DiAnn Mills believes her readers should “Expect an Adventure.” She is a fiction writer who combines an adventuresome spirit with unforgettable characters to create action-packed novels. Her books have won many awards through American Christian Fiction Writers, and she is the recipient of the Inspirational Reader’s Choice award for 2005, 2007, and 2010. She was a Christy Award finalist in 2008 and a Christy winner in 2010. DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and is the Craftsman Mentor for the Christian Writer’s Guild. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops. DiAnn and her husband live in Houston, Texas. Visit her website at: www.diannmills.com
Welcome to DiAnn Direct!
Welcome to “DiAnn Direct”! Over the next several months, we will learn how to write quality fiction. Come along on the journey. It’s an uphill climb, but I know you are up to the task. Grab your backpack and slide in your laptop. Make sure you come equipped with a teachable spirit and lots of determination. Did you lace up your hiking boots?
We’re headed up a mountain called My Finished Novel by starting with the basics of writing fiction. For the new writer, this column will help you establish good writing habits while equipping you with tools for the craft. For the seasoned writer, the reminders will help you to tighten your manuscript. I intend to learn much about the craft while climbing to the summit.
The basics of writing quality fiction begin by formatting the manuscript according to publisher guidelines. Double space your work and include a header. Use a readable font such as Times New Roman, Courier, or Arial. Fancy fonts that are difficult to read show the writer skipped the formatting section of “Learning How to Be a Best-Selling Writer.” Of course, that’s not any of you. You’re all professionals.
If Sally Stuart’s Christian Writers’ Market Guide isn’t in your library, you are missing many opportunities to sell your work, connect with writers’ groups, locate an agent, discover writing conferences, and even enter contests. This handy reference guide can be purchased as a hard copy or in an electronic version, and its contents will answer many publishing questions. In addition, many agents and editors have submission guidelines online. Hint: When submitting a manuscript, call the publishing house and make sure the acquisition editor listed is still the same. Be sure to verify the spelling of the editor’s name. When someone misspells my name, that tells me the person didn’t do the research. I cringe as I type this, because all of us can be guilty of rushing through a project. Let’s give agents and editors the respect they deserve.
A word about excuses. Sometimes it’s hard to get started. Oh, we want to write, but frankly we’re afraid of the hard work, so we keep thinking about it—telling ourselves that someday we’ll get started. Taking ownership of your writing goals requires clearing a few boulders. Let’s do that now. Here are a few excuses for not writing.
Time: Establishing time to write takes commitment and discipline. Too often our schedules and priorities are like yappy dogs nipping at our heels. Writing may mean getting up earlier. My wake-up time is 4:15. Before you yawn, note that it’s very quiet then. Your writing may be after everyone is in bed at night. Some writers have day jobs that include a lunch break. Brown-bag your meal and write during this time. Motivation and a passion to communicate the written word lead to writing time. It’s often been said that writing one page a day equals a book in one year.
Organization: Some of us are organized and others are challenged in this area. I’m sure you have a friend (opposites attract) who would love to help you get beyond the clutter. Throw in lunch or offer to dedicate your first book to that person.
Tools: A writer doesn’t need the latest Mac or PC to get started. Many published writers began by writing on a computer at their local library. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin by firelight after she put her seven children to bed. I don’t think she had an iPad. Goodness, I wrote my first book in the second grade on a Big Chief pad with a #2 pencil. :)
Fear: Psychologists say fear of failure and fear of success rank about the same on the stress scale. Admitting you’re a writer, subscribing to a creative writing class, or submitting for
publication can be scary. Tough it up. I have a few words about rejection written toward the end of this article.
Have you thought about fear of success? Oh, my, that book sold . . . What if I can’t write a second book? What if no one likes it? What if . . . Don’t let the boo birds do their thing on you. Write through the tears and conquer the shaky fingers.
Rejection: Remember that a rejection is of your material and not of you. Rejection letters are redirection letters and certainly nothing to be ashamed of. If a writer is lucky, an editor will take time to explain why the manuscript didn’t fit the publisher’s needs. Often the writer simply receives a computer generated letter. Writing is not for the weak-hearted. Writer’s must be strong and persevere.
An editor usually rejects a
manuscript because of the following:
•The editor is not interested in the manuscript’s plot or characters.
•The writer did not conduct a market research about what is currently being published by the publishing house.
•The manuscript is poorly written.
•The publishing house is planning a title similar to the writer’s proposal.
•Tell yourself every morning that you are a writer.
•Write out a mission statement and ask God what He purposes in your writing.
•Write something every day.
•Read in the genre you want to write.
•Read the authors you admire and respect.
How are you holding up? Take a deep breath. Look how far you’ve come in the first lesson. Gaze up at the mountain peak. See that snow-capped beauty. It’s glistening and beckoning you on toward submission and acceptance. So let’s keep climbing! Next month, we’ll talk about genres and what to do with your story ideas. I’m praying for you.
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