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.
I read both posts of this tale this morning at my desk at my day job (I’m a partner in a big law firm, but in real life I’m a dreamer who’s written since I was a little girl). I cried at my desk as I read. Fortunately no one saw me except my secretary.
Thank you for telling this story. I needed to hear it just now.
This is very encouraging. Thank you!
Sandy Faye Mauck
Wonderful story. Gives me hope. I have not submitted a novel and been rejected but in years past I wrote articles. Didn’t have a clue what I was doing. But I understand rejection and I am working really hard reading all the books all the editors (including you), say to read and rewriting my heart out. I hope one of these days I will be happy enough with it to send it out.
I have ideas popping out all over and feel frustrated to keep at the work at hand, I an’t wait to write the new ones so I think I will be doing that as soon as it leaves my hands.
I rewrite and actually get into my own story again. I hope that is a good sign.
Thanks for the great tale of an author’s trek.
Burning Sky was AMAZING!!!!!!! All the caps and exclamation points are well-deserved. Those of us who’ve read Lori’s stuff are glad she persevered.
Thanks for the encouraging reminders, Karen! Patience to wait through the time on the journey can be challenging sometimes, but if I move on and keep writing like you suggested, it seems to go faster. It goes to back to one of our favorite verses(I think I heard it the first time from you):
Habakkuk 2:3 – “This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.” (NLT)
This is so inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing Lori’s story. My heart is encouraged.
Karen, I love the tension you created from last weeks post to this one. Lori works with a stellar team, and her patience in the process is admirable. Here’s to many more lives being touched by her heart and her diligence.
Beautiful story of Lori’s journey. She is talented and inspiring, and I wish her all the best!
While posts like these are encouraging and amazing, there is a hard truth at hand that has me thinking about the process. Do I want to perverse that long? Am I passionate enough to put in all that time and work it takes to make a story great?
I’m totally serious here. Traveling out of stare most of the summer has shown me that I missed writing. I really do love storytelling and honoring God with it. Yet, I don’t know how serious I am about making my work publish worthy. Gasp! How dare I say that? Believe me I know how difficult it is to break into the business and I’m praying about how to use the little extra time I have in my day.
I’m reminded of an example Steve shared last year about a woman he met at a writer’s conference. After learning all that it takes to be a writer whose serious about getting published, she said she’s going to take up knitting. Ha! Perhaps it comes down to how badly do I want this. I’m not giving up writing all together. I have many wonderful God given stories in my head, but writing may be more of a hobby. An escape per say.
I do not mean discourage anyone, and I apologize if I did, but for me, this is where I am in my writing journey and this post(s) is making me pray and think about all of this even more, which is great! I believe God will show me the path to go down. He is SO faithful and good that way, halleluiah!
J.D. Don’t fret, your sincere, candid and heartfelt comments are very refreshing and quite welcome to me, NOT discouraging. NO APOLOGY NECESSARY. They made me smile and remember the number of times I experienced the same struggle, self doubt and
questioning in years past. (Its the devil whispering in your ear! lol)
I have spent over thirty years studying art and learning to paint and draw. No one was harder on me than myself. I felt as discouraged as you more than once. There is a humorous saying among artists that every painting starts out with great anticipation and excitement as your next masterpiece and before your are finished you are saying to yourself “maybe I can save it” lol.
Eventually I decided to attempt to please no one except God first and myself second, that is who really matters. I practiced my craft to OUR satisfaction without the heavy burden of wondering who might like it or not or if it would be publicly accepted. I studied every nuance, technical detail, theory I could research and , with God, came up with many of OUR own very original techniques. As I progressed I entered juried exhibitions and began winning cash and awards, sometimes the highest award given for the event (with over 100 other paintings competing). People began to ask if they could purchase my paintings, FOR CASH! No one was more surprised than me. My art went from a blessed struggle to a blessed joy (that brought joy to others).
I only came to know about bringing joy to others because when picking up one of my paintings after a month long exhibition the curator went way out of her way to meet me. I didn’t know her. She came up to the third floor of the building where I and other artists would pick up our paintings. The elevator doors opened and out came a very well dressed woman who hurriedly rushed up to me. She was a little out of breath in her excitement and blurted out with a big smile “Are you the one who painted that painting? as she motioned her head toward my painting. I said yes and she excitedly went on to explain that it was the biggest crowd drawer of the entire exhibition. She said she HAD to tell me because groups gathered in front of that painting and made very positive comments and discussion. She said groups of children stood before it and excitedly pointed their fingers up at it and made comments. She said it was by far the most popular painting in the juried exhibition. (It did win the top award but I had no idea that anyone even cared.) I would not have known if she didn’t go to great effort and interrupt her busy day and rush upstairs from her offfice to let me know. I was surprised to find that she wanted to meet me BECAUSE OF MY ART. It was very flattering but recognition was no longer one of my prime motivators as it may have been early on (many artists don’t become famous until AFTER their death).
My purpose of painting and drawing is to tell a story and make an emotional connection with other human beings that touches them through pigments (painting) and graphite (drawing). My purpose of writing is to tell a story and make an emotional connection with other human beings that touches them through words.
For me, creative endeavors, both painting and drawing, as well as the written word (and music, dance, etc.) should generate visual images in the mind of the beholder, like a movie playing inside their head. They will add their own experiences to your input to customize and “complete” the vision you are presenting. (For me, this is the essence of impressionism.) I feel that If viewing your work can change their emotions, or even their mind, in the way you intended you have succeded. I have had very intelligent people tell me that reading my writing made them seriously ponder,cry, laugh (in a good way), and that they were emotionally touched and gratified.
Always remember this;
Ephesians 6:12 [Full Chapter]
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Joshua 1:9 [Full Chapter]
Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed, for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”
However it turns out for you, as long as its Gods will, it will be right.
M. Rochellino, my humble heart is full of joy! Thank you for sharing your story/journey with me about your art. And for the reminder how tricky the enemy is. You couldn’t have known this, and I’m often blown away how God works, but Joshua 1:9 is one of my life verses! Yep. It’s a powerful one indeed. Such confirmation for me this morning. Thank you for being obedient to the Spirit’s prompting and responding with such uplifting words.
Karen, being obedient, yes. It really is that simple isn’t it? You couldn’t have know either that I’ve recently thrown all thought of the result out the window and decided to focus on finishing the story now. And I’m so close! Stupid enemy. What gets hard is shutting out all the outside noise around me. All the voices that ask over and over what I’m going to do with the story next. Well, I am going to just finish it and then see what God wants. Just saying that to people took that courage Joshua was talking about. People don’t get it. Some authors don’t. But I am blessed with many wonderful friends who do and need to cling to those peps.
Feeling good this day! Thank you, Lord, and thank you all 🙂
And Lori, thank you for being brave and letting Karen share part of you story. Lives are going to be changed by your example of obedience 🙂
Thanks for your thoughts and comments, all.
J.D., I don’t think you’ve discouraged anyone. Quite the opposite, I’ve always said if God gives you the task to write, that doesn’t mean the path He has for your writing will lead to publication. Just be obedient to the task He’s given you and write. He’ll handle the rest!
Hey, I’ve heard that advice somewhere before! 🙂
Love the posts..what an encouragement.
You are right. We need to do the time. I started writing seriously after I retired from the Army. That was 15 years ago. That was 15 years of learning, reaching out, writing, rewriting and learning some more. Books on writing, conferences and author talks were on the list too. 15 years of training paid off because Dan stood up and said we want to represent you. He gave me what no training anywhere is capable of…he gave me confidence. I can do this – I can really do this and so I am. Thank The Lord for our time is in his hands.
Ah Karen and Lori this is awesome! You guys are also speaking right to me this week. I’ve missed this blog. My own fault due to computer troubles. 🙂
Congrats again Lori! I adored Tamsen Littlejohn.
Thanks so much for posting this. Like the others above, it also spoke to my heart. After several years of struggling with minor success in writing secular fiction, I’ve recently started writing for the Christian market. I’ve ALWAYS felt led to do this, but never made the first step until a month ago. I now realize vanity had been in my way. God had never been my focus as He is now. The words have never flowed as freely and easily as they do since I started obediently writing Faith-based fiction. I know the Lord has given me the desire to write, and I was the only thing standing in my way. 🙂
Very encouraging. I’ve come close to quitting many times but the stories keep whispering and readers’ lives are changed so I keep on.
I loved reading more about Lori’s writing journey. She is truly an inspiration! It does take time to learn to write well, and you learn to write by writing. So many writers stop mid-way through or stop after the first book. You have to keep going if you want to improve. I could echo Lori’s story in some ways. I wrote five full-length novels before my first novella was accepted for publishing. Then I wrote more novellas and category fiction for a few years before I was finally ready to write longer historical novels, which was always my dream and goal. Keep writing!
Erin Keeley Marshall
This makes me sigh a good and happy sigh. . . .
Ann H Gabhart
Perseverance – I’ve always said it’s the most necessary ingredient to be a writer. Keep writing. I’m so glad Lori did because her story is beautiful just as she is. I can’t wait to see what other stories she will gift to us with the help of the Lord and lots of hard work. Thank you, Lori. And Karen, for sharing one writer’s journey. And Wendy for believing in Lori.
I’ve been on a few of those journeys myself and just kept writing even when the editors were saying no.
Thank you. I’ve received so much joy just from writing and I’m only at the beginning of my journey. I look at someone like Lori Benton and wonder if I’ll ever get to that place. Twenty years seems so long! But her photo shows the joy she’s gleaned through that process.