I’m going to post just some random thoughts today. I do have a particular issue I’m thinking about discussing, but that may have to wait a few days. For now, here are just a few observations:

• The concept of writing a book can seem overwhelming at the start. In fact, if you’re like me, you may find yourself procrastinating simply because the task seems too big. But the real secret for most writers is that you don’t have to write the entire book NOW. You just have to do the next thing. That’s all. Just the next thing. Maybe that next thing is buying a book for research purposes. Or simply daydreaming about your main character. So, really at any point in the process where you feel overwhelmed, just relax, Max. Take it easy and just do the one next thing you need to do. That’s all. It’s eating the elephant one bite at a time.

• I’ve been seeing manuscripts lately with what I’ve come to refer to as “vertical writing” instead of the more preferable “diagonal writing.” As far as I know, this is a concept that I’ve come up with to describe flat writing versus compelling writing. I may have blogged on this before, but if so, it bears a brief review. By vertical writing I mean writing where the words just sit on the page upright without any forward movement to them. Oh sure, they seem to be telling some sort of story, but not a very interesting one. The words are too vertical. But diagonal writing is like this. It’s like italic font. Each word leans into the next and propels the story forward. I like diagonal writing. Send me more!

• A few days ago on Facebook I mentioned that it as the 96th birthday of author Mary Stewart. I also mentioned that author Phyllis Whitney lived to be 104 (and was writing up until very nearly the end). These women and others such as Victoria Holt, Dorothy Eden, Anne Maybury, and others were hugely successful thirty or so years ago with what were loosely called Gothic novels (neo-Gothic is probably more accurate). For a long time I’ve thought that that genre might do well in CBA. I know many definitions of “Gothic” novels includes some sort of paranormal experience, but I believe those experiences are often later determined to be of natural origin. The way these books could easily be identified was by the nearly identical covers on the books. ALL of the books had an old two-story house with the light on in the upstairs window. A young woman (the protagonist) could be seen running from the house, and often there was a dog barking somewhere on the cover. More or less, those were the common elements on the cover. The plot usually involved a young woman being summoned to the locale of the story on the pretext of some family secret or an inheritance or some such thing. Once there, she found trouble…..and a handsome young man who was also often brooding over something. Perhaps it was that he knew the secret. Are any of you fans of that genre? At Harvest House, our author Mindy Starns Clark has done two novels that approximate this genre: Whispers of the Bayou and Under the Cajun Moon. In looking at the back cover copy for one of these books, I see that we even referred to it as “Gothic.”

Well, all that to say, those books have sold pretty well and I think there’s more room for books in this genre. It certainly helps to be a reader of those authors I mentioned. If you are a fan and a good writer, why don’t you give it a whirl? No weird paranormal stuff. Keep it true to Christian spirituality. I’ll take a look at what you come up with. But please do your research by reading a few of these books first. And write diagonally!

• Finally, I think I’m going to ask for questions at this point. I’m running dry on things to blog about. What’s on your mind? Anything about the industry you want to discuss?

September 19, 2011

I met Lydia Harris in person several years ago at a writer’s conference. She reminds me that before that, we met at Kingdom Writers, an online Christian critique group. Although writing about tea is one of her favorite past-times, being a grandma surpasses even the best-brewed cup of Earl Grey. It’s no wonder then that’s she’s done such a great job on her book Preparing My Heart for Grandparenting, published by AMG. I asked her to share a bit about the book and her experience with the book. Take special note of her section “Persevering.”

Writing from Real Life

Lydia E. Harris (a. k. a. Grandma Tea)

Getting Started
About twelve years ago, I met editor Dan Penwell at the Oregon Christian Writers’ conference. I didn’t plan to write a book at that time. But when Dan looked through my notebook of clips from articles, book reviews, columns, and stories, he said, “Anyone who can get this much published could write a book.” I tucked away his encouragement and determined that someday I would.

Meanwhile, I nudged my niece, Ann Marie Stewart, to attend the Write to Publish conference in Chicago and meet Dan Penwell. She did, which led to book contracts with AMG Publishers and writing the first three Bible studies in the “Preparing My Heart” series. Both my niece and Dan Penwell encouraged me to write Bible studies for the series, so I proposed, Preparing My Heart for Grandparenting.

Accepting the Challenge
Writing a Bible study was a new genre for me. But my twelve-person prayer team and others prayed as I wrote this God-sized project. And my dear husband of 44 years (and president of my fan club) supported me throughout the writing. He picked up the slack at home by learning to use new power tools, such as the vacuum cleaner, dishwasher, and washing machine.

Setting Priorities
Through this book, I wanted to affirm grandparents in their important role, provide tools to help them become fantastic grandparents, and motivate them to be intentional about passing on a legacy of faith. At the same time, I desired to be a hands-on grandma to my four grandchildren, with another on the way.

I also wanted each day’s lesson to be fresh and exciting, not predictable. That’s why I included charts, drama, artwork, stories, resources, and creative ideas. I desired to relate to grandparents at the heart level and draw them to God. So each of the thirty lessons ends with a “grand thought” take-away and a Scripture-based prayer.

Persevering
It took eighteen months from the time I signed the contract until I held a printed copy in my hand. But prior to receiving the contract, I read books on grandparenting, interviewed dozens of grandparents, and researched grandparenting in the Bible (after all, there’s no biblical book of “grandparenting” to quickly turn to). Once I began writing the study, I wrote 30 lessons in 36 weeks. During this time, the lessons were also critiqued and tested by groups of grandparents.

I was pleased to complete the study on time, which was January 31, 2010. That year our Christmas tree didn’t come down until February.

Equipping Grandparents
Besides helping readers prepare for their grandparenting role, the six weeks of lessons also include ways to pray, model godly lives, invest in grandkids’ lives, prepare for joy and tears, and make an eternal impact. Weekends include devotions that cover the same topics. You can learn more about the study and read my grandparenting blog at www.PreparingMyHeart.net.

Reaping Rewards
When the first books arrived at our home, my husband and I knelt by the boxes and dedicated the books to God. We saw this study as a tool in God’s hands to impact future generations.

I’ve heard from groups of grandparents in Colorado and elsewhere who have completed the study. Recently, ten grandmothers in the Seattle area invited me to attend their final Bible study brunch. They wanted to thank me and share what they learned. Between them they had 54 grandchildren!

I felt humbled to hear how God worked in their lives through the study. It made all my tears and sleepless nights while writing it worthwhile. Grandma Louise, with seven grandchildren said, “It’s hard to put into words my feelings. Your Bible study has meant so much to my husband and me. I praise God for His guidance to you, and I thank you for listening to Him.”

Grandma Cammy, with two preschool grandchildren and a husband who is a pastor, wrote me this note: “My husband and I have been so excited about and committed to the whole grandpareting thing that I didn’t think I could be any more inspired. But your book has done just that—challenging me to think intentionally and to live purposefully in this new role. And you include so many wonderful, creative ideas from so many grandparents. Thank you!”

Meanwhile, I’ve been speaking on “FANtastic Grandparenting” and other topics at conferences, churches, senior living communities, and community centers. I’m being

s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d to do new things. One praying friend said, “Before long, you’ll be six feet tall!”

Praising God!
My husband and I are thrilled to see what God is doing with this book. Pre-Christian grandparents and those with other beliefs are reading it. Individuals, couples, and groups are using it. I know God will continue to touch lives and bless future generations through Preparing My Heart for Grandparenting. I felt privileged to write it. To God be the glory!

Thanks, Lydia! It’s great to see you successfully publishing on topics you love (grandparenting and tea!).

Today I’ve asked a long-time writer friend, Alice Sharpe, to share a bit about a common failing in many manuscripts.

First, let me mention that Alice and I were part of the same writer’s group for about fifteen years. She was writing articles then (a great way to start) and I was stumbling around with my own false starts to novels and whatnot. She eventually moved away and then so did I. But we tried to stay in touch, though often months (and even a couple of years) went by without much contact.

Then, a few weeks ago Alice called. We talked about writing—as expected—and she said something that I wanted you to hear. The result is today’s blog entry which I asked Alice to write.

Alice doesn’t write CBA fiction, but is hugely successful as a novelist for Harlequin. Take a look at her books on Amazon:

DROPPED TENSION

Sometime ago, Nick and I were catching up over the telephone and we started talking about those inevitable moments in a book when a writer is stalled. Dead in the water. Kaput. I’ve found that often this happens at the end of a scene. There you are, going along great, things are happening and suddenly yikes, what do I do now?

This is not to be confused with writer’s block. In my experience, writer’s block is a cataclysmic event that happens inside a writer due to external forces. An event that causes an emotional upheaval —things like a bad illness, an accident, and life’s worries that have nothing to do with writing.

Nope, this problem is almost always defined by these two words: dropped tension. That’s it. You dropped it. You had the ball and then it dribbled way out of bounds right after that glorious basket you sank.

One time, many books ago, one of my heroines ran out to the barn in a fit of pique The hero found her and they cleared the air, they talked, they mended fences. As their creator and their friend, I was very proud of the fact they were acting all grown up and civil.

That scene killed that book for about a week. And then I went back and saw that I’d given myself nowhere to go, no bridge that needed to be crossed to lead to the next scene. I hadn’t raised the stakes for my characters (or my readers); I’d just made everything interesting about my story go away.

By satisfying my desire to smooth ruffled feathers, I had dropped the tension in my story. And in that moment when I finally understood what I’d done, I was able to extrapolate it into the bigger picture. We all know we need a dynamic hook for the end of a chapter to coax the reader into reading one more page, but I think that we sometimes forget we need that same discipline after every major scene.

By the way…I’m not talking about inserting phony, manipulative dialogue and massive misunderstandings or unrelated adventures in order to keep things going. The tension has to be organic, a byproduct of the story and the characters, genuine and true, a step on a ladder that leads somewhere important. You’ll know it’s there when you suddenly see the next step on the ladder, and maybe even the glimmer of the next one and the one after that.

If you’re in the middle of a project and it feels flat to you (characters are just mulling about, going nowhere) or you’ve let your book slip away from you entirely, ask yourself when it happened. Chances are, the problem exists somewhere within the last scene you wrote.

So how do you fix a case of dropped tension? Here’s how:

1. Make a copy of your book and tack a “2” after the title.

2. Using this new copy, go back to the point in your book when things waned and reread it with a critical eye. If you continued writing past this point, then be willing to change everything that comes after it and a good deal that came before; after all, as you get a sense of where you allowed the tension to slip away, it’s probable that you’ll need to go back to earlier pages and rework them to support the new direction in your story. (And don’t panic, you still have Title 1. You can always get something back if, in the unlikely event, you really want to).

3. Shake things up. Ask yourself what needs to happen to carry your story forward. Did you satisfy yourself in this scene and neglect to serve the story you’re writing? Every scene must build to the next.

4. This assumes, of course, that you have enough plot for a book. If you’re now seeing there isn’t enough plot, that’s a different matter and takes some additional thought. As a matter of fact, this just happened to me. I’d sold a book based on a synopsis, but my plot as written in the synopsis, turned out to woefully incomplete. Consequently, I was coming up about a hundred pages short of my contracted length. This was a new problem for me and one that left me cringing. A friend wisely suggested I look at the villain in my story instead of the protagonists. What was he/she up to? I did this, and realized immediately where I’d started losing that character’s presence (dropping the tension), and I created a Title 2 of the story and began rewriting. Result: a new piece of plot landed in my lap and the story regained its momentum.

Some books may not have villains per se. But all successful books have obstacles the characters must surmount to reach the conclusion. The death of a loved one, a loss of innocence, a huge storm. The list is endless. Take a creative approach to these obstacles and ask yourself: what other havoc is this situation (or person) creating?

I currently write romantic suspense heavy on the mystery, and though I’ve written a fair number of books, I still occasionally find myself in this situation. As a result, by the time I finish a book there may be as many as 12 progressive copies—but that’s the thing about writing. Unlike so many tools used in construction projects, words are absolutely free, you can use as many as you like as long as in the final telling, each one of them matters.

Just remember: striving to keep your own life free of stress and tension is a healthy, happy way to live. Doing the same in your book is the kiss of death.

It may surprise some of you to learn that of my ten published books, two are fiction. In fact, my first two published books were novels three and four in the four-volume Ann of the Prairie series, now out of print. The books actually sold well and we had a nice endorsement for the series from Janette Oke who said: “Heartwarming and heart-rending…a reminder of what life was really like.”

I was such a novice—this was twenty years ago—but I do remember at the time thinking Wow, I can do this! I can write a novel! I remember that it was important to me to make that mental note because I instinctively knew that in the future, self-doubts might crop up—as they surely did.

My next eight books were all non-fiction, but the fiction bug, along with the realization wow, I can do this! has never left me. Every so often I steel myself on the edge of the deep end of the pool and consider making the jump. Now is such a time. Partly the decision is based on the lack of movement with some non-fiction proposals I’ve prepared. (I’m astonished no publisher is begging to publish these terrific books 🙂 , but such is the case). Naturally, I’m assuming the minute I get totally absorbed in a novel, I’ll have all kinds of renewed interest in my non-fiction. Such is the writer’s life.

As I’ve been thinking about the historical novel I want to write, I’ve been a bit stuck in that I only know the ending so far. That’s unusual for me, but I’m game to try writing to an ending I already have in mind. The problem is finding out what happens on the first 250 pages of the book. I’ve tried to figure it out, but to no avail. But since I know the era and the major historical event that plays a huge part in the plot, last night I decided to begin my research even without a plot. And as I read, I realized that just allowing myself to be transported to the time and place of the story may be enough to eventually reveal the story I want to tell. It was thrilling, in a way. As I was reading, I could almost imagine my three (so far) characters in the setting. Surely that’s a good start. I know those three storyless characters are quite anxious. I can see them standing in the streets of the city in question, arms crossed, looking to me to give them their script. Sorry guys! I’m doing my best!

I’m anxious now to do some more reading and hope that the story will be hidden in the pages of the non-fiction books I’m reading. This rings true with one of my favorite Stephen King quotes about writing:

Stories are found things, like fossils in the ground. . . . Stories aren’t souvenir tee-shirts or GameBoys. Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible. Sometimes the fossil you uncover is small; a seashell. Sometimes it’s enormous, a Tyrannosaurus Rex with all those gigantic ribs and grinning teeth. Either way, short story or thousand-page whopper of a novel, the techniques of excavation remain basically the same.

No matter how good you are, no matter how much experience you have, it’s probably impossible to get the entire fossil out of the ground without a few breaks and losses. To get even most of it, the shovel must give way to more delicate tools: airhose, palm-pick, perhaps even a toothbrush. Plot is a far bigger tool, the writer’s jackhammer. you can liberate a fossil from hard ground with a jackhammer, no argument there, but you know as well as I do that the jackhammer is mechanical, anticreative. Plot is, I think, the good writer’s last resort and the dullard’s first choice. The story which results from it is apt to feel artifical and labored.

So right now, I’m digging for my story amid the ruins of history.

Comments?

Have some of you found your story during or after your research, and not before?

Congratulations to last night’s Christy winners–and all the finalists too.

When many aspiring fiction writers think about the novel they want to write, they often think in terms of their proposed linear plot. This happens, then that happens, which causes the next thing to happen, and so on until the end of the book. In short, they piece together a credible story and if they’ve done a good job of piecing their story together, the book gets published.The writer has succeeded with his or her book on the story level. That’s good. Those books can sell like crazy.

But in my ongoing attempt to pinpoint what I prefer in a novel, I’ve come up with yet another way to describe this notion of going beyond the storytelling level and entering into the “felt life” level that Henry James championed. This new way is to suggest that just as a reader likes a book he or she can successfully follow (track) on the plot level, so too do most readers like a novel that allows them to track the inner life of the novel’s characters. (Without realizing that’s what they’re doing, of course).

The plot is what is happening in the story. But how are those events affecting the characters? I don’t mean does the fact that Joe dies in chapter one mean that we are then told that his widow Sally is sad (or happy) about his passing. That too, can just be something described on the basic plot level by giving us Sally’s facial expressions, dialog, and/or actions.

But to fully enter this next level of character development (that I crave as a reader), requires more than description, dialog, and actions. What more is there? you’re probably asking. And this is where it gets dicey. The truth is that it’s hard to infuse your fiction with this second level of “life.” Hard do describe and hard to do. It’s especially hard to do in such a way that the reader is tracking the character’s inner life on an intuitive level, not a linear level.

To be honest, I’m not even sure this aspect of characterization can be taught at all. But maybe it can. So in that hope, I’m going to offer some suggestions.

1. First of all, make sure you understand what I’m after. If you don’t get it, stop reading this blog entry and come back next week when I’ll be on to another topic. It’s not important that every writer understand this. I’ll settle for only a few.

2. Lack of an inner life in your characters may be simply because you don’t know them well enough. I’d suggest interviewing them about their past, their future, and how they got in this present predicament that is your novel. Most good characters are very forthcoming about their life. Some need coaxing, but it’s quite worth it when you get them to finally open up. Be advised that it’s often the interview questions that have nothing to do with the novel that are the most revealing. Ask lots of those.

3. Describe your characters, one by one, to a friend. Perhaps someone in your writers group. Let them come up with interview questions for your characters.

4. Read published fiction that has succeeded on this deeper level. And when you sit down to write, take a few minutes to warm up by typing word for word a few paragraphs from the book you’ve chosen. Particularly paragraphs that are themselves revealing of a character’s inner life.

5. One hint that your character’s inner life is boring is if their emotions are predictable. For instance in my example above (Joe’s death and his wife Sally’s reaction) the predictable response is sadness at the death of a spouse. But for a woman to be happy at her husband’s death suggests either something about Sally or about Joe that is worth exploring.

6. Find ways unique to your writing that will help you set on paper the words that will open up the inner life of your characters to your readers. When you find something that works, let me know or post it in the comments section. This process of tracking a character’s inner life is one of the most mysterious aspects of writing fiction that I know about—which is why few seem to attempt it and yet fewer succeed when they do attempt it.

If you have a finished novel that hasn’t sold, maybe this one single thing is what you need to do to break through and capture an editor’s heart. Go back through the book that you’ve completed on the primary plot level and this time write strictly to the second level–the deeper level. Ask yourself: is my character’s inner life worth tracking for the reader? If not, you need to do another rewrite and make it so. Just be very careful that this is all done invisibly…subtley…silently.

And even if you do master it, as I said earlier: Deepening the inner life of your characters may not help you sell your book to an editor—in fact, it may be a hindrance. Still, I want you to do it anyway. It will make me happy. 🙂

Sometime ago Jan Cline asked: “How about something about the difference in personal preference or styles of editors and how that can affect a writer’s acceptance chances. I’ve always wondered if all editors have the same way of dealing with manuscript submissions.”

This is an easy answer—and important for writers to understand.

YES! Editors are as different in both what they like and how they process manuscripts. Oh sure, there are some basic similarities, but beyond those, I think most editors have their own style of reviewing and acquiring books.

I think we all try to put our personal tastes aside and review proposals and manuscripts through the eyes of our particular market. So for me, the question isn’t do I like this historical romance? The question is will the reader who just bought and loved our bestselling fiction title also like this one?

Many of the books I’ve acquired that I’ve personally loved have not sold well. Happily though, some of the books I’ve acquired and loved have sold well. This reinforces the point that all writers should study the markets before they submit. It’s not enough to write a good book (fiction or non-fiction). I reject good books every month. I really do. The question should be is the book I’ve written the kind of book Harvest House sells well? If not, which publishing company does sell the kind of books I write?

I think the same thing applies to finding an agent. Rather than trying to have any old agent represent you, you should ask yourself if the agent you’re considering does well placing the kind of books you write with good publishers.

Jan’s question suggests other responses too. For instance, some editors may see a proposal that’s submitted unprofessionally and immediately dismiss it. On the other hand, I’m more lenient. I prefer manuscripts that are neat and tidy, but more than once I’ve bothered to look something over that somehow intrigued me, but wasn’t as professional looking as it should have been.

Another thing that comes to mind is that editors vary even within publishing houses. I may reject a manuscript another editor here may think has great potential. Here again we see the importance of trying to find the right editor (not just the right publisher) to look at your manuscript. You usually only get one shot at a particular publishing house. The general rule is that when one editor speaks, he or she is speaking for the publishing company and it’s not kosher to resubmit the same rejected manuscript to another editor at the same house. The exception might be is if you have good reason to resubmit AND if you tell the editor you’re submitting it to that Joe Jones at that publishing house has already seen it. It really does irritate us to review a manuscript and mention it in passing to another editor, only to have them tell us they rejected that manuscript two months ago.

All of this points up the extreme value of writers’ conferences. That’s where you’ll have a good chance to meet that editor who is the perfect editor to see your manuscript. It’s also where you’ll save a lot of time and heartache by finding out, for instance, that Nick Harrison at Harvest House is NOT the editor to look at your manuscript.

Speaking of conferences, I’d be remiss not to mention one of my favorites which is coming up next month. I’m sure there’s still room, so sign up now.

Jan, I hope this helps!

I’ve lost my thread with the questions. Either that or I’ve answered them all. If I don’t get a good question from someone for next time, I’ll ask one of my own. 🙂

While I’m preparing my next blog entry, please take time to read this one from Randy Ingermanson. I wish I would have written it. For aspiring writers, these “allies” Randy recommends are very important.

In my last post I wrote about handling success. Today I want to address Bob Russell’s question: “What is success as a writer and how do you know when you’ve achieved it? How do you measure it? Book sales? Satisfaction? Lives changed?”

If that was a multiple choice question, I’d choose “satisfaction.” But I want to look at it a bit more deeply.

First of all, I think “success” as a writer is tied into the larger issue of “success” in one’s entire life. Writing is an integral part of what we do, but it’s not ALL of what we do. A person may “succeed” as a writer and leave a family in the ruins. That’s happened plenty of times.

This is why I beat the drum of “surrender” so loudly. When we offer up to God our talents, our families, our finances, our health, our future….basically ourselves in all that we have and all that we are, we enter into a place of rest (satisfaction) that no longer looks at externals like sales figures or bank balances.

If we can compare the calling of writing to the calling of a pastor, we might understand it better. For instance, many would say that pastoring a 5,000 member church is a sign of success in the same way they’d say that writing a book that sells 100,.000 copies is a sign of success. And the pastor who pastors a church of 50-100 might wrongly be perceived as on a par with writer whose books are slow sellers.

The truth is that the pastor of the large church may be so busy in ministry, he loses his family. Likewise, the pastor of the smaller church may succeed in that his ministry produces fewer, but deeper Christians. So just as I’d hesitate to measure a pastor’s success by the size of his congregation, I’d likewise not measure a writer’s success by his or her book sales. In my own case, I will tell you honestly that the “deeper” books I’ve written have sold less than the more commercially-aimed books. I trust that ALL my books affect readers and, thankfully, that’s confirmed by the fact that all my books have resulted in positive letters from readers.

The longer I’m a writer, the more fully I try to surrender the efforts AND the results of my writing to God. Yes, it’s hard sometimes, but I think it’s the way it has to be. I’ve mentioned my discouragement before about the fact that some of the publishers to whom I’ve submitted my book for broken Christians don’t believe there’s a market for such a book. How frustrating is that? But as time moves on, my frustration is tempered by the gently whispering voice, Hey Nick. I thought you were trusting Me with your writing. Why then are you discouraged? I have to add that I believe God has given me “a word” about my writing and I cling to that. In fact, I encourage authors to know what God thinks of their decision to write. Was that decision God-directed or simply from “self?”

The more fully our writing is surrendered, the clearer we see what success really is.

Although that may not sound like a satisfactory ending for my response, I think I really do want to end on that note. It’s the bottom line. I hope it helps.

Next time I’ll take on Jan Cline’s question: “How about something about the difference in personal preference or styles of editors and how that can affect a writer’s acceptance chances. I’ve always wondered if all editors have the same way of dealing with manuscript submissions.”

I’ve been away for a few days and am now back in the saddle. I asked my Facebook friends for some ideas for my next blog and got some great responses. I’ll answer the first one now and try to answer the others over the course of the next few days.

Lori Roeleveld says: We read a lot about handling rejection. I’d like to hear something about preparing spiritually for success.

I hope I’m understanding Lori’s question correctly, so here goes.

Preparing spiritually for success isn’t much different than preparing for “failure.” I have to use quote marks there because there really is no such thing as failure for a Christian writer. And that’s why there aren’t many differences in the way we prepare ourselves for the results of what we write.

At some point—hopefully very early on—a Christian writer has to develop a deep sense that God is sovereign in what happens to this magnificent gift we call writing. Is He going to use it to reach many or just a few? In either case, it’s really all up to Him, not us. Sure, we do all the necessary preparation and follow through—the actual research, the writing, the submitting, the praying, and all the rest of it. But unless we know that God orders our steps, we’re going to be in for much greater disappointment than is necessary. In my previous blog I mentioned the disappointment I felt when a project I’d been working on for two years fell apart. But even as I experienced the disappointment, I had to acknowledge “the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” I had been praying for that project every step of the way. So when it ended, I had to accept that too was the hand of God. One of the worst things a writer can do is allow disappointment or discouragement to end or derail a writing career. The only thing that should end a writing career for a Christian is a true sense in our spirit that God has called us to something else.

Just as so-called “failure” must not discourage us, neither should success cause us to become puffed up. Although I still go through the down emotions when I receive a rejection, I also experience joy at an acceptance and I’m overjoyed when I receive a letter from a reader whose life has been impacted by something I’ve written. And regarding the latter, I have to honestly say that when I read such a letter, I know more than anybody else how truly any work done in the reader was something God accomplished, not something I can take credit for. Just as in failure, so too in success you can’t let your emotions play too large a part in judging your work. Move on in the face of apparent failure and move on in the face of apparent success.

Lori, I guess that’s a long way of saying that success is something God does with our writing, not something we do. Knowing that will help us handle it wisely.

I want to add, too, that I believe Christian writers should expect to succeed. If I were to offer a “step-by-step” plan for success for Chrisitan writers, it would look something like this:

1. Be sure your writing is totally surrendered to God.
2. Pray for success and believe for success.
3. Learn the ropes.
4. Always do the next thing you know to do. Don’t look too far ahead.
5. Leave the results to God.

Next up I’ll tackle Bob Russell’s question which is related to Lori’s: What is success as a writer and how do you know when you ‘ve achieved it? How do you measure it? Book sales? Satisfaction? Lives changed?