The Wrong Focus
I started writing in 1994 when I was pregnant with my third baby. I was 22 years old with some college under my belt. I’d been a Christian less than five years, and I’d read only one book about writing before I prepared my proposal for submission to a publisher via a writer’s conference. And as my friend and I drove to Mt. Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference, do you want to know what my biggest worry was? (Drumroll, please.) My biggest worry was WHAT IF more than one publisher wanted my book!
(The truth is that I had nothing to worry about!)
Publishers, Oh My!
Like most wanna-be authors, when I first started writing I was focused on the elusive publishers. They were the ones who were going to make all my dreams come true. I attended Mt. Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference year after year after year. I had appointments with editors. I attended their workshops. I read the market guides and schooled myself on their needs. Yet it took nearly ten years before I landed a contract, and looking back I realized I’d been focused on the wrong thing: publishers. I’d set my sights on THEM, not realizing God had some work to do with ME.
First of all, I needed to grow up. I needed to grow in my knowledge of God, the Bible, and how to live and love as a Christian. I had great ideas for books, but when I first started writing I wasn’t mature enough to share an impacting spiritual message. God had work to do.
In my years of striving toward publication God led me through times of testing and times of healing. He connected me with a Bible-believing church and mature Christian friends. I started reaching out to help others, and I cared for my dying grandfather. I became a student of God’s Word and prayer. All these things changed me, matured me.
Writing Skill 101
I thought I knew how to write a book because I loved to read books. I wrote diligently for many years and received many, many rejections. But you know what? With the rejections, I learned what didn’t work. And I continued to read books on writing—and attend writer’s conferences—learning what did work.
My big breakthrough came when I was taking a class on scene writing at our local community college and I had an “ah-ha” moment. What the teacher (a former Hollywood Scriptwriter) shared about scenes changed how I wrote, and I had a book contract within a year. But I kept learning, kept trying, and my efforts paid off.
Humility and Dependence
When I first started writing I wanted to prove myself. I never would have admitted it to anyone, but I wanted to prove that a teen mom could make something of herself. Through the years of struggle I was humbled. I realized I could not do this writing thing without God’s help. Instead of counting on myself, I had to depend on Him. And that is where God wanted me to be. That’s still where He wants me to be.
Here is something I recently read in my BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) notes that struck a chord with me: “Those who teach or preach with life-changing spiritual power come into the presence of people after time in the presence of God” (lesson 3 notes).
I only have something to say when I’m in God’s Word, spending time with Him and listening to His heart. I only have words to share when I humble myself and depend on Him.
Don’t Give Up
I’m not sure where you are on the wanna-be-published journey, but I urge you not to get discouraged. Yes, it’s important to know the publishing world you want to enter, but it’s even more important to become a student of what God’s doing within you and through you.
God has a writer in mind who can impact the world . . . and He has a plan for getting you there. Trust Him, lean on Him, depend on Him, relinquish to Him. God’s approaching this writing thing with the end in mind. He knows where He’d gonna take you, and now He’s doing the work of preparing you to be the person He can trust to go there.
What about you? What has God been doing to make you the right writer?
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Mike Loomis says
Great blog, Tricia! I always take the “slow” approach when working with writers, and your counsel is right on!
Tricia Goyer says
Thank you, Mike!!
Crystal @ Serving Joyfully says
Thanks so much for sharing, Tricia! My blog has kind of taken front and center for now, but being a writer of fiction is always in the back of my mind. I love how open and encouraging you are to aspiring writers!
I have never been to a conference, but ACFW is going to be in St. Louis which is less than 4 hours away, so I’m going to start saving for next year. And, now I’m wondering about your scene-writing “a-ha” moment!
Tricia Goyer says
Oh, I’ll have to write a blog about that!
Cynthia Terherst says
Did you ever write a blog on your scene-writing “a-ha” moment?? I’d love to hear what happened! 🙂
Tricia Goyer says
I haven’t yet! I’ll have to do that!
Basically treat a novel like a collection of “movie” scenes. Don’t tell all the stuff they’d “cut out” in a movie. Just move from important part to important part.
Cynthia Terherst says
Thanks, Tricia! Great advice! Thank you so much for the links!
Andrea Cox says
Tricia, yet another wonderful article and reminder.
My journey is just beginning, although I’ve been writing for ten years, as of this past August (screenplays first, then manuscripts when I realized I could probably write those too). I’ve learned a lot from author friends like you who have given me advice and encouragement along the way. To you, and all the others, THANK YOU!!!
My expectations are this: If God wants me to make it into publication, He will open the right doors at the right time. It’s not about money, fame, glory, or how many books I get printed compared to others. It’s all about following God’s lead. Where He leads, I will follow. If he chooses to bless me beyond my wildest dreams, that will be a wonderful day, indeed.
Jill Kemerer says
Hi Tricia! This really spoke to me. I wrote my first book in ’98, submitted it, was rejected, and took years off to raise my kids. I’ve been writing full time for six years now and still am in the “aspiring” category. But all this time has been about getting closer to God. Relying on Him. Trusting Him with everything, including our finances, where we live, and, yes, the writing. I love writing, love learning, and constantly work to improve my books. And, yeah, I have down times (let’s not talk about last year!), but for the most part I’m waiting with a big heart and a smile. Because God’s got this. 🙂
Alex Marestaing says
Great post. I think placing our dreams at God’s feet is step one in the writing process. When we do that, God teaches us what kind of a writer we should become and where we should focus our efforts. By chasing agents, or publishers, or the “next big trend” in the market, we become “scatter-brained” in our thinking, and we begin to lose that focus.