Talk to one writer about the process of writing and you’ll think that it is an incredibly difficult undertaking, with every word on the page the result of painful deliberation. You’ll learn that novels must be painstakingly outlined in advance with nothing left to chance, and that a blank page is a daily affront that must be addressed.
Corner another writer and it becomes just as clear that words simply flow out onto the page as if inspired by another. Characters spring forth as virtual strangers who say and do things that are a total surprise to the author. You may learn that a blank page is actually chock full of invisible words which must only be released.
Talk to a writer and you catch a glimpse of the incredible power of words to inspire, encourage, entertain and challenge. For some, writing is a deeply personal catharsis as the effort of choosing the words and stringing them first into sentences, then paragraphs, and then into chapters brings a corresponding order to people and events. For others, it is “the sky’s the limit” aspect of fiction that becomes addictive, with its promise of multiple characters in which to delve.
If you dream of being a writer, tracing the paths of a few of the many successful writers in South Florida may give you the impetus to move from the dream into the reality.
As a veteran English teacher at Westminster Academy, Laura Groves has long been surrounded by words and stories. In a just a few short weeks, she will hold her first book, I’m Outnumbered! One Mom’s Lessons in the Lively Art of Raising Boys, a glorious recounting of her adventures raising four sons interwoven with clear and practical advice for any mom.
Mac McConnell has published a number of books that bring new perspective to the familiar events of the Bible, as told by eyewitnesses such as Zaccheaus, Joseph and Simon Peter.
The journeys of these South Florida writers illustrate some basic steps for any aspiring writer.
Write, Write and
Then Write Some More
When her children were little and her days were full, Laura’s need to write surfaced in an article for Moody Magazine, and then again in material she wrote for Coral Ridge Ministries. It was these projects that taught her how to pack a lot of writing into the space of just a few hours at night. She learned the value of a deadline and how to wrangle the most meaning from every word.
As the understudy for the role of Narrator in the internationally famous First Baptist Christmas Pageant, Mac submitted page after page of material, with much of it never making it to the stage. Undaunted, he continued to write and discovered his “voice,” that unique perspective that marks each writer’s work.
Few athletes would attend their first practice expecting to secure an invitation to the Olympics. There are few occupations or skills other than writing where so many assume that their first efforts will be wildly successful, with no need to pay their dues or learn the craft.
If you want to be a writer, perhaps a lack of writing experience is what stands in your way. Write op-ed pieces for the Newspaper. Write for the Good News in South Florida. Write for your church or your denomination. Write for devotionals like The Upper Room. The hard facts are that the majority of books published fail to sell more than a few thousand copies, while your contribution to your denomination’s take-home paper or your entry in a devotional magazine could be read by hundreds of thousands of people around the world.
Read, Read and
Then Read Some More
Read great writers, whatever their genre. Learn to recognize the texture and flow of excellent writing. Know those authors who are writing in your chosen genre. Good writers are often voracious readers. Some have even suggested typing great scenes from favorite novels as a cure for “writer’s block,” as your mind uses clever dialogue and stunningly described characters as the launching pad for your own creativity.
Attend Writing Conferences
In a market where few publishing houses accept unsolicited manuscripts, your best chance to have your writing reviewed by an acquisitions editor is often at one of the larger writing conferences. Laura attended her first Florida Christian Writers Conference in 2007 armed with her book proposal. It was at the conference that she received great feedback on her proposal.
The next year she met her agent, Les Stobbe, as well as the women who would make up her online critique group. The opportunity to attend seminars conducted by the leaders in Christian publishing, present your work for critique by editors and to meet other writers from around the state is invaluable.
Join Critique Groups
Laura credits her online critique group, Kindred Heart Writers, with providing invaluable support as well as the well-timed suggestions that allowed her to see her work published.
“A critique group is good for everyone, even if you think that it’s not for you. Make it good for you or you risk never being published. The chance to have several opinions on your work is invaluable as you discover what parts of your writing offend, confuse or hit someone wrong. My group has read every word of every chapter of this book,” says Laura.
Mac has also assembled a team that is instrumental in each book’s production. Part of the timeline is a review by a circle of readers. Eventually, his self-published books are edited, compiled, and printed by professionals. Mac regularly changes the makeup of his review group to ensure that friendship doesn’t cloud their opinion. “I want the readers to be able to say, ‘I get it.’ I don’t stop until the confusion is gone.”
Keep On Keeping On
Perseverance is invaluable, as there will always be people who will discount your writing, your topic or even your talent itself. Research any of your favorite authors and you will find that many years often separated their first efforts and the eventual publication of their novel. Stories of walls papered with rejection letters are not uncommon. If God has given you a story, then you must be faithful to tell it.
The Good News in South Florida welcomes writers, e-mail Editor@GoodNewsofSFL.org.
Laura Grove’s blog is OutnumberedMom.com.
Mac McConnell’s website is Way.org. Books are available at area Christian bookstores and Amazon.
The Florida Christian Writers Conference website is fcwc.org
A new critique group for South Florida writers will meet the fourth Saturday of the month at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale. E-mail FLWritersCritique@gmail.com or call Anitra at 954-556-4398 for info.