by Tamera Alexander
When I became a member of American Christian Fiction Writers in 2001 (or actually, American Christian Romance Writers back then), I joined this fabulous organization knowing little more than that I loved story and I wanted to learn how to write.
Since then, God has brought many incredibly gifted people into my life who have graciously helped me learn to do just that. And I’m still learning. Without ACFW and the relationships I’ve made here, I truly don’t think I’d be published today. That said, some of the worst writing advice I ever received came from a very well intentioned person who instructed me at the outset of my writing journey, “Don’t write historicals! They’re not selling. Write contemporaries. And don’t aim for one of the ‘big’ Christian publishing houses. Start small instead, then work your way up.”
As my parents had patterned for me, I took that counsel and weighed it. I sought Christ’s guidance, sought advice from other writers, sifted the wheat from the chaff, as they say, and ultimately decided to do as I sensed God leading. I targeted one of the ‘big’ Christian publishing houses. Namely…Bethany House. Which, after reviewing my work, they promptly rejected it. Which then made me wonder… Had I done the wrong thing in targeting them? And in writing a historical? Had that person been right after all?
Then I remembered the sense of certainty of God’s leading and determination kicked in, and I tried again. Over the next two years, I wrote a second novel-and Bethany House took that one! Along with eight more and counting. Now…
Was there anything implicitly wrong with that person’s well-intentioned advice? Not at all. The market was soft on historicals at the time. And Bethany House did end up turning me down at first. The problem was…
While the advice was practical, perhaps even wise to some extent, it wasn’t what I believed God was leading me to do. And that’s key. Always do as God leads you in your writing. Commit your aspirations to the Lord, seek his wise counsel-and yes, friends, as well. Then sift, sift, sift, listening closely for where He’s leading, then pursue that dream with everything you’ve got! Because you can’t outdream God.
Does that mean his plans will always coincide with ours? Ha! Not hardly. But his plans for your life (and mine) are always better than anything you or I could come up with on our own-as my very plain and practical heroine, Eleanor Braddock, learns in my upcoming release A Beauty So Rare.
And that “worst advice?” It was actually good, in the end. Because it made me question whether I was pursuing the right path, and it led me to seek God’s counsel more than I likely would have. Which, in turn, confirmed that I should write what I was most passionate about-historicals-even though, at the time, they “weren’t selling.” Because passion always comes through in your writing, as does the lack thereof.
So, I’m grateful for both the good advice-and the bad-in my writing journey.
What advice have you been given in regard to your writing? How has it changed your writing journey?
Btw, the novel Bethany House passed on-which they were right to do, it needed major work-became my fifth published novel after a complete rewrite. So don’t ever throw away a manuscript, friends. Every “No” along the way is simply part of God’s final “Yes!” when his perfect timing is reached.
Tamera Alexander is a USA Today bestselling novelist whose works have been awarded and nominated for numerous industry-leading honors, including the Christy Award, RITA Award, Carol Award, and Library Journal’s top distinction, among others. She and her husband live in Nashville near their two grown children, and with a little Silky Terrier named Jack.