Think of it like being in high school: you start as a Freshman, then advance to a Sophomore, then Junior. After your Senior year, you graduate with a published novel!
As a new author, I received this advice regarding a well-known novel-writing program. At the time, it really excited me – I was already a year into my writing journey, so I fully expected to have a published book in three years!
That was ten years ago.
You read that correctly. I first heard about the four-year plan a decade ago, but it wasn’t until this year that I signed my first publishing contract. I honestly believed that I was learning and incorporating everything that the experts were telling me to do, but nothing earned me a contract.
Beth Olsson talked a lot about this earlier this month when she answered the question, “When are you getting published?” There are so many factors that contribute to a delayed book contract. For starters, I’m a painfully slow writer (it takes forever for me to finish that first draft), so I don’t finish manuscripts as quickly as other writers. I also exhibit many traits of being ADD, so it’s hard for me to create my own schedule and stick to it; more often than not, I waste so much time that I don’t have time for everything and novel writing gets pushed off the to-do list.
Honestly, though, I think the biggest reason was God.
I don’t often talk about my faith on my blogs or social media. It’s not because I’m embarrassed by it – I’m unashamedly devoted to my Christian faith and my dependence on God – but I’ve always tried to focus on good writing/editing/marketing tips, and those don’t change whether you’re a Christian author or an atheist author. Good writing is good writing.
What motivates a writer, however, varies drastically, and my motivation centers completely on my faith.
I wrote my first novel eleven years ago as a way to help me cope with my husband’s cancer (don’t worry – he’s healthy and cancer-free now). I needed an outlet. I found it in fiction writing. It started out as a personal challenge:
Can I write a full-length novel?
Can I get it published?
The answers were yes and no, but I wanted to see what it would take to turn that no into a yes. As I studied, I learned that it would take a lot of hard work and sacrifice. I wasn’t willing to make that sacrifice without praying first, so I asked God if I should keep writing.
I don’t remember the exact answer or specific directions, but I knew that I needed to keep going. As an avid reader and a college graduate with a degree in English, I thought I’d see my book in print within a couple of years, so I proudly set upon my journey. I couldn’t wait to share my brilliance with others.
But then a couple of years turned into a few years that turned into several years. I watched my friends sign book contracts and win book awards. I read books that included all of the errors that I’d been taught to avoid. Each year my anger and frustration grew. My self-doubt increased.
What was happening?
I tried to quit, explaining to God how I was struggling. I told Him how embarrassed I was by my failures. He couldn’t have possibly called me to something so difficult that yielded zero results.
Except He did.
I cried. I hurt. I despaired. I wanted to quit! Clearly, I wasn’t good enough to publish a book.
But God never actually called me to publish a book, He called me to write and to learn. As I did both, He stripped away my pride. Poured out His grace. Pointed out so many of my misconceptions about Him and replaced those misunderstandings with His truths. My relationship with him strengthened, my marriage improved, and I started walking in peace when I used to walk in anxiety or anger.
For me, it was never about getting published. It was about being obedient to God and letting Him do the work that He wanted to do in me. If I’d know everything that would happen along the way, I don’t honestly know that I would have started on this journey. In hindsight, however, I’m so glad that I did. I wouldn’t be the woman I am today if I hadn’t followed that path.
And even thought it wasn’t the goal of my journey, this year I signed my first book contract. I thought I’d feel like I’d arrived. Instead, it feels like I’ve received a surprise present – I would have survived if I’d neve received it, but I’m so thankful for the gift, and I can’t wait to share it with you!
Next week, September 15-21, I’m celebrating my debut novel with all kinds of giveaways and fun things (including free copies of my book!). Just like and follow my Facebook page to participate.
Has God ever called you to something that didn’t work out the way you’d expected? Are you in that season now?
Karin Beery – Writer. Editor. Novelist. Karin writes contemporary fiction with a healthy dose of romance. Represented by literary agent Steve Hutson at WordWise Media, her debut novel, Summer Plans and Other Disasters, released September 15, 2018.
When she’s not writing fiction, she’s editing through her business, Write Now Editing. And when she’s not doing either of those, she teaches Substantive Editing for Fiction and Romance Editing through the PEN Institute. Karin is also the Managing Editor for Guiding Light Women’s Fiction at Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, where they publish stories that entertain, encourage, inspire, and enlighten.