Monthly Archives: April 2013

“Top Ten Really Unhelpful Comments to Read in a Rejection Letter”

Let’s face it: every writer is going to get rejected. But the rejection letter would sting much worse if it contained any of the following “Top Ten Really Unhelpful Comments.”

#10:  Not only will I not represent you, but you owe me $79.65 for toner. I’ve never gone through so much red in only three chapters! (I’m sending toner receipt as a separate attachment).

# 9:  Be in formed that our agency will not be able or willing to take you as a client because…well, that would just be plain silly.

# 8:  Were you sober when you wrote this?

# 7:  But look on the bright side: you’re going to have lots more time for other hobbies since it’s clear you’re not a writer.

# 6:  Thanks for sending me your manuscript, as you’ve made my decision to retire much easier.

# 5:  My agency will not be able to represent you. And, I’m sorry, but I will be able to return your manuscript because I threw up on it.

# 4:  While I’m certainly not interested in representing you, I’m enclosing the address of another agent that you should send this manuscript to…because I can’t stand the guy.

# 3:  In addition to the recommendation that you stop writing immediately, I also highly recommend that you go get a CaT-Scan.

# 2:  After reading only two chapters of your hideous book, I was incredibly envious of the character who died in chapter one.

# 1:  I’d give you more reasons why I hated your book, but UPS just delivered the do-it-yourself Electric Shock Therapy Kit I had overnighted to me. I’ve got a whole lot of forgetting to do!

Rejection hurts, huh?

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Filed under Christian Fiction, Christian Growth, editing, Larry W. Timm, reading, Writing

“There Once Was a Nice Lady…”

Okay, fellow writers, enjoy the following story, and then I’ll meet you at the end for a few sentences of application. Someone gave me this story many years ago, and I like to share it when I can. It’s moving. Uhhummm.

There one was a nice lady who was a little old-fashioned. She was planning a vacation at a particular popular campground, but first she wanted to make sure of the accommodations.

Uppermost in her mind were the toilet facilities. She couldn’t bring herself to write the word toilet in a letter, so she settled on bathroom commode. But when she wrote that down it still sounded too forward, so she rewrote her letter to the campground director and referred to the bathroom commode as the BC. “Does your campground have a BC?” she finally wrote.

The campground director was baffled by this euphemism. He showed the letter to several people and they couldn’t decipher it either. Finally he decided that she must be asking about the location of the nearest Baptist Church, so he say down and penned this reply.

“Dear Madam, I regret very much the delay in answering your letter, but now I take pleasure in informing you that a BC is located about nine miles north of the campground and is capable of seating 250 people at one time. I admit this is quite a distance away if you are in the habit of going regularly. However, you will be pleased to know that a great many people take their lunch along and make a day of it. They usually arrive early and stay late.

“The last time my wife and I went was about six years ago and it was so crowded that we had to stand up the whole time. It may interest you to know that there is a supper planned to help raise money to buy more seats. This will be held in the basement of the BC. I would like to say that it pains me very much not to be able to go more often, but it is surely no lack of desire on my part. As we grow older it seems to be more of an effort, particularly in cold weather.

“If you decide to visit our campground, perhaps I could go with you the first time, sit with you, and introduce you around to all the other folks. Remember, this is a friendly community.”

Okay, my writer friends, how important is it that we be clear in our writing? Do we really need to offer concrete descriptions, discernible character development, and understandable dialogue? If we are writing Christian fiction, can we afford to be misunderstood or to have our message (if we have one) lost along the way because we did a poor job of communicating clearly? Let me know what you think. By the way, I’m going to Blue Ridge in a few weeks, should I check to see if they have a BC at the conference?

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Clash of Kingdoms

Kingdoms–there are only two. Period. And you are a citizen in one of them. So is every human being on the face of this earth.

The Kingdom of Darkness manifests itself in evil and death. It’s “king” is Satan.

The Kingdom of Light manifests itself in good and life. It’s King is Jesus.

I write because I want people to know which kingdom they are in. I write because my Lord Jesus Christ came to sacrifice His perfect life so that I could be transferred from Satan’s domain/kingdom to God’s Kingdom. Yes, at one time I was a citizen of the kingdom of darkness. So were you.

In the midst of the darkness that has filled Boston and, via television and radio, has settled over your corner of the world, please know that the end has already been determined…and Jesus will be victorious. I write because I know that my Savior lives and on the earth will take His stand. I write because even though our struggle is not ultimately against flesh and blood, yet millions of flesh and blood human beings are captives of the dark kingdom. And Jesus wants them to be free.

I preach, teach, and write because I want to contribute to the destruction of the kingdom of darkness. My King–the King of kings & Lord of lords, Jesus Christ–said that He came to destroy the works of the devil. It is my honor to join my Master in that battle, knowing that my strength is in Him, which is the only way I can experience victory.

The manifestation of evil–in Boston or wherever–does not make me want to quit writing, it makes me want to write more than ever.

 

 

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The Writer and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

The rejection comes, the bad review gets posted, the sales report points downard, the contest judge bleeds all over your entry before dismissing it from the contest, and not even your mother wants to read your latest book. It’s one of those days. Ever had one? Or two…hundred?

Most writers have. If you haven’t, you will. Sorry, but it’s a “Murphy’s Law” kinda reality. The whole if-anything-can-go-wrong-it-will concept. On steroids. You can probably relate to whoever it was–most likely a writer–that amended Murphy’s law with the following painful truths:

    • Murphy was an optimist
    • The other line always moves faster
    • The chance of the peanut butter & jelly sandwich falling face down is proportional to the cost of your carpet.
    • Inside every large problem is a series of small problems struggling to get out.
    • 90% of everything is crud.
    • Whatever hits the fan will not be evenly distributed.
    • Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clear to the bone

Do yourself a favor and find a copy of Judith Viorst’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. You’ll be able to nod and chuckle at the same time. Been there…done that…maybe even there now. You understand how young Alexander feels, and, like him, you are thinking of “moving to Australia.” Perhaps not literally, but you’re so bummed out–dare we say “depressed” even?–that you want to get away from your writing. Yep, a mild pity-party is allowed. I’ll invite you to mine if you’ll invite me to yours.

If you are hurting, please take to heart these next words:  If you tried, you are not a failure. Read the bold words again. One more time. The only writers who are failures are the ones who never try, never put themselves or their work out there, or never even write a word. You’re not a writer because someone else said you are or because one day you decided you would be one; you’re a writer because you write. You tried. And you will try again. Yes, your book or article may “fail” in the sense that it doesn’t get published, but that doesn’t mean YOU are a failure. Every writer knows failure. Sometimes has coffee with it on a regular basis.

Someone said, “It’s not failure, but low aim that’s a crime.”

And, yes, you knew it was coming, you really need to hear the words of Teddy Roosevelt again: “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

If you are having on Alexanderish period in your life, please read one more quote. It’s the most important one of all the ones mentioned in this post, because it is from God’s Word.

“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” (Psalm 43:5)

People may not always love your writing, but God will always love the writer. That’s YOU. So write on, dear friend…write on.

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Stewards of Mysteries

While the context of the verses below is specifically speaking about the Apostle Paul and the responsibility entrusted to him as an Apostle of Christ, the incredible power of these verses extends to another group of people who are given an awesome privilege: Writers. Think about the following words in those terms.

“Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” (I Corinthians 4:1)

Writer, don’t let the word “mysteries” toss you for a loop. Here–as in I Corinthians 2:7–the word “mysteries” means those truths previously unknown or not clearly proclaimed until the time was right. It is a revealing of truth…a flipping of the light switch. God had history wired for His light, but He lit a few lights at a time. The coming of Jesus signified the flipping of the big switch that allowed the most breath-taking light to shine.

What does this have to do with writers? It applies in some awe-inspiring ways! First and foremost, we write in glad submission to our Lord. We are servants of Christ. Editors, agents, publishing houses, and even our readers are secondary. And, second, we are stewards of the mysteries of God. Caretakers of the holy.

Wow!

Try to lazy your way through a story once you grab that fact!

Then read the second verse in I Corinthians 4:

“…it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.”

Why am I stressing this? Read on…

“…but the one who examines me is the Lord. [When the Lord comes, He will] bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” (I Corinthians 4: 4-5)

Yeah, it matters. I want to be a good steward of story. I want to give it my best because God has trusted me with something powerful and priceless. And He will write the final review…not just of a single novel, but of my heart’s motives. He knows what I write AND why I write.

Same for you. Does it matter?

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“Wounded Warriors”

Writers are some of the bravest people I know. They march into the kingdom of darkness–following the lead of their Lord–and seek to do battle with the evil hosts that lurk within.

And they write.

Christian writers bear the burden of conviction, the weight of mission, and the scars of their past. And a keen awareness of their present weakness. They need not look often to know that the baggage from their own past is dragging along behind them.

And they write.

The enemy of our souls–of all souls–tries to stop them. He tells them that they are not as good as “so and so.” He reminds them of hurtful comments. And mocks their attempts to move forward on the writer’s journey.

And they write.

As they sit to write stories that stab his veil of darkness with the sharp power of words, and threaten to open avenues of light for others, the devil retaliates with lies. “Your Work-in-progress is terrible,” or “Your last book was a failure…and that means you are too.” He spews discouragement, threatening them with weariness and doubt. Tempting them to give up.

And they write.

He offers them the sweet taste of arrogance and pride, and tries to make them believe that they are a star…one that shines brighter than the Nazarene. Satan’s flattery is lined with razor-sharp blades that cut as the writer swallow his lies, the cuts opening wounds that bleed away their joy.

And they write.

Dear God, Someone reading these words today needs Your help. They have grown discouraged under the weight of our enemy’s deceit. They can feel his hot, foul breath on their necks and they are feeling defenseless before him. They have started to question Your calling in their life. They are ready to quit. Please, Father, come to their aid, and assure them of Your never-ending presence. Refresh their soul. Heal their wounds. Send them a friend. And return to them the joy of their salvation. And then…they write. In Jesus Name, so be it.”

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“Top 10 Bad Ways To Start an Acceptance Speech When You Win a Writing Contest”

Still working on my version of a theme song for American Christian Fiction Writers, so here’s another “Top 10” list. Many writers–myself included–have entered writing contests. And, possibly, a few writers have fantasized about what they’d say or do if they won and had to make an acceptance speech. Here are ten things to avoid:

Top Ten Bad Ways To Start an Acceptance Speech When You Win A Writing Contest

#10:  By fainting on stage.

# 9:  By way of live video feed from the restroom

# 8:  By saying, “Personally, I think my book stinks! Wow, the other entries in this category must have been really bad!”

# 7:  By crying so hard that you short-circuit the microphone and electrocute yourself.

# 6:  By saying, “Man, this award looks a lot smaller up close.”

# 5:  By saying, “Since I may never actually publish this book, I’m going to read the entire thing to you now. Chapter one…….

# 4:  By jumping on your table and yelling, “Show me the money!”

# 3:  By staring at the editor who rejected your previous book and screaming, “Track Change this!”

# 2:  By declaring, “I’d just like to say to the other contestants, Na-Na-Na-Na-Na-Na!”

# 1:  By shaking your head in disbelief and announcing, “I didn’t really think this book would win when I printed it off the internet!”

Any other bad things could happen (besides me in a kilt)?

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“Turn that Frown Upside Down…but not for long!”

I love to laugh. And I really enjoy making other people laugh. There’s something extremely satisfying about the power of humor. I try to sprinkle humorous moments through my suspense novels as a way of taking my foot off the gas for a moment, so the reader can take a breath. I want the reader to have a chuckle and enjoy a smile, but I want them to look out the windshield and see that another hairpin curve is up ahead. I want them to anticipate what’s about to happen.

Humor is as necessary as it is revealing.

It’s necessary because it can serve as a relief valve, allowing us to vent out some of the pressures that build up. It’s revealing in regard to the type and timing of the humor. And, often times, the power of humor is found in its ability to be a bonding agent. Humor is a universal experience. People of all cultures, generations, languages, and backgrounds find enjoyment in a good laugh. Smiles cross almost all barriers.

And humor is a great “set-up” tool. A reader laughs at something and, willingly or not, drops their guard a little. And when they do that, a writer can wring the most out of the next jolt of suspense. It’s like watching people giggle as the roller coaster climbs the steep incline, even though they know that “what goes up, must go down.” (I don’t personally ride roller coasters because when it comes to the contents of my stomach, the rule is reversed:  “what goes down will come up.”).

When a reader finishes one of my books, I want them to have no hesitation when they say, “That was a suspense book. What a ride!” And if the humor did its job, the ride was even better than they hoped it would be.

Do you think humor, especially in suspense books, is effective? Do you have any examples of writers who do it well?

SPECIAL NOTE: Please take a moment and drop by my friend’s blog, and enjoy an interview that Bethany Shaw Macmanus did with me. Let Bethany know what you think. I’m honored to be her guest at www.anoiseinthenight.wordpress.com

FRIDAY’S POST: I’m working on my version of a theme song for American Christian Fiction Writers and another “Top 10” list…so be sure to see which one is posted on Friday.  🙂

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