Is your Advent wreath lit, and are you counting down the days until Christmas?
For most of us, the four weeks of Advent are filled with anticipation and expectation as we prepare our homes and our hearts for the birth of the Christ Child. We shop to find the perfect gifts for family and friends and then wrap the presents with pretty paper and shiny bows and place them carefully under trees dressed in twinkling lights and glittering ornaments.
We bake cookies and pies, send cards and newsletters, and spread the spirit of Christmas by reaching out to those in need.
Family traditions might include setting up a crèche to welcome the Baby Jesus, caroling at a local nursing home or preparing care packages for military heroes deployed far from home.
In spite of the busyness of the season, we make time for prayer, scripture and contemplation as we await the birth of the Tiny Babe.
A writer’s life is filled with long periods of waiting that can be thought of as secular Advents. We wait for an agent to read our work, or a contest entry to be critiqued and returned, or for a publishing house to make an offer to buy our book.
How can we use our time wisely as we wait?
Here are five suggestions.
Saint Augustine said, “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.”
Prayer should be the first step in each stage of every endeavor. Pray before you brainstorm the story, while you write the pages and as you prepare the manuscript for submission. Finally, send it off with a final prayer that the work will be well received.
Usually our goal is publication, but a “positive” rejection letter with suggestions from the editor on how to make the manuscript more marketable is also a plus. (We’ve talked before about the importance of reworking the story and resubmitting if an editor shows interest in seeing revisions.)
Some folks believe praying for the success of their work is not appropriate, yet if God has given us the talent to write, then doesn’t he want us to use that gift for the betterment of all? If so, our words need to connect with readers, and the easiest way to do that is to have our stories accepted for publication, which seems like an excellent prayer request to me.
In addition to rote prayer and spontaneous prayer from the heart, consider praying through scripture. Pick a verse that expresses your feelings and recite it frequently each day.
One of my favorite verses is John 15:16. It was not you who chose me, it was I who chose you to go forth and bear fruit. In that short verse, God is telling me that he chose me to be a writer. It’s a mission and a ministry, and it’s the way he wants me to bear fruit, good fruit that will build up his kingdom on earth.
2. GET READY
Just as we prepare for Christmas, we also need to prepare for the next step in our writing journey.
If you’re awaiting publication, then use the time to build a web site, get involved in social media, create a tagline and logo, and develop a marketing strategy. Get to know your local booksellers, your librarian, perhaps even gift shop owners and anyone else who might be interested in promoting your work.
During my pre-publication waiting period, I chose “Faith with an edge…cross my heart” as my tagline. My logo is a heart with a superimposed cross, which I add after my signature whenever I autograph books. I also include the phrase, “Cross my heart,” in each of my full-length suspense stories, and I have a Cross My Heart Prayer Team that joins me in praying for the needs of others.
Long before my first sale, I got to know the independent bookseller in my town who became a dear friend and hosted signings for me with the publication of each book.
I also wrote The Writer’s Prayer, knowing I needed God’s help with my stories. I’ve given away thousands of copies and am grateful that the prayer is meaningful to other writers as well.
3. REMAIN OPTIMISTIC
Rejection hurts. Too often, those closest to publication get discouraged and some folks even give up their writing dreams.
To combat the negatives, review the positives. Keep a file of the affirming comments contest judges and editors and agents have written about your work. Read biographies of successful people whose early work was rejected, such as Walt Disney, Thomas Edison and John Grisham. Thankfully for us, they didn’t give up.
Visit book stores and envision your book on the shelves! Make a mock up cover. Add your name in large print and include New York Times or USA Today bestselling author to your list of future credits.
4. DEVELOP PLAN B
If I’m worried about a particular outcome, often I’ll consider alternate strategies to achieve my goal.
If publisher A doesn’t buy your story, do you have other editors to whom you can submit? Independent publishing provides a viable way to get our work in print. Is that an option for you?
Seek advice from a freelance editor or ask a critique partner or beta reader to evaluate your work and/or offer suggestions for improvement. Sometimes a story is ahead of its time and needs to be put on hold. Allowing the work to “rest” helps us see it with a more critical eye when we read it some months later.
5. KEEP WRITING
Start a new project. Write the next book or a Christmas novella or a short story for a magazine. (Check out Tina Radcliffe’s Seekerville blog on writing for Woman’s World.)
Consider a freelance article for a local or regional publication. Submit a feature story to your town’s newspaper. Pen a letter to the editor about a pet peeve or in recognition of someone in your community. You get the idea. Keep writing!
Don’t get discourage or disillusioned, and don’t let the negative voice within throw you off track. God has given you the desire to write, and he’s gifted you with ability. He will guide you to the right door that leads to publication.
Share your Advent traditions and the many ways you and your family prepare for Christmas. Also share how you’re preparing for publication or for the next stage of your writing journey. What productive steps do you take as you wait to hear back from an editor or agent? Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing for a copy of one of my books, winner's choice, and a surprise gift.
The coffee’s hot. There’s eggnog and cider and lots of Christmas cookies. Also enjoy Stollen from Germany and Panettone from Italy, two of my family’s favorite Christmas treats!
Wishing you abundant Advent blessings!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
WOMAN ON THE RUN
While babysitting a young servicewoman’s infant, Natalie Frazier hears a murder in the neighboring army duplex. Convinced her former commander is behind the crime, the ex-soldier bolts with the baby. But who will believe her story? Army investigator Everett Kohl deals only with the facts, but this time his gut instincts can’t be denied. Is the attractive Natalie a cunning killer, as his ranking officers believe, or an innocent victim? Ordered to bring her in, Everett has a decision to make. Helping her could cost him his job…but not protecting Natalie and the baby could get all of them killed…
Order your copy in digital or print format: Amazon.
Also available: A HEARTFUL OF CHRISTMAS, a Christmas collection found everywhere you buy digital stories.
“A Miracle for Christmas,” by Debby Giusti
Nurse Brigid O’Grady refuses to open her heart to NYPD Officer Tony Calabrese, knowing she could lose him to the gang violence that killed her dad. But, while working to save a patient on Christmas Eve night, Brigid is confronted by the very danger she most fears. Can Tony save Brigid…or do they both need a miracle to make the darkness bright?