So You Have a Story Burning in You in Need of Expression?

This page is provided to answer questions about getting published. For your convenience, I will list the following guidelines for new writers. I am sorry that I do not have time to respond to questions about writer’s manuscripts or publishing. My website is provided for readers who would like to know more about my fiction. This is the information that I wish had been available to me when I first started out. I hope it helps:

1. Read a lot of books, especially those genres that represent your target readership. Keep a journal and as you shake the secrets out of those stories, write down what they teach you.

2. Attend writer’s workshops. For the Christian fiction market, please see the list in the back of Sally Stuart’s Christian Writer’s Market Guide. For the greater publishing market, purchase the Writer’s Market for the current year. You need to purchase this book each year for updates. You will find it chock full of info about agents, query letters, all publishers and their guidelines, and writing workshops all over the world.

3. Write every day. Your first draft is always weak even after you’ve been writing for a long time. So don’t be so hard on yourself. Celebrate every accomplishment including those early pages. To give yourself a mental boost, read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

4. Don’t throw away your early writings that don’t get published. Fallen Angels was my first proposal. It became my fifteenth published book. I got a phone call from my agent who said he needed a proposal overnight. I pulled it out and polished it up. (I had forgotten how badly I wrote back then.) I sold it the next day on concept. Sometimes those notes on napkins can turn into a whole new story thread. I keep everything, everything in files. 

5. As you begin sending out your manuscript, please understand that editors are inundated with manuscripts. Be kind and patient with publishers. They hire readers to read everything that is sent to them, so trust them to read your work. My goal at first was to stop getting form letter rejections. When I started getting rejection letters with my name typed in the salutation, I celebrated getting noticed. I realized that my writing was improving too. I thanked every editor for taking the time to read my manuscript. If they suggested a change, I changed what they asked and resubmitted. If they said nothing, I started a new proposal. After publication, I have made it a practice to send gifts to my editors and notes of appreciation. 

6. When I started writing, there weren’t a lot of college writing courses taught by published writers. Now they are legion. Don’t forget to search for published authors who teach in your universities. There are also many limited residency writer’s programs that allow you to write at home and come to campus a few times a year. Check out faculty bios and enjoy! That quality of teaching hasn’t always been available.

7. Study how-to write books. My faves are Stein on Writing by Sol Stein, Story by Robert McKee, Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan, and Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway. There are many good craft books. If you want to write, say, mysteries, then study how-to books for mystery writers. Target your readership based on the kinds of books you love to read. Part of your celebration can include adding a new how-to write book to your home library. 

8. You will be tempted to sit on the mailbox after you mail off your manuscript. I made it a practice to start writing my next new proposal. I wrote thirteen proposals the first year. The thirteenth sold. After you are published, you will want to stay published. Adopting good habits will help you to keep churning out those book ideas so that you can build a readership. Now here is some advice from a publisher at a large nationally-known house:

“It’s always helpful to have three chapters for the initial proposal. (Non-fiction requires an outline too). We never buy a first-time novelist’s work just based on the first three chapters. We would eventually want to see the whole manuscript…just not on the first pass.” 

Thank you so much for asking me about writing. Aside from my faith and my family, it is my favorite subject to discuss. I thank you for understanding that I cannot critique manuscripts and keep up with my writing schedule. In the coming months, I will publish the workshops where either I or many of my very gifted author friends will be teaching. Many of the workshops will offer you the opportunity to pay for your manuscript to be critiqued and then to meet to discuss your critique. We all started out feeling a little wobbly about our abilities, so don’t be frustrated. Pray and trust the Lord to open doors. Treat your writing like a business. Build up your craft with excellence as your goal and the publishers will beat a path to your door. 

I have joined a few friends blogging at Please feel free to drop in and participate in our writerly chat. 

Patricia Hickman,