Monday, January 18, 2021

Writer, It’s a Matter of Trust


By Andrea Merrell

“I’m skeptical,” the woman said as she sat across the table from me at a writers’ conference during an appointment. “The rules keep changing. I just don’t trust the process.”

It was clear this lady was not there to pitch her book. She needed to vent. So, for fifteen minutes I gave a listening ear and let her vent. She talked about the varied opinions on her writing and how everyone’s guidelines differed. She complained about all the rejections she had received. And she had strong opinions about how her former publisher handled—or rather mishandled, as she said—her project.

She was discouraged and had definitely lost her trust, not only in the process, but in everyone involved. More than anything, I gathered she had lost trust in herself.

The writing and publishing industry has changed dramatically over the past twenty-plus years. And it continues to evolve. Many of the changes are good. Others, not so much. It’s hard to predict what the face of this industry—not to mention social media—will look like in five, ten, or twenty years. And it’s certainly not something any of us can control.

Bookstores are closing at a rapid rate. E-books and audio books are in a race against the print book. And self-publishing has become the rule instead of the exception. Unfortunately, many writers have given up, saying they can’t keep up and can’t compete.

I believe it comes down to a matter of trust. But where should our trust be? Should it be in an ever-changing industry or in the One who gifted us and called us to pen words of life, hope, and encouragement?

I’ve seen doors open for others—and even in my own life—that only God could open. We’re all familiar with Jeremiah 29:11. This is how the Message puts it: I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.

God has a plan for each and every one of us. Some say where He guides, He provides. Let’s add where He calls, He equips. When we choose to follow the Lord and use the gifts He’s given to us for His glory, we don’t have to be in control. And we don’t have to understand. His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are much higher than we can comprehend. When things look impossible, that’s when God does His best work.

If God has given you words to share, don’t hold back. Trust the gift He has given you. Trust yourself. But most of all, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV).


(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Stuart Miles.)





Monday, January 4, 2021

A New Year for Writers

 By Henry McLaughlin

 

Yep, 2021 is here. As bad as 2020 was it still seemed to fly by. Maybe faster for some than others. It was a year in which we all enjoyed successes and challenges. A year in which we all experienced things we never had before. But it’s behind us now.

2021 spreads before us. Do we view it with dread or with hope? You know, that’s entirely up to us. How we view 2021 is our choice. We decide how we will respond to every circumstance we encounter. Like all years, 2021 will be a year of decisions and choices. I find the best approach to decisions is to seek God first. Not that I always do it, but that’s my goal. Things turn out so much better when I do.

One of the decisions we face as we enter 2021 are our goals for writing this year. I don’t mean resolutions. They are meaningless because we usually forget them by the end of January.

By goals I mean what we want to accomplish this year and how we plan to do it. Without plans for achievement, goals are merely wishes.

Goals need to be specific and measurable: what am I going to do, and how will I know when I’ve done it? And they’re something I have to do. For example, I may set a goal to be traditionally published this year. This is unrealistic because I cannot traditionally publish alone. That requires a publishing house accepting my manuscript. I can’t control that. I can’t achieve the New York Times bestseller list or a Christy Award. There are too many things beyond my control.

What I can control is making my manuscript the best I can make it. Which requires writing and rewriting. It also requires getting feedback from critique groups or writing partners and listening with an open and discerning mind and applying what’s helpful.

Making my story the best it can be might also mean hiring an editor or writing coach. I’ve learned not to assume my self-edited manuscript can’t be improved. Jerry B. Jenkins once said the time to stop revising is when you’re no longer making your manuscript better, you’re only changing it. Knowing that point comes with experience and prayer. When we reach that place, it’s time to seek an editor.

Another aspect of setting goals is achievability. Can I achieve this goal? Do I have the skills and resources? If not, can I obtain them and still meet my timeline?

Maybe we need an interim goal. Such a goal might be to set a word count target. Again, it must be realistic. Writing 5,000 words a day is indeed a noble goal. But how likely am I to achieve it every day if I work full-time, have to take care of kids or elderly parents, or if I have ministry and church responsibilities. 

I’ve learned many things about writing from James Scott Bell. One of the most vital yet simplest is to set reasonable word count goals. And set them for a week, not daily. This allows for slow writing days or no writing days. We have to remember that, despite our best intentions, life happens, and we need to adjust. My writing goal is 2,500 words per week in creative writing—my fiction. I write creatively five days per week. 2,500 words may not sound like much. But if I achieve my goal for 50 weeks out of the year, I will write 125,000 words. That’s a complete novel plus.

One other thing our goals need is a timeline, a due date. By what date will we achieve our goal? Be firm with this. Be firm with yourself to meet it. Yeah, it’s that nasty thing we call discipline, self-discipline actually. An accountability partner is helpful, but they can’t do the work for us. Ain’t gonna get done if I don’t do it. And how else will I know I achieved it unless I know when it’s supposed to be completed?

So, my challenge to you, dear writer, and to myself is set some writing goals for 2021. Make sure they’re goals and not wishes. Can you measure them? When will you achieve them? Will you know when you meet them? Is it achievable based on where you are on your writing journey?

I pray God’s blessing on you as you enter 2021. Let the Lord guide you into what goals to set and how to achieve them. Without Him with you, nothing gets done.


(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Stuart Miles.)


Tagged as “one to watch” by Publishers Weekly, award-winning author Henry McLaughlin takes his readers on adventures into the hearts and souls of his characters as they battle inner conflicts while seeking to bring restoration and justice in a dark world. His writing explores these themes of restoration, reconciliation and redemption.

Besides his writing, Henry treasures working with other writers and helping them on their own writing journeys. He is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. He regularly teaches at conferences and workshops, leads writing groups, edits, and mentors and coaches.

Visit him at http://www.henrymclaughlin.org.

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