Monday, October 23, 2006

Ask the Authors: Monday

Ask the Authors: Monday
Welcome back to “ask the authors week.” This week we will pose five questions to our contributors, and you’ll find their varied answers to a single question each day.

If you have questions you’d like us to ask during a future “Ask the Authors” week, send it to As always, thanks for joining us!

Dee in Houston asks: What did you do in the waiting period after pitching your first novel? Begin another? Focus on other kinds of writing? Bite your fingernails? Feel poverty-stricken and sorry for yourself? Pray? I've done all of the above and they're not working.

I had already done a great deal of research for the second book, so after a few days off, I started the writing. And that's still my routine, except now I usually take more than a few days off between books. Prayer, of course. That's my beginning for everything. -BJ Hoff

I pitched my first novel to several publishers, and started right in on my next novel. Yes, I prayed hard, but I pretty much just kept writing, reading books about writing, and studying the craft. Fourteen years later, the work began to sell. I'm sure glad I didn't put any other books on hold to wait for a sale! --Hannah Alexander

I also did pray, lots, but found when I was writing (working on the next novel) I didn't feel so anxious about that exposing thing I'd so bold as to tell someone I thought I could write a novel. Writing helps! So does reminding myself that it isn't my job to write the great American novel but to be faithful, to "assume the position of a writer" regardless of what comes of it. It's a great leap for a control freak like me! -- Jane Kirkpatrick

By “not working,” do you mean these things haven’t helped your novel be accepted? I think it’s important to remember the element of time. God acts “in the fullness of time”--that is, when He knows the time is right. I can talk about time because it took 13 years of writing before I saw my first book in print! And I am so thankful, because God had a work to do in me before He could do a work through me, and He always thinks the former is more important. During all those years, I just kept writing and praying, praying and writing, until God decided it was the fullness of time. –Ann Tatlock

Dee, you ask such thoughtful questions. I placed myself in the hands of an extremely driven mentor. He explained that I needed to write a lot of manuscripts that year. I didn't know to work any differently than had dictated. So I churned them out one right after another. So instead of looking for that big contract to show up, my focus was to tell my mentor about my newest work; we'd start workshopping that piece next and that kept me from becoming too preoccupied with what was happening out in the publishing arena with my stories. There were three of us who met once a week. We were brutal critique partners; but we were all deadset on becoming full time novelists. But whether or not you have joined a critique group, the point being down and churn out the words on a daily basis. I wrote thirteen manuscripts that year; the thirteenth sold to BHP. When the editor asked if I could make the book a series, well, of course I said yes, and it sold. It wouldn't be honest to say I didn't sit on the mailbox. But as I drove home each day, my entire family could see all of those returned manuscripts falling out of the mailbox. Making rejection that visible certainly helps to steel you for the long road ahead. Getting published is not a long lasting goal; but staying published gives the writer purpose.—Patricia Hickman

I mailed out 21 queries, ten or eleven with sample chapters, the rest without (per instructions included in The Writers Market). Then I went to work on the sequel. Most of the responses were form rejections. Some never sent a reply. Two wanted to see more. One bought it. That publisher went bankrupt a few months later, after the contract was signed but before I received the first payment. By that time, the sequel was finished. Six months later, I sold both the first and second novels to another publisher and had begun to write my third. So I say, keep writing. Don't wait for an answer. Whether it is good or bad, it will come when it comes. You might as well be working on the next book. --Robin Lee Hatcher

Worked. It's amazing how distracting the ol' 9-5 can be. I'd been in publishing long enough to know you don't quit your day job until you've replaced your income at least three years in a row. You'll notice I'm still working...Sigh...—Karen Ball

I clean my house, have lunch with friends, get a manicure--in other words, I do something OTHER than writing (or reading, for that matter). Within a few days, my fingers are itching to work on another writing project, so I open a new file and start putting the pieces together for the next book. I also choose a new novel to read, to get my storytelling juices flowing. --Liz Curtis Higgs

Authors tend to do all of the above, but you learn to start another project and keep working. Waiting is the hardest part of writing---uncertainty can lead to paralysis, a deadly condition if you really want to write for long term. --Lori Copeland

This is a very unnerving time. The industry does, indeed, move at a snail's pace sometimes. I don't know how many times I would go out to my mailbox, waiting for the mail, hoping for a reply. It didn't help the process any! My suggestion is to get to work on other story ideas. I sold my first book like this: I pitched three or four projects. The editor liked my writing, but didn't like the story ideas. Finally I said, "Well, I've got this other idea I'm working on about an editor who receives an anonymous manuscript about the secrets of his life..." And he said, "That's it! That's the one I want!" So in the waiting process, be working, either on the book or another proposal. –Rene Gutteridge

The only answer for a writer is to keep writing. Don't stop. As you're writing one project, be thinking about the next. Work on two at a time sometimes. Write. Produce the words. You get better the more you work at it. Time spent stressing about a project that's "out there" is wasted time. As Stephen King said, he writes this way to keep ahead of the wave of doubt. The words of the great theologian Satchel Paige come to mind as well: "Don't look back. Something may be gaining on you." -- James Scott Bell

I’m always researching new ideas and working on new proposals while I wait to hear back from my editors. I used to do more sitting and twiddling of the thumbs. And worrying. Now I wish I had time to do that. : ) - Deborah Raney

Keep working. If you’ve only written a proposal, write the novel. If you’ve written a first novel, write a second. Not every manuscript or idea sells, so you need to press on. –Angela Hunt


At 8:22 AM, Blogger Richard L. Mabry, MD said...

I sense a pattern here--and it's a good one.
Thanks to all of you for sharing your insights.

At 3:21 PM, Blogger Erica Vetsch said...

Reminds me of the advice of Elisabeth Elliot..."Do the next thing". I love Ask the Authors weeks on Charis Connection. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and wisdom.


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