For Aspiring Authors

I’m so glad you dropped by here. This page is a work in progress. If you have a general writing question that isn’t listed below, I’d like for you to send it to me by visiting my Contact Cindy page.

Here are some commonly asked questions:


What advice do you have for a person trying to become a published fiction writer?

For me, taking my writing seriously began after I made contact with a professional author who told me about American Christian Fiction Writers. I attended their conference and my eyes were opened to the publishing world, and I’ve been learning and honing the craft ever since. You can find out about ACFW at Another great writing conference is in Northern California Mount If you can’t go to conferences or aren’t ready to attend just yet, many writers’ conferences offer audio recordings of their classes after the conference is over.

The best piece of advice I can offer is to do all you can to make sure your manuscript is ready for submission. The percentage of manuscripts that are rejected by agents and publishers is high, but most of those rejections are due to the author submitting before the manuscript was ready. Before sending your manuscript to a publisher, you’ll want to have it read by someone who can give you an unbiased opinion. A husband, sister, or friend may offer some good insights, but their relationship to you can hinder them from seeing your writing objectively. My hubby is great at brainstorming with me and being a first reader, but his love for me keeps him from being the stringent set of eyes I need.

A better option is to find a good critique partner or critique group. You will learn from the opinions of other seasoned writers as they read your manuscript. You will also learn by reading their manuscripts and commenting on what you see as the strengths and weaknesses.

One way you can learn writing techniques is to read books about writing. A few of my favorites are Stein on Writing by Sol Stein and Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon, and Getting into Character by Brandilyn Collins. I have two other favorite books that I’ve given or suggested to numerous aspiring authors, and I’ve received great feedback about how helpful each book is. They are by fellow author James Scott Bell: Plot & Structure and Revision and Self-Editing. You can also find lots of writing tips on many writers’, editors’, and publishers’ Web sites.You can also find lots of writing tips on many writers’, editors’, and publishers’ Web sites. As an aspiring author, I found great tips on the Web site of Steve Laube, literary agent. (He’s now my agent! :-) )

For a professional opinion of your manuscript, you may wish to hire a freelance editor. A copyeditor will clean up all the punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling issues that can mark your manuscript as amateur right off the bat. But you’ll want to get more than just a basic copyedit, because if your story/writing isn’t strong, you will be turning in a polished copy of a poorly written manuscript.

A mentoring-type editor is your best bet. Writing mentors go beyond fixing technical problems; they’ll work with you on your story arc, characterization, plot structure, overall tone, development, consistency, pace, smoothness, ease of readability, and marketability of your concept. They will point out where your story line gets confusing or ambiguous or where your writing needs to be tightened. They look for words and phrases that might be offensive to certain readers, and advise you of the legal guidelines for appropriate use and permission of any quoted material you may have. They do not rewrite the story or any parts of the story for you.

One way to find a freelance editor is to look in Sally Stuart’s Christian Writer’s Market Guide. Another is to do an Internet search. Or check the Acknowledgments pages of books you like; many authors mention their editors (but keep in mind, some of those editors work for the publisher, not for individuals). For a personal referral to established, professional editors who specialize in the type of writing you have and the level of editing you want, go to and fill out the online form for authors seeking editors.

A good mentor won’t be right about everything, however. You’ll have to balance his or her advice against what you believe in your heart is best for your book.


May I send you my book ideas or partially written manuscripts?

Your story may be a true winner and one that would capture the readers’ hearts. Unfortunately, I cannot accept book ideas, notes, or partial or completed manuscripts. My agent has wisely advised me against any of these types of offers.

If I listen to or read your story idea, even if I never use it or if I already have a similar story under contract, I’ve opened myself up to a lawsuit if you feel any of my novels contain “your” storyline. This can be true of something I write twenty years from now.

If we tried to turn your work into a novel as a collaborative work, we could hit a thousand snags of creative differences, and then I will have time poured into something I can’t finish, and neither of us can get a payday. Those are just a couple of reasons. There are many, many others.

When I started writing my debut novel, I wrote all I could on it, but I couldn’t get it to fit together and work well as a novel. I came to a point where I would have sold it to anyone I thought could finish it decently. But what I eventually realized is that it wasn’t the story of someone else’s heart. It was the story of my heart, and I had to figure out how to get it written.

The solution for you is to either tuck the story away as a hobby you enjoyed or pursue learning how to turn your ideas into a completed novel or series. Whatever your decision, I hope the very, very best for you.


Do you ever have doubts about your books when you get started?

Absolutely! No editor, agent, or author knows what’s going to strike a chord with readers. Most authors write because they love it, not because they know if the work will be picked up by a publishing house or, if it is picked up, whether the book will sell enough copies to be financially worth all it took to get to that point.

Editors and agents know if a certain story has a chance of doing well, but when someone is starting out, that’s all they know.

Dealing with the unknowns is part of the business. Once a book has been contracted, and the publishing house puts editing, marketing, and distribution behind it, will they regret it? If the book sells really well and the publishers are completely pleased, will they like the next book?

The questions and doubts go on and on, so we have to quiet the voices, refuse to worry, and put energy into the things we do have control over, like honing our skills and working hard at the craft of writing.

I’ve written a few articles that you may find helpful: