a previous column, I opined on the topic of what to write to avoid
dwelling at the bottom of the food chain in the publishing jungle.
Today I’m going to switch gears and suggest what to read to help you
hone your writing skill. Brandilyn Collins helps with character
development in her book Getting into Character, and
James Scott Bell offers assistance with story development in his work Plot
and Structure. Many other books are on the market that will
aid you in becoming a better writer. The book I’m touting today perhaps
will encourage you to keep writing when you are tempted to chuck the
Ralph Keyes wrote The
Writer’s Book of Hope, which may be the medicine your spirit
requires. Mr. Keyes doesn’t tell you how to write. He motivates you to
write by sharing a wealth of information about successful authors and
difficult tribulations that persistent writers overcame. He spins
anecdotes and histories of writers who persevered despite the odds to
ascend the pinnacle of the profession. In a thimble, this book helps
you deal with twin creativity killers: discouragement and rejection.
And as icing on the cake, he includes stories of famous books and
authors who were self-published.
Tales of famous novelists who
wrote in their spare time while working full time and fulfilling other
responsibilities inspire one to quit making excuses for why the WIP
(work in progress) is not really progressing. For example, John Grisham
wrote his first two books while working as a lawyer, serving in the
state legislature, raising a child, and teaching Sunday school. Another
author received a Newberry Award for a book he wrote during his breaks
at his job on an assembly line. One successful author wrote her book in
two hours a day when her kids were either asleep or at school. After
her kids were grown and she had full days to write, she discovered she
was no more productive than she had been in the two one-hour periods
she started with.
After rereading sections of The
Writer’s Book of Hope, I feel ashamed about wrestling with
the issue of not having time to write. I once heard a quote that we
never have time for anything; we have to make time. If I quit reading
about football, and instead used those thirty to sixty minutes a day to
write, I could probably finish a novel during the football season.
After reading Keyes’s book, you
may come to the conclusion, as I did, that rejection is indelibly
etched onto the map of writing that leads to buried treasure. Mr. Keyes
confesses that despite all of his successes, his rejection slips
outnumber his letters of congratulations. We must remember that
rejection does not always end at the publisher’s desk. Sometimes
authors get their books published and then are rejected by the reading
public. One good example is Moby Dick It is
considered a classic today, but when it was published, it failed to
make a literary splash.
For other authors, success did
not arrive until after their eulogies were given. As someone serving
God, be content to never exult in the knowledge that you’ve been
successful. Make it your goal to please God and to minister to people.
You perhaps won’t know about the outcome of your dedication until you
reach heaven. The “better late than never” principle applies suitably
in this situation.
me share a few quotes from this inspirational book.
tried to make The
Writer’s Book of Hope as encouraging as possible, within
reason, basing it on tangible grounds for optimism that aren’t always
evident to writers when they’re mired in the black lagoons of despair.
My goal is to cast light on some of the darker aspects of writing,
publication especially, and in the process make them less
intimidating.” —Ralph Keyes
“No rejection is fatal until
the writer walks away from the battle, leaving dreams and goals
behind.”—Agent Jeff Herman
“Like auditioning actors and
tongue-tied suitors, writers learn to live with rejection. For most
authors most of the time, rebuff is the norm, embrace the exception.
Once your submissions have been rejected a few times, it’s easy to take
the hint and turn to throwing pots or taking photographs. In some cases
this is prudent. In others it is premature.” —Ralph Keyes
I feel torn between urging you
never to give up and the alternate that perhaps you ought to seek
another pastime. Sorry to be so blunt here, but I do believe that if
God wants you spending your time ministering in ways other than
writing, locking yourself in your writing cave away from those
opportunities effectively takes you out of the fight and race that God
intended for you to participate in. We all need to evaluate ourselves
objectively and spend some time on our knees in prayer.
For others, stand firm in the
face of seeming hopelessness. I think The Writer’s Book of
Hope will help alleviate the lack of vision that causes some
dreams to perish. Books and other people can encourage, but in the end
it is up to each individual to decide whether to stay the course or
not. My prayer is that you endure to the end if God has commissioned
you to write and that you abandon the dream in favor of God’s perfect
will for your life if He has not.