Lessons from a Pro

October 22, 2018

I just listened to an amazing podcast put out by a guy called Carey Nieuwhof from Toronto containing an interview with the prolific author Max Lucado. Max has now published 120 books – yes that’s 120! Many of them have become bestsellers and he is respected as being one of the most able and gifted writers of Christian literature, as well as leading a mega church of a couple of thousand people! In this remarkable interview he gave Carey an insight into how he has developed his writing technique, outlining the putting together of his most recent book Unshakeable Hope.

Apparently it takes him nine months to complete a manuscript ready for publishing. It can’t have taken that long for some of his books because the guy is only 62 years old, but that’s the schedule he runs now, writing for six hours a day for two or maybe three days a week. He gets a title or what he calls ‘a big idea’ in his mind for his next book, and then teases out a dozen chapter headings. Then he does some really intense research into what others have written around the subject before putting pen to paper. The writing then follows and once he has a workable manuscript he sends it to his editor. Then comes the back-and-forth between him and the editor trying to iron out some of the problems. He dreads getting an initial response from his editor beginning with the words “this one is going to need a lot of work Max”.

The one main thing that I heard him say that I had not heard from any author before was that he gathers a small team consisting of his editor, a representative from his publisher, his secretary and himself and they spend a week reading the manuscript out loud to each other as a group. During that week they critique the whole book and work through any issues that may arise. Only then does the manuscript go to the publisher for final working up. Max then writes his own hand written letters of request for commendations.

I am amazed at this man, who is a veritable machine of writing. As I work on my fifth book I am trying to take a leaf out of his, and involve others in the process. I can’t imagine us reading it out loud, but I think I may give it a go at least with my wife!

What do you think?

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Getting Published

August 30, 2018

As I move towards the conclusion of what will be my 5th published book (all with traditional publishers) I am once again immersed in the world of publishing. Things have changed since my last foray into this field. The mass appeal of Amazon’s Kindle and other eReaders has changed so much. In the UK many hundreds of bookshops have closed, some of them in prominent city-centre locations. Most Christian bookstores have now gone, except for those on church premises or the occasional market stall or high street site, usually linked to a cafe. Self-publishing options are available by the score via the Internet though they all involve some up-front payment from you, the author. If, like me, you don’t have access to large amounts of money, what can you do?

I am holding out for a hoped for traditional publisher who will give me a contract and then undertake the cost of producing the book. Sadly they are mostly looking out for people who could be described as “names”. These are folk who can promote their own book on TV, radio, and in the printed media. A good publisher will give you opportunities to do these things too, but they are hoping that your existing fame will open doors for you and for them. If you are not a well-known after-dinner speaker, conference speaker or itinerant preacher is not likely that you will score very highly in your attempts to secure a book contract. The only alternative to this might be to become well known in social media like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. This could give you access to many thousands of followers who might be interested to know that your book is out there. It may also help your case if you show willing to cover the production costs of at least a thousand copies of your book which you can then sell on at a profit. This enables your publisher to gain the advantages of scale in meeting their own costs.

I am most fortunate to know an excellent freelance commissioning editor, who has helped me with all my previous projects, and is willing to put my book proposal before publishers. She has warned me that the big Christian publishers are likely still to want me to be a famous person, or be very active in the media or large conferences etc. As none of these is true of me I shall probably have to fall back on putting in some of my own money in order to make this book fly. But you only live once, and I have a story that needs to be told, so I’m going to try every door in an effort to get published.

I will keep you posted as to how I get on. In my next post I hope to look at how to craft an effective synopsis as part of your book proposal.

Keep on writing!

Writer’s Retreats and Courses

October 31, 2014

I have attended a number of these over the years and will go to The Lakes’ Writers’ Course in a few weeks time. It gives an opportunity for a few days quiet reflection and training away from the busyness of life and in the company of experienced and published writers who can inspire and critique my work. This course is also run by professional publishers so that there will be the chance to rub shoulders with people who know the publishing industry from the inside and do the networking that is vital to a success in writing and publishing. You can find out more about this course at its Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/events/213575828693910/ but you may well know of others too. It is expensive to go to these things but I regard my being there as an investment in my writing. So give it a thought!

Make it Daily!

May 14, 2014

I am rediscovering the importance of writing something – anything! – at least once a day. Keeping a journal is probably the best way to do this on an informal basis, but getting even a few hundred words down on your latest project is vital too. One of my problems is that I suffer from chronic pain associated with a serious medical condition that I have been battling with for over 18 years and it restricts the length of time I can spend at the keyboard in one session.  But I can overcome this by pacing myself and setting a timer so that every 20 minutes or so I get up and stretch or move around.  It is disruptive to the flow of inspiration – if there is any – but without this I won’t get what I want to say down anyway.  So, whatever gets in the way of you spending a little time writing each day, get over it!

My Ghost writing book cover

May 14, 2014

My Ghost writing book cover

This is how my first ghost writing project looks on Amazon

Ghosting is a Good Idea

October 31, 2011

After a long period of inactivity forced upon me by ill health I am now contemplating more serious writing. My most recent project, and one which may see the light of day next year, is to ghost write the biography of a friend who has an amazing life story to tell. With my advice, he is just about to secure a publishing deal with a major UK and international publisher, and if he gets it, he has asked me to ghost-write his book.

Now there is nothing ethically wrong with this process. The book’s title will show him as author with the strap-line ‘as told to…’. I found inspiration for this in the wonderful book ‘Ghostwriting’ by Andrew Crofts. The great thing about this is that you get to write about a terrific tale and you don’t have to do any of the marketing stuff that can be such hard work afterwards, as the author does all that. Also, you have the joy of seeing your work in print even though you may not have the kind of high-profile with the general public that is so often required by publishers. You ride, quite literally, on the back of your subject’s success.

A good idea? Ask Andrew Crofts. He seems to know.

Enjoy your writing!

My Latest Book!

March 25, 2009

Easter 2009 and my latest paperback book is being published by Authentic Media in the UK, India and the USA.  It’s called ‘Storm Force: winning the battle for the mind’ and it deals with many of the issues and lessons that have come into my life as a result of being seriously ill for the last 13 years.

If you would like to know more, visit my dedicated website http://www.storm-force.info  Thanks.

Beating the Dreaded Writers’ Block

October 13, 2008

Writers’ block is that discouraging condition of the author’s mind when there just doesn’t seem to be anything left to write about.  It can strike at any moment, whether early in the life of a manuscript after the intial flush of ideas is down in print, or later when so much has been said and yet the word count is simply not high enough. 

Beating writers’ block is an art, not a science, and very much depends upon your personality.  There are, however, ceratin simple steps you can take to overcome this perennial enemy:

  • keep a small notebook with you at all times to jot down ideas that might make good short stories or illustrations to supply ideas to keep you writing
  • write regularly – daily if at all possible – anything at all but keep on writing
  • have a set place for writing, that is well lit, comfortable and above all secluded and private
  • some find it helpful to listen to soft music while they write
  • don’t get bogged down – get up and do something else then come back to the task in hand.

The above ideas will not prevent the dreaded wwriters’ block, but may well give you some resources to overcome it.  At the end of the day it is something that affects all writers face from time to time – so maybe it is a sign of your true calling!

Enjoy your writing.

Potential for Pain

September 4, 2008

I’ve got a great editor.  She works hard and tells me every fault that she can see in my book manuscripts before they go to Production.  Which is fine – except that she takes no prisoners, and if she sees any hint of inconsistency or error in my work she tears at it like a lioness at her prey.  The result is painful, but if I will allow it, can be highly productive.

I think a lot of writers struggle with being edited.  I don’t – usually!  This most recent manuscript for ‘Storm Force: winning the battle for the mind’ due out in January 2009 with Authentic, has had its moments.  The editor was searingly honest with me about one or two places where I had, frankly, lost the plot.  I was feeling very unwell, in fact just after sending off the corrected manuscript I got carted off to hospital in an ambulance.  So I got all touchy and wrongly presumed that she had given up on the project.  This was simply not the case at all.  She was just doing her job and doing it well.

My counsel, for what it is worth, is that good editors are worth their weight in gold.  Work with them; cooperate with them; appreciate them.  Touchiness and posessiveness about our writing will probably only mean that it will end up in the waste bin.  Avoid that danger.  Make your words count – get yourself a good editor!

Writing for the Web (2)

August 4, 2008

The attention span of the average reader on the Web is short, so your paragraphs need to be short too.  Your words and sentences also need to be short and punchy.  Here are some ‘writing for the Web’ tips from me:

  • Find some catchy title for each paragraph, especially the first one
  • Keep those paragraphs really short – especially the first one!
  • Even one sentence can make a paragraph for the Web
  • To avoid scrolling keep your word count down to 200 per page
  • Use bullets to emphasise your main points.

There is no point in spending time using flowery prose and vivid description on the Net.  It’s all about communication and it’s all happening fast!

Keep posting – and let me have your tips too.

Back soon.