Monday, March 30, 2015

Writing: Art or Business?

with guest Jan Drexler.

Last year I joined our local writers group. It’s a secular group with a broad range of writing experiences and goals among the members. And like any group of writers, there are a lot of aspiring authors who come to learn and grow. Several of the members have had some success in the indie publishing field, but I’m the only regular attender who is traditionally published.

That, plus the fact that I’m new means that they really aren’t sure about me yet. (That’s okay. Sometimes I’m not sure about them, either!)

One of the other members and I walked out to our cars together last month. She hadn’t realized before that meeting that I’m a published author with multiple contracts waiting to be fulfilled (i.e. I should spend all of my time writing!).

“How did you do it?” She thought she really wanted to know.

I hesitated for a half-minute. She wasn’t going to be happy with what I wanted to say, so I started with my standby answer for that question:

“I entered contests that put my name and my story in front of publishers and agents.”

Her eyes narrowed.

“You’re published by Harlequin, right?”

“Yes, by Love Inspired, Harlequin’s Inspirational line.”

She looked past my shoulder and unlocked her car door. “Don’t they have pretty strict guidelines? Don’t they make you change your story?”

“They expect you to make revisions to improve your story and so that it will fit their style. Every publisher does.”

She tossed her bag into her car. She said goodbye. She drove away. No, she didn’t really want to hear what I had to say.

If she had stayed around, ready to chat under the street lights on that unusually balmy February evening, I would have told her a secret.

Writing is an art. But once you hit the send button, it becomes a business.

When you’re in your writing cave, your story is all your own. It’s a wonderful thing to spend an hour or two every day in a world peopled by characters you’ve created. At this point, writing is all about imagination, craft, and answering the “What if?” questions.

I love this part of the process. It’s a little like giving birth, with all the pain, agony and delight that accompanies bringing a new life into the world. It’s exhilarating! And it’s all yours!

But if you want to become a published author, once you’ve finished your story you need to switch modes. This story needs to have a life of its own.

Let’s take the birth analogy a little bit further. If you’ve raised children, you know that it is unhealthy (and impossible!) to force them to remain babies forever. They need to walk, to explore, to become separate people from their parents. As much as we delight in babies, we don’t want them to turn into some twisted copy of ourselves. We want them to become the people God intended them to be. To become adults. 

The same goes for your story. If you have any desire to publish your work, you must put it out there for others to see. You have to listen to and evaluate comments from critique groups, contest judges, and eventually, potential agents and publishers. Why? Because these are the people who are helping your baby grow into a self-sufficient adult.

Some authors hold onto their stories too tightly. They keep their writing snagged within their prideful grasp, thinking no one else understands their story like they do. They refuse to accept help to make it better, and they refuse to change anything to make it fit someone else’s standards.

If you want to be published, you won’t be that kind of author.

You’ll be the kind of author who understands that once you hit “send,” your story is now a business. Rather than keeping it close to your heart, you humbly open your hands and let it grow.

If an agent suggests that your story will sell better told in third person rather than first person, you start planning how to make that change and still keep the meat of your story intact.

When an editor sends you a list of revisions that need to be made and invites you to resubmit your story, you put everything else aside and make those changes.

When you get a request for a partial or full manuscript, you comply in a timely manner because that’s good business practice.

Soon you’ll find that those changes and revisions make your story stronger. More complete. Saleable.

And when you see your book for the first time, you’ll cry. You really will. Because that’s what parents do when they see their babies all grown up.  

Which kind of author will you be? What do you need to do to move your writing from art to business? #NoLimits!

Today Jan is giving away 5 (COUNT 'EM. FIVE ) copies of A Mother for His Children to lucky commenters. Ecopies to international winners. Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.

 A Mother for His Children


After her sweetheart's betrayal, Ruthy Mummert leaves behind the small-town gossip of her Amish community for the first opportunity she can find: a housekeeper position in faraway LaGrange County, Indiana. Ruthy didn't realize the job meant caring for ten children—and for their handsome widowed father.
To Levi Zook's mind, Ruthy is too young and too pretty to be anyone's housekeeper. A marriage of convenience will protect her reputation and give his children the security they dearly need. But it could also give them the courage to grasp a new chance at happiness—if Ruthy is willing to risk her wounded heart once more.

 Jan Drexler lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband of more than thirty years, their four adult children, two active dogs, and Maggie, the cat who thinks she’s a dog. If she isn’t sitting at her computer ruining – I mean living – the lives of her characters, she’s probably hiking in the Hills or the Badlands, enjoying the spectacular scenery.

Jan’s debut novel, The Prodigal Son Returns, was published by Love Inspired in May 2013, and her second novel, A Mother for His Children, was published by Love Inspired in August, 2014. Coming in September 2015 from Love Inspired is A Home for His Family.

Future releases include the series Journey to Pleasant Prairie, starting in March 2016 with Hannah’s Choice, published by Revell.

Find her here:
And on Mondays at the Yankee-Belle Café!



Kelly Blackwell @ Heres My Take On It said...

Oh Jan! I just loved this post. It is the perfect way for me to end my day. I having completed what I am working on yet for my Speedbo goal, but I am so excited about the process. Right now it is certainly fun to watch everything take place and grow. I hope that I will have the courage to take the important feedback that is so necessary so I can one day be published. First I really need to find a writing group and all that goes with it. Thank you for sharing wisdom that is hard earned. I will definitely keep it in mind. I want fullness in my story and I pray that I will be excited to accept feedback so it can reach its full potential and impact. Have a happy week!

Marianne Barkman said...

Jan..I loved your post!what a unique story line with ten children. Lots of characters for sequels! I'm not a fan of self published books because I still find too many where the "baby" or in this case story has not grown. I would love to win your book! Thanks!

Jan Drexler said...

Kelly, you certainly have the right attitude! And did I read that right? You've completed your Speedbo goal???


Writing groups can be good for your writing, but until you find one you're in the right place. Seekerville is the best virtual writing group around :)

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Marianne!

When I wrote my first book, I had this secondary character who was a widower with ten children. He just wouldn't leave me alone until I gave him his own story.

But a couple of the unwritten "rules" for new writers are 1) don't have too many secondary characters because you end up confusing the reader, and 2) too many children are hard to handle in a book. You have to keep track of where all those little people are during the events in the story!

But Levi Zook insisted, and I'm so glad he did. I had tons of fun writing his story.

And only someone named Ruthy could handle Levi and his children!

I was going to put your name in the cat dish, but Maggie-the-cat-who-thinks-she's-a-dog wouldn't give it up. So we'll throw the names in the dog dish today :)

Susan Shearer said...

Jan, I loved hearing how you write your books! I am not an author, but I love to read! I love hearing from authors who can actually 'help' you improve a story. I have read some authors who DO have too many people in their stories and I have to get a pen and paper to keep track of them. That isn't fun. I love stories that catch my interest to start with and I want to stay up all night to finish (you know those...there's only a few pages left.) I have read one of your books and I loved it! Can't wait for another!

Carol Garvin said...

Your posts hits me right between the eyes, Jan! I've been enjoying my storywriting for years but only rarely do I make the effort to push a story out the door where anyone else can see it. Can't blame anyone but myself for not finding a publishing opportunity, can I? ;)

Mary Cline said...

Thanks Jan, very well put. Don't put my name in I have already read A Mother for His Children, I loved it it and am looing forward to reading more of your books, your grown up babies.

Cindy W. said...

Great post Jan, and congratulations on all your contracts. That is so awesome!

I would love to have my name thrown in the dog dish to win a copy of A Mother for His Children. Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Welcome back to the guest blog spot, Jan.

Does your dtr know about those pictures, lol?

Tina Radcliffe said...

And those new contracts with Revell!! Exciting!!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Go Speedboers! You have 2 more days to meet your goals.

Comment today and tomorrow for a chance to win a critique and a gift card.

Cheerleaders can win a box of books.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh, this is so true! Jan, from your lips to stubborn ears because this is a wonderful explanation and analogy.

Revisions are part of the business.

Edits are the polish of tarnished silver.

And yes, writing is work. Um, hello??? I'm always amazed when people are affronted by change, but the love getting paid!!!

AND I'M SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE OF RUTHY'S STORY!!! AND LOVING IT! I am on page 137 and you know I'm lovin' on all these kids! And the cow scene.... oh, wonderful!

Love it, Jan!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

This is where I need to confess that this is my SECOND copy of "A Mother for His Children" because I can't find the first copy. So last week I ordered another copy because who knows where I tucked the first one?

Did I give it away in a prize pack? Did I hide it in a box while cleaning for Christmas?

Quite possible.

Is it buried in my office/room-of-death??? :)

Oh my stars, anyway, confession time over (It is Holy Week, after all) and I'm loving this story! Levi Zook and Ruthy.... What's not to love???

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I am beyond proud to have another Ruthy.... and one I could have fun with, LOL!.... on hand!

Ruthy Mummert rocks! She's tough, opinionated, outspoken, but she's just fragile enough we root for her from the beginning.

And that loser back in Bird-in-Hand DIDN'T DESERVE HER.

'Sall I'm sayin'.

Rose said...

Hi Jan!

This is a terrific post! I hope all new writer's take your advice to heart. It is SPOT ON.

An editor makes your stories better! Listen to them. They aren't out to ruin you or your writing.

I'll get off of my soap box now...

Best of luck with all of your books!

DebH said...

This is an awesome post!!!

I've always known the "baby" part of the manuscript, but never considered the "growing up" part. Brilliant!!! I'm in a major revise stage and know the editor comments will definitely make my story better. My struggle has been the timely part.

Here's to hoping I'm never the woman who doesn't really want to hear the TRUE answer to writing questions. I want to stay teachable so I can work towards the goals/success the Lord has for me.

And you're right: Seekerville is the BEST community for learning because of the awesome support everyone provides. I love it!

Name in doggy dish please... your book sounds like a fun read.

kaybee said...

Good post, Jan. I have been guilty in the past of putting material out when it wasn't ready. We really need to look at the work through the eyes of the editor, agent or contest judge, and most of all through the eyes of our future readers. Which means rewriting.
I came within 80=85 percent of my goal. One chapter didn't get finished, but I accomplished a lot and am happy, having also entered Genesis and Blurb To Book in the same time period.
Please enter me in drawings.
K. Bailey

Janet Dean said...

Welcome back, Jan! Loved your savvy post. I've never understood writers not wanting feedback. But maybe that's because I needed it badly. :-]

I'm always impressed when authors write for two publishers. Any tips on time management?


Jackie said...

What a great post, Jan. I love how you compare our stories to our babies.

I completely agree with listening to others to make my story better. There's always something to learn.

Thanks for sharing!

Julie Hilton Steele said...

First, you know I love your books so no need to put me in the drawing.

Second, I love your books. That's why revising and editing are so important.

I remember when I was first published in another field and realized I could get paid for writing. My pieces of the heart got edited but never did they lose the essence of who I was as a writer. If you are true to your voice, revising and editing just make things stronger.

And ditto to what everyone has said on that baby analogy!

CatMom said...

WOW!!! Loved your post, Jan.
You are a wise woman and I am thrilled at your writing success.

Funny you should compare releasing our stories to releasing our human children to grow into being the best adults they can be. Because at this very moment I'm looking at the very real possibility of my "baby boy" going way out of state to graduate school. And even though I want the very best for him, this Mom is having a tough time.

Thank you again for sharing this today--another one for my Keeper file. :)
Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo

Wilani Wahl said...

Great post Jan and just what I need to hear today. I am so close to writing The End on my first novel. Today I begin a new one since I have decided to try the Blurb to Book. I want to be that author that will switch from art to business.

I have a question on the blurb. The first one I wrote was 125 words and after 5 rewrites it is now only 83 words. Does it have to be 100 words?

Hoping to get a lot written today.

I would love to win a copy of your book.

Jeanne T said...

Jan, what a great post. And I so appreciate your reminder that once my story leaves my hands, I need to move from art mode to business mode in my least regarding that story.

And holding it with an open hand so it can grow? Good words, friend. Great post!

Mary Hicks said...

Jan, loved the analogy of babies and writing! So very true. :-)
I can't imagine keeping track of ten little characters and their names! Wow! Your book sounds like a lesson on writing characters. Must read it! :-)

Art and Business—that one is true, too. The business end is much harder for me, or maybe just not as much fun.

I didn't get to write a stitch over the weekend. I stopped last Friday at 29,529 and finished this morning with 30,039 words.

Reached my goal of 30,000K :-)

I learned several things this pass month, thanks to Speedbo.

Jeanne T said...

PS--Can I just say that after being gone over Spring Break with my family, it's really nice to be back here? I missed you all. :)

Cindy Regnier said...

So admire you Jan! Thank you for this post. I have always thought of my stories as my babies, but the fear of them growing up to be something other than what I wanted for them is very real too. At the same time I have no envy for writers who seem to be able to hold their emotions at arms length as they write. What's the fun in that? Looking forward to reading A Mother for his Children!

Kav said...

Loved this!!! Like Deb H., I have heard of the book/baby angle, but hadn't thought of the ms being the baby and the book being the adult child gone out in the world. What a clever way to look at it!

Oh -- and no need to enter me in the draw. I've already read A Mother for His Children...loved it!!!!

Connie Queen said...

I'd love to win your book. Ten kids. Can't wait to see how you pulled this one off. :)

With the book I'm writing now, I have a 5 page prologue. Yes, I know, those things aren't popular but I've been told several times that this one is needed. It's just a scene that does more justice than sprinkling in as back story. And yet, to enter it into the Blurb2Book contest I cut it. It's work, but I'm trying to make it powerful.

I had a friend one time that didn't take criticism for well, even from very sought after editors. Great writer, she just needed thicker skin and the will to change.
Enjoyed your comments.

Myra Johnson said...

This post is so RIGHT ON, Jan--thanks for telling it like it is!

When I get revision notes back from an editor, it always takes me a couple of days to calm down and think rationally about the suggestions. And really, in many instances that's all they are--suggestions.

But the fact is, SOMETHING gave the editor pause, and that means it could happen with your readers, too--which could result in not-so-nice reviews somewhere!

So a wise writer will look seriously at each point and use the suggestions to make the story even better and stronger. Happy editors in the long run (hopefully) lead to happy readers, and that's what we all want!

Connie Queen said...

My Speedbo is still going fairly well. I had to switch to revision mode for Blurb2Book so it's difficult to measure my progress. Hoping to be through w/my first 3 chapters by tomorrow.

Helen Gray said...

I'm happy to have editors make my works better. Of course, it can sometimes be tough to implement those changes.

You present a balanced perspective, Jan. Thanks.

Fresh coffee has arrived.

Sarah Claucherty said...

Great perspective, Jan! Thanks for the nudge to unclench the fist holding the story a little bit ;)

I'd love to win your book or the box of books! Cheerleading on till the end :)

Jan Drexler said...

Good morning, Susan Shearer!

We love readers around here :)

I'm glad you liked "A Mother for His Children," and thanks so much for posting a review on Amazon!

I'll be looking for readers/reviewers for my next book sometime this summer, so watch for the announcement on my Facebook author page!

Jan Drexler said...

Carol Garvin, it takes guts to push those babies out the door (or through the internet pipeline). But you can do it!

Jan Drexler said...

You're welcome, Mary Cline!

I hope you'll enjoy the next book, "A Home for His Family." It's a bit different than my others - a western rather than Amish - but so much fun to research and write!

Jan Drexler said...

Thank you, Cindy W!

Your name is in the dish. :)

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Tina!

No, my dear daughter doesn't know I put those pictures in, so shhh! Don't tell her! :)

Jan Drexler said...

Ruthy, you slay me!

And you're right. Elam, the loser back in Bird-in-Hand, didn't deserve her at all. :)

Jan Drexler said...

Good morning, Rose Ross Zediker!

And another BIG congratulations on your RITA final!


I am just blown away by how a good editor can look at a story and pinpoint right where you need to shore up a plot point or zero in on the hero's core motivation.

They deserve all the credit they get!

Jan Drexler said...

Hi DebH,

You hit the nail on the head: we need to remain teachable, no matter what stage we're in on this writing journey.

And Seekerville rocks! :)

Jan Drexler said...

Hi kaybee!

Congratulations on getting as much done during Speedbo as you did!

And face it, entering the Genesis and Blurb to Book takes both guts and time.


Becky Dempsey said...

I think the fact that I was going to have to let the stories go eventually was unknowingly holding me back from getting them out of my head in the past. I am working on being brave to let them go! I'd love to win your book!

Speedbo: I FINISHED typing in all of the words I'd written in my notebook. My manuscript is now in one 243 page place! I actually FINISHED writing a novel!!! Now on to edits....

Jan Drexler said...

Good morning, Janet!

I'm with you on wanting feedback! That was always my main reason for entering contests before I was published!

You said, "Any tips on time management?"

Hmmm. Work like a fiend and let your family fend for themselves?

Actually, that doesn't work as well as you might think ;)

My best tips are to keep meticulous records, always write you due dates on the calendar, and pray, pray, pray!

Sandy Smith said...

Great post, Jan. Congratulations on your success. I am still in the "birthing" phase, trying to actually get the story written. But I have had many short stories published and have had some experience with being asked to make revisions, although pretty minor ones for the publishers I was working with.

Please enter me in the drawing for your book. It looks good.

Julie Lessman said...

JAN!!! I get goose bumps every time I see you listed as a Revell author because I am sooooo darn excited for you, my friend, and cannot wait to see your 1st Revell book in hand!!

Realllly great post, my friend, and I agree with Marianne that a storyline with ten children is very "unique" ... AND mind-boggling! Cannot wait to see how you handle all the characters -- 12 right off the bat -- YIKES!! I thought 15 with the O'Connor's family was bad (not including the grandkids, of course! :|

Hugs and Happy Monday!

Meghan Carver said...

Good morning, Jan! I'm hooked on your book...Amish, Indiana, and ten children! I live in Indiana with my six children and apparently I'm conservative enough looking that I've been asked if I'm Amish. I don't quite understand that one, but it was an interesting conversation. :-)

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Jackie!

Thanks for stopping by this morning! I know how distracted you must be since Kentucky made it to the Final Four! :)

I'm so glad we have many opportunities to show our writing to others - critique partners or groups, contest judges, agents, etc. There's nothing like having a fresh set of eyes to point out the strengths and weaknesses of our story!

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Julie Hilton Steele, Yankee Belle buddy!

Thank you for your kind words. You make me blush!

You said, "If you are true to your voice, revising and editing just make things stronger."

So true!

When I look at what I think is the best draft of a story - the copy I send to my editor - and then compare it to the final, published version, I'm always amazed. Yes, my voice is in both versions, but my editor strengthens it in ways I never would have considered without her suggestions.

Debby Giusti said...

Jan, such a great post and such great words of wisdom. Yes, indeed, writing is a business, whether we want to accept that reality or not.

Our story is the product we're trying to sell. Sometimes it needs to be reworked--retooled--before it finds a home. Sometimes it has to be discarded or filed away for another time. Getting the right product to the right buyer is the difference between a successful business and one that fails. May all our business dealings prosper, and may we produce wonderful products that appeal to editors and readers alike.

Happy Holy Week!

Jan Drexler said...

Thank you, Patti Jo (aka CatMom)!

Oh, why do baby boys have to go away? As part of his internship, my baby is driving a semi around Texas for the next three weeks. How can he do that? He's only four years old, isn't he????

But they grow up, whether we want them to or not. Sigh.

All we can hope is that part of their heart stays focused on home, right?

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Wilani!

I'm so excited for you! About to write THE END? Sweet!

Make sure you celebrate! This is big!!!!

The guidelines for Blurb to Book say the blurb should be 100 words or less. So 83 words is fine. But you might look again - is there room to make the blurb stronger by inserting a word or two? Make sure your characters are described completely, and that you hint at the main conflict.

One way to get some good ideas to strengthen your blurb is to read the back cover copy on books from Love Inspired. That style is what they're looking for, and you can get some great ideas!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Jan and welcome to Seekerville today. How exciting that you have multiple contracts. Congrats and way to go.

You are so wise to consider it as a business. It is a business. We all need to think of this as a business and we need to support each other as a business.

When I buy gifts, I always buy a book and it is always a book written by a friend. That is supporting our business and it is a lovely gift, especially if I can get it autographed.

Great going Jan. Have a fun day.

Jan Drexler said...

Thank you, Jeanne T!

I have to keep reminding myself that I want God to take each story as far as it can go and to use it for His purpose.

My job is to put the words on paper - to never neglect the gift He has given me - and then let it go.

Jan Drexler said...

Good morning, Mary Hicks!

You made your Speedbo goal!!!!


And this is where I have to confess, I have not met my goal. Sigh.

I set a pretty high one, knowing I have to get the words down if I'm going to make my deadline, but I fell far short.

But, like you, I've learned a lot this month! And I did make progress, including meeting two mini-deadlines :)

And the business end of writing can be a LOT of fun. There's nothing like watching your book grow from an idea to the finished product.

Sherida Stewart said...

JAN, this post is GREAT! Yes, we do want our stories and children to fly. Thank you!

kaybee said...

You have to be willing to "give." I wrote my Oregon Trail story as a saga, with a secondary story line and multiple points of view. But I also did a shorter version aimed at LIH, 50 percent him, 50 percent her, only two POVs, and it was ready when Blurb to Book came along. It's best not to be "married" to a certain way of doing things; you can have more opportunities if you're not. Like Mary says, Be Ready.

kaybee said...

When I'm in crit groups, I know just who I can work with and who I can't when they say, "But the Lord gave me this story and I can't change a word of it." Unh-unh, you're not King James. (I AM ONLY KIDDING HERE)

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Cindy!

You said, "I have always thought of my stories as my babies, but the fear of them growing up to be something other than what I wanted for them is very real too."

You're so right, that we always face that possibility. But a good editor will prune your work to bring out the best. And ultimately, you as the writer still have control of your work.

You can say "no" if you think your critique partner or editor is on the wrong track, but even then you need to evaluate their comment. Why did they make it? Has that person seen something in my story that I've missed?

So knowing your work is important. You need to know your characters, your theme, your plot, etc. as much or more in the business end of the writing as you do in the art end.

And your name is in the dog dish!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Jan, I'm hearing more and more people say that they just don't want any editor telling them what to do with their story, telling them what the title or the cover should be, etc. They want full control and they don't want to change their writing for anyone. (Are they saying it's already perfect?) I could say a lot about that, but I'll just say, I'm glad I didn't have that attitude! I wouldn't be where I am today, and where I am is pretty amazing, if I'm allowed to say that. :-)

As a side note, I decided my new advice to writers is going to be: Dream Big, Work Hard, and Trust God! :-)

So you rock on, Jan! You are making your dreams come true!

And YAY!!! I just now made my SpeedBo goal!!! And I'm nearly finished with this book, my third for Thomas Nelson!!! Double and triple YAY!!!

Melanie Dickerson said...

One more thing before I get back to writing. In many ways, this new era of self-publishing and indie success stories is wonderful. But the danger is that people will not realize how much better they could be, how much better their books could be, if they had more and better editing, a professional cover, and other input. Just a thought I've been having.

Melanie Dickerson said...

And I'm talking about those who don't bother getting an editor before publishing, not the ones who do. :-) Or maybe I just need editing more than other writers! I'm sure that's true too! LOL

Jamie Adams said...

Great post, Jan! Congratulations on all the contracts! I loved your first book and am looking forward to reading many more.

Jennifer Smith said...

Great advice, Jan! There are many GREAT self-published books, but I've always felt that an advantage of traditional publishing is that the story has usually been pushed to a higher degree of excellence.

Mary Connealy said...

Wow, Jan, you're really the ONLY ONE who's traditionally published?

And she dissed you for it?

This may not be your group. Although socially, just to talk writing it can be fun. But the focus is odd.

Mary Connealy said...

PS cute baby

Mary Connealy said...

When my author's copies of my very first book (Petticoat Ranch) came I didn't cry. I hugged them and danced and slept with them in my arms and laughed at odd moments. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face for days.

But then I'm not a crier. :D

Jan Drexler said...

Don't forget, everyone. I'm over at the Yankee Belle Cafe today, too!

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Kav!

I need to publicly thank you for the great review of "A Mother for His Children" you wrote! Your review influenced at least one other person to read the book, and she mentioned your review in hers :)


Jan Drexler said...

Hi Connie Queen!

The ten children was a challenge, but I thought I'd try it. If it hadn't worked, I wouldn't have finished the book.

The trick was to give only a couple of the children "center stage." The others all had unique personalities, and their own feelings about the situation I put them in, but they each played only a small part.

It also helped that the older children could take care of the younger ones, giving Ruthy and Levi much needed alone time once in a while!

Your name is in the dog dish :)

Jan Drexler said...

Hi, Myra!

You said: "But the fact is, SOMETHING gave the editor pause, and that means it could happen with your readers, too--which could result in not-so-nice reviews somewhere!"

You're so right. If the editor noticed something or didn't understand something, then the same would be true for my readers. Being able to communicate my story to my readers is MUCH more important that my feelings about a particular word or phrase!

Jan Drexler said...

Helen, I know the coffee drinkers appreciate you. Here's a can of Coke in appreciation :)

And I do appreciate my editors. They're fabulous.

Jan Drexler said...

Thanks, Sarah Claucherty!

When it's time, you'll be able to loosen your grasp!

Your name is in the dog dish! (Along with the kibble. Thatcher hasn't eaten his breakfast yet!)

Jan Drexler said...

Becky Dempsey! Woo hoo!

Doesn't it feel good to finish your novel?

When I was writing my first book, I constantly had to tell myself, "No one has to read this. I'll just get the words down and then see if I like it."

Well, I liked it, and these lovely ladies of Seekerville gave me the courage and the tools to get it published!

I've said it before: Seekerville rocks!

Jan Drexler said...

Hi, Sandy Smith! Good to see you here.

With your experience publishing short stories, it shouldn't be too painful of a jump to novels.

Congratulations on your publishing success!

And your name is in the dog dish :)

Jan Drexler said...

Julie Lessman, I learned from the best!

It was your O'Connor series that convinced me it might be possible :)

And thanks for the welcome to the Revell family! I couldn't have hoped for a better publisher.

Of course, sometimes it seems like forever until that first book in the series is published, but I know it will fly by!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Hey, we've got homemade taffy here to share.

It was supposed to be SPONGE CANDY.


Took it off too soon.

And now we have taffy.


So this morning we had a taffy pull and it will go into a book. And I'll write off the expense.

Myra Johnson said...

MELANIE said: "But the danger is that people will not realize how much better they could be, how much better their books could be, if they had more and better editing, a professional cover, and other input."

I've had the same thoughts, Melanie. There's a place in today's world for both avenues of publication, but I think many writers give up too soon on the "gate-keeping" of the traditional route and put unedited or poorly edited books out there that should never have seen the light of day.

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Meghan Carver!

Indiana! Which part? My dad's family is from Elkhart County, and we lived in Goshen for seven years. It's those ties that made me want to set my Amish stories in Elkhart and LaGrange Counties.

And yes, I've been mistaken for Amish, also. It's interesting what people focus on to make their identifications.

I tend to look at a woman's headcovering - that tells me if she's Old Order Amish, or Mennonite, or German Baptist Brethren, or Dunkard Brethren...or not Anabaptist at all, but from another religious tradition that wears a headcovering.

Your name is in the dog dish!

Janet Dean said...

Jan, pray is excellent advice. Can't do anything of consequence without it.


Pam Hillman said...

TEN children??? Because the cover has two little girls, my eyes read TWO the first time. I had to go back and do a double take.


Levi's Ruthy must be a sainted woman.

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Debby!

You said: "Getting the right product to the right buyer is the difference between a successful business and one that fails."

Those are great words of wisdom and comfort - comfort because we, as writers, need to know that sometimes the stories of our hearts aren't quite right for the time or the audience.

Sometimes we need to switch gears a bit to meet our audience, but that doesn't mean we have to compromise our writing or our message.

My September release is a cowboy story, but the message is no less effective than if it was another Amish story.

But I love the next line in your comment: "May all our business dealings prosper, and may we produce wonderful products that appeal to editors and readers alike."


Jan Drexler said...

Thank you for your comments, Sandra!

I love to give books as gifts, too. My mother-in-law loves to read, and at 92, she isn't as active as she once was.

I often take books from some of my favorite authors for her when we visit, and I know she passes them around to her daughters, sisters and friends.

It's the gift that just keeps giving!

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Sherida!

I love to see my children fly - - even though I miss having little ones around.

But I love seeing my books fly, too. There's nothing like seeing your own book on the shelf at a store or listed on Amazon. :)

Jan Drexler said...

Kaybee, you're a wise woman to take Mary's advice! And you're ready!

And, oh, the crit groups. The writer's group I mentioned in my post is going to try breaking into small groups for "feedback" on our writing next month. It will be...interesting. Um hmm. Yes, very interesting.

Elizabeth Van Tassel said...

Very nice post Jan. I love the part about letting people see your work, which is right where I am with my first novel now. I can relate to both the art and business side of things. Thanks for reminding us why we're writing, creating, crafting, and letting it go!

I'd enjoy reading your books.

Thanks so much!

Jan Drexler said...

Hi, Melanie!!

And Yay!!!!!!! You met your Speedbo goal!!!!

And you're nearly finished with your third book for Thomas Nelson! I remember when you signed that contract!

You said this about indie publishing: "But the danger is that people will not realize how much better they could be, how much better their books could be, if they had more and better editing, a professional cover, and other input."

Whenever a new writer asks me about indie publishing, it's usually because they want full control, or to keep all the profits, or just because they're scared to show their stuff to someone who might be more knowledgeable than they are. But I always advise them to spend the money for a good editor, a good cover artist, etc. And to take the time to LEARN how to format correctly for the different platforms, etc.

Indie publishing isn't a short cut, it's an option. And it isn't for the writer who is unwilling to do the work involved.

Because, just like with traditional publishing, you don't want to be one of those writers :)

And I loved the way you said, "Dream Big, Work Hard, and Trust God! :-)"

Jan Drexler said...

Thank you, Jamie Adams!

Your name is in the dog dish!

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Jennifer Smith!

Both traditional and self-publishing have their advantages and disadvantages, and the one thing they have in common is that the writer needs to work hard on the business end of things.

Sometimes it's easier to see a traditional publisher pushing for that higher degree of excellence, but that doesn't mean a self-published author can't hold themselves to an equally high standard.

But the main thing they have in common is that the advice of a good editor is invaluable!

Jan Drexler said...

Hi, Mary!

Yes, I'm the only regular attender who is traditionally published. I think there are a couple other members who are, but they don't attend the meetings.

I thought long and hard about joining this group, and the verdict is still out.

But some of those aspiring authors need to see that self-publishing is not the only way to go. They need a voice in the group with different experience.

Sometimes during a discussion on, say, how to get your books into local stores, someone will ask me how I do it. And then I'm able to say, "My publisher does that for me."

I have the same answer for cover design, editing, printing costs, ordering copies, etc. etc.

So I hope I can lure some of them over to the light :)

But we'll see if I renew my membership next year. This group is the only game in town - although we're in the process of getting a virtual ACFW group in the Dakotas. :)

Jan Drexler said...

Hi, Pam!

Levi's Ruthy isn't a sainted woman. But she does like children.

A lot.

And she likes Levi even more :)

One thing I love about that cover is that LI didn't use the photo suggestion I gave them for Levi, but the model they ended up with looks so much like my youngest son that it's uncanny.

I also love those two little girls. They caught the twins' separate personalities beautifully.

Jan Drexler said...

Thank you, Elizabeth!

We try so hard to reach our readers with our stories, wouldn't it be a shame if they were never published because of our fears? So we open our hands and let it go.

And no, we aren't all breaking into the song from Frozen right now!!!


Walt Mussell said...

Bringing in kid pictures in a post is unfair. :-)

I heard something similar for an author in my writer's group. "Once I sign that contract and hit send, it's 'their' story."

Jan Drexler said...

Yes, yes, yes, Walt! My thoughts exactly!

And when you have cute kids, you have to show them off once in a while, right?

Especially when you can sneak the pictures in without them knowing :)

Tina Radcliffe said...

Oh. No!! We need more food! Bringing in Barro's pizza from Arizona!

Christina said...

Jan, I absolutely loved your comparing our stories to babies. And best of all I love the way you handled the age old debate of whether writing is an art or business. It's both and I love your explanation. Great post and thank you!

The Garden Swing said...

Great thoughts, Jan! I agree -- the book may be your "baby," but you have to be willing to let it grow into the mature piece of work it's meant to be.

I actually enjoy the challenge of huge edits -- I feel a bit like Dr. Frankenstein, separating all the "parts" of my novel, rearranging them, and sewing them back together again. It always makes for a stronger story. The end result is worth it!

Kathryn Barker said...

Enjoyed your post...and your advice!

A long, long, long time ago, I refused to even discuss changing a children's story I had submitted to a well-known publisher. It was TOO close to my heart at the time. Probably should have waited a year or two to submit or at least prayed about it!

I've learned since then...and now, am grateful for input.

Love those photos! And would love to be in the drawing for the books.

Speedbo goal changed when I decided to participate in the Blurb contest. I'm having trouble with the formatting and would love prayers...thanks.

Take care everyone...hoping y'all have a beautiful Monday!!

Kathryn Barker said...

Enjoyed your post...and your advice!

A long, long, long time ago, I refused to even discuss changing a children's story I had submitted to a well-known publisher. It was TOO close to my heart at the time. Probably should have waited a year or two to submit or at least prayed about it!

I've learned since then...and now, am grateful for input.

Love those photos! And would love to be in the drawing for the books.

Speedbo goal changed when I decided to participate in the Blurb contest. I'm having trouble with the formatting and would love prayers...thanks.

Take care everyone...hoping y'all have a beautiful Monday!!

Jan Drexler said...

Pizza! Mmmm! Thanks, Tina!

Jan Drexler said...

Thank you, Christine!

I love my art, but like my husband says, we do like to sleep inside, so the business end of things is necessary, too. :)

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Janette, the Garden Swing :)

I had to laugh at your visual of Dr. Frankenstein sewing the pieces together! Great analogy!

Melanie Dickerson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melanie Dickerson said...

Thanks, Myra, for agreeing with me! And thanks, Jan! :-) I went to a writers group for years, but it was too far away and wasn't a good fit. Then started a group for Christian writers. After a year or so, I realized I just didn't really have time to go! LOL! Sad but true. Now someone else is heading it up. :-)

Finding a good group can be really hard. I hope you find some writer friends locally! I have a few but don't get together with them as often as I'd like.

Can you tell I am procrastinating writing this last little bit of my book? I've already revised the first 2/3 of the book, but I really need to get this thing finished! It's due Wed. (Just ignore the crazy woman on deadline.)

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Kathryn!

Oooh, sometimes those life lessons hurt, don't they? But if we didn't experience them, it would be hard to grow.

Congrats on taking the Blurb to Book challenge! Formatting can be a headache - will be praying!

Jan Drexler said...

LOL, Melanie!

Now get off the internet and back to work!

(That sound you hear is Ruthy's whip cracking!)

Mz.ZeyZey said...

Sometimes we just need to hear this, Jan! I was in a group that had several members who felt a certain way about my dream publisher, and I've been someone who's held on tightly to the notion that someone just didn't get my characters or the story I was trying to tell. As I've found critique partners who do "get" my characters and story but also will tell me when something just isn't working or doesn't make sense no matter what I'm trying to do, I realize the value of being open to critique. We don't have to agree with or accept every critique, but my stories have been strengthened tremendously by allowing someone else in.

I've let an opportunity or two pass me by because I was too stubborn to realize this, or too scared I might have to change something I felt was vital to the story. I'm finally at a place where I'm entering contests and submitting my work for feedback that I'm taking on board. Lovely post!

Olivia said...

Thanks, Jan, for your words of wisdom and the responses of all the great bloggers! I am in the process of giving birth to my first contest entry and you are want to nuture your characters and story just a little bit longer. If I have learned anything this month, it is "there is no time like the present!"
Please enter my name in the drawing for your newest book.

Tracey Hagwood said...

Hi Jan,
One of the things I enjoy about Seekerville is finding new (to me) authors. When I first started following this blog last year, I had only read half the seekers. I read the other half throughout last year and some of the other commenters books too.

I have as yet not read any of your books but plan to, A Mother for his Children looks like a good place to start, ten children sounds like quite the challenge-except to those named Ruthy! :)

Leola Ogle said...

I love the analogy of writing is like giving birth to a child. Having birthed and raised five children, I can certainly relate. Thanks so much, Jan, for this inspirational post.

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Mz.ZeyZey!

Good critique partners are hard to find - but you're right. You have to be open to their opinions and advice. That doesn't mean you have to take it, but you need to be able to accept it :)

And contests are a great place to hone your craft, aren't they?

Thanks for stopping by!

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Olivia!

"No time like the present" = #NoLimits!

It sounds like you've made great progress during Speedbo!

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Tracey!

I love the Seekers and their books! When I first started coming here five years ago, not all of the Seekers were published yet, so reading their books wasn't such a daunting task as it is now!

But they're good books, aren't they?

Your name is in the dog dish!

Jan Drexler said...

Thanks, Leola! I'm glad you liked it!

Now, back to the painful, and exhilarating first draft for me :)

Rhonda Starnes said...

I love this post! It was very much needed. Thanks, Jan.

A Mother for His Children sounds like a fabulous book. I can't even imagine trying to write a story with ten children in it. Wow!

My Speedbo goals have crashed and burned. Okay, they aren't totally burned. There is still some embers in the ashes. ;) I readjusted my goals after the Blurb to Book contest was announced, and I'm plotting that story now. I've almost written the first three chapters and hope to finish them by tomorrow night. I also need to do a bit more planning so I'll know where I'm headed with the synopsis.

Tanya Agler said...

Dear Jan, Thank you so much for this post. I read it this morning and am only now finding a minute to comment.

All day the story about the parking lot conversation has stuck in my head. What a missed opportunity for that author to learn from someone who communicates well (this post was entertaining and informative) and wanted to help her learn about the industry.

Speedbo update: I'm editing the last chapter (not counting the epilogue). Today I picked it apart and added in two pages. I have a document of 20,000 excised words and pages, but I've also added a lot of words.

Thank you, Jan, for sharing the importance of listening and learning from people who want to help other authors get better.

Jan Drexler said...

Hi, Rhonda!

You may not have met your original Speedbo goals, but look at what you've accomplished this month! Yay for your Blurb to Book entry!!!

Jan Drexler said...

Hi, Tanya!

The last chapter is so much fun, isn't it?

And the place where I learned to listen to other authors is right here on Seekerville. :) This is the best place to learn!

Mary Curry said...

Jan, this is a perfect post. Spot-on advice and so nicely given. ;)

I'm sorry to be here so late. I skimmed at lunch time but wanted to come back to read carefully.

Best of luck meeting all your obligations!

Natalie Monk said...

Jan, this is such a great post. Observing traditionally published authors from here on Unpubbed Island, I've noticed there seems to be a lot of sacrifices made in order to reach that traditional publishing goal--one being the freedom to do whatever we want with the story. And that's something we (I) don't often think about during the fun, creative stage. Acknowledging that we'll always have room to grow, and that we don't always know best, opens up so many possibilities to better our writing.

This post is beautiful, because it shows that your teachable spirit and workability helped you reach your dreams of traditional publishing, and I think that's amazing. Thanks for sharing!

Edwina said...

"Writing is an art. But once you hit the send button, it becomes a business."
How true! Your post is so encouraging - thank you for sharing!

ohiohomeschool said...

What a great analogy you used with writing and children.
Thanks for a great post!
Becky Boerner

Dee LeRoye said...

Oh WOW, Jan. I did not realize until I read the complete post that you are a South Dakota girl. I was speed reading because my day is full and running over...then Black Hills caught my eye. Now I'm watching you. And I would thoroughly enjoy winning your newest book. It sounds like MY kind of story.

Dee LeRoye said...

Ten children, huh? I once planned to have twelve! Anyway, in "Tame the Flame" I'm not sure how many children are involved. But so I could keep the main children in order, I named them after my own six. And the brain surgeon's name is that of our adopted daughter. Self published, yes, because I was told at the only Writer's Conference I could afford to attend "If you have a story that needs telling, get it out there."
It's out there.

Jan Drexler said...

Thank you, Mary Curry!

And you aren't too late to comment until Tina says so :)

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Natalie!

Along the way, I didn't feel like I was sacrificing anything. I just kept following the nudges God gave me :) So really, I can't take credit for much more than following His directions.

Jan Drexler said...

Your welcome, Edwina!

Thanks for stopping by!

Jan Drexler said...

Thank you, Becky Boerner (Ohio Homeschool)!

I'm a mom of homeschool graduates - take joy in what you do! :)

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Dee! Another South Dakota girl?

(Are you a member of ACFW? We're getting a Dakota Chapter started - email me if you're interested in joining:

LOL about the twelve children! I always said I would have a dozen if I could, but God had other plans. But you've had many more than twelve little ones pass through your home! What an influence you've had!

May the K9 Spy (and KC Frantzen) said...


Timely and encouraging post... And love that you included these photos! HURRAH YOU!!!

That box of books was worth the wait! Did you have Kleenex standing by?! I confess, I burst into tears also. SO true. So so true. *sniffle*

Special greetings to Thatcher, handsome barkday boy too!

Would adore to be in the running for a copy of your book too!

Deanne said...

What a fun post, I very much enjoyed reading it. I had to laugh at the ten children part that I read. I have 12 children myself with only one that has flown the nest. Lots of fun, noise and chaos at times. I would love to read this fun book. Thank you for the opportunity !

Kathy Sheldon Davis said...

How to change funny business into seriously well-done business? That's my goal, and I'm intent on reaching it. Would you enter my name in your book drawing? Thanks for your part in offering SpeedBo.

Kathy Sheldon Davis said...

Now to change my funny business into seriously doing business. That's my goal! Will you put my name in the hat for your book? I LOVE "large family" stories. Thanks!

Deanna Stevens said...

Enjoyed your post! Please put me in the dish :)

Susan Hollaway said...

Jan,I loved this post. Brilliant!