Wednesday, August 26, 2015

How do you define success? by Terry Burns



I’ve published a number of books, but there probably aren’t many of you who have read them. That’s because I’m writing in obedience, and the market God has chosen for me is not large. I’m okay with that.

I became convinced God wanted me to reach out to the male nonbeliever, the person who is reluctant to discuss faith issues, and to plant the little seed that will open the door for someone else to go further. There are planters, then there are the farmers who cultivate and nourish the seed as it grows, and finally there are harvesters who get the wonderful pleasure of helping Jesus reap the crop.

In spite of the fact that I attended a high school with a mascot and name of “The Harvesters,” I seldom get to be in such a role. Those who write Christian fiction are in the business of planting seeds, hopefully to as many as possible. Planters who, like Jesus telling parables, use storytelling skills to make subtle or perhaps not so subtle points that lead someone to begin to question and hopefully to seek answers. Then the farmers and the harvesters take over.

If we are writing under a calling, God has an audience in mind for the work we are producing. Hopefully, He wants us to reach a huge number of people. We would all like the maximum number of people to read our writing. With my book  Mysterious Ways, God obviously knew where He wanted it to go and He saw to it that it went there. As I said, I have no idea how that was accomplished. It wasn’t a large group, but it was where He intended it to go.

We all have to ask ourselves that question: What if the market God has in mind isn’t a large number, what if it is a smaller group?

What if it is only one?

What if that one is us?

Are we still willing to write in obedience if God has a very small audience in mind? I made the commitment long ago to do that. It’s something each of us needs to decide for ourselves.
We have to go through an exercise where we can really come to terms with what we deem to be success for our writing. Do we need the big sales to feel we have achieved success? Do we have to reach a certain group of people to feel that? For a secular writer, if they don’t sell thousands of copies, they aren’t considered a success. How many does a Christian writer have to reach to feel successful?

If I only sold one book and it led to a person finding salvation, it would be enough although I know all of us certainly want to reach out to more.

How do you define success?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What Makes Your Characters Special? by Andy Scheer



Unless they’re memorable, why should readers care?


The contest organizers didn’t include this criteria to derail entries. In every fiction contest I’ve judged, I’ve been asked to weigh in on the characters. Yet as I reflect on the eleven novels I just evaluated, this category proved especially daunting:

Characterization:
● Did you find the characters interesting? 
● Were they skillfully developed and multi-dimensional?
● Were they distinct or could any character have said another's words or complete their actions?
● Did you empathize with the hero/heroine and maybe even the villain?
● Could you tell what motivated them?
● Were the motivations believable, even for this genre?

I was judging adventure novels, which put much of their stock in the plot. But plot is just one reason I’ve read so many stories featuring Dirk Pitt, Cotton Malone, Philip Mercer, and Gray Pierce. As these characters face world-threatening challenges, I’ve come to know them—especially their quirks.

Pitt doesn’t just save the world, he collects antique cars. For his day job, Malone runs a rare bookstore. Mercer remodeled his Alexandria, Virginia, town house—and relaxes by polishing old railroad ties. When not on a secret mission, Pierce struggles in his dealings with his father, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. These characters have lives outside the plot. They have unusual interests. Much like real people.

I think of one friend, who keeps a world-class book collection. Or another, who builds beehives. Or another, who displays a fanatic devotion to the Chicago Bears – and the Detroit Redwings. Or another, whose hair, makeup, and clothing are always perfect.

Each threatens the norm in some aspect of their personality and interests. That’s one measure of what sets them apart—that makes them interesting.

Sadly, most of the contest entrants hadn’t gotten that message. They filled their pages with stock characters (with the obligatory weird names): the usual straight-arrow good guys and twisted bad guys.

If these characters had any quirks, they didn’t show up in the early going—where I was evaluating if the story would be worth my time.

A couple weeks ago I discovered Philip R. Craig’s series of Martha’s Vineyard mysteries—and got to know J.W. Jackson. Unlike Jackson, I’m not an ex-cop, don’t know the best tide conditions for catching bluefish, and have never made paté with fish I’ve smoked. But I sure like spending 250 pages with him.

Or consider my recent friend Bernie Little from Phoenix. Unlike him, I’ve never seen the attraction of driving fast in early Porsche convertibles, especially while listening to trumpet player Roy Eldridge. But Bernie does, and as long as I’m going to help him catch the perps, I’ll respect the quirks that make him Bernie.

Just like the people who read your novels will show at least a polite interest—or even a secret fascination—with your main character’s distinctive clothing, diet, makeup, hobbies, music, pets, phobias, allergies, sleep habits—something!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Team Hartline! Rah, rah…by Linda S. Glaz



Team Hartline! Rah, rah…by Linda S. Glaz
Four years ago I tentatively sent my resume to Joyce Hart without a clue what to expect if she said “Yes!” She did. Now what?
I was an agent, or on my way to becoming one. What did I have to offer Hartline? I’d been a reviewer for romance sites for years. I was a final proofreader, first for Wild Rose Press, and then for White Rose Press, now Pelican Book Group. I’d been an assistant to my own agent Terry Burns for a couple years, and I belonged to numerous critique groups. Why crit groups? Because I am also a writer.
Still, how would the rest of them accept me? Many had been editors at large publishing houses, editors in their own rights, booksellers for decades. What could I offer this awesome team of agents?
I’m a firm believer that those who’ve made the mistakes: alcoholism, drug addiction, and the like, and who have come out of the lifestyle are the best to minister to those struggling. Could I offer authors anything? I’d certainly made all of the mistakes. Wrote everything wrong for eighteen years, sent things out all wrong for years, and though I’d attended dozens of conferences through the years, I didn’t think there was anything I could really learn.
There! I said it. I didn’t think there was anything more to learn. So I was stagnant, foolish, and going no place really fast. Like the proverbial snowball downhill, I was gaining momentum and freezing like a Popsicle in Alaska.
After mulling that over for a couple days, I realized I had plenty to offer after all. I had done it ALL WRONG! And who better to teach and work with folks anxious to do it all right.
How had I finally managed to get an agent, get my first novella published? My first book? My second book? My multi-book deal? Could I help steer other fledgling authors in the right direction?
Well, team Hartline was awesome. They held my hand, walked me through many things, and supported me at every turn on the path. They contacted me to see if I’d like help even before my asking. They were and are true brothers and sisters, not only in Christ, but in the industry.
They sent me clients! YES, as I got started, they sent me clients. And I learned they weren’t pity submissions, the agents at Hartline do this often for each other.
“Here, know you love a great romance, and I think this one would be better served by a female agent.”
“Linda, I’ve worked with this client before, but I’m having trouble getting her to understand the pure romance idea. Would you like to take a stab at it?”
“Linda, I’m overwhelmed with subs this week, would you like to take a look at a few?”
And to think I’d be worried whether or not I’d fit in.
A couple years later, I was able to do the same for my teammates.
HARTLINE IS A TEAM. These are amazing agents there to do a primo job at placing their clients. They are also there to support one another, lift each other up in prayer when needed, and to forge forward with the newest ideas and possibilities. They aren’t afraid of controversial works that have “brilliant” stamped all over them.
Yessir. We are a team. And I’m proud to be part of the team that has represented some of the best award-winning authors in the business today.