Thursday, September 15, 2016

Good words from Mick Silva, professional writing coach, editor, and encourager

Today let’s welcome Mick Silva as a guest blogger for our SM 101 family. 
He works with inspirational memoirists and novelists 
to structure, rewrite and refine their books, present to publishers,
 and establish themselves as writers. 
Mick is a frequent conference speaker, blogger
and coauthor with Emily Wierenga of 

So settle in, maybe pour yourself a cup of coffee, and take in Mick’s encouragement:

Somewhere around the first six weeks of coaching, most every writer gets overwhelmed. It’s usually around the third month that folks start realizing not all is lost, that maybe it’s just a natural part of the process to feel you’re at the bottom of a pit and now’s the time to decide how you’re going to get out and move forward.

I’ve lost count now how many times I’ve seen this in the past sixteen years. But it’s always a challenging process and it can surprise people how much goes into a successful story.

The answer to that, in case you’re wondering, is a lot.

Every writer I work with starts with a goal, a deep desire that guides the story. They want what we all want: the truth, clarity, and to finally give it voice. But there’s something more, too. Something uniquely important to them that makes it special.

So we dig for the truth. And soon, it becomes clear that what we think our deep desire is and what the reason really is—they’re rarely the same thing.

Next comes some soul searching. The vision gets hammered out and it gets affirmed and acknowledged. Then more writing and reevaluating it for a while, and some of the hidden themes start to arise in the edit, and we look at the vision again and revise it.

I suppose this needs explaining. Yet, I doubt it’s surprising. It takes time to accept our true motives and desires. But that’s something of a hidden benefit of the writing and editing process.

Another is the power of working through the memories and discovering where Jesus was in your experience. Often, we fail to realize He’s been with us in the darkest suffering, and that lack of understanding blinds us to gratitude and limits our experience of grace. The process of reawakening the story of our past literally re-members us, fusing parts together again into a cohesion of greater wholeness.

What was broken gets mended. That’s a deeper goal of many memoirists. And it’s always my privilege to see that healing happen.

A third, and by no means final, benefit of writing our stories is providing definition to the unexamined lessons in our experience. People don’t realize the treasure that’s buried inside; it’s silent and invisible. Yet it has great value, and when we take the time to dig it up, we can use it. Until then, we’re in danger of being like the wicked servant who kept his treasure “safe.” Safe is not a big priority for the master. He likes a return on his investments.

That’s the “higher purpose” I talk about and it’s why I love coaching and discussing stories at writer’s conferences. I once heard Walter Wangerin call it the “undefined wilderness” inside us. And this treasure remains like an untamed chaos until we use our power—the indivisible Word from the Author and Originator—to name and define those inner riches.

There are themes and points of connection others will identify with in your story. What healing might come in recognizing your experience is like theirs, and theirs is like others’? What greater life could these universal experiences bring, deeper confidence and sense of identity, if people only realized these treasures must be dug up and invested in order to influence our world, our future, our children?

This discovery of our buried experience is vital to life. Because we are, as Viktor Frankl said, meaning-making machines: “He who has a why can bear any how.”

Why do we write? I think deep down, it’s to make meaning. Whatever else it is, the writing is an investigative process that helps define our lives. What we or others make of the story is less important; the vital thing is to take the journey.

When I started working as an editor in 2000, I was mostly interested in getting a leg up as a prospective author. As an aspiring novelist, I needed an education. I hoped it’d take two years, but it turned into five, which turned into another five, and now I’ve been coaching and editing for six more. I suppose I’ve stopped trying to get out of being an editor. I won’t stop writing either, but God has shown me a wider world and He’s caught my attention with the incredible lives I’ve encountered.

There’s nothing more rewarding than unearthing a story others will come and relate with. Books are relationships, and some may be more meaningful than any other we’ll experience in life. They could awaken someone to the world and life around them. I can’t dismiss that. A writer is an excavator who felt a kinship with some author, possibly long-dead, and wishes one day to discuss life and love with them.

And I’m honored to get to continue facilitating and encouraging the conversations.

Thanks, Mick!

And here’s a P.S. from Mick:

“For new (uncontracted) writers, I offer monthly coaching which amounts to a weekly chat about your chapters and you turning in a handful of pages for me to comment on. We start with writing your vision and outline, and then set up a working schedule (which usually gets adjusted at least twice). But that’s a big part of how I help writers, especially inspirational memoirists who have the hardest writing job there is (don’t tell the other writers). Not only do they have to tell the truth with the tools of good fiction writing, they also have to tell the spiritual story behind that story, which is very difficult to do well. It’s why I do this and why I coauthored an ebook on it, and ultimately why my favorite people are inspirational memoirists.”

Mick sent me his editing rates but I can't figure out how to provide you with a link, so please contact Mick directly at (Sorry, Mick!)

Mick Silva has been an acquiring editor for Focus on the Family (2000-2005), WaterBrook Multnomah (Penguin Random House) (2005-2010), and Windblown Media (publishers of The Shack) (2008-2013), and now is coach and editor for authors with Zondervan, WaterBrook Multnomah, IVPress, and several other CBA houses. Mick lives with his wife and two daughters in Portland, Oregon.

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