Writing Lessons

By day, Liz Johnson works as a
marketing manager, and she makes time to write late at night. Liz is the author
of nine novels—including her latest, The Red Door Inn (Prince Edward Island Dreams, book 1)—and a New York Times bestselling novella. She makes her home
in Nashville, where she enjoys exploring local music, theater, and making
frequent trips to Arizona to dote on her nieces and nephews. She writes stories
of true love filled with heart, humor, and happily ever afters. Connect with
her at www.LizJohnsonBooks.com or www.Facebook.com/LizJohnsonBooks.

Writing Lessons
I was standing in line for coffee
(well, in line with others in line for coffee—I prefer the near milkshake
version) at a writers conference several years ago. The woman behind me was
also alone and also wearing a nametag identifying her as part of the same
conference. Feeling a little more extroverted than usual, I asked, “What
do you write?”
I expected a quippy response—the kind
of single-line identifier writers spend years perfecting. What I got instead was
a tirade on the ills of Christian publishing and the narrow-mindedness of some editors not interested in books
about missionaries in Africa.
After five full minutes, she
harrumphed. “I just don’t understand why God would call me to write this
book, when no one seems to be interested.”
I thought that probably translated
into, “I had a couple painful editor appointments,” but I didn’t say as
much. Instead I gently—I hope I was gentle, anyway—suggested that perhaps God
had called her to write the book so He could teach her something new.
To which she snapped, “I’ve
already learned the lessons I wrote about in my book.”
Thank goodness it was then my turn to
order. Double that whip cream, please.
I wonder about that exchange every
now and then. It was years ago, and I probably wouldn’t recognize the woman
again if she introduced herself. But I think about what I really meant to say,
and if I’m listening to my own advice. You see, I think God uses the very
process of writing and editing and pitching books to teach us amazing things. Even
on the surface level, I’ve learned some incredible lessons, like perseverance
pays off, flexibility is important, and big computer screens can hide bad hair
But there’s more to this whole
putting thoughts to paper thing. Here are three lessons God has taught me
through the course of writing my books.
My worth isn’t in sales or how many books have my name on the cover.
Who I am is not how many people
recognize me on the street (none, by the way) or what conference I’m asked (or
not asked) to speak at. Doing the hard work of writing a book isn’t about
making a name for myself or being told I’m a wonderful writer (although that’s
nice to hear every now and then). Because in the darkness (I write best at
night) it’s just me and my computer and God. That time alone is 95% of my
writing life. And in that time, when the enemy whispers lies into my ear (like
I’ll never amount to anything or I’m not worthy), I cling to the reminder that
my worth is wrapped up in one thing. I am a child of God. And I do what I do
because it’s the call He’s given me. I’m called to use my talents and not bury
them in the ground. The process of writing reminds me whose I am and whose
voice I heed.
God’s good gifts don’t always come in the form of five-star reviews.
Matthew 7 talks about how God is a
good Father, who wants to give His children good gifts. It’s easy to think that
those gifts always come wrapped in red ribbons and blazing with stars. But
sometimes the sweetest gifts come in a spurt of writing or an unexpected inspiration.
My favorite of his gifts are epiphanies that fill in gaping plot holes I
couldn’t fill on my own.
The passage I mentioned in Matthew
follows the familiar “ask and it shall be given to you” line. I’ve discovered a
joy in asking God for help and waiting to see how He’ll show up. Sometimes it’s
through a kind word from a reader. Other times it’s in a brainstorming session
with a fellow writer. And then there are the times when it’s a meal made by a
friend who knows I’m on deadline and just need real food. When my eyes are open
to them, I see His gifts everywhere.
I don’t have to fear rejection.
Writers know the acute pain of
dismissal better than most. We wrack up rejection letters with a butterfly net
and wear them like a badge of honor. But that doesn’t mean they stop stinging.
We pitch to our dream editors and agents, hold our breaths, and let out loud sighs
when we hear back. “It’s not right for me.” “Your manuscript isn’t quite
ready.” “It doesn’t fit into the market right now.” Or a reviewer plants a
one-star review on your work, their words harsh and overly critical.
Industry experts tell us these aren’t
personal rejections, but how could they not feel that way when we’ve poured our
hearts into these stories? They hurt. Even after the 12th and 25th
and 99th. (And they don’t hurt any less after you’ve published a
book or six.)  What I’ve come to learn is
that a rejection may burn, but it’s not lethal. It may leave a bruise, but
it’ll heal. And in the midst of that pain, I continue to turn to one truth. God
has promised never to leave me or forsake me. No matter what pain this life
brings, His love is everlasting. I don’t have to fear rejection because He’ll
never reject me.
the conversation. What have you
learned through the process of writing, editing, and pitching your work?
The Red Door Inn
Marie Carrington is broke, desperate,
and hoping to find sanctuary on Prince Edward Island while decorating a
renovated bed-and-breakfast. Seth Sloane moved three thousand miles to help
restore his uncle’s Victorian B and B–and to forget about the fiancée who
broke his heart. He wasn’t expecting to have to babysit a woman with a taste
for expensive antiques and a bewildering habit of jumping every time he brushes
past her.
The only thing Marie and Seth agree
on is that getting the Red Door Inn ready to open in just two months will take
everything they’ve got—and they have to find a way to work together. In the
process, they may find something infinitely sweeter than they ever imagined on
this island of dreams.