Tag s | Writing Craft

Always Be Learning

During the summer of 1978 the #1 hit on Christian radio was the classic “He’s Alive” by Don Francisco (click to listen). That same summer I attended a Christian music festival in Estes Park, Colorado, and decided to take a class on songwriting 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 slid into 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?

I have never forgotten the lesson from that afternoon. Even the best need to keep learning.

Always Time to Learn

Over the years I’ve seen numerous bestselling authors attend writers conferences as students. For example, at a number of Mt. Hermon conferences, Francine Rivers sat among the rest, taking notes. More than once I’ve seen Liz Curtis Higgs attend a fiction-writing conference as a student, not as the main speaker. Despite the considerable success of both these ladies as writers, each had the desire to continue to learn and improve their craft.

The application is obvious. Never rest on your laurels. Always seek to improve. And always remember to give God the glory in all that you do.

If you sit in first place and think the competition will never catch you, remember the 1969 Chicago Cubs. (I was a huge fan as a kid, collecting their baseball cards and scouring the daily newspaper for their results. I can still name most of their starting lineup.) On September 2 they were in first place, far ahead of the upstart NY Mets. But the rest of the month saw them lose 18 of 26 games and squander what seemed to be an insurmountable lead. History remembers the “Amazing Mets” but only brokenhearted Cub fans remember the collapse of ’69.

Anyone Can Learn

When I became an editor after being a bookseller for more than a decade, I knew very little about the publishing side of the business. I had no formal training as an editor. So I read books on fiction and nonfiction writing and books on how to be an editor. I went to writers conferences as faculty but sat in the back of other teachers’ classes, taking notes.

When I became a literary agent, I read books and attended other agents’ classes at conferences.

My point is that if I can learn this business, so can you. The fact that you are reading these words is to your credit. Thank you for being intentional about this calling we have.

Strive for Excellence

We are in the “business” of changing the world with our words. Therefore, anything less than excellence should not be acceptable. We can always learn more, improve our work, and broaden our horizons.

“I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10b, ESV).

 

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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.”

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Criticism Is an Unhappy Part of the Business

I would like to tell you about a most enjoyable day. Our agency’s guidelines request that unsolicited manuscripts come via the post (I know it’s old-school but it works for us), but we still receive e-mail submissions. I spent an entire morning going through that particular in-box, having an assistant send standard e-mail rejection letters, since none were anything our agency could/would handle.

Very soon I received three separate responses:

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Even the Best Get Rejected

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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.”
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Who Gets Paid in Publishing?

With all the talk about Independent publishing vs. Traditional publishing and the talk about how writers can get rich if they follow a certain plan…I got to thinking. Maybe we should do a quick look at the Economics of Publishing to see if anyone is making off like a bandit. Sorry for you non-numbers people, but it is critical to understand the infrastructure (i.e. the lifeblood) that keeps your ideas in print.

The detective in the movie says “Follow the money,” so we shall. But first a disclaimer. These models are estimates based on years of reading contracts, profit and loss sheets, spreadsheets, and royalty statements. Your mileage may vary.

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The Only Answer

Hope you had a blessed Christmas!

The last four weeks I have posted what was, in actuality, an Advent series. Note the key words in each post:

Wait
Prepare
Expect
Give

 The Christmas season is one that is full of family, fun, food, and friends. But under it all is the foundation of our joy. The answer to our greatest longing. Of course, saying there is an answer assumes there is a question. Finances, relationships, job, writing, family, church, and school all ask different questions.

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Writers Give to Others

My hope is that this headline is true. While the writing profession (or obsession as some describe it) is a solitary one, it is in giving to others where its impact can be felt.

Time

The gift of time is precious as we are given a finite amount in this life. To mentor another writer. To blog freely. To teach at a conference or school setting. All are example of a beautiful way to both give and receive.

Talent

To use your talent to its fullest is a gift to others. To hone that talent so that it crescendos into the heart of a reader should be the goal of every writer. This talent must be shared. To hoard it for oneself would be a travesty and tantamount to the deadly sin of greed.

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Writers Expect Good News

Writers expect good news…any day now. Is it the curse of eternal optimism?There is this hope within each writer that it will be their manuscript that is chosen for publication. And the money will rain on them like a spring shower.

Despite the odds.

Despite the competition.

Despite the cynical, horrible, no-good, very-bad agents who review them.

Expectations

Are these expectations realistic? Of course they are. It is the essence of hope. For without hope there is no reason to continue the pursuit of the craft. You have to believe that you have what it takes.

Are these expectations practical? Of course not. Who said the writing profession was “practical?”

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Embedded Writing

During World War II, one of the highest profile journalists who wrote about the war for Americans back at the home front was Ernie Pyle. Ernie was one of the first “embedded” journalists in wartime and he lived and wrote while among the soldiers. He focused his stories on individual …

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