Two-time ACFW Genesis finalist Linda Yezak resides in the state of Texas, where tall tales abound and exaggeration is an art form. Aside from being a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), she also belongs to Women Writing the West (WWW) and The Christian PEN. She lives in the heart of a forest with her husband, three cats, four ducks, and a pond full of fish.
What would you do differently if you were starting your publishing career today?
I’d research the publishers I was interested in to discover what they expected and wanted. “Word count” never crossed my mind as I wrote my first two novels. I had no idea that books could be considered too short for some publishers and too long for others. I also discovered that there is a difference in what each publisher will allow in their authors’ content. For instance, the street dance scene in Give the Lady a Ride wouldn’t be allowed by some Christian publishers and would be considered mild to others. I edited words and scenes that I didn’t realize would be considered offensive, but in the future, I’ll know better than to put them in to begin with.
What is the best writing advice you have ever heard?
Study the craft. Study the craft. Study the craft. It doesn’t matter whether you’re new to writing or have been at it a good many years, you can always find room for improvement. I have an English degree earned in a time and from a college that emphasized the study of other authors and the intent of their works rather than the writing itself. We studied few contemporary pieces and no popular fiction, so my first novel–my first truly awful novel–involved current interests written in an outdated style.
Fortunately writing trends change at a slower pace than fashion trends, but it pays to keep up with what they are. It also pays to know what your weaknesses are and work to improve. The way to do that is to study the craft.
Tell us a bit about your current project.
The Cat Lady’s Secret is a fun book to write. Millie, the cat lady, is a unique character, quirky and mischievous, and I just had to explore her. Everywhere she goes, people’s needs and wishes are met, but what will happen to the town’s benefactor when a journalist threatens to reveal her identity?
After everything I said about studying the craft in the other question, I have to admit I’m breaking some rules in this one. I guess one of the perks of knowing them is developing creative ways to break them. Whether I’ll get away with it is another issue entirely. (Plan B has been designed and can be implemented in a moment’s notice.)
What event most changed you as a writer? How?
Finding and joining ChristianWriters(dot)com turned my writing life around. When I first discovered this on-line community, I went barreling in, prepared to share all my scholarly wisdom. After all, I had a degree in English! And I had written a novel! (Remember that “truly awful novel” I mentioned earlier?)
My first book was written in isolation. I had no idea there were writing groups “out there.” I found a Yahoo! group first, but I soon wondered whether anyone could write anything that didn’t embarrass the fool out of me. Then I found CW.com.
As I wandered their cyber-halls, I realized I had nothing to share with those people. Many knew far more than I did and had a lingo to match: POV? What’s a POV? Head-hopping? Purple prose? I was out of my league.
I’ve gained so much in that community–everything from excellent writing and marketing advice to lessons on how to accept criticism of my work. Not to mention friends. Many of the members also belong to ACFW, and I had the pleasure of meeting several of them last year in Indianapolis.
What gives you the greatest writer buzz, makes the trip worth the hassles (besides coffee or other substances, of course)?
When the story finally comes together, and I suddenly know how to do what I need to do. I write by the seat of my pants, but I imagine outliners have the same problem. Whether you write as you go or plan your writing, you have to know “what comes next.” We play with ideas based on everything that has gone on before and try to develop those plot twists and surprises that keep the reader hooked. They don’t always come easily. Cat Lady sat idle for almost a year because I was stumped over an appropriate “what comes next.” Then it hit me, and that Aha! moment is what pumps my blood.
When an idea lands in my head that is right and that opens the floodgates for other ideas, I get buzzed. That’s when I’m no longer too tired to work, when I don’t care if I miss “my favorite show,” when I ignore the ringing phone. It’s what keeps me writing.
What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?
July 20, 2009, I wrote a review of Riven, by Jerry Jenkins, for AuthorCulture, one of my blogs. The book impressed me in so many ways, particularly in characterization. Jenkins managed to do something I’d love to learn–he made a bad guy sympathetic. I have a hard time making my good guys sympathetic sometimes, so his characterization amazed me.
One day, just for fun, I “Googled” myself and came across a surprise. Tyndale House had lifted my review, warts and all, and plopped it under the “Reviews” tab of the Riven site. Number one, top of the list, over such giants as CBA Retailers and Resources Magazine, Christian Retailing, and Publisher’s Weekly.
It never dawned on me to get upset that the post was taken without permission. If I were to be upset about anything, it would be that Tyndale got my blog address wrong. But they spelled my name right.