Tuesday, March 02, 2010

A tip for Tuesday

Today's Tip for Tuesday comes from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Christian Fiction.
In Benrey's Writing Christian Fiction, Part 2 is devoted to the how-to of Writing Publishable Christian Fiction. Chapter Five is titled Publishability and the Fictional Dream.
At the beginning of the chapter there is a graphic of a pyramid that shows the progression of a writer.
The broad base is "Writers Writing." There are, I'd venture to say, tens of thousands of people who would like to write a novel. But those folks don't even make it onto the bottom of this pyramid. Those folks only occasionally talk about writing a novel, but they never do anything about it. The base of our pyramid is writers who are actually writing. Hundreds, probably thousands of people, start a novel each year. Five or even ten thousand words on a book they never finish. Or they begin a new story, mess around with it for awhile, abandon it and move on to the next story.
The next level up is "Novelists with a Finished Novel." This is a much smaller group. Most people don't even finish a novel. If you've finished a novel, you've put yourself into a good place with less competition.
All due respect to Mr. Benrey, I might've added another layer in here after those with a finished novel. I think I might have added in here something along the lines of "Novelists who continue to write and grow in their knowledge of the writing craft." (I know, a long name for it.) Into this group, again smaller than the one below it, are the people who don't consider their first efforts to be 'heartbreaking works of staggering genius' (As Randy Ingermanson puts it) but instead, dive into the editing, the polishing, the learning, the networking, the critique groups, craft books, writing workshops, contests, ect. All the things that are available to writers now to hone their work into shape to get noticed by an agent or editor.
The next level, again smaller, is "Agented Novelists." Up until now, your writing hasn't had to pass through any 'gatekeepers.' This is a big-time jump up the pyramid. Someone with industry savvy, someone who isn't your mother, will evaluate your work and give it the yes, or no. As much as you might want to make this leap as soon as possible, my advice is to wait. Learn about the agents, their clients, their submission requirements. Make sure your work is ready. If you're finalling in contests, that can be a good gauge. Writers long for this validation, this tangible proof that their writing is worthy. But don't be in a super rush or you might wind up with the wrong agent.
The next level up on the pyramid is smaller yet, and is called "Published Novelist." It might surprise you that this isn't the top of the pyramid. But this is one of the sweetest stops on the journey.
The peak of the pyramid is the smallest yet, and is labeled "Success." I suspect because "Multi-published and making a comfortable living off their writing" was too big to put in the little triangle.
Where are you on the pyramid? What steps are you taking to get to the next level?


  1. I'm at the level you made up. :-)

    Cool pyramid. I'd never heard of this before.

  2. I think I've seen a similar pyramid someplace else. I'm in the part of the pyramid you made up :D I was in the agented part of the pyramid, but...ahem...

    Anyhoo, the blocks on my pyramid seem to be quite large =P

  3. I like that break-down, and I think you're completely right to add that new level between finishing first novel and agented. It takes time and I think a lot of wallow at that level for quite a while.

    I'm moving into the published level, and I find it interesting that's not the end! But it makes sense. If our books don't sell well, then we may not have a long-lasting writing career.

  4. Nice share. Having an agent can be both good or debilitating...ahem, too. I have Leanna Ellis at LOFOL talking about how it takes 10,000 hours of work to learn something new. That's where you mill around all that space inside the geometric shape of the pyramid. Like the sphere - only the smallest amount of area is on the outside.

  5. I'm heading into the level of people who have written a novel. Got a ways to go, but am sticking with it. Thanks for sharing this!