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Most writers build a fanbase on one type of a reader.

A reader who is conservative or liberal. Republican or Democrat. Old or young. Male or female.

Yet Jonathan Merritt, whose work appears in outlets ranging from Fox News to CNN, and The Atlantic to Christianity Today, has managed to grow a readership that reaches across the political spectrum and generations.

The Write Brilliant Academy recently asked Jonathan to share his wisdom from his readership as well as from his new book: Learning to Speak God from Scratch Why Sacred Words are Vanishing — And How We Can Revive Them.

Jonathan Merritt

Write Brilliant Academy: How do you maintain such a wide audience of conservatives and liberals when neither agrees with you 100 percent? 

Merritt: A lot of people ask me this because most people don’t have such a wide ranging readership. I think its due to a number of influences. Firstly, people often say that my writing is “fair.” In other words, I’ve been known to critique people on the left and right. And I’ve been known to take both conservative and liberal positions, depending on the issue.

In addition to this, I have matured as a writer and have tried to write in such a way that acknowledges the opposing viewpoint and that avoids bombastic or sensational language. Sometimes I even change a declarative to an interrogative when the point is exceptionally contentious. Changing an in-you-face-statement to a rhetorical question is an amazing trick to help you avoid unnecessarily polarizing readers.

Write Brilliant Academy: You’ve been known to spark all kinds of debate and cover controversial topics online. How do you deal with critics? 

Merritt: In the past, I have to be honest and say I’ve dealt with them poorly. I got angry and defensive and debated anyone and everyone in public who came looking for a fight. These days, I make sure to mute every troll so that I’m not even tempted to engage those who just want to quarrel. I try to engage honest critics with more humility and I’ve issues probably half a dozen apologies when I realized I failed. I still haven’t perfect this, but I’m much improved.

Write Brilliant Academy: Even your title of your new book reaches across many of the polarizing topics to draw readers in. How did you develop the title and what can you teach us about developing great titles?

Merritt: Every title of every book I’ve worked on has changed multiple times–except this one. “Learning to Speak God from Scratch” came to me one day at the beginning of the process and I sensed God was in it. The title is strong in the two ways a title should be: It’s distinctive but also descriptive. The same is true about tagline, as we teach our Write Brilliant students. The topic is clearly communicated but it also piques the reader’s interest. The subtitle was more difficult and that was produced in collaboration with my editor. They came up with the first clause but I tweaked it to a stronger verb (“vanishing” instead of “declining”) and then I added another clause that felt hopeful. The final title and subtitle works perfectly, I think: “Learning to Speak God from Scratch: Why Sacred Words are Vanishing — And How We Can Revive Them.”

If you haven’t ordered a copy of Learning to Speak God from Scratch, we encourage you to pick up a copy today. You’ll not only learn about this important topic but also learn firsthand from a maestro with words.

Click here to order today.

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Hi Write Brilliant friends,

We get this question a lot: How do I get a good headshot?

As a writer, your photo shows up everywhere– your website, your book cover, event brochures, not to mention, all your social media channels. That photo is an invitation into your brand and can even give people a glimpse of your writing voice.

We’ve all seen examples of what not to do. But how do you avoid those all-to-common mishaps? 

I filmed this quick video for you to give you some actionable tips when it comes to capturing that picture-perfect shot.

Write soon,
Margaret

How to Make Your Writing Timeless
By: Heather Zempel and Margaret Feinberg
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Hey Write Brilliant Friends!

Margaret, here. Meet my friend, Heather Zempel. Heather is an author and discipleship pastor at National Community Church in Washington, DC.

I asked Heather to pop over and answer an important question when it comes to writing: How do you make your writing timeless?

Her insights are sooo helpful. You’re going to want to take notes.

Write soon,
Margaret

P.S. The motto of their church is one I need over my whole life. Yes, please.

Grab a copy of Heather’s book Community is Messy, here. 

How Do I Call Myself a Writer?
By: Laura Dingman
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Meet our friend, Laura. Laura is a worship leader, pastor, mom, and author. Before being introduced to Write Brilliant, Laura had one self-published study, but still didn’t consider herself a writer.

Sound familiar? Laura isn’t alone. So many of you wrestle with calling yourself a writer. But that’s exactly what you are.  

Now, Laura has published two Bible studies with Moody Publishers and continues to transform lives through her story.

We asked Laura to pop over and share some of her advice for those who struggle to call themselves writers. Read More

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What do you feel when you hear the word “marketing”?

Many writers tend to get fidgety or want to hide in the corner in the fetal position. I’ve seen it time and again.

When it comes to marketing, and especially digital or online marketing, many people I know would love to pay someone to make it go away. Yet when it comes to building an audience and impacting people with the message you’ve been entrusted with…

You probably don’t have the five-to-six-to-seven figures to make it all go away. And even if you did, no one can be you online or with your audience. Your people want you. Your insights. Your wisdom. Your funnies. Your photos.

I started to explore why this this whole idea of online marketing scares writers and discovered there’s a huge gap in understanding of how digital marketing fits into building a personal platform for writing and publishing.

Online marketing for writers is simply engaging with your audience. Starting conversations. Sharing ideas. Letting people in on your life and discoveries.

Wow. It suddenly became less scary didn’t it?

Don’t overthink it. Online marketing is a powerful tool that allows you to learn from your audience as they learn from you. In return, it builds your platform, naturally.

Here are 3 principles to grow the audience of your dreams as a writer: Read More

How to Write a Study Based on an Entire Book of the Bible
By: Heather Zempel and Margaret Feinberg
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Hi Write Brilliant friends,

I want to introduce you to my friend, Heather Zempel. Heather is an author and discipleship pastor at National Community Church in Washington DC. Heather has a lot of gifts– one of which I want you to glean from today. In this video, I ask Heather her tips on how to write a study on an entire book of the Bible–while sticking to a theme.

Take 5 minutes to watch this interview. Your writing (and study) will be better for it.

Write soon,
Margaret

P.S. Even if you don’t write Bible studies, Heather’s tips will translate into what you do, too. Promise.

Check out Heather’s study, Amazed and Confused, here. 

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When we hear of one of our Write Brilliant Academy graduates publishing yet another book, we throw a 10-second dance party. Paul McDonald’s book, Called to Follow, is no exception.

In the process of writing and publishing Called to Follow, Paul learned a slew of lessons he wants to pass along to you.

Whether you’re just getting started…

A blogger who is trying to find a pathway to self-publishing…

A seasoned writer who is frustrated with lackluster sales…

You’re going to want to read Paul’s advice and the lessons he’s learned.Read More

Feeling discouraged in your writing?
By: Margaret Feinberg
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In this week’s Write Brilliant Quick Tip, Margaret Feinberg talks about 3 main sources of discouragement in your writing and how to overcome them.Read More

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It’s easy to dismiss making resolutions especially if, like me, you forget or neglect them by February 15. But setting your writing goals for the upcoming year is different than your typical New Year’s resolution. Writing goals are meant to give you a blueprint for getting those words on paper, developing a platform, and deepening your writing relationships.

Here are 6 steps for setting writing goals you’ll actually keep in 2018:Read More

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In this week’s Write Brilliant Quick Tip, Margaret Feinberg talks about why what you’re seeing, tasting, and experiencing during the holidays is crucial to your writing.

Watch here: Read More

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