Five years ago, I composed a Facebook message that I sent to several godly women. I explained my desire to form a prayer team and invited them to participate. Details about what this entailed were included in my invitation.
I requested a one year commitment, which has proven effective. People like to help without feeling like they’re signed up for life. I retain an ongoing document with names of team members as well as the dates they joined. I stick to one renewal date regardless of when someone joins. Every August, whether someone committed to the team in August or in a following month, I send a renewal request, asking the ladies to prayerfully consider membership for another year. This provides the option for each one to stay or depart depending on how the Holy Spirit leads.
Some of the details listed in my original message have changed, but consistency is key. Sometimes in my busyness, I’ve failed to utilize this gift of prayer support to its potential. It helps to schedule regular times of connecting with the team: weekly, monthly, or other. Whichever routine we choose, let’s remember to make requests, share praises, and provide updates. Let’s be faithful to entrust our writing ministry to the faithful prayers of others. It makes a powerful difference.
God is on the move—I’ve definitely experienced greater progress as a writer and speaker since forming this team. The Lord delights in the prayers of His people, and He answers.
WRITER STEP #2: Grow Your Platform
Oh my, this is a huge one. Yet here’s the truth: publishers and agents value numbers, viewing them as potential sales. If few people read our words, why would these professionals invest in us?
It’s critical as writers to maintain an online presence, and I recommend two main avenues to building an audience:
◊ Blogging – The company I self-published with in 2009 offered me my own weblog, but I’ve since transitioned to a WordPress website with the help of my son. My top blogging tips include:
Post regularly – Your readers should be able to rely on consistently accessing your posts. For me, once per week seems to be a sweet spot.
Write interesting content – No one’s going to wade through an excess of words that doesn’t meet their needs.
Choose a mission for your blog – Be clear about your blog’s theme and stick to it (e.g. mine is “Stirring Hearts Toward Jesus”).
Limit posts to 1,000 words or less – Long posts can require too much time from readers.
Be yourself – You are unique, and God can speak through you in a way that differs from anyone else.
Edit before posting – Good grammar versus bad grammar can determine whether a reader returns for more or dismisses your blog altogether.
For further tips on blogging, I recommend Edie Melson and Jill Gottenstrater. Both of these women offer valuable blogging advice that exceeds my own. Please check out their sites.
◊ Social Media – I love how social media connects me to numerous writers and readers. On the other hand, it can be exhausting trying to keep up with algorithm changes and effective posting practices. Plus, social media can consume too much time, distracting us from writing. Despite the negatives, these online gathering places remain a vital way to build your platform. I suggest the following:
Choose two platforms and do them well – I use Facebook and Twitter. (I’m pretty certain I originally heard this advice from Edie Melson, who specializes in social media.)
Utilize a scheduling tool, such as Hootsuite (also recommended by Edie Melson) – I use the free plan, which has helped me reach out on Twitter. I don’t use it for Facebook because of the FB algorithm.
Incorporate video – People respond well to videos, and according to Bill Carmody, “video will dominate for the foreseeable future.” Check out his article HERE for helpful insights. I can attest to the effectiveness of video, which I’ve implemented weekly with my Devotions for Women videos. They generally reach farther on Facebook than my blog posts, and one in particular has received over 200 likes on Twitter. (Note: Todd Starnes advised me to keep my videos to two minutes or less because most people view them on mobile devices. His input has served me well although my videos sometimes reach three minutes+. I’m trying!)
Join writers’ groups – Connecting with like-minded people in the writing industry will encourage you. Plus, these forums offer so much information—they’re a fantastic place to learn. I especially like Create If Writing, a Facebook group by Kirsten Oliphant. It’s not a Christian group per se, but Christian people are members. I’ve learned a lot from those who contribute. I also like the Christian Writers Support Group, which is administered by Sid Frost and Elizabeth Proske. This Facebook group also encourages members to help one another, and I enjoy being part of this community.
WRITER STEP #3: Write A Lot for Free
Following this advice from Cindy Jones in my early writing days has produced fabulous results. It encouraged me throughout my years of writing for Sophie Woman’s Magazine, and it prompted me to write for ZMI Family Ministries International, then known at Zookeepers Ministries. While I didn’t receive monetary compensation, these opportunities created name-awareness. They also enhanced my writing skills and provided experience in meeting deadlines. PLUS… I met Betty Hassler, a retired LifeWay editor, through ZMI. She connected me directly with LifeWay’s head of adult publishing, who connected me with my current editor for Journey Magazine. I’ve been a paid writer for Journey ever since, and just recently, I received payment for two articles from another LifeWay publication, HomeLife. God is so good! Thank you, Cindy, for your outstanding advice.
Until next time, may the Lord bless your writing efforts.