Why Write Nonfiction Instead of Fiction? by Terry Whalin

Bok Proposals that SellQuestion: Everyone says it is easier for an unpublished writer to break in with nonfiction vs. fiction? Is it only easier to break in with nonfiction if you have speaking engagements that will result in sales? I’ve always thought, “Who would buy my nonfiction? I’m a nobody without a degree, without a famous husband or friends and without an enthralling life.” But everyone says it’s easier to break in with nonfiction so I thought they meant that even if I’m a nobody, if I can speak to a “felt need” I can sell books. read more

More from Cec Murphey






Welcome back for Part II of this interview.


SC: Cec, I remember reading about the dreadful fire that swept through your house a few years ago. How had God prepared you for this? Has this experience, or any other crisis in your life, influenced your writing?


CM: In 2007, fire destroyed our house and our son-in-law died before he could get out. As I waited for the fire trucks, the first words that tumbled out of my mouth were, “Who am I to think that I should be immune?” And I was at peace.

Within an hour, my best friend arrived and hugged me. “God has been preparing me for this,” I said. Again, those weren’t words I’d pondered; they came spontaneously. God had prepared me.

For example, one time in Kenya, I was beaten by a group of young men, who tried to kill me. Another time, armed robbers broke into our isolated house. God delivered me both times. More than ever before, I became aware of God’s faithfulness to comfort and to encourage.

When I face hardships, here’s what I say: “I serve a God of presence and not a God of protection.” God is with me always. Sometimes we walk through storms and tragedies, but the Lord is at our side.


SC: I know you are a highly prolific writer. Do you stick to one book or subject at a time? Or do you work on several different projects?

CM: That’s not easy to answer. When I’m writing for others, I send them a partial manuscript for their corrections or changes. While I wait, I work on something else.

Currently, I’m at work on my own projects and I usually stay with one until I finish a full draft. Once I complete the draft, I leave it, work on something else, and return later to polish it.

By then, I’ve had new thoughts and revise the manuscript at least once more before I do what I call my final polish.

I want to add that I work quickly and I seem to have no problems switching from one project to another.
SC: Do you write magazine articles today, or do you only do book-length manuscripts?
CM: These days, I write articles only by request.

There are two reasons. First, I like writing books because I can expand my thoughts and don’t have to stop at 800 or 1,200 words. Second, I believe articles are great training opportunities for newer writers. The magazine market is shrinking and we established writers need to get out of the way to make room for emerging writers.
SC: Apart from your heavy writing schedule, you teach at writing conferences, run mentoring classes, and often speak at churches or other venues. How do you prevent yourself from burning out?
CM: I have an enormous amount of energy; I’m highly self-disciplined; and I’m fast at everything I do. Those are three things that keep me going. A fourth would be that I truly love what I do. People give me money for having fun!

I try to be away from home no more than one week a month. When away, I like to combine it with a writers conference, preaching at a church, and speaking at Celebrate Recovery meetings, and any other groups who invite me.

I’m fairly extroverted so I think of it this way. If I stay at my desk and work hard for three weeks, God rewards me and lets me interact with people.

One more thing: When I finish a writing project, I reward myself with half a day to read, watch TV, play in the garden, go to lunch with a friend—or a combination.
SC: What are you working on at present?

CM: I’ve barely completed a manuscript that will come out this fall called Making Sense When Life Doesn’t. I did a book on male sexual abuse that came out last year called When a Man You Love Was Abused. I sent a proposal for a second book with the title, Not Quite Healed. The editor likes it and I hope to receive a contract soon. I’m already researching and outlining that book.

I write gift books for Harvest House Publishers. Three are in print; two more will be out within the next year. Last week I proposed one (as yet untitled) on the secrets of long-term marriage (Shirley and I have been married 56 years), and another on the stages of marriage.
SC: How do you relax? Do you have any non-writing interests? I know you do a lot of running, for example. Do you think about your writing when you run?


CM: I’m a confirmed runner. I’m on the street between 4:30 and 5:00 every morning and run 30 miles a week. I love running in the dark. There are few distractions and I have a strong sense of God’s presence.

Unless I’m struggling with something specific in my writing, I don’t think about my projects. For me, the unconscious part of my mind and heart work so that when I sit before my computer, new thoughts come to me or I instantly know a better way to write a paragraph.

I usually leave my computer around 4:00 in the afternoon and play in the yard. I’m an avid gardener, have what they call a green thumb, and I spend about an hour a day pulling weeds and planting flowers.

I’m a fast, avid reader and finish at least one book a week.

I spend the evening with Shirley. This is our time together and I rarely allow anything to interrupt me after 6:00 in the evening.


SC: One last question. You obviously don’t want to be inundated with emails. What is the best way readers can get in contact with you?

CM: The best way is to go to my Website: www.cecilmurphey.com. I read every email. If people care enough to contact me, I want to respond to them.

I also have two blogs that I update twice weekly:

www.menshatteringthesilence.blogspot.com—a blog about male sexual abuse.

www.cecmurpheyswritertowriter.blogspot.com— a blog to help writers learn the craft.
SM: Cec, thank you again for being prepared to give of your time in this way. Thank you for all you do to encourage Christian writers. The Lord bless you in all your endeavours.



Award-winning writer Cecil (Cec) Murphey is the author or co-author of more than 120 books, including the NY Times bestseller 90 Minutes in Heaven (with Don Piper) and Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (with Dr. Ben Carson).

Recent publications include Getting to Heaven: Departing Instructions for Your Life Now (2011); When a Man You Love Was Abused and Knowing God, Knowing Myself, both 2010 releases. He is also the author of When God Turned off the Lights, When Someone You Love Has Cancer, and Christmas Miracles, all 2009 releases.



Meet Cecil Murphey

FCWC Cec Award-winning writer Cecil (Cec) Murphey is the author or co-author of over 120 books, including the NY Times bestseller 90 Minutes in Heaven(with Don Piper) and Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (with Dr. Ben Carson).Recent publications include Getting to Heaven: Departing Instructions for Your Life Now (2011); When a Man You Love Was Abused and Knowing God, Knowing Myself, both 2010 releases. He is also the author of When God Turned off the Lights, When Someone You Love Has Cancer, and Christmas Miracles, all 2009 releases.

SC: Cec, welcome to my blog to encourage writers. Thank you so much for giving up your time to answer these questions.

CM: Shirley, it’s nice to connect with you again, even if it’s via the Internet instead of in person.
SC: I’m always grateful for the Internet. I have made so many contacts as a result. So tell me, Cec, how did you start out as a writer?

CM: I started in 1971, a year after I graduated from seminary. The late Charlie Shed offered a 10-week course on how to write for publication. I took the course and he felt I had talent.

I wrote only articles for at least three years. It was excellent preparation before I tried to write books. I learned how to start and finish a piece and how to keep the middle moving. Articles don’t pay much, but they provide excellent training.

SC: What is the toughest test you face as a writer?

CM: My toughest test is to keep writing the next sentence, because I want to hit the delete key. I constantly think, This is garbage and everybody will know it.

Several times my wife, Shirley, has said, “Because you think about it all the time, you assume everyone knows it. But they haven’t read it the way you write it.”

SC: Can you share with us three things you wish you’d known when you started out?

CM: 1. I wish I had been able to accept rejections objectively. Like any serious author, I throw myself into everything I write. It hurt deeply when I received rejections. (One day I received seven in the same mail delivery.) In time, I realized that rejections are part of the job description.

       2. I wish I had realized there is no place to stop improving. I assumed that once I became a good, well-published writer I could relax. I work harder at the craft now than I did in my early days.

       3. I wish I had not compared myself with other writers. When I did, they always seemed better or more successful than I was.

SC: What advice would you give an aspiring author?

CM: First, learn the craft. I can’t say that strongly enough or often enough.

Second, don’t try to be like other writers. Don’t imitate them. I see so much fiction that reads as if they all had the same ghost writer.

Each of us has a unique voice and to imitate someone else says to God, “You didn’t make me good enough.”

When people read me, they may not like my style or topic, but no one ever tells me that I write like someone else.

SC: Before you began your full-time writing career, you served as a pastor and a missionary. How did those experiences influence you as a writer?

CM: Those past experiences shaped my life and I draw on them constantly to illustrate lessons I’ve learned. Everything that happens to a writer becomes raw material for our reflection and eventually our writing.

I often say of my ministry in Kenya and of my pastoral work, “They brought out the best in me; they brought out the worst in me. But in the process, I learned to lean more fully on God.”

SC: You have helped a number of well-known celebrities to write about their experiences. Could you mention a couple?

CM: I can narrow it down to two, and not because they are the most successful, but the relationship was deeper.

First was Ben Carson for whom I wrote Gifted Hands in 1990 and a year later, Think Big. Both books are still in print with combined sales of about 6 million copies in English.

We’re now in our second generation of readers. I smile when a middle-aged woman says to me, “I read your book when I was in high school and now my son is reading it.”

The other is Don Piper, one of the nicest people with whom I’ve worked. 90 Minutes in Heaven has sold about 5 million copies in English. Besides making money for both of us, that book (and three that followed) have brought me name recognition and provided many unexpected writing opportunities. I’m now able to write more of my own books on issues about which I’m passionate.

SC: For many years you have given back to emerging writers. I speak from personal experience. Can you give us the background to this?

CM: About a year after I began to sell my writing, I asked two professional writers—whom I knew well—for help. Both declined and I was disappointed, even though I understood how busy they were. As a result of their unwillingness to help, I made a double commitment to God. I promised God I wouldn’t stop learning the craft and that I would do whatever I could to help other writers.

I’ve honored my promise and God has blessed me financially. All my royalties now go into a non-profit account to provide scholarships for emerging writers. I feel so grateful to have a small part in the career of other authors.

This interview continues here.

You can also visit Cec at his Website:

He also has two blogs that he updates twice weekly:
www.menshatteringthesilence.blogspot.com—a blog about male sexual abuse.
www.cecmurpheyswritertowriter.blogspot.com— a blog to help writers learn the craft.