Thursday, January 01, 2009

Guest Blogger Cecil Murphey's Advice for Writers in the New Year

He called and said, "I haven't had a book contract in six years." He had published six books in the late 1980s. He went on to ask me if there could be age discrimination because he's 67. I assured him that wasn't the case. For about 20 minutes he told me of the terrible ordeals of trying to publish in today's market.
I explored a number of possible reasons before I finally asked, "How does your writing today compare with what you did twenty years ago?" He assured me that his current work was as good as the former.
I didn't say this to him but I thought, that's the problem. Your answer should have been, "It's much better now."
I've noticed that many writers reach a certain achievement level, develop a following, and they stop improving. That's sad. We can always get better.
One of the things I've recently done to improve my writing was to buy a new English book. I'd never been able to remember terms like restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses. This book uses essential and nonessential clauses. That makes sense.
I decided to stick with that book and keep learning. My new goal is to submit manuscripts so good that frustrated editors will exclaim, "I couldn't find even a misplaced comma."
I'm aware that the book business is having health problems right now (like all the other industries). My recent proposals might not make the contract stage. I won't like that; however, I want to be able to say that the writing is better. That makes me more competitive. Most of all, it's a good feeling to know that I've improved and that my latest manuscript is better than the one before it.
To learn more about Cecil Murphey, New York Times bestselling co-author of 90 MINUTES IN HEAVEN, visit

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Blogger DANIELBLOOM said...


Friday, January 2, 2009 at 8:04:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really liked this post because it strikes to something I have blogged about (, which is that we all have to develop our definition of what it means to be a successful writer. For the person in the story, he found success publishing and felt that he had achieved what he was looking for as a writer--selling his writing.

However, I think to truly and fully experience the world as a writer and to be a writer you need to define success as something beyond what you are able to sell. It has to be about how you as a writer develop and mature and improve. It is the daily practice of being a writer that never peaks or can be satisfied. It's like the zen coan--enjoy the flower for the planting of it. It's npot about the finished product, because it will never truly be finished, but the act of creation and growth that results.

James (

Friday, January 2, 2009 at 10:32:00 AM EST  
Blogger Avily Jerome said...

Great advice! You can never be TOO GOOD, I guess!

Here's to improving in 2009!

Friday, January 2, 2009 at 10:06:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fantastic advice, Cecil. I think the highest achievement in writing is really great writing, and it can always get better to the point where words and sentences practically leap off the page.

Thursday, January 8, 2009 at 4:16:00 PM EST  

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