Archive | A Writer’s Way of Seeing

Embracing Your Identity as a Writer

One of the hardest (yet necessary) things that must happen in the life of a writer is for him or her to fully embrace their identity as a writer. They may think of themselves as an “aspiring writer,” especially if they’re yet unpublished; but that won’t do, in my opinion. It’s like a person saying they’ve become an “aspiring Christian.” They’re not one yet, but they want to be. We know, of course, that one becomes a Christian as they are born again spiritually and become new creations in Christ. They have a new identity and they will grow faster as they embrace and begin to live out that new identity. The same is true for writers. You are not an aspiring writer. You are a writer. That is who you are and that is what you do. Embracing that identity will help you through writer’s block, rejection, and the distractions writers face. By accepting […]

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Six Resolutions for Writers in 2017

I’m a bit behind in writing my New Year’s post, but that’s my life right now.  I’m busy–as are you–but let’s not forget the importance writing has in our life.  Just as we can procrastinate the disciplines of our spiritual life (prayer, Bible study, worship, fellowship), so too can we put off our writing time.  Let’s not do that in 2017.  In fact, can I suggest a few late resolutions we can make for the rest of the year? Do not procrastinate with your writing. Move it up several notches on your to-do list. Find ways to improve your writing ability. Take an adult class in novel or non-fiction writing, join or start a local critique group, read some of the great books on the craft of writing. Do what you can to become a better writer this year than you were last year. Identify the writer’s conference you will attend this […]

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The Importance of Writing Colleagues

I recently remarked on Facebook that I was thinking of going back to writing fiction. I had just received a nice Amazon reader review for a novel I wrote 25 years ago and it reminded me that I’ve always wanted to write more fiction at some point in my career. I even had a title I liked. That’s a good start—a title, but no story to go with it. Then yesterday I met with a writing colleague over coffee and the conversation eventually led to my mulling over a return to fiction. I told her I had a title but that was all. One thing led to another and about twenty minutes later as a result of our conversation, I had my characters, a brief understanding of the plot, and the setting—rural Ohio, early 20th century. I’ve had this sort of thing happen before. You probably have too. To me, […]

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“I’ll Show Them!”

“Talent isn’t enough. You need motivation—and persistence, too. What Steinbeck called a blend of faith and arrogance. When you’re young, plain old poverty can be enough, along with an insatiable hunger for recognition. You have to have that feeling of “I’ll show them.” If you don’t have it, don’t become a writer. It’s part of the animal, it’s primitive, but if you don’t want to rise above the crowd, forget it.”  Leon Uris (1924-2003) I’ve been hitting my favorite thrift stores again. This time I picked up a copy of The Writer’s Digest Guide to Good Writing. This is a compilation of articles from Writer’s Digest magazine dating back to the 1920s. The book includes some wonderful articles, but I was most interested in a section in the middle of the book called “How I Write.” In this section, several prominent authors, past and present, offer up a paragraph or two […]

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“Felt Life”

From time to time I try to blog about the essence of great writing which, to me, is the ability to capture what Henry James called “felt life.” More recently, I found a description of this mysterious quality in Scott Berg’s Max Perkins: Editor of Genius. (The movie based on this book is just being released). In quoting the great editor of authors such as Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Berg writes of a time when Perkins had to explain to Fitzgerald why some of his short stories had been rejected by Scribner’s magazine, but would surely be published elsewhere. He wrote, “The great beauty of them is that they are alive. Ninety percent of the stories that appear are derived from life through the rarefying medium of literature. Yours are direct from life it seems to me.” This uncanny but utterly artistic ability to produce “felt life” […]

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Switching Genres?

In my previous post I warned against taking the advice of writers/editors/agents who suggest you turn a non-fiction memoir into a novel. Today I met with a writer friend and a related topic came up. This author was working on novel that she could write as “prairie” fiction. That was what she wanted to do. But she was told that prairie fiction doesn’t sell right now, so she should try to recast it in another more saleable direction. I understand the reasoning behind that suggestion, but let me offer a couple of reminders before she goes to all that work. First, it may be true that prairie fiction is not selling as well now as it once did, but that can change. By the time she finishes the book and a publisher is secured, prairie fiction may once again be all the rage. Fiction genres are cyclically popular. One year […]

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Fiction or Non-fiction?

Recently I was at a conference where I met with a writer who was working on a non-fiction memoir. It needed work, but it was viable, I thought. Imagine my surprise when we met again and he told me he had been advised by two others (faculty members at this conference) to write it as a novel, not as a non-fiction book. He scrapped the memoir and began his fact-based novel. I think he was given bad advice. I’m assuming the other two faculty members believe that if you can write non-fiction, you can write fiction just as well. I disagree. Fiction and non-fiction are not the same and, in my opinion, take a different set of talents. Yes, there’s some overlapping. Some fiction techniques are useful in writing non-fiction and vice versa. But few authors succeed at both fiction and non-fiction. The stumbling block as I see it is that turning a […]

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Literary Agents 101

It’s been while since I blogged about writing. As many of you know, I retired from my position as a senior editor at Harvest House Publishers and have embarked on a new career as a literary agent. From time to time I’d like to let you in on what I’m discovering from this new vantage point. I’ll just mention two discoveries today. First, I’m finding that it’s better to not have published at all, than to have self-published and had low sales. Other agents and editors may disagree, but at least if you’re unpublished and have a great book idea with solid writing and are working on a good platform, you’ve got something going for you. But if you have a great book idea, solid writing, and have self-published to poor sales, that last factor is going to carry a lot of weight with any perspective royalty publisher I pitch […]

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Take Heed!

This month marks the eighth anniversary of my writer’s blog: A Writer’s Way of Seeing. At this time last year, I offered writers advice for the coming year. I was going to offer a new list for 2016, but in reading what I wrote last year, I really think the same advice applies. Also, now that I’m an agent with WordServe Literary, I’ve picked up numerous new readers. So for new readers, and as a refresher for my regular readers, here’s a slightly edited version of last year’s blog called “Take Charge!” Maybe for this year the title should be “Take Heed!” because we’re all a year closer to our real deadline when we no longer will be writing. As we’re in the opening weeks of 2016 I want to offer my yearly exhortation for the new year. We’re all getting older and time’s a’ wasting, folks. If we want […]

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Now That I’m a Literary Agent…

The last time I posted here, I was a senior editor for a large Christian publishing company. Now, only a few months later, I’m making the transition to becoming a literary agent. The notion had been in my mind for a  long time and circumstances opened up for me to join Greg Johnson’s wonderful WordServe Literary. This new adventure should give me fresh fodder for my posts in my “A Writer’s Way of Seeing” blog.  But to start with, can I share some of what I’d like to see happen in publishing (particularly Christian publishing) and then let you know what I’d like to see as an agent? (Yes, I’m looking for a few new clients). First, I hope we see the marketplace welcome deeper books, more books that reflect original thinking, and more children’s and YA books. Memoir too. I’d love to see Christian publishing on the cutting edge of […]

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