As promised, here are the morals—and names—of the story of our young writer from last week. If you missed the post, please go back and read it.
The young writer? None other than the gifted Lori Benton. Her second novel, The Pursuit of Tameson Littlejohn, released in April 2014.
The first editor, who read her story from far, far away, and then became friends with Lori? Yours truly. But Lori isn’t just a good friend—she’s become one of my favorite authors!
The talented agent? Wendy Lawton, who signed Lori as a client in 2010. When I asked her what it was that drew her to Lori and her manuscript, she said, “Lori is an amazing writer. When I read her manuscript I was blown away. I love historical fiction but writing great historical fiction is much more difficult than it looks. The author needs to anchor the story in the time and the place, give us authentic detail but not put in detail for detail’s sake and . . . well, you know. Lori delivered on every single aspect. And no one is more serious about writing or works harder and more consistently than Lori Benton. She’s put in her time and she’s earned every accolade. It is a joy to present her books to publishers and it’s hard not bust my buttons when reviewers and the ChristyAward judges agree.”
The wise editor? Shannon Marchese, who signed Lori as a Waterbrook author in 2012. I ran into Shannon at a conference not long before Lori’s book released, and she asked me, “Have you read Lori’s book. It’s amazing. She’s very, very good.” High praise, indeed!
The story that won the agent’s, editor’s, and readers’ hearts? Burning Sky, which released in 2013 and just recently earned a Grace award and three Christy Awards for excellence in writing (First Novel and Historical Categories) and the 2014 Book of the Year award. Never has an author won three awards in one night during the Christy Award presentation.
So what are the morals of the story?
First, traditional publishers are still looking for beautifully written books. Platform, social media presence, marketing acumen…that’s not all they look at. Lori didn’t have an impressive platform, nor did she have sales history. She wasn’t a speaker and didn’t have a bunch of followers in social media. What she did have was a masterfully crafted book. That really and truly is enough, friends. Of course, writing a book that well isn’t easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight. But it does happen.
Second, the road to publication usually takes time. Lots of it. Writing one book is seldom enough. Lori wrote eight books before Burning Sky was published. And she did so over 20 years. TWENTY years. But with each “no thank you,” she moved on to the next story within her and brought it to life on the page. As Wendy said, Lori has put in her time. And she’s still doing so. She works all day on researching, writing, editing…that’s the job of being a writer.
Third, keep writing. While Kindred, the first novel Wendy pitched to editors, was being considered, Lori researched and wrote Burning Sky. When there were no bites on Kindred, Wendy sent out Burning Sky. And even as it landed in editor’s email boxes, Lori was hard at work on her next book. As I tell my clients, sending a manuscript to editors doesn’t mean you’re done. It means you look ahead, start working on the next project. Keep creating. Keep bring stories to life. Because if the book you’ve sent out doesn’t find a home, the next one just might. Don’t get so focused on getting a contract for the book you’ve sent out that you stop working and writing.
And last, but certainly not least, remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. That the stories within you came from the heart of the God Who loves you and your readers. Yes, publication is wonderful. But it’s just the icing on the cake. The eternal God of the universe has invited you to join Him in the wonder of creation. If we refine our craft, are patient on the journey, work hard and diligently, and keep our focus on God, our stories will end as all good stories should…
And they lived—and wrote–happily ever after.