Seven Steps to Guaranteed Success as a Writer

Every author seems to have a different idea of what “success” in their field means to him or her. For some, selling at least five thousand (in Canada) or ten thousand (in the States) books, thereby qualifying them to claim the lofty title of “Bestselling Author” is the goal on which they set their sights. For others, maybe it’s a hundred thousand copies, or a million.

For some, it isn’t about the numbers, but about awards. But which award is the one that will make them feel as though they have finally arrived? Is it the Carol? The Christie? The Pulitzer? I’ve noticed several big-name authors who have won awards in the past entering the contests again, so maybe one award isn’t enough. What, then, is the magic number?

Or maybe it’s a certain amount of positive feedback, a sufficient number of glowing reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, recognition at conferences or even on the streets, enough followers on social media.

You see the problem. Success is a wildly ambiguous and deeply personal concept. Chasing that elusive label can be and, I suspect, is in most cases, a discouraging, disheartening, and depressing endeavor. The intended audience for our work can be mind-numbingly uncooperative when it comes to providing us with the accolades, reviews, purchases, and general awestruck-ness in our presence that would finally push us up to that mountain peak we are continually scrambling to reach. So too, for that matter, can agents, publishers, editors, and judges of contests.

Success1

A month ago I posted on this site about my love-hate relationship with Christian writing awards. I have to admit I am coming down a little harder on the side of love these days as my books are currently finalists for five awards. Am I encouraged? Definitely. Am I grateful, honored, and excited? Absolutely. Am I able to bring myself to claim that I am now a successful author as a result of these affirmations? Not even close.

So what is the solution? To continue to blindly stumble along, attempting to achieve some random number of readers or books sold or reviews in order to feel that I am now a success? Or is it possible that I, as a Christian author, need to look at the whole success thing from an entirely different perspective? If so, the perspective that is inevitably the best one to try to view things from is that of Jesus. During his time on earth, Jesus said some radical, countercultural things about success. He suggested that “making it to the top” in the eyes of the world was not only a poor measure of success, but could, in fact, be considered spiritually detrimental because it is those who are the least in the eyes of the world who are the greatest in the Kingdom of God.

Not that we should refuse to work hard or strive for excellence. Quite the contrary. Working diligently and doing our best honors God. The difference is in the motivation. The Bible teachers that everything we do should be done as to the Lord, and not unto man. By that standard, our success cannot truly be measured by sales, awards, or accolades bestowed on us by other human beings.

For an author who believes, then, success can only be defined by whether or not our work accomplishes the purpose God has for it. So here, in my humble opinion, are seven steps to follow in order to be guaranteed success in your writing:

1)      Listen for and receive the words God has for you to write

2)      Study the craft so that you can write those words in a way that honors the one who gave them to you

3)      Humbly accept feedback and editing that makes the work better and stronger

4)      Pray about the best platform for your work to appear on

5)      When the story or teaching God has given you does come out in written form and become available to others, seek His guidance as to the best way to use the resources of time, money, and connections he has gifted you with in order to market and promote that work

6)      Pray that God’s will may be done through the words you have written

7)      Leave the results to him

If I follow the above steps and don’t find success in the eyes of the world—however I or other people may define that—I can still trust that the plans God has for my work have been or will be fulfilled, whether or not he ever reveals those plans to me. And I can let go of all my strivings, and rest in the sure and certain knowledge that my work is a resounding success.

Advertisements

2017: The Journey

The writing life is as full of ups and downs as a train ride through the Rocky Mountains. For those of you who put your words to paper and send them out to the world to read, this is not a revelation. As I write this post, there are just four hours left in 2016, a perfect time to reflect on the year that was, and to look ahead to the one about to begin.

train3.jpg

Personally, it was a year of both peaks and valleys with my writing. I had two romantic suspense novels come out, the second and third books of a trilogy. The books, and the series as a whole, received great reviews and feedback, a definite mountain experience. Sales were somewhat disappointing, however, which at times was deflating.

I finished writing and am now in the polishing-and-receiving-critiques phase of a two-book series, which is very exciting. Not entirely sure the best route to take to get them “out there” at the moment, though, and the task of figuring all of that out is somewhat draining, I have to admit.

I made much more of an effort this year to figure out marketing strategies and the best and most effective ways to promote my work. The support I received from fellow authors and readers was very encouraging, but the sure knowledge that so much more remains to be done in this area, and that promoting my own work is just about the last thing I want to do, is mentally and emotionally exhausting.

Some days the pull down into the abyss, the temptation to quit and “get a real job” was strong. But there were good days too, days I was able to rise above disappointment and disillusionment and focus on producing the best work I could in order to honor God and the gift he has given me and, after that, to leave the results up to him.

Riding a train through the mountains is an interesting experience. For the ordinary passenger, there is little or no view of the way ahead. Once a summit is achieved, there is a moment of awe at the breathtaking view spread out to either side. Before one even has time to truly enjoy being at the top, however, the train once again plunges down into the unknown. Only an unwavering trust in the one operating the engine prevents panic and allows one to sit back and enjoy the ride.

The same is true for me as I look ahead to 2017. In 2016, my writing journey shifted from spectacular to worrisome to exciting to exhausting, sometimes from one day to the next, occasionally from hour to hour. The way ahead appears equally daunting and exhilarating. Which leaves me with only one recourse, one resolution, if you will: to trust the one who knows the path I need to take far better than I do, who can see it much more clearly than I can, and who alone can guide me along it every step of the way.

And if, as other resolutions fall to the wayside, I can keep this one, 2017 will be a year of peace, regardless of the peaks and valleys I will inevitably traverse along the way.

Are We Ready?

My latest romantic suspense novel released yesterday. The Morning Star Rises is the third book in The Seven Trilogy, after The End Begins and The Dragon Roars. In a recent interview, I was asked if I thought I had accomplished the purpose I’d had for the series when I set out to write it.

51vdnmrjnkl

It was a great question because it made me stop and ask myself what that purpose had actually been, something every author should probably do. Had I wanted to tell a strong, compelling story? Yes. Did I want to be obedient and write the story God had given me to the best of my ability? Always. But what was my unique, specific purpose for this particular trilogy?

Thankfully, I knew the answer. My hope and purpose in writing The Seven Trilogy was to pose the question, “Are We Ready?” to the North American church, the body of Christ, in the twenty-first century.

Times are changing. There is a shift in society that can be felt in the air and seen and heard in the public square in both written and spoken form. Hostility toward Christianity and the Bible is growing. If, as a society, we continue on our current trajectory, the very real possibility of persecution of believers could soon exist, not just in other countries around the world, but right here, in the west.

Are we ready?

In writing The Seven Trilogy, I created a world, forty years in the future, in which such persecution is not a rumour, not a distant, far-off possibility, but reality. With Canada under martial law after a radical group calling itself Christian blows up several mosques across the country, the military is sent in to oppress and keep an eye on believers. Basic rights such as owning a Bible, teaching Christian principles to children, and receiving a fair trial are stripped away. Punishments are meted out swiftly and ruthlessly.

Army Captain Jesse Christenson and believer Meryn O’Reilly find themselves on opposite sides of a ideological chasm that seems impossible to bridge. Can they find a way to be together?

In the midst of the chaos and confusion of this time, when everything they believed in when it was easy to believe is put to the test, the Christians in the story cling to two truths: God is still on his throne, and he has not abandoned them.

A common thread among reviews of the first two novels is that the story made readers stop and think about what they really did believe, how much they were willing to sacrifice for those beliefs, and whether or not they would be able to withstand the threat of severe persecution.

So we’re thinking about whether or not we’re ready. And we’re talking about it, me as much as anyone. Because I didn’t write the books as someone who had it all figured out and wanted to impart my great wisdom on the subject to everyone else. I wrote them as someone deeply concerned, not only about whether the church as a whole is ready for what is to come, but about whether I am ready.

I still don’t know. There is no way to know, really, until what is coming actually arrives. But we can take steps to prepare ourselves.

The believers in these novels wish they had read more, studied more, committed more Scripture to memory before it was taken from them. We still have time to do that.

They regret not doing more to share the gospel with their children and with everyone else in their lives before they had to risk their lives to do so. We can still talk freely about the gospel and expect to receive openness and interest at best, or mocking and dismissal at worst.

After all churches are closed, they agree to continue to meet in secret, risking imprisonment if they are caught. We are still able to meet and worship openly without fear of reprisal.

There is still time, but time does appear to be running out. If The Seven Trilogy inspires believers (including me) to ask ourselves if we are ready, if it generates discussion and gets us thinking about the best way to use the time, resources, and freedoms we have left wisely and effectively, if it drives us to our knees to ask God to help us prepare ourselves and our families for whatever the future brings, then yes, its purpose will have been served.

WordServe News: September 2016

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary this month!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of Water Cooler contributors’ recently released books along with a recap of WordServe client news.

New Releases

41rajcxlqwl-_sy346_Stephen Arterburn and Dave Stoop released Take Your Life Back with Tyndale Momentum. Your past circumstances don’t have to define you, and they don’t have to determine the direction of your life. This book offers proven advice to help readers move from reactive attitudes and behaviors to healthy, God-honoring ones. Two additional resources are also available: the Take Your Life Back Workbook, and the Take Your Life Back Day by Day devotional.

51vdnmrjnklSara Davison released The Morning Star RisesBook 3 in The Seven Trilogy, with Ashberry Lane. As martial law continues in Canada in 2054, Meryn O’Reilly faces a dark and uncertain future after shocking revelations devastate her life. She is determined to follow God’s call, but her plans could cost her everything. She struggles to surrender everything to a God who is always in control, even when circumstances suggest otherwise.

51rynvgx3pl-_sx322_bo1204203200_-1Jan Drexler released Mattie’s Pledge with Revell. The second book in Jan’s Journey to Pleasant Prairie series, Mattie’s Pledge offers readers a poignant glimpse into Amish life in the 1840s, including the Amish migration west from Pennsylvania–and into the yearning heart of a character they won’t soon forget.

51qtfwstnrl-_sx331_bo1204203200_Leslie Leyland Fields released Crossing the Waters with NavPress. The gospels are set in a rich maritime culture on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, yet we’ve missed much of this perspective―until now. Leslie Leyland Fields―a longtime Alaskan fisherwoman―takes us out on the Sea of Galilee, through a rugged season of commercial fishing with her family in Alaska, and through the waters of the New Testament.

51ju4nleiplJim and Lynne Jackson released Discipline that Connects with Your Child’s Heart with Bethany House. Did you know that the way we deal (or don’t deal) with our kids’ misbehavior shapes their beliefs about themselves, the world, and God? With warmth and grace, Jim and Lynne Jackson, founders of Connected Families, offer four tried-and-true keys to handling any behavioral issues with love, truth, and authority.

scripture-doodleApril Knight released ScriptureDoodle with Cook, a 6-week devotional experience to help readers connect creatively with the Word of God. Exploring topics such as being generous, finding rest, facing grief, and more, this devotional provides inspiring exercises, prompts, and ready-to-color designs to give your heart the creative space it needs while helping you integrate God’s Word into everyday life.

41rpmextf5lKara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin released Growing Young with Baker Books. Churches are losing both members and vitality as increasing numbers of young people disengage. Based on groundbreaking research with over 250 of the nation’s leading congregations, Growing Young provides a strategy any church can use to involve and retain teenagers and young adults.

hungryShellie Rushing Tomlinson released Hungry is a Mighty Fine Sauce with Shiloh Run Press. Tomlinson, the Belle of All Things Southern, serves up down-home southern dishes with a healthy side of laugh-out-loud entertainment in the book, which features dozens of tried-and-true recipes complemented by entertaining stories.

New Contracts 

Chris Conlee signed a two-book deal with Baker Books. The first book, Love Works, will look at biblical love and how to put it to work in our lives, and will release at the end of 2017.

Craig Selness signed with Worthy Publishing for his book How to Manage Your Pain Without Becoming One, addressing the reality of chronic pain and encouraging and equipping the reader to endure and still thrive.

New Clients

Wendy Holtz, Gwen Ellis, and Scott Watson signed with WordServe this month. Welcome!

balloons-25737_640

What We’re Celebrating

The California Gold Rush Romance Collectionwhich includes contributions from Dianne Christner, hit the EPCA Bestsellers list for September.

Terry Brennan’s book The Aleppo Code won the 2016 Carol Award for excellence in Christian fiction in the Mystery/Suspense/Thriller category. Congratulations, Terry!

Sara Davison’s new release, The Morning Star Rises, received a glowing review from RT Book Reviews.

Why I’m Not Posting to this Blog Today

Okay. Here I go. Computer is booted up and ready to go and I am finally going to write that blog post I have committed to sending off at some point today. Nothing like leaving things to the last minute. But I’ve got it together now. I am ready to put words to paper and come up with something brilliant.

social mediaRight after I check my Facebook page to see if anyone has tried to contact me. Hey, new marketing advice from someone I’ve never heard of. Might be the missing piece I’ve been looking for to send my book sales soaring. Yes, I will subscribe to your newsletter. Sign me up.

Okay, back to work. Feeling a little sleepy though. Maybe I should go outside for a few minutes; a little fresh air might clear my head. I should probably take a quick look at the weather site to see what I should expect if and when I get out there. Looks pretty good. Okay, I’ll log out right…  Wait, that headline is interesting. Just going to click on that to see what the article is about. A bear roaming the streets in a town a thousand miles from here? Fascinating. How did they…? Stop. Focus. I’m supposed to be writing that post.

And I will. Right after I check the sports page to read the write-up on the game last night. Yes, I watched the game (what else did I have to do?) and know exactly what happened. Still…

Oh yeah. I need to register for NaNoWriMo and see who else has signed up that I can be buddies with. Preparing to write that novel is consuming far more of my time and thoughts these days than actually sitting down to write the thing would. Which reminds me, I need to do that too. I have a book contract, a looming deadline, another commitment. I have to write the third and final book in a trilogy. I’m going to get started on that soon. Maybe I’ll go back and read the last few chapters of book two in the series to get me in the zone again.

As soon as I send out a quick tweet so my readers know I’m still around and haven’t fallen off the face of the planet. There. Done. My 140-character contribution to the global conversation. Now back to that post.

Wow, that coffee smells good. I’ll just grab a cup to fortify myself so I can really be productive today. Oops. We’re out of cream. Better text a shopping list to my husband. If I take the time to go to the store, this post will never get written.

Okay, I’m back, fortifying cup of coffee in hand. Wait. What’s that notice in the bottom corner of my screen? My anti-virus coverage is about to expire? That can’t be good. I better renew that. Should I stay with the same company? As far as I know, I haven’t had a virus, so they must be all right. I’ll just e-mail my writer’s group and ask who everyone uses for protection. Really don’t want to lose all this great stuff I’ve written—or thought about writing, anyway—just because I didn’t go with the right company. There, I’ve put the question out there. I’ll go back on in a few minutes to see if anyone has responded.

My phone’s buzzing. My husband, responding to my text. Oh yeah. I forgot he has to work late tonight. I guess I better go to the store then.

No problem. I got quite a bit done this morning. Pretty sure there wasn’t anything else too pressing. If there was, it will still be here waiting for me tomorrow, I’m sure.

For some reason, it always is.

The Heart of the Matter

Nothing is scarier for a writer than to feel that they are out of words. It happens to me, alarmingly often, and from what I hear I’m far from the only one. The condition is akin to a fireman turning his hose onto a blazing fire only to realize there’s no water. Except, of course, that would matter.

firefighter

It is the lot of writers, I believe, to constantly question themselves and their ability to produce anything anyone will ever want to read. And that’s what’s at the heart of what I feel on those melancholy occasions when I start to think I can’t produce such a thing. Does it even matter? If I never write another word in my life, would anyone care?

Two different questions, actually. I’m not entirely sure anyone would care, but I am fairly certain that it would matter. The reason for that is, while there is very little that my finite mind can comprehend about a holy, infinite God, I have come to realize something as I have written my novels. He is the giver of the stories. He is the creative source. I don’t think anyone who writes, or paints, or creates or plays music, can deny that there is a power outside of himself providing the inspiration.

And we are created in his image. Which means that we are creators too. Genesis contains no record of Adam and Eve writing or drawing or sculpting, but I’m sure they exhibited their creativity in many ways. Certainly they were the first witnesses to our wildly creative God in the plants and trees around them, and the endless parade of animals and birds and sea creatures passing before them to be named.

Thankfully, creativity continued to flow after the fall, a kind of compensation maybe, a gift from the Creator. So that yes, there would be pain and suffering and sickness and disease in the world now, but there would also be music. And the music would lift us, if only for a while, out of the pain and sorrow and give us the strength to go on.

And there would be ugliness, and destruction, and the gradual disintegration of the planet, but there would be beauty too, in paintings and sculptures and stained glass and architecture. And that beauty would remind us that the God who painted the sunsets and sculpted the mountains and formed the stars is near to us even when he feels far away.

And work would be hard and we would struggle to survive and there would be war and conflict and death, but when we needed to escape the harsh reality of the world around us, we could pick up a book and get lost in a story, or be swept away by words of poetry, and remember that there is another world, and that we are only temporary sojourners in this one, and that, even here, we are never alone.

So it matters. It matters that we accept the gift from the creative God who calls some of us to paint, or to play an instrument, or to write. And if I feel like I don’t have any words of my own, it’s because I don’t. But I can trust the keeper of the words to give them to me when they are needed–to bring joy or offer comfort or provide hope.

And that is all that really matters.

WordServe News: September 2015

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 released this month along with a recap of WordServe client news.

New Releases

9781426711619_p0_v6_s192x300

 

Sandra D. Bricker released Be My Valentino with Abingdon Press Fiction.

Book 2 of the Jessie Stanton series, Be My Valentino follows Jessie after the truth about her husband’s double life has been exposed. Struggling to grow her business and manage her feelings for a new love interest, Jessie finds herself in the middle of an intriguing mystery and a relationship that could end in disaster.

 

9781434709073_p0_v1_s192x300

Jim Burns & Jeremy Lee released their new book, Pass It On: Building A Legacy of Faith for Your Children through Practical and Memorable Experienceswith David C. Cook.

Parents often experience a “freak out” moment when they realize their children’s view of God will primarily come from what they learn at home. But while the idea of strategically passing down our faith can seem intimidating, the annual “Rites of Passage Experiences” contained in Pass It On make it easy for your family to celebrate milestones from kindergarten through high school graduation.

 

9781634094788_p0_v2_s192x300

Debora Coty  released her companion journal for her popular book Too Loved to Be Lost: Too Loved…a Journal for Women.

Created for women needing the loving assurance of a heavenly Father who forgives and accepts–“quirks, meltdowns, zits, and all”– the journal includes the complete text of Too Loved to Be Lost and offers simple, practical steps to help you revitalize your spirit and your faith.

 

Seven-front-cover-med-file

 

Sara Davison released The End Begins (Book 1 of The Seven Trilogy) with Ashberry Lane.

After a series of terrorist attacks in 2053, martial law has been declared in Canada and the military has taken over. When a radical Christian group claims responsibility, Christians find their freedoms severely restricted. As a romance blooms between a young Christian woman and an army captain, their uncertain future is threatened by forces far beyond their control.

 

9780373283286_p0_v2_s192x300

 

Jan Drexler released her third Love Inspired Historical, A Home for His Family

Set in the Dakota Territory, the book follows Sarah, a pretty schoolteacher, as she helps a newcomer struggling to raise his orphaned nieces and nephew. Sarah’s. Her childhood as an orphan taught her that opening her heart to love only ends in hurt. Yet helping this ready-made family set up their ranch only makes her long to be a part of it—whatever the risk.

 

9781634091152_p0_v3_s192x300Cheri Fuller released Dangerous Prayer with Barbour Publishing.

Dangerous prayers happen when you turn your all over to God and offer yourself as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). They don’t take you to a comfortable, easy place; they test you, stretch you, and take you where you wouldn’t have chosen. They change not only your life but the lives of other people. In her new book, Cheri illustrates—from Bible times to today—what happens when God’s people pray dangerous prayers.

 

9780825442285_p0_v1_s192x300Kelli Gotthardt released her first book, Unlikely Rebel, with Kregel Publications.

Between the desire to please God, the need to feel valued, and the compulsion to make everyone around them happy, women often find themselves denying their desires. It’s safer to stay in the life of “shoulds,” even if it means being spiritually and emotionally disconnected. But that’s not the abundant life God intends for us! Unlikely Rebel is the story of how Kelly, a pastor’s wife and “good girl,” slowly shed shoulds and shame, learning to love God and love who He created her to be.

 

9780800722357_p0_v2_s192x300Rick Johnson released his latest parenting book with Revell Publishers, 10 Things Great Dads Do.

Every father can be a great dad, and this clear and to-the-point book gives them the tools they need to do it well. Rick Johnson offers helpful strategies to enable dads to help their kids find the humor in life; surround their family with healthy friends and role models; communicate clearly with their children; help their kids develop self-esteem and respect for others; and much more.

 

 

9780764211362_p0_v2_s192x300Peter & Heather Larson along with David & Claudia Arp have released their parenting
book She’s Almost a Teenager with Bethany House.

A guide to meaningful parent-daughter conversations, this book equips parents to connect with their daughters as they move into the teenage years. Offering practical ways to encourage daughters in their faith and talk about the challenges they face in school and with friends, She’s Almost a Teenager is an invaluable tool for moms and dads everywhere.

 

 

9781941720172_p0_v1_s192x300Angela Ruth Strong released her fourth title in the Fun4Hire series, The Pillow Fight Professional with Ashberry Lane.

A middle-grade novel pack with humor, The Pillow Fight Professional follows Joey Michaels as he trains his sister’s friends to hold their own against older siblings. Encouraging values of faith, forgiveness, and friendship, this latest installment from Angela Ruth is one you can’t miss.

 

 

9781400206742_p0_v1_s192x300Bob Welch released 52 Little Lessons from A Christmas Carol with Thomas Nelson
Publishers.

Award-winning author Bob Welch takes readers deeper into the nuances of this classic by Charles Dickens. From the miserliness of Scrooge to the innocence of Tiny Tim, 52 Little Lessons from A Christmas Carol will inspire readers to live for what really matters, not only at Christmas, but all year long.

 

 

New Contracts

Debora Coty signed a contract with Barbour Publishing for the Too Blessed to be Stressed Daily Devotional, due out in 2017.

Jordyn Redwood received a contract offer through Love Inspired’s Blurb to Book contest for her novella The Hangman’s Noose.

Dr. David Stoop and Dr. Jan Stoop have signed a contract with Revell Publishers for their book, Smart Love, due out in Spring, 2017.

Tracie Miles signed a contract with David C. Cook for her next book, I Give Up (2017), and a forthcoming title (2018).

Sarah Varland signed a 3-book deal with Love Inspired for her Treasure Point series, for publication in 2016 and 2017.

 

balloons-25737_640

What We’re Celebrating!

Sara Davison’s The End Begins received a Top Pick 4 1/2 star review from Romantic Times.

Leslie Haskin’s Between Heaven and Ground Zero made the New York Times bestseller list, at #4 in e-book nonfiction.

Angela Ruth Strong’s The Snowball Fight Professional received recognition for excellent craftsmanship at the OCW Cascade Awards in the Young Adult/Middle Grade category. Congratulations!