The Best Gift for a Writer

by Liz Johnson, @lizjohnsonbooks

At this time of year, the internet is abuzz with suggested shopping lists. Don’t know what to get your favorite gadget lover? There’s a list for that. Not sure how to surprise the decorator on your list? There’s a list for that. Looking for something for the reader in your life? Oh, there are endless lists for them. And pretty good ones, at that.

There are even lists with gift suggestions for writers. They include lots of pretty pens, vivid notebooks, and even new laptops. And I don’t know any writer who doesn’t love those things.

But as I was thinking about what items I’d put on a gift list for writers, I realized that the best gift a writer can get isn’t one that can be purchased. And it can’t be given to them. It’s one they have to give themselves.


I wish it was agent agreements and book deals and bestseller lists, but the truth is that none of those come without a whole lot of patience first.

When we first get started, we dream of all of the things that overnight success brings. Fame, fortune, and a recliner life. And we think that our first efforts must be worthy. After all, we know good work, right?

I love how Ira Glass, from This American Life, puts it. “All of us who do creative work get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there’s a gap. That for the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good. It’s trying to be good. It has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good. But your taste, that thing that got you into the game—your taste is still killer.”

That disparity between what you’re creating and your taste leads to disappointment. We’ve all be there, where what we create isn’t up to the standard of what we want it to be. And some of us quit. We just give up on ever reaching the point where our art matches our taste.

And what a loss that is for the world. We have important stories to tell. So how does giving up help? But how do we get from where we are to where we want to be?

“The most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work,” Glass says. “Do a huge volume of work. It’s only by doing a huge volume of work that you’re going to catch up and close that gap.”

And do you know what that requires? Patience.

It means writing story after story, manuscript after manuscript knowing that it might not have that special thing just yet. But also knowing that every practice, every word on a page is getting you one step closer to being the writer you want to be.

Marathon runners don’t begin by running 26.2 miles in record time. Why should writers be different? Why should we be able to create a bestselling work on our first try? It’s normal to take time to let your talents grow and strengthen. So take the time. Put in the work. Write the books. Take the classes. Study the craft.

And give yourself the gift of an unhurried, unrushed journey.

Maybe you’re already there. Maybe your book is stellar, and you can’t wait to indie publish. Would waiting until the second and third books are done be better for your marketing strategy?

Maybe you’re dreaming of traditional publishing, but the doors keep closing. Don’t give up. Keep practicing—both your writing and your patience.

Wherever you’re at in the writing journey, give yourself the best gift you can. Give yourself the patience to grow into a writer whose talent matches your taste. Give yourself the gift of a well-planned launch strategy. Give yourself the gift of pitching to that dream publisher one more time.

Patience is the gift that keeps on giving, so be generous with it all year long.

Have you given yourself the gift of patience? What did that mean for you?

On Love’s Gentle Shore

Fifteen years after she left Prince Edward Island, Natalie O’Ryan had no plans to return. But when her fiancé, music producer Russell Jacobs, books their wedding in her hometown and schedules a summer at Rose’s Red Door Inn, she sets out to put the finishing touches on the perfect wedding. But she can’t possibly prepare for a run-in with Justin Kane–the best friend she left behind all those years ago after promising to stay.

Justin’s never forgotten Natalie or the music career he always dreamed of pursuing. He’d been prepared to follow her off the island until his dad died and he was left to run the family dairy farm. He’s done the best he can with the life that was thrust upon him–but with Natalie back in the picture, he begins to realize just how much joy he’s been missing.

After Natalie’s reception venue falls through, she must scramble to find an alternative, and the only option seems to be a barn on Justin’s property. As they work together to get the dilapidated building ready for the party, Natalie and Justin discover the groundwork for forgiveness–and that there may be more than an old friendship between them.

By day Liz Johnson is the director of marketing for a Christian radio network. She makes time to write late at night—that’s when she thinks best anyway. Liz is the author of more than a dozen novels, a New York Times bestselling novella, and a handful of short stories. Her book The Red Door Inn was a Christy Award finalist, and she’s also a two-time ACFW Carol Award finalist. She makes her home in Tucson, Arizona, where she enjoys exploring local theater and doting on her nieces and nephews. She writes stories of true love filled with heart, humor, and happily ever afters. You can find her online at or on her Facebook page at

Patience For The Virtue Challenged

taken from

Sometimes I wonder if there’s any business slower than
publishing. You wait to hear back from a query. Then wait some more if a
proposal is requested. Finally you wait to find out if your manuscript is
accepted. And that’s just from an agent.
You get to go through the whole process again with publishers.
Why does it take so long???
Even though we live in an age of instant communication, the
piles of requests agents and editors must go through aren’t getting any smaller.
If anything, they’re larger, which makes the wait time even longer.
So what’s a writer to do besides the clichéd nail biting
Start a New Manuscript
Okay, so this is the most obvious, which is exactly why I
put it at the top of the list. There’s no better way to get over moping by the
mailbox than to set your mind on a new set of characters with a whole new story
full of roadblocks to construct.
Try a Different Venue
If you’re not a blogger yet, begin writing a blog. Or try
writing devotionals. Maybe give a novella a shot. Writing outside your ‘normal’
genre can enhance and expand your current skill set.
Work on Platform
When you do finally hit it big and hold a contract in your
hot little hand, you’re going to need a way to market your blockbuster. It’s
never too late to begin building a network of followers. Pick the social media
of your choice and go for it.
Focus on a Craft Book
Between writing projects is a great time to pick up and
devour a craft book. May I suggest Self-Editing For Fiction Writers? And if
you’ve done that one already, check out The Plot Whisperer.
Update Your Website
Add a new picture. Toss in some new copy. Keep in mind that
visitors to your website need takeaway value. Come up with some new word
gifts for them. And if you don’t have a website, now’s the time to make one.
Devour a book or two in your favorite fiction genre. Then
live large and read one that’s outside your usual genre box. Need a suggestion? Take a trip back to the Viking age for a rollicking romantic vacation with UNDERCURRENT (yes, shameless promo plug).
The secret of patience is doing something else in the
meanwhile. Pick one or more items from this list and voila…instant virtue!

Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas…professionally, however, for the past 10 years. Her latest release, UNDERCURRENT, is available by Risen Books. You can find her at: Writer Off the or on TwitterFacebook, or 

Top 5 ‘Must Haves’ on a Writer’s Desk

There’s a lot of
interest about writer’s desks, like they’re some sort of holy shrine or
something, especially those belonging to the big names. Stephen King is
featured with his feet kicked up on his desk on the cover of his book, On Writing. I’ve even seen pictures of
author’s desks pinned on Pinterest. Some are tidy. Most are not. 
everyone wants a peek at a writer’s desk. And so I
ask…what’s the big deal?!
Desks generally
have four legs and a flat surface. There’s usually some kind of chair in front
of them. Random office supplies are likely to be stationed on one corner or
another. Scouring a picture of an author’s desk and then replicating it at your
house isn’t going to make you a better writer.
Or is it?
I propose that
there are some items wannabe writers could and should attain that reside on
every successful author’s desk.
A Drawer Full of Humility
One of the great
things about writing is that the possibilities for learning and growing in the
craft are endless. Truly great authors realize they don’t know it all and
continually polish their craft. And even the biggies get 1 star reviews, which
tends to sag the ol’ pride sails in a quick-slap hurry.
Learn to be humble.
Perseverance Paperweights
manuscript after manuscript takes dogged determination. There’s not a whole lot
of glamour in parking your behind in a chair and typing away for hours on
end—but that’s what it takes. Toss your preconceived notions of effortless
storytelling into the nearest dumpster. It’s work.
Learn to be persistent.
Compassion Dispensers
Isaac Asimov, F.
Scott Fitzgerald, Harriet Beecher Stowe…these are just a few names of some of
the superstars who took the time to mentor writers who weren’t as far along on
the literary journey as themselves. No matter what stage of the game you’re at,
there’s always someone who’s newer to the trade than you are—someone who could
use a helping hand.
Learn to reach out.
Professionalism File Folders
No one likes a
whiner. A diva. A perpetual eater of sour grapes. Most people don’t prefer
cotton-headed-ninny-muggers, either. While it’s true that writing is a solitary
pastime, when your work does begin to sell, you’ve got to be a team player.
Communicating with agents and editors should always be with a respectful tone.
Learn to be accommodating.
3-Ring Binders Full of Patience
Whether you’re
waiting to hear back from your first-ever query, or already have several books
on the shelf, patience is indeed a virtue. And it’s not something that falls by
the wayside even when you’re a NY Times bestseller. Even big names are waiting
for royalty checks, sales figures, the next contract, etc.
Learn to be enduring.
If you’re
missing any of those 5 ‘Must Haves’ on your desk, take a tip from this author…get
them. It’s not about the physical décor, it’s the interior. Yours.
Michelle Griep’s
been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and
Crayolas…professionally, however, for the past 10 years. Her latest release,
UNDERCURRENT, is available by Risen Books. You can find her at: Writer Off the or on Twitter, Facebook, or

On the Road to Publication Be Sure to Pack A Lot of Patience!

When I received my first contract last year, it came almost seventeen years after I began my journey toward publication. Was it easy to wait all those years? I wish I could say yes, but it wasn’t. It’s never easy to be told your story isn’t ready yet, or to comethisclose to a contract and have the publisher’s line shut down. Those are just a few of the roadblocks I ran into along the way. It’s enough to lose your patience. Over the years, as I had to exercise patience in the long wait, I learned that like a muscle becomes stronger when exercised, the ability to be patient becomes strengthened in the waiting. Using the word patience, below are listed the things that helped me to endure until the wonderful day I got THE call. P is for persevering. When the going gets tough, the tough gets going is an old cliché with a lot of truth. From the outset, we have to determine to be in it for the long haul. I’ve met authors who after pursuing publication for a couple years gave up and self published or stopped writing altogether. If writing for publication is your calling, determine you will do what it takes for however long it takes. A is for abidingness. I don’t know what I would do without sensing God’s calling to write, and His daily presence to assure me that I’m within the scope of His will. He tells us to abide in Him and He will abide in us, and He gives us all we need for life, the life He’s called us to live. If He’s called you to write, then He will provide all you need for the writing life in His due time. T is for teachability. Even many of the most published authors take writing workshops at conferences. When I look at the stories I wrote seventeen, ten, or even four years ago, I see how I’ve grown the craft. We can’t move up the scale to being a publishable writer if we don’t take those writing courses, read craft books, and practice our writing until our fingers bleed all over the keys. I is for insistence. Don’t ever settle for mediocre. Insist on doing better next time in a writing contest, or wowing an editor who rejected your idea last year at a conference, or taking a rejected manuscript and making it better. E is for endurance. A form of the word patience in the Greek translates to patient endurance. The King James calls it long suffering. I think that’s an apropos description to describe years of waiting for publication. There were times when I asked God if I misunderstood His intent on my life, and every time He would allow something positive to happen, like a request for a full manuscript. So I kept on pursuing. N is for nuts and bolts. We need to know more than how to write, we need to learn the nuts and bolts of the publishing industry: What editors are currently looking for, or what they are not so interested in at the moment. What are the market trends? How is digital publishing affecting the industry landscape and how might I adjust to that? We can never know too much about this ever-changing industry. C is for courage. We need courage to make ourselves known in the industry, and to develop our platform even before we publish. Where are our spheres of influence and how can we grow them? A budding author must become a known entity on the social media platforms. Make his or her name recognizable. For the more outgoing this isn’t so difficult, but for the shy it can require a lot of courage to do this. E is for energy. Hanging in there can take a lot out of us. For those with family responsibilities and a job outside the home, there is often little time for writing unless it is done in the wee hours. Learn what you personally need in the way of sleep and downtime and allow yourself to avail yourself of those times so you will have the needed energy to write. Pacing is important.Even though I’ve landed some book contracts now, I still need to put these into play each day as I work toward a deadline or acceptance of a new book proposal. And I find that when I begin each day on my knees, God is always there ready to give me everything I need for the life of a writer.
Thanks for guest blogging at Novel Rocket, Pam! Here’s a blurb for her upcoming release THYME FOR LOVE… April Love has always dreamed of being a chef. But she didn’t expect her former fiancé or murder to be part of the recipe for her new job. When April Love signs on to be an in-house chef at an old lakeshore mansion in Canoga Lake, Wisconsin, she comes face to face with her long-lost love, the drop-dead gorgeous Marc Thorne. It doesn’t take long for their old magnetism to recharge, but how can she trust the guy who left her nearly at the altar eight years earlier? Her gut tells her something happened to Marc in between—something he’s reluctant to reveal.When April’s boss is murdered, Marc is accused of the crime. Unless April can find out who really killed Ramón Galvez, her chances for love will end up at the county jail. But someone else is just as determined she not solve the mystery…and will go to any length to stop her.


A native of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Pamela S. Meyers currently lives in Arlington Heights, Ill. She served on the Operating Board for ACFW 2005-2009, and is president of her local ACFW chapter. Her debut novel, Thyme for Love, released in 2011, and her historical that is set in her hometown, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, will release in June 2012. She has published articles in Today’s Christian Woman, Christian Computing, Victory in Grace, and Ancestry. She is also a contributor in the compilation book, His Forever.