Tag: writing conferences

The Push to Write Nonfiction

In August, Forbes ran an article headlining the fact that traditional publishers sold more nonfiction than fiction. For an author, something like that might make you wonder, “Am I writing the right thing?”

When most people think about writing a book, they either think of writing the Great American Novel or a self-help book about something they know how to do well.

According to the statistics, 2013 was the last year that adult fiction made publishers more money than nonfiction. Go figure.

So I should be writing nonfiction.


Would it surprise you to know I have two nonfiction titles published?

I do. Both of them are Bible studies.

Would it shock you to know that the last writer’s conference I attended I was pitching a Christian living book (yes, nonfiction)?

No one was buying. Whereas every fiction book I’ve pitched at conferences has inspired plenty of upfront interest.
It was a shocking experience for me. In retrospect, I chalk it up to not knowing the correct way to pitch nonfiction. I needed to have more data, and a better hook.

Still, the experience left behind a slimy residue that makes me leery of moving forward on that nonfiction book.
Except, I’m writing another Bible study even now. I plan to release it this summer.

The abandoned proposal for the Christian living book? It’s also on the schedule for resurrection in 2019.

The Bible Study

Since publishing my second Bible study, I’ve been bombarded with ideas for another study. A dozen new ideas shined forth each time I sat down to brainstorm.

But none of them stuck.

For a couple weeks, I was sure WHAT IS TRUTH? Would win my interest.

I’m not going to push ahead on writing a Bible study without complete surety that God wants me to write it. To me that means the ideas for chapters pour out. A tone comes to mind and I can write a summary of each chapter using it.

And that didn’t happen.

Time and again I found cool ideas but their trails ran cold before a solid outline could be hammered out.

Until FEED YOUR FAITH popped up as I decided what to teach at the church ladies’ retreat in October. I gave them my chapter on lettuce (make that “Let us” from the Book of Hebrews) and the lesson wrote itself.

The chapter outline took a little longer, but before too long, it came forth. Now, half the chapters are written.

One thing I decided to do since my second study book is so slender is to have a devotional section. In this case, I crafted three days of devotional readings that will complement each lesson. AND I drafted a sample weekly schedule so each chapter can be considered during the entire week of the study.

Through the Valley of Shadows

The Christian living book has a darker message. It chronicles my own journey through grief. It’s different from any other book I’ve seen on the market in that it includes Bible exposition in every chapter.

Truthfully, in the throes of grief, I wouldn’t have been able to read this book. It’s NOT for people grieving at the moment.

Instead, it’s for people who are in the anticipatory stage. They have a terminally ill loved one. Or perhaps they work in ministry and feel inept when approached by a grieving widow or parent or spouse.

I’ve been there. And I’ve been the one grieving.

This book could be an important resource.

But it won’t be if I don’t write it.

I’d still like to try to get it traditionally published. This means I need to craft an amazing proposal that will snare my top choice agent.

In the end, I think I’ll self-publish it if I can’t get a traditional contract. The content is too important to stay on my hard drive just because I can’t “sell it” to an agent.

After all, I’m NOT a salesperson. I’m an author.

It wouldn’t be very broad-minded of me to ignore the potential nonfiction book market when I have no shortage of ideas for these types of books.

A shortage on expertise?

Well, that’s debatable. Maybe Forbes will research the dilemma and get back to me with the push I need to write that nonfiction book.

Inside a Writer’s Brain

I thought the Professional Author’s Brain (PAB) would be different. Back when I started down this road to become a published author, I accepted that disparate ideas and motivation would war against my love of story writing. I was an amateur after all, and that creative writing/professional writing degree didn’t really prepare me for reality.
Four years into the real deal, I’m not sure anything could have given me a heads-up about being a professional author. Or what really went on behind the forehead inside a PAB.
True, continual writing and seeking feedback from more skilled writers could equip me with the TOOLS I needed. But there isn’t a book or course that can tame the beast inside my brain.
I know this because I’ve read an endless stream of writing craft and career books from successful authors, and I’m still scratching my head over some aspects of the whole “author gig.” I’ve also taken multiple courses offered online and at conferences from published authors who are also competent teachers (and as an educator, I can tell the difference).
What did I get? More knowledge. More tools.

Nothing to discipline the genius inside my heart, soul and mind.

The part some people call “The Muse,” but I’m inclined to agree with Elizabeth Gilbert’s assessment that we all have a genius at our disposal, and it isn’t subject to the spurious whims of the gods.


What? You didn’t know Muse is actually a Greek goddess, patron of artists everywhere.

Now you do. And that explains her fickle game plans and unpredictable work schedule.

What I’ve learned as a professional author is that you can NOT wait for the Muse to show up before you work. You have to sit your rear in the chair and do the work.
But, the truth is: Muse work reads like poetry and my work affects me like a C-level college essay. So why write the words are going to sound so…average?
Why didn’t my brain shift into a different gear once I decided to go “pro”? Surely professional authors with a string of best sellers and a backlist that fills five Amazon screens don’t have problems tricking their brains into work mode. And their Muse must show up for eighty percent of their writing sessions.
You’d be surprised what best-selling authors do to trick their brain to do its best work. But, I can’t rely on the bag of tricks they share as “writer’s gold” in their blogs, memoirs and books on writing best sellers.
Because most of it is nothing more than fool’s gold to my brain.

My Creative Brain

I come up with ideas for stories quite easily. Too bad that’s NOT the hard part.

I might be standing in the grocery line and here are some things that would grab my creative genius:

  • The cover of a gossip rag in the magazine stand
  • A snippet of overheard conversation
  • The set of the cashier’s shoulders
  • The look a stranger gives as he passes by
  • The contents scrolling across the belt about to be purchased by the person in front of me

There’s no shortage of ideas in the world. Anyone with a spark of imagination can come up with hundreds of ideas during a one-hour brainstorming session.
In fact, I never need to brainstorm story ideas. What I need to learn is how to multiply plot points that will compel readers to turn the pages.
Because while the idea pool is deeper than the Mariana Trench and wider than the Pacific Ocean, the number of ideas which will generate an entire, interesting story or novella (forget the gargantuan required for a novel) fit in an espresso cup.


The Other Half of my Brain

And that little puddle is where the other half of my brain refuses to play. It likes the splash of plenty in the ocean of ideas.

Why narrow things down? Won’t it be more fun to play with all the interesting water puppies?
No, Brain, it only leads to frustration.

Except for when it causes plot holes. Or there’s an off chance it will peter out in the dreaded middle of the story. Maybe it locks itself in a tower and conveniently misplaces the key.

The left brain has lots of fun, but at some point the right brain (PAB) must approve all the fantasy-babble. It has to contain enough truth to suspend the reader’s disbelief. And this half of the brain is like a wet blanket on the fiery creative half.
So why can’t I convince this half of my brain to “create” like a professional author?
Because it doesn’t tends to cage the fluttering explosion of ideas and the Muse doesn’t survive behind bars.
In other words, professional authors learn to write IN SPITE of the flibbertigibbet whiff of inspiration and genius.
Me? I’m still trying to escape the beast with all my limbs intact.
What sort of things do you imagine go through a PAB? Any questions for this full-time author that might light a fire beneath the Muse?