Not Just a Storyteller

I am, by trade, a storyteller. I am a novelist, and I LOVE to tell stories. Some of them might make you laugh, some of them might make you cry, and all of them (I hope) entertain you.

You might not know this, but part of my job as a novelist is to manipulate you. I am supposed to massage your emotions into loving my characters and settings so much that you laugh with them, cry with them, and buy book two or book three and become a lifelong fan of them.

From writing to speaking

As an author, I am often invited to speak at events. Usually, people want to hear my story. They want to hear about the writing life, the process of writing novels, and how I create characters. They want a glimpse into the life of a novelist, curious to see if it is as glamorous as the movies indicate.

Spoiler: it’s not. Not unless getting up hours before my kids just to squeeze in some quiet writing time is glamorous.

The Call of a Christian Storyteller

As a writer and a speaker, I have to continually remind myself that the story entrusted to me, the story that I have been called to steward well, is not the story you find within the pages of one of my books. It’s not my personal story about my life as a writer. As a believer, I am to use my talents to tell God’s story.

My words are not powerful enough to change your life. My words might amuse you. They might inform you on some topic of interest or even enlighten you to consider a new idea, but only the Word of God has the power to transform you. I’m just the storyteller called by God to steward the greatest story ever written—His.

Whose story are you telling?

God’s Story

That means that even as a novelist who spends the majority of my time creating fictional worlds and characters, I must be a serious student of God’s Word. I must train myself to handle, interrupt, and teach—yes, teach—the Word of God responsibly. I will be accountable to the Lord for the way I have represented Him in my books and for the way I have portrayed Him during a presentation. That is a weighty and sobering truth.

The most important message I can communicate as a speaker or as a writer is that there is Someone much greater than me desirous of your attention. This Someone wrote an entire book to communicate His great love for his people and the lengths to which He will go to redeem them. This Someone is holy enough to demand all who enter his presence be holy, and then He makes it possible for sinners like you and me to put on the holiness of Christ by faith. This is the story that can change your life for all eternity. The words penned by His Spirit are the ones powerful enough to transform a heart of stone into a heart of flesh.

I am just the storyteller, a novelist with a greater message. I am a student of the Word of God, and I take the responsibility of representing God accurately seriously.


*image by Ben White. Used with permission. Unsplash.com

For Writers: Post Publication

I am traditionally published. For some, that is the dream. It was my dream for a variety of reasons. I felt quite certain that I was not objective enough to know when my manuscript was ready, and I feared I might prematurely hit the indie-publish button. On some unspoken level, I also thought that if a publishing company picked me up, they would do all the post publishing heavy lifting to market my book.

Enter reality.

Both traditional publishers I work with are wonderful. They are personal, they work hard, and they answer every email every single time. But I’ve learned that I still have a significant amount of post publishing work to do to sell my books – just like an indie author. Unless you are a huge name with a huge publisher, this will likely be your experience as well.

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Small traditional publishers do not have the budget to launch your book with a huge splash, so authors must suit up and jump into the pool.

I’ve already launched two novels and one non-fiction book, and I am just starting to learn what it means to launch well. I had NO IDEA what I was doing. I thought that if I released the book to the public, then things would happen organically.

I am a huge believer in leaving my career in the hands of God and resisting the urge to go crazy on self-promotion. But I am also a huge believer in doing all things to the best of my ability and using my talents to glorify the Lord. It is not enough to simply write a message I believe the world needs to hear. I also need to let the world know where to find that message.

How does an author promote the message?

It took me a long time to learn that I am not promoting ME; I’m promoting the MESSAGE.

My next two novels release December 2018 (Mistletoe Melody) and February 2019 (Fatal Homecoming). They have detailed launch plans. I plan to launch them to the best of my ability and let the Lord do what He desires with my efforts.

You’ll notice if you stick around, that my blog posts during launch time will focus on the themes of those novels. I’ll host guest writers sharing about the prominent themes in those novels, and I will be a guest on various social media sites speaking about the themes of those books. It’s far easier to promote a theme or a message that I believe will bless others than it is to promote myself.

I’ve also found several helpful websites and podcasts, and I’m happy to share them with you.

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Misty Beller, The Ambitious Author – I’ve just found this blog, and it has already proven helpful! Traditional or Indie, her tips are great

Novel Marketing – This has been THE MOST HELPFUL podcast I’ve ever listened to regarding marketing books. Don’t have time to listen to podcasts, you say? Listen while you drive, run, walk, do the dishes, etc. Ditch the music and learn while you multi-task. I found the following two links on the Novel Marketing podcast.

Chris Fox Writers – If you sign up for his newsletter you will receive a copy of How to Write 5000 words an hour for FREE.

James Scott Bell Blog – I loved his teaching on how to write short stories and use them to market your novels. FYU: The short story I plan to GIVE AWAY this November to my newsletter subscribers is the result of this teaching.

Positive writer –  another place filled with tips for platform building when you have a $0 budget.

Let’s Share

What about you? What are your best resources? Let’s share them and help each other!

Can a Writer Over Plan?

Writing coach Brian Henry once said that it takes three things to publish a book traditionally.

  1. A well-written manuscript.
  2. Perseverance.
  3. Dumb luck.

And you only need two out of three to succeed.

The only two items on that list that an author can control are numbers one and two. So how do you craft that stellar manuscript?

Many people look for the solution in worksheets, how-to books, and writers’ manuals. These are great things. I use many and have benefitted from the instruction of more experienced and successful authors. But, as I procrastinate starting my fourth novel, I can’t help but wonder if it is possible to over plan and if all those charts and worksheets can morph into a hindrance instead of help?

A Writer has Options

I am a firm believer in the fact that there is more than one way to write a book. There are probably as many ways to write a novel as there are writers, and the way that is right is the way that works for you.

I happen to blend a few methods, and I am a planner. The more books I write, the more detailed I plan. For me, plotting results in a cleaner first draft that requires fewer edits later.

But I had to question my motive when I downloaded a guide over 100 pages long on developing characters when I already had copious notes on said characters. It turns out that I had begun using charts and planning to avoid the hard work of writing that first draft.

You may think it gets easier with every published book, but for me, the reality is that the first draft is agony NO MATTER WHAT. It requires hours and hours of butt-in-chair writing that cannot be avoided by filling in the blanks on a chart.

NaNoWriMo

The right method to write is the method that works for you. But whatever you do, don’t use planning as a way to avoid writing. You eventually have to get the words on the page, and there is no better time than NaNoWriMo!

National Novel Writing Month begins November 1st. It might be the motivation you need to jump over the hurdle of planning and get that story on paper. Hop on over the website and check it out. If you sign up, let me know! Maybe we can cheer on one another.

 

Fear: Its role in the writer’s life

Before I start, I want to address my non-writing readers. You will want to read to the end of this post and learn how you can win a $20 Amazon gift card from me!

Now, to those who write, want to write, are afraid to write, or are just curious about the mind of a writer…most of us battle fear. But what exactly do writers fear? Are all fears the same? How can we overcome fear and succeed?

First, there are different kinds of fear.

Fear of failure

Fear of Failure Questions:

  • What if I try my very best and it still isn’t good enough?
  • What if I pour myself into this dream and I never publish more than a blog post?
  • What if the stack of rejection letters don’t pave the road to traditional contracts but are, in fact, just rejections upon rejections that declare I am not good enough?

The Fear of Failure Lie:

  • If I never try—if I never put myself out there—I’ll not fail.

Fear of Failure Truth:

  • If you never try, you’ve already failed.

Fear of success

Fear of Success Questions:

  • If I do my best, battle the fear of failure, actually sell a book, will anyone read it?
  • If they do read it, what if the reviews are bad?
  • Can I handle criticism of my work?
  • Can I handle not being liked?

Fear of Success Lies:

  • I can protect myself from hurt by closing myself off from others.
  • I can control all aspects of life.

Fear of Success Truth:

  • Putting yourself out there is always a risk, but sharing your work helps you become a better writer.
  • Not all feedback is negative. Weed through it, apply the truth, and discard the rest.
  • If you’re looking for praise and adoration, you’re in the wrong career/hobby. Everyone has an opinion and the popularity of social media has made it easier to share those opinions.
  • Learn to differentiate between a criticism of your writing and a criticism of you. Comments are often not as personal as we make them.

Fear of self promotion

Fear of Self Promotion Questions:

  • How do I get the word out about my book without sounding prideful?
  • How do I spread the news beyond a repeated request for everyone who knows me to: Buy my book! Because that gets old. Quickly.
  • How do I, as a believer in the Lord, a person committed to the pursuit of making less of me and more of God, do something as self-promoting as talk about me? My book? My work? My yada-yada-yada?

Fear of Self Promoting Lies:

  • A grass-roots word-of-mouth publicity plan is enough.
  • Promoting my book and promoting me are the same thing.

Fear of Self Promoting Truths:

  • Word of mouth is GREAT. But sometimes, I have to speak first.
  • If I don’t care how my book is received, why will anyone else?
  • I am NOT promoting me. I am promoting a product or message that I believe can help/encourage/instruct someone else and ultimately draw them closer to the Lord.

One core fear

All the above sub-fears share one core fear: Fear of man. What will people think of me, my work, my message? But I am not called to fear man. I am called to fear God.

Do I fear the Lord?

The bigger question is: Do I fear the Lord? Because if I do, than I know my life isn’t about me. It’s about Him. The truth is, I will get some things wrong. I won’t always say it right, write it right, or be right. But God hasn’t called me to perfection. He has called me to repentance and obedience. He has called me to develop and use my gifts for His glory.

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I’ve battled all three of these fears in the weeks leading up to this Friday. This Friday, I am celebrating the release of Glorious Surrender. Getting to this point has forced me to surrender even more to the Lord.

  • I’ve surrendered my privacy by sharing some deeply personal illustrations with the desire that my experience will point you to the answers found only in Christ.
  • I’ve surrendered my writing preferences, because in many ways, fiction feels so much safer. This book is real. It’s raw. Sharing it has put me into an uncomfortable and vulnerable position. But if being in this spot helps you in your walk with the Lord, it is worth it. Because that’s what matters. More than comfort, more than preference, I want to see you deepening your faith and seeking the Lord.

Come on back Friday, Nov 4th to this blog and celebrate a social media book launch party! I will be hosting in three places: my Facebook writer page, twitter, and on my blog. Visit any of those places and comment about surrender between 10:00am and 9:00pm EST for your chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card. See full contest rules here