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Advice to Aspiring Writers
By Don Brown, author of Treason

Now that I have completed three novels, I’m often asked by other aspiring writers for advice on how to get published.

Please permit me to share four pointers that proved most helpful to me.

First, seek out and find a good writers conference to attend. Do this even if you haven’t started on your novel yet. Or if you have started it but haven’t finished it – which was the case with me – go anyway. Or in you’ve finished your draft, take it and go. Don’t worry that your draft isn’t perfect.

At a writer’s conference, typically you will find agents, publishers, and authors, many who serve on the faculty at such conferences. Because you’re a paying customer, they will take time with you, one-on-one, to discuss your manuscripts or your story.

For me, attending a writer’s conference led to a two-book contract, with the possibility of others now in the making. Here’s how it all came about.

In January of 2001, I attended a holiday party at a friend’s house. After the party, I wrote the hostess a thank you note. I don’t remember what I wrote, but shortly thereafter, the hostess was impressed with the wording of my note and wrote me a note encouraging me to write a book.

That was my impetus to write. So I just sat down with my laptop and started writing a novel of historical fiction, World War II genre. Although I’ve written many legal briefs – my daytime job is still practicing law – I had never written fiction. But as began to write, the storyline took on a life of its own.

Three months later, my fledgling novel had progressed slowly. Then my wife saw an advertisement in a local newspaper for a writer’s conference in Asheville, N.C.

Not knowing what to expect, I loaded my raw, unfinished manuscript in the car and headed to the Blue Ridge Mountains for five days. The Blue Ridge Christian Writer’s Conference provided a plethora of classes on subjects such as character development, dialogue, and novel-writing. But one of the best opportunities was the chance to meet new friends and make contacts.

There, I met a literary agent who liked my storyline. Then he asked to see my work. I was nervous. I didn’t really want to show it to him. “It’s not ready,” I protested. But at his insistence, I acquiesced. He thumbed through the draft, and then gave me some excellent advice which I will pass to you now.

“When you’ve finished your manuscript, have it professionally edited,” he said. I followed that advice, found the name of a good professional editor, and spent about four hundred dollars for an edit and professional evaluation. The money spent was worth every dime. The editor opened my eyes to issues that as a novice writer, I had never considered. For example, structure. My manuscript was strengthened by rearranging the order of several chapters. I made all the changes that my editor suggested.

One year later, I took the manuscript back to the same writer’s conference. This time, following the professional edit, the manuscript was solid enough to catch the eyes of some of the faculty members on staff. One thing led to another, and nine months later, by the Grace of God, I had a two-book contract.

Writing is a craft. An accomplished New York Times bestselling author can write whatever he/she wants, however he/she wants to write it. But as rookie writers, we can’t afford to make certain mistakes in our writing and be competitive. We cannot afford, for example, to write scenes that have multiple point-of-view shifts with no breaks. Such mistakes will get our manuscripts torpedoed.

So here’s another pointer. Read good books on how to write. Three come to mind that I recommend. Though I’m not a Stephen King fan, his book On Writing is primarily a “how-to” book that I found helpful. My friend and fellow author Robert Whitlow recommended to me Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by, Renni Browne and Dave King. From it, I learned about techniques such as internal monologue, speaker attribution and beats. Finally, take a look at Word Painting: A Guide to Writing More Descriptively by Rebecca McClanahan. This book is great for ideas on how to “word things.”

Finally, author Davis Bunn said at my first writer’s conference that you aren’t a writer unless you write every day. Here’s my last pointer. Take his advice to heart and write, write, write. Whether it is playing basketball, playing chess, playing the trumpet, or writing books, there is no substitute for practice as a means of improvement.

So there you have it. Here again, are my four pointers. (1) Go to a writer’s conference, where you will network and learn. (2) Have your manuscript edited by a professional editor before submitting it. (3) Read good “how-to” books on the craft. (4) Write, write, and write. You’ll be glad you did.

Good luck, God bless, and I hope we can meet someday.

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Web Resources for Writers

There are many web sites with great information for Christian writers. Below are some that you might find helpful.

 

  • American Christian Fiction Writers
  • Christian Writers Fellowship International

  • The Christian Writer's Manual of Style
  • Writer's Digest
  • Writer's Market
  • The Writer's Magazine
  • Christian Writer's Market Guide
  • ACW Press
  • Writer's Edge (Manuscript Service)

  • More Author Tips

     • Words of Advice: Chris Fabry

     • Writing Advice: Maureen Lang