On a recent road trip, I had the pleasure of visiting with my college roommate. She picked me up at the Denver airport and shuttled me to my daughter’s house in Colorado Springs. We were talking so furiously, we overshot the correct freeway exit by twenty miles.
A typical oops for this particular friend and me.
We were chatting about life, kids, grandkids, and Jesus. Not necessarily in that order. Della has a thirteen-year-old daughter—Trienna—bright, talented, absolutely beautiful inside and out. After Della dropped me off in CO Springs and returned home, Trienna had a few questions about her mom’s author-friend. So I received this text:
“Inquiring minds want to know…” with a short list of questions.
I thought y’all might be included in the inquiring minds camp, so here are the answers I sent to Trienna!
Question #1: What is it like to be an author?
Busy! I thought all authors did was WRITE!!! We spend a lot of time researching a topic, writing proposals (a 20-40 page sales pitch to get publishers to give us a contract), and then marketing our book after it’s published.
Marketing includes blogging regularly, which takes MORE research and creative thinking. And then there’s social media and email—I spend 1-3 hours a day on email correspondence, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.
Most publishers also expect their authors to do some public speaking to help promote their books, so we have to prepare speeches and practice them.
Oh ya…and did I mention…we get to write books sometimes. 😉
Question #2: How long does it take you to write one of your books, on average?
Because I write biblical novels, I read and re-read Scripture many, many times before I begin my research. Since my husband works at a university, I’m blessed to have access to an academic library and help from a research librarian, who steers me in the right direction. Our local university has many of the books I need but also has an extensive web of lending libraries to access. We search out ancient documents and archaeological findings in databases worldwide. The internet makes research easier, but it’s important to go through certain checks to ensure the information is reliable. I use Cornell University’s suggestions for evaluating all resources.
I use Microsoft OneNote to store my research notes, character information, and plot line. My initial process of gathering research, profiling major and minor characters, and sketching a rough plot outline requires 3-6 months. I continue researching, tweaking characters, and adjusting plotline as I write the rough draft. The full first draft process generally takes 9 months to a year.
Question #3: How long does it take to publish your books?
When I turn in my rough draft to the senior editor, she does the first edit, looking for overall plot issues: pacing, character flaws, historical accuracy, and believabilitiy. When she is satisfied with the manuscript, it’s passed on through several more editors for grammar, consistency, etc. Book cover design, marketing plans, and sales meetings occur behind the scenes. Though I have some input in these areas, I usually begin my next project while the publishing house works on these steps.
Of course, each publisher’s timeline varies, but from the time a rough draft lands on the editor’s desk until it hits a bookstore shelf—about one year passes.
Question #4: What is the process to become an author?
Every author’s process is different. Some go to college, earn a creative writing degree, and are hired by a publisher through their college placement services to become editors, sales reps, or some other position within the publishing industry. When a well-trained writer learns to understand a publisher’s needs and the market’s demands, he or she often gets published!
Other authors, like me, have no formal writing education. I obtained an associate’s degree in business from Indiana University and only took basic English and literature classes my freshman year. However, when the Lord began nudging me to write for publication, I attended a writers’ conferences to learn from experienced authors how to hone specific areas of fiction and non-fiction. I continue to attend these conferences, learning from authors more experienced than myself.
Common Thread Uniting Christian Authors
Trienna’s question about the “process” of becoming an author gave me pause. One trip to a writers’ conference, and you’ll see how VERY different each author is. But overall, I’ve seen three common threads uniting EVERY Christian author:
- Christian authors read—when I wanted to start writing biblical novels, I learned who wrote the best biblical novels and then read everything they wrote. Reading good writing makes you a better writer.
- Christian authors write everyday—and it doesn’t matter what you write, as long as it’s fresh and from your heart. Who cares if no one else sees it? The discipline of writing each day will make you a better writer and instill the ability to produce on demand.
- Christian authors want to share Jesus—if you simply want to write, you can write anything, but if you passionately and effectively write about Jesus, you are a Christian author.
- Reading good writing will make you a better writer.
- The discipline of writing each day will instill the ability to produce on demand.
- If you passionately and effectively write the message of Christ, you are a Christian author.
- Do you have a specific question about my author’s life and/or processes?