Friday, October 12, 2012

The Journey to Publication by Liz Curtis Higgs

I have admired author Liz Curtis Higgs and her work for years. I’m so honored that she’s with us today, sharing part of her personal journey to publication, as well as helpful advice.  I think it’s humorous and interesting that like so many of us, even Liz was influenced by Nancy Drew! Enjoy this precious lady’s words. ~ Dawn

The Journey to Publication
by Liz Curtis Higgs

All I ever wanted to be was a writer. In grade school I wrote little stories about dinosaurs for my nephews. In middle school I filled endless notebooks with angst-ridden poetry and Nancy Drew-style mysteries. In my teens I edited the school newspaper and wrote YA romance novels with captivating titles like Him. (Trust me, those will never see the light of day!)

Unfortunately, in college I majored in partying and English—in that order. Only when the Lord captured my heart at age 27 did I begin to consider my love for writing as a true calling. Even so, eight more years went by before I saw my name in print. During that time, I married a wonderful man, brought my decade in radio to a happy close, gave birth to two adorable children, ramped up my speaking career, and finished that BA in English.

Degree in hand, I worked up the courage to begin sending out articles to Christian publications. I can still remember the day I received my first check from a church magazine for $90. Was I excited! Actually, I still get excited when publishers send me checks. But it’s the writing itself—the process, not the publication, and not the payment—that thrills me most. Anne Lamott assures us, “Publication is not all that it is cracked up to be. But writing is.” Yes, yes, yes.

Publishers love when a writer has an established platform, but what they care about most is great writing. I’m nowhere near the writer I hope to be someday, so working on craft is an ongoing effort for me and for every published writer I know.

My advice? Buy the best self-editing books you can find. My favorites are the latest editions of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne and Dave King and Revision And Self-Editing by James Scott Bell.

Some people hate rewriting, but it’s my favorite part. As John Updike phrased it, “Writing and rewriting are a constant search for what it is one is saying.” Somewhere between the second and third draft—fiction or nonfiction—I finally go, “Oh! That’s what this book is about!” Then it’s back to page one with that theme printed out in front of me in 30-point type. Every word, every sentence, every paragraph needs to support that theme. It’s much easier to see what stays and what goes when you know where you’re headed.

Why not start with a solid theme, you ask? Oh, I do. But only after the words have poured out of me can I stand back and see what God has been trying to teach me all along.

Learn to love the process, get all that passion on the page, look at your words with a cool eye, then separate the wheat from the chaff. Finally, trust God to make a way for your manuscript when the message you have and the reader you have in mind are ready to meet.

Click to reach Amazon.
Liz Curtis Higgs is the author of thirty books, with more than three million copies in print. Her award-winning fiction includes two contemporary novels, six historical novels, and her new Victorian Christmas novella, A Wreath of Snow.

To find out more about Liz and her work, please visit:

Fiction website / blog:
Fiction Twitter account:

Regular website / blog:
Regular Twitter account:


  1. Wonderful post! I particularly liked the idea that God teaches the writer something through the writing and theme of the story. I've experienced that myself at times.

  2. Great post, Liz! I love the writing process best, but it's in the rewrite stage the story really gels so often. Thanks for visiting and encouraging us!

  3. Thanks so much, Dawn, for inviting me to share a bit of my journey. In a perfect world (this isn't one!), I would love to put aside a finished first draft for 3 months, then return and write the second draft, then put it aside for another 3 months, and come back to write the final draft. In 30 books I've never been able to manage a leisurely writing schedule like that, but a girl can dream, right? Blessings and thanks again!

    1. We love having you here, Liz! Your presence is always a blessing. That first draft is a killer for me, but tweaking and polishing is my favorite part of writing too. :-D

  4. What an encouraging post, Liz. Thanks for sharing your journey and such helpful advice. I especially appreciate your process of integrating theme into your stories.

  5. Thank you, Liz, for reminding us that we are writing God stories. I needed this encouragement and validation today.

  6. Yippee! I'm so glad you're here, sweet Liz! What a wonderful post. I love what you said about not figuring out what the book is really about until later drafts. I'm learning that even if I have the theme all planned out, I need to be open to new and often deeper directions, even if they're not what I planned. What a joyful adventure. God bless you!

  7. Thank you, Liz, for shedding even more light on the process. :-) You answered questions I had after reading your last post on writing. And as you do SO well--encouraging. It's nice to know that even with your high level of skill, art, and experience, a few drafts are required to reach clarity of theme. (I wondered when I'd grow past that. LOL Apparently I won't.) Appreciate the books suggestions, too. I've been using Rennie Brown & Dave King's, and other of James Scott Bell's books but not that one. It goes on my shopping list--now.

    And especially, a huge thanks for the encouraging reminder that God will make a way for the MS when the message and potential reader are ready to meet. You are a gift. May God bless you.
    Mary Kay

  8. Thank you so much for your words of wisdom, Liz.

  9. Great post. I do love the rewrite. I really enjoy it.


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