestigious magazines including Reader's Digest. He has also ghostwritten 18 books and written eight textbooks on writing.

In 1997, Dennis joined the faculty of Taylor University Fort Wayne on a full-time basis. He was brought on to create the Professional Writing major. The first year, he had two students but now they have 58 full-time majors and 97 part-time writing students. It's the fastest growing major in the history of Taylor University, both the Fort Wayne and Upland campuses. Doc Hensley teaches such courses as "Freelance Writing," "Fiction Writing," "Screenwriting," and "Basics of Journalism," but he also teaches either "World Literature" or "American Literature" each year.

During the 2001-2002 academic year, Dr. Pat Robertson named Dr. Hensley "Distinguished Visiting Professor of English and Journalism" at Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA. During this year, Doc Hensley was on loan from Taylor and he taught graduate school courses in literature, fiction, and feature writing. Dennis says, "It was a tremendous honor and a grand experience."

Although a full-time college professor, Doc Hensley has managed to write and publish one new book every year since coming to Taylor. Two of his recent books were about writing include Teach Yourself Grammar and Style in 24 Hours (Macmillan, 2000) and How To Write What You Love And Make A Living At It (Shaw/ Random House, 2001). In 2002 Beacon Hill released Hensley's holiday devotional book, Surprises and Miracles of the Season: Devotions for Christmas and New Year's. Recently Dennis signed a multi-book contract with Kregel Publishers of Grand Rapids to do a series of devotional/motivational books. The first title, Man To Man released in November 2003, the second is More than Meets the Eye will be out in May 2004. Doc is still writing the third book in this series.

Committed to a high standard in Christian books, Dennis has been a judge for the Christy Awards since the contest was initiated and this year, he judges in the best novels category. Also committed to magazine journalism during the past 20 years, Doc Hensley has been a judge 14 times for the Evangelical Press Association and this year is judging the "Best Column" category award.

Recently, Hensley has become active as a songwriter. Last month, the Chapel Quartet released his song, "Jesus Is the Same," on a CD and it is getting lots of airplay particularly on the Midwest on Christian stations.

Doc continues his prolific writing for magazines as well. For almost five years, Dennis has been writing a column for each issue of Advanced Christian Writer and Writer's Journal. He writes devotions for each issue of The Secret Place and Pathways and well as regular reviews for Church Libraries plus he has the inside cover story for the next issue of The War Cry. Hensley also writes a weekly business advice column for the online newspaper The Aboite Independent.

Three years ago Jerry B. Jenkins asked Dr. Hensley to accept a position on his board of directors for Christian Writers Guild. In that capacity, he writes articles for the CWG newsletter and serves as a faculty member at the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild "Write for the Soul" conferences in both Colorado Springs and Asheville, North Carolina. In addition, each summer, Doc Hensley conducts a " Summer Honors College Writers' Camp " at Taylor University Fort Wayne. This year it will run from June 27 - July 2. For only $125, participants can come to Taylor, live in a dorm for five days, use the cafeteria meal plan, and attend Dr. Hensley's writing workshops from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. The only requirement is that participants must be finished with at least an eleventh grade education. They stop enrollment at 35 people, but accept all ages.

Whether teaching writing to others in the classroom or at a conference or crafting another magazine article or chapter for a book, Dr. Dennis Hensley shines as an example of a best-selling author who is committed to the craft of writing. __________________________________________________

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: 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

Full-Time Freelancing:

It's More Than Manuscript Sales

By Dennis E. Hensley

If you are thinking about quitting your day job and turning full-time to freelance writing, let me tell you one of those good news/bad news stories.

The bad news is, as a full-time freelancer you will never have paid holidays or paid vacations; no one will match you dollar for dollar for your retirement fund; your paychecks will not be there like clockwork every Friday; you won't have an expense account; all life insurance and hospitalization premiums will be paid solely by you; there will be no office Christmas parties or year-end bonuses; and you won't be able to expect an automatic pay raise just by being at your job another year.

The good news is, you won't be locked into a limited, set salary; you'll have a chance to change lives with what you write; each assignment will be something new and challenging; often your work will involve travel; you'll meet interesting people as part of your research; and there will be a good chance that a bit of prestige and fame will come your way.

If you take a moment to study those two previous paragraphs you'll discover something. Everything in the "good" paragraph relates to self-fulfillment. Everything in the "bad" paragraph relates to running short of cash. In order to obtain the joys of the "good" paragraph, you will have to learn to spend, invest, and use money properly. I worked as a full-time freelancer for 24 years, some lean and some prosperous. I'm going to share what made it work for me.

Creating Passive Income

If you've set your goal to go into writing full-time in, say, five years, start now to create vehicles of passive income. Passive income is money you receive on a regular basis for doing nothing. Writers need this because freelance income fluctuates in its amounts and arrives at erratic intervals.

You can begin in a small way by buying United States savings bonds on a regular basis. These bonds will earn interest for you every day. After one year, they become "liquid." In other words, you can cash them in at any time for whatever the accumulated interest would be to that date. Thus, you win two ways: you will have a reserve pool of cash to fall back on in case of an emergency; however, if no emergency arises, your interest earnings will just continue to compile on top of themselves.

Later, you can set up a brokerage account online and start to buy dividend paying stocks and bonds. Some, such as certain utility stocks, will send you an earnings payment every month, whereas corporate bonds usually will pay you every three or six months. You won't have to do a thing except hold the stocks and bonds in your account, and the money will come in like clockwork.

You can eventually graduate to more aggressive passive income investments. For example, after I had received some large advances on books, I put a down payment on a second home and made it a rental property. The rent covered the mortgage, taxes, and maintenance and also provided a small monthly profit for me. More importantly, however, was the fact that the renters were paying the house off for me and the mortgage interest payments were providing nice tax deductions for me at the end of each year.

These last two points are of particular interest to full-time writers. Remember that you won't have a company pension when you retire; so, having a paid off rental home or two that you can keep renting or sell for a nice fat profit will come in handy at age 65. Also, those mortgage tax deductions will help because most magazine and book companies will send you a straight check with no taxes withheld, but at the end of the year you will be responsible for paying all of those taxes. Yikes! So, having some legitimate tax deductions to off-set that income comes in handy.

Creating Part-time Active Income

Whereas passive income is wonderful, it only can come in after you've purchased the bonds or stocks or real estate. That requires cash. So does day to day living. As such, it is more realistic if, even while freelancing full-time, you have secondary ways of generating cash flow.

There are numerous ways to go about this. When I first began writing full-time, I also made myself available to substitute teach three days a week. Later, I took on a part-time job as a stringer for a newspaper, writing two columns a week and occasional feature stories. Other writers I've known have worked 20 hours per week in a library or bookstore. Some have done tutoring in their homes. One man I know writes newsletters for an insurance company 12 hours each week from his home office. Some writers sell Amway or Tupperware or Pampered Chef products. Until passive income has been built up to a substantial level, supplemental income will be needed.

Leveraging Money

Many writers have pools of money available to them they aren't even aware of. By discovering this money and leveraging it, they can generate additional income. Here's a for instance: If you have owned a whole life insurance policy for ten years or more, it probably has cash equity built up in it. You can borrow this money from your insurance company. Because it is collateralized by the policy itself, the interest rate will be very low (somewhere between 2% and 6% usually). So, let's say you have a $50,000 whole life policy on yourself that you've had for 14 years. If you borrowed $2,000 of the cash equity from the insurance company at 5%, it would cost you about $100 per year in interest. But if you turned around and invested that $2,000 into public utility stocks that paid you 9% interest, you'd clear $80 annual profit. This is called leveraging.

How aggressive you want to be at this is up to you. I took out a second mortgage on my home and invested the money I borrowed at a higher rate and kept "the spread." Let's say you are paying off an $80,000 home on a 30 year mortgage. If you have $25,000 of equity in that home, you could easily borrow $10,000 on a second mortgage for about 6% (all tax deductible, I might add) and invest it in corporate bonds or utility stocks paying 9%. You'd have to pay some closing costs up front (one time) and there would be an estimated $600 of interest on the loan each year, but you'd be taking in $900 annually. Get it? Tax write-offs plus a $300 profit. That's leveraging.

If you then took your $300 profit and bought $600 of U.S. savings bonds, you would be double-leveraging. You now are starting to understand the old adage that explains, "The rich get richer and the poor get poorer." It's because the rich know these techniques, but the poor do not.

Paying Yourself Invisible Money

Another idea is to pay yourself money that cannot actually be seen. Although this money seems invisible, in time it will have a major impact on your financial stability.

Here's one example: If you own a home or condo and have a 25 year mortgage, you can save thousands of dollars by reducing interest payments to the bank. Mortgage payments are skewed so that the heaviest interest payments are in the earliest payments. For example, if your monthly mortgage payment is $315, about $101 will go to reducing the principal and the other $214 will go into the banker's pocket as interest. Well, that means that if each month you paid an extra $50 directly against principal (which you are allowed to do!), that would be about $107 of interest the banker could not charge you. Keep doing this and your 25 year mortgage will be reduced by eight years or more, and all that interest savings will be yours! It's invisible in the sense that it never appears in your wallet, but it is very visible because it is money that never leaves your wallet.


I do not wish to present myself as a certified public accountant, stock broker or lawyer. I'm not, and before engaging in these financial endeavors you would be wise to consult with a trusted financial advisor. However, I am, indeed, a person who spent a couple of dozen years as a full-time freelancer and these financial processes served me well. They are ideas that you can "bank" on.


Dr. Dennis E. Hensley is the author of several financial management books, including Money Wise (Harvest House) and How to Manage Your Money (Warner Books). His latest two motivational books are Man to Man and More Than Meets the Eye (both Kregel Publications). Dr. Hensley is director of the professional writing major at Taylor University, where he is a professor of English.

2004 Dennis E. Hensley

Writing Tips

When you read about the high energy output from Doc Hensley, you may feel a bit intimidated and inadequate. Each writer has to find their own rhythm and pace and output. The key is to be actively doing something to further your knowledge of the craft of writing and to be actually writing every day. Are you reading a book about how to write better or are you writing each day? Then pick a reasonable goal for yourself and stick with it. If you miss a day for some reason, then don't quit--but forgive yourself and continue on with your plan.

The publishing business is similar to other professions. You must have excellent writing skills but it's also who you know that counts. What are you doing this year to increase your relationships and the editors you know in the business? Make plans to attend a writer's conference to help in this area. Why A Writer's Conference is Important explains the benefits of a conference and at the end of this article includes a link to some of the key conferences in the United States. Select one of these conferences and plan to attend it.

The Writers Store

New Links to Check

Whether you want to write a novel or learn more about the craft of novel writing, check these articles:

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