On the way to the airport in St. Louis yesterday, I happened to be sitting in the shuttle bus behind Dianne Burnett, the CBD fiction editor. Dianne has a unique viewpoint of fiction and had some wonderful advice for aspiring editors. I told her that she’s got an article there…and look what she did as soon as she got back to work!
An author asked me to write some tips for aspiring authors from my point of view as the fiction editor for Christianbook.com, so here goes:
Write what you know!
Don’t try to write a story based on a setting in a place you’ve only experienced through the internet. Without exception, the A-list authors
either live in, near, or spend time where the story takes place. How can you convey passion or the quirks of a place if you’ve never been there?
One of the A-list authors had never traveled more than 500 miles from her home before her first book was published. Can you guess who this author is? Why is she an A-List author? She writes from her soul about the place she knows best and is passionate about. I cringe when I hear “I looked it up on the internet.”
Here are two “Don’t” examples:
1) One writer wrote about The Big Dig “around” Boston. Talk about a serious gaff! From the standpoint of everyone who suffered through ten years of the “Big Dig” in progress, from the constant changing of direction, traffic tie-ups, etc.; anyone who had ever visited Boston in that ten year period would have experienced the agony of the Big Dig going “through” Boston. Instantly, with one word, the reader knows she/he can’t trust the storyteller.
2) Another author had an amazing story from his unique background. His father and grandfather were Chicago police officers and this author actually met one of the famous mobsters in lock up who said “don’t ever be like me, kid.” he wrote a story based in Miami when he’d never been to Miami. I want to read about the story of his experiences in Chicago or wherever he is passionate about, not a city he’s never visited because it sounds snazzy. In this age of instant feedback and world travel, you can’t fake it well.
Write from your heart, soul and what is authentic to you:
It may not be God’s timing for that book now, but God uses everything for His purpose; perhaps it’s a stepping stone to develop your voice (point of view). I had the opportunity to listen to writers pitching stories to publishers. The worst mistake was that a couple of them started with “I have a story about…” That’s fine. The part that’s not fine is … I have another story in a different genre…and if you don’t like that…. I’ll write Amish. You are a unique person to God with your own history; your own passions. That’s what’s going to sell in the marketplace, because the characters will take over for you and your fingers won’t be able to keep up with your thoughts and ideas. Why? Because you’re passionate about it, and you’ll remember detail after detail that you’ll never get if you’re trying to write Amish when your passion is somewhere else.
Excellent examples of people writing with passion are Brandilyn Collins, Julie Lessman, Beth Wiseman to name a few. Each one lights up like a Christmas tree and shows an energy level for her passion (which, in Julie Lessman’s case, is passion!) You can’t miss it! That’s why they write so well!
Don’t write to Follow trends:
Think about your fourth book in print. What does that look like? Is it historical because you love history, is it contemporary because you have many contemporary issues that are on your heart. If you wrote one book to follow the market, you may be branded with that label. If you’re writing that fourth novel and you’re not passionate about the genre, it’s going to be hard work and drudgery instead of the words flying off the page. It takes about 18 months from signing the contract to the actual release date of the book. Chances are, that trend you tried to follow has come and gone. Obviously, follow what your publisher wants you to do, but that’s after you have your first contract! Who knows, your book may be the one that sets the next trend!
Source: Dianne Burnett, CBD blog