One Author’s Journey: A Tale of Publishing

With all this talk of publishing and where it’s been and where it’s going, I thought I’d tell you a story. One that happened not years ago, in the much ballyhooed Golden Age, but recently. So gather round, settle in, and listen…

Once upon a time, there was a young girl who wanted to write, who grew up to be a young woman who did write, creating stories she loved. Stories that made her heart soar. Not just because she wanted to write, but because God whispered His truths into her heart, and it whispered back in stories. And so she wrote. Book after book. And with each book she finished, she sought those who would join her on her quest to bring her stories to readers. Lo, seven times she finished a book, and lo, seven times sought an editor or agent. And lo, seven times was told…

“Your story is too long.” “The craft isn’t there yet.” “This doesn’t meet our needs.” “No.”

Still, the young woman kept writing. One day she sent a new story to an editor far, far away. The editor–at the end of a long, tiring day–saw an envelope with a return address from her beloved valley, far, far away. So though she was tired, she opened the envelope and read. And read. And loved the story that burst out of the envelope and came to life in her heart and mind. But the craft wasn’t quite there. So she contacted the young writer, told her how much she loved her story and to keep working at it.

And the writer did.

She wrote and studied and learned and wrote some more. And when the editor moved back to her beautiful valley from far, far away, she and the writer became friends. The writer faced many obstacles—from health struggles to writers’ block to many people in publishing, including her friend, the editor, telling her that the wonderful story she was writing now was too long. Way too long. “Even cut in half, it will be too long!”

So the writer edited. And edited. And edited. And year after year, the story grew stronger, more powerful, more beautiful. Finally, the young writer thought the story was ready. But voices around her warned that the story was still too long, that the writer didn’t have a platform, that historical fiction was dying in the Christian market, and many other cautions. The writer didn’t listen. She was listening instead to the voice of the One who whispered to her heart. And so she made her way across mountains and valleys and visited the famed land of Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference. There she shared her story with the giants of the land: agents and editors.

And lo, one talented agent saw the beauty and power in the writers’ story, and though it was long, she asked the writer if she could read the WHOLE manuscript. And when she had read, the agent knew the story was true and real and of God, so she joined the writer on her quest. With the agent’s direction and encouragement, the writer refined the story until every word, every character, every truth glittered like diamonds in a brook on a sun-soaked day. Off the manuscript went to editors, and soon the reply came:

From everyone, “no thank you.”

But the young writer and her talented agent did not give up. For the writer was already at work on another story, and when that one shone like the stars in the night sky, it was sent on its way to the editors.

And lo, one wise editor asked to read the whole story. And when she had read, she knew the story was true and real and of God, and she joined forces with the writer and editor to bring the story to those who needed to read it. And when time had passed, and the story was edited and proofread and typeset and nestled within the beauteous cover created for it, it winged it’s way to the booksellers. There it sat, on the shelf, waiting to be discovered.

And so it was.

First one reader, then another, then dozens, then more embraced the story, taking it into their homes and hearts, and when they read, they knew that the story was true and real and of God. And they cried from the mountaintops that others should come and read! And they did. And lives were enriched and changed. And awards flooded to the writer and her story, the highest awards from those who loved and savored words and story and truth.

And so, after 20 years of writing, editing, learning, and refining, and then refining and working with her wondrous agent and wise editor, an overnight sensation was born. Awards and accolades rained down on the writer and her book. But the writer didn’t stop to bask in the praise. For new stories already called to her, begging to be brought to life. And so she writes.

And writes. And edits. And refines. And so she will continue to do, as long as God whispers His stories into her heart.

The moral of the story? Actually, there are several. But before I share them—along with the names of the writer, agent, editor, and book (all of which I’ll do next week)–I want to hear from you.

What can we learn from this writer’s tale?

40 Responses to One Author’s Journey: A Tale of Publishing

  1. Avatar
    Jackie Layton July 23, 2014 at 4:04 am #

    Hi Karen,

    Never give up and don’t be afraid to work hard on our stories.

    I also am encouraged to see the writer wrote several stories because that’s what I do. I write, edit, edit some more, and polish, send it out and move on to other stories. As I learn how to write better, I hope each story will shine brighter until one day I get “the call.”

    Thanks for sharing this story. I can’t wait until next week.

  2. Avatar
    Ane Mulligan July 23, 2014 at 5:19 am #

    Karen, this is so close to my story. Recently another writer told me she was ready to give up. She’d been writing for 10 years. I told her if I gave up at that 10 year mark, I’d have missed my chance a year later when I got “the call.” Never ever give up is my advice to writers.

    BTW, I love your comment “God whispered His truths into her heart, and it whispered back in stories.” That’s going into my writer quote file (with your name, of course.)

    • Avatar
      Jeanne Takenaka July 23, 2014 at 8:02 am #

      I love your story, Ane. And I’m so glad you didn’t give up. You’re an encouragement for those of us who come behind you!

  3. Avatar
    Penelope Childers July 23, 2014 at 5:33 am #

    Never give up! Use rejections and feedback to learn. Ask others to join you on your journey and join them. And it is a journey.

  4. Avatar
    Bobbi July 23, 2014 at 6:05 am #

    What did I learn from the story? The definition of an ‘overnight success’.

  5. Avatar
    Jennifer Sienes July 23, 2014 at 6:15 am #

    It’s about the journey, not the destination. I believe that God puts the desire to write on the hearts of His followers with something other than publishing in mind. He’s more interested in our character and His plan than seeing our name in print. I love how this woman pursued Him first and through that, was able to persevere when others would have given up!

  6. Avatar
    Heather July 23, 2014 at 6:17 am #

    Never give up. Sometimes that can be hard. Just keep writting and don’t take it personal what people say. Some will have good ideas and if you keep writting what God puts on your heart, your writting will get better.
    And one day God will open the doors for the editting and publishing to begin. Thank you for the encouragement.

  7. Avatar
    Penny Zeller July 23, 2014 at 6:21 am #

    What a beautiful story, Karen, of perseverance and trust that at God’s perfect time, the young writer’s story would come full circle. I agree, although difficult, it’s so important to keep writing (or even starting a new writing project!) after a rejection.

    Just like Ane, I’m going to keep your quote “God whispered His truths into her heart, and it whispered back in stories” in my writer file.

    Great post!

  8. Avatar
    Xochi E Dixon July 23, 2014 at 7:02 am #

    This is a story of persevering faith. This writer listened to God and respected the wise counsel of the people He placed in her path. She trusted God’s timing and embraced the growing process.

    This writer depended on the Lord’s leading with Spirit-empowered courage, obedience, and peace. This writer seems to understand that the purpose of writing is to honor and worship God. She embraced every delay as a learning experience. God used every year to mold her heart and her story into a beautiful masterpiece.

    This story reminds me to seek intimacy with God first so that His voice is clearly heard. I am inspired to allow Him to guide my steps, to respect His perfect timing and to trust Him with every aspect of my writing journey. Hallelujah! 🙂

    Thank you for sharing, Karen.

  9. Avatar
    Victoria Dorshorn July 23, 2014 at 7:32 am #

    I learned that I’m not the only one who is learning to rewrite, edit, learn, rewrite, edit, etc., and that I need to continue writing, learning, submitting, and, most of all, seeking the Lord, listening to Him, and obeying Him. Thank you for the encouraging story.

  10. Avatar
    Ann Shorey July 23, 2014 at 7:36 am #

    Beautiful post, Karen. I have a good idea who the writer is. Her award-winning book is one of the best I’ve read in many years. Thank you for the encouragement to all of us with stories in our heads.

  11. Avatar
    Jan Cline July 23, 2014 at 7:42 am #

    I will bet this writer DID give up…many times as all writers do. We give up and quit writing over and over, sometimes weekly or even daily. “I can’t do this…I will never get it…who do I think I am…” are the tapes we play in our heads. What do we learn from this tale? That it’s not so much about not giving up as it is about refreshing our original vision to write. It’s about starting over time after time because we have to – listening to God’s gentle prodding. Each time we start over, we are a little stronger. I’ve given up so many times, I now just schedule it on my calender to keep moving on! How brave of this woman to keep revisiting her vision.

  12. Avatar
    Janet Ann Collins July 23, 2014 at 7:42 am #

    Karen, this post is beautifully written.

  13. Avatar
    Micky Wolf July 23, 2014 at 8:05 am #

    Perseverance. Perseverance. Perseverance. And trusting the whispers of the heart to share its words are truly of the One who beckons us to do the seemingly impossible. A beautiful story. Looking forward to next week. Thank you!

  14. Avatar
    Patti Jo Moore July 23, 2014 at 8:06 am #

    I love a story with a happy ending – – especially when it shows that hard work and perseverance do pay off – – even when it takes years.
    Never give up!! I think that should be written on a sign and posted above every writer’s work area. 🙂

  15. Avatar
    Jeanne Takenaka July 23, 2014 at 8:07 am #

    Karen, what a beautiful story. There are a lot of lessons to take from it. 1) Perseverance, 2) Just keep writing (do you hear Dori? 😉 ), 3) Don’t put more stock in what others say about our stories than we should are a few. But one that really spoke to my heart was to listen to the stories God gives us and believe He has a plan and a purpose for them. And for us as we write them. We need to believe in the stories enough to stick with them, but we also need to believe God’s got a plan with each one He gives us to write. They may be published. They may not, but God still works in and through them.

  16. Avatar
    Heidi Kortman July 23, 2014 at 8:24 am #

    There will always be something about the story that someone believes needs to be fixed, and the author will be willing to comply, for the opportunity the fixing will provide for the story.

  17. Avatar
    sally apokedak July 23, 2014 at 8:57 am #

    If she had cursed the agents and editors at the three-year mark, determining in her mind that they were just a bunch of nincompoops who had no vision (or worse, who were lazy and inbred and unchristian), and if she had self-published her very long book, she may have still won awards. We’ll never know for sure. But I suspect she’s happy she waited. I suspect she’s happy she worked and worked and worked and waited and prayed and went to market, finally, with a book that was way better than her earlier, very long book.

  18. Avatar
    Jenny Leo July 23, 2014 at 10:38 am #

    Write, study, polish, and try, try again.

    Since I began writing in middle age, sometimes I get discouraged with the glacial pace of the process and think, “At this rate, I’ll be 92 by the time I’m published!” Well, so what? If I’m 92 when my first book comes out, I’ll be the darling of the media, and reviewers describe me with words like “spry.” So as long as I have breath and mental faculties, I’ll keep on writing.

  19. Avatar
    Wendy Macdonald July 23, 2014 at 10:40 am #

    Karen, I learned from this lovely writer’s tale to continue writing, learning, and knocking on doors while becoming better and not bitter.

    Blessings ~ Wendy ❀

  20. Avatar
    cinda-cite July 23, 2014 at 10:45 am #

    “What can we learn from this writer’s tale?”

    that the writer, on being published, was no longer young?

  21. Avatar
    Robin Patchen July 23, 2014 at 10:51 am #

    Lots of morals to this story, but the one that stands out to me is this: Keep learning, keep improving. Just because God whispered that story in her ear didn’t mean it was perfect. She had a lot to learn about story and craft, and the best stories deserve the best writers to tell them. So when someone told her her craft wasn’t quite there, she didn’t stomp away angry. Instead, she dedicated herself to being the best storyteller she could be.

  22. Avatar
    Sandy Mauck July 23, 2014 at 2:10 pm #

    Well, the first thing I learned was that we might all do well to be editors to learn to write like you do. (<; You catch my interest every time.

    What caught me was the dedication to the call. I remember a conference years ago when someone said that when you are called to write—you have to write. And be like the man who buried his talent. Don't wanna be there.

  23. Avatar
    John Robinson July 23, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

    I loved this, Karen. Thank you.

  24. Avatar
    Carol McLeod July 23, 2014 at 2:23 pm #

    Walking in your destiny is hard work. You will sweat, cry and suffer from discouragement. But it is worth it.

    God has the final word. He honors men and women with a relentless dream in their hearts.

    Writers are made not born. If there is a story in your heart to tell, practice telling it over and over and over again.

  25. Avatar
    Chris July 23, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

    The cherry bud is beautiful but not ready yet, the stub on the branch stands out in it’s greenness, but it’s not ready yet, so when the sun beats down on that stub and it feels the stress, struggle and hardship it grows and changes into a beautiful color of red ready, pure and acceptable.

  26. Avatar
    Don Kimrey July 23, 2014 at 4:43 pm #

    Interesting. I want to read the conclusion.

  27. Avatar
    Sara Baysinger July 23, 2014 at 9:15 pm #

    Really needed to read this! My five years of writing/seeking publication don’t seem so long anymore. I always love reading the success stories of other writers. Can’t wait to read next week’s post!

  28. Avatar
    m. rochellino July 23, 2014 at 9:16 pm #

    I learned that YOU are one darn good storyteller Karen!

    Here is what your parable speaks to me:
    Timothy 4:16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; PERSEVERE in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both FOR YOURSELF and FOR THOSE THAT HEAR YOU

    Can’t wait until next week. God bless!

  29. Avatar
    Lorraine Walker July 23, 2014 at 9:22 pm #

    What can we learn from this story? We should persevere with patience and faith and listen to the experts!

  30. Avatar
    Martha Fouts July 24, 2014 at 7:34 am #

    Thank you for sharing this. I needed it!

  31. Avatar
    Karen Ball July 24, 2014 at 8:28 am #

    Love your answers, folks. Amazing how God uses a story to speak so many different things to our hearts.

  32. Avatar
    Carrie Turansky July 24, 2014 at 6:53 pm #

    This is a beautiful story and it’s very well told. I think I know who the author is, but I won’t spoil the fun for those who are waiting to hear it from you next week. I loved reading both of the books by this author. One lesson I take away from it is that if you have time to let the story simmer and you are willing to listen to input and make revisions, your story will be so much better.

  33. Avatar
    patti iverson July 30, 2014 at 11:40 am #

    I love you and I love that writer. You are both God’s special women, fer shurrrrre!

  34. Avatar
    Sally Matheny August 4, 2014 at 8:07 am #

    It’s a Monday morning and I’m popping through emails and websites instead of writing. When discouragement muddles my creative flow, I often look for education and encouragement from sites such as this.
    Your story reminds me not to stop writing just because the craft is not fully developed. If I want to produce and share fruit, I must continue to till the ground and pull the weeds–over and over again.
    This story will be mounted on my encouragement board. I am left inspired and ready to write again. Thank you.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] One Author’s Journey: A Tale of Publishing (A must-read that will motivate!) […]

  3. Writing Roundup | Inspire Christian Writers - March 31, 2015

    […] One Author’s Journey: A Tale of Publishing  Karen Ball weaves the tale of an overnight success, twenty years in the making! (The Steve Laube Agency) […]

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