Writing Stories of Faith…Mingled With Murder And Mayhem

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Christian fiction and murder mysteries? Really?

On the surface the two don’t seem to go together. After all, how can a book where murders, mayhem, and bad guys abound promote Christian values? Can a writer of suspense novels make a difference in a life? Surely not, you say. It might be good entertainment but that’s where it ends. Not so, I say.

Jesus used stories to teach a point—He called them parables. A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly message! Don’t you just love that definition? I do! Because that means I write parables–how cool is that?

People love stories. Stories can touch our hearts, stir our imagination, and teach us. Stories allow us to see the truth without the actual experience. Stories give us the opportunity to learn, change, and grow without all the growing pains. Didn’t GONE WITH THE WIND teach us that being selfish and self-centered can ruin our life? Didn’t THE FIRM teach us that if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is?

As a writer of Christian fiction, I have two goals with every story I write.

The first and most important goal of any novelist should be to create an entertaining story that readers will love. Writers aren’t there to pontificate their own point of view, to preach, teach or nag. A novelist’s job is to entertain. It’s as simple as that!

The second goal is more subtle but just as important as the first. It is to further God’s Kingdom in some way. In other words an earthly story with a heavenly message!

How this happens varies from book to book depending on the specific story. It may be as simple as portraying Christian characters in a positive light in a world where so much of popular culture denigrates Christianity. Other  times my Christian characters increase their own failth because of the circumstances in the book. Other times I show characters living out their faith in the face of difficult situations. And since I write suspense and mysteries, my characters face a lot of those.

Christian fiction has undergone a revolution.

It’s not your mother’s Christian fiction!

Christian fiction has grown up over the past decade. No longer is it sweet simple stories, but rather Christian fiction has become an umbrella term for many different genres. There’s a book out there for almost any taste you have–romance, suspense, mystery, horror, supernatural, science-fiction, or fantasy.  You name it, and there’s probably a Christian writer out there writing it. If not, you might be the one to write the next big thing!

Not sure how to find the type of books you love to read? ACFW’s Fiction Finder is a great place to start and it’s FREE! Visit  http://www.fictionfinder.com/

No matter what you love to read, you should give Christian fiction a chance.

If stories were good enough for Jesus, then they’re good enough for me!

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GRADUATION DAY! Four Steps to Publication

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Christian author, Randy Ingermanson likens fiction writing to high school. He talks about freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior writers and then there’s graduation day–becoming a published author!

How does a writer reach that elusive  graduation day? It takes time and hard work whether we’re talking about high school or publishing!  But it’s a journey to be enjoyed. For many people high school memories are some of their best memories. (That may not be true for some of us bookworms!)

Just as writing a story is a process, becoming a writer is a process. A process that CAN be rushed, but shouldn’t be. If you rush the process, you’re going to miss out on some of the journey. And the journey is as important as graduation day.

There are things to be learned during the journey. Don’t want to deal with rejections? But they make you stronger when you get those bad reviews. Got writer’s block? That’s OK, because you’ve learned to trust the process. The journey will make you a stronger, better writer.

For me, it was a long journey to graduation day—too long. I admit I made the journey longer than it had to be, but I learned a lot along the way. Here are a few things I’ve learned that may make your journey shorter.

  1. Learn the craft. I present a workshop where I talk about the ABCs of Being a Writer. A is for Art. B is for Business. C is for CraftAll three are important ingredients for a successful career as a writer.
  2. Be teachable.  For me, I think this is the number one rule of being a writer. If you aren’t      willing to learn from others, it’s going to take a long time to graduate.
  3. Be a part of a critique group. As you learn to recognize weak writing in others, it will strengthen your own writing.
  4. Don’t get stuck on a manuscript. Many unpublished writers write their first story and refuse to move on to the next story. Instead they write and rewrite and rewrite the same story. But one book does not a career make. Your writing will get better with each finished manuscript.

My first story had so many No-Nos that made it (almost) unredeemable—started with a dream—lots of back story—lots of flashbacks—head hopping—not to mention the always popular amnesia!

As with all things, quality takes time.

In this new electronic age, it’s very easy to publish a book, but I would caution you to reflect on your writing skills. Be honest about what grade you’re in and make a commitment to finish the journey. So that when graduation day comes, no matter what route you take, you can hold your head up and know you earned that diploma…I mean book with your name on it!

Your turn–what’s the best advice you have for a prepublished writer?