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Saturday, August 18, 2012

The 5 P's of Writing: When Your Dream Bucks the Odds

I’d heard it all. Good luck breaking into the CBA with fantasy, no agent will represent you, and speculative fiction is a hard sell. Good advice, all. 

Except when it isn’t.

If I’d listened to the voices telling me what I couldn’t do, DawnSinger would not now be published, I wouldn’t be part of the wonderful Wordserve Literary Agency with Barbara Scott as my agent, and (worst of all) I wouldn’t have touched the readers who loved DawnSinger and are awaiting WayFarer, book two of Tales of Faeraven, my epic fantasy trilogy.

How did I buck the odds and should you try? The answer lies at the heart of what I like to call the five P’s of writing.

1. Prayer
I had already established a morning study and prayer time when Nick Harrison, editor-in-chief of Harvest House, challenged me through his blog to pray daily for my writing. I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to me to do this before, but since taking his advice, I’ve seen amazing results. Besides bringing my writing to the Lord each morning, I also pray whenever I get stuck while writing. It always helps.

2. Purpose
Through prayer I understood what I was supposed to write, and no one could shake my conviction. If you have a deep sense of purpose about a story that simply must be told through you, keep reading. If not, remain at point one until you do. It’s hard enough to fulfill the purpose you’re called to, let alone one you’re not. Get this right and sooner or later the rest will fall into place.

3. Patience
Writing is all about waiting for the things you’d like to have now. Even after you’re published and have an agent, you still have to wait for each new career advance. If you want to succeed, get used to waiting. Impatience only frustrates you and others. It also marks you as unprofessional. What is impatience anyway but lack of faith? If we wait upon the Lord, we get to fly on eagle’s wings. Sign me up for that.

4. Persistance
It’s one thing to be patient, it’s another to let yourself disappear. There’s a time and a place for following up on a project under consideration. Know the agency’s or publisher’s parameters for checking on your submission and adhere to them. But then do follow up in a polite manner. A side note: persisting is different from pestering. Allowing grace never goes amiss.

5. Perseverance
Many writers faint before the finish line. Granted, it’s hard to believe in yourself when others don’t (yet). This is where that sense of purpose you found in prayer comes into play to pull you through. Even so, you may come across times where it’s hard to believe. When it comes to accomplishing goals, there’s no substitute for faith. It takes courage to be an author. Courage is not the absence of fear but acting despite it.

Bucking the odds with your writing may feel like a curse sometimes, but it’s really a blessing because it humbles you and requires you live in a place of trust in God.

Janalyn Voigt's unique blend of adventure, romance, suspense, and fantasy creates worlds of beauty and danger for readers. Beginning with DawnSinger, her epic fantasy series, Tales of Faeraven, carries the reader into a land only imagined in dreams.

Janalyn also writes western romance novels, and will publish in that genre under Janalyn Irene Voigt. She is represented by Barbara Scott of Wordserve Literary. She serves as a literary judge for several national contests and is an active book reviewer. Her memberships include ACFW and NCWA.

When she's not writing, Janalyn loves to find adventures in the great outdoors.


  1. Oh, Janalyn! This is one of the most clear and compelling pieces I have ever read on how to approach writing! I love it! I, too, never thought of the 1st P, and it is so obviously the most important thing to remember. I am starting NOW.

  2. Spot-on advice, Janalyn! And I know your readers love this story! I've heard so much about it, I've got to get it!!

  3. On the topic of patience, persistence and professionalism, I have taught myself to screen-print. I’m good at it now and even considering starting my own screen-printing business. But when I started, I fumbled many times. Each fumble represented me not knowing what shortcuts I could take and what shortcuts would ruin my project. I was not very professional. There are so many steps in screen-printing. Each one is simple enough but failure at any one point will bring disastrous results.

    In the earlier stages of writing, I’ve learned the same thing. There are so many stages; from choosing what to write, to writing the material, to editing, to finding an interested agent, to selling it to that agent, to doing more editing, to developing a platform, to marketing and the list is long. Each step is easy enough, but failure at any point can be disastrous. That is why the right amount of patience in the work, persistence with learning and taking each step and professionalism are related.

    I will become more professional as I learn my own pitfalls. I’m still learning my own pitfalls in writing. But I am more than serious about working towards becoming a published author.

  4. Thank you so much, Janalyn. No matter where a writer is, this is so timely, and such "gospel" for Christian writers. Though I probably "know" these things, I'm encouraged & inspired. It does feel like huge odds sometimes. I forget God enjoys bucking the odds---look at Gideon. (...and yet don't have the audacity to compare myself to him.)

    And while I am growing in patience & perseverance, I wonder sometimes if I'm knocking on the wrong (publishing) door. I've also wondered when I need to turn away and head somewhere else. No matter what we write, Praying and taking hold of Purpose is fundamental in this writing life, and I am thankful for the reminder. I will be focusing on that today. Perfect timing, thank you.

  5. I'm so thankful to have caught several of you at just the right moment with this post. Prayer is the ingredient of success we most often miss, and yet it deserves its place as first on the list. Tearing down the wrong thing and starting over is painful. I've had to do it.

    Nate, you may already know this, but learning from others often short-cuts what we can learn on our own.

    Ane, I hope you get the chance to read DawnSinger. Thanks for your interest.

  6. Thank you so much for your wise words, Janalyn. They're just what I needed today.

  7. This was such a great post! You're so right about all of it! Prayer first and foremost. I need to do more of that!

  8. My hope is that God will direct my fantasy writing but if I don't pray consistently for that, how can I expect it to happen? Thank you, Janalyn, for this reminder of the purpose and power of prayer.

  9. You're welcome. I'm glad my post came as welcome. I'd love to hear about the breakthroughs you all achieve.

  10. I really liked this post, especially starting with prayer:)
    I posted it on our local Word Weavers FB site. At a time when it seems that no dream of mine will ever come true, it inspired me to do what I seem to do best, just press on.

  11. Janalyn, this is just what I needed to hear right now. Thank you for the encouraging and insightful post!

    1. You're welcome, Melinda. I appreciate your letting me know that my post touched you.

  12. Yes, prayer is the perfect starting point, Janalyn! And all of your Ps are so accurate for writing success. Thanks for such a great guide.

  13. Great list. I agree with all of them and struggle with all of them at times - especially if I let the first one lag.

  14. Tamera, it's a journey taken one step at a time. The good news when we go amiss is that we can change direction and keep going.


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