It's Not the Critic Who Counts

It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt
Citizenship in a Republic (Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910)
 
 

Let the Walls Fall Down

Move past self-protective fear to write with honesty, transparency and vulnerability.

 

What makes you love great writing?

Have you thought about what your favorite authors have in common? I have. And I discovered that I love books that resonate with me. I know I’ve stumbled onto something wonderful when a book allows me to glimpse inside the writer’s soul.

As a writer, I want to impact my readers that way. I hope that is your goal too. So what can we do to become more transparent in our writing? I’ve come up with a few ideas. Maybe you can add to them.

 

Forgive past offenses.

When we’ve been hurt, it is easy to construct protective walls around our hearts. Those walls may keep us from getting hurt (probably not, but that’s why we build them), but they create a distance between us and our readers.

Unforgiveness comes across in writing as legalism or know-it-all-ism. It preaches at the readers, talking down to them instead of inviting them into conversation or story.

 

Focus on Your Readers

If you are writing to someone, you will be more authentic. You’ll move beyond, “Here I am. Let me tell you what I know!” to “There you are. How can I add value to you today?”

Picture your target reader. Imagine her reading your words and reacting to them. What does she feel as she reads them. Has she learned to trust you to teach her or take her on a soul-stirring journey? Are you giving her what she needs in this moment, in a way she can receive ? Do your words resonate with her?

 

Trust the Lord with Your Reputation

One of the quickest ways to alienate a reader is to try to impress him. Readers don’t care how much you know. They don’t care how witty you are or how you’ve perfected your prose. They want to learn from you or be entertained by you. They want to connect with you on an emotional journey. If you are preening on the paper, you may be admired from afar, but you’ll never touch the heart of your reader.

If you ask yourself, “Will this make me look good?” you’re going to distance your readers. Let God take care of your reputation and how you look. Instead, ask yourself, “How will my readers benefit from this? What will they learn? What will they experience?”

 

What keeps you from writing with vulnerability? What steps will you take to overcome those things and connect on a deeper level with your reader?

 

Elizabeth M. Thompson leads Inspire Christian Writers. When she’s not writing devotionals or planning the next Write to Inspire conference, she’s learning to write more transparently with her Inspire Elk Grove group. She enjoys connecting with other writers via Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

She has an active home which she shares with her fabulous husband Mike, three children, two dogs and a few errant dust bunnies.

Dear Tennessee

Dear Tennessee, 

Today we are sending you a treasure. We expect that you will value this treasure as we do and welcome her with great joy.

Please provide our treasure a comfortable home, a supportive faith community, rich life experiences and even some new writing friends.

She is leaving the beauty of her beloved California and venturing into the yet-unknown territory of you. Please surprise her with more beauty than she can anticipate or imagine.

Please welcome her family with open arms and open hearts. You’ll be so glad you did, because Joanne is the kind of friend who will love you back. She’s the kind of friend who will bring tissues when you’re crying while plotting to restore your laughter.

She’ll listen to you whine for just a minute and then direct you to buck up and take action–like only the daughter of a marine can.

Joanne is a gifted writer, speaker and mentor of women and writers. She is energetic, engaging and encouraging. She’s also snort-sweet-tea-through-your-nose funny.

I know you’ll enjoy her.

You’ll treasure her as we do. You’ll discover she’s passionate about justice. And equally passionate about mercy. She is hospitable, warm and friendly.

So, Tennessee, take good care of this precious friend we are entrusting to you, a treasure more valuable than gold. Guard her. Encourage her. Welcome her. Love her.

 

We certainly do.

 

Inspire Christian Writers Board and Members

 

More From Literary Agent, Chip MacGregor

I hope you’ve all been learning some new information about the highly-sought-after agent, Chip MacGregor. I know I have! Today, we’ll go a bit deeper, and then he’ll tell us what we can look forward to at the fast-approaching Write to Inspire conference. Make sure you’re registered today! You won’t want to miss it!

LN: Your personal bio states, “Chip’s greatest desire is to help authors create great books that make a difference in the world.” What are some of your favorite make-a-difference books that you helped to create?

 

CM: It’s a long list. I was Brennan Manning’s agent for several years, and I’ve always been proud of helping him with his books. I helped concept Lisa Beamer’s book, and represented that one when it rose to #1 on the NYT list. There have been several novelists who have really made a difference: Lisa Samson, Gina Holmes, Susan Meissner, Elizabeth Musser, Ann Tatlock, Mindy Clark, Leslie Gould – that’s just a sampling. On the nonfiction side, I represented all of Michelle McKinney Hammond’s books, did a bunch with Jill and Stuart Briscoe, a long list of MOPS books, great books with people like Keri Wyatt Kent and Don McCullough. I also helped several excellent writers get started – Holley Gerth, Ira Wagler, Mike Hingson, Susy Flory, Jenny B. Jones, Mary DeMuth, etc. I’m proud of the authors I’ve worked with.

 

LN: Some marriage counselors claim to have the ability to predict whether a marriage will last or end in divorce. Are great agents the same with writers? Are you able to predict whether a newbie-writer will be a success? If so, what do you see in them to make you think they’ll make it?

 

CM: Love this question. You see, I’m paid to SELL a writer’s work. In fact, that’s the only way I get paid. So if I don’t think I can sell a project, I won’t take it on for representation, no matter how much I like the author. So yes, I tend to look for people I like and believe in, and who I think I can sell. I often will predict success based on the bigness of the story, the quality of the writing, the need in the marketplace, and the author’s ability to support the work. Do I make mistakes? Sure I do. But I also get a lot of them right. And over the last 25 years I’ve been right a lot more frequently than I’ve been wrong, which is why I’m successful at this business. I think most of the longtime successful agents have an ability to recognize great talent. I probably have a limited set of talents, but “recognizing a good author” is one of the things I do well.

 

LN: In your opinion, what quality is most important for writers to possess? What quality is most important for your clients to possess?

 

CM: This one is easy. The one quality most important for writers to possess is VOICE. A writer with strong voice, who sounds unique and not like everyone else, will stand out in a crowd. I’m a sucker for great voice. And I feel it’s voice that will help an author break out in a competitive publishing market. When I see strong voice (which is simply “personality on the page”), I tend to be interested in the author, even if it’s in a genre I don’t normally represent. Because great voice tends to get published. It’s a rare quality, and it takes time to develop, but no question – voice in your writing is the one quality that impresses me most.

 

LN: What can our writers expect to learn from you at the Write to Inspire conference this July?

 

CM: Everything you need to know about creating a great book proposal. The ten keys to refining your proposal. How to pitch and submit your proposal. And we’ll have a chance to talk trends, careers, the craziness of the industry, etc. I’m really looking forward to being there and spending time with the group.

 

LN: Once again, thank you to Chip for being so willing to share with all of us! We are eagerly awaiting the Write to Inspire conference. And thank you to all of you for allowing me to share these interviews with you. I hope they’ve been helpful! I’ll see you in July!

From her earliest years, Lacie Nezbeth knew two things—she longed to be a stay at home mom, and stories, in any form, captivated her. Today, those two passions have culminated into a fairy tale life that continually points her to God’s overflowing goodness. Her love of history, traveling and research made her decision to write Historical Romances an obvious and fitting choice. When Lacie isn’t working on one of her stories or tackling the unending mountain of laundry produced by her three small kids, she can be found chauffeuring her children to their various activities, talking to herself in the grocery store or plotting ways to get her entire family on another Caribbean cruise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Pitching to Chip MacGregor?

One of the most difficult hurdles every writer must face is pitching their “baby” to an agent that we are probably completely intimidated by. We learned yesterday that Chip is anything but intimidating, but the experience of selling your story is scary nonetheless.

 

Today, Chip gives us a few insights if you’re planning to pitch him your manuscript or if you’re interested in his representation.

 

LN: When you take pitching appointments during the conference, what genre are you most looking for?

 

CM: In fiction, I’m looking for stories with a big hook and great writing. I’m looking for romance, historicals, suspense, and crime novels, in both the Christian as well as the general market. On the nonfiction side, I’m always looking for a great, salable idea that offers strong solutions to problems people face. Some genres would include lifestyle, relationships, investing, parenting, and Christian living.

 

LN: What are some of the most common mistakes you see when writers are pitching or submitting to you?

 

CM: I find some authors fall in love with their own words, so they want to talk but don’t want to listen (and when advice is offered, it’s rejected because the author feels he knows more than me). So be willing to listen. Also, most projects aren’t done when first shown to me – they are about 60% done when the author runs it by me. That’s fine if the author is just looking for my take on the subject. But if you’re pitching me, it should be DONE – completed, well thought out, well written, and ready to shop to publishers. So know your topic, understand the market, recognize the competition, and get everything as complete as you can make it. One other mistake, less common but still occurring, is that some authors will approach me having no idea who I am or what I represent. So they come to me with poetry or screenplays or sci-fi novels that I don’t represent and don’t have an opinion on. A bit of research can make the one-on-one time much better.

 

LN: I’ve heard you say that different agents bring different benefits to the relationship. Whether that’s business savvy, negotiating contracts, editorial advice, brainstorming, accountability, etc. What are your strengths as an agent? What assistance do you most enjoy giving your clients?

 

CM: First, I’ve done this a long time, and I bring a lot of experience to bear on conversations about writing and careers. Second, I love words, and love talking words and stories. In fact, one of my favorite things is sitting down with an author I represent and talking through their story with them. Third, I made my living as a writer for several years, so I understand not just the business side, but the creative side of making a living at writing. And fourth, I actually have training in career development (during my doctoral program at the University of Oregon, I worked with the Career Planning Office to create tools to assist those graduating in the arts), which gives me a fairly unique experience, I think. I’ve found some agents will say they specialize in “career development,” but when it gets right down to it, they can’t define what that is. For many, “career development” simply means “I’ll try and get you a book contract.” I think there’s a lot more to it, and I try to work with the authors I represent so that they have a plan for moving forward in their writing careers. Of course, a fifth strength I have has nothing to do with me – we have a great team of people at MacGregor Literary, so an author doesn’t just get me, but a team of skilled people who can bring their collective wisdom to bear on the need at hand.

 

LN: Have you ever taken a chance on a writer and offered representation based on something other than their writing alone? Do you ever mentor writers?

 

CM: I’ve taken a chance on several writers – in fact, I think my career has been marked by discovering new talent, not just mining authors that others have helped get started. So yes, I’ve mentored a number of authors, and continue to work with writers who are interested in growing their careers.

 

LN: Thank you, Chip, for sharing this information with us. I hope those pitching to Chip feel a little more prepared and comfortable after reading this. And a huge ‘Good Luck’ from me!

In order to pitch your project to Chip at the Write to Inspire Conference this year, you have to get past our panel of judges. Chip will only hear the top 12 pitches. Ready to through your hat in the ring? Check out our guidelines on our One Sheet Pitching Contest Page. And remember the deadline is midnight July 1.

Have you pitched to an agent before? Tell us about it. Was it a disaster? A delight? Was the agent interested?

From her earliest years, Lacie Nezbeth knew two things—she longed to be a stay at home mom, and stories, in any form, captivated her. Today, those two passions have culminated into a fairy tale life that continually points her to God’s overflowing goodness. Her love of history, traveling and research made her decision to write Historical Romances an obvious and fitting choice. When Lacie isn’t working on one of her stories or tackling the unending mountain of laundry produced by her three small kids, she can be found chauffeuring her children to their various activities, talking to herself in the grocery store or plotting ways to get her entire family on another Caribbean cruise.