Recently at a book signing, I was asked the question that all writers get. “What is the writing life like?” or “How do you find time to write?”
Let me give you a snapshot of my life, right now. I never anticipated the writing life would be like this. I feel overwhelmed much of the time. But, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Let me say at the outset what I tell anyone who asks about time management. You don’t FIND time to write, you MAKE time to write. If you are serious about writing, you MUST sit down and carve out very specific times in your week to write. Some authors choose to write for a specific period of time, say, six hours a week. Other writers choose to write a certain number of words per day, say 1000 words per day. It doesn’t matter which pattern you choose. The point is to set aside a time for writing and then WRITE. Don’t check email. Don’t read blogs. Don’t read a book. WRITE. From the moment you sit down before your computer or your legal pad, WRITE, WRITE, WRITE!
Eventually, you will find yourself surrounded by DEADLINES. Some may be self imposed. Others are imposed by your publisher or a deadline for a blog for which you write. Deadlines are GOOD. True, they are a necessary evil, but they force you to MAKE that time to write.
Now, I find myself dividing my time between FOUR processes. First, there is the process of IDEAS. Second, there is the process of ROUGH DRAFT. Third, there is the process of EDITING. And, finally, there is the process of MARKETING.
Let me give you a sneak peak of my past two weeks.
In the IDEA area, I have already shared my experience at the International Christian Retail Show. In the aftermath of a divine appointment at the ICRS, I am in the process of developing ideas for not just one book, but an entire book series. This means research into the subject matter; examining competing works; looking for that unique “hook” that will make this book different from others; and collaborating with my co-author and mentor on the final content of a book proposal.
Also, in the IDEA area, I am working on two other fiction books and two other non-fiction book series ideas. Two publishers have expressed an interest in these books. And, if I don’t get something to them soon, they will move on.
In the ROUGH DRAFT area, I am finishing up my fourth book in the Chronicles of Jonathan Steel for Realms. I turned in my third book in December and I have until the end of this year to complete my final draft of “The 10th Demon: Children of the Bloodstone”. I am setting aside an entire week in August to write everyday for six days.
In the EDITING area, I can count on spending January through April of each year heavily editing the book that will be released in October of that year. This editing process consists of an initial edit for story substance. I work with my editor and his suggestions are legion, but always right on the money. For two months, I will rewrite and edit the final draft to fit my editor’s suggestions. This takes hours and hours of my time. After this initial edit is done, my editor returns the line edit.
The line edit is a tedious line by line edit for such things as grammar and spelling. My editor(s) will make suggestions and I have to go through the document line by line and either accept or reject the suggested changes. Line by line. The entire manuscript. Literally, thousands of changes. Yes, it is tedious and it takes days! Now, once this line edit is done it is now April and I’ve been working on this final manuscript for at least three months. But, it doesn’t end there. Along about July, the galley proofs arrive.
The galley proofs are the final printed version of the book with the layout, fonts, pagination, title page, etc. Once again, I have to go through the entire book, word by word. On my first book, the software program used to lay out the book omitted an entire three pages. If I had not gone over the manuscript word for word, I would have missed it. Once I approve the galley proofs, the book is on the way to the printer and it is out of my hands.
In the MARKETING phase of the book, which covers the months from April through the release in October there is a LOT to do. First, I have to pick key scenes from the book that might be useful for the cover. Since I am an artist as well as an author, I visualize the cover and I make suggestions of exactly how a prospective cover will look. I am very fortunate to have the graphic team working on my books at Charisma. They produce some awesome covers and it is as if they have read my mind.
Second, once the cover is on its way to completion, I have to think about the back of the book and come up with “copy”. This is the blurb, or “sound bite” that will hopefully motivate a prospective reader to open the book and read the first paragraph. It is the “elevator pitch” so to speak. Once the back copy is completed then it is on to the endorsements.
Third, beginning in June, I must come up with a list of prospective authors who are asked to read my book and give me an endorsement. This is the trickiest part of the deal. Without good endorsements, my book will languish in limbo. Advice time. If you are an author, become a member of a blog tour in your genre. For instance, I am a member of the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy blog tour. This means that I have to read a book once a month and post a three day review on my blog. So, in addition to the other tasks in the MARKETING section, I must maintain and update this blog often. The blog tour drives readers, and authors, to my website. I contacted some of these authors and some of them agreed to read my manuscript and provide an endorsement. I have discovered this process is VERY important. If you just give your publisher a list of possible authors to endorse your book, the author is very likely to delete the request and never give it another thought. Also, I’ve learned to remind the author there is a deadline for the endorsement!
By late July, the upcoming book is done and in the hands of the printers. Now, the promotion phase begins. I am now looking at how to promote the release of my next book, “The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon” for its October release. Note that my first book was released in October, 2011; the second book is being released in October, 2012 and I have worked on it most of this year; the third book final draft is waiting for editorial evaluation in late 2012 and will be given back to me for editing in January, 2013; and I am currently writing the fourth book for completion by December. Literally, I juggle four books in a year’s time.
You see why I feel overwhelmed. My main concern is to make the time for each one of these important phases. And, it is amazing how many “things” I spend my time on that can be eliminated from my schedule. I do miss reading books. It is very difficult to work into this kind of schedule the simple pleasure of spending time with a good book. Now, when I read, I feel the pressure to hurry up and finish the book so I can post a review. I very seldom have the time to just sit down and savor a good book. I do miss that.
So, there you have it. I am currently in the IDEA phase; the ROUGH DRAFT phase; and the MARKETING phase. I can forget about heavy EDITING until January. But, it is coming and I’m loving every overwhelming minute of this journey. It can be done if you are willing to make the commitment and to pay the price of long, hard hours of work. If you have the passion to be a writer and the discipline to be a published author then go for it. When I get an email from a reader of “Conquering Depression” telling me the book “saved my life” it makes it all worthwhile.
Now, this is a week to remember!
It started out with two incredible days at the International Christian Retail Show. I was able to meet Mr. Strang himself, the founder of Charisma Media and to see my mockup of “The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon” at the Charisma Booth. I met Ted Dekker, Tosca Lee, Charles Martin, Os Guinness to drop a few BIG names as well as singer and songwriter Matthew West. I learned that the future of publishing, at least in Christian retail outlets, is NOT dismal but is HOPEFUL. And, of course, the BIG development is the one I cannot speak of yet that has to do with future books by yours truly. Here is a picture with my Charisma editor, Deborah at the ICRS:
Saturday, my good friend and financial adviser, Kevin Murphy of Ameriprise held a brunch featuring my book, “The 13th Demon: Altar of the Spiral Eye”. Sherry and I were expecting maybe a dozen people to show up but the room was full with around 50 attendees! I was stunned.
Kevin asked me to speak and answer questions. I talked about the development of my writing career to date and the process of writing “The 13th Demon”. And, I brought along a copy of that old reliable book I had co-authored, “Conquering Depression”. I was stunned when over half of those there wanted a copy of that book! Kevin took names and agreed to purchase copies and send them to those who signed up. I am continually amazed at how this little known book continues to change lives everywhere I go!
Last Sunday, Mark Sutton and I spent six hours working on a plan for a future upgrade to “Conquering Depression” and the developments of the week at the ICRS impacted the future of that book!
And, just now, I finished putting the final touches and making the final changes to the galley proofs of “The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon”! That book is now on its way to the printer with the cover and back design in place and the book endorsements tucked onto the first page. I am now making plans for the book launch.
For now, the book launch is planned for Friday, October 19th at the Well, the coffee shop of Brookwood Baptist Church in Shreveport. Like last year, we will have refreshments, giveaways and I hope we have another huge crowd. I have also scheduled a book signing at First Baptist Church Orlando for October 27 and 28. If you know of a book store that might be interested in having me for a book signing, just contact me and let me know. Get me the contact information and I’ll turn it over to Charisma. God is SO good. He is in charge and His plans are so much grander and more satisfying than we can ever imagine!
Here are some pictures from this weekend.
I ran into Debbie Strang at the Charisma Media booth and she took me over to a shelf and showed me a mockup of my upcoming book, “The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon”. I cannot begin to tell anyone what it is like to hold your next book in your hands! It was awesome as you can see by my smile in this picture.
Then, Atalie, part of the Charisma team, told me that Matthew West was signing copies of his CD single RIGHT NOW! So, having just heard Matthew, I followed Atalie and got in line. She had to leave to go meet with the next author for his book signing and asked me to get her an autographed copy. It was interesting standing in line for a short while with her and a team member from Tyndale and listen to their “inside scoops” of prominent authors such as James Scott and lots of romance writers whose names you would instantly recognize. Then Atalie was off and I was standing in front of Matthew West. I told him how much his song meant to me and how I appreciate his desire to tell the stories all around us. He then looked at the card with my book cover on it (12th demon) and asked all about my book. He took a card and said he would read it when it came out. We’ll see!
I then took Atalie her CD and headed over to the FaithWords booth to get in line to see Tosca Lee and Ted Dekker — the biggest names right now in Speculative Christian Fiction.
Now, several weeks ago, I wrote a review of “Thunder and Rain” by Charles Martin. He is, without a doubt, one of my favorite top 5 authors. As I walked up to the booth, I spied a pile of “Thunder and Rain” books. I was stunned! Was Charles Martin here? I asked the man piling up the books and he pointed right behind me. There was Charles Martin talking to his wife. I had just missed his book signing. But, being an opportunist, I grabbed a book and, like a trembling fanboy, asked Charles to sign my book. He was gracious and funny and signed my book while I hemmed and hawed and tittered and giggled. I finally got control over myself and we had a nice conversation about his writing, his books, and the fact I was an author.
Then, heart pounding, I got in line for Tosca Lee and Ted Dekker. I handed Tosca my card with my book cover on it because I had written my name and my wife’s name on the back. At my book signings, I always have people write down the name they want the book dedicated to. This avoids any misspellings. Now, while in line, I spied “The Sanctuary”, Ted Dekker’s newest solo book and the front cover was suspiciously similar to the cover of “The 12th Demon” with an arched doorway just as my book had. I spoke with Tosca and Ted both about my book and when Tosca turned the card over, Ted’s mouth fell open. He jerked the card out of her hand and stared at MY cover. Tosca said something about how much it looked like his newest book cover. Ted looked up at me.
“Who did this cover?”
“The awesome graphic designers at Charisma Media.” I replied.
“This is better than my cover!”
So, here is a shout out to the graphic designers at Charisma. Ted Dekker loves the cover design for MY book! Way to go! I walked away proud to be an author for Charisma!!!
And, at that point, I had to leave and go pick up my daughter at the airport. But, it was an incredibly, unbelievable, fulfilling day at ICRS. And, tomorrow will be better!
This weekend I am flying down to Orlando. Again.
I visit Orlando, Florida about six times a year. First, there is Walt Disney World which I visit about four times a year. Second, there is my co-author, best friend, and former pastor Mark Sutton who is now involved in his own ministry to Haiti (link). Third, my publisher, Charisma Media is in Sanford, Florida just north of Orlando and I like to visit them once or twice a year. It’s good to put a face to the name and it is good to get a feel of the organization for which you write. And, the people at Charisma are outstanding!
But, this trip is special. I will be attending the International Christian Retail Show. What is that? Here is a description from their website:
The International Christian Retail Show is where the Christian resources industry meets – and there are a lot of reasons why. There is no other time or place where so many people, products, services, media, authors, artists, and craftspeople are gathered together in one place.
To say this gathering is awe inspiring, daunting, and, yes, exhausting is an understatement. Exhibit after exhibit from all kinds of publishers, retailers, marketers fill the Orange County Exhibit Center and it will take three days to see everything. But, what I really love about this gathering is the chance to see and hear new media. Concerts and film showings will go on the entire time. My wife and I were fortunate to attend the 2008 gathering and we were stunned to hear a concert one evening that featured Jeremy Camp, The Annie Moses Band, Nicole Mullen, Natalie Grant, and others. All in one concert!!! I can’t wait to see what is in store this year.
So, join me each day beginning Sunday for a report from the exhibit floor of the International Christian Retail Show and I’ll tell YOU what to expect in the music and book stores this fall!
If you happen to get your hands on the ICRS magazine for July look on page 72! Awesome ad!
If you want to get in touch with me, I’ll be on the exhibit floor Monday and Tuesday. Just use the contact button to send me an email, a test message, or give me a call.
Get one of my cards:
See you there!!!!
I had this question dozens of times this weekend at my book signing. Some of you may not have heard of my book “The 13th Demon: Altar of the Spiral Eye” and I invite you to consider reading this book in the genre of Speculative Christian Fiction. Here are some reader reviews from five different readers:
“This book is not for the faint of heart! A rare thing it is for me to pick up a book that I do not put down till it is read from cover to cover, but this is one of them. I read The 13th Demon Alter of the Spiral Eye in three hours. I would have gone to bed, since I started it so late at night, but this book has enough of the Spirit Realm in it that I knew better than to sleep with out having read the ending.”
“The 13th Demon was very well written and gets you hooked the moment you begin reading this book. — While this is a good book and am looking forward to the next book in this series, I would recommend this book for young adults over 14. There are some images that are extremely graphic and probably would scare a younger child.”
“It might seem odd to say that a Christian book is creepy, but this one was creepy – but I thoroughly enjoyed it. — This book was kind of like Frank Peretti’s early books on steroids. Not something you want to read before bedtime if you are prone to nightmares, but a great read. I liked his characters and the setting, and the book definitely held my interest and I read it through in one evening.”
“The overlay of the supernatural on the natural, a strong lead character, Jonathan Steel, with lots of ambiguity and scope to further develop in future books; good pace that makes it easily readable; some great bad guys (& gals) that are very evil.”
“Horror protagonists tend to be pitiable, average Joes put in unfortunate circumstances, but Steel is the Jason Bourne of paranormal Christian fiction.”
What is Christian Speculative Fiction? Simply put, it is science fiction, fantasy, or horror from a Christian perspective. In fact, if you want to hear my presentation on “Christian Speculative Fiction and Apologetics” this coming Saturday, check out an excellent online conference on the blending of the defense of the Christian faith with literature at this link http://onlineapologeticsconference.com/ . On Thursday, you can listen and watch online for FREE, yes for FREE to my presentation “CSI Golgotha: A Forensic Analysis of the Death of Jesus of Nazareth” and to Mark Riser’s “Why I am an Old Earth Creationist”. The keynote speaker this year is Dale Ahlquist on C. K. Chesterton.
Here are some pictures from my book signing with Althea Thompson, Publicity Coordinator with my publisher Charisma Media who was so kind to drop by yesterday just to support my book signing. And, there is a picture with my co-author and friend Mark Sutton with whom I wrote “Conquering Depression”.
Here is a copy of one of my “how to” blogs for “Just the Write Charisma“. I thought I would reproduce it here for those of you interested in the writing life.
Recently, I was listening to an interview of a Christian speculative fiction author. A blogtalk radio “station” out of Canada with a listening audience in the hundreds of thousands had granted this author an hour long interview to talk about his book. As I listened, I was appalled. Was this man a communicator? Didn’t he write a novel? How was it he was such an inarticulate speaker?
I began to listen to other podcast interviews and online interviews and I discovered something. As authors, we are the masters of the WRITTEN word, but often we are abysmal with the SPOKEN word. That author I mentioned above? That was me, Bruce Hennigan, in an interview for my first self published novel.
My journey since then has been totally unanticipated. I am an apologist, or one who is trained to defend the truth of the Christian worldview and since that interview, I have become part of a local organization, SBCAN or Shreveport Bossier Christian Apologetics Network, producing seminars and mini-retreats on how to defend the Christian faith in an increasingly hostile culture. I sat down and asked myself, “Why has God chosen to make me an apologist AND a novelist? What do the two have to do with each other?”
Well, God has shown me an answer. And it is simply this. One way we as authors can promote our WRITTEN word is by becoming SPEAKERS and communicating, with clarity, the message that underlies our novels. From a strictly utilitarian point of view, speaking in public can afford us the opportunity to promote our works. So, how is this accomplished? Let me give you four suggestions:
ONE — REFINE YOUR COMMUNICATION SKILLS
I enrolled in the Certified Apologetic Instructor program from my denominations North American Mission Board under the direction of one of the most awesome speakers and generally all around wonderful brother in Christ, Mike Licona. [link] As part of this intensive training program, Mike required us to attend the Dynamic Communications Workshop (Now known as the SCORRE Conference). Now, I have been a public speaking since high school. I am producer, director, playwright, and actor in church based drama. I have spoken at dozens of writer’s conferences on writing plays as well as dozens of regional and national drama festivals. Why would I have to attend a communications workshop?
While DCW isn’t the only workshop out there, I can tell you unequivocally that it changed my life. Really! It changed my life! This Christian based program showed me where I was going wrong and taught me invaluable skills in communication. I cannot recommend this program highly enough. Yes, it is expensive. Yes, it is intensive. But, as authors, we must master the skill of selling ourselves in interviews and podcasts and videocasts. If we stumble and mumble and “UMM” our way through an interview, who in their right mind would want to read what we write!
I had to humble myself and realize I can always be taught something and let the wonderful people at DCW teach me how to promote my novels; how to take my “commodity” of writing and turn it into a “product” that people will want to purchase.
TWO — SPEAK ON WHAT YOU KNOW
Stop, just a doggone minute! You are too an expert. You didn’t just pull the words out of thin air for your novel — well maybe you did. But, you did research for you novel, right? There is a definite message there; a genre; a “hook”. It might be historical information. It might be technical information. But, there is information there. And, you’ve written about it which makes you an expert. So, talk about it!
An old adage goes, “write about what you know”. As novelists we KNOW about something. If we can write about it, we can talk about it. If nothing else, we can talk about the process of being published authors. Think of all the aspects of the writing life we have had to become experts on. Marketing, publicity, social media, editing, research skills, etc. We have something we can bring to an audience. And, in that process, we promote our novels!
Now, this is not for everyone. Not all of us are comfortable in front of an audience. But, we should at least be articulate enough to pull off an interview or a podcast. Find that subject or subjects you can speak comfortably about and then PLUG your novel!
THREE — SPEAK ON WHO YOU ARE
I was so touched by Mike Dellosso’s accounts of his struggle with colon cancer in his blog. The man is a hero in my book. As a physician, I work with dying patients all the time. We will all face that medical crisis that might end our lives. And, how we face death is determined by our character; our faith; our strength. It also takes guts to speak about our weaknesses; our battles; our losses. But, it also gives us an opportunity to speak about our triumphs! And, as a Christian, I have found that EVERY triumph is ultimately due to the supernatural intervention of my God.
Years ago, I battled depression. After two years of struggling through counseling and changing my life completely, God led me to develop some tools to keep me from getting depressed again. My pastor approached me about writing a book on the subject. Out of my pain, “Conquering Depression” was picked up and published by B&H Publishing in 2001. For the next three years, Mark Sutton and I offered a three hour seminar on “Conquering Depression”. We required that every participant (or, at least, every couple) purchase a copy of our book and that was included in the price for the seminar, a reasonable $25 per person. We spoke about who we were and we sold lots of books. The downside was the constant need to expose my very soul to my audience; to reveal my inner most secrets and struggles. But, God ultimately received the credit!
Every good novelists writes out of some corner of pain and suffering. Everyone of us bleeds onto the page because of the circumstances of our lives. Find that angle. Be willing to talk about it. Help others struggling with the same issues in life. And, in the process, you can promote your books!
We may end up speaking on something totally unrelated to the subject of our novel. But, people will check out our books because of WHO WE ARE!
FOUR — TIE IN YOUR SPEAKING ENGAGEMENT WITH YOUR WEBSITE
I was invited recently to speak to our state’s Evangelism Conference on apologetics. I chose to speak on the six most commonly asked questions from skeptics. I was anticipating about a dozen for each of my two sessions. I was shocked when over 100 showed up!
I provided a business card with my web address and contact information. And, I told the attendees they could download the pdf version of my notes and resources from my author website under the “Apologetics” tab. I mentioned in passing that I was an author. I even told them that my book, “The 13th Demon” was “apologetic fiction” and an exciting, scary read they could give to their skeptical friends. In one presentation, I guaranteed a possible 100 hits on my website during the next week. The presentation went well, thanks to my DCW training, and out of this presentation I received a dozen more invitations to speak!
Last night, I spoke to a seminary class for my friend and co-author, Mark Sutton. Check out his website for his Haiti ministry: Mark Sutton Ministries. I gave away six copies of “The 13th Demon” and had a wonderful conversation with my Christian brothers and sisters. The week after, I am speaking to our church congregation on apologetics. That following weekend, I will be speaking at our state drama festival. At each one of these venues, I will be passing out contact information and directing listeners to my website. I am hoping for a snowball effect. In fact, I want this to be so successful, I will have to turn down invitations. Although these presentations have very little to do with my novel, they still afford me the opportunity to promote my writing. Don’t know where to start? Ask your agent.
But, as exciting as this all sounds, my one goal is to glorify God through all that I do. God, and God alone is providing for my writing and speaking career. As Mike Dellosso so eloquently put it last week’s Just the Write Charisma blog:
If you expect to reach just one person through your writing then success is within your grasp. If you expect to glorify God with the best you have to offer then success is within your grasp.
So, consider adding a speaker career to your writing career. Start by polishing those communication skills and start turning your “commodity” of writing into your “product”!