Thursday, February 28, 2008

Jerry B. Jenkins (Advice for Novelists, Part 21)

I'm honored to include Jerry Jenkins in this series of blog posts. For those just joining us, I've asked editors, agents, publicists and authors to share their responses to the question:

"If you could say one thing to aspiring novelists, what would you say?"

We've heard a fascinating array of responses. To re
ad them all click here, or click on the "Advice for Novelists" label at the end of this post:

Here's Jerry's answer:

What would I say to an aspiring novelist?

Develop a thick skin. A piece of published writing is not a solo but rather a duet between you and your editor. My 175th book will release this summer -- Riven, a novel about a death row inmate who chooses crucifixion as his method of execution -- and I still rely heavily on my

It seems our very lives and senses of self worth are on every page, but if we are writing for only admiration and acceptance, we should send our stuff to people who love us. If we want to be published, however, and see our best work reach the public, we must be open to that fresh second set of eyes on our precious words.

Sure it hurts, and we'd all like to think we can someday reach the point where what we consider our final draft is what flies from our screen to the printed page. A thick skin allows us to set aside our pain for the sake of a better finished product.

That said, never submit anything until you are wholly happy with it. There will still be plenty for editors to catch without expecting them to correct things you should have caught.

--Jerry B. Jenkins, multi-published author of Riven, The Left Behind Series, Hometown Legend, and many more.

Jerry is also the owner of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writer's Guild which helps to mentor and train aspiring writers. Read more about them by clicking the logo below.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Rebeca Seitz (Advice for Novelists, Part 20)

The talented Ms. Seitz answers our question today:

"If you could say one thing to aspiring novelists, what would you say?"

I'd say, "Do you love stories?" I mean, deep down, in the place where
you're the truest you, do you love stories? If stories are your passion,
then everything else can be taught. If it isn't, though, you're setting
yourself up for frustration and heartache with no redeeming value. Think before you take the steps down that novelist's road. When you get to its end, will you be where you intended?

--Rebeca Seitz, President, Glass Road PR. (She's also the author of the novels Prints Charming and Sisters, Ink -- visit her online here.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The #1 Thing

I don't know about you, but sometimes I get my priorities wrong. I mean, I'm a writer. I'm supposed to live, breathe and eat stories. I'm supposed to be thinking about my plots, and marketing, and submissions every waking hour ... right?

Well, not if it means putting God on the back burner. How am I going to share truth in my writing if I don't have a full well to draw from? Sure, I might be able to skate by for a time. I've been a Christian my whole life. I know a few things, have a few Scriptures memorized.

But this is the danger. Skating by isn't going to cut it in this day and age. I need to seek God like there's no tomorrow (because one of these days there won't be).

Here are two things I'm trying to keep in mind in my life:

1. Seek first the kingdom of God --- and all the rest will be added unto you.

How many times have I put my writing above my quiet time? Far too many, I'm sorry to admit. But in my heart I know this is the most important thing.

2. Don't get caught up in all the "writerly" things that abound---at the sacrifice of your actual writing time.

This is an issue for me. There are so many great options out there (blogging, websites, etc.), but if I don't actually sit down and write, what good will they be to me?

So, friends. What steps do you take to guard your time with God?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Jeff Gerke (Advice for Novelists, Part 19)

Here's Jeff's response to the question:

"If you could say one thing to aspiring novelists, what would you say?"

If I were sitting across the table from an aspiring novelist who needed the first bit of guidance, I would tell him to learn his craft.

Some things about the path of a novelist can't be taught. Perseverance, for instance. An abundance of story and character ideas. A tale burning a hole in your heart. But the craft of fiction can be taught, and the novelist who does not commit himself to years in pursuit of its mastery might as well spend the time doing something else. Like playing video games.

I have worked with aspiring authors who have a wonderful story idea and heroic commitment to the hard work of writing a long story. They sacrifice time and energy, gladly paying the opportunity costs involved in writing a novel. And at the other end of the process they come out with a finished manuscript. But the problem is that they never learned how to do what they're attempting, and the result is a high-concept, diligently typed-up mess.

I liken it to a farmer who decides he will build a majestic Gothic cathedral. His goal is worthy and there is no questioning his heart. With endurance he labors long and alone to construct the object of his aspirations. But because he doesn't know what in the world he's doing, his cathedral ends up looking like a disaster.

Can you fault his heart or his desire? Never. But he should've read a book first. He should've gotten help. He should've learned his craft.

So it is with novelists. If you've got the story and the commitment to see the job through to the end, you've got more going for you than most people who say they're going to write a book one of these days. But it's not enough. You have to know what you're doing.

My Fiction Writing Tip of the Week column is written with the aspiring novelist in mind. If you read and heed what I say there, you will learn the essentials--show vs. tell, POV, good characters, good dialogue, etc.--and you will learn advanced techniques and everything in between. Someone who truly adheres to what I've written there will very soon find his fiction craftsmanship improving by leaps and bounds.

I would also recommend that this aspiring author get objective opinions about his fiction. Whether that's from his mom or wife, a critique group, or a book doctor (like me), if it helps him get a better grasp on how to improve as a novelist, it's a good thing.

The story ideas will still be there, and hopefully so will the determination to write it. But it won't be until these admirable qualities are combined with an elevated mastery of the craft of fiction that he will find himself publishable.

--Jeff Gerke, novelist, book doctor & publisher of Marcher Lord Press (Be sure to check out his informative website WhereTheMapEnds.)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Shoutlife and I

Well, I've finally joined Shoutlife. I'd been a member per se through (visit our page here) but I thought it was time to get my own page. I haven't done a whole lot of updating, but I plan to post there some of the same stuff I have at this blog. So if you're a member, look me up here and be my friend. :)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Nick Harrison (Advice for Novelists, Part 18)

Today we have another editor's answer to the question:

"If you could say one thing to aspiring novelists, what would you say?"

The one thing I would say is that becoming a successful writer is a result of doing many things; some easy, some hard. First is to make sure this is what God wants you to do. Then trust that He will open any necessary doors for you to succeed. Then, write from your heart. Write with passion. As Thomas Carlyle said, "If a book comes from the heart, it will contrive to reach other hearts. "

Be willing to do a lot of REwriting. Every novel should take several drafts. Be willing to learn how to improve your writing. Attend writer's conferences, read the writer's magazines, join a critique group--do whatever you can to immerse yourself in the world of writers and writing. Steel yourself for rejection. READ, READ, READ. Allow what you read to affect your own writing style.

Having done all these things, the best thing that can happen is for God to bring along that one editor who gets what you're trying to do with your writing. A good match between an author and his or her editor is indeed made in heaven. There's a saying that goes, "when the pupil is ready, the teacher will appear." For Christians writers, that might be edited to read: "When the writer is ready, the editor will appear." Be patient and keep praying, reading, writing, and submitting.

--Nick Harrison, Senior Editor, Harvest House Publishers

Adam by Ted Dekker (CFBA)

It's a pleasure to feature blockbuster author Ted Dekker's latest offering here with you. I've got a lot of respect for Dekker. He's accomplishing things with his writing many of us can only dream about. And yet he's humble.

I've had the chance to interview him twice now for The first time we talked a lot about the movie Thr3e, as well as his writing habits.

"I see God everywhere. We’re created in His image. When I see a really cool concert, I see that person on stage, and I don’t care who they are—I’m seeing God. Why am I so attracted to that music? I’ll tell you why. ‘Cause that is the fingerprint of God, regardless of whether they recognize it, I’m watching one of His finest toys."

The second time we focused on his graphic novels, among many other things.

"It's the ah ha! moments each day that make the [writing] experience worth while. Each
ah ha! moment translates into a reader's wow, moment. Worth every drop of cold sweat."

In this same interview Ted talked about Adam. He said:

is one of the most important books I’ve ever written from where I’m sitting. Ultimately it deals with a question that we might have all considered at one time or another: What would happen if you, an agnostic but well reasoned person who resents religion, invited an evil sprit to sure, why not, come on in?

As the priest I’ve written says: Give me one hour in the dead of night with a man who is possessed and I will turn the staunchest atheist into a believer. Adam is the story of a serial killer and the FBI behavioral scientist obsessed with bringing him to justice, but more than that it’s the story of our own society’s loss of faith in the raw power of Jesus.

I’m told it will be a divisive book, more than any book I’ve written, but I think it’s a critical read for any and all who think faith is for old women who like Sunday potlucks. This is a book you might dare those lost in apathy to read.

Read a great review of the novel here and see what you think!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Karen Ball (Advice for Novelists, Part 17)

For those new to this series, I've asked editors, agents, authors, and publicists to answer this question:

"If you could say one thing to aspiring novelists, what would you say?"

They've had some terrific answers. To read them all, just click on the "Advice for Novelists" tag at the end of this post. Or click here.

Here's Karen's response:

Send no proposal out before its time.

Make your manuscript as strong as it can be before you send it out. With competition as fierce as it is nowadays, we're looking for manuscripts that have a spark. Something that jumps out and grabs us, be it the uniqueness of the plot, an especially engaging character, or writing that is so strong it grabs from the first paragraph. I've seen multitudes of manuscripts that are "almost" there, and have rejected nearly all of them. "Almost" isn't good enough any more. Don't let your desire to be published override your determination to refine your craftsmanship to the nth degree. Remember, God's task for us is to write,
not to be published. Focus on fulfilling that task to the very best of your abilities--and leave what happens from there to His good will and timing.

--Karen Ball, best-selling novelist and senior acquisitions editor for B&H Publishing Group. (Visit her online at her website here.)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Dave Long (Advice for Novelists, Part 16)

Today we hear from Dave Long, acquisitions editor at Bethany House but also an author in his own right. Ezekial's Shadow is probably his most well-known book, earning him a Christy Award.

Take it away, Dave!

"If you could say one thing to aspiring novelists, what would you say?"

Publishing is not the apotheosis of writing. Completing something you love is. Publishing is a random, wildly subjective and often painful commodification of your creative spirit. Writing and publishing are two very different things.

--Dave Long, Fiction Acquisitions Editor, Bethany House

Friday, February 15, 2008

Rebekah Guzman (Advice for Novelists, Part 15)

We're still continuing this popular series in which editors, publicists, agents and authors give their responses to the question:

"If you could say one thing to aspiring novelists, what would you say?"

Rebekah Guzman weighs in today...

One thing I like to remind any writer is simply this: You can’t create and perfect at the same time. While most editors love an author's attention to details, don’t feel like you have to get everything right the first time. Jot down your thoughts, create the content, and then set it aside for some time and come back to it later. Keep in mind that editors are here to help you. I love coming alongside a writer to make his/her work the best it can be. Also, remember to pray for wisdom as you create (for now)—and later as we perfect, together.

--Rebekah Guzman, Senior Editor, Navpress

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Dave Bartlett (Advice for Novelists, Part 14)

We've heard from authors, agents and editors, but here's advice from a publicist's perspective. Dave Bartlett from Harvest House stopped to share his response to the question:

"If you could say one thing to aspiring novelists, what would you say?"

The phrase "show me, don't tell me" regarding creative, descriptive writing was drilled into my brain by a wonderful college professor (and it obviously stuck). Also, do your research, make your characters believable, lovable, detestable, whatever, but make them believable-- you want, really, need the reader to become emotionally attached to your characters. The same goes for your scenes and settings, they need to be realistic.

Other thoughts I would share to encourage the aspiring writer is to write, write, and write. Don't stop writing. Also, become a serious student of your craft, read and review other people's work, get involved with other writers and writing groups and organizations. An excellent example of this kind of involvement is found in one of my favorite Harvest House authors, Brandt Dodson, a gentleman with an incredibly strong, seemingly tireless, work ethic.

--Dave Bartlett, Print & Internet publicist, Harvest House

Monday, February 11, 2008

Chip MacGregor (Advice for Novelists, Part 13)

Here's agent Chip's response to:

"If you could say one thing to aspiring novelists, what would you say?"

"Write with verbs and nouns."

I read that advice in Strunk and White's
Elements of Style back in high school, and it's still the best bit of writing advice I've ever heard. Too many writers will show me flowery, painted-up hoo-haw that has lots of description and plenty of color, but no power. To add punch to your writing, cut it back. Clean it up. Spend the time selecting the right nouns so you don't have to prop them up with adjectives in an attempt to clarify them. Give me direct verbs, so you aren't trying to dress up your weak writing with adverbs. Verbs and nouns -- that's where the story is told.

--Chip MacGregor, Literary Agent, MacGregor Literary. (Visit Chip's informative blog here.)

Friday, February 08, 2008

Melanie Wells (Advice for Novelists, Part 12)

The great advice keeps pouring in! Here's talented novelist Melanie Wells' answer to my question:

"If you could say one thing to aspiring novelists, what would you say?"

Write write write. And let people read your work. Toughen up and listen to what they have to say. They’re your readers, for crying out loud. You work for them.

--Melanie Wells, author of My Soul to Keep, When the Day of Evil Comes, and Soul Hunter. Visit her online at her website here.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Terry Burns (Advice for Novelists, Part 11)

Another entry in this series comes from Terry Burns who answers the question:

"If you could say one thing to aspiring novelists, what would you say?"

In a perfect world it would be all about the quality of the writing. But the
truth be known perseverance and dedication has probably made more writers than raw talent. At any given time even with a terrific manuscript there may be only one perfect place in the whole publishing industry for a project at that exact point in time, yet a large majority of writers give up before they knock on the right door to find that fit. It's like the old TV show Laugh-in where people would pop out of a window and deliver a line, then somebody would open another window down the row and answer them. A window opens, there is a place for a project, one comes in and it closes only to have another window open down the way. We have to find that open window before the quality of the writing comes into play.

--Terry Burns, agent with Hartline Literary (Visit his website and weekday blog here.)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Ted Dekker (Advice for Novelists, Part 10)

This is from an interview I conducted with Ted for Read the full interview here.

Ted's advice:

Finish the novel. Then write another one. And then, write another one. During this time you can look for an agent. You have to have an agent. No publishers will look at you otherwise. If you give up after your first book, you were never meant to be an author. If you give up after the second one, you still were never meant to be an author. Publishing requires writing and writing and writing. When you have three complete novels, you probably will be published. My fourth novel was published.

--Ted Dekker, author of Skin, Adam, The Circle Trilogy, House, and many other bestselling novels.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Andy McGuire (Advice for Novelists, Part 9)

Here's the next installment of our series in which editors, agents, publicists and authors answer the question:

"If you could say one thing to aspiring novelists, what would you say?"

Surprise me. Think of an opening line that sounds like nothing you've heard before. Then follow that up with another. Then the next one. And the next. Come up with unique ways to introduce characters and plot elements. Find fresh metaphors and new insights. Avoid everything that
sounds like you've heard it before. If your manuscript continues to surprise me, I'll continue to read it. Guaranteed. Novels are a reader's way of vacationing in someone else's mind for awhile. If it feels familiar, what's the point?

Practice being creative. It's not easy, but it can be done. Daydream about outlandish things. Look at something familiar and try to come up with a bizarre metaphor to describe it. Forget the mechanics of writing for awhile and try to concentrate on saying new things in new ways.

--Andy McGuire, Fiction Acquisitions Editor, Moody Publishers

Friday, February 01, 2008

Sisters, Inc. by Rebeca Seitz (FIRST blog tour)

On the first of every month I am pleased to be a part of the FIRST blog tour (we're always welcoming new members, so be sure to check it out). As most of you probably know, this tour features the first chapters of some of the best and brightest in Christian fiction.

Today is no exception. We're featuring Sisters, Inc. by Rebeca Seitz.

Rebeca Seitz is Founder and President of Glass Road Public Relations. An author for several years, PRINTS CHARMING being her first novel.

Rebeca cut her publicity teeth as the first dedicated publicist for the fiction division of Thomas Nelson Publishers. In 2005, Rebeca resigned from WestBow and opened the doors of GRPR, the only publicity firm of its kind in the country dedicated solely to representing novelists writing from a Christian worldview.

Rebeca makes her home in Kentucky with her husband, Charles, and their son, Anderson.

The Chapter begins thus:

Tandy’s purple stiletto heel tapped in perfect rhythm to the pulse that threatened to leap out of her neck. She stared at the phone, willing it to ring and someone on the other end to declare this a joke. Her boss did not just call her into his office. Now.


Read an interview I did with Rebeca here.