Tag Archives: Cecil Murphey

Advice I’d Give a Newbie Writer

Following the biweekly series of writing-related posts on Ruth L. Snyder’s blog hop, here are my thoughts for new writers:


You are a writer. Don’t wait until you have something published to call yourself one. We tend to be afraid others will laugh at us or think we’re being pretentious, but the truth is, if you write, you’re a writer. Owning that facet of your identity, and giving yourself permission to be that part of who you are, is a step forward, and if you don’t take your writing seriously, no one else will.

You’re not just a writer, though. Don’t neglect the other areas of your life, even if this one’s the most fun.


Take regular time to write. Little bits will add up. If you want to stick with this long-term, learn to write when the muse is silent and when you’d rather be doing anything else. Writing is work.

Keep writing. When you finish a project to the best of your ability, write something else. Don’t tie your hopes to one thing.

Remember the difference between writing for personal expression and writing for readers. They’re both valuable, but if you want others to read your work you need to revise with their interests in mind.

If you decide to self-publish, do the research first. And hold yourself accountable to produce a quality product, including cover art and editing. Don’t sabotage what you’ve written by packaging it poorly.


Get to know other writers online or in person. Learn from their experiences and their mistakes. These are the people who will encourage and understand you, and you’ll do the same for them. Help other writers, with no agenda. Some of it will come back to you anyway. My favourite online writers’ organizations: The Word Guild, InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship, American Christian Fiction Writers.

Connect with other writers, attend conferences if you can. Be teachable, and don’t turn getting published into an idol. Enjoy the journey, and remember that anything worth doing will take time and practice. If you’re good today, imagine how much better your writing will be after you’ve put in your “apprenticeship”.

On conferences: don’t wait until you’ve “earned” the right to be there. The sooner you go, the less bad habits you’ll have to un-learn later. And the more writing friendships and contacts you’ll develop. My favourite conference: Write Canada. Choose a conference based on location but also based on faculty and course options. If you can’t get to one, there are online offerings like WANA International, and many conferences offer mp3s or CDs of their teaching sessions.


As well as conferences, check out books and blogs on writing. A few books I’ve reviewed and recommend: You Are A Writer by Jeff Goins; The Art and Craft of Writing Christian Fiction by Jeff Gerke; Unleash the Writer Within by Cecil Murphey. Blogs I find helpful: How to Write a Story by Valerie Comer; Write With Excellence by N.J. Lindquist; The Seekers (group blog). There are, of course, many more resources. Feel free to leave your favourites in the comments! 


Do your very best. Don’t let fear of imperfection keep you from sharing your work, but remember to make that work shine as brightly as you can. Serve the art. Don’t be careless with it. This goes double if you’re a Christian. Yes, God may have given you the idea. But He gave you the task of presenting it well. He can use poor writing, but good writing gets into the hands of many more people who He may want to touch with it.

The only way to know you won’t succeed is to quit, so persevere.


I mention this last, but if you’re a Christian it actually needs to come first: pray. If God has gifted you to write, He will make a way to use what you write. It may not be what you have in mind, nor on your timetable, but His way is best. Follow His leading, even if it’s into areas of writing that aren’t your top choice. He knows where this will go, long-term.

To read what other writers are saying about this, follow the blog hop: Just click on the image below.

Blog hop for writers

Review: Unleash the Writer Within, by Cecil Murphey

Unleash the Writer Within cover artUnleash the Writer Within, by Cecil Murphey (OakTara Publishers, 2011)

This book is a keeper. It’s not a “how-to-write” book, although Cecil Murphey is an excellent teacher of the craft. It’s more a collection of vignettes that prompt the reader to do what the title says: unleash the writer within.

Cec Murphey was on faculty one year at Write! Canada. I don’t remember what he said, but how he said it left me with great respect for not just his knowledge but his heart. If you read Unleash the Writer Within you’ll know what I mean.

Some of the short chapters cover typical writerly issues such as giftedness, inner critics and writer’s block. Most deal with topics like discovering who you—the writer—really are, finding/embracing/growing your voice, and learning how to like and to be gentle with yourself.

Before you dismiss the latter ideas as impractical, “out there” or whatever, stop to think about it. If we don’t really know who we are, if our creative and critical sides are in constant battle, we can’t reach our potential. We can’t write authentically, and we’ll miss touching a lot of lives.

Many of the chapters grow out of two key questions Cec Murphey asks when he teaches: “Why do you write?” and “What makes you keep writing?”

The book is an easy read, but one I chose to take in daily chapter doses so I could internalize what I’d read. Each chapter ends with a summarizing aphorism, like “I write to find out who I am” and “My inner critic can be my friend, so I honor and trust that voice.” Chapters are written in a very open, humble and self-effacing style, honestly revealing Mr. Murphey’s own struggles so that we can relate with our own.

My copy is flagged with coloured tabs for sections I’ve marked to re-read. It’s one of those books that I’d probably lend to a trusted friend, but only with a strong warning that I wanted it back.

Cecil Murphey is a multi-published, New York Times best-selling author. His website is The Man Behind the Words,  and writers will also want to check out his blog: Cec Murphey’s Writer to Writer.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Writer, Who Are You Really?

Be yourself

Be yourself (Photo credit: chase_elliott)

In developing as a writer and learning the rules and the craft, it’s easy to wake up with an identity crisis.

The publishers demand this. The readers want that. The critics are looking for something else. Does what’s left look anything like you? Who are you really?

I’ve been finding more and more advice lately on how important it is for a writer to be himself or herself. Not that we can scoff at things like craft and audience, but that developing excellence in our writing won’t happen if we’re stifling or masking who we are.

Be yourself. Be honest. Do your best. Take car...

Be yourself. Be honest. Do your best. Take care of your family. Treat people with respect. Be a good citizen. Follow your dreams. (Photo credit: deeplifequotes)

Beth Vogt challenges us to stand out.

From Bonnie Leon: Be Yourself.

At Novel Rocket, Christa Allen tells us to “Follow Your Weirdness,” which I’ve read Jeff Goins advise as well.

And at Chatting at the Sky, Emily P. Freeman calls us to overcome our fear and be ourselves: “You have something we desperately need. I don’t know what it is, but you do.” (One Way to Live Wildly Free)

Finding–and being honest about–who we are is one of the key topics Cecil Murphey addresses in his book, Unleash the Writer Within. You wouldn’t think it’d be so hard!