I wrote a piece for a Writers Digest blog a year ago and requested it be posted in November, 2012, as promo for THE MATCHMAKERS OF BUTTERNUT CREEK. I’d completely forgotten about it until it showed up in a search today, published only five months after it had been schedule. Actually, it’s not bad so I’m including the link here–just in case you’d like to know 7 things I’ve learned so far about publishing.
This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers (this installment written by Jane Myers Perrine, author of THE WELCOME COMMITTEE OF BUTTERNUT CREEK) at any stage of their career can talk about writing advice and instruction as well as how they possibly got their book agent — by sharing seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning.
GIVEAWAY: Jane is excited to give away a free copy of her first novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).
Jane Myers Perrine has worked as a Spanish teacher, minister, cook, rifle instructor, program director in a state hospital, and been an active volunteer but she’s always wanted to write. She’s now writing a three-book series she loves about a young minister in a small town of Butternut Creek in the beautiful Hill Country of Texas. She likes small towns, warm, friendly people and humor. The Welcome Committee of Butternut Creek, the first book in the series, published in April 2012. The Matchmakers of Butternut Creek, the sequel, was released in November 2012.
1. Don’t stick to one genre unless you sell in that genre immediately (actually, that “unless you sell” disclaimer should be added to all my comments). I love mysteries. I always think a dead body adds interest to a story. Sadly, I don’t write them well. My agent told me to try something else. I also tried fantasy but friends discouraged that as well.
“Those who know stuff” told me to stay in one category because editors would get to know who I was—from all the rejection letters I imagine—and I’d hone my craft. However, honing one’s craft in a type of literature one doesn’t write well or is being rejected constantly seems unproductive to me.
Very simply, if I’d taken this advice, I wouldn’t be published, wouldn’t be writing this three-book series for the wonderful people at FaithWords. I started writing sweet, traditional Regencies. At the time I was submitting, publishers in the traditional regency market were dying off, lines closing only days after I queried.
It took me time and a lot of false starts before I discovered I write stories about small towns best. I never would have known that if I hadn’t tried many different genres. Experiment!
2. Don’t stick to what you know. If we all wrote what we knew, there would be no paranormals or historical novels or murder mysteries. My friends who write this type of fiction have never killed anyone, as far as I know, or lived in an alternate universe or been reincarnated in a different century. They have great imaginations and read widely. With the internet, research is easier than ever. Do it!
3. Stick to writing what you know. Yes, a contradiction but much of writing advice is contradictory. Often writing is both this and that.
My husband and I are both ordained ministers. We’ve served in churches in small towns and large. I know churches, church people, and small towns. One day, the opening of The Welcome Committee of Butternut Creek came to me, the young, inexperienced minister heading into Butternut Creek in a tow truck, his car being pulled along behind. The novel didn’t immediately flow but I do know about churches and small towns and ministers so well that it came together fairly easily—for a novel.
But there are incidents and characters in that book I know nothing about. One of the main characters is an alcoholic Marine amputee with PTSD whose problems are way outside my experience. I did a great deal of research.
4. Find your voice. When I first started writing, I wrote what I read. My voice was boring because it wasn’t authentic. This wasn’t my voice. It belonged to those other authors. A friend read fifty pages of the novel I was working on. On page forty-two, she said, “There, Jane, that’s your voice.” I didn’t know what she meant. I didn’t realize I had a voice and my friend read forty-two pages before she identified it. Until you do find your voice—or voices—you won’t sell. Voice is what makes the novel uniquely yours. Who can’t tell the difference between a book by Kristin Higgins and one by C.J. Box?
What is your voice? How do you find it? You keep writing and learning.
Your voice won’t be the same in everything you write and during your entire writing life, but, whatever your voice is, it must be real, It has to be uniquely yours.
5. Don’t stick to that same old familiar novel you’ve been working on for years. Writing a novel is like dating. When I was dating, every time I broke up with a guy, I’d think, “Oh, no. I have to start all over.” We’re afraid if we break up—either a relationship or leaving a book behind to start another–nothing better will come along. For that reason, we cling to what isn’t working. Yes, you love the characters you created. They are so clever and the chemistry or suspense is so strong—but they aren’t real. You’ll find your true love but you must keep learning. That won’t happen in a book you’ve written and rewritten. At some time, you have to move on and find a new love.
6. Learn the craft. Most of us don’t sell our first novel. While I was still struggling to find my voice and write a book someone—anyone!—would buy, I went to every conference and workshop I could and took copious notes. Audio tapes helped me most. During my twenty-minute drives to and from work, I could listen to most of a tape on some phase of writing. I listened to the tapes so often I could quote sections. I learned by osmosis, my brain sucking in the information until I automatically used those tools in my writing. My writing improved.
Enter contests for feedback. Join a critique group. Take a class. Read a book or articles in a writers magazine that focus on your weak points. And, if or when you sell, keep learning.
7. When the book is finished, the conflict resolved, and all the threads tied up, stop.
Welcome to the Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt! If you at any time need to read the instructions for the hunt, please visit www.christianfictionscavengerhunt.com
AND, welcome to my site. I’m Jane Myers Perrine. Delighted to be part of this scavenger hunt! Hope you’ll have fun here!
You may know me from my books at Love Inspired: The Path to Love, Love’s Healing Touch, Deep in the Heart, and Second Chance Bride. I loved those books and hope you’ve read some or all of them!
I’m now writing a series for FaithWords about a young, inexperienced minister who is called to serve a church in the beautiful Hill Country of Texas. This series has been so much fun to write because my husband and I are both ministers. We’ve met some of these (carefully disguised!) people and experienced many of these event in churches we’ve served.
The first book in the series is The Welcome Committee of Butternut Creek which is now available and has had great reviews. It’s been compared to both Jan Karon’s wonderful Mitford series and Phillip Gulley’s Harmony books..
What should I tell you about myself? First of all, I love to write humor and have really loved using it in these novels. Second, as well as being a minister, I’ve taught Spanish in high school and college. Third, George and I live in central Texas with two spoiled tuxedo cats who rule our lives.
I have a contest on this blog for an advanced reader’s copy of The Matchmakers as well as a set of magnetic bookmarks with scriptures. You’ll get one point for posting here on this blog, one for TWEETING (@perrinejane Please mention Butternut Creek so I know to count you) and one for liking me on Facebook (Jane Myers Perrine). Due to postage, I can only send this prize to readers in the USA or Canada.
About the book: The Matchmakers of Butternut Creek picks up after The Welcome Committee ends. Peoples have asked me if the minister, Adam Jordan, gets married in the second book. Maybe. Miss Birdie, the Widow who runs the church is back. Even if you haven’t read The Welcome Committee, you know her. She’s the lady who runs the church but only because she loves people and is sure everyone will be better off and happier if they do things her way. The other Widows appear and one is added. Leo and Nick still pull stunts and life goes on in Butternut Creek. The parsonage is that Victorian house next to the Christian Church. Sit down, pour yourself a glass of lemonade, and chat a spell.
Each of the books starts with a letter from Adam. Here’s the letter that begins The Matchmakers of Butternut Creek.
From the desk of Adam Joseph Jordan, M Div.
I continue to be a sad burden for Birdie MacDowell. Since I arrived at the church in Butternut Creek seven months ago, I’ve attempted to lift that weight from her shoulders and to correct the many errors she expects me to atone for.
If she were to comment on the first paragraph of this letter, Miss Birdie would point out that I wrote a run-on sentence and ended it with a preposition. Despite my earnest efforts, I have failed her again, at least grammatically.
When I first arrived here in Butternut Creek, called to serve the Christian Church, she saw me as too young and too inexperienced for almost everything. She was correct. She believes she always is. Personally, I’d hoped the passage of time would take care of both of my flaws, but Miss Birdie is not one to wait around and hope for change.
Although she’s never expressed this, an odd omission for a woman who prides herself on her speaking out fearlessly, she knows that a man of my age (too young) and with a sad lack of piety could never act as her spiritual guide.
She’s probably correct. I am woefully incompetent to lead another person to faith when I struggle daily with my own flaws. Thank goodness for grace from the Lord if not from Miss Birdie.
I have discovered a few things in the months I’ve been here. First, I fell in love with this small town in the beautiful hill country of Texas the moment I arrived: the friendly people, the Victorian houses, the live oaks shadowing the streets, the downtown square surrounded by coffee shops and gift stores and antique malls with a few businesses—the barber shop and the diner where Miss Birdie works–sprinkled in.
Secondly, I found out I do possess some skills. I preach a good sermon, teach an interesting adult Sunday school class, have an active youth group, and make much appreciated hospital calls and evangelistic visits regularly. I’ve also improved my basketball game.
But there was one area in which Miss Birdie still found me lacking: finding a wife and producing children to populate the children’s Sunday school classes.
Yes, she wanted me to find a bride. Wanted is an inadequate word here. Even determined doesn’t approach the level of her resolve. Add to that adjective single-minded and unwavering and the total comes close to her desperate need to marry me off. Do not add choosyto that list because she’d marry me off to any single woman still in her child-bearing years who lives within a fifty-mile radius of Butternut Creek. Her task is made nearly impossible by the dearth of single women in small central Texas towns.
Could be she expects God to create a mate from my rib, but that hasn’t happened yet. Nor do I expect to wake up, as Boaz did, to find a bride lying at my feet. Of course, if a woman should appear in my bed, whether at the foot or cozily snuggled next to me, her presence in the parsonage would create a scandal from which neither the church nor I would recover.
Because Miss Birdie has renounced these biblical approaches to finding me a wife, I shudder to imagine what schemes ARE in her fertile and scheming mind. All for my own good, of course.
For the protection and edification of all involved, I decided to document every one of the efforts she and her cohorts, the other three Widows, have made in their attempts to find me a mate. In addition, this book will cover my next year as minister in Butternut Creek, my search for experience and a wife as well as the joy of living here with the wonderful people who inhabit this paradise.
I send it off with my love and my blessing and in the desperate hope that someday Miss Birdie will smile upon me and say, “Well done, Pastor.”
For your next clue, go to http://vickiemcdonough.com/www.vickiemcdonough.com/CFSH.html
Over and over, I’ve been told, “Write what you know.” I’ve never agreed. If authors stuck to writing what they knew, no historicals would be in print because the author wasn’t alive to witness those events. Agatha Christie would never had written her mysteries because, as far as we know, she never killed anyone.
I wrote two historicals that took place in Regency England in 1812 and another that took place in Texas 120 years ago. Had to do a lot of research to do that.
Then I started writing the Tales from Butternut Creek series and realized I was writing exactly what I knew: a minister in a small town church. The Palm Sunday donkey running away with his rider? I was one of the group that grabbed the animal before he could toss the boy off. A minister’s fear of counseling a member of the congregation? Been there and survived and the woman I counseled did as well. The group of women who run the church? I’ve met them in every church either my husband or I have served and readers tell me they know a Miss Birdie. All the stories, all the embarrassing and funny situations we lived came together in these books and I’ve had such a great time writing them.
Sometimes the memories make me laugh. But members of a congregation suffer, too, and I cried with them. Those hard times made the books, too.
Of course, I didn’t live through or actually witness everything I wrote. We never lived in a huge Victorian parsonage but I’ve always wanted to—if I didn’t have to do the housework. And I expanded on some of the scenes. In Butternut Creek, the donkey took off down the highway with the kid hanging on his back. In reality, he ran only ten yards although I imagine the boy riding him thought it last far longer.
Have you had an experience you think should be in a book? I’d love for you to share.
With promo and attempting to write and editing the second book in the Tales from Butternut Creek series, The Matchmakers of Butternut Creek, I haven’t thought about what will be on the blog this week. Oh, yes, and there has been BASKETBALL!
There will be a blog here Tuesday and a mini-blog Thursday. Hope you await them with breathless anticipation. (And the pictures have nothing to do with anything. I just had some left over that I wanted to use.)