Friday, April 19, 2019

The Power of Abiding by JoAnn Durgin

Meme that says "Be Still and Know That I Am God

The Power of Abiding

When I first started on my writing journey, I’d heard repeatedly that in order to be published, I must have a literary agent. It was a given, not an option. Mind you, this was 2008 or thereabouts, when independent publishing was frowned upon as something only those who couldn’t get published the traditional way would “resort” to doing when all else failed. How times have changed!

So, I followed “the rules” and began submitting my manuscript to agents who represented Christian authors. Imagine my surprise when it caught the attention of one of the top agents who told me I had one of the best queries he’d ever read. I’d done my homework—studying several of his blog posts and learning about his personal interests. When I mentioned one of those interests in my query—a great fondness we shared for a beloved author—that’s what had him hooked. As requested, I sent him the first three chapters. What happened next? Suffice it to say, I’ve never had an agent. But—32 books later, that’s okay. He told me I wasn’t ready, and you know what? A few tears, rants, and months later, I reached the conclusion that he was right (as I told him when I first met him at a writing conference). As always, God had a plan…

At the time, I was a member of an online writing group that offered paid critiques from well-known contemporary Christian romance authors. I signed up for a critique, and it was harsh and borderline scathing. She advised me to leave my characters on the proverbial cutting room floor and move on to greener pastures. Gulp. What? After all, this was the story I knew God wanted me to try and publish first. Contrary to what she assumed, it wasn’t the first novel I’d drafted, but more like the fourth. The one where God had (I believe) miraculously restored half the story after I’d lost it! Not only that, but He’d confirmed it was “the one” (you can read more about that at

Thankfully, another author came along and encouraged me to keep working on the manuscript because “readers need to hear your story.” If nothing else, once I set my mind on something, I keep plugging away. I’ve been known to do things just to prove I can—within reason. It doesn’t always work, of course, but sometimes it does. Taking the second author’s advice, I revised the story and made the heroine less snarky. Then I made my story more humorous, longer, shorter, you name it, before submitting to more agents. You see what I was doing, don’t you? I was changing my story to please others, and in the process, I’d lost my writing voice. Not to mention I was driving myself crazy. No more!

Miss Determined then reworked those first three chapters. I wrote them my way, praying all the way. Then I went online and did a search for Christian romance publishers that accepted unagented submissions. I went through the list, weeding out those that didn’t fit. I sent queries (some with the first three chapters) to six publishers, and one of them became my first publisher a few months later.

My church recently participated in a Priscilla Shirer “Going Beyond” simulcast. What I didn’t know until I sat in the pew that day was that her theme was “Abide.” I was especially encouraged and thrilled since the seventh book in my Lewis Legacy Series is titled Abide with John 15:4-5 as the novel’s theme verses.

4Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (NASB)

As I’ve moved along in my writing journey, I’ve learned the power of abiding. Priscilla’s message reminded me what that truly means—remaining and receiving, being patient and quiet (admittedly a challenge for me), and then (this is so important) listening for that still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. The idea of abiding also embodies the concept of Be still, and know that I am God. ~from Psalm 46:10 (NIV).

I bought a T-shirt at “Going Beyond” with this message: Live by Grace, not perfection. How I love this! My mother always lovingly “accused” me of being a perfectionist. Isn’t that what God expects from us? No! He expects our best, and we need to understand our human imperfections. If God doesn’t expect perfection, then why should we? The only Perfect One has already come! What a freeing thought that is! One of the bottom lines in publishing is this: you can write a grammatically and/or technically correct book, but when it comes to fiction, it’s so subjective and everyone’s got an opinion. Men can be critical, but God grants us His grace. Amen! Be guided by the Word of God, not the opinions of man.

Whether you’re starting your writing journey, or if you’re currently involved in pursuing publication, or whether you’ve published one or more than a hundred books, God has a plan. Whether you have an agent or not, He has a plan. Whether you go the route of traditional publishing or pursue independent publishing, the Almighty has a plan. Pray and abide. Wait on Him in everything in your journey—timing, purpose, and content. And then listen for His voice.

If you do those things, then you’ll be just fine. Blessings, friends.

Until His Nets Are Full,
Matthew 5:16

Live by grace, not perfection. #seriouslywrite #thepowerofabiding via @Gr8tReads


Catherine “Caty” Lewis is thrilled to be home again with her family and friends. After working as a chief accountant for a multinational oil corporation in Dallas and then Lubbock the past five years, she’s been transferred to their new world headquarters in downtown Houston. Before she can even inhabit her new office, she schedules a private meeting with the reclusive founder and CEO. Someone in her division appears to be embezzling funds, and Caty prays she’s not the prime suspect.

After suffering a deeply personal loss, Caleb Reid is struggling to raise his precocious twelve-year-old daughter, Lauren, on his own. He moved to Houston for a fresh start and to escape the threats that have plagued him the past few years. Then quickly discovers he can’t outrun them.

When these two meet, romantic sparks fly. Caty stares down fear with the kind of strong faith Caleb has neglected along the way. Can he risk endangering Caty in his fight against an unseen threat? Have the walls he’s built around him and his daughter served to protect them or to keep others from getting too close to his heart?

ABIDE. An enduring love story between a man and a woman. A story of standing firmly on God’s promises, never giving into fear, and placing our trust in the One who is infinitely more capable.

JoAnn Durgin
JoAnn Durgin is a USA Today bestselling author of more than thirty contemporary Christian romance novels, including her signature Lewis Legacy Series. A native of southern Indiana, JoAnn likes to say she’s “been around in the nicest sense of the word” after living in four states across the country before returning to her hometown with her husband and three children. When she’s not writing, JoAnn loves to travel and spend time with their first grandchild, Amelia Grace. Feel free to connect with her at or via her website at


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you kindly, Gail. I loved writing it, and thanks for stopping by Seriously Write. :) Blessings!

  2. Thanks JoAnn. A friend sent me a link to this post after I informed her that my first full length novel, which was under contract, ended up going through two massive rewrites into different genres and still not meeting the editor's standards. We mutually agreed to call it quits and I don't care if I ever write again at this point. I point the finger back at myself for my own short-comings and at the two editors who couldn't even agree between themselves on what they seemed to want. This is what happens when your first book is called a great story by an agent who believes in you but doesn't fit neatly into either romance or suspense. It's good to hear your perspective. At this point I may only focus on my art rather than my writing. It's a difficult switch from publishing non-fiction to fiction and I am not sure I am cut out for it.

    1. Teena, thanks so much for reading the blog and sharing your heart. From what you've written, it sounds as though the hurt is still fresh and raw. Trust me, I fully understand. All of us who have been called to write and create have "been there." Not that it makes it any easier for you now, but I hate to hear your discouragement. Please take heart!

      Pray about it and give your doubts and concerns to the Lord. I've been laid off from two good jobs in the past, not because of anything I'd done, but because there simply wasn't enough work. But you know what? It was during those times that I worked on my writing and was able to find a publisher. All this to say that your work may be stellar, but the timing isn't right. There are so many factors that go into publishing that sometimes I believe it's a miracle when books actually go to press! But it happens every day...

      I'm sure your agent has every faith in you, Teena. Give it some time, digest, absorb, and pray the Lord will make His path and perfect will clear to you. I believe if He's truly called you to create, you will, but in His timing. Every person's journey is different. Sometimes we need to take a break to gain perspective. Wishing you many blessings. Thanks so much for stopping by Seriously Write today!

  3. Yes, all in God's timing! Hindsight often reveals why things don't play out as we first wanted or imagined. Thanks, for sharing another part of your journey, JoAnn!

    1. Amen, and thanks, Dawn! Yes, that old hindsight...but you have to love it. Like anything else, it's how we learn, grow, and see God's hand at work. Blessings.

  4. JoAnn, thanks for this post. I’m glad you had the fortitude to write that story. I’d say 32 books are proof you made the right decision.

    1. Thanks, Terri. I was determined, that was for sure, and I truly felt the Lord's leading. Considering it became the beginning of what will probably be my "signature" series, I'm glad I stuck with it. :)


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