I thought I knew how to write a children’s picture book. I didn’t. I attended the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference several years ago with my manuscript The Donkey and the King. I anticipated an editor might gasp with delight at the wonderful story and beg me to sign a contract right on the spot. I imagined floating out of the conference in storybook land and racing home in my red firebird, patting myself on the shoulder for my creativity and talent. Yawn. We’ve all had visions of grandeur.
When do we realize, if ever, we aren’t as good as we think we are? The best of us needs critiquing, teaching, input from others, and wise advice from those who have gone before. Rare is the writer who comes along and is so gifted he sweeps anyone off his feet. More than likely, the author will land on his buttocks when an editor points out all the flaws in his “Nobel prize-winning piece.” Or worse, his book or article may not even be fit to be fetched to the dogs (I know, too much hyperbole, but you get my point).
The truth is writing is hard. Rules need to be followed until you learn them. You can decide which ones you want to break once you have mastered the techniques. I was a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature at the time, but I was very much a newbie. For starters, I needed a critique group. There wasn’t one in my city, so I formed one. Word Weavers is the best writer’s group that’s entered the writing arena in the last few years. To find a Word Weavers group in your area, go to: http://www.word-weavers.com/
Fortunately, a kind author at the conference went over my book and gave me valuable input. I took her advice to heart. I went home and wrote and rewrote. What were some of my mistakes? I used big words—three-year-olds don’t know big words. The story was too long. Little kids have short attention spans. I had some concepts out of order—I needed a fresh set of eyes, someone who didn’t know my story, to point these out to me.
I learned a lot at that conference, including how important it is to attend them and soak in as much information as possible. While writing is a solo journey, publishing and marketing take teamwork and contacts—even if you are self-published.
Since I published The Donkey and the King, I’ve received my Master of Arts in Creative Writing. I’ve learned more about writing than I ever thought possible. I cringe now when I receive emails about “how to create content,” “how to outsource content,” or “how to write a book in a weekend.” Writing is an art. If you don’t have the fire in your gut to write good content, don’t expect a reader to have the fire in his gut to read your outsourced book. Whatever happened to passion and creativity and sacrifice and hard work? What about the desire to learn how to write better?
I hear from time-to-time writers say, “I don’t like to write, I just like the finished book.” If you don’t like to write, why are you writing? If you aren’t willing to invest in the process to make your writing better, like attending writers’ conferences, joining a critique group, taking writing classes, and reading books on writing, how can you become the writer God gifted you to be? If you don’t have the passion to write, you won’t push yourself to reach a higher level in your writing. Will God bless your half-hearted efforts?
Don’t let the “roaches” out there eat holes in your bank account either. Flee from those sharks who promise wannabes they can produce content without sweat and make a million. Where is the roach spray when you need it? I zap those emails in a heartbeat and hope people aren’t gullible enough to pay them.
Writing is an art—not just the artwork that is drawn or written on the pages of a book, but the art that is etched in the reader’s heart. Have you, the reader, been changed by the author’s message? Encouraged in your walk with God? Convicted of sin in your life? Art should add meaning and culture—and good art should represent some aspect of our Creator. Our words should convey that deep down; otherwise, for who or what are we writing? To glorify ourselves? God forbid.
The Donkey and the King grew out of my visit to Israel in 1991. The story is an allegory to the book of Philemon in the New Testament. The slave, Onesimus, ran away from his master. Along the way he met Saul who witnessed to him and urged him to return home. On every page of The Donkey and the King is the hidden word “good.” The lesson in The Donkey and the King speaks to all of us: There is good in the world if we look for it and listen to God’s voice.
One of my fondest memories in my writing journey is when I read The Donkey and the King to a young Sunday school class. The kids stayed afterward to find the “good” hidden on every page. Now available on Kindle, the drawings can be enlarged to search for the hidden word, and the font can be made bigger for easier reading.
Creativity and the passion to share is what all authors should embrace—and strive to perfect. I want to believe I give my all for the reader’s enjoyment. And then, just maybe, I might get an Amazon review praising my well-written book. God rewards those who are diligent and faithful in His service—and I remind myself of that when my feelings don’t match reality, or someone criticizes my book unfairly. It happens too often. Spiritual warfare is part of the Christian’s world and writers are not immune. In the end, we know who wins.
My advice: Learn all you can and enjoy the writing journey. Share your story, conquer evil with good, be passionate always, and leave your mark on the lives of others. Through your words, you can influence future generations for good, and that’s worth striving for.