Since most editors rarely read unsolicited queries, proposals, or manuscripts unless they’re sent to them by an agent, you will need to sign on with an agent to sell your book to a publisher. But agents, like editors, take on only a few clients each year.

So if editors don’t take unsolicited queries or proposals, and agents sign on few authors, you might think it’s impossible to get published. Writing takes hard work, but it’s not impossible to experience success.

Now is the time to examine your priorities. Decide whether you want to be a published author, or whether you’d rather watch your favorite TV program or sports team. Writing is a craft, and you need to practice.

Do you think James Patterson or Frank Peretti or Jerry Jenkins were born with tiny fingers tapping out golden words? Of course not. They were born with the same burning desire to write that drives you. What makes them stand out are the reams of word-covered paper they tossed into the trashcan before they ever published their first books. They practiced, and they never gave up.

Before you can interest an agent or editor in you as an author, you first need to write and rewrite your manuscript. Then learn the art of pitching your story. A professional proposal with polished sample chapters will impress an agent that you have what it takes to succeed.

If you don’t know how to write a query letter or a proposal, check out Agent Rachelle Gardner’s website at www.rachellegardner.com or other agent websites to find out what they look for in a query or proposal. Before your proposal ever lands on an editor’s desk, an agent will work with you to make it the best it can be.

In the meantime, your homework is to read as many agent blogs and websites as you can. Read and analyze proposals. Your breakthrough may be just around the corner.

Please let me know how today’s blog has helped you. This becomes a two-way conversation when you post a comment. Often I jump back on the blog during the day and will answer your questions or respond to your comments. I have both published and unpublished authors who read this blog, and we’d love to hear from you so that we can learn from your experience. Let’s talk!

Voice seems to be the most difficult concept for writers to grasp. Yet just as each of you has a distinct set of fingerprints, you also have a unique voice.

Then why do writers cry, “I don’t know what voice is?” Why does one book sound exactly like another in the same category? Why do editors pull out their hair reading proposal after proposal looking for a unique voice?

It’s simple, my dear Watson. You have a voice, but you’ve played nice for so long with your smiling face secured firmly in place that you don’t know who you are. To express your voice, you need to “know thyself.” Hmmm. Where have I heard that before?

Voice expresses your unique personality. To find it, you must dig deep into the corners of your soul and dredge up the pain and sorrow you’ve tried so hard to forget. You must remember the joys of your childhood and the quality of the air—the scents, the sounds, the sights. If someone were to ask you to describe who you really are, would you tell them, or would you make nice and not admit to your true self?

“But, what if no one likes the real me,” you ask. We all feel that way. Be true to the person you were designed to be or you’ll never achieve happiness or success—not in the financial sense, but rather in finding peace by embracing your real voice.

Okay, I promised you five ways to discover your unique voice. Here you go: 

  1. Chose different words and cast about for a unique topic to write about than the author who’s written a best-seller. Populate your setting with characters we’ve never met. Take us to places we’ve never been. We don’t need another Karen Kingsbury. We need you. Karen is popular because—you guessed it—she has a unique voice. Let your personality shine through in what you write.
  2. Find your passion. Don’t write another mediocre romance just because you can. If you love romance novels, discover your niche. Sandra D. Bricker, who is brilliant and funny, found her voice in her distinctive style of humor. Read and laugh your way through Always the Baker, Never the Bride (Abingdon Press, September 1, 2010 release) and you’ll understand. She chose to write romantic comedy.
  3. Express honest emotions. There’s nothing worse than reading a book that manipulates your emotions. However, if those emotions flow out of the wellspring of your author’s heart—your experiences—they will touch your readers’ souls.
  4. Communicate your stories with authenticity—the truth of who you are. Why do you think politicians are unpopular? Because politicians all sound alike and promise voters the same things. Voters have a difficult time discerning who is a liar and who is telling the truth. Inspire readers with the truth. Fiction can be more real than life.
  5. Spend time daydreaming and remembering your life experiences. Your personality was established by the age of five. Can you remember who you were then? Do you let your individuality shine through in your narrative, dialogue, and characters? Would anyone know who you are by reading what you write?

You have a voice. Use it. At first it may be painful and sound like rusty pipes to your ears, but you’ll get used to it. 

 

Please let me know how today’s blog has helped you. This becomes a two-way conversation when you post a comment. Often I jump back on the blog during the day and will answer your questions or respond to your comments. I have both published and unpublished authors who read this blog, and we’d love to hear from you so that we can learn from your experience. Let’s talk!

 

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

 —Introduction to the Declaration of Independence

July 4, 1776

Not all bloggers are essayists, but essayists often kick off a newspaper or magazine publishing career with their blog posts.

It can be argued that the Declaration of Independence is an Expository essay written to explain why the American colonists felt it necessary to separate from British rule. The “Committee of Five” formed to write the document consisted of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman, most of whom had written other important essays.

As we all learned in high school and college, there are eight main types of essays: Argumentative, in which you write to prove your point; Cause and Effect, which establishes relationship or shows a correlation between events; Expository, an essay written to inform; Informal, which is always subjective and seeks to communicate…can be humorous or serious; Literary to analyze literature; Review, which does just what it says…reviews, analyzes, and presents; and Research, which presents discoveries made by the author.

An essay should communicate ideas that change people in some way. Perhaps they look at a political race from a different viewpoint, or readers examine their motives for the way they speak or act, or they learn something new about the world and the universe.

In this blog I write essays to inform both beginning and experienced writers about the publishing industry. When I feel strongly about an issue, I write an Argumentative or Expository essay.

Writers who are Christians have a unique worldview that can open a dialogue with those who cannot understand why we revere life and love and patience and kindness and goodness and the other fruit of the Spirit.

Unfortunately, Christians tend to steer clear of topics that they consider to be inflammatory such as religion and politics. I’ve heard many people say that the primary law in their households is that no one can talk about religion and politics. How tragic! How then do we train up our children in the way they should go?

Essayists have been instrumental in helping to abolish slavery and child labor. We no longer live in the coal-black smog of factory chimneys. Mining and other dangerous occupations are safer than a century ago, and in America, we live under the rule of law because of men like Abraham Lincoln who were willing to write essays and speeches such as The Gettysburg Address to inform and persuade their fellow citizens to honor a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

What greater honor could there be for a writer than that our words live for generations. If you are passionate about a certain topic, consider a career as an essayist.

Have you started a blog yet? Written an essay? What can you write to change people’s hearts?

 

My life as a WordServe Literary Group agent has lasted exactly one year. After much thought, prayer, and discussion with my husband Mike, I decided that even though I was experiencing success as an agent, I wasn’t happy.

During this past year, I’ve been instrumental in selling numerous authors’ projects to publishers, acting as a conduit for their talent to be noticed by editors. Their success gives me satisfaction. But I came to realize that even though I had the talent necessary to be a literary agent, the “shoe” wasn’t a good fit.

Writing and editing have always been my gifts, so I’ve decided to slide back into those shoes that feel like a pair of comfortable slippers. Writing fulfills my need to communicate and tell stories—that part of my brain that flashes with art, music, and HD movies—and editing feeds my need for improving language and helping authors succeed.

In his book On Writing, Stephen King said, “to write is human, to edit is divine.” I need both. For now this blog, Twitter, and Facebook satisfy my human need to communicate. Editing satisfies that need to serve others and help them achieve all they were meant to be as authors.

I don’t need fame or fortune. My highest goal is to listen to the Holy Spirit and fulfill God’s call on my life.

What about you? How are you using your gifts?

WordServe Water Cooler

I’ve attended over 7 writers conferences since walking the road of an author. One thing I’ve come to observe at these conferences is they way we interact with one another.

Editors and agents are seen as the gate keepers to our dreams. They are the ones who will accept our book and validate our work.

This is sort of true and sort of not. Editors and agents will let you know if your work is ready. They’ll let you know what you need to work on. They do not hold your dreams. You do.

Having our work published will not validate us. Only Jesus can do this. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your worth is measured by a contract and sales figures.

I’ve seen some writers completely crushed when an editor/agent declined on their pitch. I’ve been one of them. Jesus gently reminded me that He is my…

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WordServe Water Cooler

Writing is rewriting, and rewriting is self-editing. “But isn’t that the job of the editor after I’ve made the sale?” No. Some writers think running spell-checker is self-editing. Not so much.

“But won’t rewriting my work edit the life out of it?” No, but it will catch the eye of an agent or editor as a well-written manuscript and may lead to a sale.

Obsessive editing during the writing process will destroy your work. However, after you’ve written the first draft, gain some distance and perspective on your manuscript by setting it aside for a few weeks or a couple of months. Now it’s time to rewrite.

Here are my top 5 self-editing tips in their order of importance for polishing your work to a high sheen.

  1. Structure: Think of the structure of your work as an arched bridge spanning a great river. If the contractor takes short cuts (such…

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