Every writer has a story. Some of the behind-the-scenes events strike a gallant pose of purpose and education and inspiration, while others are mediocre in the laborious uphill climb to the city on the hill called Publishedville. If I had majored in creative writing in college and had earned a MA or PhD that elevated me to bestseller potential, or if I had written for a prominent newspaper or magazine, or if I had been a journalist during the Gulf War, then I could see a prestigious journey toward novel publication. But that’s not how God mapped my journey.
I wrote my first book in second grade. The story was a western, and every chapter ended with the hero riding off in the west. Are you surprised? The story filled a Big Chief writing pad, and all my little friends assured me it would be a success. I also wrote scads of poetry that I hid. Actually the older I became, the more I hid my stories and poetry.
Many years later, I still struggled with wanting to write a book, but I didn’t have the self-confidence (guts) to simply begin. I’d sensed a calling for years, and even realized that God wanted me to write fiction. The urging from God was strong, but I feared every aspect of the writing process. I did nothing except dream about writing and conjure up stories in my head and make the infamous claim of “someday I’m going to write a book.” How sad it is to hold onto a dream, know it is from God, and yet have too many fears and doubts to take a leap of faith.
One day, my husband said, “Stop telling me that someday you’re going to write a book. Just do it! Quit your job and see what you can do. I give you one year.” I’ve never been one who could turn my back on a challenge. My personality defies anyone who tells me I can’t do something. So I took him up on his dare and began gathering the tools needed to learn the art of writing. This was my new full-time job. I began reading the books about the craft, underlining those things that I wanted to emulate and remember. I read novels by authors I admired and respected in the genre in which I wanted to write. I joined writing groups and participated in discussions and critiques, and I attended writing conferences. I learned about computers, and I wrote every day—whether I felt like it or not. I prayed for guidance, wisdom, and to overcome my fears. Note the number of “I’s” in this list. That’s because I had to be the one to do the work with an understanding that God would work through me. I had to be the one willing to pay the price, and I would be the one who, through the help of God, would reach publication.
Determination is a required trait for a successful writer.
In the first year, I sold magazine articles, short stories, and devotions while working on my first novel: a historical romance. My first published piece was sold to Mature Living about my dad’s pet robin in the hills of Kentucky during the depression. Two years after the “challenge,” the historical novel was released by Barbour Publishing for their Heartsong Presents line. And I didn’t go back to my old job.
I continued to write contemporary and suspense fiction for Barbour for a number of years. Along the way a nonfiction book about the Lost Boys of Sudan graced the retailers’ shelves, as well as other full-length novels. Now I’m writing suspense for one publishing house and historical novels for another. My mind is always full of story ideas.
At times, I attempt to see a pattern of publication, something I could pass on to new writers. But my rocky climb isn’t a step-by-step career ladder. Instead, it’s a constant striving to improve skills and to pass on what I learn to other writers. For those beginning their writing ministry—and it is a ministry—I recommend being diligent and approaching the writing process as a job. The Bible says to work as though working for the Lord, and that means giving your best. Above all, I do believe I’ve been blessed with publication because of a deep-rooted belief that I should help others improve their skills. Whatever I discover or learn mean nothing to me unless I pass on the information–a pay-it-forward mindset.
This is what I want to leave you. All the stories have been written. It’s up to the writer to develop the craft and shape the story into something beautiful and lasting. On your journey, remember how you felt when you were struggling and needed answers and guidance. Encourage others and understand it’s all about glorifying God with our gifts and talents.