Writing Craft

God Gave Me This Blog Post

God gave me this blog post.

By invoking divine inspiration I have guaranteed that you will read this post and possibly give me money to read more.

Sound like a stretch? Then what if I just wrote or said:
“God spoke to me”
“I was led to write this”
“God revealed this to me”
“I have been called to write this”
“I believe this is an inspired post”

In the Christian publishing industry editors, publishers, and literary agents hear these all time (and I suspect they are heard in the aisles and parking lots of churches every week). I’ve heard it on the phone, in person, and in writing…in varying degrees. Everything from “If you don’t accept this book idea you are not a Christian because God gave it to me” to “The Lord has laid this on my heart.” Obviously the first is outrageous, but what is wrong with the other one?

Often a writer will approach and say in whispered tones, “I know I’m not supposed to say this, but I truly believe that God gave me this story.” I know what they mean. They are trying to express their passion for their work and their sincere belief that it is life changing. Unfortunately it doesn’t always come across that way.

The Bible is very clear that God speaks to us via His Spirit, sometimes through other people in writing, speaking, singing, or actions. We are admonished “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies.” (I Thessalonians 5: 19-20) But don’t stop reading the biblical text because in the next verse (v. 21) the apostle Paul wrote “Test everything.” The apostle John wrote further, “test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” (1 John 4:1)

Therefore the next time, before casually or intentionally using this type of language:

  1. Consider your motive. What is being accomplished by invoking divine inspiration? A legitimacy that was somehow missing before the statement crossed the lips? An expression of passion and sincerity? Is the phrase being used as manipulation?
  2. Consider your audience. The publishing professional being addressed has already made the assumption that God is inspiring a lot of people a lot of the time. That is intrinsic to the Artistic process. We assume that you are passionate about your work or that you feel it is inspired in some way, otherwise you would not be showing it to anyone. A few of the more sarcastic among us may be tempted to respond, “God told you but forgot to tell me” or “Really? God did that? Please sign this dotted line so we can get busy with publishing it!” You see how silly and mocking this can get?
  3. Consider your source. Annie Dillard wrote, “Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it?” (Teaching a Stone to Talk, page 40) Are you really speaking for God? Are your words supplanting God’s? Or adding to them? That is a danger of invoking God’s name in order to validate one’s material. “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God…so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 4:11)

So before anyone takes offense, I’m not trying “quench the Spirit.” Instead I’m encouraging a bit of caution when talking this way among publishing professionals.

 

Leave a Comment

How Long Does it Take to Get Published?

How much time does it take to get published?

I came to the publishing business from the retail side of the equation. The biggest adjustment was understanding how long the process takes. In retail there is instantaneous gratification. But book publishing is a process business.

There is no question the timeline varies from person to person and project to project. In the world of major publishers the diversity can be quite extreme.

Read More

Count Your Many Phrases

We all have our pet phrases and they can inadvertently sneak their way into our manuscripts. Yesterday I came across a marvelous web site that can help you discover how often your repeat a particular phrase in your article or manuscript.

Using the Phrase Frequency Counter online, you can actually track what phrases you overuse. It is also a great way to pick out those clichés that can creep into your writing.

Read More

Oxymorons

Oxymorons can be fun. Two words that can have contradictory meaning are put together to create a new phrase. Or it can be expanded to mean two separate thoughts or ideas that are in direct conflict with each other but when combined create something new.

For example, if you’ve ever worked in a cubicle you can see the humor in the description “office space.”

Read More

What to do about Morals?

In a post written last weekend Richard Curtis, agent extraordinaire, expressed surprise at a new morality clause that has apparently appeared in HarperCollins’ contracts. Read his post here [warning: there is some Adult content and comments included in the post].

What the general market doesn’t realize is that many Faith-based publishers have had a “moral turpitude” clause in their contracts for a long time. Moral turpitude is well defined in this post on Wikipedia. It is understood in the legal community as actions or activities that can get you fired from your job, deported if you are a foreigner in this country on a Visa, or have your contract cancelled if you are an author.

Read More

Hints for a Great Cover Letter

Here are a few suggestions for you to consider when approaching an agent. Remember to use these as hints…do not follow them slavishly as if a literary agent is going to spend their time critiquing your cover letter.

By the way, we make a distinction between a cover letter and a query letter. A cover letter is what goes on top of a longer proposal and sample chapters. The query letter is a stand-alone letter that goes by itself to the editor/agent without a proposal or sample chapters. We happen to prefer the cover letter along with the rest of the package. Why? Because a query only shows that you can write a letter. A proposal begins the process of showing that you know how to write a book.

Address the letter to a specific person. If sending something to The Steve Laube Agency, simply address the appropriate agent. Every proposal will cross the desk of the designated agent eventually.

Read More

Book Tour Lesson: Listen to Publisher

Melanie Benjamin, author of Alice I Have Been, reflects on book tours, in an article for the Huffington Post.  Especially the difference between the one she put together herself several years ago and the one she is currently doing with the help of her publisher.

“I’ve also learned to listen to my publisher. When a bookstore contacts me personally about an appearance, I pass the request on to my publicist. Only once did I ignore her advice and do an event anyway.

Only the janitor showed up.”

Read More

Even the Best Get Rejected

[/caption]

I’ve written about rejection before and yet it is a topic that continues to fascinate.

Recently Adrienne Crezo did an article on famous authors and their worst rejection letters. I thought you might enjoy reading a couple highlights of that article and some additional stories I have collected over the years.

George Orwell’s Animal Farm was rejected by Alfred Knopf saying it was “impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.”
Read More

Lawsuit over Hyperlink?

In Canada a man is suing another person for linking to allegedly damaging web content on a web site (the suit is currently before the Canadian Supreme Court).  A big “thank you” to Mac Slolcum for writing about this issue last week. In his article Mac asks the pertinent question, “Is a link on your web site equivalent to an endorsement of that content?” Think about it for a second. If you click the “Like” button on Facebook aren’t you telling your “friends” that you endorse that product, idea, video, or web site? What about when you re-tweet someone’s comments and then link to their site (like I hope you do with my blog posts!

Read More