Wednesday, July 7, 2010

ever learning

When I first started my journey to publication, an editor told me, "Enjoy the learning process." At that point, I had no idea what she meant. But now I think I'm beginning to understand:) I feel like I'm back in school. Here are a few things I'm learning...

1. Publishing is a business. You must show up for work every day and put your "cheeks in chair" as James Scott Bell would say, and crank out words, no matter your level of inspiration.

2. Writing is mostly rewriting. Good writing, anyway. If you think your work can't be improved, it probably needs more work.

3. Write for yourself first. Write what you love. Write with your heart. Your whole heart.

4. When you finish a first draft, set the manuscript aside for awhile. Print out a hard copy and then go over it with a blue pen or a red pen. There should be lots of color when you're done. Have fun incorporating all those changes:) Then do it all over again. And again...

5. Be prepared to deal with insecurity, disappointments, and naysayers. Being published doesn't mean staying published. Or feeling like you've arrived. Or having everyone love your book.

6. Don't expect your editor to slap you on the back and call you buddy. It's a business relationship. When your work is the best it can be, they'll be pleased and so will you. Mostly the writing life is a solitary life where you are left alone to write the best book you can.

7. Don't become so burdened by the rules of writing that you can't write. Prologues, backstory, narrative and all the "no-no's" have their place.

8. Be gracious. Send a handwritten thank you note, a bouquet, or gift basket to your agent, editor, or a writing mentor.

9. There are many, many fine writers out there and very few publishing slots. If by some miracle and much hard work you publish a book - WOW! Don't let it go to your head.

10. Be thankful. I love this verse: I am not worthy of the least of all Thy mercies. ~Genesis 32:10

I wrote this particular post in May but it was such a departure from my usual I kept it as a draft till now. I don't write much about writing. There are so many other fine blogs that focus on that, including my agent's, Janet Grant. She has a very insightful post today that gives you a front row seat regarding the writer-publisher relationship.

Can you add to my list? Do you enjoy the writing life? Or are you thankful you are a reader and not a writer?


  1. Oh Laura, you have really hit the nail on the head today. It IS work. All this STUFF we do is fun, but when it gets right down to it, it is a commitment just like anything else. Hopefully it is a commitment we LOVE!

    Being unpubbed, I have nothing to add except for this - the love and mentoring that you and many like you share on a daily basis is part of what keeps me on track, knowing that while this is a "down" period for me, it won't last forever. Thank you, Laura! I love having you for a "co-worker!"

  2. Wonderful blog! Writing is much akin to art.
    "Oh! write, write. Finish it at once. Let there be an end of this suspense. Fix, commit, condemn yourself." - Jane Austen


  3. Good morning, Laura! Fascinating post, I've enjoyed reading your insights.

    Right now, I am primarily a reader, but that said, I must admit I am a closet writer. Back when I was in high school, I loved writing short stories. I remember the one I wrote my sophomore year was set during the Russian Revolution. It was about a Russian noble woman whose family fled to the Crimea during the Revolution. She fell in love with a German officer (the Crimea was occupied by the Germans during part of 1918). When I wrote another one during my senior year, I wrote about their daughter who fell in love with an American in the late 1930's.

    I still have ideas that percolate in my head. Last year, I tried National Novel Writing Month in November. It ended up being a dismal failure. I figured out why a few weeks ago, I am a horrible perfectionist. So I've decided I'm going to try it again this year, but I am going to keep in my that what I write will not be perfect.

    That said, I love what you said about writing for yourself, and writing what you love. The idea that is percolating right now, is one that I love. I'm actually looking forward to writing it, but I'm going to wait until November. Hopefully I'll have a decent outline of it by then.

  4. I loved everything you said. I agree with it all, even though most of it I haven't gotten to yet. But I am definately going to print my manuscript this time. I didn't do it on my last one and I want to try that method. And having you give that advice makes it doubly important. :) Thanks for the great list.

  5. I echo each of your points - and Regina's. Those of us who are unpubbed are very grateful for the willingness of authors (published and unpublished) to share what they've learned. And, if we're truly writers, we'll never stop learning.

  6. These are really great points! I love all that you've shared here. I dont think most people know how much revising...and revising...and rewriting...and cutting...goes into writing. My experience with writing was writing done at a more quick pace that often led to errors. Nothing like "I need that story in an hour" to get your pulse racing ;) I think I'm still trying to get over it and the criticism that goes with being a writer. I also worry that I wouldnt be able to meet my own expectations ;)

    I love hearing your experiences with writing and your advice! Ultimately I think people who are true writers are called to write, no matter if they put it in a drawer, only share it with friends, or try to get it published. Writers always write in some fashion. I'm just glad you werent one to put your stories in a drawer!~!

  7. Prayerfully blogger will post and keep my comment this time :)

    Laura, thank you for another AMAZING post! I'm sure it is a blessing to all the writers (published and unpublished) here because it is a blessing to me, a "reader" :)

    I must confess, I am happy I'm just a reader and not a writer. I do LOVE to write poetry, though- its flowing prose has certainly captured my heart and my pen, and prayerfully someday the Lord can use me. But I don't know if I could ever pull off what you and the other girls here do- not sure I would even attempt it. But God does equip who He calls, right? ;) Blessings to you all on your journeys!

    I guess I can't add to your list, but I will say that you truly go above and beyond the call of your craft (and your list) for your readers in ways few authors are able to claim. You are loved and a favorite author of many not just because of your wonderful books, inspiring stories and incredible talent with words, but because of who you are AFTER the book is closed. You are an encouragement, a blessing, and a JOY! I am honored to read your work and honored to call you friend :)

    And, HOW CUTE! I would have LOVED for my classroom to have looked like that one when I was in school :)

    Praying your day is beautiful and you get to enjoy the sun!!

    Amanda Stanley

  8. I'm happy to read your insights and lessons learned in your writing journey. And I appreciate that what you've written is not all business-like, as in a dry recitation of facts. I can read your heart in it.

    As an unpubbed writer, I will only say this---If you love to write, write even if you never get published. Write because you enjoy it, not because you want to make money or be famous.

  9. Oh, Laura, I needed to read this today. Thanks for posting what was on your heart. You see when I was reading about Much-Afraid God called me to put my writing on the altar. In my case, not necessarily whether or not I will be published but the actual writing process itself. Homeschooling with a few littles it is not the season for everything right now. Most of my writing is done after 9 p.m. when everyone (yes, even my husband, he's a morning person) is in bed. By that time I don't always have much energy left and I wonder if I will ever finish my novel. But I know its all in God's time

  10. Wonderful wisdom, Laura. I think everyone needs a reality check now and again, no matter what their chosen profession. And treating it like a business -- a career -- with the same standards you would a regular 9 to 5 job just makes sense.

    I read two of the blog posts by Janet Grant and it really hits home how businesslike an author needs to be even from the depths of his/her creativity!

    And I really appreciate you taking the time to share this wisdom with us. I am awestruck by the number of generous and giving authors willing to take the time to share not only their own writing journey, but to encourage others in theirs.

    You rock, Laura!!!!!

  11. So true. Amen. No kidding. :)

    Miss you! See you on the other side of this edit.

    [ducks her head and puts her nose back to the grindstone]

  12. I have always been the reader...... well, almost always. One day I decided I would write a book (long time ago). I actually started a very good story (at least I thought so) about a girl who is a bit rebellious and one evening when she is bathing alone (a no-no according to her family, because of Indians in the area), her family's farm is burned and she sees the smoke and runs home to find everthing in flames.
    So that is how it started (in abbreviated form) but then I realized that it was actually a few stories that I had read and my mind was combining the story-lines together, with some change.
    At that point I decided I had a hard time coming up with ideas on my own.
    Oh well, I don't think God intended for me to be a writer......... just a reader!

    I'm just glad He has gifted talented people like you with the ability to create wonderful stories for people like me to enjoy!

  13. Regina, Thanks so much for your support ~ so glad we're co-workers! Well said! I've had such a love affair with writing and books all my life that it was a bit of a shock when it became work:) And those down times you mention don't last, but are uncomfortable when they come. But God has a plan...

  14. Sharon,
    Oh, love the Jane Austen quote! I've often thought writing is so akin to art. Your wonderful blog/site and other artists who visit here prove it:) Thanks for sharing a bit of inspiration!

  15. Michelle,
    I just knew you were a closet writer:) And we have another common interest ~ Russia and her turbulent history. Sounds like you have the book of your heart in the making ~ the story premise sounds fascinating! Letting it perc for awhile in your head and heart is sound advice. The fact that you're a perfectionist makes me smile:) I am, too, and have always been. It helps in bringing a manuscript to that next, better level but it is also the reason I can't bear to read my books once they're in print. I still see things to change...
    So glad you are doing NaNoWriMo again. It's challenging and gets you going. It really is the heart of the matter that carries a book forward. So write with passion and you'll find the story flowing!

  16. Casey,
    I can't tell you how helpful a hard copy of a manuscript is! In fact, I'm getting ready to print out a final copy of TCL this morning and am sure, even after countless edits onscreen and off, that I'll find more to change. There's something about holding a manuscript in hand that is just so much better to me than my laptop. Kind of like the book/Kindle controversy.
    Praying for you as you write, dear Casey:)

  17. Brenda, So true. I remember that Francine Rivers said, even after countless bestsellers and awards, that she still feels like an apprentice. I've always been struck by her humility but she's right. There is always more to learn and absorb, if we're willing and teachable. And we know that the Lord enables the humble of heart. May we always be that!

  18. Heather, I did put my stories in a drawer for 40 years:) But then out they came. And you make such a great point ~ real writers write no matter what, even when they're not paid, in some form, just for the JOY of writing. May we never lose that!

  19. Amanda,
    You are a writer and a poet and a reader ~ a delightful combination! I love poetry, too, and used to write it in my younger years. And yes, whom God calls he equips! I had Lael thinking just that in TFD when Ian came to the fort:)

    You are always so encouraging and uplifting ~ I get so aggravated when blogger loses your posts! But this one came shining through and I appreciate is so much. Bless you today in all you do!

  20. Mary,
    YES, write no matter what, especially NOT for the $ or notoriety (spell check needed?)! For a true writer, writing needs no incentive:) The joy of it is enough!

  21. Julia,
    You are at the same place I was when my littles were little (love how you said that). I had to put my writing on the alter, too, and didn't touch it for 5 years. My boys were very small and I was starting to homeschool. I remember weighing what was really important in my life. I decided I would rather be a good mother and a bad writer than a good writer and a bad mother. It was such a relief to put TFD in a drawer! I loved that uninterrupted 5 years. And then the Lord redeemed the time when it was the right time, by giving me the green light to take it out of the drawer again. There are seasons in our lives and you are in a littles season. Enjoy every demanding minute! The writing time will come if that's His best for you.

  22. Okay, I can spell altar:) Can you tell it's morning?!

  23. Kav,
    Love that I rock! That's such a clever way of saying so much:) I hesitated to even post this yesterday as I am still learning so much and feel foolish sharing the little bit I've gleaned. Plus I don't want to come across as a know-it-all when I in fact know so little. Publishing is so different than my heart motivation for writing. It is, as Sarah Sundin so succinctly said, a rocky and emotional journey.

    YES, we really are blessed by the number of blogs out there that promote writing and take time to mentor. Seekerville has a huge following and it's easy to see why. Also, Casey here has started a wonderful group blog that will, I'm sure, become every bit as popular as their sister, Seekerville. I wish I had more time for visiting blogs as it really is enjoyable and inspirational. Bless you today, Kav, as you write and read for Him!

  24. Lori,
    Glad you came up for air over here:) I'm with you on that edit. As soon as I log off here it's to edit-ville I go:) Praying for you! Looking forward to hearing what you've learned in this busy last week or so!

  25. Lisa,
    I'm soooo glad you're a reader (and mom and wife and crafter/artist) instead of a writer! But if you were to write, I'd like your books simply because of the settler/frontier themes you've listed here:) It really can be hard coming up with plot lines and things like that. Someone said there are no original plots, just revised ones. So true!
    Back to work for me. Bless you all!

  26. Thanks so much, Laura. Its so comforting to know you were where I am! I think God has shown me blogging is a way to keep my hand in the writing without being quite as demanding as my novel. You're so right, I don't want to miss this season and I'm going to keep reminding myself of that. And if I get a little time here or there to work on my story, I can. These years are too sweet to miss :)

  27. I found my way here by way of Heather enticed by the subject of your novel.
    I am sure that every moment of hard work and re-writing that you do is a labour of love and such devotion is found on the pages of your novels.

  28. Susan,
    You understand the writer's heart so well ~ thank you. A book really is a labor of love. So much of oneself goes into every page it's almost scary. Kind of like putting your heart out there (or your journal!). Thanks so much for stopping by. I'm off to visit you next:)