Ten years have come and gone since I made the decision that, yes, I am an author. I know it sounds odd coming from an award-winning author, but my world felt safer when I dabbled with my writing rather than pursuing a career in words. Suffice it to say, the last several years have seen massive learning curves in my writing journey with many lessons learned. I’d like to share a few of them with you.
Attend writers’ conferences
These conferences do not have a price on how valuable they are to writers. Connections with editors, publishers, and other authors will give you support and encouragement you won’t find anywhere else as well as a tremendous boost to your career. The workshops, clinics, and continuing sessions provide great opportunities to take your writing to the next level. As an added incentive, many of them offer scholarships when finances are an issue.
Know the difference between the gift of writing and the craft of writing
I knew I had the gift of writing, but I didn’t know the craft of writing. BIG difference. Only after attending numerous workshops at writers’ conferences (hint, hint) did I understand how much I had to learn. The craft of writing includes editing, show/don’t tell, deep point of view, creating dialogue, and so much more. I would never have become an award-winning author without learning and growing in the craft of writing.
Be ruthless in editing
I know, I know. Every word an author writes comes from inspiration beyond perfection, and, therefore, cannot be changed. Umm… No. As authors we need to choose the best word we can to accomplish our goal—making sure our message gets heard. And sometimes we need to exchange those words for others with more power, more depth, more clarity.
For instance, I wrote the manuscript of my first book exactly the way I believed it would impact readers. Consequently, I thought every word was necessary. Until… I sat down with a retired English college professor who went over the first five chapters of my book line by line. She brought reality to the instruction I had received at the conferences. What a learning experience!
By the time I finished editing Making Crooked Places Straight, I had cut over 12,000 words. Yes, you read that right. 12,000 words. The finished product resulted in an award-winning book, something that wouldn’t have happened without editing.
What helped me? My editors, of course. But one other thing has made a huge difference—changing personas, if you will. I make the switch from an author to a “building inspector” and deliberately look for ways to improve each sentence. Can I make my point with one or two words instead of three sentences? Am I telling instead of showing? Will this paragraph add or detract from the message? Can I eliminate any of my favorite phrases? Will this stand the test of time? In other words, I become ruthless, the only time I am rewarded for such a trait.
Do your research. Want to know which conference will help you meet your writing goals? Research. Need to know how people dressed in Omaha, Nebraska in 1875? Research. Need to know the leading brand of soap used in 1943 for part of a murder mystery? Research.
While looking at marketing tools for Making Crooked Places Straight, I decided to pursue radio interviews. I did hours and hours and hours of research—determining which radio stations were a good fit for my message, making dozens of calls, writing follow-up emails, and more. Consequently, I netted over twenty interviews before the book was published.
More importantly, my successful research resulted in a publisher asking me to write a how-to book for authors looking for interviews. The result? My second book, Land Media Interviews Without a Publicist, which gives step-by-step instruction on how to generate author interviews.
Yes, it takes time. Yes, it can be overwhelming. Yes, it can cause blurry vision. Do it anyway. Research.
All authors eventually come to the point of quitting. It happens to every one of us, usually after crazy, stress-filled days where nothing goes right, and I mean NOTHING. That’s when I want to quit. Quit relationships, quit life, quit writing.
However, writing is part of me, my identity. I can’t quit me. So I pick up my pen or head to the keyboard. And I remember who created me and the purposes he has for me, and I write.
ღ About Penelope Kaye ღ
An award-winning author, Penelope’s books include Making Crooked Places Straight, a spiritual warfare manual; Land Media Interviews Without a Publicist, a writer’s how-to manual; and I Do Not Like the Rotten Egg Scent in Yellowstone National Park, a picture book whose title says it all. She has written columns for area newspapers, devotionals for two national organizations, and annual reviews for the High Plains BookFest. Her devotional, “In the Dark and Loving It” won “Best Devotional” for the Oregon Writers Cascade Awards.
Although her two adult daughters live on opposite coasts, Penelope Kaye resides in the Mountain West. She enjoys walking, doing word puzzles, and eating blueberries anytime of the day.
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©2022 Penelope Kaye