Friday, August 24, 2012

Can You Write for God and Still Write for the Market?

I don't know about you, but I've pondered this question before. I've wondered if my novel, a story and characters close to my heart is suitable for what's selling now. Or if choosing to write a story based solely on whether or not it's sellable is still glorifying God.

In my over 15 years of writing experience, I've learned a lot. (By the way, feel free to leave a comment on how YOUNG I look for having written this many years :D) Every story I've written has helped to find an answer to this question.

Can you write for God and still write for the market? Here are some angles I've had to consider along the way:

Not All Stories are Meant to Sell

I wrote a story several years back that was...special. It was close to my heart because of trials I was going through in my personal life. It was therapeutic for me to write it. Anyway, I took the next steps of going about getting it published. Queries and all. I also pitched it at conference. To an editor. Eek! She paged through the first scene, said it was off to a great start, gave me some pointers, and chatted with me. Then she said something like, "This story is really close to your heart, isn't it?" She could see it on my face, hear it in the way I spoke about this project. It was a passion.

But you know what? She didn't request the story. And I pitched it to other agents. They didn't request the story. And I queried it with no bites. NO ONE wanted this story. Maybe because it wasn't ready, maybe because of the content, I don't know. And that's okay. I don't really believe this story, as it was, was meant to sell. It was a story God used to help me get through a tough time and because of that, it was completely worth writing.

Sometimes You Have to Go With Your Heart (no matter WHAT happens)

Ready for another story? Okay, so when I FIRST started writing Christian fiction (super quick after I became a Christian), I got a story idea. It was a God thing for sure. He gave me this idea and it made me completely uncomfortable. I can't write a story like this! It was about a woman coming back to Christ after several terrible tragedies in her life. How in the world would I even know about that when I'd just become a Christian myself and had no experience? Besides, no one would want to read a story like this anyway.

So I decided not to write the story.

I went along, wrote another story I wanted to write. And another story. Something that made me comfortable. But God wouldn't leave me alone. I gave in and finally wrote the story He'd given me. It made me cry, and moved me. I had great feedback on it.

Sure, it wasn't my niche, but I HAD to write it. I believe it could make a great impact in others lives it ever sells. And I'm fine leaving that up to God, because I (finally) wrote the story I was meant to.

Don't Forget to Consider the Market

You want another story? Okay, twist my arm. After all these other stories I'd written, I wanted to write something fun. Something fresh. Something that current readers would love! Which meant trying to write for the market. That was my main goal with the last story I wrote.

I did get a spiritual thread in there, though that wasn't my first focus. The cool thing is that the story ended up ministering to me. And if it ministered to me, it might minister to others. I wrote it specifically for the market and I must have done something right because it finaled in the Genesis. However, I really feel like God was in it as well, and that a message came through.

What have I learned from all this? God is in everything. He may give you stories just for yourself, a kind of therapy. He may give you stories you never thought you'd want to write. But His hand is in it all.

I believe in writing stories that are on your heart. They're important for a reason, even if we may not know that reason right away.

I believe in following market trends. These are the people you're trying to reach.

Can the two go hand-in-hand? In my opinion yes. Not ALL stories are meant to be published. But the rest? When feeling led to write, you can still follow genre guidelines and tweak the plot to fit with the current market. You can still deliver a message and you can, through your voice, still show your passion and heart for the story while appealing to current readers.

How do you feel? Have you ever written a God-inspired story you weren't sure would fit into the current market? Do you believe you can write what's on you heart and write for the market at the same time?


Cindy is a Colorado native, living near the mountains with her husband and three beautiful daughters. She writes contemporary Christian romance, seeking to enrich lives with her stories of faith, love, and a touch of humor.

To learn more about Cindy, visit her at her personal blog,


Kathy Bosman said...

Thanks Cindy. It was lovely to hear how God spoke to you while you wrote your books, and that they weren't meant to be written to get published. I think I've had several of those myself - they were part of the journey I was going through at the time.
At the moment, I'm writing sweet contemporary with no spiritual message, but I'm trusting God to speak to people even through that. There are many people that won't pick up a Christian book, but they can be touched by the subtle thread or even spirit behind my mainstream book.
One book at a time - I know He will lead me.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

I love that you write no matter what. That speaks of your love of writing!!! I wrote a medieval because that was what I wanted to do. I knew it would never sell, but it was the story of my heart. Maybe someday it will be sellable. :)

Angela said...

Great post...very encouraging!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Kathleen, thanks for your comment. You put it so well, and it makes me happy to hear you're trusting in God to lead you book by book and speak through your words. Thanks for stopping by!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Sherrinda, hi! LOVE hearing that people are writing the books on their hearts. Writing what we love is what keeps the passion going!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Hi Angela, so glad the post was an encouragement. Have a blessed weekend!

Julia M. Reffner said...

I love your heart, Cindy. We are so blessed to have you as part of the Alley Cats! As you guys know I wrote my cult escape story because it WAS on my heart. Come to find a church we are becoming involved with has an Mormons. I had been praying whether God wanted me to outreach.

Unknown said...

I absolutely believe you can do both. At the same time. :) I don't think it's wise to write solely to the market--market trends change so fast. And yet, there's a reason trends are what they are, and it'd be silly to just flat-out ignore the market. As for heart stories, they're wonderful, but like you said, not always salable. I think the key is finding where our passion meets people ... that's the sweet spot. An awesome, marketable story that connects my heart to readers...doable. But not necessarily easy. :)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Julia, I love hearing about things like this, and I LOVE when people write the stories on their hearts. There's always a reason for the need to write those stories.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Melissa, I like the way you put that! "Where our passion meets people." You should do a post. That IS the sweet spot, and what we should be aiming for.

Unknown said...

Amen. I think you can do both with integrity and knowing that when you're done, you can look Christ in the face and know He is not ashamed.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Well put, Linda. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Jeanne T said...

So, did you start writing when you were ten? :)

Seriously, though, I appreciate this post, Cindy, and how you shared the different kinds of stories God has given you to write--directly or indirectly. I believe we can write our hearts and write something salable in the market, it just takes work.

The story I'm working on is the first one I've ever been brave enough to attempt. It's definitely one God gave me, so it's up to Him what He decides to do with it. It's also one that is close to my heart.

Thanks for the food for thought, and for your patience with my long-windedness this morning.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Aw, Jeanne! Did I start writing when I was ten? VERY close :) Thanks for indulging me this morning!

I love that you're writing your God given story, and that you're putting your trust in Him. I can't wait to see the amazing things He does with it!

Have a super weekend!

Lindsay Harrel said...

If I wrote solely for the market right now, guess I'd be writing Amish! ;) But that's not me. And that's okay.

I've only written one book. I'm pitching it at ACFW. I'm nervous, but I feel confident that I've done my best with this story so far, and I want to see if there are any bites. If not, I'm putting it aside and moving on to the next one, which I'm really excited about (and am finally starting to write tomorrow!!). I've finally come to the place where I'm okay if this first book doesn't sell. I always thought I'd be devastated to work so long on a book and so hard, and it not sell. But every book we write is a stepping stone in our writing journey, and as long as we're improving with each one, than nothing is wasted.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Cindy,

I'm glad lots of others struggle with this issue, too!

I always seem to be behind the trends or out of sync with what's selling. But there must be a reason for it, and like Lindsay said above, as long as you've learned something in writing a book, it's never wasted. (At this rate, I'll have 20 books done before I ever sell! LOL.)

Thanks for the encouragement!


Cindy R. Wilson said...

Lindsay, I love your outlook on this! And yay for starting a new book soon. That's great to keep moving forward.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Hi Sue, being able to learn something from each book you've written is great. It shows that we're able to grow and become better and better at our passion. Thanks for stopping by!

Lisa M Buske said...

I have always enjoyed the art of writing yet after my sister's kidnapping it became a release and necesity. Twelve years into the journey of being the siter to one of America's missing children, I drafter my first manuscript. My first book is a passion and I feel God's leading with each step. I announced its release for this coming April with a joy and fear I hadn't experienced before. God called me to write and I am blessed to know He called me to write my passion. I don't write for the market, I write for Him. It is a blessing when the two meet though.

Your blog encouraged and inspired me today, the message I needed to hear. Thank you!

Lisa M Buske