A Writer’s Rosary: What is it?

I’ve been told (by those who have experienced both life-changing events) that there are some surprising similarities between writing a book and giving birth to a child: The process can often be painful, messy, and even a little embarrassing. But there is great joy in the end. Because of this, I like to offer a Rosary on Fridays for my authors.

In his book Forgiveness Makes You Free, Fr. Ubald Rugirangoga (RIP) writes about the “rosary of my life,” identifying five painful moments from his own life that he continually offered back to God (see pages 10-15). His early memories of his parents, both of whom were killed at different stages of the genocide, were recollected in these mysteries.

You can find the "Rosary of My Life" in pages 10-15 of this book, which you can order through Ave or Amazon.

As writers, we can take a cue from Fr. Ubald and use the Rosary as a tool to identify the moments of our lives that have shaped us, and to see even the painful moments of our lives as therapeutic and spiritually enriching.

So let me begin by asking you: If you were to write your own mysteries, what five events would they include?

What to Do BEFORE You Query

Until you get to know them, editors can be scary people. But with some concentrated effort, and a little knowhow about the care and feeding of these elusive creatures, you too can become a published author!

For Catholic non-fiction authors writing their first book, the key to your success will be how close your proposed book “fits” with your existing ministry. And one of the best ways to show that is by having a strong online presence. (It’s not the only way, but it’s the first thing I look for as an acquisitions editor.) Here are three things you can do to make your proposal irresistible!

  1. Have a killer author website or blog. You can create a beautiful site yourself — or you can pay someone to do it for you. It should have a speaker’s page (with clips of you actually speaking if possible), information about your other books or contributions, links to your social media, and links to any other online writing you’ve done. Ideally, you would also be collecting email addresses (MailChimp or Constant Contact are good for this) and developing a regular newsletter — shoot for 2000 names. Here are some beautiful examples from Christy Wilkens, Mary Lenaburg, and Kelly Wahlquist. A professionally designed site can run $1000 – $3000 dollars, but you can design one yourself for less than $100 (for hosting and newsletter subscriptions) by using WordPress or other software.
  2. Network with other authors and support their efforts to promote THEIR books. Establish yourself as a team player: Write Amazon reviews (send the author and/or the publicist a link), have authors on your podcast (or guest posting on your blog), or host book clubs at your parish (you might invite the author to Zoom in to a meeting) are all great ways to help. This does two important things: It communicates to the editor that you are familiar with the kinds of books they publish, and that you understand what it takes to launch a book successfully.
  3. Study the publishing website carefully, and be able to articulate how your project “fits” not only within YOUR ministry, but within OURS. Not only should your query clearly indicate what your book is about, who the book is for, and what benefits they will gain from reading it — it should also make a compelling case for why YOU are the right person to write the book, and WE are the right publisher for it.

Investing some time and effort into these preliminary steps can make a HUGE difference in how well your proposal is received by a publishing team. If you are already a published author … what other advice would YOU give?

Dealing with Writer’s Block

writers-block“The other day on Facebook, on of my friends (*ahem, Lisa Hendey*) suggested I recommend some tips for overcoming writer’s block. Being a Catholic editor and all, my first thought was to swipe the advice of St. Benedict: “Ora et labora” (pray and work).

Then I thought I’d do what I SAID I’d be doing here, which is to open it up to the wisdom of other writers. With that in mind, I’d like to connect you with this article from “Fire Your Mentor: Top 15 Tips to Overcome Writer’s Block.”

“Pressure, fear, stress, trauma, anxiety, the beginning or ending of a particular project….the list goes on, can cause that crippling feeling of frustration and fear,” writes Munmi Sarma. “Fortunately there are as many techniques to combat writer’s block as there are causes.” He goes on to list 15 of them, most of which can be divided into three categories:

* Environmental diversions. (electronics, other deadlines and demands, unattended bodily needs

* Internal distractions. (stress, negative self-talk, and lack of focus)

* Lack of inspiration.

It’s this third category, it seems, that most writers associate with “writer’s block,” though to be honest the first two are the most likely culprits. Writing is both an art and a discipline. And while writing exercises, “artist’s dates” (courtesy of Julia Cameron) and writer’s retreats are all wonderful in their time and place, for most of us writing is 20% inspiration and 80% perspiration!

I’ve heard more than one author compare writing a book to childbirth. I’d say it’s also like parenting: a lot of it is just showing up. Setting goals, and dividing them into manageable tasks. Priming the pump with solid source material. And just showing up at the appointed time, and not getting up until you’ve reached your goal.

What are some of the ways YOU have dealt with the empty page?

For more tips and information for Catholic writers, head on over to my NEW blog, “Ask a Catholic Editor.”