have a good friend who very badly wants to be a writer. He has a good
feeling for telling a story, but he is “too busy” to be in a writing
group or critique group or even to participate in some of the online
possibilities. And of course a writer’s conference is out of the
question. That’s like a person deciding he is going to do brain surgery
by following the instructions in a textbook. Telling a story and
learning to write it well enough for it to deserve publication are two
When I started writing, I
participated in all of the above in addition to taking a couple of
writing courses at college and a Writer’s Digest course. I studied my
craft for six years before I was competent enough to get a book
published, and by that time I had quite a bit of short work published.
Now, as an agent, I am sent work all the time by people who have a
story, but it is far from being competently written. I read others that
are pretty good, but thousands of good books are competing for scarce
publishing slots. No, even a good book is not good enough; it takes an
exceptional book. For a publisher to acquire your manuscript, it
requires a unique story in a unique voice aimed at a good market.
I can’t imagine anyone expecting
to do something well without getting the training to do it. I still try
to write on the side, and even after some twenty years I continue to
try to learn and improve.
There is no shortage of training
available. I just came from the Jerry Jenkins Write for the Soul
conference in Denver, Colorado. It goes along with his Christian
Writer’s Guild, which has a mission of “equipping the next generation
of Christian writers.” Last weekend the regional Romance Writers of
America conference took place in Shreveport, Louisiana. I work these
conferences to try to find those exceptional books.
One of my spiritual gifts is
encouragement, and I use it to encourage writers and to pass on things
that I believe will help them—things I have learned from my writing
training and from the conferences and workshops I’ve attended, not to
mention some lessons I have learned the hard way.
will be attending several conferences in the coming months:
Texas Writers Guild, Richardson, Texas,
• East Texas Christian
Writers Conference at East Texas Baptist, April 9–10
• Oklahoma Writer’s
Federation, Oklahoma City,
Christian Writers Conference, Estes Park, Colorado, May 12–15
• SW regional meeting of
ACFW in Edmond, Oklahoma, May 22
Writers, Amarillo, Texas, June 25–26
• Oregon Christian Writers
Conference, Portland, Oregon, August 2–5
I’ve worked forty or so other
conferences besides these. I would enjoy being able to work other
conferences, and all I need is an invitation!
present several programs at
the conferences, but the most popular is Pitch and Promote like a Pro,
based on a month-long program done for ACFW (the American Christian
Fiction Writers). I have a book coming out on this topic, which will
make a nice companion piece for the workshop. A popular feature at many
conferences is editor and agent panels, but at smaller workshops and
conferences where that isn’t done, I do an Agent Q & A, which
is popular. I also do programs on Making a Living Writing and Being a
Christian Writer in a Changing World. I do a couple basic programs for
fledgling writers: So You Always Wanted to Write? and Using Fiction to
Spread God’s Word. I have done several other presentations that I keep
in my file and dust off when necessary. I’m always ready to design new
topics when needed.
Every writer should ask
themselves if they are gaining the necessary training to be successful
at getting published, or if they think they just “know how to write a
And what about the level of
training needed to teach writing? Any teacher who is not also
continuing to learn will soon be presenting stale or outdated material.
I was fascinated at the Denver conference to look over and notice Jerry
Jenkins making notes during Max Lucado’s program on writing. If a
best-selling writer like Jerry is still working to improve his craft,
what excuse could the rest of us possibly have for not doing the same?