7 Year Tea Party Winners: Susan Craft's winner of her trilogy novels - The Chamomile, Laurel, and Cassia is: Lucy Reynolds, The winner of a copy of The Backcountry Brides is: Tammy Cordery, the winner of a silver quill charm is: Kathy Maher, Choice of one of three books by Carrie Fancett Pagels in paperback: Joy Ellis, A Bouquet of Brides Collection by Pegg Thomas winner is: Becky Smith, Janet Grunst's Selah-Award winning novel, A Heart Set Free, is: Sherry Moe.

Friday, July 15, 2011

What I've learned from my first three historicals by Laura Frantz

When I first came to publishing an editor told me to "enjoy the learning process." I was so ignorant about the CBA then. I was without an agent, didn't have internet access here in the woods, had never been to a conference, had no writing contacts, and hadn't entered any contests. I was only marginally aware that these things existed. I simply knew that if I was ever to realize my dream of publication it would take a miracle. Since then it's been quite a ride. The door did open miraculously for me and I signed with a CBA publisher, Revell/Baker Books in 2008.

Often readers and friends ask what I've learned along the way. While every author's journey is unique, I can tell you what's been true in my own experience and what the Lord is teaching me. Since He's an infinitely personal God, my lessons are specific to me and my own writing journey. My struggles may not be your struggles, nor my joys your joys. But here are a few highlights...

*All writing, as Emerson says, is a gift of God. I write the stories God places on my heart and have found that they're not standard CBA fare. But I remain true to the vision He gives me. I work as hard as I can on each novel and leave the results to Him.

*Critique partners are truly valuable. I didn't have a CP till my third published novel. Now I realize how much harder I had to work to get those first two manuscripts into publishable shape.

*Know your history. During the editorial process, questions will be asked of you regarding the history you've included in your manuscript. It's almost like a test. You need to be able to explain or document anything you've included. Oftentimes editors aren't historians but you, the author, should be able to back up your handling of history.

*Good editors are allies, not enemies. Trust them to know what works and what doesn't during edits. They're usually right. Mine are:). Often you're so close to your story you can't see it objectively.

*Bestseller lists don't tell the whole story. Big box stores like Wal-Mart and Sam's Club, as well as other accounts, don't report to these lists. Bonnet books really do sell twice as many copies, be it Shaker, Quaker, Puritan or Amish, according to a Baker Publishing Group marketing executive. Stories set in the 19th-century American west and those about mail-order brides are also said to be top sellers. Oftentimes lists are made because of an aggressive marketing campaign. But a book can become a bestseller simply by word of mouth long after release day. More importantly, many overlooked books leave a lasting impression on readers' hearts. Only God knows the good your words do.

*Reviews are a two-edged sword. And they're simply one person's opinion, as an author friend reminded me. I've seen books I love given very low ratings and books I think aren't quality writing on bestseller lists. But then, that's just my opinion;) Some authors never read reviews, others check them daily. As time goes on I think less and less about them.

*Conferences really are important. I went to my first ACFW conference the month after my first book was released. Since I didn't know a soul, I found myself tapping a lot of people on the shoulder and introducing myself, quite a feat for someone who is naturally shy. Many of these people have since become dear writing mentors and friends. The focus of the annual ACFW conference is truly Spirit-driven. You'll feel so honored and blessed to attend. It's worth every cent!

*There's a world of contests out there. I think contests are helpful for unpublished writers in terms of name recognition and agent/editor contacts, etc. But I'll never forget my shock when I learned published writers nominate themselves for awards! Last year my first novel finaled in the Carol and Inspy Awards, thanks to my publisher and dear readers who entered my book. This meant a great deal to me and I consider it an honor and blessing. But I don't pursue contests personally.

*Don't shipwreck your family or your faith for your writing dream. You may achieve short term success but long term misery. Heaven's version of success is very different than ours. Being taken captive by social media (Facebook, Blogger, Twitter, etc.) and being preoccupied with stats and lists can spell disaster to your loved ones and the Lord. Time is a gift we need to use wisely and something I'm still trying to manage well.

*Take writing breaks. This is especially important when finishing a manuscript. Put it in a drawer, tell your beloved characters goodbye for a couple of weeks and work on other things. Your perspective will be restored and your book will be better in the end.

*Be gracious. Sending handwritten thank you notes and/or flowers to your editors, agent, writing mentors and others, plus cards/gifts to readers and those who've been helpful to you is so important.

*Be thankful. Writing is play to me but publishing is hard work. When I'm tempted to return to my sane, ordinary life, I remember that there are thousands of writers who would love to take my place. I've been given a tiny sphere of influence for a short period of time and it's all about God's glory, not mine.

*Treasure your readers. Author Robin Jones Gunn brought this home to me during a retreat several months ago. She spoke about our little flock of readers and how God has entrusted them to you as an author. Be gracious and giving of yourself, your time, and your resources with the ones the Lord brings into your life. My readers have enriched my life in countless ways and I'm so thankful for each one of them!

I'm currently away on a research trip in Pennsylvania, without computer access. However, I'd love to read your comments when I return...

What are you learning in your own writing journey, whether you're unpublished or published? If you're not a writer, what has God been teaching you in the areas He's called you to minister?

*If you'd like to entered in the giveaway for Laura's upcoming novel, The Colonel's Lady, releasing August 1, please leave a comment below. Bless you!


  1. Thank you for sharing the truths you've learned about your writing journey. I've printed it to keep these as encouragement and valuable reminders.


    Janet Grunst

  2. This is great advice, Carrie! Sounds like you've gained a lot of wisdom on your publishing journey. Thanks for sharing!!

  3. Oops! I see this was written by Carla, not Carrie....although I know Carrie often shares a lot of wisdom with us on the MidAtlantic Facebook page.
    Thanks, Carla!

  4. Actually, it was written by Laura Frantz. I'm not sure how my name got there...

  5. Laura, Thanks so much for taking the time to write this up for us. What great advice. Goodness, I wish that was me writing this but at least I can learn from your wise counsel. Praying you are having a great time in Philly!

  6. Laura, There is such great wisdom in this post. Thank you for sharing. One thing that you mentioned is standing out at me

    "Oftentimes lists are made because of an aggressive marketing campaign. But a book can become a bestseller simply by word of mouth long after release day."

    It's true that a book can keep on selling long after it's release date. It doesn't have to be in the first few months or year. We build readerships one at at time. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. Good crit partners are a God-send, when you find a good one, don't let them get away! Sometimes I feel like I'm cheating because it is so much easier to fix those mistakes with them.

    And I agree, sometimes I see terrible reviews for books I'm in awe over and tons of 5 stars and little to no 1-2 stars for books I couldn't force myself to finish. So I will try try try to remember that when I see my pile of 1 stars someday. :)

    (Carla, did you post Laura's post from your computer? That would make your name show up as author) From how the blog is here, I'm assuming some of your authors send you material and you post it for them. If you need any help figuring out how to get the computer byline off, etc. contact me and I'd be happy to help, I've set up 9 blogspots so far, I'm getting pretty good at troubleshooting, etc. :)

  8. "Time is a gift we need to use wisely and something I'm still trying to manage well." This is so true, Laura. As a wife and mom, I can relate to this. Keeping priorities straight and balancing my time are two things that I'm trying to manage as well.

    Thank you for what you've shared here. It's always a blessing to get to know you a little better.

    Sweet Blessings,
    scraphappy71 at sbcglobal dot net

  9. Thanks for all the insights in the writer's process. They are words of wisdom! Please enter me in the drawing for the book. I love this period of history.
    Linda Cacaci

  10. Laura is in Philly, as she mentioned, or she would be here to comment. Linda, I will enter you in the drawing! Michelle, it is always great to get to hear more about Laura! Melissa, you are a doll to offer to help us out here - Carla is a webmaster but is under the weather this week. We have had some trials with Google and blogger. Jennifer,since you are now the promo advisor for Hartline, I bet all that stuff is understandable to you! Blessings all!

  11. Thanks for sharing. Stay true to that dream that God has given you! I am so looking forward to Laura's next book!

  12. I'm saving all this wisdom...what an inspired way to share about the realm of writing; truly a gift! Blessings, and thanks so much, Laura.

  13. I'm home from a trip out of town too, and happy to find this post from Laura, whom I'm missing while she travels. Such wisdom here, and I pray my soul will soak it in. I'm so thankful for writers like Laura who leave marking stones like this along the path, to better guide and prepare all those who follow the same path.

  14. I'm living the learning that if God calls you to a task, He'll make sure you have everything you need to accomplish it. My theme verse for this year seems to be:
    ...lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Matthew 28:20

    At the beginning of the year that verse seemed to appear everywhere!

    God bless your work!

  15. Laura, I value the things you shared so much. You have such Godly wisdom and I can sense His Spirit leading you. I am trying very much to keep in step with His Spirit and walking this path with Him, and for Him. One of the biggest things I've learned is to write for Him and filter out my doubts and fears. What you said about not shipwrecking your faith and family so true. Thanks so much for taking time to share these things with us.

  16. What a great, candid look into your journey. Thank you for sharing and inspiring. When you say that your writing is not standard CBA fare, it encourages the rest of us to stay true to our visions as well. God Bless!

  17. Melissa has won a copy of TCL and I will go over to the ACFW History loop to get her email address. congrats, Melissa! Blessings!


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