Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Questions from reader and aspiring author (and my answers)

Just received this email from a reader, Daniel, who is a junior in high school, and thought answering the questions on my blog might benefit others too. He wrote:

I loved your Crown and Covenant Series! I was so glad to find a great series (just like Chronicles of Narnia) that I could enjoy reading while other teens are reading Harry Potter and the Twilight Series.

I want to be a christian author of teen books someday. I'm in the 11th grade and I'm taking a career preparation class at my homeschool academy. My homework assignment is to interview someone whose career is the same as what I am aiming towards.

Since you are internationally renownwed, I know there is very little chance that you will have any time to answer the following questions, however, I also know that with God all things are possible, so I'm going to ask anyway.

1. How did you become interested in being an author? My love of books made me curious about authors and how and why they wrote their books. The encouragement of my mother, colleagues, and my children who wanted me to stop reading to them and "tell us a story that you make up."

2. What is the best educational preparation for this field? Reading and learning to interpret the various genre of literature in the Bible. The Bible is the greatest book, like no other, God-breathed, without error, true from beginning to end, authentic, gritty, honest--and beautifully written. Master Elements of Style, and other good books on writing. Majoring in English in college might help (and might hurt), though I was a history major.

3. What kind of growth patterns are you seeing in godly literature for young people that I should consider? Stay away from formula fiction that oversimplifies life in a broken world.

4. From your experience, what personal attributes do you think are essential for success? Clear, focused goal; why do you want to write? Better, for whom do you want to write? Keep Christ at the absolute center of your goal in whatever your hand finds to do. Write for an audience of One.

5. Which professional journals and organizations should I know about in this field? Get familiar with publishers' reading services. You will need them in the future when it's time to prepare for publication. Read Writers' Market and find out where the holes are.

6. What skills are needed for fiction authors, and which ones should I be concentration on at this point in my education? Observe everything and everyone around you. Train yourself to do this and then write down what you see, hear, think is going on inside peoples heads, motives, etc.

7. What experiences have you had that have been invaluable to you in learning your job? Traveling to places that have inspired me to learn more about the people that lived there in other centuries, as with the Covenanters in Scotland or Newton and Cowper in Olney, England.

8. What is a typical workday like? I teach, and speak, and write--and have a wonderful wife and family, so a "typical" workday is pretty atypical, I suspect. I have often gotten up early in the morning to write while the house is quiet, and have stayed up late into the night to keep pulling the thread. I wrote all day Monday this week and had a productive day. Some days are hard work, and others--it just comes and I feel like I'm along for the ride. O for more of the latter! 

9.What are some of the difficulties for christian authors? Is there anything else that motivates you to continue writing, besides God? One difficulty is wanting legitimacy for writing as a Christian, wanting the world to recognize us. Forget this entirely. Paul embraced being a fool for Christ. The world will not think you're clever for being an author and a Christian. Don't write to impress the world.

10. What else should I know to make an informed decision about going into this field? It's hard work, and there are many more writers who want to be authors and published than actually get there. Be patient. Become your worst critic. If you can do anything else, do it (this is true for all callings).

11.Can you recommend someone else for me to contact in this field? You might try Church Black or LB Graham.

12. What type of career path would you recommend? Is it important to try to work as an intern for a christian publisher? How do young authors start getting published? An internship might be useful but is no guarantee of getting published, in fact, they may be harder on an insider. Writing is a lonely calling. For every book signing, speaking engagement, leading a book tour there are 100s of lonely hours in front of the computer screen (I sometimes long for goose quills, or hammer and chisel). Try writing articles for periodicals that publish teens, then move on from there. I was published in several magazines before my first books was accepted for publication. Expect rejections--lots of them. Don't get discouraged.

Thank you so much for your valuable time and for being a role model that I look up to.


Daniel Negi

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