Author Interview with Terry Whalin

Put the kettle on or add some ice to that lemonade.  Now’s your chance to get to know linguist, multi-published author and editor extraordinaire W. Terry Whalin, author of Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams and over 60 other titles.  Put your feet up and enjoy this an engaging, informative glance “behind the scenes” with this talented writer:

Author and Editor W. Terry Whalin.

Where do you live? Irvine, California

Tell us something about yourself.

In high school, I was introduced to writing. It’s a story I tell in the opening chapter of Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams (available free here.)  I wrote throughout high school and college. While studying journalism at Indiana University, halfway through my sophomore year, I had a life changing experience with a book. The full story is captured in a brief article called Two Words That Changed My Life. The direction of my life changed from journalism to linguistics. I spent 10 years in linguistics and 17 years with Wycliffe Bible Translators. I returned to my writing over 20 years ago and began to write for different print publications. I learned to write a query letter and I’ve written on assignment for over 50 magazines. In 1992, my first book was published—a little children’s book called When I Grow Up, I Can Go Anywhere for Jesus (David C. Cook). It is long out of print but launched my writing life into books. I’ve written more than 60 books for traditional publishers.

What inspired you to write Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams?

For many years, I’ve been teaching and attending various writers’ conferences. I meet writers who have huge ambitions with their writing yet no idea how to achieve those writing desires. In today’s competitive marketplace to get published, you need three elements. First, you need the insider knowledge about how book editors, magazine editors and literary agents work. If you don’t understand their needs, then you will never be able to meet their expectations. Second, you need the skills to provide those publishing professionals with what they need. Finally you need to bring strong storytelling skills to your writing. You will find a mixture of story combined with practical skills and how-to information inside the pages of Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams.

How did you choose the title?

I tested my title and subtitle in the marketplace. Many people guard their title as secret when I believe they need to test it and see if it resonates with their audience. I love the word Jumpstart because that’s what writers need to move forward with their writing. I used Publishing Dreams because many people have these sorts of ambitions but don’t even understand how the nitty-gritty of publishing works. I use the word publishing in the broadest use of the word inside my book. Finally I included a subtitle which emphasized a key benefit for my book: Insider Secrets to Skyrocket Your Success.

Do you have any writing rituals?

What a good question. In the computer world, I strongly dislike staring at a blank page. To solve this matter and simply get started, I’ve created a simple file that I call an “article header.” It contains all of the information at the top of a typical magazine article: name, address, word count, rights, and about halfway down the page: the title and my name. I pull this information into my file—and start revising it and almost instantly typing. It works for me and keeps me from getting stalled.

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book?  What?

With each of my books, I have learned a great deal. For Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, much of the basic material began with a set of random blog entries at my blog, The Writing Life.  I have over 1,000 entries in this blog. I grouped the contents together into different sections. It required drastic rewriting to take the random material from a blog and turn it into chapters in a book.

Also with this book, I learned to include cartoons throughout the book to lighten the contents and also break up the print. Finally with each chapter, I made a point to give the reader even more information than was in each chapter. The final pages of each chapter include a section called “Dig Deeper” which leads the reader to resources outside of the book on the same topic of the chapter. Also I included a section called “Awaken Your Dreams” which asks the reader several pointed questions so they can apply the contents of the chapter to their own writing life.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

Instead of working on another book, I’m helping others get their books published through my role as an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. Known as The Entrepreneurial Publisher, Morgan James is actively publishing nonfiction and has recently launched a fiction line. Learn more about the company here.

I’m actively looking for great pitches and proposals which writers can send to me directly at my work email: terry@morganjamespublishing.com. If you don’t know what is a good pitch or proposal, I recommend you learn before pitching and I have some resources for this as well at Ask About Proposals. Also I have an online course on the topic at, Write A Book Proposal.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

The majority of writers approach their craft backwards. They believe the best way to make an impact on their world is through a printed book—which from a traditional publisher who pays an advance and royalties—is one of the most difficult to attempt. Books take a long time to get into print. Even after you get a contract (which can take years), most publishers take 18 to 24 months to bring that book into the market. Writers labor over the long form without thinking about shorter writing.

My best advice is to write for printed magazines. These publications have a higher standard than online magazines for quality and good storytelling. Magazines have a much quicker turnaround of three to six months from when accepted. Plus you can reach many more people with your magazine work than you can with a book. A good selling book may sell 5,000 copies during the life of the book. You can easily reach 100,000 or 200,000 people with a short magazine article. Book editors and literary agents are looking for writers with experience—and one of the best ways to get publishing experience is in the magazine world. I continue to write for different magazines. You can learn my basics for this type of writing at Terry’s Basics.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

My perfect reader is any writer who feels stuck in a place with their writing and wants to move to a new level of excellence. Or maybe they have been in the writing world for some time and want some fresh ideas. Check out this review: http://bit.ly/AiF0QF and it will show you that experienced and new writers alike gain valuable insight from my book.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams is available in bookstores all over the country. Check with your local bookstore to see if they have it. Or you can order it directly from me and get it autographed at Jumpstart Dreams.  To learn more about me, I recommend you check out my personal website, or subscribe to my blog on The Writing Life.  I have a lot of free resources and helps online for anyone who wants to learn more about writing and publishing. For example, check out Ask Terry Whalin.

Follow Terry on Twitter.

Download Terry’s free ebook, Straight Talk from the Editor.

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When It Looks Like You’re Writing (But You’re Really Not)

The rationale went something like:

I’ll just check my email lickety-split, be done with it and carry on with my day.

It’s rarely that simple.  Or quick.  It can suck you into a tentacly grip for hours.  For a writer, “checking my email” can easily turn into a bottomless sieve funneling time and mental energy away from writing. It’s a distraction.  A thin veneer of “working” when you’re really not.

It was a bad habit I needed to break.

So I made a decision.  I raised my right hand and repeated after me: “Quiet time first.  Read and write before email.  Read and write before email.  I will do something other than check my email first if it kills me!”

Know what?  Not only am i not dead, but my days opened up when I re-arranged my morning priorities.  There’s a spaciousness that wasn’t there when I was a slave to my dad blame email.  I’m not as frazzled.  That feeling of being tugged in 98 different directions at once is gone.  Well, almost. (I still check, I’m just not chained to it anymore.   Don’t look at me like that.  If you’re reading this, I bet you know exactly what I mean.)

Why didn’t I think of this sooner?

What habits will you break that interfere with your writing?  Share with us in the comments section.

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Are you a writer?  How do you know?

Find out!  Grab a free copy of my micro ebook, Skipping the Tiramisu: Becoming The Writer You Were Born to Be when you subscribe to my monthly-ish newsletter, Wreal 8.

To thank you for reading and being awesome, both are FREE!

How Does a Writer “Register”?

I plopped onto the bed, laced up my sneaks and saw my screen saver slide into view.  It shook me till my hair rattled.

This may not sound like much, but you gotta understand that this Mount Rainier screen saver has been sashaying across my screen since shortly after the discovery of fire.  Stunning flower fields, glistening rivers, snow-capped peaks and jaw-dropping alpine vistas skip across my screen whenever I’m away from the keyboard for a few minutes.  Like I said, it’s been up for eons.  And I was really seeing it – connecting, appreciating, taking time to consciously enjoy the slides – for the first time in months.

Then it struck me: How many printed pages have I done the same thing to? Seen or read, but not really “registered”?  How ’bout you?

I read five books in the past two weeks: The Hunger Games series (three) and Notes from a Midnight Driver.  The fifth?  No idea.  I read a fifth, but I couldn’t tell you the title for all the tea in China.  It didn’t register.

How do you as a writer craft your work so your words “register”?  Or is that totally up to the reader? Chime in on the comments section.

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Grab a free copy of my micro ebook, Skipping the Tiramisu: Becoming The Writer You Were Born to Be when you subscribe to my monthly-ish newsletter, Wreal 8.

To thank you for reading and being awesome, both are FREE!

How Does a Writer Balance Social Media and Writing?

Facebook.  Tweets.  Status updates.  Micro-blogging.

Everyone who’s anyone is all over social media these days.  To hear pundits tell it, social media is the best thing since sliced bread.  And if you’re an author or an inspiring author, “don’t leave home without it.”

Fine.  Now take a closer look.  “Social media” may be media, but is it really “social”?

Really?

“Social” means community.  Relationships.  Connecting, sharing, collecting, mutuality.  Give and take, as opposed to isolation “flying solo.”  Some of that does exist on the more popular social media channels.  You may even share links, retweet and reciprocate.  And you should.  But using social media to “build relationships”?  Really?  I’ve had occasion to rethink this lately.
What kind of “relationship” can you build with a status update?  Do you really get to know a person, what makes them tick, keeps them up late at night, or their favorite dessert in a 140-character tweet?  Oh, and one other thing.  Social media lends itself to full-blown narcissism like ugly on an ape.  Don’t go there.

Choose

Now, there’s nothing wrong with using social media to “get your message out” or “connect.”  But let’s realize it for what it is: a mile wide and a quarter inch deep.  A springboard, not the whole pool.   Let’s not confuse status updates with a genuine conversation.  Choose face-to-face over online whenever we can.

If you’re burying yourself in “social media” rather than having dinner with the fam, playing catch with the kids, or talking to gramps on the phone, you’re giving yourself and your relationships short-shrift.  If checking your email has turned into an addiction, see that for the red light it is.  If you’re more intent on blog stats than connecting with real flesh-and-blood humans, figure out what’s real and realign your priorities.

That old country/western tune got it right.  If you’re looking for real relationships with real people via a keyboard and an electronic box made for one, you’re “looking for love in all the wrong places.”

Go the extra mile

IMHO, writers need to go the extra mile in cultivating “social.”  Writing is a solitary endeavor.  It’s easy to “roll back the sidewalks,” close the door, burrow into your writing world and then fool yourself into thinking you’re “connecting” in any substantive manner through social media alone.

If you’re tweeting and blogging and Facebook-ing, great.  Just don’t stop there.  Get out and meet some new people.  Acquire a new hobby outside your own four walls.  Join a book discussion group.  Invite a neighbor to dinner.  Pick up the phone and connect with that friend you’ve “been meaning to call.”  You’ll not only gain some friends, but you’ll probably harvest a bumper crop of fresh story ideas and inspiration, too!

Don’t wait.  Do it today.

How do you balance “social” with “media”?

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Grab a free copy of my micro ebook, Skipping the Tiramisu: Becoming The Writer You Were Born to Be when you subscribe to my monthly-ish newsletter, Wreal 8.

To thank you for reading and being awesome, both are FREE!

Uncanny, Isn’t It?

Uncanny, isn’t it?  Try though I might to set aside an hour a day to write, the “interruptions” flood in like Hurricane Hugo.  The doorbell.  Phone.  Dog.  Kids. Laundry.  Raspberry white chocolate cheesecake.

The computer where I do most of my brilliant blogging is in the bedroom.  This works pretty well for that coveted “quiet spot” – until sibling rivalry in the living room breaks into a three-alarmer.  Or the dog wants to go out.  Or dinner is burning.  Or a sink full of dirty dishes awaits.

I’ve learned to stuff my pockets with 3 x 5-inch spiral bound notebooks.  They’re small, lightweight and portable.  They also don’t require an outlet or Wi-Fi, so I can readily jot down any inspiration that may strike on the hiking trail, in a canoe, at the beach or on a mountain top.  I scribble down my impressions and try to decipher the hieroglyphics at the keyboard later.  Sometimes it even works.

Here’s my question.  Are you deliberate about setting time aside in your day to write?  This may include journaling, jotting down notes or ideas for future development, outlining a short story or your next great work of fiction, or rewrites on a current writing project.

Do you discipline yourself to practice writing on a regular basis?  If so, how, when and where?  What obstacles or interruptions have you overcome?  Share it with us in the comments section.