David Fessenden - Book Review and Author Interview

David Fessenden
A Must Read for Writers

“Another ‘how to’ writing book,” you say. “You’ve got to be kidding me!”

I hear you! I’m not a non-fiction reader. I’m not a “how to” reader. Put the two together and I’m gagging. Majorly! I’ll take a lecture any day over having to read a manual.

So why am I even talking about David’s new book, Concept to Contract? Because I’ve finally found the help for writers like me! David magically encapsulates all the things a writer needs to know from the conception of the book idea to the signing the contract while encouraging the writer every step of the way. Even authors of other “how to write” books are impressed.

James N. Watkins said, “I’ve…composed two of my own books for writers. Plus I’ve taught writing at hundreds of conferences and colleges during the past thirty years. But I have to admit I’m just a bit jealous of David’s … Concept to Contract. He’s managed to collect and communicate – in his warm and witty style – all the basics from ‘concept to contract.’ A great resource! I jut wish I had written it.”

You’re a fiction writer? Still, this book is for you. David packs so much basic information into this less than 200 page book that even a fiction writer can glean a tremendous amount of help from it. Seriously! You’ve got to get your hands on a copy of this book and keep it handy for when those nagging questions pop up.

Here’s a list of topics it covers:
1)      The Mysterious Process
2)      Brainstorming: Corralling Your Ideas
3)      Research: Public and Private
4)      The Dreaded Outline
5)      Book Proposals: The Front-End Method
6)      The First Draft: Begin and the Beginning
7)      Revisions: Where the Real Writing Begins
8)      Fine-Tuning the Manuscript
9)      Landing the Contract
Appendix A: Checklist for Revision and Finalizing of Manuscript
Appendix B: Sample Permission Letter

Looks simplistic, doesn’t it? Don’t be fooled. These chapters are packed with nothing but helpful, easy to read and understand information. Even the lay-out within the chapters grabs you and keeps your focus, and it’s easy to thumb through and find answers to specific questions without necessarily having to read everything in succession. My advice is to read through it once to get the over-all picture and then go back and study it or keep it handy for things you need refreshing on. As W. Terry Whalin said, “Read this book. No, do much more than read it, you need to study it carefully.”

Marlene Bagnull said it “…is must reading for every Christian writer who hopes to one day have a book in print. David’s practical advice is presented clearly and sprinkled with humor. Highly readable and highly recommended.”

Harold Sala said, “…Whether you are a seasoned author or a novice, this book takes you through the process from start to finish. It can be the difference between success and frustration! I recommend it wholeheartedly!”

So, if you’re looking for the guide to writing a non-fiction book – or even a fictional book - Concept to Contract is the book for you!

Want to know more about the author?
Keep reading for an interview with Dave.

Linnette - When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? 
Dave - At the end of high school, as I thought about what to pursue in college, I realized that I had always enjoyed every writing assignment I had ever done in school, so I started looking toward journalism.
Linnette – Cool! Do you have a specific writing style? 
Dave - I tend to see the ironic side of life, so much of my writing is sprinkled with humor. I have always been a great admirer of comedy writers such as Robert Benchley and James Thurber. And Jim Watkins is one of my favorite contemporary Christian writers.
Linnette – You? Ironic? No way! And Jim Watkins? Gotta love Jim! :D Speaking of Christian writers, if you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor? 
Dave - Well, C.S. Lewis was the first Christian writer I ever became aware of. Rudolf Flesch got me interested in communication as an art and craft. And Sherwood Wirt, the founding editor of Decision Magazine, was an early mentor of mine, because he taught at the first Christian writers' conference I ever went to, while still in college.
Linnette – I know how special those “firsts” are. DiAnn Mills, Mark Littleton, and David Fessenden are at the top of my list! What inspired you to write Concept to Contract
Dave - It's the result of answering questions from writers for 20 years. Teachers always say there are no stupid questions, but there are some questions that are asked that don't make any sense, that require a voluminous response, or that contain false assumptions. So I decided to put together a book that lays out the full process of writing a Christian book. I tell people that Concept to Contract is everything I know about writing --- and more!
Linnette – You’re welcome! Because I know I’m one of those people who’ve bombarded you with questions. LOL You mentioned eight steps to writing a book in Concept to Contract. Can you tell us what they are and why they are important?
Dave - The eight steps are: brainstorming, research, outlining, writing the proposal, writing the first draft, revising, fine-tuning, and marketing the manuscript to a publisher.  They are important because when writers get stuck, it's usually because they have skipped or ignored one or more of these steps.  And if they complete their manuscript, but have trouble selling it to a publisher, it can often be traced to a weakness in one or more of these steps.
Linnette – Interesting. Do these steps hold true for fiction writers, too?
Dave – You got me there.  I consider myself a rank amateur in fiction. But I am sure most of what I share could be adapted to fiction — I have been told, for example, that editors and agents are now asking for proposals that are structured more like a nonfiction proposal. And every author has to do brainstorming, research, outlining, drafting, revision and so on.
Linnette - Do you feel this method is the only way to write a book? 
Dave - To my mind, it is a natural way to write a book. There may be other methods, but I'd venture to say they cover most all of these steps.
Linnette - If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book? 
Dave - Yes, I would have written it sooner. I had the basic outline and idea for years.
Linnette – Yes, but then I wouldn’t have written this awesome review and we wouldn’t be having this amazing interview. :D  What was the hardest part of writing your book? 
Dave - I think the hardest part was something I struggle with every time I write a book --- fighting the desire to say everything I want to say at once. It's like when you build a house; you have to lay the foundation before you erect the walls, and you have put the roof on before you can carpet the floors.  I can get so excited about explaining how to write a book that I can get the information out of order if I'm not careful. Then it doesn't make sense.
Linnette – Yeah. I can totally see you doing that. :D  Did you learn anything from writing your book? If so, what was it? 
Dave - It doesn't matter if this is your first book or your fiftieth: writing a book is a lot of hard work!
Linnette – Amen to that! Do you ever experience writer’s block? 
Dave - Oh, yeah. Before I learned how to write a book, I kept getting stuck because I was stumbling around, learning by trial and error. Now I get writer’s block mostly because of laziness. I just don't want to do the work. So if you would like to pray for me, ask the Lord to help me be diligent.
Linnette – LOL Will do and you can do the same for me! I’m in desperate need of heavenly intervention in this next month! But, back to you. How long does it take you to write a book?
Dave - Most of the books I've written have been stewing in me for years. But when I buckle down to write them, I can get it completed in a few months, even while working full-time.

Linnette – Like that work of fiction you have sitting in your hard drive, begging for attention? Oops! Sorry. Was I not supposed to mention that? Couldn’t resist. :D  Ahem… Anyway… Where do you get your information or ideas for your books? 
Dave - My book ideas have grown out of personal experience: my editorial work with authors led to Concept to Contract; my Sunday school teaching experience led to my book for Cook Communications, Teaching with All Your Heart. Others came from things I read: a short story about Thomas Barnardo, who rescued homeless children from the streets of London in the late 1800s, led me to do more research and write a biography about Barnardo, Father to Nobody's Children.

Linnette – Teaching with All Your Heart… I like that. Sounds like you. How many books have you written?
Dave - I have written five actual books on my own; several others have been collaborations with other authors, or the study guides for books by other authors. And of course, I've edited dozens of books.
Linnette – Because you’re so often giving to others… Love your work on A.W. Tozer’s Attributes of God, by the way! Haven’t read through it all, but I like what I’ve read so far. Which is your favorite? 
Dave - I guess I'd have to say Father to Nobody's Children; it was my first book, and it was written with an eye to bringing out the drama of a man who rescued orphans from the streets and changed their lives, both physically and spiritually.

Linnette – I read it! It’s good. Do you hear from your readers much?
Dave - Not in the early years of my first book. With the 10th anniversary reprinting of Father to Nobody's Children, and the purchase of 15,000 copies of the book by a home school distributor, I began receiving quite a lot of feedback. And with social networking, I now hear more often from readers of my later books.
Linnette – Social networking makes communication so much easier! What kinds of things do your readers say? 
Dave - Most people say they were inspired by Barnardo's story, more confident in their teaching because of Teaching with All Your Heart, and encouraged in their writing ministry by Concept to Contract. One woman called after reading Father to Nobody's Children and said it changed her life. That kind of response makes me realize that something beyond my own writing is taking place here. I feel humbled to think that God uses my poor efforts to reach someone's heart.

Linnette – Wow! Writing is an amazing ministry! Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers? 
Dave - Buy my book! :-)  Read everything you can about writing, by Christian and secular authors. Study books you admire and analyze how they are structured, how the authors lay out their arguments for each main point. Attend a Christian writers' conference. Find a good group of fellow writers who will encourage you and spur you on.
Linnette – Yes! Buy your book. I totally agree with you there! Speaking of writer’s conferences, that’s where you and I met and became fast friends. You’ve been a huge encouragement to me through the years. I can’t thank you enough. Thank you for writing Concept to Contract and thank you for taking time – out of your vacation, of all things – to answer these questions for me. If readers would like to get a hold of you, where can you be reached?
Dave – Check out my blog — fromconcepttocontract.com — or email me at dfessenden@clcpublications.com.
So, dear writers, be sure to check out Dave’s book and let me know what you think!

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Linnette R Mullin