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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Passion vs Publishing

 Susan May Warren's got a lot to say about writing the story of your heart versus writing something “to get the sale.” Grab a cup of java, sit back, and read some of her sage advice...

I receive a lot of questions from aspiring writers and this one caught my eye.

Q: Have you ever had a story that you wanted to write, a spiritual message you wanted to share, but it won't let you just yet?

A: Yes, I have a couple stories sitting in my heart that I haven’t had the opportunity or perhaps the divine timing to write yet. 

I’m a firm believer that God will work out the story in the right time, so I continue to collect ideas, impressions, do research and let those ideas soak, waiting for the right timing.  But sometimes I’m not ready – emotionally, or even professionally to write it.  Maybe I don’t have the skill level yet.  And I certainly don’t want to waste my swan’s song on mediocre writing!  So, in the meantime, I move onto the stories I have the ability to write right now.

This is what happened with my “Josey” series.  The story of my hilarious happenings in Russia simmered in my heart YEARS before God opened the door to write it.  And when he did, the timing was perfect.  (My first book in that series, Everything’s Coming Up  Josey was a Christy finalist).   The same thing happened with Nothing but Trouble.  I cooked up my heroine PJ Sugar four years before I saw it come to publication.  And I’m glad I waited – I was able to write a deeper story than the one I had originally envisioned. 

I’ve always loved historical fiction, but I had to wait until I had the time to do the research, as well as the ability to pull them off.  I envisioned something more literary, so I had to grow into those skills, reading widely and doing a thorough scrutiny of my writing.  My first dive into the historical genre was Sons of Thunder (which won an ACFW Carol this year) , and I’ve continued my love of Historical with Heiress and Baroness (due out next month!) 

I think a lot of writers believe they have to write the stories on their hearts…but perhaps they’re also not ready to write that story yet.  I think it’s wise to ask God if it’s time…or if there is another story that could hone your skills in the meantime, in preparation for that heart story.
So, don’t give up on your heart story. Wait on Him, and be open to working on something else in the meantime to that you’re ready to write the “story of your heart.”

God Bless you on your writing journey!
Susan May Warren


  1. Thanks for stopping by today...great post!

  2. What do you do if you you feel like you don't really have the skill to write anything yet? Do you just write what you feel led to write regardless of skill level? You have to "practice" on some story, so don't you need to just write the story you want to write, whether or not you have the skills yet?

    I know I have tons of questions, but this kinda makes me nervous to write anything. I've written a historical and loved it (mainly because I didn't know any rules). Then I started two different contemporaries, thinking that would be easier to write and practice on, but I got stuck in both of them. I've decided to write a historical again, because that is my favorite genre, and am plotting it our in The Book Buddy right now. I just hope it is one I'm capable of.

    Didn't mean to unload all that, but this post caused me to question the story I'm working on.

  3. Good question, Sherrinda!First, I"m glad you are using the Buddy, because I think that will help. But let me clarify. Let's say you have a fabulous idea for a 5 POV Women's Fiction. However, your writing is not quite up to the ability to pull this off. However, you do have the ability to write a 2 POV contemporary (or historical) romance. Go for the one that will get you inside the publishing door, continue to hone your skills, and then, when you are ready, dive into the 5 POV novel. The truth us, we don't start out with the same set of skills we will have after 3 or 6 or 10 novels written, and you don't want to waste your swans song on not delivering the novel you can someday write. Don't be afraid to write - definately stretch yourself. But be aware of where you are in your writing journey. Here's an example in my own life. I wanted to write a first persona novel. But I was better at 3rd person. I had so much to learn in storycrafting that I knew I couldn't do justice to a 1st person novel. So I honed my skills in 3rd person, and then when I felt I had that figured out, (to some extent), then I dove into the study and writing of a first person POV. I didn't want to do a poor job on this POV and get rejected, or worse, have it published only to get bad reviews. So I waited until I could write it well. So, in application - write the historical, because that is where you feel most comfortable right now. Hone your skills there, and then move onto contemporary when you feel ready. I'm not saying don't work hard, but take it in smaller, attainable steps, maybe. Does that help clarify?

  4. Yes! That definitely makes sense, and thank you for clarifying it so well. Your examples really made it sink in for me. Thank you! (And may I say, I am loving all the resources on My Book Therapy as a Team Member. It is a great help!)

  5. We're so glad you are a member!!! XO!

  6. I love hearing such an accomplished author as yourself, Susie, say maybe you don't have the skill level yet to write a certain story. I've always believed we're never through learning, but some writers don't seem to feel that way, and continue to churn out the same stuff. It's your humble heart that shines in your work and keeps me reading.

  7. Thanks so much for this post, Susie. I've written two "novels of my heart." Both have received awards, but so far no contract. On the advice of my agent, I'm working on a new project that may be more marketable. Your post is confirmation that it's okay to follow that strategy. And I'm hoping that this project will also become a "novel of my heart."

  8. Wow, Susan, I absolutely loved these lines:

    "I think a lot of writers believe they have to write the stories on their hearts…but perhaps they’re also not ready to write that story yet. I think it’s wise to ask God if it’s time…or if there is another story that could hone your skills in the meantime, in preparation for that heart story."

    so much wisdom and truth there!


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