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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Writing advice from Mary DeMuth

10 Ways to Get Started in Writing

Here are some specific ways you can hone your writing skills this year. This list is by no means exhaustive, but if you incorporate some of these ten tasks into your writing life, improvement awaits you (how's that for passive voice?!):

1. Find a writing mentor and establish a prayer team. I fledged my way through eight years of writing before I met my mentor (who is also one of my closest friends). Although I definitely see those eight years as greatly important in terms of learning to labor in obscurity, I see the last four years as more fruitful because of my friend Sandi. She helped me craft my first sellable query letter. She rejoiced with me when I actually sold an article. She attended Mount Hermon Christian Writer's Conference with me.

Even more important: consider pulling together a team of praying folks who will lift you up as you write. I don’t think I’d be where I am today without my Writing Prayer Circle. You’ll see them thanked in every acknowledgment section of my books. Stop right now and pray about who God might want to bring into your circle of prayer. Send out an invitational email, then faithfully email your team on a regular basis. Prepare to be blessed.

2. Start blogging. If you would like to make yourself write (and volume of writing is very helpful in developing your voice), start a blog. Go to http://www.blogger.com/. Follow their instructions and begin posting. I am not techno-savvy, but I was able to do this with little pain. Here are some of my favorite writing industry blogs:
· http://www.michaelhyatt.com/fromwhereisit/ (Industry insider Michael Hyatt’s blog),
· http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/blog/ (Randy Ingermanson’s amazing blog for fiction writers)
· http://terrywhalin.blogspot.com/ (A very, very good resource for writers)
· http://www.themastersartist.blogspot.com/ (I post here on Tuesdays). There are more amazing blogs listed on the right of this page. Do yourself a favor and check them out.
· http://noveljourney.blogspot.com/ (Novelists are interviewed there nearly every day!)
· http://www.mywritingmentor.blogspot.com/, (Tricia Goyer’s mentoring blog)
· http://www.chipmacgregor.com/ (an agent’s perspective on the industry, very valuable)
· http://wildfiremarketing.blogspot.com/ (a marketer’s perspective)

3. Join a writer's group. If you haven't been critiqued yet, it is important that you accustom yourself to this. If you happen to live in Dallas, you can look up The Dallas Christian Writers Guild or the Rockwall Christian Writer's Group. From the Rockwall group, three of us split off to form Life Sentence, a more intensive critique group. I would not be the writer I am today without Leslie and D'Ann.

There are also amazing online groups that provide information, community, and sometimes critique. Here are a few:
· The Writers View 1, for professional writers. Format: Every week we pose two industry or writing related questions. Both professional panelists and members give valuable information. Go here to join.
· The Writers View 2, for new and upcoming writers (same format as above). Go here to join
· American Christian Fiction Writers: Cost is 40 dollars a year. You get a discount for the annual conference and access to loops and great teaching. Critique groups often spur off this larger group.
· Fellowship of Christian Writers
· Christian Writers Group International
· American Christian Writers
· The Writers Information Network
· Christian Writers Guild

4. Go to a writer's conference. I personally recommend Mount Hermon Christian Writer's Conference. Last year I taught there about the spiritual life of the writer. Mount Hermon is where I got my start. An amazing Christian fiction conference is the American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference. Go here for more information.

There are MANY other amazing conferences. Here's a comprehensive list.

5. Set a weekly word count goal. For the novel I just handed in, I set a 10,000 a week word count goal. For my non-fiction (since it involves more research) my goal is 6000. I used to think that many words were impossible, but once I set the goal, I met it. If you are serious about writing and improving your craft, set goals.

And set deadlines, too. Tell yourself you must finish an article or book by a certain day and then EXCEED that deadline.

Give yourself baby-step goals. Want to break into publication? Set a query letter writing goal per week, or an article-producing goal per week. Write a short story a month, or three poems.

6. Pay it forward. Do some writing for free, whether it be a long-thought out letter to a struggling friend or a non-profit publication needing your words. When you’re starting out your journey, there will be opportunities to do this. My teenage daughter got her first writing publication (not paid) through our church’s magazine. Not bad, considering the circulation is 10,000. Not only did she minister to many, but now she has a publishing clip to show magazines when she starts pursuing publication.

7. Do something you've never done before. Terrified of poetry? Pick up a book of sonnets and try to construct one. Non-fiction proposals freak you out? Write one. Here's a 50 page tutorial I’ve written that you can purchase for ten dollars on my website.

Terrified of query letters? Don’t even know what they are? Check out this free query tutorial on my website. Never written a short story? Just do it! Stretch your wings; flex your writing muscles. Doing a variety of writing will also help you hone your voice.

8. Read great books and articles.
· Sally Stuart’s Christian Writers Market Guide
· Writers Market Guide
. Sandra Glahn’s amazing tutorial about great writing
· Sandra Glahn’s information about magazine writing:
· Sandra Glahn’s How to Break Into Publishing:
· On Writing by Stephen King. A bit raw, but one of the BEST books on fiction writing I've ever read.
· Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Again, a bit raw, but very, very good advice. Anne writes crazily (if there is such a thing) but it works. She's got a terrific voice.
· Randy Ingermanson’s Advanced Fiction Writing Ezine
9. If you've had a novel in your head for days (months, years, decades), why not make this year the year you write it? November is National Novel Writer's Month. My friend D'Ann wrote a novel in a month that way, later honing it. It garnered the attention of a really great agent! Here's a link: http://www.nanowrimo.org/. If you aren't sure how to start, check out Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake method.

10. Get your head (and heart!) on straight. Writing for publication is a difficult journey, particularly if you’re a Christian and don’t want to fall into prideful temptations. My notes about the inner journey of the writer addresses this issue of pride and many others. You can download it free here!

There you go! I hope this has given you a good foundation for exploring writing. I look forward to hearing about your writing journey.

With joy,
Mary E. DeMuth
Silly Bio Stuff:
Mary E. DeMuth loves to help folks turn their trials to triumph, particularly Pioneer Parents. Her books include Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God (Harvest House, 2005), Building the Christian Family You Never Had (WaterBrook, 2006), Watching the Tree Limbs, Wishing on Dandelions (NavPress, 2006), and Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture (Harvest House 2007). A mother of three, Mary lives with her husband Patrick and their three children in Texas. They recently returned from Southern France where they planted a church. She blogs nearly-daily at www.relevantblog.blogspot.com . Check out her newly redesigned website at


Victoria Gaines said...

Great advice! Now if I can just find my mentor this coming year...

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this wonderful information. What a wonderful resource you are providing!