A WRITER’S DOZEN Tips from Len and Carolyn Goss for Would-Be Writers
1. Know what you are doing and why you are doing it. If you have not mastered your chosen topic, stop writing until you do. 2. Know what your vision is, and if you have no vision, stop writing until you do. 3. Know exactly who you are writing for because no one has a universal audience. If you are unclear about your reading audience, stop writing until you are. 4. Know who has already written on a similar topic to yours because you want to make sure no one has already written the book you are writing. If you don't know the competition, stop writing until you do. 5. Know how to put a book proposal together because a well done book proposal may be one's only foot in the editorial door. If you don't know how to put a book proposal together, stop writing until you do. 6. Know how to commit publishing. If you have no idea about what happens between a finished manuscript and a finished book, stop writing until you check out www.goodeditors.com. 7. Know the basics of writing mechanics. Your high school teacher said you would need to know grammar and usage some day; she was right, and that day is now. If you don't know the rules of punctuation, elements of style, rules on capitalization, how to use numbers in the text, and so on, stop writing until you have a copy of The Little Style Guide to Great Christian Writing and Publishing, by Leonard and Carolyn Goss. 8. Know the typical elements of a publishing contract. If you don't, stop writing until you check out www.goodeditors.com. 9. Know the trends in Christian writing and publishing. Don't write to trends or try jumping on bandwagons, but know what is going on and why. If you have no idea about this, stop writing until you do. 10. Have a marketing plan in mind because if you don't promote you book, nobody else will. Unless you are willing to be a shameless self-promoter (we're only slightly joking), stop writing until you are. 11. Know how to handle rejections, because you are going to get a lot of them. If you can't handle them, stop writing until you can. 12. Get to know editors and cultivate relationships with them. Most of them are not fearsome monsters (some are) but rather colleagues in ministry who are interested in helping you get published. Why? So they can serve their readers and the church. Learn what editors do, what agents do, and how writing conferences can help you. If you have no appreciation for or faith in the editing process, stop writing until you do. 13. Read very widely and remember that all truth is God's truth. If you take the advice of some on the Christian writing conference circuit to spend all your time writing and to stop wasting time reading, you are heading down exactly the wrong path. Stop writing until you come to your senses.
One more thing. . .Don’t really stop writing! The two best bits of advice about preparation and practice we can give are these:
Write, write, write. Write anything you can––letters to friends, letters to your local newspaper, letters to your congressperson. Write emails, blogs, journals, short stories, poems, rants and raves, and op-ed pieces. The more writing you do, the more comfortable and confident you will become. You will be surprised and pleased when you discover what will flow from your mind to your hands to either the computer screen or a tablet of paper.
Read, read, read. Regularly read your local newspaper either online or on paper. Read news and special interest magazines. Read the classics, especially Shakespeare and the American giants such as Thoreau, Hawthorne, Steinbeck, and Edgar Allen Poe (yes, Poe). Read British giants such as Chaucer, John Donne, Alexander Pope, J.R.R. Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis. Read authors from other cultures such as Tolstoy and Cervantes. Read modern fiction and nonfiction in whatever fields interest you, and don’t forget to include books you read for sheer entertainment. Read your Bible, in more than one translation. The more you read, the more you will know what good writing and not-so-good writing is.