Friday, April 22, 2011

If I Had It to Do Over by Roger Bruner

Writers take different paths to publication. Some are successful, and some don’t turn out as well as hoped. This Fortifying Friday, author Roger Bruner is here to share a part of his journey to publication, and what he’d do differently. I think you’ll agree that he offers valuable advice.

If I Had It to
Do Over
by Roger Bruner

Now that one of my novels has come out and another will release in August, this year is one of the most exciting times in my life. I never expected my 65th year to be so special, and only God knows what lies ahead.

So why “if I had it to do over”? To borrow the old John Kennedy saying, let me say this about that.

When I unexpectedly ended up in an hourly job after three professional careers, I decided to pursue my post-retirement dream early: to write and publish a novel. My story seemed good, and basing my characters loosely on my wife and me was fun.

The only writing book I owned was The Elements of Style, leftover from my college English days. Although I loved reading, novels had changed drastically without my noticing.

Aware that publishing takes time, I was impatient to get my work out there for the world to see and enjoy. So I self-published with a reputable POD outfit and was thrilled with the results. My book listed on Amazon, and I thought I had it made.

Wrong. Although several local bookstores stocked copies on consignment—I don’t think my books were responsible for those places going out of business—and had me do signings, few books sold. I was too interested in writing the next novel to “waste” time on marketing.

I started going to Christian writers conferences. Hmm. Learned some things I hadn’t known. Bought some writing books. Oh? I should be doing a, b, and c and avoiding x, y, and z. Gee! Showed sample pages to published authors. Ugh! Everything I’d done in that POD-published book was wrong. No wonder it wasn’t selling.

So I settled down to learn the craft of writing fiction. Not starting with backstory. Hooking the reader in the first sentence. Deleting unnecessary words and using beats instead of attributions in dialog. Writing dialog that only simulates real speech. So many things to learn.

My biggest lesson? Good writing is a lifelong process. I’ll never stop learning or wanting to write better. I’ll never be satisfied.

In 2006, Found in Translation won the first place novel competition at the Blue Ridge Conference. An editor from a company that didn’t publish novels loved it. Surely an offer would come from somewhere.

Wrong again.

I showed the first page to James Scott Bell. “You didn’t start with a scene.” Guess I hadn’t learned as much as I’d thought. But after cutting the first fifty pages and writing a new beginning, an editor who couldn’t use Found found me an agent, and the rest is history.

So what about “if I had it to do over”?

Bigger lessons learned. Self publishing is fine if you have a platform for selling. Be ready to market any published book—even if you don’t want to. Don’t be in such a rush to have your book published. Develop a thick skin and ask experts for help.

Be yourself, but write your best.

Roger Bruner worked as a teacher, job counselor, and programmer analyst before retiring to pursue his dream of writing Christian fiction full time. A guitarist and songwriter, he is active in his church's choir, praise team, and nursing home ministry. Roger also enjoys reading, web design, mission trips, photography, and spending time with his wonderful wife, Kathleen.

To learn more about Roger and his books, please visit

The link to his book trailer: