Whew! I just got back from ACFW Nashville and I’m pumped! Ready to hit the keyboard and get my work-in-progress done!
|Jan Drexler & Mary Vee|
I remember browsing through the bookstore in Dallas, scanning titles published by Revell, Zondervan, Bethany House, Thomas Nelson…and wondering why in the world did I think my books belonged in their company?
I should just give up.
But I got over that funk in a hurry. I went to my hotel room, looked at myself in the mirror, and said: “I am a writer. I have talent. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to be fabulous. And I’ll never give up.”
And I didn’t give up. My fifth book is being published by Revell next month, and there are four more in the pipeline. That means signed contracts, books in various stages of completion, and a lot of BICHOK (Bottom In Chair, Hands On Keyboard).
I’m here to tell YOU – don’t give up. You can be a fabulous writer in only three (not-so) easy steps:
First Step: Develop your talent
Do you have talent for writing? You must, or you wouldn’t be here. This innate talent is one thing that draws us to writing.
But talent by itself isn’t enough.
I’ve always loved writing and books, so when it was time to pick a major in college, I chose English With A Creative Writing Emphasis. Very important-sounding, isn’t it?
But there was one problem. I had never taken one step to develop my talent. All through high school and college I garnered honors, opportunities and good grades…but I still hadn’t applied myself to my writing.
I didn’t understand that I needed to develop my raw talent. Raw talent by itself is full of potential, like an egg in a nest. But undeveloped talent? Just think about what happens if something knocks that egg onto the ground before it’s ready to hatch.
Not a pretty picture, is it?
So how do you develop your talent?
1) Be a sponge. Soak up everything you can. Hang around experienced writers (aka Seekers!) and others who are learning just like you are (aka Seekervillagers!). At the beginning it seems like you know nothing, doesn’t it? And the more you learn the more you realize how vast this pool of information is that you’ve just dipped your toe into. I know that in my first months of visiting Seekerville I felt like I was drowning in details! It was definitely a steep learning curve.
But the key point here is that I did learn…and so will you.
2) Seek out new avenues to learn your craft. One of the best ones I found (after Seekerville, of course!) is the series of monthly on-line courses that are included in the ACFW membership. What I learned from those courses made the cost of the membership seem like nothing!
|Click on this image to see the courses up close and personal and clear.|
Another great way to learn is to read craft books. I know all of the Seekers have their favorites. A couple of mine are “The Breakout Novelist” by Donald Maass, and “The Moral Premise” by Stanley Williams.
3) And most important: READ!
Reading is necessary to develop your writing talent.
Someone told me years ago that in order to write well, you need to read well.
What does that mean? It means that you read voraciously, constantly, widely, and deeply. You read inside your genre and outside your genre. You read classical literature, popular best-sellers, fiction, and non-fiction. You read authors you adore and authors you hate (although not quite as often).
You learn by reading. You learn about the human condition, about God, about life. You learn how author A writes a descriptive paragraph, and you learn how author B writes scintillating dialogue.
When an author’s writing grips your heart, you go back and read that passage again. You dissect it word by word to learn how that author connected so well with your feelings.
And when you’ve finished that book, you pick up the next one. You can never read too much!
Listen to Stephen King, not Albert Einstein. After all, which one of them is a fiction writer?
Second Step: Work hard
Writing isn’t easy.
I know, I know. We’ve all seen these romantic images of the famous author dressed in a long, flowing white dress reclining in a hammock, thoughtfully nibbling at the end of her pen while birds sing sweetly over her head.
But that isn’t reality. Look around at your life. This is reality. And somewhere in your own reality, you need to make the time to BICHOK and write.
Why is writing so hard?
Think of it this way - there is no one right or wrong way to write. Every author has his or her own voice, own style, own quirks. You have your own story to tell, and no one can tell it for you. It comes from your heart and soul, not anyone else’s.
So how do you learn to tell your own story?
Write. Write whenever you can, wherever you can.
Write blog posts. The great thing about blog posts is that they are short, and you can experiment. What works? Complex sentences or simple ones? Dialogue or narration? Humor or pathos?
Write stories. Long or short, stories are where your writing really matures.
And whatever you do, write something every day. Staring at a blank paper never improves your writing. Neither does watching a television show or playing a game on Facebook.
Writing primes the creative pump…so write!
Third Step: Persevere
Finally: Never give up.
Writing is scary. Crazy scary.
What makes it so scary?
At some point someone else will have to read what you wrote.
That’s the core of it all, isn’t it? Your words in that document are drops of blood. Your blood. You have explored the darkest corners of your soul and placed each tender word into that story.
It doesn’t matter if this is your first story or your fifteenth, when the moment comes to submit your work to a critique partner, a contest, or an editor, your finger hovers over the “enter” key, your throat fills and you hesitate as fear creeps in.
But don’t stop there. Say a prayer and hit that button.
If your manuscript comes winging back to you in cyber-space, don’t give up. Look at the feedback and learn from it. Make the changes you need to make and send it out again. Don’t let one rejection – or even ten rejections – stop you from seeing your story in print.
Now that we’ve covered all three steps, are you ready?
I have one more thing for you to do:
Find a mirror.
Look yourself in the eyes and repeat after me:
I am a writer.
I have talent.
I’m willing to do whatever it takes to be fabulous.
And I’ll never give up.
Are you ready? Which one of these steps is the hardest for you?
Leave a comment today to get your name in the coffee cup for a copy of Mattie's Pledge for one reader and for a 5-page critique for one writer. Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.
Jan Drexler brings a unique understanding of Amish traditions and beliefs to her writing. Her ancestors were among the first Amish, Mennonite, and Brethren immigrants to Pennsylvania in the 1700s, and their experiences are the inspiration for her stories. Jan lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband of more than thirty years, where she enjoys hiking in the Hills and spending time with their four adult children and new son-in-law.
Find her here:
And on Mondays at the Yankee-Belle Café
When she feels the pull of both home and the horizon, which will she choose?
Mattie Schrock is no stranger to uprooting her life. Even as her father relocated her family from one Amish community to the next, she always managed to find a footing in their new homes. Now as the Schrock family plans to move west from Somerset County to a fledgling Amish settlement in Indiana, she looks forward to connecting with old friends who will be joining them from another Pennsylvania community—friends like Jacob Yoder, who has always held a special place in her heart.
Since Mattie last saw Jacob, they’ve both grown into different people with different dreams. Jacob yearns to settle down, but Mattie can’t help but dream of what may lie over the western horizon. When a handsome Englisher tempts her to leave the Amish behind to search for adventure in the West, will her pledge to Jacob be the anchor that holds her secure?
Tender, poignant, and gentle, Mattie’s Pledge offers you a glimpse into Amish life in the 1840s—and into the yearning heart of a character you’ll not soon forget.