Friday, November 19, 2010

My Journey to Publication by Dan Walsh

This Fortifying Friday we welcome author Dan Walsh to Seriously Write. I’m so glad we're able to share his story with you. Dan’s journey to publication is a little unusual, but it’s a great example of how God works. He has a unique plan for each one of us. A writer’s journey may have similarities to other authors, but it will always be different and special in its own way. Thanks, Dan, for sharing yours with us.

My Journey to Publication

When Dawn e-mailed, asking me to consider sharing my publishing journey with you all, I was initially reluctant. You might think it’s a story any writer would love to shout from the rooftops. I’ve included a picture of a turtle to help illustrate my problem. The path I followed to getting my first novel published is about as unlikely as that turtle sitting on top of that fencepost (and would be just as challenging for someone else to follow).

For about a year after, I didn’t want to tell my story to any of the authors I met online, but you can’t avoid it. It’s one of the small-talk questions writers ask each other. I’m more comfortable talking about it now because it is, after all, the story God chose for me. Who am I to question His ways?

My passion to write began during an 11th grade composition course (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth). By the end of that year, I knew I wanted to write novels. A year later, I came to Christ and it totally messed up my plans. I suddenly realized I had nothing to say. So I set my writing dreams aside and made my aim to get to know the Lord better. This led toward a call to ministry. For the next 20 years, I didn’t write another thing (except sermons).

By 1997, my wife Cindi and I had two small children. I was the lone pastor of a growing church. At a conference, pastors were challenged to pick up a hobby as a way to release stress and avoid burnout. Cindi suggested I start writing fiction again.

At Christmastime that year, the storyline for what became The Unfinished Gift (my first published novel) began playing in my head, like scenes from a movie. Over the next two days I wrote a five-page synopsis, then set out to write the book. A few months later, with the book half-finished, I knew it just wasn’t the right time. Writing had quickly grown from a hobby to an obsession. I could either stop writing or become a bad dad. I set the book down and didn’t write another thing for 10 more years.

In 2007, Cindi urged me to pick up the book again and finish it. It just seemed like the right time. Both our children were now grown, and I had already begun to train someone to take my place at the church. So I pulled the book out, brushed off the cobwebs, and finished writing it before summer’s end.

Here’s where the fencepost thing comes into play.

From everything I’d read, I should expect an extremely frustrating process from this point, with many years of constant rejection. That didn’t happen. Instead … I have only one rejection letter in my drawer.

Working from a list of the top literary agents in Christian fiction, I submitted my first three query letters, including a brief synopsis and the first three chapters. After one rejection letter, two more letters came. But agents two and three asked to read the entire manuscript! Within two weeks, one of them got back with me, confident she could get a contract for the book.

We had the contract with Revell for The Unfinished Gift less than two months later. A few months after that, Revell bought the sequel called The Homecoming. It released this past June. Before it even hit the shelves, Revell offered me a contract to write three more novels.

My third novel, The Deepest Waters, is coming out on April 1 (the cover is amazing). I finished the fourth book in September, another Christmas novel coming out next year. At the moment, I’m about 80 pages into my fifth book, due out in the spring of 2012.

This past September, my first novel, The Unfinished Gift, won two Carol awards at ACFW’s annual conference.

Somehow, and for reasons I can’t begin to fathom, God just picked me up off the grass and plopped me on top of that fencepost. I skipped the hardest part. I have no idea how I got here and no idea how to advise anyone else still along the way.

I’ve pondered why God allowed me to experience such favor, with so little effort on my part (except the writing itself). I’m still not sure. Perhaps, every now and then, God chooses some to be living monuments to the reality of this truth: Nothing is impossible for God.

It’s not all up to us and our efforts. We don’t have to live our lives as orphans, fending for ourselves (including our journey toward publication). If God the Father knows when a lone sparrow falls in the forest, He knows our situation, down to the smallest detail.

When I stand before God, I don’t stand before Him as a multi-published, award-winning author. Those of you still not published stand right beside me. We both stand before Him as beloved children. His love for us is the same and, because of Christ, will never be removed. May I encourage you to pull away often from the frenzied pace―whenever you’re tempted to believe it’s all up to you―and allow His love for you to regain first place and refresh your soul.

Keep working hard at it, keep writing and refining and listening to good advice. But always know, you are loved, and you are His. No earthly prize will ever compare to this.

Dan Walsh is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the Christian Author’s Network. His first novel, The Unfinished Gift won two Carol Awards from ACFW for best debut author and best short historical fiction. The sequel, The Homecoming, released in June 2010. His third novel, The Deepest Waters, will hit the shelves on April 1, 2011. His publisher, Revell, has signed him to write two more novels. The fourth is another Christmas novel due out next year. He’s busy now researching and writing his fifth book. For those who haven’t read Dan’s novels, reviewers often compare his books to Richard Paul Evans, Jason Wright and Nicholas Sparks. He served as a pastor for 25 years, then retired from ministry and now writes fulltime in the Daytona Beach area, where he lives with Cindi, his wife of 34 years (and the only woman he has ever loved). They have two children, both now grown (their first grandchild is on the way).

Dan’s Internet Links:


  1. I loved your story so much, Dan, that I shared it with my husband. He's not a writer, but can become frustrated at times when what he's desiring to accomplish isn't happening as quickly as he'd like. Your words were helpful for him.

    I love how our experiences aren't mass produced, but are individually and carefully created by the great Creator.

  2. Great post, Dan! Loved the turtle-on-the-fence-post illustration and how fitting it was to your experience. And I'm inspired. Glad God has a specific plan for each of us and in His wisdom, He'll do all His good pleasure.

    Thanks for visiting!

  3. Thanks Dawn for inviting me and sharing my story with your readers. I have become more comfortable sharing it because of what you said, Annette. God has a specific plan for each of us. This was His plan for me.

    Time didn't allow me to tell how many books I studied or the path I took to learning the "craft," before submitting my first book. But the speed at which things took off after that really was surprising.

    Hope you and your readers have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

    Dan Walsh


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