Monday, April 2, 2012

Welcome to Ask the Author


I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to finally launch this site. Over the years I’ve met hundreds of writers who have specific, legitimate questions about writing and storytelling and can’t seem to find the answers in the typical forums. For a long time I would try to answer the questions one at a time, but then I realized that some of the same issues kept coming up. So, here we are—my way of sharing the answers with everyone.

As a full-time writer and storyteller for over fifteen years, I’ve picked up a lot of hints that can save authors time and effort. This site is here for you, and where we go will depend on the questions you ask.

So, here’s how this will work: Kindly ask your questions by posting a comment. I won’t be able to answer every question I receive, but will do my best to address the ones I think will be the most helpful to other novelists and aspiring writers. I welcome comments on the posts that I share, but won’t be able to address them all. However, I do hope for some good communication among you followers.

I’ll plan to answer several questions a week, so if you want to stay up-to-speed, sign up for an RSS feed and you won’t miss out on any of the information.

Please, only ask questions pertaining to writing in general rather than personal questions. All answers are copyrighted so if you wish to share them with others, send a link to this site rather than cutting and pasting the info. Thanks.

And finally, pass the site on to friends who would be interested in developing excellence in storytelling (whether that’s in fiction or nonfiction). The bigger the community we develop, the more diverse and intriguing questions we’ll get.

Looking forward to doing all I can to help you become a better storyteller and author.

—Steven James

P.S.— I will post the first question/answer tomorrow (April 3rd).


  1. What do you do when your creativity seems sapped? I've finished two novels and started several others, but I'm trying to edit one now and can't seem to come up with ideas to make the story work. I've tried moving to other ideas I've been stewing for a while, starting from scratch, and nothing seems to help. I just feel empty.

    Any recommendations for getting the stream flowing again?

  2. Hi Steve. Thanks for doing this. My first question is in regards to publishing: let's say that a big, reputable publisher (as in a branch of one of the big five) wants to publish a first-time author's manuscript. What rights are most important for a first time author to retain?

  3. How much should an aspiring writer write a day? Should he or she focus more on short stories or should they dedicate more time to a novel?

  4. Can you share some insight on how best to determine when to stop doing research? How much is enough? It's so fascinating to learn more, I could keep going forever it seems! Thanks

  5. What resources would you recommend that have helped to shape you as a writer? For instance, certain books that were invaluable in helping you problem-solve, or how influential your degree in storytelling has been? Thanks!

  6. I remember taking a class you were teaching at the Christian Writer's Conference at Ridgecrest several years back. You were very impressive, but that's a subject for another time.

    My question is simple. I'm probably like many writers in that I write and write, but never submit my writings for fear of rejection or lack of confidence in my writings. I've written thousands of poems of all types, well over a thousand daily devotionals, a few short stories, and many skits and dramas. But, I store them in volumes on my bookshelf or on CD's.

    My wife and children tell me that I am very good at what I do, but I think they're biased. People at church have heard many of the pieces I've written and have laughed, cried, and applauded.

    I write for poetry challenges, and receive positive feedback from many. Yet, I still neglect to submit them for publication. What should I do? How do I get over this fear of rejection? Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.

    By the way, I really loved the class I took at Ridgecrest. You deserve the degree in storytelling.

  7. Could you explain a bit about the business side of writing and publishing? How to find an agent. What agents look for. How to make sure an agent is right for you. Key points in a contract. What rights should be retained, etc

  8. What do you do when you're writing a book that you want to be a full-sized novel when you're done but while you're writing it you realize that you're not going to make it to that many words?

  9. I don't know when I'll ever be able to publish. None of my stories ever seem to fit the right criteria for publishing in places. Mostly because of the word count. My favorite stories, the ones I would love to see published are my longer stories but the longest one is around 40,000 words. Definitely not long enough to be a novel. Or is it?
    Any tips on how I might be able to fill it? And if I can't, what should I do with my stories that just aren't long enough to be a novel?