Tuesday, July 16, 2013

More Great Writing Tips from Jerry Jenkins


Don’t ever apologize for…

…wanting to be published. You’d be amazed at how often I hear from would-be writers who say they just want to write for the sake of writing. “I don’t care if it gets published.” Then why not just talk?

Get your work out there. Sure, a certain amount of ego is at play. Who doesn’t want to be known, to be successful, to see her name in print? You simply need to remember that publishing has to be a byproduct of your writing, not the end goal.

If you set out to glamorize yourself, write a bestseller, score, whatever you call it, you might enjoy a short-lived celebrity, but you won’t have a career. As Dean Koontz has taught, the purpose of writing is communication, and if what we write is not read, that purpose is not fulfilled.

The most attractive quality in a person is humility. Sometimes money and fame will come whether or not you expect or seek them. But if you become enamored with the trappings of success, they become your passion. You need to return to your first love.

Why are you a writer?

Are you an inspirational writer?

The answers to those questions should have nothing to do with yourself. If God and others are not the reasons you write, you might as well write solely for the general market.

That doesn’t mean everything you write has to be a sermon or packed with scripture, but your unique worldview should come through. 

As working writers, we should be always sending out proposals – or coming up with new proposals to pitch. Never write to Dear Sir or To Whom It May Concern. Find and write directly to the appropriate person by name. Then, here are my top tips for query letters and proposals.

1. Avoid mannerisms and multiple fonts in your emails to editors. This is akin to the old snail mail taboo of using colored paper as stationery. Editors seem to universally see this as a sign of an amateur.

2. Do not use bold or LARGER-THAN-NORMAL type anywhere in an email, proposal, query, or manuscript.

3. Your title must be positive. Not "Don't Let Depression Defeat You," but rather: "Winning Over Depression."

4. A manuscript, even transmitted electronically, must should be double-spaced (not single- or triple-spaced, or spaced at the 1.5 setting). Fix the default Word setting that calls for extra space between paragraphs. Indent paragraphs and remember, unlike how we learned to type business letters, only one space between sentences.

5. If the publisher asks for hard copy (rare these days), your manuscript should never be bound, stapled, clipped, or in a notebook. Editors want the pages in a stack, loose, with each page numbered and carrying the author's name.

6. The word "by" rarely appears on the cover of a book unless it is self-published, and even then it is the sign of an amateur.

7. The misspelling of the word "acknowledgments" (as "acknowledgements", a British variation) or "foreword" (as "forward") is another clue that you're an amateur. "Foreword" means "before the text"; it consists of "fore" and "word", and has nothing to do with direction.

8. Your manuscript should not have justified right margins. Use ragged right margins, the kind that makes your manuscript appear to have been typed rather than computer generated. Justified margins cause inconsistent spacing between words, which make for difficult reading for overworked editors and will also require tedious reformatting.

9. A common cliché in inspirational books is to include prayers in prefatory material. Even paraphrasing those to say, "My prayer is that God would…" is better than, "Lord, I pray…", but avoid either in the dedication or acknowledgments ("Lord, thank you for my wonderful editor…" Blech!).

10. You've heard the slogan "Just do it." Now learn to "Just say it." Imagine telling your story to a friend over coffee or writing a letter. Good writing is not about loads of adjectives and adverbs. It consists of powerful nouns and verbs. So many beginners fall into an overwrought style editors call "writtenese." Your relatives may love your flowery language, and perhaps your unpublished creative writing teacher does too, but read what sells. Usually you'll find it simple and straightforward. 
Author of more than 180 books with sales of more than 70 million copies, including the best-selling Left Behind series, Jerry B. Jenkins is former vice president for publishing and currently chairman of the board of trustees for the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago.
Jerry's writing has appeared in Time, Reader's Digest, Parade, Guideposts, and dozens of Christian periodicals. Twenty of his books have reached The New York Times best-seller list (seven debuting number one). The Breakthrough, the final book in Jerry's Precinct 11 trilogy, released from Tyndale House Publishers in September 2012.
Jerry owns Jenkins Entertainment, a filmmaking company in Chicago, and the Christian Writers Guild, which aims to train tomorrow's professional Christian writers. Each student is personally mentored by a seasoned professional.
In January 2013, Jerry launched Christian Writers Guild Publishing (CWGP). Students take a six-month mentored course to guide them in writing their manuscripts, then CWGP publishes their books.



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