My Success Story
God, help me … when Scarlett seared Rhett with a look on the winding staircase of Twelve Oaks, I was a goner. You see, Gone With the Wind captured me like no other book had done, and at the age of twelve, I immediately set out to write what I hoped would be “the great American novel.” Obviously my dreams of grandeur didn’t go anywhere, but I did write 150 pages of a story that became the basis for my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure.
Fast forward some forty years later—I’m sitting in a beauty parlor reading a Newsweek magazine cover article about how Christian books, movies and music were on the threshold of exploding. My heart jumped, and a little voice said, “It’s time to finish your book.”
So I did. Uh … unfortunately the “little voice” forgot to mention how difficult publication would be. Those who attended the 2005 American Christian Fiction Writers Conference (ACFW) may remember the poor slob who waved her hands wildly in the back of the room when asked who had the most rejections in a year. I won hands-down with 19 and went on to garner a total of 45 in six years. Even my agent, Natasha Kern, blanched a bit when she signed me, realizing after the ink was dry just how many times I’d been rejected. I believe the word she used was “daunting.” But apparently not too daunting for her—she landed me a 3-book contract six months later.
When A Passion Most Pure won Debut Book of the year at the ACFW conference this year, I may as well been stunned by a Taser. There was no way I expected to win, but it certainly drives home a powerful message for every aspiring author out there—although 45 publishers/agents may say “no” … it only takes one to say “yes.”
The Bible says to take it “one day (or one step) at a time, so here are the steps I took on the road to publication. May they help you in your dream to write for Him.
1.) Join ACFW, FHL (Faith, Hope & Love) and RWA (Romance Writers of America) both to connect with like-minded writers and to learn your craft.
2.) Take a fiction-writing class or attend a writing seminar or conference.
3.) Join a critique group (you can do that through ACFW).
4.) Study writing books like Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King or Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, AND invest in a great thesaurus like The Synonym Finder by Rodale Press (my writer’s bible!!).
5.) Enter contests for feedback, growth, confidence, to network and to get your name out there.
6.) Frequent websites/blogs that deal with writing/getting published such as The Seekers.
7.) Go for an agent first, publisher second.
8.) Last but not least? PRAY your heart out … then put it in God’s hands.
Julie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of “Passion With a Purpose” underscores her white-hot passion for both God and romance. Winner of the 2009 ACFW Debut Author of the Year, Julie is also the recipient of 13 Romance Writers of America awards and resides in Missouri with her husband and their golden retriever. She is the author of The Daughters of Boston series, which includes A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Redeemed, and A Passion Denied. You can contact Julie through her Web site.