Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Secrets from Professional Writers (#3)

3. We Rewrite.

The best writing is rewriting. That means not being easily satisfied and sensing we can make our prose better.

To rewrite means to change our writing so that it becomes sharper and more coherent. That's what moves writers into the professional level.

When we rewrite we rethink what we've written. We admit that some words feel exactly right and we leave them. We delete sentences that don't flow or we add words for clarity.

I say it this way: I write subjectively; I edit objectively. That means that on my first draft I let words flow without censoring or interrupting. Once I finish I go back and objectively correct what I've written.

Effective rewriting is a skill we learn gradually
by going through the process hundreds of times.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Secrets of Professional Writers (#2)

2. We Write, Write, and Write Some More.

Would-be-writers often ask whether they should write every day. Instead of answering, here's my question: Why wouldn't we yearn to write every day? We may not do it every day of the year, but we do it as often and as faithfully as possible. And we form the writing habit.

I began my writing career with the commitment to write at least 15 minutes every day. At the time, that was all the time I could comfortably squeeze. (Within six months, I was writing an hour a day.)

If our goal is to be a great hitter, we swing at the baseball every day; opera singers sing every day; writers write every day. Every day and every chance. Nothing else betters our writing than working at it faithfully.

If we write on a regular basis, we’ll probably improve our writing. Not everyone improves, because some won’t learn.

We write at noon or nighttime, in the bedroom and the boardroom, on Saturdays and stolen moments.

But we write. We write faithfully.

We write fast, write slow, but we write.

You want to be a writer, don't you? Then write. If you want to write well and sell much, write much.

If you are a writer or want to be a writer, 
three things you do regularly:
Write, write, and write.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Secrets from Professional Writers (#1)

1. We Don’t Bore Our Readers.

We can't bore readers. Instead, they stop reading. Perhaps that sounds obvious, but too many writers are fascinated with their topic—usually their own lives—and assume everyone else cares. If we write as a form of therapy (and that's valid), and recognize what we're doing, we don't try to push the rest of the world to read our struggles.

Some writers assume readers are eager to grasp every word they write. The opposite is true: We have to persuade people to read us and assure them that the time they spend with us will be rewarding.

We do that at the start of our manuscripts. What promises do we make in our titles? In our first sentence? Opening paragraph?

When we forget readers, we invite them to close the book. Whether we're entertaining or teaching, people read because of their perceived needs. We write to meet those needs.

Because we find it interesting, or we think our life is newsworthy, it's easy to assume everyone cares. It's better to assume no one cares about what we write. Our task is to give readers reasons to care—early in the article or book—and keep them interested because we relate to their lives.

If we put the needs of readers first, 
we earn the right to be read.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Statements I Hate to Hear from Writers (Part 3 of 3)

"If I could just find the right publisher/editor/agent."

In 1997, I taught at the Greater Colorado Christian Writers Conference. One man had a lengthy manuscript and asked me to look at it. I thought he had a few good ideas but nothing particularly original. It wasn't different from anything I'd read many times.

I told him, but he didn't listen.

"If I could just find the right editor, I know my book will sell." Those were his final words.

Afterward I walked toward the dining room and a woman came up to me and said she saw me looking at the man's manuscript. Before I could comment, she said, "He comes every year with the same book. He hasn't changed a word. He's convinced that if he keeps trying he'll find the right publisher."

Since then I've met several others like him. Their attitude says they don't want to grow, don't want to work hard to improve the manuscript, and they're satisfied with what they've written. They're usually the ones who cry about publishing being a closed group and "common people like me" can't get inside. It doesn't seem to occur to them that good writing opens many doors.

To find the right publisher, become the right writer.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Statements I Hate to Hear from Writers (Part 2 of 3)

"God gave this to me so I know you'll publish it." I've heard variations on that one, but they all say something like this:

• "God gave it to me."

• "God dictated every word."

• "God awakened me in the middle of the night and said, 'Write!' "

My wife heard all the stories. For several years, she was the acquisitions editor of a devotional magazine. Even though she received a number of such manuscripts, she never found one worthy of publishing.

Here's my suggestion: If God gives you a message to write, don't tell an editor; let an editor tell you. Early in my writing career, I wrote an article called "Grace Builders," and I honestly felt God had given the article to me. I changed exactly one word after my first draft.

I sent it to a publisher and it was accepted. After that, 16 other magazines reprinted it. This is the first time I've ever said God gave me a message, and I can do so now because the results provide strong evidence for my claim. (I didn't tell that to the publisher when I sent the article.)

When I hear people declare they have received divine inspiration, I believe it's a defensive statement. It's as if the person says, "God gave it to me and you can't argue with God or reject God." God's words can stand scrutiny.

One editor told me she responds this way: "God may have told you to write it, but God didn't say I would publish it. When I prayed today, God told me to reject your manuscript."

If God inspires your writing, 
others will know because it will inspire them when they read it.