New Year, New Start

New Year New Start

I’m back… from the longest writer’s block ever!

My last post on this blog was on October 6, 2011. Unfortunately, since that post six years ago, a lot happened. I’ve had writer’s block many times in my 10+ years as a writer, but I never would’ve imagined to be blocked for six years! It did happen, though, and what’s more surprising is the event that brought it on.

If you remember, I began taking care of my dad when he was diagnosed with cancer back in December of 2008. He fought hard to maintain his independence, but his health took a turn for the worse, which meant I needed to devote more of my time to him than my writing. After all, we only get one mom and dad, and knowing he was dying, I wanted to spend as much time with him as I could. That was when I decided to take a break from writing.

Sadly, Dad passed away on February 19, 2013. I had planned on returning to my writing after a month or two of grieving, but things didn’t go as planned.

I had my cup of coffee nearby and was ready to write. Or so I thought I was. Unfortunately, the words didn’t flow as usual. My mind was blank! No biggie, I thought. I can work through this as I have before, I told myself. However, regardless of everything I did to try and break the block, it just didn’t work. Nothing worked. I was so frustrated with myself. The ideas would flow really well, but the words wouldn’t.

I just couldn’t understand it! I wondered if that was it for my dream of being a writer, so I started looking for employment outside the home again. Then each time I came across a job, I stopped myself and said I have got to get back to writing. I was missing it very much, but I just couldn’t write.

Months passed, and then a year passed. I was shocked! The longest I’d ever had writer’s block was maybe two weeks at the most, but not a year! I was disappointed in myself at this point, so I prayed about it and spent many hours on more than one occasion talking to God.

Another year passed and still the only thing I had written was Dad’s obituary, which I wrote the night of his passing. I honestly wondered at this point if that would be the last thing I ever wrote.

Before Dad passed away, I had started and launched a niche site called Living Frugally, but once the writer’s block set in, that too suffered. I did, however, publish some articles on Living Frugally. Some I had already written before my writer’s block, and some I wrote during times when I was trying to get my creative juices flowing again by writing through the block.

Now, here we are, three years, 10 months and 14 days later, and I’m finally writing again! I think when I started writing the articles for Living Frugally it really helped a lot. However, I do believe I might have broke a record for the longest writer’s block ever. I’m just so glad it’s over, and I pray 2018 is the year when words will flow freely for me again.

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Overcoming Life’s Obstacles

Keep your faith and trust in the Lord

Photo courtesy of Flickr member honey77

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 1: 2-4 (NIV)

Many Bible verses keep me going, and when times get as tough as they’ve been for me these past few months, it’s this verse that lifts my spirits.

That nasty devil always tries to knock us down, but eventually (in my case anyway), the Lord intervenes. Although I recently lost all motivation to the point where I struggled to put words on paper, I never lost my faith. Rather than let the devil win, I prayed and spent more time than usual reading and studying God’s word. And that, my friends, is what got me through the tough times.

Once again, I refused to let the devil win, and my reward for holding on to my faith: I can’t type fast enough to keep up with all the words that have been flowing freely again. That, to me, is the greatest reward of all, because I felt lost when I wasn’t able to write as well as I usually do.

The Bible tells us we must stay strong through the trials of life.

Photo courtesy of Flickr member Honey77

Final Thought

If Jesus can do this for me, I can handle life's obstacles.

Photo courtesy of Fllickr member Kamalaboulhosn

No matter what the devil does to try and knock you down, do as I did: stay strong, keep your faith and pray. Sure, you may fall a few times, but you must get back up, take a deep breath to recuperate, thank God for what you do have, and keep on truckin’. Then in due time, the Lord will take care of everything. It’s just one of the many trials we have to experience as Christians, and although those trials will be tough at times, it’s not near as bad as what Jesus endured for us.

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Back From a Hiatus That Lasted Longer Than it Should Have

Photo courtesy of Ashleeappendicitus from

Can you believe it has been almost a year since my last post? When I started this blog in September 2005, I never thought my blog would be on hiatus for this long.

Although I have been busy with clients, I can’t use them as an excuse for my absenteeism, because it wouldn’t be the truth. Actually, the truth is something I never would’ve thought I’d be writing about, but I guess after 10+ years of writing for a living all (or most) writers begin to feel like I have this past year.

Where it All Went Wrong

Lack of motivation is what has caused me to neglect my blog for so long. In all my years as a writer I never dreamed I’d get to feeling so low that I’d lose all motivation to write, but it happened.

You see, it’s extremely difficult to support a household of seven with only two incomes. My husband works extra hard, and to help with the bills, I work hard too. However, between the two of us, it’s still not easy to provide food and shelter for seven people under one roof, so I took on quite a bit of freelance work to help out with the household needs.

Since I filled my schedule with several clients, I haven’t had the time to write my Christian fiction novels, and not being able to find the time for my true passion these past few months caused me a lot of grief. I’ve been so upset over this that I actually lost my motivation to keep up with this blog. Well, I’ve decided that ends today, because I’m ready to re-discover that enthusiasm I once had!

The Plan

In addition to blogging again, I’m going to focus more on inspiring and warming souls through Christian fiction. I truly believe that is what the Lord has planned for me, and I’m not going to let Him down. I will still keep the clients I have and take on a few more, but seeing as writing Christian fiction is what keeps me motivated the most, I figure the majority of my freelance work could come from writing and selling inspirational stories to help pay the bills.

I had a long talk with the Lord the other morning, and I asked him to intervene. If Christian fiction is my true calling, which I believe it is, I know God will guide me and make sure that I earn enough to help with the bills.

Have you ever found yourself lacking motivation to the point where you slacked off because you couldn’t concentrate or the words just wouldn’t come to you like they use to? Share your story by leaving a comment, and let me know what you did to overcome the dilemma.

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Managing Your Business Expenses

business expenses I hope you had a great Christmas and enjoyed the fellowship and gift exchanges with family and friends! Now that Christmas is over, in a few more days we’ll be celebrating the New Year, which means it won’t be long until we self-employed folks have to fork over some of our earnings to Uncle Sam. With that in mind, I thought I give you a few tips on how you can manage your business expenses. These tips will help you give as little as possible to Uncle Sam. Furthermore, they’ll help you keep your writing business more organized in 2011 and the years to follow.

Business Expenses You Can Claim

As long as your yearly investments had to do with your writing business, you can pretty much claim them. Some of the things we writers can claim are: mileage for any travel related to a writing job, any equipment bought for writing (laptop, computer, printer, fax, digital camera, flash drive, etc.), telephone expenses for interviews, research and fact checking, supplies (printer paper, ink cartridges, etc..), charitable contributions, books that you bought to help you learn more about the industry, advertising expenses, insurance expenses, postage expenses and more — visit the IRS Website for additional information.

Managing Your Business Expenses

  • Keep receipts of everything you buy (online and offline) related to your writing business.
  • Keep a record of all your business expenses. The easiest way to do this is to create a spreadsheet with four columns: purchase date (date you made the purchase), amount spent (how much you paid), what (the name of the product or service you bought) and for (what the item, service or etc. was bought for).
  • File all your receipts in a folder labeled business expense receipts or something similar.

I hope you found these tips helpful. Join me again in 2011 for another post. In that post, you’ll discover how to build a store on your writing website that will help you increase your income in 2011. I plan to share a list of writing-related products you can sell, so stay tuned! Until then, I hope you have a very happy, safe, blessed and prosperous New Year!

Photo credit: Mat Honan

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Writing From Home — Where I’m at With My Career Today

Writing From Home - Earn More Than $1,000 a Month Writing

Yes, you can earn more than $1,000 a month writing from home too!

For quite sometime now one of my annual goals has been to earn more than $1,000 a month writing from home. It has been a long journey, but I’m happy to report that I finally accomplished that goal.

I began my writing career in 1999, and until last month, the highest my income has been is around $600 a month. I realize I probably could have met this goal a lot sooner, but it takes time to learn the business, build an attractive portfolio and market your writing services. Furthermore, with the way things change in regards to SEO and social networking, it also takes time to learn effective marketing techniques to keep up with all the changes.

Tips to Help You Earn More Than $1,000 a Month Writing From Home

There are many things I could’ve done differently to reach my goal sooner, and today I’ll share some tips, so you won’t make the same mistakes I did. Hopefully you’ll learn enough that it won’t take you over 10 years to earn more than $1,000 a month writing from home. So without further ado, here’s some advice that I pray will help you.

Stick to your guns. Yes, I know it’s cliché, but it is VERY important that you follow this advice. Are you wondering what it means? It means that you shouldn’t lower your rates just to get a client. Yes, even if you’re desperate for work. Just hang in there and a gig paying your going rates or possibly more will come along.

If I hadn’t been so desperate when I first started writing from home fulltime, it may not have taken me this long to earn more than $1,000 a month writing. However, now that I’ve been sticking to my guns, I’ve met this goal with ease and am quickly approaching the $2,000 a month salary range.

Now I’m not saying you can’t lower your rates at all, but don’t resort to accepting an unfair rate. In fact, it’s best to set your rates high enough that you can negotiate to meet the client’s budget and still earn a fair rate for your time and hard work.

Don’t rely on content mills.. Okay, I’ll admit I’m a bit embarrassed to confess this, but I will in order to keep you from making the same mistake. Confession: I use to think that if I wrote for a few content mills that paid a flat-rate of at least $10.00 an article as well as pay-per-view royalties I could earn a good living writing from home and still have plenty of time left to write my Christian fiction novels and work on other personal projects. Boy was I ever WRONG! Truth is, even at those rates I was struggling to pay the bills. As for extra time, I didn’t have that either, because I was so busy writing tons of articles on a daily basis just to make ends meet. Furthermore, once I sat down to calculate just how much time I was spending researching and writing the articles (not including the revisions), my actual hourly rate was less than the minimum wage in my state ($8.00 per hour).

Writing for content mills is okay if you want to earn a little extra spending money, but please, friends, don’t rely on it for the bulk of your writing income. Believe me, it’s not worth the hassle. In fact, your time would be better spent sending query letters to trade magazines and online publications within your areas of expertise. Despite what you may think, there are trade magazines and online publications that do pay a rather fair rate for quality articles, and they pay you far more than a content mill will.

Include your best writing clips in your portfolio. Even if you submit your very best articles to content mills, these aren’t the best writing clips to include in your portfolio. The best way to gain writing clips to include in your portfolio is by following the aforementioned advice on sending query letters to trade magazines and online publications.

Once I removed the links to the articles I submitted to content mills from my writing portfolio, my clientele really increased. The best part: editors, business owners, SEO companies and others were contacting me!

Network with others in the writing and publishing industry. The best way to gain clients and build great relationships with existing clients is through social networking. The best social network for business is LinkedIn, so if you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, sign up today. In addition to LinkedIn, create a Facebook page and join Twitter.

Once you’ve joined all three networks, start connecting with others in the writing and publishing industry. Just remember not to spam them. Share relevant advice and links, and you should do just fine.

What have you done to earn more than $1,000 a month writing from home? Share your tips and/or feedback in the comments area below. Questions are welcome too.

Photo credit: Purpleslog

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The Ups and Downs of Making a Living Writing

Making a Living Writing takes dedication and patience

I’m really bummed because I haven’t been able to update this blog as often as I’d like since I moved it over to WordPress. I really did have plans to post more frequently, but since moving the blog, I’ve gained more new clients through oDesk, and they have kept me busy.

As all you other writers out there know, we wouldn’t be making a living writing if it weren’t for our clients, right? And my motto has always been to put my clients first. After all, they’re the ones who pay my bills, so my blog and other personal projects have to wait a little while. Putting personal projects and your blog aside for paying clients is one of the drawbacks to making a living writing.

The Advantages of Making a Living Writing

Although it can be frustrating to let personal projects sit, there are many good things for those who choose writing as their career. Other than the paychecks, here are two big positives to making a living writing:

1. Interacting with other entrepreneurs. I love working for business owners, SEO companies and bloggers, because I get to know them better. Plus sharing business advice gives us all the chance to learn from one another.

2. Staying motivated. Although I sometimes find myself lacking time to work on my own projects, most of my clients are successful, and their success and determination to reach new heights motivates me to make the time for my own projects.

What is it that you enjoy about making a living writing?

Photo courtesy of Liz West

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How to Create a Book Marketing Plan

It doesn’t matter if you publish your book through print on demand or traditional publishing, you will always have to market your book in order for it to be successful. Sure, traditional publishers will promote your book more than print on demand publishers, but you shouldn’t leave all of the marketing work to the publisher. A publisher will appreciate the time and effort you put into marketing your book and you will increase your sales — making your publisher and you happy.

To promote your book successfully, you will need a book marketing plan. You should create this plan before your book hits the shelves. The marketing plan will alsonhelp you write the proposal for your book, and it will help you market the book for pre-sales. Furthermore, after the book hits the shelves, you will have your plan in front of you to follow.

A book marketing plan isn’t hard to build. Basically, you will answer five questions: Who is the target audience for your book? What makes your book different from your competition? When will you start marketing your book? Where will you advertise? How much do you plan to spend on marketing each month? Now let’s better define each of these five things through examples.


Your target audience is the people you believe will benefit from your book. These are the people you want to get the message out to. For example, let’s say Jane has written a book entitled Cooking Fun with Kids: 100 Recipes You Can Prepare With the Kids. We know from the title of Jane’s book that she will be giving us 100 types of food we can cook with our kids. Since Jane knows what she’s going to write and include in her book, her next step is to determine “who” she will sell the book to. Jane wants to target an audience that will be interested in her book, because she doesn’t want to market to someone who won’t have any interest; this would just be a waste of her time.

Based on the information above, Jane’s target audience might include parents (single and married), grandparents, daycare providers, bookstores and grocery stores.


Now that Jane knows “who” she wants to market her book to, her next step is to compile a list of things that makes book different from others that are similar to hers. But why does Jane need this list? Simple, when she goes to create her sale ads and materials, she’s going to want to tell her potential customers and publisher “what” makes her book different. Because there are already books out there similar to hers, Jane’s potential customers and publisher will want to know “what” they can learn from her that they don’t already know from reading the many other books similar to hers.

So what does Jane tell her potential customers and publisher about her book that makes it different from all the others?

1. Cooking Fun With Kids provides healthy recipes for your child and you.

2. (Author’s name), (title of competitor’s book), fails to provide simple and easy recipes. Furthermore, (author’s name) doesn’t provide meals that are quick to prepare with your kids. Cooking Fun With Kids not only provides you with meals that you can quickly prepare with your kids, but it also provides you with meals that are simple and easy to prepare.

3. Over (number) recipes in Cooking Fun With Kids calls for simple ingredients that won’t cost you a lot at the grocery store.

4. Cooking Fun With Kids includes recipes you and your kids can make from a can.

5. Not only will you discover recipes in Cooking Fun With Kids, but you will also find creative recipes for craft projects that you can make with your kids, and all these craft projects are prepared with food.

When comparing your book to a competitor’s book you will want to compare it to a book that’s selling quite a few copies. A good way to find some of those books is by doing a search on Amazon. Once you come across books similar to yours, look at only the titles that Amazon is listing as bestsellers. Finally, read the negative reviews of the bestselling books that are similar to yours. Many times the readers who leave negative reviews will say what the book is missing.


Now Jane needs to decide “when” to market her book. Here’s what she has come up with so far:

1. After the publisher has accepted the book, create a sales page on my website. Also, contact reviewers for book reviews to help my sales. Place a link on my site where customers can go to pre-order the book.

2. As soon as the book is released, send out press releases to television stations, radio stations, newspapers and distribute them on the internet.

3. Everytime I run a contest for my book, do a book signing or speaking engagement, make a television or radio appearance or etc., send out a press release and place announcements in the newspapers.


The publisher agreed to publish Jane’s book. Now, Jane needs to decide “where” she will place her sale ads, send press kits, send brochures, tack up flyers and etc. To do this, Jane can refer back to her target audience list. Based on her target audience she could place ads in local and national newspapers, place ads in food and parenting publications (print and electronic), visit local grocery stores and talk to the manager about stocking her book, send a press kit to local bookstores, visit local bookstores and speak with the manager about arranging a book signing, send a press kit to local libraries… her list, of course, could continue to grow.


Finally, Jane needs to determine “how” much she can afford to spend on marketing each month. To stay within her monthly budget, Jane can increase or decrease this amount at any time.

Tips for Creating Your Book Marketing Plan

Follow your book marketing plan, and cross out or highlight each completed task, but only cross off the tasks that you will do once. Other tasks may require weekly or monthly marketing, because marketing will always be needed for as long as your book remains in the marketplace.

Refer back to your book marketing plan often, so you can record which marketing methods are not working out well (mark these off your list) and which methods are (make these your top priority).

To help you out, I’m offering you a free book marketing plan in Word format. Download the free book marketing plan for each of your current and upcoming books.

Best wishes with your marketing endeavors!

P.S.: Jane was a fictional character that I used as an example. At the time of this writing, the book that I used does not exist either, so if you’d like to actually write Cooking Fun with Kids: 100 Recipes You Can Prepare With the Kids, feel free. All I ask is that you give me credit for giving you the idea by linking to my website using Misti Sandefur, Christian Author as the anchor text. 😉

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Using Pictures and Videos to Write Fiction

First, let me start by saying this post is overdue. I meant to have it written and ready for you to read two weeks ago. Unfortunately, though I became ill.

The week that I planned to write this post I ended up with nausea, abdominal pains, fatigue and low energy. Then the following week I couldn’t stay out of the bathroom, and the fatigue and low energy continued. I thought all of this might be related to a knot I discovered near my navel a couple months ago, so I decided I’d better stop ignoring the problem and call my doctor. She scheduled an ultrasound of the abdomen to diagnose what she believes is a Hernia. I now have a follow-up appointment for Monday to hear the results, and I pray it’s not serious.

Since I’m feeling better, I was able to write the post, so here it is…

Using Pictures to Write Fiction

In the beginning I had a hard time understanding the “show don’t tell” writing rule. When I did finally learn the rule, sometimes I would get stuck on how to describe something (showing) so my readers could actually visualize the scene or character in my stories and novels. For instance, I knew what a messy room looked like, but I had trouble finding the words to describe it. When this happens, I’ll look through photos I’ve taken or search Google or photo galleries for pictures of whatever it is I want to describe. To give you an example, below is a picture of a messy room followed by my description — photo courtesy of Rubbermaid Products.

A messy room to help me show instead of tell

Instead of saying she was shocked when she entered her daughter's room. It looked like a tornado had hit it! I would write this using the picture to help me describe the scene: Her eyes were as big as saucers when she entered her daughter's room. Clothes littered the bedroom floor and hung out of open dresser drawers.

Whether it’s a scene, place, person or etc. you’re trying to describe, pictures really help you paint the picture for your readers, so to speak.

Using Videos to Write Fiction

Videos help you describe a character’s actions. Let’s say, for example, your character had a little too much to drink at a social gathering, party or bar and you’re not sure how a drunk acts. No problem, head over to YouTube to search for videos of drunks. By the time you watch a couples videos of a drunk male or female, you should be able to describe it in words.

Have you ever used pictures or videos when you got stuck on how to describe a character, scene, a character’s actions, place or etc.? What tips can you share with writers to help them “show” instead of “tell?”

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Paying Fiction Markets

Thanks to my time management schedule I have more time to focus on writing inspirational fiction stories. Since I’ve already written a few stories, I figured it was time for me to search the Web for paying fiction markets that offer writers a decent amount for their fiction. I discovered quite a few markets that buy fiction, and I’d like to share a few of them with you.

Paying Fiction Markets for Your Stories

Boston Review This fiction market reads fiction submissions between September 15 and June 15. Pay varies.

Broken Pencil Looking for never-before-published stories between 50 and 3,000 words. They pay a minimum of $30 for any story they publish in their magazine.

Flash Fiction Online Accepts literary fiction with a minimum of 500 words and a maximum of 1000 words. They pay $50 per story for first electronic rights and a non-exclusive one-time right to publish your story or stories in their anthology.

New Love Stories Magazine Buys stories between 2,700 to 3,800 words. Payment is $300 upon publication. This paying fiction market will also give you complementary copies of the magazine that your story appears in.

One Story Looking for literary fiction stories on any subject. They pay $100 plus 15 contributors’ copies. Buys first North American serial rights.

Pedestal Magazine This fiction market will accept literary and genre fiction of high quality. They pay $.08 per word.

Pockets Pays $.14 a word for fiction and scripture stories written for children ages 8 through 12.

The Sun Offers $300 to $1,500 for fiction.

As always, before you submit to these or any other paying fiction markets, you should visit their websites to read the complete guidelines. If you follow the fiction markets’ guidelines, you’ll have a better chance of receiving an acceptance letter.

Do you buy fiction stories or know of any other paying fiction markets? Feel free to share the details of the markets you know about in my comments area. Happy writing and submitting!

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Writing for a Living — 5 Ways to Earn an Active Income

You can be successful writing for a living!

Photo courtesy of LadyDragonfly from

I’ve been writing for several years now. Although I’m still not in the financial bracket that I’d like to be in, I do have many clients, and that list continues to grow. It took me a while to get to where I am today, because when I first started writing for a living, I spent a lot of time reading advice from more experienced writers. Furthermore, I started back when the Internet was just booming. At that time there weren’t many writing blogs to learn from, so I spent the majority of my time in writing forums. In addition, blog writing and SEO writing hardly existed. Therefore, I had to depend on assignments from magazine and newsletter editors to make ends meet, which meant writing and sending numerous query letters, and then waiting for editors to respond. On top of that, there was always the possibility of rejections.

Eventually, blogging and SEO started to grow in popularity, so after I honed my skills in those areas, things started getting better; however, I continued to send queries hoping for acceptance letters and steady assignments.

The good news for you is you don’t have to wait a year or more to really start doing well at writing for a living. Keep in mind, though, it will still take time, but if you follow the advice I’m sharing today, you should begin earning an active income within a few months.

Writing for a Living: Gaining Experience and Clients

1. Keep at least five query letters and letters of introduction (a.k.a. cover letters) in circulation. Create and send a minimum of five query letters to print and electronic publications. Also, send a minimum of five letters of introduction to websites, network blogs and publications that are within your areas of expertise. Coffee Break for Writers offers a three-part freelance writing exercise that will help you perform this marketing task in record-breaking time. The exercise also includes a sample letter of introduction.

2. Sell your writing services to potential clients (business owners, SEO companies, book producers, etc.). Scan writing jobs listed on writing-related websites and blogs. Respond to the jobs that apply to you. For example, if you want to write blog posts, articles and SEO content about the real estate market, parenting and green living, only reply to blog writing, article writing, ghostwriting and SEO writing jobs for those niche areas.

3. Don’t depend on content mills when writing for a living. Places such as Demand Studios (DS) and Associated Content (AC) are only good for when times are slow or you need a little extra spending money. I learned my lesson the hard way with these type gigs. Sure, if you write 25 articles a week for DS, you’ll earn $1,500 a month, but wouldn’t you rather earn $200 for one article instead of $1,500 for 100 articles? Here, let me give you a better example: You can write and sell two articles each week for $200 each and earn more than $1,500 a month. Plus you won’t be selling all your rights to the articles. Yes, when you write for DS and many of the other content mills, you’re selling all your rights, which means if they choose, they can make money off you by reselling your articles and claiming those articles as their own.

4. Resell your previously published articles. You can earn more money on articles you’ve already sold by searching for paying markets that buy reprints. Many times you won’t earn as much selling the reprint rights as you did when the article was original, but you can still earn a decent price by reselling those articles.

5. Market to local businesses. Mail a letter of introduction to local businesses. Along with the letter, include relevant clips or writing samples, your business card and a brochure about your writing services. Some things you can write for local businesses are blogs, obituaries for funeral homes and local newspapers, neighborhood guides, home buyer tips for real estate agents, columns for local newspapers, and contact schools with an offer to create newsletters for parents.

Words of Encouragement

No matter how rough things get, you must keep on writing for a living and marketing your services. Don’t let the big-name magazines and other publications scare you either. If you think you have an article that would benefit their readers, send the query letter. Yes, they may say no, but you’ll never know if you don’t try, and they won’t know if your articles or writing services are what they’re looking for, if you don’t let them know you’re out there.

Good luck and happy writing! May the Lord bless you with an abundance of words and many clients!

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