Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bring Forth Fruit with Patience

If you've been in this writing business more than five minutes you know how much work it is. As if writing a book that might appeal to someone other than your mother isn't hard enough, it's a million times harder to attract the attention of a publisher. You may have seen the cartoon of the skeleton leaning against the mailbox waiting for a reply on a submission. Nothing is more frustrating than working hard on something the rest of the world dreams of doing, yet receiving no recognition.

I have fallen into this trap many times myself. It's difficult to keep writing when it doesn't seem like anything is happening in our careers. We ask ourselves what's the point in working so hard if I'm never going to get published.

What we need just as much as discipline and grit and vision to see our book to the end is patience. Most of us know going in the journey won't be easy. But we still want it now. I have a fantasy in my head of how the process should go.

Today my agent Terry Burns will call me and say one of the Christian publishing giants has read my latest submission and is putting it on their winter calendar. But they don't just want this one, which is sheer brilliance by the way. They want four more. A contract is in the mail, along with a hefty advance. Eight months from now after the first release, followed in rapid succession by 4 more, my name is on every bestseller list in the country and every set of lips in the reading world.

Alas, it seldom happens this way. It may seem so to the ones watching from the sidelines. Our counterparts receive multi-book contracts and we wonder why it came so easily for them. When is it our turn?

Luke 8:15 says: But that on good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.

Note all the action words in that passage. So much of the time Christian writers believe that since God has given them a story to tell, a message to encourage and equip the masses, that he will do all the work.

God will help and provide sustenance for the journey, but He won't do our work for us. First they heard the word. Are you studying and growing in your craft? What actions have you taken in the last month to become a better writer? What groups do you belong to that make you grow as a writer and hold you accountable for improving what you do?

Secondly, they kept the word. Have you been so discouraged lately that you slacked off in your writing time? Do you find other things to do because it isn't likely you'll get a contract anyway so what's the point in plugging along? Have you lost your desire to write and almost look for distractions to keep you from doing it? Do you lack discipline and focus in your career?

Lastly, those who sowed in good ground brought forth fruit with patience. To bring forth anything requires an act on our part. To bring it forth with patience adds another element to the task.

God will reward our diligence as long as we continue to fight toward the prize without stamping our feet and demanding things our way. Yes, it takes patience, and yes, it's hard. Instead of blaming the publishing industry for our lack of success---or the electronic addicted public or the economy or the powers that be who don't understand our vision---we need to take a good hard look at what we are doing to bring our dreams to reality.

Are we working diligently with patience to perfect our craft? Do we continually strive to grow and learn and accept criticism? Do we apply the knowledge we've acquired to make our manuscripts shine? Do we study the markets to see what will attract a publisher's attention, or do we just gripe that no one appreciates our efforts.

Bring forth fruit with patience.

Most anyone who has taken the time to write a chapter or a page or even a sentence believes in his story. He believes in its value and its merit and can't rest until the story is told. We exercise patience in writing our book. Let's exercise that same patience in finding a publisher. It's an action. No one is going to do it for us. It's won't be easy, but it will be worth the effort.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Writing for an invisible audience

I sent congrats to a writer friend this morning about an award she had won. Her success made me think of how writers so often wonder if anyone is out there, paying attention to what we do. We put our heart and soul into every keystroke. Then when it's not going well or the words just won't come or we get another rejection, we wonder if there is any point in continuing.

Thomas Hardy wrote after a particularly scathing review of Tess of the D'urbervilles, "If this continues, no more writing for me. A man must be a fool to stand and be shot at."

I know how poor Tom felt, on a much smaller scale of course. Even before the bad reviews come--and they will come--we feel shot at nearly every time we sit down to write. Or when we browse bookshelves and compare our writing to that of those who consistently sell hundreds of thousands of copies every year. Or when we receive yet another rejection.

This business is not for the faint of heart. It can be discouraging on the best of days. Even after we begin selling consistently we never fully know how many readers are out there, how many responded to the message we fought to achieve in our books, or if anyone will remember our story once the book is closed.

Yet we continue to expose ourselves to the disappointment, the rejection, the fear. To be shot at. We are writers and we cannot still the voices in our heads any other way but by bleeding the words onto the page day after day. Our first goal in everything we do should be to please God through the individual gifts he's given us. But crafting an excellent story, striving for each sentence to be better than the last, is what we do to legitimately call ourselves writers.

Awards and accolades are nice. Great reviews and letters from satisfied readers make our day. But we must write to satisfy that mysterious part deep inside of us that knows when it's going well and accepts when it isn't. Don't stop, even when it hurts. Even when no one is reading. Even when no one gets you. Write. Grow in the craft.

As in life, accept your awards when they come and keep striving for perfection.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Spread the word about your Writing Life

This morning on The Writing Life, Terry Whalin's post was entitled, Publishers Cringe at this Question. Well, I cringed at the following segment.

From Terry: "Often authors feel powerless when in reality they have lots of power which they are not using...Who have you told about your book in the last month? the last week? the last day? How are you telling them? Are you using an electronic newsletter? Are you using a blog? Are you using social media like Twitter and Facebook? Are you involved in online groups and telling people about your book in the signature of your email? Are you using direct mail such as postcards or printed pieces such as bookmarks? Are you speaking about the topic of your book? Are you doing radio interviews and readings at bookstores...What are you doing to stir those multiple presentations about the benefits and value of your book?"

Before I ever began submitting for publication, I knew a lot of marketing work fell on the writer's shoulders. Is it my imagination or has that workload just gotten heavier. Thanks, Terry.

But he is right. Besides writing a fabulous book readers can't put down, the writer's responsibility for success continues to grow.

Today is Monday--the day we roll up our sleeves and hit it hard. If something in the above statement didn't light a fire under you about all the things you should be doing to bring attention to your writing, please reread. Better yet, follow the link to The Writing Life and read Terry's entire post.

Then get to work. Does your website need updated? When did you last send a newsletter? Have you commented on other writing blogs today? Have you guest hosted in the last month? Have you handed out bookmarks to your church group, library, or bookstore? Do 5 marketing tasks this week, regardless of where you are in your publishing journey. Just because you don't have a new book to tout, doesn't mean you shouldn't stay in front of readers.

And don't forget to write something.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Leaving Hurryville

Leaving Hurryville
(Comments From a Former Resident)
by Frankie D. Sherman

A big concern of Christian women is the epidemic of shallow relationships among women. In an age when broken marriages, moral decline, and unbelievable heartache are frighteningly high, our God-given support system is lacking.

What happened? Why do we know more people than ever before, yet know very little about each other? Why do we know more about the latest celebrity break-up, yet very little about the young woman in our church going through her own divorce?

Unfortunately, we live in Hurryville. Hurry and get the kids to school. Hurry and get to work. Hurry to Bible study. Hurry to the ball field. Hurry! Girl Hurry! In this “hurry up, see you later” world we don’t take the time to invest in relationships like the generations before us did. Our busy lives leave very little time to invest in meaningful relationships.

Because of this, we are suffering. We miss wonderful opportunities to reach others for Christ and to strengthen others in the body of Christ.

How about you and I change the busyness in our circle of influence by adjusting our schedules and priorities? We can start right now to focus on the relationships in our circle of influence as the nurturing women God designed us to be.

Becoming a better friend is something believers should focus on, because it can impact the world for the Christ.

So where do we begin?

Leave Hurryville-without a forwarding address! It’s a choice and a hard one. But God is faithful and he will help you with this lifestyle change.
Pray, and read God Word.
Schedule time with friends; ask them how they are and what’s up in their life.
Engage in meaningful conversation about them and how the Lord is working in their lives.
Leave the cell phone turned off during your time together.
Share good books, good tips, good information and good food.
If your friend is a single mom, widow, health issue, or has problems at home, always be sensitive to her needs or situation. You are not “the solution” but you can show her you care through your friendship. God will provide the wisdom concerning boundaries and blessings.

I left Hurryville, many years ago. Sometimes my old nature tries to pull me back. But I learned the value of meaningful friendships and Hurryville doesn’t compare. Should you decide to leave Hurryville too, let me know. We can sit on the porch and enjoy chat together.


About the author:
Frankie Sherman is a national speaker, comedian, and Bible teacher for conferences, retreats, and women's events. She fell in love with Jesus at Vacation Bible School and takes every opportunity to tell others about the joy of being alive in Christ. She is a former choreographer for the Georgia Peach Bowl and the Florida Citrus Bowl Halftime Show. Her specialty is in theater musical/productions. Her first Bible Study, Why We Need Girlfriends is based on the relationship of Mary and Elizabeth, from Luke's gospel. Two women brought together by extraordinary circumstances by an extraordinary God. Frankie is from South Carolina—loves sweet tea, BIG hair and her grand-girls. She believes there will never be another Elvis. And knows that her Jesus will return for her soon.

Now Securing Interviews and Reviews
Kathy Carlton Willis Communications – KCWComm@rgv.rr.com or WillisWay@aol.com

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Marathon, not a Sprint

I sometimes wonder if writing is the easiest business in which to get discouraged. My husband seldom comes home from work with his head hanging low and says something like, "I didn't have a very good day on my press."

Growing up, my dad never came in and said, "I couldn't get inspired to operate the backhoe today. I don't know if I'm cut out for this line of work."

If my husband scraps a few jobs on his press or Dad didn't reach his mile quota on a highway job, both hit hard the next day. They never considered another line of work. They have families to feed and bills to pay and things need to be done regardless of bad days or low production or lack of motivation.

Why are writers one of the few groups of workers in the world who have the option to work or not work based on the above?

There are many things about the writing life that are discouraging. Sometimes, regardless of how good you are, publishers ignore you to buy works from better known, less talented writers. Sometimes, regardless of research, solid idea and multi-faceted characters you've created, the words won't come. Sometimes, even your biggest supporters wonder if you'd be better off to chuck it all and get into something that actually earns a paycheck.

Writing isn't easy. Getting published is harder by about a thousand times. If it was, everybody would do it. And then what would your contract be worth? While you're waiting for that blessed moment, take time to learn and practice the craft, polish your skills, open yourself and your writing to critiques. We must do these steps throughout our careers. Doctors never stop attending conferences and studying and learning the latest techniques and break-throughs. Why do writers?

Don't forget the importance of attending conferences, pitching your book idea, and finding editors and agents who are interested. They may not buy your book this go round, but you'll grow and get closer to your goal. There are no short cuts.

Face it folks, just like maintaining a healthy weight, writing is a marathon not a sprint. In the meantime, enjoy the process. Write what you love. Give your characters a voice. Share it where and when you can. Don't overlook the smaller markets. Study magazine guidelines. They can provide a nice supplemental income while you're awaiting that lucrative book contract.