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Right Writing News, April 5, 2004, Issue #005
April 05, 2004

Welcome to the fifth issue which highlights a best-selling author's writing life and some writing tips. This publication appears bi-monthly.

If you like what you see here, please forward this copy and use this link to subscribe.

Table of Contents

1) Page-Turning Excellence -- T. Davis Bunn

2) Five New Ways of Viewing Rejection Letters by Dr. Dennis E. Hensley

3) Writing Tips

3) New Links to Check

Page-Turning Excellence -- T. Davis Bunn

During the last fourteen years since T. Davis Bunn had his first book published, he has written more than 40 novels—including 21 national bestsellers. His fiction has sold more than four million books in 15 languages and Davis has been honored with three Christy Awards for excellence in historical and suspense fiction.

When he writes a first draft, for the last 25% of the book, Davis reaches a point of great intensity. For him the writing process parallels the breathless pace that readers discover with his books. They race for the final page.

"For me to create such tension, I need to write with the same passion and intensity as if I were in a long distance race," Davis says. In practical terms, such an effort involves long hours writing at his computer. Recently Bunn finished a climax. He would get out of bed at 4:30 a.m. and write at his computer until he was emotionally exhausted. After a brief rest, he would write again until he couldn't write any more, then he took a break and exercised, then returned to the project. "In the evening, my head felt like a box filled with bouncing empty ping pong balls." For several days, he maintains such a level of intensity of storytelling and writing that after reaching the final page,"I spend the next few days walking around in a daze."

Finally restored, Davis begins the detailed process of working through the second and third drafts of the manuscript. His commitment to craft and professionalism is a hallmark of his writing. Readers eagerly await his next work.

WestBow Press, an imprint of Thomas Nelson released Bunn's latest work, Elixir. The opening pages of this book reveal a passion he's had since age 15—surfing."There were three very critical issues brought together on these pages." Davis says. First, the surfing, which has been such a gift to me. Sometimes I feel the most glorious worship service I have ever attended is a dawn run with Christian friends, the porpoises for a ballet and the waves for music. Second the travel. I have lived more than half of my life outside of the United States. The Basque country which plays a big role in this book, remains a haven of creativity and great waves. Third, the pharmaceutical industry. I won't say much about that here because I don't want to give the story away. I have worked for a drug company and used many of those experiences here."

Readers will enjoy the page-turning suspense on every page of Elixir and look forward to the release of his next WestBow Press book, The Lazarus Trap in Spring 2005. You can learn more about this book and Davis at his website from WestBow which includes a video trailer on the book at:

One of Davis' recent best-sellers, The Great Divide was a joint release from Doubleday and Waterbrook Press. In the underlying theme of the work, Davis shows how the Divine works in a person's life. He admits,"Sometimes the transformation that a person makes from nonbeliever to believer is so gradual that it's impossible to pin to a particular moment in time." In The Great Divide, readers encounter two intertwined plots. In the first, Gloria Hall goes to China in search of truth related to human rights violations between a Chinese factory and a large American firm which sells sportswear products. The key courtroom case in the book is to pressure the Chinese company to release Hall and get her back to the United States. The second key theme follows the life of lawyer Marcus Glenwood. A tragic accident destroys the life he knew. Throughout The Great Divide, there is no moment of repentance or salvation. Instead, God gradually opens Glenwood's eyes and he feels God's healing touch in his life.

Besides his own novels, this prolific author has also co-authored best-selling novels with Janette Oke such as Another Homecoming or The Beloved Land (Bethany House Publishers), as well as Kingdom Come (Thomas Nelson Publishers) co-authored with Larry Burkett. Davis has long enjoyed the challenge of fitting his passion for solid stories around the thematic vision and spiritual lessons suggested by other authors and teachers. However, Davis urges any new novelist considering a joint project to first grapple with storytelling on his or her own. Otherwise, there is a risk of the new author losing his 'voice'--that precious gift of what makes his own story an individual offering.

Since 1990, Bunn has written a wide range of books including gift novellas, romantic fiction, historical adventure, contemporary thrillers plus stories for children and young adults. His journey into the world of Christian publishing has been a phenomenal success during the last ten years.

In 1988, the tall, handsome, self-assured businessman wandered the aisles of the American Booksellers Convention in Washington, D.C.. As the Marketing Director of an international business in Europe, Davis knew a great deal about marketing and the international business community, yet little about publishing. Over the previous ten years, Davis had written five novels, 27 short stories and three travel adventures yet nothing had been published. Davis and his wife, Isabella, traveled to Washington and made presentations to eleven different publishers. On an instinct, Isabella decided to show part of a novel to one last publisher (Bethany House). She found a connection and in 1990 Davis' first book was published; The Presence was a finalist in the ECPA Gold Medallion Contest.

Davis and his wife have been living in Europe since 1974 and traveled extensively throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia. Often these settings serve as the backdrop for the riveting characters in his novels. For over ten years, Davis was the Managing Director for the North Carolina European Office in Dusseldorf, Germany. His direction of this trade and investment office was responsible for consulting with European companies planning multi-million dollar projects in North Carolina. He guided the state to being ranked first nationwide in attracting foreign investments. Because of his years overseas, Davis is fluent in German and Italian along with basic French.

A critical part of Bunn's work is his relationship with his wife, Isabella. An international attorney in corporate trade relations, she quit her career to support Davis' writing. "She does all the contract negotiations, galley checking as well as the first reading of my work," Bunn says. "I honestly don't know how some authors do it by themselves."

The couple met as competitors at a seminar in Paris. "I thought she needed someone to witness to her," he says. "She thought I was a nice colleague who had come over to shake her hand." Their relationship grew and they married in 1989. Isabella holds five degrees and has an almost completely photographic memory.

Davis has a strong sense of calling to his craft of storytelling and it shows in his dynamic characters and plots. Because of international business travel, he has learned to write almost anywhere--even in a cab or at the airport. Davis carries a note pad but also uses a computer. "For my plots, I'll do most of my sketching in longhand" he says,"then write my first draft on the computer. My computer allows me to see the structure of the paragraph in the typeface and format of a finished book. There is something about the structural form which helps me determine the cadence and rhythm of the paragraphs."

And Bunn writes eloquent paragraphs! Look for many more captivating stories from this talented novelist. As fellow novelist Gilbert Morris says,"Davis Bunn shows a raw talent that is incredible."

W. Terry Whalin understands both sides of the editorial desk--as an editor and a writer. He worked as a magazine editor for Decision and In Other Words. His magazine articles have appeared in more than 50 publications including Writer's Digest and Christianity Today. Terry has written more than 55 nonfiction books and his latest is The Complete Idiot's Guide to Teaching the Bible (Alpha Books). See more about his writing at For more than 12 years Terry has been an ECPA Gold Medallion judge in the fiction category. He has written extensively about Christian fiction and reviewed numerous fiction books in publications such as CBA Marketplace and BookPage. He is the Fiction Acquisitions Editor for Howard Publishing. Terry and his wife, Christine, live in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Five New Ways of Viewing Rejection Letters

By Dennis E. Hensley

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no need being a fool about it!" -- W. C. Fields

I once had a writing teacher in college who tried to console me after a short story of mine had been rejected for the umpteenth time. "Listen," she said, "you weren't rejected, your manuscript was."

I looked quizzically at her. "It was my title, my lead, my characters, my plot and my ending. No one else had anything to do with it. If the story was rejected, then let's face it: as a writer, I was rejected."

That was 30 years ago, and today I still am never overjoyed at receiving rejection letters. Admittedly, I don't get them as often as I did as a beginner, but they still come . . . and they still are disappointing. The difference now, however, is that I know how to view them in more "progressive" ways. Let me share these insights with you.

New View #1: Selling manuscripts is often a "cold call" business.
Like a door to door insurance agent or encyclopedia salesperson, writers often approach buyers (editors) whom they have never met, much less ever worked for. Many doors are slammed in their faces. But all selling is a numbers game. You may have to knock on ten doors in order to close one sale. So, keep knocking.

When I decided to become a romance novelist, I found out that most publishers didn't even want to consider a man as a romance writer. The novel I had written was well plotted and the characters were three-dimensional. Nevertheless, six publishers flat-out rejected it. I had faith in the book. The seventh time out it was read by Eileen Mason, then an acquisitions editor with Harvest House. She loved it. She called and asked if I'd be willing to write under a pen name (Leslie Holden). When I said yes, she bought the book, as well as signed me for two sequels. Persistence paid off.

New View #2: Rejections Lead to Re-Evaluations.
If a manuscript is well written, but has been rejected, the writer should ask why. Was it sent to an inappropriate market? Was it too early or too late for a certain season? Did it cover a topic that had already been saturated by the media?

I once wrote a short story called, "Through the Crosshairs," about two professional hunters stalking one another. Everyone who read it told me it was a real "page-turner." Nevertheless, all of the detective and mystery magazines I sent it to rejected it. Finally, I gave it to a friend of mine who had had success in the detective genre. He read it and said, "It is a terrific story, but not for crime magazines. The story is about characters and their emotions and desire to succeed. Send it to a literary quarterly, where it belongs." So, I did, and it was accepted for publication in the Ball State University Forum (autumn, 1977) and later was anthologized. This taught me to look for a reason other than quality of writing for certain rejections.

New View #3: Not all rejections are final.
Editors are usually overwhelmed with work. As such, if one takes the time to send a personal note saying, "This was very good, but we have something about this topic on file already; however, try us again," she really means it. Jump right back in with a query letter or new manuscript.

In the late 1970s Essence was an emerging, dynamic slick magazine devoted to the interests of young, black females. I was young, all right, but I was a Caucasian male. Still, I gave it a shot. I submitted a piece of job interviewing skills. The editor rejected it, but attached a handwritten note saying, "This is the direct, content-heavy kind of article we like. We have a similar piece ready to run in two months. Try us with something else." I immediately submitted an article on time management for female executives. Bingo! She paid me $1,000 for the piece and said for me to "keep them coming." And I did – five subsequent sales to Essence.

New View #4: Rejections put you in good company.
I keep a list of blockbuster books that were rejected many times before being published: Your Erroneous Zones (26 times), Jonathan Livingston Seagull (23 times), Dune (21 times), The Hunt for Red October (19 times). I remind myself that sometimes a writer can be ahead of his or her time. Such a situation actually happened to me.

In the early 1970s, when the term "workaholism" was viewed to be as unhealthy as leprosy or cancer, I wrote an article on why I loved being a workaholic. I focused on goal setting, career motivation, personal achievement, and the "fun" aspects of work. I sent it to more than a dozen editors and they all rejected it. Still, I liked the piece. So, I put it on file and let it ferment for a decade.

Then, in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan, our new president, began talking about re-establishing America's work ethic – long hours, genuine devotion to duty, high quality performance. I pulled out the old manuscript and submitted it to John Ingrisano, editor of Market Builder magazine. He not only bought the article, he brought it to the attention of Anne Shropshire, an editor with the magazine's parent company Bobbs-Merrill. Anne called me and offered me a contract to develop the concept as a book. I readily accepted, and my book Positive Workaholism was released at the end of 1983. Subsequently, it was made into a book on tape by Success Motivation, Inc. (Waco, Texas) and later into a training video by R & R Newkirk. I was hired to write both the audio and video scripts based on my book.

So, hold on to those rejected masterpieces of yours. Their day may come yet!

New View #5: Even rejected, you are still ahead of most other would-be writers.
Erma Bombeck once wrote a column about how she had never met a person who didn't one day plan to write a book. She meant it as a comedy, but to me it's no laughing matter. If you teach at as many writers' conferences as I do each year, you meet these people everywhere. They all have the perfect idea for a guaranteed best seller, but they never get around to writing it. Why? Because writing is hard work . . . and it risks being rejected (something these dreamers could never handle).

If you have actually finished a manuscript and have put it in the mail, you've graduated from "talking writer" to "writing writer." Well done! A thousand ideas in your head will never sell; one completed manuscript at least has a chance.

And even if it never sells, you've still out-performed the blowhards and fakes. You've proven something to yourself: you can write, because the manuscript is there in front of you to prove it. Now, just keep it up. The next one may very well be the one that sells. You've heard the old riddle: Is the glass of water half-full or half-empty? It all depends on your point of view.

Similarly: Is the manuscript rejected, or just a step closer to being published?

Well . . . you have my view on that. ___________________________________________________________
Dennis E. Hensley, Ph.D., is a professor of English at Taylor University Fort Wayne, where he directs the professional writing program. His 37 nonfiction books include Millennium Approaches (Avon) and Writing for Profit (Thomas Nelson Co.), and among his six novels is The Gift (Harvest House). His articles appear regularly in such periodicals as Reader's Digest, Guitar Player, ABA Journal: The Lawyer's Magazine, The War Cry, Aspire, Stereo, Evangel, Good Old Days, and Success, among many others. He is a recipient of the Dorothy Hamilton Memorial Writing Award.

Writing Tips

Davis Bunn compares finishing one of his novel manuscripts to a marathon-like race. Your writing pattern for a manuscript might be entirely different. Or possibly you need to model your writing from Davis' example. Can you block the time and give some concerted effort to finishing your book-length work or your magazine article? What insight can you glean for your own writing situation?

Even after 30 years of writing, Dr. Dennis Hensley admits that he receives rejection letters. I receive them as well. Part of a key for rejection is perspective. Some writers get rejected once or twice and determine the pain isn't worth it. They put away their writing tools and never pursue the craft again. Yet the successful writers like Dennis maintain a healthy perspective about rejection. What new attitudes can you adopt from this article?

The writer's conference season is in full swing. Later this month, I will be headed to New York City for the American Society of Journalists and Authors conference. Then next month I'll be teaching the adult nonfiction continuing class at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. I'd encourage you to look over this page and select a conference that fits your budget and schedule. You and your writing will both benefit from the experience. Learn more about different conferences at: Major Writers Conferences in the U.S.

The Writers Store

New Links to Check

How can your writing get into the top percentage of Internet traffic websites? You can learn how through going to this site, then following the various links on this page:

Magazine writing is an ongoing opportunity for beginning and expert writers to generate income and exposure to their work. I've added a number of valuable articles to this page--anything from some writing basics to magic phrases for negotiating at:

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, this page has some excellent new articles to help your career:

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