Saturday, December 19, 2009

Editor Speak

I thought Running Blind would be my last book in the Heroes for Hire miniseries. Yesterday, my editor emailed to approve the proposal and suggested that I 'stretch' the series. She said that she and my senior editor had talked about it and they thought it would be a good idea.

The words she used were....perhaps consider.

Now, I knew I could take that literally and perhaps consider writing up a proposal for a few more Heroes for Hire books. I mean, my darling editor would never force me to write books I didn't want to write.

On the other hand, I'd never actually had an editor suggest I continue a series, so I figured that the suggestion was a gentle nudge in the right direction. The direction my editors wanted me to go, that is.

And that was fine.

I had toyed around with the idea of writing a few more Heroes for Hire books, but this business is tricky. If my editors really liked the concept of the first three books then selling a few more would be relatively easy. If they didn't really like the concept, then the proposal might not make it to contract.

And I really didn't want to write something they didn't want.

That's the hard thing about this business. An author has to balance what she wants to write with what readers want to read and what editors want to buy. It's great when those three things line up, but sometimes we've got great ideas that just won't make it in the market right now.

So, we must study the market and what our targeted publishing house is buying. Then we must adjust our needs as creative beings to suit the market trends.

I know people who would disagree with me on this and who insist that authors should write what they want. I think they are right. To a point. It is good to write what you are passionate about, but if you continue to get feedback from editors that indicates that your book was a good read but didn't quite fit the line, then you might perhaps consider (ha!) figuring out what the editors do want and tailoring your book to fit their needs.

Doing this does not mean selling out or giving in. It simply means being pragmatic about the business. Trends are what they are. What sells sells. It isn't really the editor's choice any more than it is the writer's. A good book that won't sell is a book that the editor cannot buy.

An writer who loves the craft can craft a story that fulfills his creative needs and still meets the market trends.

If you're curious to know what Love Inspired Suspense seems to be buying now, I'd say they're leaning toward very suspenseful and action packed stories. I've seen a trend toward slightly more gritty tales since the new senior editor arrived. She wants very compelling first chapters that immediately grab the reader and give a sense of the danger and suspense that is to come.

That is, of course, simply my assessement as an author, but I think it will hold true for most people submitting to the line.

If you happen upon this blog and have any questions you'd like to ask regarding the Love Inspired Suspense line feel free to email me at

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

One Way?

While I absolutely agree there is only one way to Heaven, I'm completely opposed to the idea that there is only one way to write a book. That's why it always surprises me when I visit writing forums and read threads posted by authors and aspiring authors that outline the correct way to - brainstorm, plot, character sketch, edit, revise, etc, etc.

Sure, it's great to share ideas, but ideas alone don't write a book. They certainly can't get a person published. Sometimes, I think too many ideas muddle the process and make focusing on what really matters difficult.

What matters?

Writing compelling characters and interesting plots.

This is something that cannot be taught. It is something that must be learned word by word, page by page. It is the product of observation, imagination and good story telling ability. It comes from somewhere deep inside, and, while it can be shaped, it can only be harnessed by hard work and commitment to the craft.

So, if you're thinking of buying a How To writing book for Christmas, don't. Save your money and spend your time. Time building a plot that makes sense. Time creating characters that are three dimensional. Time learning to be better at the work you're doing.

Listen to yourself and your own instincts.

You may be surprised at how far that takes you.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Beginning Again

Today, I'll begin writing the proposal for the Love Inspired Suspense 2011 continuity. The six book series centers around the murder of a Texas Ranger, and during the course of the books, that and several other mysteries will be solved.

I've always enjoyed working on continuity series. It's fun to try to weave a seamless story arc when six authors with six distinct voices are doing the weaving. In this series, my book will be the last, and it will be my job to tie up all the loose ends.

I was originally offered the first slot in the continuity but had a conflicting deadline, so book #6 it is.

I mention that because I suspect my editor is worried about me being the one to tie up the loose ends.

Not, of course, that she doesn't have complete confidence in me. But we've worked together for a lot of years, and she knows my strengths and weaknesses as an author. If asked she'd probably say that I write compelling, clean, well-written stories and I turn them in on time. If pressed, she'd probably admit that I have a tendency to get lost in the stories and forget the details.

That's okay, though. As I always say to my kids, "We've all got strengths and weaknesses. It is our job to grow in the areas where we are strong and to work on strengthening the areas where we are weak."

And now it is time for me to live what I say.

So, I'll begin this story by writing the synopsis. Generally, I write the first three chapters and then write the synopsis. That gives me a chance to get to know the characters before I have to face the torturous process of writing them into a long summary. This time, because I've got other characters from other stories to get to know, I'll begin with the synopsis.

If it seems as if I am repeating the same thing over and over again, it's because I am. I do not want to ever write the synopsis, so writing it first is at the bottom of my list of things to do. I'm hoping if I say that I'm going to do it enough times, I'll eventually convince myself and get working. we go again with more emphasis:

My goal is to have the synopsis finished before Christmas.

Considering how long it usually takes me, that'll be pushing it.

Anyway, I've got a goal, and goals must always be part of the writing process.



So, what are you working on?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


The best questions are the kind that have no answers. These are the questions that help me begin a story. Often, I'll see a house, an abandoned car, a person whose face simply screams for me to pay attention, and the questions will start.




And then the story will begin.

The other day, someone asked if I ever run out of story ideas. I don't, because I never run out of questions. What is hard is finding the determination to put those ideas and imaginings down on paper.

I say finding because we all have the ability to perform difficult tasks (and, make no mistake, writing a book is difficult). What seperates those who do from those who don't is the ability to channel hope and dream into work and action.

Each day, we wake up to a hundred responsibilties and a laundry-list of tasks. If we're married, we must think of our spouse's needs. If we have kids, we must help them along with their day. If we work, we must meet our obligations to our company and boss. If we are working at home, we must clean and cook and clean again. If we homeschool....well, I'm sure I've made my point by now.

So, we dream about writing. We think about it. We talk about it.

And, when it comes time for doing it, we are too tired, too busy, too braindead from too many hours spent working on other things.

Sunday, I sat at church trying desperately to look wide awake and interested. No offense to our pastor (who is a wonderful preacher and teacher), but I was so tired the words just weren't registering. And then the pastor said something that I have heard and read hundreds of times, and it was as if someone flipped a switch in my brain. Everything inside me sat up and took notice.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light

And it sounded so good.

Rest for your souls.

Rest for my soul.


In this season of miracles, it is good to be reminded of the simplest of truths. It is good to remember the importance of dedication not just to our writing craft, but to our relationship with our Creator. As we make time to sit in quiet communion with God, we begin to free our souls of the stress and worry that bogs us down and keeps us from fulfilling His purpose and plan for our lives. As Christian authors, our relationship with Him must come first. When it does, everything else will fall into place.

Perhaps you thought this post was going to be about finding time to write.

In some ways it is.

It is about prioritizing and about knowing what is truly important.

Pursuing publication takes more than a story idea, it takes knowing without a doubt that you are doing what you should be. It takes believing with all your heart that you must write. It takes sacrifice of time and of energy and of rest. It is good, then, to know where our strength lies and to cling to that....cling to we continue our journey.

BTW, the photo above is an example of how everyday things spark my imagination. I was shooting photos of my children, and they were happy and smiling in every one of them. This shot, though, was different. Click on the photo and look at the expression on the face of my youngest. Look in her eyes and see if you don't start asking questions. Believe it or not, I've already got two story ideas. I also have an aching heart, but that is a discussion for another day.