Welcome to the blog of author Tricia Goyer!

Monday, April 30, 2007

Theme or plot?

Welcome guest Veronica Heley with more great writing advice!

Which is more important, theme or plot?

Theme should be woven into the plot, so that one is integral to the other. Combining the two, you create an emotional hook to capture and retain the reader's interest, and leave them thinking about your book long after they've finished reading it.

Can you have a book which is all plot, without any theme? Some all-action spy or crime dramas might seem at first sight to have no message. Overall they usually evince two strands; one is that a hunter is never satisfied until he's brought down his quarry, and the other is that crime/spying fails to provide the protagonist with a satisfying lifestyle.

Can you can tie some examples of themes to well-known books and writers? Here are a few examples to get you thinking.
Romance, prejudice, social comment.......Jane Austen, Barbara Cartland

Destruction, reconstruction.......Tolstoy/War & Peace, Nevil Shute/A Town like Alice

Rites of passage, sins of the fathers, redemption.......Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

Triumph of good over evil.......crime stories, JRR Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Nurturing talent, taking control of one's life.......Tracy Chevalier/The Pearl Earring

Catharsis through suffering.......Catherine Cookson

You may decide to highlight politically correct themes, or current affairs. Charles Dickens' books, for instance, contained strong themes: indignation over workers' rights, Insolvency, bankruptcy. Damaging pride in various forms. The redeeming power of love and friendship. Self-improvement. The corruption of power. Self-delusion.

People and the way they react to circumstances don't change - but ethics do.

What do you see as possible themes of relevance to society today? Social equality through education, equal pay, pension rights? Or perhaps animal activism, drugs or care in the community?

What theme would you like to explore in your writing? Here are a few powerful ones.
Loss of love, loneliness. Grief and death. Coming to terms with widowhood. Improving one's lot through education, learning from life. Dealing with a lack of self-worth, with evil and with selfishness in others. A new baby as a symbol of hope. Learning how to forgive wrongs. Dealing sensibly or otherwise with money. Stewardship. Revenge. Ambition.

A series of books will probably contain more than one theme. I use several themes in the Eden Hall series, such as lack of self-worth, and forgiveness, but I also write about how a community can be affected by economic factors. In the Ellie Quicke series, my theme is how a fiftyish woman learns to cope with her new life as a widow, and becomes a stronger person in doing so...with side-swipes at the greed and ambition which rule her daughter's life.

Theme and character: What theme or themes you include will shape how your characters develop - and therefore influence the plot. For instance, if you wish to write about revenge, the type of character you choose would influence how he or she might go about exacting vengeance. A weak woman might choose a non-confrontational method, a strong man might go for physical assault. The theme is the same, but the way it is worked out would be different because the characters are different.

Whatever theme or character or plot you choose, it is generally true that a successful book, a book that lingers in the mind, will provide some kind of closure at the end.not only of the plot, but also of the theme. Except in a series where the basic set-up is reproduced time and again, there can be some movement - however slight - to show development of character. This can happen even in a series, though once you've settled on a winning formula, it's hard to improve on it!

Veronica Heley


Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.

~~Scott Adams, cartoonist (1957 - )

Friday, April 27, 2007


My friend Maryiln Rockett sent this great quote to me:

This is a quote by my friend Jill Novak, author of Gift of Family Writing - and a magazine with her daughter The Girlhood Home Companion.

Jill says, “Your unique writing voice is as individual as your fingerprint.”

Jill’s quote (said at a workshop she gave) reminded me that my writing doesn’t have to be like anyone else’s writing. It is how God has wired me to say certain things, and no one else can or will say them exactly the way I do.

I don’t have to compare myself to others. I just have to work at writing with excellence in my own style.

How freeing that is!!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Thursday Tip...Where do characters come from?

Welcome guest Veronica Heley! Today she is going to share with us how she finds her characters.

I was six years old and scared. The city was being bombed nightly, and I'd been taken down into a damp cellar and told to go to sleep in a bunk bed. My 4 year old sister was to sleep in the bunk above me, and the twins were already asleep opposite. It was wartime and when darkness came, so would the bombers, night after night after night. Upstairs the windows were criss-crossed with tape and fitted with blackout. I lay rigid in the bunk, praying a bit, trying not to flinch as each 'Kerrump!' heralded another bomb dropping nearby.

I gripped a book which had been bought for me only that day; the first book that I can remember being bought for me alone. And a torch. I wasn't supposed to read by torchlight, but after a while I switched it on, opened the book and forgot about the bombs as I read the story of Cinderella.

Many years later when I needed a theme for a series, I sketched out a storyline which involved a poverty-to-riches story, a birth mother who died young, and a hero who hid his wealth in order to win the heroine on his own merits. There was also to be a great house filled with beautiful things, a sister who behaved badly towards the heroine, and a father who'd rejected his daughter. When I started the story, I thought I was writing about forgiveness and self-worth, but my editor pointed out that I was really writing Cinderella. There was also an evil step-mother…but hey! She comes out of another story, doesn't she?

So how come I'd not recognised the fact that I was using the elements of a fairy story, brought up to date? One answer is people don't change through the centuries, although ethics do. For instance, fairy stories echoed the life of the times in which they were first conceived; many more women then died in childbirth and the fathers would marry again and produce a second family. Is there a parallel here with divorce and second marriages nowadays? In both cases the second wife would naturally favour her own children.

Arranged marriages in those days preserved the viability of large estates, but now and again an heir would marry beauty and goodness, rather than money. You can see this happening in Jane Austen, and even in Bridget Jones.

Another answer to why I'd missed the connection with fairy stories is that I'd grown up and lost sight of childish things – or thought I had. But early influences tend to go underground and pop up in the strangest places.

Take the story of Robin Hood, for instance. I was given the Adventures of Robin Hood about the same time as the book about Cinderella. Of course I was captivated. A sunlit forest, brave men righting wrongs, a beautiful maiden in distress. Well, yes. But the stories actually set me thinking about the subsidiary characters more than about Robin Hood himself.

How was it that Robin Hood could defeat Little John in a fight? Wasn't Little John the bigger and stronger of the two? I couldn't quite get my head around that. Friar Tuck, too; what an oddity. But the one I dreamed about most was Will Scarlet, who took his music into the forest with him. The backgrounds of each of these men were only lightly sketched in though the illustrations helped. What I really wanted was a book about each of these minor characters. Perhaps it was this desire to know more about them which started me making up my own stories in my head?
Being sent away to boarding school at six also helped, because it drove me in on myself.

Imagination works on what you've come across yourself, and so I recalled everything I'd read and launched out from there.

A picture from a magazine of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, in a wonderful dress of red sequins fading down to white…a strip cartoon of Rip Kirby, strong-jawed and invincible, with a beautiful blonde girl-friend…and a fascinating opponent called Pagan, whose evil intentions were always undermined by her attraction to the hero. I was never particularly interested in the blonde – I'm a brunette, by the way – but Pagan fascinated me. And perhaps that was what started me thinking that flawed but interesting secondary characters can add so much to the story.

Have I re-used some of these characters in my own stories? Y-yes, with a twist here and there I've made use of characters from the Cinderella story and Snow White, of Friar Tuck and Pagan but not yet of Will Scarlet.

So perhaps he'll come into my next book…

Veronica Heley
Eden Hall series
Ellie Quicke series

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A Mirror...

Words are a mirror of their times.

By looking at the areas in which the vocabulary of a language is expanding fastest in a given period, we can form a fairly accurate impression of the chief preoccupations of society at the time.

~~John Ayto, lexicographer

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

To Answer your question...

Every Tuesday will be dedicated to answering some of the GREAT questions you all have asked!

Today's question is: What is your opinion on hiring a professional editor to edit my manuscript before sending it in to a publisher?

And today's answer will be given by Nikki Arana! Take it away Nikki...

The biggest reason that new writers receive rejections is because they send out their ms (manuscript) before it is ready. So many unpubbed writers think when they finish their first ms, they've finished a book. In almost all cases, they've finished a first draft. If it has been written with the guidance of a critique group of other unpublished authors, it's probably a good first draft, if it was written without any mentoring, it's probably a detailed outline. That's what the first draft of my first book was . . . the agent I sent it to is the one who told me. (grimaces)

The first step toward publication is to learn how to write a book. This takes time unless you hire a professional. There are professional editors, Sometimes called developmental editors, who can do that. But it is VERY expensive, around $75 an hour. They work with you step by step as you write. Like going to college and you're the only one in class. You end up with a book that only needs polishing. You always think of improvements after the first time through. But by then you are knowledgeable enough to make informed decisions on your own.You only get one chance to make a first impression with an editor or agent.

The concern about somehow the writing is not your own if you use an editor I find no basis for. I've never had any editor change a word of my writing that changed my voice. The concern that you can't deliver that quality of writing after you get the contract isn't true either. I'm writing my fifth book and still use the same professional structure editor I did on my first book. I still occasionally have payoffs without setups, have the hero do unheroic things, and have something in the story that doesn't make it to the page. But now, those things seldom happen, so it takes the editor less time and has become much more affordable. I consider the money I spend as my college tuition. Most editors accept payments.

After you know as much as your unpublished critique partners, professional editing is the next step toward publication. Yes, there are always those stories of a newbie sending out an ms and selling it. But out of the hundreds, even thousands of writers who submit mss, that happens very rarely. It is getting harder and harder to break into print. If difficult finances prevent you from using an editor, then try and find a pubbed author to guide you. They can be just as valuable, but often can't give the time needed. There are also conferences, workshops, and classes. It will just take a little longer going that route.

Pray with all your heart and work with all your might. Give your God-given call and God-given talent every opportunity to prosper.

Nikki Arana

2007 Excellence in Media Silver Angel AwardAmerican Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year - Women's FictionWinner of The Beacon Award
Jessie Cameron Alison Writer of the Year Award
Conference Speaker - Workshops

Monday, April 23, 2007


"What the young writer of today should contemplate is a dual profession, and incidentally, it would be the best thing in the world for his tortured creativeness to be forced to touch some nonliterary world, forced to remember what saner folk are daily up to. Let the young Balzac or Byron not only wear his elbows shiny at his desk, but let him with equal assiduity learn another and slightly more lucrative calling. But I would like him to keep out of advertising, journalism and the teaching of literature, if possible, because they are too much akin to writing. No let him become a doctor or a grocer, a mail-flying aviator, a farmer or a bacteriologist, a priest or a communist agitator, and the two professions together, he may make a living."

~~ SINCLAIR LEWIS, From The Writer, September 1936

Friday, April 20, 2007

Writer vs. Author...

Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head, then you are a writer.

But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.

~~Colette, writer (1873-1954)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Thursday Tip -- Attitude is Everything

I don't know about you, but I almost NEVER finish everything on my daily t0-do list. There is almost "one more thing" that I hoped to squeeze in. If you're like me, here are some things to help you set yourself up for success.

1. Make a list. What are 5 things you'd like to accomplish today? (They don't have to be only writing related.)

2. Prioritize them, then write them down. Work on #1 before moving to #2.

3. Check them off as you complete them.

4. Celebrate! Instead of focusing on what you didn't finish, get excited over what you did.

Try this: YEAH, HURRAY I finished one of my goals!

Yes, there are a few more that didn't get done ... but remember God gave you today for a reason and you accomplished what He designed. You didn't surprise Him by what you did or didn't do. Either way you're right on track!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Words worth...

This quote was sent to me by Delia Latham. It hangs on the wall beside her desk.

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart...
~~william wordsworth

It's so simple, but I love it. If our writing is not breathed from our hearts it will be cold and lifeless, incapable of rendering any response other than sadness and regret. It will be dead writing. God, spare us from spitting out deceased words!

This quote helps me remember to make my writing breathe!

Delia Latham
Almost Like A Song Available NOW through all major booksellers!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

3 Qualities...

You will be published if you possess three qualities - talent, passion, and discipline. You will probably be published if you possess two of the three qualities in either combination - either talent and discipline, or passion and discipline. You will likely be published if you possess neither talent nor passion but still have discipline. Just go to the bookstore and pick up a few 'notable' titles and you'll see what I mean. But if all you possess is talent or passion, if all you possess is talent and passion, you will not be published. The likelihood is you will never be published. And if by some miracle you are published, it will probably never happen again."

~~Elizabeth George, Write Away, p.253

Friday, April 13, 2007


Good Morning all!

Just wanted to let you know that we have nearly a 100 (98) people signed up to receive My Writing Mentor!

It's only been two weeks...a great beginning!

Look for the newsletter on Monday!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Thursday Tip...How do I start?

How to Improve on a Blank Page

One of the most common questions I get from aspiring writers is “How do I start?” The ideas are in their heads, but the problem is getting them on paper.

Whether you are writing magazine articles, story stories, novels, or even homework assignments—here are some tips for improving on the blank page.

1) Sift Through Your Ideas. Realize some ideas will remain just that . . . ideas. When I first began writing in 1994 I wanted to use everything—every cute thing my children did, every Scripture verse that stirred my heart, and every flash of inspiration. I soon realized that although my ideas were good ones, I didn’t have enough time in the day to use them all. So what did I do instead? I began keeping a journal. It’s just for me, and I don’t worry how it looks.

I use regular, spiral-bound notebooks, and I have them on hand to write down my prayers, favorite Scripture verse, to-do lists (I always start these on a clean page in case I need to tear them out), and writing ideas. Sometimes the words stay in there as just ideas. Other times I’ll go back to them, ponder them, and jot down more notes. Then, if I can’t shake it, I know it’s time to take a closer look, and I ask these questions:

Ø Is this something God wants me to write?
Ø Who is my target audience?
Ø What are the needs of this audience?
Ø What would be the best format for my message?

As much as we don’t like to think of “publication” in these early stages, this is an important step. To be effective as writers, we need to mold our message into a medium that will reach people. Many times I think of two or three different venues such as how-two articles, personal experience articles, or books.

The next step is to prayerfully consider where God wants me to share my message. And when. I still have ideas that God gave me years ago that I hope to use some day. Some, perhaps will “come to life” after a long hibernation. Others may not, and instead they may just be message that God speaks to my own heart.

2) Open the Page and Start Writing. Once you know that you want to write—or have to write—the next step is to begin. Yes, that means opening a blank page and just starting. Once I start typing I’m often surprised how much is already in my head. I refer to this first step as “cleaning the pipes,” and I pour everything in my head and heart onto the page. For articles or non-fiction these might be paragraphs of writing mixed in with various ideas. For fiction, it may be character description, story ideas, research notes, or any combination of the above.

Most people want “perfect writing” from the moment they start typing. This just doesn’t happen. Instead of striving for perfection, give yourself the freedom to “play around with the words.” Your first draft will NOT make it to publication. You don’t need it perfect when you begin. Don’t think about grammar, about your theme, about crafting perfect sentences. Instead, just let the ideas take you where they will.

3) Write Fast. Once you allow yourself to start writing, keeping going and don’t stop! I find my best writing comes when I let the ideas flow. I don’t stop to read what I’ve just written. I don’t pause to think. I don’t worry what an editor would think about my grammar. I just let the thoughts continue on uninterrupted. The funny thing is . . . this fast writing usually ends up as my best stuff!

After you get all your thoughts on paper. Close your document and give yourself a break. Refuse to go back and read what you just read . . . instead carry around your notebook or journal and write down any ideas that you can add to your work-in-progress. Think of this as a pot of soup simmering on the stove and add in whatever ideas come to you during the day.

I get ideas when I’m in the shower, while I’m driving, or when I’m cooking dinner. The ideas will do their own work in your head. Just make sure you’re ready to jot down further thoughts. (This also means keeping a notebook and pencil beside your bed!)

Ideas from other writers:

Tamela Hancock Murray http://www.tamelahancockmurray.com/
I write from start to finish myself, but here are some techniques I've seen offered by other writers: 1) Write down the theme of her book. What is your overarching message? Then go from there. 2) Write the climatic scene and go backward from there. 3) Another way is to begin with the characters themselves, then work on putting them in the situation that will be your story.

Rachel Hauck http://www.rachelhauck.com/
Start with a good synopsis, character sketch, backstory and timeline. Maybe start with a setting description. Begin by getting to know you setting and characters.

Pamela Hatheway http://ezinearticles.com/?expert=Pamela_Hatheway
Natalie Goldberg wrote a book called Thunder and Lightning about “writing practice.” She suggested doing timed writing practice on a variety of subjects. For example: write fifteen minutes about school lunches, twenty minutes describing your first kiss, or ten minutes describing the way your grandmother's kitchen smelled.

Personally, I have a book where I write a verse of Scripture at the top of the page and write about it for 15-30 minutes. I allow myself to go wherever I feel like going with the thought. I am surprised sometimes at what comes out.

I suppose it is journaling of sorts . . . but more than that, because there are some real gems that may actually become an article.

Nikki Arana http://www.nikkiarana.com/
I found a book that really helped me called Beginnings, Middles and Ends. It helped because it made me think of my book in three parts. I could do that. I could think of the beginning of my story, and then began to lay it out. Just the beginning. And of course, before long a middle started to emerge.

Eva Marie http://www.evamarieeverson.com/
My “getting started” typically comes from a single line. That opening hook line just comes to me out of nowhere. I have an “idea” in my mind for plot and character . . . but wait on the first line. That's how it works for me.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Speaking to our generation...

The messenger of Christ, though he speaks from God, must also, as the Quakers used to say, "speak to the condition" of his hearers; otherwise he will speak a language known only to himself. His message must be not only timeless but timely. He must speak to his own generation.

~~A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy

Friday, April 6, 2007

The Miracle Unfolds

“ . . . For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid pieces of paper unfolds world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet you or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die. They are full of the things that you don't get in real life—wonderful, lyrical language, for instance. And quality of attention: we may notice amazing details during the course of a day but we rarely let ourselves stop and really pay attention. An author makes you notice, makes you pay attention, and this is a great gift. My gratitude for good writing is unbounded; I'm grateful for it the way I'm grateful for the ocean.”

–Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Tricia’s Thoughts:

I’ve always considered writing to be real life put in slow motion. We see clearer and understand deeper. We expect meaning and purpose. We anticipate resolution and hope. We pay attention, and for this our souls are satisfied.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Thursday Tip

One cool thing about being a writer is anyone can do it. When I first started writing I was a 22-year-old mother of two. (Did I mention I was pregnant, too?)

Everything I learned about writing, I learned from "real" writers. I attended a writer's conference. I subscribed to Writer's Digest Magazine. I checked out writing books from the library. These things taught me what real writers do to get real results.

My tip for you today is to do one of the above. Either look into a conference. Subscribe to Writer's Digest. Or visit your local library. Or, if you have some extra cash, splurge and by yourself a new book! The one I'm currently reading (and that I recommend) is Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, Ph.D.

I have one more tip for you. Today when you're sitting down to write spend three minutes imagining you are a professional writer with a deadline. You have to FINISH. What are you going to do to get there? Step through the steps in your head before you start.

If you already are a professional writer, consider how someone you admire would approach the project. Or, if your editor was sitting there watching you, how you would tackle it? (You wouldn't take up 20 minutes for Spider Solitaire, now would you?)

Then post in the comment section if you approached your writing any differently ... and if it helped!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Stories of our Lives

Some people think we're made of flesh and blood and bones. Scientists say we're made of atoms. But I think we're made of stories. When we die, that's what people remember, the stories of our lives and the stories that we told.

~Ruth Stotter, quoted in The Power of Personal Storytelling

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

I write toward...

"When I write, I aim in my mind not toward New York but toward a vague spot a little east of Kansas. I think of the books on library shelves, without their jackets, years old, and a countryish teen-aged boy finding them, and having them speak to him."

~~John Updike

How This Works

(Photo of me at the 2006 ICRS convention in Denver Colorado. I'm standing by the advertisement for A Valley of Betrayal in the Moody Publishers booth. Notice the Alli-Bag?)

Welcome to My Writing Mentor!

Ready to get started?

This mentoring partnership will work in three ways:

1. On the 1st and 15th of every month a new writing newsletter will be sent out. It will include articles, tips, publishing advice, interviews, samples, and other useful stuff. You can sign up for this newsletter on the box at the left.

2. On this blog, daily quotes will be posted that give encouragement, inspiration, and advice. I hope you'll love them as much as I do!

3. We'll also put the COMMENT section to good use. If you have any writing questions, please post them there. I'll be answering them (or finding people to answer them) from this section.

4. Also please use the COMMENT section to post your daily writing goals at the beginning of the day AND your success at the end of the day (or the next day). This will hopefully keep you accountable. I'll join you by posting my goals, too!

Ready, set, write . . .

Monday, April 2, 2007

Advice for Budding Fiction Authors

From James Scott Bell and some writing friends:

1. What training does a career in writing require?

Mostly it is SELF training. You must teach yourself to write. You can read good books on writing, take courses, go to writing conferences, etc. But the most important thing you must do is WRITE, each day if possible, and APPLY what you are learning. You learn by writing, trying, seeing where you need to improve, and writing some more. There is no shortcut.

In college I wrote to an author I admired asking some of these same questions. He wrote back and said, "Be prepared for an apprenticeship of years." He was right.

2. Are you in a particular genre of writing?

I write thrillers, mostly legal thrillers.

What additional special training did it require?

Since I'm a lawyer, I have that background. But I have also written in other fields, such as bio-technology. You can stretch your mind and experience through research, interviewing experts, and actually participating in some activities you wouldn't normally touch. Writing, in this way, becomes an exercise in personal growth.

3. What natural abilities or interests are needed for a career in writing?

You should love to read, and be moved by books. You should have some love of words and the rhythms of language. You should be something of a dreamer.

[Steph Whitson: It seems to me that most writers I know have a natural ability to organize their lives in a way that allows them to do what they do. Messy offices and panic over deadlines aside, a lazy self-indulgent person isn't going to get far in the writing life IMHO. I think plotting and outlining and planning a book require some natural ability to organize, whether it be a legal pad or twelve or a stack of note cards or a spreadsheet. The mechanics can be honed, but I'm thinking a natural bent towards organization helps tremendously.]

[Terri Blackstock: I would add that they have to enjoy long hours ofsolitude, have a long enough attention span to finish a 400 page manuscript, then rewrite it several times, and they must be able to accept delayedgratification. If they're looking for instant gratification, they are in the wrong business . . . Real writers work quietly, dilligently, sometimes slowly, with no feedback (except that from the characters and that feeling in your gut when you know the writing is going well), and hope that someday it will pay off. But as you said, the payoff is really the writing itself. The money is just icing. I may be speaking too broadly here, but I have a hunch that most real writers get much more thrill out of the writing than they do in seeing the book on the shelves. By the time my books come out, I've forgotten all about them, because I'm now deeply entrenched in the one I'm working on, enjoying the thrill of that one. The stuff that goes with the book actually coming out is often just an annoyance to me.

On the other hand, if you ask me while I'm working on a first draft, I'll tell you I hate my job and wish I would die so I wouldn't have to finish it. But it's an agony I'm somewhat addicted to.]

4. What is the approximate starting salary range for authors?

Using "salary" with fiction writer is like using "sure thing" at the racetrack. When it comes to fiction, there is no regular or predictable income.

Fiction writers get an "advance against royalties" and then the royalties themselves--if any. The advance is a portion of what the publisher thinks the book, when published, will earn in sales. First-time novelists, being unknown commodities, do not demand large advances (though there have been exceptions for first novels that publishers thought would be blockbusters. But most of these bombed out, which hurt the authors' careers.)

The average income for fiction writers in the U.S. is something very low, maybe $3,000. But that is skewed. A handful of authors make millions; a number make virtually nothing. My goal, and the goal I advise for new writers, is to try to build your audience progressively by writing better and better books. Gain the publishers' confidence that you can turn in a solid performance every time. Then you will make some money, too. And there's always that racetrack chance you'll win the trifecta, and join the John Grishams or Danielle Steeles -- just don't bet the farm.

I don't advise "quitting your day job" any time soon. Having another source of income is a wise idea, unless and until you have enough of a track record to predict future income. You could always marry somebody very rich, of course.

5. Is there good job availability for those who choose writing?

There is always room for another SUPERB writer. It's hard to break in, but if you are consistent and persistent, and can show that you can produce over and over again, you can make it.

6. Would you rate the opportunities for advancement as poor, fair, good, or excellent?

As with ANYTHING in our capitalist system, the opportunities for advancement vary with the VALUE that you offer an employer. As an author, if you offer your publisher and readers value in your writing, your advancement possibilities are good to excellent.

But writing, as with all the arts, does not offer as predictable a path as other work, where you can pretty much know that Effort X will result in Reward Y.

But if you are writing only for the money, you're in the wrong game. You write because there's an upward pressure on your spirit to write.

7. Could you list a particular advantage to being a writer?

You can't beat the hours. Or the workplace. Or the dress code. During the summer, I work in shorts, flip flops and a Hawaiian shirt -- sometimes at my local Starbucks. I often erupt in spontaneous giggling.

A particular disadvantage?

Not knowing how much your next royalty check is going to be. Also, writing concerns can easily take over your life, which is a very real threat to more important things, like your spiritual life, family life, etc. You have to keep watch. If writing becomes the MOST important thing in your day-to-day existence, you could end up like Fitzgerald or or many another writer who turned to the bottle for solace.

[Steph Whitson: I think the loneliness of the job could be looked at as a disadvantage. I honestly cannot imagine the writing life without Chi Libris to talk to. Not every writer is so blessed to be part of a "community" of writers. There is something to be said for the social aspects of normal work. I've been tempted to take a part time job just to be around people.]

8. Do you have any special advice for someone interested in writing (such as college courses to take, things to study)?

Read some good books on the craft (you may check my website, under "Writer's Helps" for a list of my favorites). Take classes, sure. But remember to PUT INTO PRACTICE what you're learning. Try stuff. Show it to others. Get feedback. Develop "Rhino skin," which means you can take criticism without dying the death of a thousand cuts. Remember, no criticism of your writing is personal, unless it's accompanied by a punch in the nose.

[Steph Whitson; I tell aspiring writers to PAY ATTENTION to the world around them. Observe people. How they talk, how they move, how they react to different situations. Be a student of life. Live life fully. Try new things. Talk to people who are "different," people who try things you never would, people from all walks of life, from all racial and ethnic backgrounds. Develop a diverse personal world and then take time to really SEE. And take notes!]

[Lisa Samson:

1. Check your ego at the door. Realize that there are plenty of other writers ready to step into your shoes, so be easy to work with. Choose carefully the battlefields on which you are willing to die. Make sure your publisher is glad to hear from you, not wondering what's wrong with Miss Difficult this time.

2. There's always room for improvement. If you think you've arrived in your writing...it's time to stop. If you don't feel the need to grow, you won't. If you don't grow, it's only a matter of time before the excitement is gone. If the excitement is gone...why bother? Think of your commitment to craft as that carrot on the stick, always ahead of you, always leading you forward to better things.

3. Read great writing. It's great to study books on writing, but don't get so caught up in the "how to" you forget to study the "how it was dones." Careful reading of masterful works, disecting prose, dialogue, form, plot, imagery, overall construction, you name it, is crucial to the growing novelist. If you don't like to read good fiction, that may be a warning sign to consider.

4. Writing isn't at all glamorous. (Two words: Wal - Mart.) Most of us have no cherry-paneled study overlooking a quiet lake. So find your satisfaction in the act itself. Let it take you all over the world as you sit there above the garage, at the kitchen table, in the living room or the spare bedroom still painted bright yellow from your daughter's smiley-face days, and remember that the perk is the job itself.]

9. Are there any current problems faced by most authors?

More and more books are being published, an estimated 114,487 in 2001, compared with 39,000 in 1975. This is good news and bad news. Your chances of being published are increased a bit, but your chances of getting noticed in the avalanche are smaller.

The only way to get (and keep) that notice is to become known as someone who writes quality books--emphasis on the plural.

10. Why did you choose writing as your profession?

Writing chose me. It was something I couldn't NOT do. Even if I never made any money, I was going to write. At the very least I was going to publish at Kinko's and distribute copies to my family until they shouted "Mercy!" And then I was going to find ANOTHER family to torment.

I do think my fiction writing is a gift from God--so I view what I do as my gift back to Him. If I start to think it's all me, I'm sunk. See Deuteronomy 8:17,18 on this.

11. Looking back across your career and where you are now, was it worth everything you did, everything you sacrificed to get where you are?

The "sacrifice" is really countless hours spent trying, studying, trying again, surviving disappointment and on and on. But since that was the only way I was going to get anywhere in the writing game, it was certainly worth it. I loved the learning. Flashbulbs would go off when I discovered something, and then saw I could do it. I still love that aspect of the craft. I will never stop trying to learn to do things better.

Not to discount the frustrations and obstacles. They are real. But if writing is what you must do, and you love it, you can keep going. I like this quote from an old professor at the Yale Divinity School named Grenville Kleiser:

Be done with the past, save where it serves to inspire you to greater and nobler effort. Be done with regrets over vanished opportunities, seeming failures, and bitter disappointments….Be done with the "might have been" and think of the "shall be."…Trust God that no good is ever lost or withheld.

May God bless you in your future endeavors.