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?

17 replies
  1. Paula
    Paula says:

    This post encouraged me. After I got my contract last weekend (in front of everyone *gasp*), I floated through the ACFW conference. My joy was multiplied over and over as dear friends who have prayed for and supported me over the years (some of them since 2004 or earlier!) rejoiced with me. Then came the Carol Awards, and I realized not only do I have a book contract, I have an obligation to write the book–and to make it the best book I know how to write in that genre, which is not the genre of my previous novel attempts. Your advice to relax, Max, is GOOD, and I will combine that with lots of prayers that the LORD will take everything He’s taught me about writing and life in the last ten years and synthesize it to make the best little novella possible for me to write. I’m intimidated about discovering how write with beauty and depth in such a short word count, but He isn’t.

    Maybe you could blog about that . . . layering in beauty and depth no matter the word count . . .

  2. Julie Surface Johnson
    Julie Surface Johnson says:

    I loved Mindy’s Whispers of the Bayou!! Would Daphne Du Maurier fit into this category? Back in the seventies, I read almost everything she wrote. Even sent her a fan letter and she sent back a postcard of her home Kilmarth (which was featured in House on the Strand) telling me how thrilled she was that I liked her work. Let me tell you, that is a treasured postcard!

  3. Barb
    Barb says:

    Hi Nick, I just want to thank you for being so encouraging. Both your blog and your talks. They make me feel like I can get published even though I’m a beginning writer without a platform. I was just listening to your Mt. Hermon talk again on what to do if you don’t have a platform. It was great. I have been writing steadily since the conference and hope to have a proposal ready in the next couple of months. I’m also hoping someone takes you up on your suggestion to write gothic novels because I used to love reading those. Mary Stewart was my favorite. I’ll have to check out the ones you mentioned from Harvest House. Again, thanks for blogging. I appreciate it!

  4. Sally Apokedak
    Sally Apokedak says:

    I’ve never heard of diagonal writing before, but now that you tell me what it is, it makes perfect sense. And it kind of worries me, because now I have a nagging feeling that all my lovely descriptions are vertical and not diagonal. Hmmm.

    OK, here are a couple of questions:
    How are YA and MG novels selling for the Christian houses?
    When a Christian novel wins a Christy do sales increase?

  5. Nick
    Nick says:

    Paula, you can do it! You might need to save the layering till the end, but it can come if you’re looking for it.

    Julie, yes, Daphne qualifies.

    Barb, hope to see you at Mount Hermon again next year.

    Sally, I don’t know how YA is doing. We have only done some YA fiction and not much at all for MG. Maybe an editor who publishes those age levels can weigh in. A Christy or any award is a nice bonus. I can’t say that it has impacted sales much. Maybe another editor has seen a bump in sales and can let us know.

  6. Jacqueline Ley
    Jacqueline Ley says:

    Nick, thanks for this. I’m more than halfway through my current novel and suddenly I have cold feet. It’s been going so well, what if I blow it? ‘Eating the elephant, one bite at a time’ – I’ll remember that image.

  7. Dana
    Dana says:

    I definitely agree with your first “various and sundry” . I usually do just about everything – vacuum, laundry, read blogs, make comments on said blogs (kind of like I’m doing now) when I should be writing. I like your idea of daydreaming about my MC. That doesn’t seem like work. Thanks!

  8. Tami Meier
    Tami Meier says:

    Thanks Nick. I love the visual of the slanted font.

    Bob Hostetler did such a great job teaching this weekend at the ACW conference and from this point on, I feel my life has changed as a writer. I will be adding that, “one bit at a time” discipline to my writing life. Thanks Nick!

  9. Barb
    Barb says:

    Possible blog topic: How to find your voice. I feel like it’s really easy to engage with my class members when I teach and with friends when I write, but as soon as I start writing a book, I clam up. How can I take my teaching style and voice and transfer it to a non-fiction book?

  10. Marilyn Ramirez
    Marilyn Ramirez says:

    I liked your various and sundry topic. Yes, I’m a fan. I read nearly everything Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Hold wrote. These two authors were favorites in our family. My two sisters and Mom read most of the books, too. When we were sorting through Mom’s stuff (she passed away last May) us girls laid out all the Phillis Whiney books and took turns picking the books we wanted to read again. I have a dozen or so all told.

    I’d love to give it a try on writing a gothic romance like they did. I’m working on the Amish story right now, but look forward to writing a future story and sending it out to you.

  11. Michael K. Reynolds
    Michael K. Reynolds says:

    It’s been so long in between posts…you’ve left us parched.

    Here are some are some possible streams for the desert:
    1. The Second Book Syndrome: How does one avoid the trend of having a disappointing second book and what do these books typically lack in comparison to the debut novel (other than time spend in development).
    2. The Ingredients of a Great Lead Character.
    3. The Supporting Cast: How to surround your lead character with compelling co-stars.
    4. Not That Again: The most hackneyed plot lines you see and how to avoid them.
    5. The Cliff: How a promising start of a novel often loses its steam.

  12. Dana
    Dana says:

    I’ve been reading a lot lately about blog fatigue – for the readers and the writers. Here’s idea (I’m sure it’s not an original, but it might still be fun) – Nick, start us off with a few first lines of a story and we (commenters) will take turns writing a couple more lines. Might be interesting to see what we come up with.

  13. Janalyn Voigt
    Janalyn Voigt says:

    Nick, I’m a huge fan of Mary Stewart’s earlier works. In fact, reading her novels in large part taught me to write. I would love to write in her genre, since it contains all the elements present in my own writing: suspense, adventure romance and a touch of whimsy. You’ve given me something to think about here.


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