The Season of Harvest Will Come

A seed. Faith starts with a seed. So does any harvest.

Jesus himself promised his disciples that if they had faith as small as a mustard seed they could uproot a mulberry tree (Luke 17:6) or move a mountain (Matthew 17:21).

You need faith and a seed to grow a tree as well as uproot one. Woman picking applesOne of my favorite September activities is picking apples. I love visiting an orchard on a crisp fall day with clear blue skies when the sun still provides enough warmth that you can leave your jacket behind in the car. I enjoy the experience of reaching up through the branches to select the perfectly ripe apple as much as I enjoy eating the apple later.

Of course, the welcoming orchard laden with fruit at my favorite local farm is the end product of many years of work for the farmers, including labor throughout the growing season to ensure a bountiful harvest in September. Some years the blossoms freeze and then are scorched in the sun, limiting the fruit yield for the entire season. Other years, insects threaten the crop, creating extra work for the farmer. However, with proper care and patience, a harvest will come most years.

Writing and Sowing

Those of us who write books know that our labor of love is truly a process of sowing. We are planting ideas, and casting spiritual seeds on what we pray will be fertile ground. Like germination, which usually occurs hidden in the depths of the soil, writing happens in quiet, hidden places, away from the clamor of the crowds. We can envision our intended audience and select words and sentence structure with them in mind, but only God truly knows who needs to read our words. If we are fortunate, our words may touch a heart that hasn’t started to beat yet. Unlike speakers who can receive immediate feedback by looking into the eyes of the listeners in the room, writers may never meet many of their readers. The time and place when a writer’s words will have their impact is not the writer’s to know. A writer must create by faith and trust the outcome to God.

Waiting and Growing

All writers take a hurry up and wait journey, especially those who choose the traditional publishing route. This journey also is an expression of faith. Like the farmer who tends the apple orchard, the harvest of a writer means intense times of labor alternating with stretches of simply waiting on the process. The owner of the orchard waits for the apples to grow, and no one can rush this process without damaging the quality of the crop. The publishing process helps grow the manuscript and the writer should respect the process. The input of editors, reviewers, marketing team members, and designers makes for a higher quality book. Team efforts take time. This time may cause the writer’s friends and supporters to wonder whatever happened to the book. Tell your friends that your book needs to grow for a season before the harvest comes.

Publishing and Harvesting

The work in the orchard on cool spring days and hot summer ones leads to trees filled with apples at harvest time. For the writer, the solitude of writing and the patience required by the review process eventually lead to publication and the beginning of the harvest. Soon the initial reviewers will provide feedback, much like the farmer sampling a few test apples. Then the pre-ordered books will ship to the first wave of readers. I am in the process of early harvest for my first book, Questioning Your Doubts: A Harvard PhD Explores Challenges to Faith. Recently, a pastor shared with me his vision of a tree laden with fruit, providing nourishment for many people. That image captures my hope for my book.

What do you envision in your own season of harvest?

Organizing Ideas into an Outline

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The bridge between brainstorming great ideas to fill the blank pages of your book and coherent writing that communicates your message to readers is a detailed chapter-by-chapter outline.

But how do you begin to organize all the puzzle pieces of ideas?

Organizing Ideas

Organizing Ideas

Write down your random ideas

Like someone preparing to solve a jigsaw puzzle, you need to gather your ideas without worrying how they fit together. Collect your thoughts on a piece of paper or type them down the page of a Word document. If you must, scribble on a napkin as creativity strikes. Decorate your desk with post-it notes. Just capture the ideas and spread them out like puzzle pieces on a table.

When writing my first book, Questioning Your Doubts: A Harvard PhD Explores Challenges to Faith, I thought of illustrations and concepts that helped to communicate the main concepts in a certain chapter. I knew those ideas would shape the paragraphs yet to be written, but I needed more time to figure out how to make those ideas flow together. My first step was to capture those ideas and polish them into gemstones in their own isolated and random paragraphs. The process of stringing the gemstones together to make jewelry would come later.

Look for relationships between ideas

How do you begin to work a section of a jigsaw puzzle? I usually start by grouping together the pieces with similar colors or the pieces that have complementary shapes. Like a jeweler preparing to make a bracelet out of polished gemstones, I think about patterns. Before writing an outline for a book, I consider the relationships between the ideas in the chapter. Do I need to present the ideas in a chronological order? Should I arrange concepts next to each other in a way that creates contrast between different ideas? Should I build reader interest by adding a little suspense into the chapter, carefully delineating the problem before sharing the solution?

This grouping process helps me begin to write sections of an outline and start to order the sections of the chapter. If I have created paragraphs in the chapter itself, I cut and paste my ideas and write a few transitional sentences. I am on my way to filling those blank pages.

Make the central idea the focal point

The key to ordering the puzzle pieces correctly often involves finding that one central piece that helps you place all the others in the right place. In making jewelry, a jeweler will often select one gemstone as the focal point. When I write an outline, I ask myself what idea is the most important for the message I want to convey? Depending on my organizational pattern, that idea may need to come first, last, or even in the middle of the chapter. Placement of that idea is not about position so much as focus. Every other idea in my chapter will drive attention to that one main concept. Once I choose my central idea, the chapter outline falls into place. Writing the chapter is now as easy as filling in the blanks underneath each section of the outline with supporting details.

For non-fiction writers, a chapter-by-chapter outline is an essential component of the book proposal you will send to publishers. Deep into the publishing process, that outline may help you make structural changes to your book in order to sharpen your message. However important the outline may be to editors, think of that outline as a gift to you. It is your map through the thick forest of your ideas, keeping you from wandering off the path, and safely leading you to your destination. It will help you meet your deadlines on time and keep the ink flowing onto those blank pages. The time you spend writing your outline is an investment. So, go ahead, open the box, dump the puzzle pieces onto your desk, and outline your next book!

What method do you use to organize your writing?

Capturing a Moment from the Past

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When writing my first nonfiction book, Questioning Your Doubts: A Harvard PhD Explores Challenges to Faith (InterVarsity Press, 2014), I added illustrations from my family’s history going back several generations. My challenge as a writer was to capture a moment from the past for my readers in a way that enhanced the nonfiction content. Here are the steps I took to make the past come alive first in my memory and then in my manuscript:

20140424-195706.jpg1. Find an object or photo.

In preparation for writing an illustration based on a scene from the past, I gathered an object or photo from that time period to help me step back into time. I found that holding a tangible object from the past refreshed my memory and triggered the creative writing skills needed for storytelling in the midst of nonfiction content. Old crafts, jewelry, certificates, clothing accessories, or desk items worked well for me. If I did not have an item from the past, a similar present-day object functioned as a stand-in.

2. Involve all five senses.

We capture memories with all five senses, so we will recall the past better if we involve multiple senses. Listening to music from a past era, tasting food from an old recipe, or smelling flowers can help you remember an old event. Have your favorite snack, put a vase of flowers on your desk, and play some music, and then start writing!

3. Take a field trip.

If possible, go back to visit a place similar to the one in your manuscript. If you are writing about an event, attend a similar present-day event. Notice the details and the differences between the present event and the past one. Attending a university graduation ceremony as an alumna helped me describe my own doctoral graduation ceremony in my manuscript. To shape a scene set in the past, walk away from your desk to relive the memories.

4. Describe a moment in time.

If you are adding narrative material to a nonfiction manuscript, consider sharing a moment in time with your readers instead of a lengthy story. In order to better relate to my intended audience, I often chose a moment representative of daily life in a certain time period instead of a dramatic event or major milestone. By picking moments many people experience, you increase the likelihood of your writing connecting with readers. I tried to tell stories that hold truths that span generations and remain timeless.

5. Enjoy the writing process!

Writing down a tiny bit of history for a future generation of readers is a wonderful privilege. Relish the opportunity for a little time travel as you type the words of your manuscript . If you find happiness in your craft of writing, you increase the chance your readers will discover joy in the pages of your book. Smile as you take a snapshot of the past!

 

The Journey from Idea to Bookstore

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Someday I’d like to write a book. 

Book on the beachHaving spent most of my adult life as a research scientist affiliated with Harvard University, I like to break down goals into doable steps and analyze the process needed to achieve a certain result. While the publishing process is more art than science, here are some basic steps you will need to take to move from dreaming about writing a book to holding the finished product in your hands.

What’s the big idea?

Your nonfiction book of tens of thousands of words starts with one sentence that captures the main idea, or theme, of your book. Ernest Hemingway talked about writing one true sentence, and this goal is your first task. While this sentence may never appear in the book itself, you will need it in the book proposal your literary agent will send to publishers. Crystallizing the big idea of your book also will help you write a working title.

For my first book, Questioning Your Doubts: A Harvard PhD Explores Challenges to Faith (InterVarsity Press, 2014), I started the process by writing down a list of words and short phrases that captured the essence of my message. A cluster of these words became the working title. Once I had a working title, I was ready to write the outline for the book.

Who is the audience?

Books are for readers, not the writers. Publishers want books to sell, not collect dust on bookstore shelves. Accordingly, once you have your big idea, you need to determine who will desire to read the book. These readers are your audience. Perhaps your book is for a general audience, and you hope everyone will read it. However, publishers will require that you define your audience more clearly.

Is there an age group more likely to read your book? Will the book appeal to certain specialists or professionals, like pastors or counselors? What interests do your potential readers have that would make them likely to buy your book? Will your readers use the book in a group setting such as a Bible study or classroom, or will they tuck it into a carry-on bag for entertainment on an airplane ride or while soaking up the sun on a distant beach?

Think in terms of primary, secondary, and tertiary audiences. These categories will help you define who is most likely to buy the book as well as the wider audiences that may express interest. You will need to describe your audience in your nonfiction book proposal. Knowing your audience also will shape your writing style for the book. For example, a book for teens will use a different vocabulary than a book for seminary professors. A book useful for a specialist may need to include references and an index, while a book used in a church setting may benefit from a discussion guide.

 Why write this book?

The journey from idea to bookstore usually measures in years not months, so knowing why you are writing this book will fuel your motivation early in the morning or late at night as you face publication deadlines. The answer to this question will come in handy when family members and friends wonder why you are spending your free time in your office instead of having fun anywhere else.

Understanding what need your book will meet in the marketplace of ideas will provide direction as you decide what material you need to cover in your chapters and what falls outside the scope of this book. Ultimately, focusing on the purpose for writing this book will keep you connected to your calling as an author and the original dream that has moved from someday to today.

WordServe News: December 2012

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary!

As the year comes to a close, we’re so very grateful that WordServe Authors released 83 books in 2012, and signed 80 book contracts for nearly 119 books to release off in the future.

IntotheFreeJulie Cantrell had the agency’s first New York Times Bestseller in many years with her book Into the Free. It also garnered a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly. A rarity.

We had several books climb over the 100,000 copy mark:

* The Secret Holocaust Diaries of Nonna Bannister, written by Denise George and Carolyn Tomlin (Tyndale)

* The Devil in Pew Seven by Rebecca Alonzo, with James Pence (Tyndale)

* My Flight to Heaven by Dale Black (Bethany)

* Edge of Apocalypse by Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall (Zondervan)

* Linspired (adult and YA book together) by Mike Yorkey (Zondervan)

And we’ve had several authors show up on national shows:

* Rebecca Alonzo on Dr. Phil (twice)

* Lauren Scruggs appeared on several shows in November at the launch of her book, Still Lolo.

These WordServe authors signed their FIRST BOOK CONTRACT in 2012:

* Anita Agers-Brooks (Leafwood)
* Leigh Ann Bryant (Authentic)
* Deb DeArmond (Leafwood)
* Rebecca DiMarino (Revell)
* Jan Drexler (Love Inspired)
* Michael Hidalgo (IVP)
* Heather James (Kregel)
* Amanda Jenkins (Tyndale)
* Caesar Kalinowski (Zondervan)
* Heather Larson, with David and Claudia Arp (Bethany)
* Tracie Miles (Leafwood)
* Jerry and Caroly Parr (Tyndale)
* Christina Powell (IVP)
* Rachel Randolph, with Becky Johnson (Zondervan)
* Tina Samples (Kregel)
* Lauren Scruggs (Tyndale)
* Amy Sorrels (David C. Cook)
* Mandy Stewarad (David C. Cook)
* Janalyn Voigt (Harbourlight)
* Jeremy & Jennifer Williams (Thomas Nelson)
* Tricia Williford (WaterBrook)

These WordServe authors had their FIRST BOOKS published through a traditional publishing house:

* Julie Cantrell, Into the Free (David C. Cook)
* Arnie Cole, Unstuck (Bethany)
* Katie Ganshert, Wildflowers from Winter (WaterBrook)
* Adam Makos, A Higher Call (Berkley Caliber)
* Jay Pathak/Dave Runyon, The Art of Neighboring (Baker)
* Zeke Pipher, Man on the Run (Howard)
* Lauren Scrubbs, Still Lolo (Tyndale)
* Helen Shores and Barbara Shores Lee, The Gentle Giant of Dynamite Hill (Zondervan)
* Jordyn Redwood, Proof (Kregel)

So all in all, we had lots to celebrate!

New January Releases

WhatJesusSteve Addison, What Jesus Started.

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UnholyHungerHeather James, Unholy Hunger, her debut novel!

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RadicalDr. Rita Hancock, Radical Well Being

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AHigherCallAdam Makos, A Higher Call

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JustWhatDoctorRick Marschall, Just What the Doctor Disordered

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TheRiverGilbert Morris, The River Palace

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DilemmaOlivia Newport, The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow

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GreatStoriesJoe Wheeler, Great Stories Remembered #1, audio (eChristian)

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StinkyJoe Wheeler, Stinky: The Skunk Who Wouldn’t Leave (Pacific Press)

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New WordServe Clients

Several new clients have joined the WordServe stable with Alice Crider as their point person, but we’ll report more on that next month.

New Contracts

Christina Powell signed with Intervarsity Press (IVP) for her first book. The book is tentatively titled Question your Doubts. It explores the many roots of doubt experienced by both believers and nonbelievers, providing a corresponding response of faith from the rare perspective of a Harvard-trained research scientist who is also an ordained minister. (SF)

What can we help you celebrate?

WordServe Literary News

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of Water Cooler contributors’ books releasing in the upcoming month along with a recap of WordServe client news from the current month.

 New Releases

More Beauty, Less Beast  Deb Coty’s new release with Barbour Publishers about “Transforming Your Inner Ogre.”

Engaging Today’s Prodigal Carol Barnier’s first release with Moody Publishers to help parents find hope if their child is away from the faith.

The Surrender  Book #3 in “The Last Cavaliers” series by Gilbert Morris with Barbour Publishers.

New WordServe Clients

Dawne Beckel, while born and raised in Ohio, traveled across the nation searching for inspiration and adventure. Before settling on a B.S. in Marketing, she pursued an English degree from The Ohio State University. In March of 2012 she received her M.S. in Marketing & Communications from Franklin University. Dawne combines her deep love of history and passion for writing to create enchanting Christian historical romance works. You may also find her operating her cooking blog where she shares recipes from her Italian roots, and she currently serves as the Marketing Director for Zumba Wild. (Agent: Sarah Freese).

Andrea Boeshaar has been writing stories and poems since she was a little girl; however, it wasn’t until 1991, after she became a Christian, that she answered God’s call to write exclusively for the Christian market. Since then Andrea has had more than 25 novels published as well as numerous novellas and nonfiction pieces. She has served on the Advisory Board of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and is one of the organization’s co-founders. In addition to her own writing, Andrea is a certified life coach and helps writers organize, prioritize, set goals, and work toward publication. Currently, she is working on her new Civil War historical romance series, Melodies of War. For more about Andrea, visit her website at www.andreaboeshaar.com. (Agent: Barbara Scott)

Deborah DeArmond is a highly experienced and sought after executive coach, trainer, speaker, and facilitator, having worked in marketplace ministry with audiences at all levels across a broad spectrum of industries and organizations. She is an expert in the fields of leadership, communication, relationships, and conflict resolution. Deborah owns DeArmond and Associates, dedicated to helping others build successful solutions to the challenges they are facing. Deb is also the co-founder of MyPurposeNow.org, a website for Christian women 50+. Deb’s debut non-fiction project is titled Related by Chance, Family by Choice: Moms and Loving the Girls Who Married Our Sons. (Agent: Barbara Scott)

Jan Drexler, with her Anabaptist upbringing and ancestral ties to the Amish church, brings a unique understanding of Amish traditions, doctrine, and theology to her writing. Her ancestors were among the first Amish immigrants to Pennsylvania, fleeing intense religious persecution in Europe in the 17th century, and then continuing west, arriving in northern Indiana in the mid-1800’s. Their experiences are the basis for her stories. Jan is a debut author and has written her first Amish novel titled Love Bears All Things. (Agent: Barbara Scott)

Christina M. H. Powell, Ph.D., is a writer trained as a biomedical research scientist at Harvard University. She is also an ordained minister and public speaker. She conducted her doctoral research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School. After receiving her Ph.D., she performed research in the fields of bioinformatics and genetics at Harvard Medical School with a concurrent appointment at Massachusetts General Hospital, ranked the number one hospital in the country. As an undergraduate, she was named one of Glamour Magazine’s Top Ten College Women. She has written extensively on bioethics and contemporary issues. Currently, she is writing her first book, Question Your Doubts: Discovering and Developing Authentic Faith, which explores the many roots of doubt while offering a corresponding response of faith to everyone whose heart struggles with unanswered questions. (Agent: Sarah Freese)

Donna Schlachter is a debut fiction writer, although she has published two gift books previously. To date she has completed five full-length novels and a novella. She is currently writing another full-length contemporary romance and a historical novella. Her current project is titled Counterfeit Honor. (Agent: Barbara Scott)

New Contracts

Deb Coty signed a new contract with Barbour Publishers for another book of felt need devotionals. With a working title of Fear, Faith and a Fistful of Chocolates, the book will help women reel in the fear that so easily entangles them. (Agent: Greg Johnson)

Rick Johnson has agreed to write two new books for Revell, the first A Couple’s Guide to Romance. (Agent: Greg Johnson)

Tracie Miles signed a contract with Leafwood Publishers for her debut non-fiction work titled Stressed-Less Living: Finding God’s Peace in Your Chaotic World. Tracie is an international conference speaker for the popular and rapidly growing ministry known as Proverbs 31 Ministries and a monthly contributor to the Proverbs 31 Ministries Encouragement for Today devotions, which reach a half of a million people each day. (Agent: Barbara Scott)

Joe Wheeler has signed with Howard Publishers for a book of short stories about Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War Years. The book will be timed for release with the 150th Anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. (Agent: Greg Johnson)

Jeremy and Jenny Williams have signed with Thomas Nelson to tell their story of A Season of Courage. Jeremy played college football, married his sweetheart and eventually started a family. One child was born with spina bifida, then Jeremy was stricken with Alzheimers–while still in his 30’s. While in a wheel chair, battling the effects of his dibilitating disease, his team won the State Championship in Georgia, and he was named National High School Coach of the Year. Extreme Home Makeover eventually did a show for them and built them a new home, but a docudrama was also produced and will soon be available (http://seasonofalifetime.tv/). (Agent: Greg Johnson)

What We’re Celebrating

Barbara Scott is in attendance at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in Northern California from March 29 through April 3, where she is meeting with numerous editors and WordServe clients, as well as teaching afternoon workshops titled “What to Expect From an Agent” and “Follow Market Trends to Advance Your Career.”

Julie Cantrell’s book, Into the Free enjoyed a very strong February and early March, hitting the New York Times Bestseller list and, for three consecutive weeks, the USA Today’s Top-150. It continues to be among the top sellers at Amazon.com in ebooks for fiction.

What can we help you celebrate?