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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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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

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When we hear one of our Write Brilliant graduates publishing yet another book, we throw a 10-minute dance party. And David Ellis’ new book, Losing Dad, Finding Father is no exception. This book is transforming reader’s lives.

In the process of writing and releasing Losing Dad, Finding Father, Ellis learned a treasure trove of rich lessons (read to the end… they’re magical).

But along the way, he raised a question every writer wrestles with along the way.

What will be the impact of your writing?
Is writing really worth it?
What if I just transform one person’s life?

Ellis’ response to these soul wrestling questions took my breath away.Read More

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Your title will make or break you as a writer.

If you’ve crafted killer content, but a ho-hum title, few people will read your brilliant words. That’s why at the Write Brilliant Academy, we’re committed to help you create titles that make people want to click, buy, and read what your words.

Here’s a Tantalizing Title Checklist to help your words change the world:

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How do you stand out in a crowded agent’s inbox?

I have friends in the publishing industry whose inboxes explode with query letters and book proposals. They often share the same frustrations.

Those submitting a proposal don’t bother…Read More

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This week, we’re proud to feature Christopher Ferebee of The Christopher Ferebee Agency to weigh in on self-publishing. A literary agent since 1999, he represents thought-provoking, life-changing, and uplifting books from a wide-range of thought-leaders and world changers. More important, he’s an incredible friend to us.

What do The Shack, Jesus Calling, and 50 Shades of Grey all have in common?

Their respective commercial trade publishers have sold millions of copies of each, and they all started out as self-published works. The easy answer to the question, Will a publisher consider my self-published book, is “yes.” But you knew it would be more nuanced than that.

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Writing often begins with wondering. Pen in hand, you find yourself asking…

Will people ever read what I write?

Do I have what it takes to write a book?

Why should I write when mountains of books already exist on this topic?

I call these “God nudges.” They are stirrings that emanate from outside a writer’s life—you might say, from above.

After coaching countless people in their publishing careers, I’ve discovered that these questions are common to everyone who has ever felt a nudge to write.

How do you know, in your situation, if it’s time to finally write the story that’s been rattling in your bones?

I’ve developed a 5-point checklist to determine if you’re really ready to write your book: Read More

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As an acquisitions editor for a major publishing house, it’s my job to review book proposals from aspiring authors. But over the years, I’ve met dozens of writers who want to assemble a book proposal but don’t know where to begin.

If you’re sitting down to crank out a proposal for your book, start by identifying the angle.

My favorite question to ask writers is this, “What is the boldest statement your book has to make?”

This tells me what you’re angle is. And when I read proposals, this is the gem I’m looking for above all else.

If you’re a newbie, you may be wondering what the heck an angle is, anyway. No, you don’t need to find your high school protractor and compass to develop it. Read More

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Students in the Write Brilliant Academy often ask, “Should I publish with a Christian or mainstream publisher?”

I love this question because it means our members are thinking ahead, planning for a bright future, and living a life worth writing about.

But rather than just give you my opinion, I asked Christopher Ferebee, a literary agent, to weigh in on this important issue…Read More

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Do you ever wonder what a professional editor is looking for when they’re reading your writing? The best editors are worried about you and what they need to do to make you look stunning.

But editors aren’t fairy tale magicians. They can’t transform your rotting pumpkins into royal stage coached. The harder you make them work, the less likely they are to want to work with you again.

We want to give you a peek inside the mind of a good macroeditor and the everyday battles.

Wait. What’s a macroeditor?

That’s the person who handles the big picture of your manuscript. These editorial brilliants fly at 30,000, 20,000, even 10,000 feet, and attempt to avoid the brambles and weeds of the microeditor (also known as the copyeditor or grammar police). Impressing them is easier than you think.

Here are 5 simple writing tips to astonish your editor:Read More

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