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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 to succeed as writers, we need to take charge of our writing career. In fact, that will be my rally cry for you in 2016: “Take charge of your writing career!”

Here are seven suggestions on how to do that.

1.Stay prayed up. Presumably by now you’ve confirmed in your own mind that God has called you to be a writer. Part of that calling is, of course, to write. But for a Christian, that’s only half the calling. The other half is knowing what to write. Mostly we find that out through prayer and discerning the needs of readers and our ability to write to those needs. As you pray, ask God to guide you in your writing pursuits. Make that a year-long (life-long, actually) commitment to yourself. If you stay prayed up about your writing, you’ll stay pumped up too.

2.Improve your craft. Each year I urge all of us who write to find a way to keep improving our craft. Take classes, read magazines such as The Writer, Writer’s Digest, and The Christian Communicator. Join a critique group. Read the blogs of other successful writers, agents, and editors. Write, write, write. Commit to writing at least three (and probably more) drafts of each project, with each draft an improvement from the preceding draft. Always have a good writing book on hand. I recommend any of James Scott Bell’s books on the writing craft, particularly How to Make a Living As a Writer.

3.Write out specific goals for each month. Make each goal realistic, but then stick to them. Daily, weekly, and monthly goals are good, but also write out in some detail what you hope to have accomplished by December 31. To stay on track, consider finding a writing accountability partner. Share your writing goals with each other and meet in person or by internet every week or two to encourage one another.

4.If possible, have two or three projects/proposals/manuscripts in some stage of progress. Perhaps you’re working on just a one-sheet for Project A, while on Project B, you’re at the full proposal stage. Project C might be your work-in-progress—the actual manuscript you’re working on. For a successful writing career, you must always be thinking ahead.

5.Pick one or two writer’s conferences and plan to attend. If money is a problem start saving now. Come up with creative fund-raising ideas. Perhaps ask your church to chip in with the fees. Most conferences have some scholarship money. See if you qualify or if you can do some conference work in exchange for part of your tuition.

6.Stay up to date with the publishing world—including self-publishing. Know what the bestsellers are. Know which authors are writing successfully in the same genre in which you write. Read Publisher’s Weekly or Publisher’s Marketplace online. More and more writers are finding their entry into publishing through self-publishing. Sadly, many are making very serious mistakes. Although I encourage self-publishing as an option, I do not recommend it if you’re going to do a poor job of it. Last year at one writer’s conference I picked up a self-published book and found three major errors on the first page, including the misspelling of the name of a famous world leader. Who would buy such a book? Not me.

7.Work on your platform. I know very few authors who like platform-building. I don’t like it either. I’d much rather just write. But a platform is important. Starting small is fine. Just do what small thing you can do now and build from there. Eat the elephant one bite at a time.

The crucial thing in all this is to keep your commitment red-hot. Rest assured, there will be discouragements, distractions, and even rejections in 2016. That’s life. It’s also another reason to plan ahead and to indeed “take charge of your writing career” in 2016. Start now!

Most writers I meet at conferences or who send me proposals or queries are unagented. Right now, so am I. I’ve had two very good ones in the past and I’m sure I’ll find another one in the future (hopefully soon).

I’m sure some writers wonder why I need an agent. After all, doesn’t an agent just find the right publisher for your project and then simply help negotiate the contract? Why would an editor who already knows the publishing houses and their editors, and understands the basics of a contract need an agent?

That question reveals a lack of understanding about what a good agent does. Yes, he or she helps find the right publisher for your proposal and also negotiates a favorable contract. But there’s more involved than just those two basic tasks. I’d like to dwell on three of the often overlooked talents of a good agent.

1. The first talent is that an agent–a good agent–is interested in more than just the present proposal you’ve submitted. A good agent has taken the time to understand who you are as a writer, what are your strengths and weaknesses—and perhaps most importantly: Is that good agent in sympathy with what you want to accomplish as a writer? Has he or she taken a personal interest in your projects? If so, they’ll be eager to place your projects, not just for their commission check, but also because they share your excitement and passion for your projects. In short, they’re not just an agent, but also an advocate.

2. The second talent a good agent has is the ability to judge between what you want to accomplish as a writer and where you are presently as a writer. This agent can look objectively at your proposal or manuscript and tell you that the protagonist has a great personality, but the plot isn’t holding up. Or that your proposal about God’s love is fine doctrinally, but it doesn’t connect emotionally with readers.

3. At some time or other, every writer needs a cheerleader. That cheerleader (apart from your spouse, mother, or critique partner) should be your agent. The good agent can encourage you when you receive another rejection. He or she can convince you that you CAN make that weak plot stronger. Or that perhaps it’s time to give up on the speculative fiction genre and try something else. (And when that good agent has a recommendation, listen hard. The boneyard of unpublished writers is populated by potentially successful authors who simply wouldn’t listen to the wise words of a good agent).

To be able to handle the business end of agenting, plus carry out the above roles, takes a special kind of person. If you have such an agent, send that person an email immediately, thanking him or her for being such a crucial partner in your writing career. Then send me that email address. 🙂

As we’re in the final weeks of 2014 I want to offer my yearly exhortation for 2015. We’re all getting older and time’s a’ wasting, folks. If we want to succeed as writers, we need to take charge of our writing career. In fact, that will be my rally cry for you in 2015: “Take charge of your writing career!”

Here are seven suggestions on how to do that.

  1. Stay prayed up. Presumably by now you’ve confirmed in your own mind that God has called you to be a writer. Part of that calling is, of course, to write. But for a Christian, that’s only half the calling. The other half is to be writing the things that are within God’s calling of you as a writer. Mostly, we find out those thing through prayer. Expectant prayer. Ask God specifically to guide you in your writing pursuits. Make that a year-long (life-long, actually) commitment to yourself.

 

  1. Improve your craft. Each year I urge all of us who write to find a way to keep working on our craft. Take classes, read The Writer, Writer’s Digest, join a critique group. Read the blogs of other successful writers, agents, and editors. Write, write, write. Commit to writing at least three (and probably more) drafts of each project.

 

  1. Write out specific goals for each month. Make each goal realistic, but then stick to them. James Scott Bell recently wrote about his experience with this year’s NaNoWriMo:

Deadlines work. Remember what Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, once said? “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” Every writer who has written under contract knows what he means. The “pressure” of NaNo is good for a writer. If you fall too far behind you’re cooked. So you do whatever it takes to keep to a daily word count. You adjust your goals to make up for lost time. Out of NaNo, I’m sticking to a SID — self-imposed deadline. Writing down the date you want to finish and putting it where you can see it daily helps.

Monthly goals are good, but also write out in some detail what you hope to have accomplished by December 31, 2015.

To stay on track, consider finding a writing accountability partner. Share your writing goals with each other and meet in person or by internet every week or two to encourage one another.

 

  1. If possible, have two or three projects/proposals/manuscripts in some stage of progress. Perhaps you’re working on just a one-sheet for Project A, while on Project B, you’re at the full proposal stage. Project C might be your work-in-progress—the actual manuscript you’re working on.

 

  1. Pick one or two writer’s conferences and plan to attend. If money is a problem start saving now. Come up with creative fund-raising ideas. Perhaps ask your church to chip in with the fees. Most conferences have some scholarship money. See if you qualify or if you can do some conference work in exchange for part of your tuition.

 

  1. Stay up to date with the publishing world—including self-publishing. Know what the bestsellers are. Know which authors are writing successfully in the same genre in which you write. Read Publisher’s Weekly or Publisher’s Marketplace online. More and more writers are finding their entry into publishing through self-publishing. Sadly, many are making very serious mistakes. Although I encourage self-publishing as an option, I do not recommend it if you’re going to do a poor job of it. Last year at one writer’s conference I picked up a self-published book and found three major errors on the first page, including the misspelling of the name of famous world leader. Who would buy such a book? Not me.

 

  1. Work on your platform. I know very few authors who like platform-building. I don’t like it either. I’d much rather just write. But a platform is important. Starting small is fine. Just do what small thing you can do now and build from there. Eat the elephant one bite at a time.

 

The crucial thing in all this is to keep your commitment red-hot. Rest assured, there will discouragements and distractions in 2015. That’s life. It’s also another reason to plan ahead and to indeed “take charge of your writing career” in 2015. Start planning now!

Today I continue answering some questions you’ve asked. Roxanne Henke, a wonderful author I’ve had the pleasure of editing, asked three good questions.

1. How can a writer stay motivated when discouraged?  

Rejection is always hard. You pour your best efforts into your manuscript and hope for a positive response and instead you get a dull rejection letter or e-mail, often MONTHS after you submitted it.

Here’s what I suggest.  First, just know that virtually all writers have faced rejection. You can’t take it personally. Second, if you know that God has called you to write, you must take your confidence from that calling and not allow rejection to rob you of your destiny as a writer. Third, always have more than one project out to an editor.  If one comes back rejected, you can still have hope for the others that are still under consideration.  Finally, remember that you’re in this for the long haul. Instant success isn’t going to happen. Pay your dues, be patient, keep writing, and look for God’s opportunities.

2. How do you decide which (of many) ideas to work on first?

This is a hard one for me. I have so many ideas and proposals in the preparation stage I sometimes don’t really know which ones to work on.  Usually, it’s a combination of several factors.  One factor is which project generates the most creative excitement in me?  Is that also the one that’s most marketable?  If so, I’ll work on that one.  If you have several good ideas and are still unsure, I’d write a one-sheet (or longer if necessary) for each one and see if simply writing about the projects brings clarity. You might even discover that one or more of your ideas can be rejected.   Finally, if you have a good agent, ask him or her for advice.  Agents often list career planning as one of their advantages.  Tell your agent you want to have a brainstorming session and discuss several ideas with him or her.  An agent that used to represent me once gave me some good advice that I discounted…and I later realized I was wrong. I should have followed her advice.

3. How important is a title to catch an editor’s eye?

For me as an editor, a title isn’t as important as the concept and the writing. If I like the proposal, I know we can always come up with a better title. That said, I do know that when I see a dazzler of a title, it makes me sit up and take notice. For instance, who could resist a title like Kevin Lehman’s Have a New Kid By Friday. Or perhaps his follow-up book, How to Have a New Husband By Friday?

4. When can you ‘legitimately’ call yourself a writer? (I once had someone tell me–rather snootily–that I had to have something published that was more than 100 words long.)

I think the answer is purely subjective and depends on how YOU define being a writer. I know I would have legitimately called myself a writer before I was published.  It’s like asking when can you call yourself a Christian? Is it after you’ve become mature or entered into a ministry or joined a church? No, of course not. The minute a person believes in Christ to be saved, they are from then on a Christian. The decision to follow Christ is the moment the Christian identity begins. Likewise the minute a person knows deep within that they’re a writer, they ARE a writer, in my opinion. The rest of it is just an unfolding of that decision.

Now, everyone please go read After Anne, Roxanne Henke’s first delightful book. You will thank me.

Do you ever get confused by the sometimes contradictory advice you hear from successful writers? Some may say “write every day!” while others say “write when you have something to say!” Or you may hear “Write the whole thing before you edit. Just get it on paper.” Then you’ll read about a bestselling author who labors over every page before moving to the next one. And we’ve all heard about “pantsers versus plotters.” Pantsers write as they go without knowing exactly what comes next in their story. Plotters outline and then follow their outline with only minor variations.

So what’s a writer to do? I think the best way to look at it is to consider the various “rules” about writing as tools in a toolbox. Every time you learn a new “trick” to writing that has worked well for someone else, go ahead and toss it in your writer’s toolbox. And then remember that not every tool is used in a building project. Some, like hammers and saws, are used frequently. What carpenter wouldn’t have a hammer and saw in his toolbox? The carpenter will also have a crescent wrench in his toolbox, but may use it far less than his hammer and saw. Some carpenters will have both a flathead and a Phillips screwdriver, though they may use only one, depending on the occasion.

So, too, as a writer, it’s wise to keep a full toolbox of the tools you hear about. But don’t feel you have to use both the flathead and the Phillips screwdrivers. Don’t think you have to always be a pantser. Maybe this new project will require you to be a plotter. So take out the plotter tool from the toolbox and go for it.

Some tools, to be sure, are like the trusty hammer and saw. Tools like “show, don’t tell” and “active, not passive sentences” are always in vogue. You will want to reach for them frequently (though even with those tools, you won’t need them all the time. You CAN write an occasional sentence that tells, not shows. You CAN write a passive sentence when that’s what’s called for).

So, really, becoming a better writer is, like carpentry, a learned trade. You learn which tools in the toolbox are needed for the WIP (work-in-progress). Therefore, when you hear a piece of advice that seems to conflict with what you assume to be true, just stick it in the toolbox and pull it out if and when you need it. If you never seem to need it, just let it sit there. Your toolbox is big enough to hold even the seldom used tools.

The fun part is when you throw a tool in the toolbox that is your own tool—no one gave it to you through a magazine article or a workshop….you found it on your own. It’s yours to share with other writers so they can put it in their toolbox.

Like a skilled carpenter, I’m betting your success as a writer will depend on your ability to discover and artfully wield your favorite tools in your toolbox. And that, my friend, takes practice…and a few bent nails.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about 2014. Maybe it’s because my new book, Power in the Promises, is coming out January 4 and I want to be ready to promote it. I’ll be starting a new blog and will do whatever else God has for me (I would love to some radio). I’m quite excited about the new blog. It will begin in a few weeks, along with new website. Not to worry, I’ll let you know.

My thoughts about 2014 prompt me to ask you: what are your plans for next year? It’s not too soon to plan. You simply can’t wait until the holidays and expect to be ready to hit the ground running the first week of January. Here then are some questions I’m asking myself and I want you to ask them of yourself too.

1. How has my mission as a writer changed in the past year and how does that affect what I do in 2014?

2. What will be my top three projects that I will focus on?

3. How many book proposals shall I do in 2014? (Please say more than one, but no more than five or six).

4. Which writer’s conferences will I go to?

5. If I have published books, what will be my strategy for increasing backlist sales?

6. What specific steps will I do to increase my platform?

7. Am I ready to begin speaking to groups? Will I travel to do so? (If yes, then start preparing your talks now).

8. Are there changes I need to make to my work space? When will I make these changes?

9. Do I need to make changes in the management of my writing time? How can I carve out additional time?

10. Should I be looking for an agent….or perhaps a new one?

11. What local or online classes can I take to improve my writing next year? What books have I heard about that I need to read to improve my writing?

12. Last by not least, what do I believe God wants to accomplish in 2014 through my writing?

You may have more questions than these. Or you may have different questions. The point is to be prayerfully proactive now in getting a vision for your writing in 2014. Don’t wait and just let it happen. Go after it.

Simply because I can’t think of a better topic, I’m going to vent about the top ten [current] things that make me crazy. Editorially and authorially (is that a word?) speaking, that is. The top ten things that drive me crazy personally are better left to a good therapist.

1. I hate it when good books—I mean really good books don’t sell. I won’t name names, but some of the best authors I know have lesser sales (in some cases far lesser) than mediocre writers. At times like this, I want to throttle the entire book-buying public.

2. I hate it when writers with potential won’t listen to good advice. When I say “with potential,” that means they’re not yet good writers, but might be if they would work on their craft. But no, these writers I’m talking about think their writing is just fine and that it’s my poor editorial judgment that’s a stumbling block to their career. Don’t let this person be you. No matter what your present status as a writer, GET BETTER with every book and every proposal.

3. I hate it when I start to read a fiction manuscript and in the opening lines I’m subjected to a weather report (“The gray skies hung over the city like a dull blanket”) or a geography lesson (“The land was rocky and barren, punctuated here and there with small hills of red earth”). Okay, I realize sometimes it can work—but not often. Start with a person. Hopefully the main character.

4. I hate it when someone mentions “branding.” Even though I understand why it’s important for a writer to develop a “brand” and cultivate a “tribe” of followers, I think it can be very limiting to creativity.

5. I hate that it takes so long to get an answer from a publisher or agent. Yes, I know. I’m an offender here. Manuscripts and proposals sit begging for attention while I’m busy editing manuscripts on their way to production. As an editor, I understand, but as a writer, I wish my writing would always flow to the top of the pile.

6. I hate it when life crowds in so much that I can’t find time to write. I really do love to write (when I have something to say), but 24 hours in a day isn’t enough!

7. I hate it when I have a full blown idea for a book in my head and it doesn’t come out right on paper. The manuscript in my head is worthy of a Christy, but the finished product is worthy only of the recycle bin.

8. I hate it when a fiction manuscript is peopled with stereotypes. I meet the same characters over and over. In one manuscript her name is Megan and she’s a flight attendant and in the next manuscript (by a different author) her name is Heather and she’s a PI. Both women, alas, need personality transplants. They’re way too generic. So are the men. Garrett may be a lawyer or he may be a fireman named Lance, but it’s basically the same guy. Give me someone with a distinct personality please.

9. I hate it that memoir and autobiographies don’t sell well in our market. A few decades ago we had the likes of The Hiding Place, God’s Smuggler, The Cross and the Switchblade, Joni, and Run Baby Run. This genre does well in the ABA market. I wish it would transfer to our CBA market. Occasionally one sneaks through. I’ve been astonished and delighted at the huge success of Eric Metaxas’s Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.

10. Finally, I hate it that more of the good books by CBA publishers don’t “crossover” into the ABA market. Sure, some do. But not many. Right now on Amazon’s top 100 there are only two books by CBA publishers. Two! I check almost weekly and usually there are about five, so two is a new low. Such a shame. We have fiction that certainly rivals ABA fiction. And goodness knows we have life-changing non-fiction that belongs high on the list. I’m glad to report that not too many weeks ago the Bonhoeffer book was well within the top 100.

Well, okay. Rant over…for now.

I’m sure I’ll find something more to grouse about in the future. Or I might even blog “I LOVE it when that happens.”

Last night on Facebook I posted this follow-up to a previous post I had made about my disdain for long introductions to non-fiction books:

A few of you will have seen my post a few days ago about the dreaded 15-page introduction in the book I’m reading. Well, I made it through fine. The book is called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I took the 20-question test and answered 18 of the questions as an introvert would. My fellow writers will get a kick out of this quote from the book: “To advance our careers, we’re expected to promote ourselves unabashedly….The authors whose books get published–once accepted as a reclusive breed–are now vetted by publicists to make sure they’re talk-show ready. (You wouldn’t be reading this book if I hadn’t convinced my publisher that I was enough of a pseudo-extrovert to promote it”).

I concluded with: Tomorrow I may blog on “what’s an introverted writer to do?!” This is that blog.

What indeed can we introverted writers do? After all, every publisher wants to “brand” us (like cattle) and test the strength of our platform before committing to our current project. And, as an acquisitions editor myself, I do understand the reasoning. It costs a lot of money to publish a book. A lot of money that comes up front, before the book has a chance to prove that it will return the money invested in it, plus a profit.

So let’s say right at the beginning that we all agree that if we want to publish with a well-known publishing house, we recognize that one (not all, but ONE) of the considerations publishers must make is whether the book will sell enough copies to pay for itself.

For many writers (especially introverts) the next question is: So beloved publisher, what are YOU going to do to see that my book succeeds? That’s a fair question. Publishers shouldn’t publish books they don’t believe in enough to invest some marketing dollars. Of course, you can help them identify where those marketing dollars are best spent. In your proposal, hopefully you shared exactly WHO your target readers are and how they can be reached, both by you and by the publisher.

But keep in mind that publishing houses have other books to publicize besides yours. And mostly the books they choose to publicize are the new and upcoming titles. These are the front list books. And your new book will remain front list until the next wave of front list titles are ready to walk out on stage. That’s a very short time. Usually just a few months, if that. And when your book is no longer front list, it is back list. Back list titles generally only receive more marketing dollars when they’ve shown initial strength during their front list days. If they’ve performed poorly or only fair, then likely the remainder of the promotion for the life of the book is up to you Mr. or Ms. Introvert.

Like most introverts, this bothers you. It certainly bothers me. I want to write my next book, not get out there and embarrass my introverted self doing stuff that I’m not very good at and certainly not very comfortable doing.

Well, here are a few tips for us introverts to get us past that defeatist attitude:

1. Really, the advent of social media is a godsend to introverted authors. Websites, blogs, tweets, and other sorts of fun stuff can originate without you ever leaving the house. You can even promote your book in your pajamas if you want to. All this without actually having to meet another person face to face. Even radio interviews can be done from home. My bestselling book 365 WWJD is a case in point. For that book, I did more than fifty radio interviews—and every one of them was from my home. I may even have been in my pajamas for more than one of those interviews.

2. Fear keeps some introverts from trying to step out of their comfort zone. “What if I make an idiot of myself?” they ask. Well, truth be told, in one of my many radio interviews for 365 WWJD, I did make somewhat of an idiot of myself. But so what? The book has changed lives and still changes lives 75,000 copies later. Earlier this year, the book received its ninth Amazon review (eight of which are five star). The review said, “Found this book at a book store and loved it so much I ordered one for a friend. I actually do read it religiously.”

3. Having great reviews on Amazon and elsewhere is another good option. Personally, I do not ask my friends to review my books on Amazon. I love it when they do, but I think it’s somewhat misleading to ask friends to tell others what a great writer I am. It sure makes getting five-star reviews all the more rewarding, knowing that every one of them was unsolicited. But the point is to have your book reviewed widely and make yourself available for online (or radio) interviews whenever you can. Even an introvert can submit to an online interview where you can use the backspace and delete keys all you want before you send your response.

4. Let’s go back to “fear” for a moment. When I was in high school on rainy days our PE class (anyone remember PE?) played a game called Dart Ball or Slaughter Ball. It was really just Dodgeball though. We did this in the gym. The class was spit in two and each side gathered opposite each other and spent the next 45 minutes throwing those basketball-sized red rubber balls that you all remember at each other. Well, for the first three and a half years of high school, I admit I was one of the wimps (I am an introvert after all) who stayed to the rear of the pack. Shoot, I didn’t want to get hit by one of those balls. It stung! But then deep into my senior year (of course!), I discovered something: The game is a lot more fun when you play at the front of the pack! And honestly I think I got hit by the ball LESS often when I played in front. The lesson I took away from that experience was that I shouldn’t be so afraid to do something that I hang back until my “senior year.” I should get out there and find out for myself if this activity I think I’ll hate is really as awful as it seems. I believe I’ve come a long way since then in many ways. Early on in my writing career a radio interview would make me nervous. Now, I’d be willing to sign on the dotted line for my own TV show (should any producers want to offer me a contract!). Don’t let your introvertish ways rob you of something that might be right up your alley. Try it a few times first.

5. Another suggestion is to write books that have hooks that don’t require a large platform. My first two books Promises to Keep: Daily Devotions for Men Seeking Integrity and 365 WWJD were like that. I depended on the market (Promise Keepers and people interested in the WWJD phenomenon) to gravitate toward the book….and they did.

6. My new book Power in the Promises comes out next January 1. I think it’s my best book yet and hopefully will be my bestselling. I believe in the message of the book and that helps me overcome my tendency to stay at the rear of the pack. I want people to get excited about the promises of God. And that excitement seems to trump my introvertedness. Ask yourself just how excited you are about the message of your book—whether fiction or non-fiction. If you’re not excited, how will your reader be excited? And if you ARE excited, allow your excitement to trump your introversion. Excitement is contagious. Get out there and spread yours around.

7. Also, consider that if you need help, it’s out there. There are professional publicists and businesses that will help you do what doesn’t come naturally for you. My friends at Author Media promise to “hold your hand” as you develop your platform. Look around. Ask other authors who in the profession has helped them with publicity.

8. Last and certainly not least is be a prayer warrior for your book and your writing career. Strategize through prayer. My book Magnificent Prayer has several important endorsements from people most of you know by reputation. The wonderful thing is that of those 7 or 8 key endorsements, I only sought one of them. The others all came to me unexpectedly because the person had read and love Magnificent Prayer. Wow. I’m still amazed at how God has used and is still using that book!

I hope those few suggestions will help my fellow introverts jumpstart your thinking about what you can do to have your book noticed. As some of my Facebook commenters have said, they have worked hard to overcome their introversion and have their books noticed. You can too!

For Christian writers, it’s almost a given that prayer is vital to success. In fact, if one does pray diligently about his or her writing career, there can be no such thing as failure. This doesn’t mean that publication is a result of prayer, only that success as God defines it is assured. Success to God may be simply that you have written something that, though it may never be published, it was still important for you to write.

This surrender through prayer of our writing career can sustain us during the bleak months or years when all we hear is “no” from publishers. Just remember that one “yes” can cancel out about a thousand “no’s.”

If you’re in the bleak times now, then take heart. If God has called you to write and you live daily in that truth, God will do with your writing what He intends to do with it.

You do have to do your part though. You do have to write. You do have to prepare book proposals. You do have to go to writer’s conferences. You do have to meet editors. You do have to study the market. You do have to continually improve your writing skills. Beyond that, you simply must remain surrendered.

The reason I’m writing this is because a few minutes ago I happened to think about a writer I used to edit. This writer was one of the top three authors I’ve ever edited. Truly a wonderful writer whose works deserve to be in print forever. But when this author’s books didn’t sell as well as we all hoped, this author retreated from writing. And not happily so. The author expressed deep disappointment that the books labored over for so long didn’t prove successful. I was, of course, extremely disappointed too. I still am. I can’t think of that author without wanting to shake the book-buying public by their collective shoulders for not buying these well-written novels. To the best of my knowledge, that talented author has not written since. What a waste.

Sometimes I’ve felt the same way about my own books that haven’t sold well. And more than once I’ve been astonished at the lack of response from publishers to some of my best book proposals. (Don’t get me started on that). But whenever I start to feel that way, Someone reminds me of the vow of surrender I made regarding my writing long ago—and which I still work daily to maintain. Oh sure, sometimes my acceptance of that reminder from God is along the lines of “Well, okay, God. It’s all right with me IF YOU DON’T WANT TENS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE TO BE BLESSED BY THE MESSAGE YOU GAVE ME TO WRITE!!!!!”

Repentance quickly follows.

Perhaps someone reading this is at that place in your career right now. You’re up to here with countless rejections. You’ve not yet published anything—or perhaps you had a book or two published several years but nothing since. No matter, disillusioned beginner or seasoned pro in a slump, just make that surrender today—or renew that vow if it’s one you’ve let slip recently.

Here’s the sequence: Surrender–>Pray daily for your writing–>Keep learning–>Keep writing–>Keep sending stuff out–>STAY surrendered.

One of the most interesting aspects of the creative life as it pertains to writing books is something beyond craft itself. Let me see if I can explain it.

A few weeks ago we asked Harvest House author Mindy Starns Clark how she was coming on her Titanic novel (Echoes of Titanic) and she replied that all was well because she had gotten “the tingle.” The tingle, she went on to explain, is that point (usually several drafts in) at which the characters, the story, and the research all seem to come together and she knows that, yes, this is all going to turn out just fine. A book IS being born.

I love the word “tingle” to describe this sensation an author feels. Of course, other authors experience it in different ways or have different names for it. Another great Harvest House author is BJ Hoff. She says:

“I call it the ‘angel touch,’ after something my (very Irish) grandmother used to say when she had a ‘sense’ that things were going to ‘work,’ to be all right. It sometimes doesn’t come until I’m over halfway through a book (sometimes sooner), but once it happens, it’s as though as though all the pieces of the puzzle simply slide together, fit and lock in place as they should, and I actually get a physical sensation at the back of my neck that ‘this is it. It’s going to work.’”

A third Harvest House author, Murray Pura, gets his version of the tingle as he first begins the writing process. When I described Mindy’s tingle, Murray described what happens to him this way:

“I like Mindy’s description. But it’s not a ‘tingle’ for me. [It happens when] I start the real writing. It’s like something pent up has been let loose, I can feel the opening inside of me, and there is a strong and steady flow that can cut through rock and earth that bursts forth and begins to go steady and sure. It carries me with it to places and scenes and characters I did not always anticipate or plan for and it is irresistible and unstoppable. It can be like a fire too and hurt and burn if I do not let it out and hurt and burn even if I do. I am swept away with it until we empty into the great sea of the ending. This very much happened with Wings of Morning and Face of Heaven. There is a verse in Jeremiah 20:9 that describes something of this feeling. ‘…his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.’”

If you read enough books about the various processes writers go through as they create their books, you know that there are differences in how this creative animation (for want of a better word) happens. But at some point, the dry words on the page must leap to life in the heart of the author, for only then will they also leap to life in the mind of the eventual reader.

One problem I’ve faced as I teach workshops on writing fiction is how to teach someone this vital element of fiction writing. The truth is, I don’t know how…yet. I wonder, too, if other disciplines experience this. Do composers get “the tingle” when their music composition comes to life for them? How about sculptors? Painters? Quilters? (I’ll have to ask my wife about that last one).

How is it for you? Can you describe the sensation you get when your book finally springs to life on the page? Is it early on or late in the process? Do you always get it or only sometimes? Tell all!