By MaryLu Tyndall
I’m currently writing my 11th novel. Wow! Did I say 11? That fact is still as shocking to me as the first time I got “that call” from my agent, telling me that I received a contract on my first novel. Every contract I’ve received after that has been just as exciting. God has been good to me. But, now that I’ve been in the business awhile, I often get asked, how did I get published? What is my advice for writers trying to capture that illusive ship of publishing?
If you’re a writer who’s been at it for quite some time, you’ve probably heard a multitude of answers such as: study the craft, join on online writers group, get in a critique group, attend conferences, enter contests, take classes, generate a platform...etc. So I won’t bore you with all of that again. I will say that all those things are good and valuable and are definitely things you should be doing as an aspiring writer. Having said that, however, I should tell you I did very few of those things before I got my first contract.
You see, if you’re a writer, you sort of know it deep down inside. You don’t write for money or fame or recognition. You write because you cannot do otherwise. It would be like telling an artist not to sculpt or paint or a chef not to cook. I wrote stories as far back as I can remember—way back in grade school. I was always creating adventures in my head and jotting them down here and there. God had made me a writer. I just didn’t know it yet! So, I wandered down the wrong path for many years until God, in His mercy, yanked me back to where I was supposed to be. I tell you all this by way of saying that you’re either a writer or you’re not. If you’re not, you will never achieve the success you’re looking for. You may even get a book published, but after awhile the business will become too hard and your ideas will dry out and you’ll give up. So, first thing, check in with the Creator and make sure you’re on the right path.
By the time I figured that out (slow leaner here), I didn’t know a thing about writing. But I heard quite clearly God telling me to write a story about a Christian Pirate. At first, I thought I was hearing things, but then I decided, what the heck? So I did. I had no prior professional writing experience, wasn’t on any loops, did not belong to a critique group, and had never attended a conference. I did, however, gather all the writing books around me I could and studied the craft of writing. Nevertheless, within three months of completing my first full length manuscript, I received a contract for it, plus three more books. To this day, many people tell me that first book of mine is their favorite. Lately, I’ve been pondering why, especially when I wrote that story with no plot, no preconceived set of rules, and no expectations of it being published. I wrote the story that was burning on my heart. The one that I had to tell or I would explode. And I had a blast doing it.
So what? You say. What does that mean to me? Well, I’ll tell you. After 11 books, I’ve really been trying to get back to the way I felt when I wrote that first novel. The combination of all the magical elements that made it not only get published but get nominated for a Christy award. And here’s what I remember I did:
1. Study the craft. Learn all the rules. And then when you start writing, forget about them!
2. Read read read. Read great literature and fiction in your spare time. As much as you can. Read Best sellers in your genre. You’d be surprised how much of a positive impact reading has on your writing
3. Choose a story that makes you excited. That burns in your heart, yearning to be set free. If you don’t, your book will come out bland.
4. Create deep and interesting characters with flaws and real goals, heartaches and needs.
5. Don’t plot. Yes, you heard me. Just start with a situation, turn off your left brain, and go from there!
If you’re doing a romance, create a beginning situation for both hero and heroine. Such as in my first book, The Redemption, the situation for the heroine: Young noblewoman runs away from abusive uncle in England to the Caribbean in search of her long, lost father, hoping he will give her the love she’s never had. Hero: Redeemed pirate turned privateer who sails Caribbean in search of a vile pirate, his arch-enemy, with the intent on capturing him and bringing him to justice, rescues maiden from deserted island only to find the father she is searching for is the same man.
So, now, you have a great situation filled with all kinds of possibilities and incredible tension. You’ve created deep characters. Now, just sit down, flex those fingers, and write. Turn on music, light candles, whatever gets you into your alternate world. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, historic details you need to look up later. Just mark them and move on. This is how I wrote The Redemption. If it worked for me, perhaps it will work for you too!
You can pre-order MaryLu Tyndall's newest book from the Surrender to Destiny Series (releasing the first of March!). And be sure to pick up Surrender the Heart before reading this second installment.
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