Thursday, April 14, 2011

Why You Shouldn't Give up as a Novelist. Really.

When Chuck Colson reviewed my novel Daisy Chain on Breakpoint, I rejoiced. But did you know there's a bigger story behind this? One that God orchestrated and bookended perfectly?

At the beginning of 2000 while we laughed in retrospect about Y2K, I wrote a letter to Chuck Colson, thanking him for his and Nancy Pearcey's book How Now Shall We Live. I also shared that I felt God was calling me to write, and I sent him some of my work. (I shudder to think of that now, but this was before I knew better.) He wrote me a wonderful letter dated April 14, 2000. Most of it centered around the book and his gratitude for my comments. He signed it, but then wrote something else in his own hand. I have included it above. It reads: "Keep writing. God will honor your faithfulness."

I kept the letter, sometimes pulling it out to remind me that God would honor my diligent pursuit of Him as I endeavored to write.

A month later, I heard one of Breakpoint's broadcasts. It so moved me, I ordered the transcript. Dated May 23, 2000, the title of Chuck's message was "Uncle Tom's Cabin: The Power of Story." In it he wrote, "I know that when it comes to learning moral lessons, I've often been much more affected by works of fiction than by abstract theological discourses." He continues, "Uncle Tom's Cabin is a reminder that one of the reasons we read fiction is because fiction helps train the moral imagination."

That transcript changed my life. It initiated a seed of desire I'd temporarily planted in the soil of my dreams. I knew I wanted to write stories--but not just stories for the sake of spinning a tale. No, I wanted to write stories that changed hearts, lives, nations. I wanted to expose evil for what it was, yet shine God's white-hot light in the midst of that evil, proving His preeminence and the significant power of His redemption.

So I wrote.

And wrote.

I joined critique groups, attended conferences, met self-imposed deadlines, striving to hone the craft and become a writer who weaves words skillfully.

I finished my first novel, but it didn't find a publishing home. Then an agent signed me for representation. I wrote parenting books while the stories inside wouldn't let go of me--it's as if they'd finally rooted deep in the soil, and their roots tendrilled through me. I wrote Watching the Tree Limbs and Wishing on Dandelions, exposing the evil of sexual abuse and the redemptive hand of God in those impossible situations. Those books found a home at NavPress.

I started teaching writing at conferences around the nation, toting my Breakpoint transcript with me, an evangelist for the power of story.

And then my sixth book Daisy Chain hit the shelves--a Zondervan title that pulled back the curtain of a shattered home (though it looks spot-on perfect from the outside) and exposes the destructiveness of family secrets. Two more novels followed that book, all centering on the family and secrets.

With that in mind, imagine the joy I felt when I heard Daisy Chain's praise on Breakpoint. God had, in a very real way, fulfilled Chuck's words:

Keep writing. God will honor your faithfulness.

And how did He do it? By using the same man's voice who penned those words. Consider this part of the transcript:

I’m not a big fan of “message” books,
where the writer neglects his or her craft
and just concentrates on pushing an agenda.
But Mary DeMuth is not that kind of writer.
Her books are beautifully and sensitively written,
and her characters are realistic and well-developed.
She has a true gift for showing how God’s light
can penetrate even the darkest of situations,
and start to turn lives around.
Even her villains are not beyond the reach of God’s grace.

I cried when I heard the broadcast--one of those holy moments where I glimpsed heaven and reveled in God's sovereign plan. I did keep writing. God did honor my faithfulness.

For those of you who have heard God's call to some great mission (whether it be writing, or ministering to widows, or painting masterpieces, or baking bread for neighbors), don't despair. Hold on to the words spoken over you. Remember this verse: "Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all" (1 Timothy 4:14-15).

Simply put: don't give up.

Don't neglect to exercise the gifts God has given you.

Don't despise small beginnings.

Be patient for God's plan to unfold.

Mary DeMuth is the author of 12-ish books. Find out more at


AllMyPosts said...


I konw we shouldn't quit at all. But this approach to writing (spiritual & from bible & from life) is cool. Very inspiring!!! builds determination in all you know!!

thanks Mary DeMuth!!

with warm regards
<a href=" > CatchyTips for writers </a>

Dina Sleiman said...

That made me cry :) Thanks, Mary.

Gina Holmes said...

What a surreal moment that must have been. What an awesome one. So glad you got to enjoy that. Did I say wow? Beautiful post too. Thanks :)

Ane Mulligan said...

It's hard to read a post through tear-filled eyes, but the holy moment shined through, Mary.. What an encouraging post. Thank you!!

Sally Bradley said...

Love this, Mary. Thanks so much for passing the encouragement on.

Terri Tiffany said...

I needed to read this today Mary. I've written five books and keep leaning toward a message in the books even though I've been told Christians don't read for a message that way. Writing my sixth and your message encouraged me today to write what God gives to my heart. Thank you!

Camille Eide said...

This answers some of the questions I've been asking God in my search for direction in writing. I know He wants me to share from a life of lessons learned the hard way, but also know fiction isn't to be used as a pulpit. As I write fiction and wonder if I should be using my knack for stringing words together for this kind of writing or if I should seek other venues for sharing what burns in my heart, He keeps opening doors for me to pursue fiction writing. Even with those clearly opened doors and guidance, I keep questioning the real value of fiction.

God just shut my questioning mouth with your post, Mary. THANK YOU.

Tina Forkner said...

I love the words from 1 Timothy, Mary. Thank you for sharing them! I love hearing another part of your story. You know I've loved you since Watching the Tree Limbs, and you have been a good mentor needed it. How wonderful to see things come full circle in another area of your life, although life feels like lots of circles looped together doesn't it? By the way, I watched your spot on the 700 Club with my daughter (12) and it was such a great way to expand a conversation about God's grace and also dangers that lurk in the world and are hard to talk about.

Mary DeMuth said...

Thanks,all, for such amazing, encouraging comments. I'm currently at Mount Hermon, enjoying the redwoods and mentoring writers. I'm going to read this post to them as I start today.

I'm so thankful that this post encouraged you.

Nicole said...

And besides the beauty of the words, Mary, that's a lovely picture of you!

Lori Benton said...

I'm so blessed this morning that you shared this, Mary. I'm going to save it the same way you saved Chuck Colson's letter. I'm also thinking of you all with a twinge of longing, there at Mount Hermon. What a beautiful place to be. May all who heard/hear this be blessed and encouraged.

Dan Walsh said...

Loved your post, Mary. Wonderful to see God's faithfulness responding to our own over a span of time.

His ways are not our ways (I find Him to be much slower). But it's comforting to know He has the wisdom and patience to "wait us out" as He works through a thousand details we can't see.

Very encouraging.

Michael Ehret said...

Love this story! Two of my fav authors: Mary and Chuck. There are no accidents with God.

Mary DeMuth said...

Lori, that's so cool. I'm honored.

Julie Garmon said...

So powerful. And the scripture touched my heart this morning. Thank you!

Barbara Parentini said...

Thank you for your profound words, Mary. Can't wait to share this with the writers in my group. As always, you offer such great encouragement! God bless you.