Get Published

My Most Common Advice These Days

I’ve been a published writer for more than forty years, an author for twenty-seven, and a literary agent for two-and-a-half years (not to mention a freelance book editor and a staff magazine editor at various points over the years, but I just did mention it, didn’t I?).

So, whether via email or in person, I’m occasionally put in a position to offer advice. I’m usually surprised and amazed that few people seem to follow my advice, but I still give it out from time to time—usually on the subject of writing for publication. For some reason, people seem even less interested in my fashion recommendations and investment tips. Come to think of it, I get it. 

So, it’s mostly on the subject of writing for publication that I hold forth. And I seem to be stuck in a rut of sorts because I tend to give the same advice over and over. Maybe it’s because the following is what aspiring writers most need to hear, in my opinion. It could also be because I know only a few things for sure. Take your pick. But here is the most common advice I seem to give out in talking to aspiring (sometimes even gifted and accomplished) writers:

  1. Read this blog.

Yes, I know you’re doing so right now. Good for you. By regularly reading this blog (with new posts appearing every Monday through Friday), you are absorbing, free of charge, some of the best advice available on writing for publication in Christian markets. So good on ya! 

  1. Get to a writers conference.

There’s so much to know about writing for publication—not only how to write but also information about submitting your work; working with agents, editors, and publishers; mistakes to avoid; and more—that those who’ve never attended a writers conference just can’t imagine. The experience will blow your mind and maybe set you on a course toward publication. 

  1. Read a book.

Not just any book. I find myself repeatedly recommending one of two books to people who say they want to write for publication. To writers of nonfiction, I ask if they’ve read William Zinsser’s indispensable On Writing Well. If they haven’t, I say they must—as soon as possible. If they have, I say they should read it again, not because they’re bad writers but because it’s filled with what good and great writers do. For writers of fiction (though On Writing Well would be helpful for them too), I often recommend Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King. Obviously, those aren’t the only books I recommend, but I do it often enough I should get a commission.

  1. Get critique.

If you want to write for publication—whether for newspapers, magazines, websites, or books—you should get in the habit of submitting your work for critique. Not to your mom or your spouse, but to someone (or several someones, such as a critique group) with an analytical eye. (I’ll explain more about that in my next blog post, so stay tuned.) Having a good critique partner read and comment on your work will make you a better writer, guar-ohn-teed. (Tip: If there’s a chapter of Word Weavers International in your area, that’s a great place to start.)

  1. Take writing courses.

Okay, so this is a little self-serving, as I am the titular executive editor of The Christian Writers Institute. But did you know there is such a thing as The Christian Writers Institute? There is, and I recommend it all the time because it’s an online resource to help Christians become proficient in the skills, craft, and business of writing by making available a deep and wide variety of audio and video courses taught by some of our industry’s best teachers—as well as books and podcasts that will expand your horizons and shed so much light and open so many doors that you’ll be impressed, amazed, and so grateful that you may want to write me a thank-you note for suggesting it. (Feel free to include a Dunkin’ Donuts gift card; just don’t tell Steve “The Big Kahuna” Laube about it.)

Forgive me if you’ve heard all this before. If you’ve ever talked to me, you probably have. But as I say, this is the advice I give out—ad nauseum—to aspiring and developing writers. Maybe from now on I can just say, “Go to the blog.” Unless you’re also interested in my fashion recommendations and investment tips. That’s going to cost you.

 

 

Leave a Comment

Saving the World, One Romance at a Time

Often I will receive submissions of novels tying in an element of mystery and suspense with romance. Writers targeting the romantic suspense market will find difficulty in placing this type of story. Why? Because romantic suspense readers have certain expectations that won’t be met with a mere element of mystery and intrigue.

In my experience trying to sell and market romantic suspense, I have found that the readers of this genre want all-out adventure and crime solving along with compelling romance. The suspense is foremost, with the romance being tied in so deeply that the story won’t survive without it.

Read More

A Big Giveaway for Writers

Periodically, I like to let our readers know about some of the special things we are doing to help teach writers via The Christian Writers Institute (CWI). We love to see Christian writers learn, grow, and succeed in their craft. As part of that, CWI is offering you a chance to win a …

Read More

Is Yours a Book or an Article?

The title question, “Is yours a book or an article?” comes up on a regular basis with nonfiction authors. Someone has lived an interesting life, survived a horrible disease, lost a precious loved one, suffered terribly (emotionally or physically) and feels led to write their story. But is it a …

Read More

How to Hear “No”

In a recent media interview (yes, I am that cool), I was asked if as a literary agent I liked saying “no.” I answered emphatically—even a bit rudely, I’m afraid, as I started my answer before my questioner finished asking. “I hate it,” I said. It’s a part of the …

Read More

The Editorial Process

It is important to understand the process through which a book takes under the umbrella called “The Edit.” I meet many first timers who think it is just a one-time pass over their words and that is all that will ever happen. And many who self-publish think that hiring a high school English teacher to check for grammar is enough of an edit.

There are four major stages to the Editorial Process. Unfortunately they are called by various names depending on which publisher you are working with, which can create confusion. I will try to list the various terms but keep them under the four categories.

Rewrites / Revisions/Substantive Edit

These can happen multiple times. You could get input from your agent or an editor who suggests you rewrite or revise those sample chapters of the full manuscript. Last year I suggest that one of my non-fiction clients cut the book in half and change its focus. We sold this first time author. But the writer had to do a lot of work to get it ready for the proposal stage.

Read More

Write Like Paul

Somerset Maugham wrote, “There is an impression abroad that everyone has it in him to write one book; but if by this is implied a good book the impression is false” (The Summing Up). Far be it from me to add to Maugham’s words, but I’m going to. So I …

Read More

Say It in a Sentence

Can you present your book idea in one sentence?

Can you present that idea in such a way that the reader is compelled to buy your book?

What motivates someone to spend money on a book? It is the promise that there is something of benefit to me, the reader.

Books are generally purchased for one of three reasons:

Entertainment Information Inspiration

If your book idea can make me want to read it, whether it is for entertainment, information, or inspiration, then you are well on your way to making a sale.

Read More

Always Be Learning

During the Summer of 1978 the #1 hit on Christian radio was the classic “He’s Alive” by Don Francisco (click here to listen). That same Summer I attended a Christian music festival in Estes Park, Colorado and decided to take a class on songwriting being taught by Jimmy and Carol Owens. I settled into my chair near the back of the room with notepad ready.

Just as the class was about to start a bearded man slide in the chair next to mine….notepad at the ready. To my astonishment it was Don Francisco. (I recognized him from his album cover.)

Here was a singer/songwriter who had the number one hit in the nation…taking a class on songwriting! What did he think he needed to learn?

Read More