Often, I am asked what advice I have to offer those who want to write books. Usually at the top of the list is joining ACFW if you want to be a novelist. Below is a post our president wrote last week which states better than I could, why ACFW is the place to be if you want to write.
What can a writer do to gain the best advantage for getting a story from the seed of an idea into the hands of readers?
The theme song of publishing experts and accomplished authors is, “Learn your craft.”
- Study fiction craft books. Apply the principles.
- Study writing publications.
- Take online classes on the craft of writing.
- Attend writers’ conferences that offer high quality instruction on writing great fiction.
- Study the methods used in other authors’ novels.
- ACFW excels in developing writers in the craft of Christian fiction. Check here to connect with ACFW’s archives of online classes. Click here for information about our upcoming annual conference that features a broad spectrum of fiction instruction.
Study the publishing industry.
- Discover what’s working and why, what’s selling and why, what’s expected and why.
- Study the publishing houses to determine the best fit and most likely match of story, author, and publishing house.
- Keep abreast of industry news and how it affects novelists.
- Follow publisher and agent blogs for insight and information.
- Get familiar with publishing house, agency, and writing instructor websites.
- Study publishing house guidelines. Follow them implicitly when writing and submitting.
- ACFW’s main loop is a source for information about the publishing industry. Click here to sign up for that email loop. Click here (under Resources, then Publishers, in the members only section) for website information for some of the major publishing houses. Our monthly ezine-Afictionado-is another source of information about the industry. You can click here for a link to that ezine.
Find a source for unbiased critiquing.
- Although some family members offer good advice for a novelist, the most valuable critiques usually come from people who are both prolific readers of Christian fiction and who have a working knowledge of Christian fiction principles and methods.
- Take advantage of paid critique opportunities at writers’ conferences.
- Some writers work best with a critique partner rather than a critique group. The point is that every writer needs the advantage of someone else to evaluate what’s been written, how the story flows, how it engages readers and holds their attention, as well as the mechanics of grammar, punctuation, and accuracy.
- ACFW offers a large-group critique group–Scribes–for fiction writers. Check here for information on how to get involved. From that large group, smaller critique groups develop their own individual styles and interests. Paid critiques are offered as part of our annual conference. Click here for conference information.
Find a source of encouragement.
- Camaraderie with fellow writers affords the blessing of others with whom to commiserate when things go poorly.
- Writers also gain from having someone with whom to rejoice when the words or contracts flow freely, when characters behave themselves on the page, when the Lord sends a breakthrough for a plot point or a career move.
- ACFW members appreciate the knowledge gained through ACFW’s main email loop in addition to the fellowship and encouragement those writers offer. Click here for more on the main loop. ACFW local chapters are also a key source of encouragement for writers. Click here for information on local chapters.
Prepare for the long haul.
- The stories vary, but it’s been said that novelists often have four or five completed novels on file before one is sold.
- The average length of time between embarking on the path to publication and seeing that first novel in print is seven years. Are there exceptions? Certainly. But novelists do themselves and their work a great disservice if they grow discouraged and give up after six months, thinking it’s taking too long. Publication is a long, arduous process, despite its joys and rewards. Those who succeed are those who recognize it is a process, not an event.
- Learn to make productive use of the waiting time. Write more. Pray more. Study more. Connect more.
- ACFW comes alongside writers for the long haul. We make every effort to instruct, encourage, and support our members who are invested in pursuing publication in Christian fiction.
- Olympians and novelists have a lot in common. They invest many hours–a lifetime–working on their skills, repeating drills, practicing, practicing, practicing. Even the most naturally talented “pay their dues” on the track, in the pool, on the slopes, at the keyboard.
- Successful novelists view even discarded words as valuable–good practice.
- ACFW’s Topic of the Week on our main eloop encourages greater understanding of the writing craft, the writing life, the publishing industry, and the power of practice. Click here for more information on our main eloop.
Work on writing relationships to form a team. Successful novelists need:
- Friends who understand a writer’s heart.
- Writers who are true friends and keep us on track with the Lord, our writing, our lives, and our careers.
- An agent who will champion the project and the author’s career.
- A great working relationship with editors.
- Connections with people of like interest, similar genres.
- Connections with people with different interests.
- Prayer partners.
- A growing circle of potential readers.
- As mentioned earlier, the main eloop is one way to build relationships with other writers. ACFW’s main eloop for members is accessed here. In addition to other sources, our annual ACFW conference is a key opportunity to interact with, learn from, and develop relationships with editors and agents in attendance or on faculty. Check here for information about the conference. ACFW’s prayer loop–click here –connects members and their needs in prayer. And ACFW’s Book Club unites writers and readers in a meaningful interchange of ideas–click here. A newer resource-www.fictionfinder.com–connects readers, authors, publishers, booksellers, and book clubs with the best in Christian fiction.
- Pray before pursuing writing for publication. Lord, is this what You want me to do?
- Pray before writing a word. Novels written in human strength alone show it.
- Pray while writing.
- Pray after the book’s completion.
- Pray as it’s shopped around.
- Pray as it’s rejected or accepted.
- Pray as it’s printed and marketed.
- Pray as it reaches the hands of readers.
- Pray (as the Bible says) without ceasing!
- ACFW members will pray with you, privately or through our ACFW Prayer Loop, accessed here .
Through its various programs and benefits, ACFW seeks to offer writers every advantage in their pursuit of publishing Christian fiction. We are at work behind the scenes every day to help make it a meaningful and rewarding experience for our authors and in turn for readers of Christian fiction.
May the New Year dawn with fresh hope for your stories and your life.