By Dana Mentink
Advice is worth what you pay for it, as my father would say. Famous writers are brimming with advice. Let’s take the subject of inspiration. Author Frank McCourt said in a Writer’s Digest issue, “Sit and quiet yourself. Luxuriate in a certain memory and the details will come. Let the images flow.” Luxuriate? Frank must not have been trying to corral two daughters, a dog, and on the odd days, a roomful of third graders. There is no luxuriating in Mentink land. If I finish the coffee all the way to the bottom, I call that a win! With a limited amount of time at my disposal, I prefer the thoughts of the late Andy Rooney. “My advice is to not wait to be struck by an idea. If you’re a writer, you sit down and (expletive deleted) well decide to have an idea. That’s the way to get an idea.”
And then there’s the whole confidence thing. Writers must put their tender words on a page and hand it over to the wood chippers of the world. You have to have a certain level of belief in self to survive the reviews that will inevitably reduce you to splinters, but really, even after thirty five or so books, I still doubt my abilities. I finish a novel pretty sure that it’s either a work of staggering genius, or fit to line the bottom of the parakeet cage. Oddly, I enjoy the quote from author John Toland because it’s so TOTALLY NOT me. Toland says, “I’ve always had complete confidence in myself. When I was nothing, I had complete confidence. There were 10 guys in my writing class at Williams College who could write better than I. They didn’t have what I have which is guts.” I just adore that strong self image, but frankly, I ain’t got that. I remind myself that each novel is the best product I can produce at the time in which I sat down to bang it out. This is not John Toland, but God made me to be Dana Mentink, doubts, worries and all.
Last of all, there is plenty of advice floating around about the old outlining vs. seat of the pants writing. Robert Ludlum says, “To a great degree, much of the structure has got to come naturally out of the writing.” Well, that probably works great for an “A list” writer like Ludlum, but me? I have to sell a book based on a well crafted outline and sample chapters. My editor wants to know up front what the book is going to be about, so I can’t really write it first, then worry about the outline.
So it’s true what my father says that advice is worth what you pay for it. In writing as in life, we have to make our own way, working with our God given talents and shortcomings. After all, God made only one of each of us, and He’s the greatest author of all time, isn’t He?
Dana Mentink is a two time American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award winner, a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award and a Holt Medallion winner. She is a national bestselling author of over thirty five titles in the suspense and lighthearted romance genres. She is pleased to write for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense, Harlequin Heartwarming and Harvest House. Besides writing, she busies herself teaching third grade. Mostly, she loves to be home with Papa Bear, Yogi, Boo Boo, a nutty terrier, a chubby box turtle and a feisty parakeet.