As a follow-up to my recent I Hate It When That Happens blog, I now offer the promised balance to that rant.

1. I love it when I begin reading (with skepticism) a manuscript by an unknown author, only to discover a gem of a book and a very promising writer. Please make my day by being the next author to delight me in such a way.

2. I love it when one of the books I’ve written (or edited) results in a changed life and I find out about it. I was reminded of this two weeks ago when I was at a conference attended by a man who, without knowing who I was or where I worked, told me about a book that had truly changed his life. It was a book I had championed at Harvest House and edited. So very gratifying! I have a few cherished notes from readers of my own books that I feel like should be framed for their positive effect on me as a writer. I can’t think of anything more motivating for a writer than to hear that his or her book has changed a life.

3. I love it when an aspiring author understands that succeeding as a writer isn’t just about writing. It’s about fulfilling one’s destiny; it’s about being part of the family that is Christian publishing. It’s about knowing you’re on a team with fellow writers, editors, and agents; all working for the same thing and all suffering our share of setbacks and advances.

4. I love it when a truly good book gets the notice it deserves. That doesn’t happen often enough.

5. I love it when an out-of-the-box book (often one that few people believed in) becomes a game-changer in our industry. Such books in the past few decades include Love Comes Softly, This Present Darkness, At Home in Mitford, The Shack, and The Harbinger. (I’ll love it even more when a future game-changer is written by Nick Harrison). :-)

6. I love it when someone comes up with a book idea that’s so original and yet so obvious I slap my forehead and shout, “Now why didn’t I think of that?!”

7. I love it when I must heavily edit a manuscript and the author actually likes my changes.

8. I love it when I get a yes from the publishing committee. Sometimes authors don’t understand that a successful book must pass muster with not just an editor, but also with the folks in the sales and marketing departments. They bring an important consideration to the table when they weigh in on the pros and cons of the proposal I’m pitching from their point of view.

9. I love it when an author I’ve had to reject lets me know he or she has just landed a contract with another publisher—one that is obviously a better fit for their book than Harvest House was. I well remember the two times I was present when an author I rejected won an award. I was as excited as they were. Their award, after all, validated my judgment.

10. I love it when, after several rejections, a good author will self-publish his or her book and then get out and promote it. I love it that self-publishing has come as far as it has and that it’s now an open door for anyone brave enough to step through. Quite frankly, there are many advantages to self-publishing. One advantage is the timing. An author can have a self-published book out in a very short time. But the books I take to the publishing committee now won’t be published until 2015. That’s a long time to wait. (Caveat: it’s one thing to believe in your work, but get some feedback from folks who will tell you the truth about your book before you make the self-publishing decision. If your self-published book is poorly written or if you won’t promote it, you will be stacking those boxes of books in your garage or extra bedroom for years to come).

Well, that felt good! No grousing this time. Instead of a rant, this was meant to be a hymn of praise to all that is good and lovely in our industry. And that is much indeed.

First, I want to thank those who have commented on this series. Particularly those I didn’t respond to personally. I do appreciate your notes.

Today, I wrap up this present series on how to succeed as a Christian writer. I’m sure there could be several more intermediary steps, but I’m limiting it to five. And so we now come to that final fifth step…which is really just a synthesis of the previous four steps into what is essentially a writer’s lifestyle. In this lifestyle, the journey that began with step one continues until your final day on earth. You’ve developed a rhythm of sorts. You write, you read, you market, you learn, you go to conferences….and perhaps most important, you always think like a writer. You experience something and immediately you’re writing about it in your head, almost as a reporter might do for a news story. You learn to discern when something sounds wrong and you change it. For instance, in the previous sentence, I originally wrote:

You experience something and right away you’re writing about it in your head.

But notice how clunky it sounds to have “right” and “writing” so close to each other. So I changed the former word to “immediately.” Small things like that become instinctive as you adopt a writer’s lifestyle. You also learn what activities can trigger creativity for you. In my case, my mind is very creative while driving and while in the shower….neither of which, alas, allow for effective note taking. Fortunately, listening to certain genres of music also works for me. So does people-watching.

My writing lifestyle may not look like yours. You may be more creative surrounded by utter silence. Your triggers may be playing a round of golf or taking a long walk. The point is your entire creative life is that of a writer. Writing defines you, in a sense. You become (healthily) consumed by writing….and yet you also handle rejection and disappointment with grace. After all, the four previous steps are not part of your history; instead they remain part of your ongoing present. So step number one remains fully intact: God has called you to this life and the results of your writing are fully in His hands. This means He will give you the creativity and He will open doors. You just do you part and walk through those doors….which sometimes means taking chances. Above all else, you learn to persist. Somewhere yesterday I read a quote that went something like this: What do you call writers who persist? The answer is published. I wish I could remember which writer’s blog that came from, but since I read several each day (as I hope you do), I often forget the source of a quote. (Where’s my notebook?)

And as you go along, I do want to mention one final thing about your writing: AIM HIGH. While it’s usually necessary for authors to be willing to start small, it’s not necessary (unless God has called you to it) to remain small. Dream big for your writing. Take risks. Expect to change lives with your writing. Ask God to bring about the maximum results from your writing. Right now I believe God has implanted the notion in my head to approach a particular person about helping write her autobiography….and it boggles my mind to even think about it. I feel like David in front of Goliath. But, Lord willing, I’m going to step out and write a letter to the person in question. All I can get is a “no.” Or, even better, a “yes.” Most of the breakthroughs I’ve had in my writing came about by aiming big and taking reasonable risks.

Well, there you have it. Five steps to success. Naturally there is more to be said about writing, otherwise I could just close up my blog right now and spend more time on my own projects. But the truth is, I enjoying writing about writing. So stay tuned. There will more to come. My next entry will be an interview, hopefully before the weekend.