It’s amazing to look back over the past 13+ years and consider my writing journey. I didn’t realize when I put pencil to paper where God would guide my steps. The doors He would open … and close. The joys and doubts that would accompany me. The Lord’s plans have exceeded my own, creating an adventure I didn’t anticipate.
While I’ve attempted to walk this writing road with excellence, I’ve made mistakes along the way. However, God has grown me through those experiences, and I pray He uses the lessons I’ve learned to help you.
MISTAKE #1: Seeing the Publication Path as a Sprint Rather Than a Marathon
I started my quest toward traditional publishing with a dream in my heart, which still exists. But reality has tempered my expectations. I used to think tremendous success just lingered at my door, waiting to descend upon me with flair. Achieving author stardom early on, I’d be one of the exceptional authors who landed it big without much effort.
Well, let me emphasize: writing is hard work. Building a platform is even harder work. Please don’t be deceived into thinking otherwise. Then there’s the art of marketing before and after your book is published—a requirement if you want to sell books. Did I mention that God’s call to write involves hard work?
The Bible teaches us about patience and diligence. Success as a writer includes both, and we serve ourselves well to implement these values.
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Galatians 6:9, KJV
LESSON #1: Write diligently, wait on the Lord’s timing, and never give up.
MISTAKE #2: Being Unprepared
It’s important to conduct ourselves professionally, and part of that means being prepared. Even so, I once followed some well meaning but incorrect advice when I met with a conference faculty member. Instead of taking a book proposal with me, I simply presented a one sheet. It looked fabulous. It got the agent’s attention. And then, he wanted to read a writing sample. I didn’t have one. My one sheet only contained a brief blurb about my manuscript whereas my proposal included sample Bible study lessons.
The agent peered at me over the top of his reading glasses while I fumbled for an answer. He concluded our time was complete since I couldn’t produce anything for him to read. And that was that. I’ve never forgotten.
Go to the ant … Observe her ways and be wise, Which, having no chief, Officer or ruler, Prepares her food in the summer, And gathers her provision in the harvest.” Proverbs 6:6-8, NASB
LESSON #2: Whether you’re writing or speaking, always be prepared.
MISTAKE #3: Lagging Behind on Conference Requests
Almost a year-and-a-half ago, a VP and associate publisher for a significant publisher expressed interest in two of my manuscripts. She requested my proposals for both of them, and I was thrilled. Her interest in itself felt like an accomplishment.
I returned home from the conference fully intending to submit my proposal. However, I didn’t sense an urgency, knowing professionals prefer for writers to take their time rather than send sloppy material. I set about the task of updating and improving my proposal, and I finally e-mailed it almost five months later.
Perhaps it would have turned out great except the VP and Associate Publisher who requested my material no longer worked for the publisher. I contacted the company directly and explained the situation, but they never replied once they discovered I lack agent representation. I’ll never know what might have been.
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16
LESSON #3: Work with excellence but don’t expect perfection, submitting requested materials in a timely manner.
MISTAKE #4: Lacking Knowledge of MS Word
Most if not all publishers desire manuscripts and proposals in MS Word, which means we need to know how to use this word processor. Generally speaking, I’ve become adept with it for writing purposes. But. I still feel disappointed about one particular mistake:
I once e-mailed my book proposal to an agent or more when it displayed those annoying green and red squiggly marks. Of course, it was unintentional on my part, and I didn’t realize what had happened until after I sent it. I was horrified. Though I’d labored for countless hours on that document and used the spelling/grammar tool with diligence, all of the markups indicated otherwise.
Of course, nothing ever resulted from those submissions. While I’ve recovered from that setback, I’ve enacted measures to ensure such a thoughtless error doesn’t happen again. I’ve learned more about using MS Word, and it turns out my specific issue with the grammar/spell check has a simple fix. Now I know, and I can move forward confidently.
An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Proverbs 18:15, ESV
LESSON #4: Educate Yourself by Googling MS Word Questions, Asking Someone for Help, or Taking a Class.
I’m comforted by knowing God always helps me when I ask … whether I’m pressed for time to prepare, confused about computer skills, or baffled by something else. The Lord cares about our needs. Let’s look to Him first in our efforts to improve as Christian writers.