Advice for Writers

A question I'm often asked is whether I have any advice for aspiring writers. The answer is a resounding "yes." That's one of the reasons I've developed so many workshops for writers. (See the Workshops tab for more information.)

I've also had the privilege of doing guest blogs on a number of writing-related subjects and wanted to share them with you along with recommendations for my favorite craft books. I hope you'll find this information helpful.

Basic Writing Techniques

Conflict - One of the most common reasons for a manuscript being rejected is that it has too little conflict. Like many writers, I struggled with adding conflict to my stories until I changed my perspective. How? As I outline in this post, it takes more than a happy ending to make a successful book.

Meeting Deadlines - Whether you're a published author with a contractual deadline or an aspiring author who wants to have an entry ready for a contest, it's critical to know how to meet -- or even beat -- deadlines. How? Here are a few suggestions.

Books in a Series - Many publishers are looking for books in a series. Before you decide to write a series, there are some things to consider.

Finding an Agent - Do you need an agent? In many cases, the answer is "yes." But an agent isn't good enough. You need the right agent.

Contracts - Before you sign a contract with an agent or a publisher, there are a number of things you need to know. Here's a quick quiz to get you started.

Inspiration - Inspiration comes in many places, including travel.

Real vs. Fictional Settings - Are you trying to decide whether to set your story in a real or an imaginary location? You might want to consider the challenges of using real locations.

Maps - What do maps have to do with writing? You might be surprised.

Surviving Rejection - No one likes rejection, but there are some coping techniques to make it less painful.

Writing Historical Fiction

Is It For You? - Before you decide to write historical fiction, there are a few questions you should answer.

Research - Every writer knows that research is essential, particularly for historical fiction. Did you know there are ways to make it easier?

Pitfalls - One thing you don't want to do is make common mistakes when writing historical fiction. Try to avoid these. Part Two of this blog discusses other potential problems.

Craft Books and General Advice

There are many ways to learn the craft of writing. Reading books is one of them. My two favorite craft books are Dwight Swain's Techniques of the Selling Writer and Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey. Swain outlines the basics of writing itself, while Vogler provides guidelines for effective plotting.

I'm frequently asked what specific advice I would give to aspiring writers. There are three parts to this. The first is to read extensively in the genre you want to write. That's the best way to learn what a publisher is buying.

Secondly, join a writer's group. ACFW is wonderful for writers in the Christian marketplace, and Romance Writers of America is excellent for anyone interested in writing romance. A writer's group provides support, networking and so many other resources to the aspiring writer that I can't over emphasize the importance of joining one.

And lastly, never give up. Rejection is a fact of life. I won't sugarcoat it: rejection hurts. But if you let it defeat you, if you stop sending out your manuscript just because it was rejected, you'll never be published. Believe in your book and in yourself. That's critical.