Maureen Lang became the recipient of a Golden Heart Award from Romance Writers of America, followed by the publication of three secular romance novels. Life took some turns after that, and she gave up writing for fifteen years, until the Lord claimed her to write for Him. Soon she won a Noble Theme Award from American Christian Fiction Writers, and a contract followed a year or so later for Pieces of Silver (a 2007 Christy Award finalist), followed by its sequel, Remember Me. Maureen lives in the Midwest with her husband, her two sons, and their dog, Susie.
Favorite Verse: 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV) "But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." I love this verse because I feel weak on so many days and in so many ways. If I ever accomplish anything it's purely due to Christ's help.
Advice for Aspiring Writers: by Maureen Lang
Some people say books are doomed to dwindling sales. We live with such advanced technology at our disposal, where information, movies and online videos are so real and entertaining, and so easily accessible, who needs to take time out of their busy day to read?
We do! We’re the avid reader who loves visiting other worlds, where our imagination is in control, not the screen in front of us. If you’ve been touched by a book or two in your life, and if you have so little as a single writer’s bone in your body, you want to touch someone else’s life the way your life was touched. Through the printed word, where a reader’s imagination will carry him into your story world. And yet it’ll belong to the reader, too. It’ll be their interpretation of your words, a place that becomes their own in which to live for a little while, and find love, excitement, comfort. Escape.
What does it take to get into the publishing world — as an author? To get your ideas into a format that communicates what you intend?
Obviously the first step is in the writing. That’s easy, right? We’ve discovered a passion for writing and so that’s what we want to do!
| But you’d be surprised how hard it is for many people to finish something they’ve begun. I’ve met a number of writers who’ve been writing for years. Some have never finished a single novel. Oh, they love to write, and to encourage other writers too. And they love to start a novel. It’s the finishing part that’s tough. Come to a snag…or more specifically a sagging middle, and that writer would rather start something new than figure out a way to keep the story flowing with interest and excitement. Maybe the challenge is just too great, or they have some kind of Literary ADD where they can’t attend to one book with the same characters for longer than a few chapters…who knows. But know this: if you start a book and can actually finish it, you’re already a step ahead of some who never make it that far. |
Okay, so that’s step one: Writing until you’ve finished your novel.
Step Two: Polish, polish, polish. Polish until you believe your book is as near perfect as it can be. When I was writing in the secular field twenty years ago, I don’t believe the competition wasn’t as tough as it is today. Although any editor will tell you they still occasionally receive hand written submissions or stories that their house would never publish because it’s simply the wrong genre for them, most of the competition out there today is very information-savvy. Thanks to an abundance of great writer’s conferences, and of course computers and the Internet, we can now submit something that’s been spell checked, grammar checked, margins uniformly formatted with perfect headers and footers. Plus we can find out with the click of the mouse which publisher is publishing what, following their guidelines down to format and whose name should be on the submissions. At the very least, the competition looks better than ever. Whether or not they can successfully tell a story still has to be proven.
To help your book stand out from the others you’re competing with, make sure you’ve had plenty of feedback from those who read with a discerning eye. (This is usually not your mother.) Join a critique group, either face-to-face or online. ACFW, RWA, or other genre-specific groups are available online to hook you up with other writers.
Polishing will take longer than you think. I’ve known more than a few authors who are so excited about their work, so eager to have an editor look at it, that they submit their work before its time.
Here are a few things to think about before submitting your work:
Is the story THERE? I mean is it on the page, so the reader can jump into it and never want to leave? Clarity is often a problem when conveying the story in your heart and head to enter into the reader’s heart and head. Make sure your story is cohesive, clear, and compelling, gradually building toward a climax. Make ‘em wait, though! Let the romance unfold gradually, so the reader looks forward to that moment your characters realize they’re falling for the other person. Make ‘em wait for the clues you sprinkle along the way to make sense, like pieces to a puzzle. That’s true of so many genres! Foreshadow what’s ahead, but in small pieces so they will absolutely not want to put that book down until they’ve put those pieces together.
| And have I mentioned critiquing? Of course I have, because I believe in it wholeheartedly. It’s one thing to set aside your work until you’ve achieved your own fresh eye to discern what’s really on the page versus what you think might be there. But it’s invaluable to get someone who knows how to read from a writer’s viewpoint, someone who is a completely blank slate when it comes to your characters and their goals and motivations, your story and its theme and arc. There’s nothing like a truly fresh eye to see things from a new perspective. |
Okay: Step One in this book business: Finish Your Book
Step Two: Polish to Perfection
Step Three: Start Submitting
Step three may very well be the longest phase of this process, trying to find a publisher for your book. I’m sure there are stories out there that don’t follow the “norm” – I read about one in the newspaper a while back, about a woman who basically wrote a book in three weeks and a month later had a contract in hand. This is definitely not the norm!
The normal procedure is to submit, get rejected, submit again, get rejected. Do some revisions, ask more people for input, all the while still submitting. If you can survive rejections that tell you absolutely nothing, and some that tell you in vague terms that your writing just isn’t up to snuff, then you can make it on to the next step in the process: the varying stages of rejection. Form letter rejections are only the beginning.
Your first personal rejection will seem like a blessing, because an editor who knows this business took the time out of his busy schedule to personalize his response. Then there are the oh-so-close-but-not-quite-there responses. Manuscripts that will go through the steps: pique the interest of an editor, who will then get others from her publishing house on board, only to have a rejection arrive at the infamous “committee,” meetings that include other departments beside editing that decide whether or not a book has a chance to sell. Rejection at this stage has happened to me, it’s happened to many others I know. If this were an easy business to break into, everyone would be doing it. But it isn’t, and of those who do break in, few will tell you it’s an easy process.
But is it worth it? Of course! To have others reading your story from all over the country (and maybe the world), to get to know your characters as well as you do, to touch someone’s life so one of the memories they have has been created by your characters . . . Well, as the Bible says, we were created in God’s image. And part of that is emulating His love of creating.
The publishing world will probably always be a tough business to break into, but I’m convinced it’s a business that will never disappear. For the escape and experience novels bring, for the chance to let something touch us, inspire us, teach us or grow us — novels are a commodity that aren’t going anywhere.
So get to work!