Skip to content

Ready to WRITE–with Integrity

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

In his opening keynote address, James Scott Bell talked about how we need to be not just aware of our calling, but true to it by studying the craft and applying it by writing every day (do you sense an ongoing theme?). Anyone can be great in what they do so long as they take the time to hone their craft.

In the continuing session on writing historical fiction I attended, the instructor emphasized that not only do we need to love the story and the characters we’re writing, we need to make sure our research is impeccable—because if it isn’t, if we try to fudge it when we don’t know the facts, we not only lose the reader’s trust in our authority as writers, but it weakens the impact of the story. Which brings me to today’s letter . . .


Integrity. It takes years, decades, to build your reputation as a person of integrity. And only one wrong word or deed to ruin it. The Random House Dictionary defines integrity as:

1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
Not only are we called to have integrity in our daily lives, but we must also have it in our writing and in our professional lives. At the editor panel the first night, every editor said that they do not want anyone pitching them if the manuscript isn’t complete. Hearing that changed my plan to discuss a couple of ideas with one of the editors I’d wanted to meet with. Not only are they not complete, they’re really not more than just a few pages of synopsis. I forget if it was an agent or editor who said it, but the industry has a LONG memory. And just as in every day life, bad things are remembered a lot longer than good things.

2. the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished: to preserve the integrity of the empire.
I’ve never attended anything other than a Christian writing conference, though I was in a secular writing program for two years. I’ve been an ACFW member since 2001 and now am part of an online community of alumni and current students at SHU to continue supporting each other in our writing. In both groups, there is a sense of healthy competition along with the support we receive, knowing that there are only so many books being published and every other person writing is competing for the same slots. But I’ve heard stories about how cutthroat it is at other conferences—where not only are other conferees not supportive, but will do whatever necessary to thwart someone else. A friend shared that she attended one such conference where a workshop leader asked them to share the first lines of their novels with the person sitting beside them. No one wanted to do it because they were all so afraid someone else might steal it. Or if, in an editor meeting, someone was told the editor was looking for a certain type of story, they’d keep that information to themselves lest someone writing the same kind of book find out. I actually was faced with this exact situation at ACFW. I’d been told a certain publisher was looking for Regencies. Since I already had an appointment to meet with the editor, I was thrilled. Then another writer stopped me in the hall (after a conversation the previous night about how we were both writing Regencies) to tell me another editor mentioned to her they’re also looking for Regencies. I could have just sat there and taken the information she shared and kept my information to myself. But I immediately reciprocated and shared with her what I had learned—out of a personal desire to see my colleagues succeed as well as a professional desire to keep the writing organization “undiminished” in its reputation for a membership that is affirming and supportive.

3. a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition: the integrity of a ship’s hull.
One of my very dear friends was really struggling at this year’s conference with professional jealousy. Early in the proceedings, we took some time away from everything else and sat in the quiet room. As we sat together, I realized I was suffering from the same affliction—only I’d let mine turn into bitterness toward one particular individual who has had quite a bit of success publishing at a very young age. I’d never met this lady before, but I was more than willing to think ill about her—and maybe make a snide remark or two about her to close friends. My integrity was impaired, not in perfect condition. I realized I needed to let go of the bitterness and just be happy for my colleague . . . and then I sought her out to start getting to know her. And you know what? I’m only sorry I didn’t have more time to spend with her.

It’s so easy to let the competitive nature of the publishing industry get to us—especially if we start looking at other writers as rivals, or someone shares a story of how they got published that just seems like it was too easy compared to our own path. For people who’ve been pursuing publication for years and never seem to make any headway—or worse, have had multiple manuscripts go all the way through the process to pub board and then be rejected—it’s so easy to become bitter, to forget to focus on our individual writing journeys and only be jealous of others’ success.

Integrity is one of the most important pieces of our identity. And once we lose it, it’s nearly impossible to get it back.

  1. Wednesday, September 26, 2007 10:25 am

    Hi– random question (I’m still catching up on actual content these last couple days):

    Do you have a recommendation for the elements on a writer’s business card?

    I had a side “business” for a while that I used b.c.s for, and they were useful as call-me/get-to-know-me cards too.

    Having a different focus right now I’d like to make a different card (I print in color at home, so all this is nice, but still cost-efficient and flexible).

    Any essentials?

    ( In case it’s relevant, I figured I’d mention too that I’m a storyteller and double-function the card. Is that “acceptable”?)


  2. Wednesday, September 26, 2007 11:13 am

    Beautiful, Kaye.


  3. Wednesday, September 26, 2007 4:49 pm

    I appreciated this post, Kaye.

    It got me thinking in so many directions…


  4. Tuesday, October 30, 2007 6:16 am

    Hi, Kaye,

    I’m so glad I got to meet you at the ACFW Conference. I hope the best for your Regencies! As for the cut throat you mentioned, I’d seen it happen a lot in RWA and I’m so glad that I found ACFW. This was my first ACFW conference, but I’d attended RWA since 1996. I’ve been writing that long and still unpublished in fiction, but I wasn’t writing what God wanted me to write. I was writing for me and not Him. I made the crossover in 2006. Today is my birthday, another year gone by and still no sale. Writing is hard sometimes. We’ve got to support each other, and lift each other up. Blessings to you.



  1. #FirstDraft60 Day 37: Monday Momentum–What’s Motivating You Today? #amwriting #nanowrimo |

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: