I have a confession to make that may shock anyone who beta read my first novel, which sported a gruff, pipe-smoking wizard, a quest involving a mythical object of doom, and the line “All we have to decide is what to do with the time we’re given.” Despite these uncanny resemblances, no, I’m not Tolkien. I do, however, harbor deep respect and admiration for him, and I hope my own stories will evoke the same emotions as The Hobbit and The Children of Hurin.
When I was nine years old, I became the dictator of a sprawling, shape-shifting land called Fiction, and my political party consisted of myself, a few other students in our homeschool co-op writing class, and a table where we gathered during lunch breaks to scribble in our notebooks. We even passed a law banning nonfiction, and whenever our teacher gave us an assignment that didn’t involve mythical beings like unicorns and flying hippos, we’d threaten to revolt (and then, of course, we’d obey, because she was the adult).
I recently signed a contract for a young adult novel, and my publisher set up a meeting with a literary agency to strategize the promotion of my book. The savvy ladies I spoke with offered a smorgasbord of suggestions, many of which I was familiar with. After all, if you hang around the writing community snack bar long enough, you’re bound to pick up a morsel or two about marketing.
You probably think that fiction and nonfiction are on opposite sides of the equator—and I would say that you are absolutely correct. Each have different sets of rules, audiences, and goals. One is entertaining and the other is informative. One keeps us on the edge of our seats and the other keeps us on the edge of our brains. One lifts us into another dimension and the other pushes us down to reality.
Have you ever been tempted to tear pages from your notebooks, toss the crumpled wads into the trash, and vow to never write again because it isn’t worth your time? Some days, the words refuse to come. On other days, people insist that playing around with imaginary characters and places isn’t a real job. And every day in between, you stare at the gaping whiteness in front of you and wonder, “Why do I bother?”
At conferences, in critique groups, and during meetups, I’ve talked to writers in all stages of their careers who struggle with social media paralysis. “Why can’t I just write?” they ask. “Won’t good books attract readers?” Although people will buy books without social media exposure, your chances of making sales and reaching a broad audience will be higher if you use it. But, if this digital platform is so beneficial, why does it put writers on edge? My guess is that you’ve wrestled with at least one (if not all!) of the three worries I’m going to describe, so roll up your sleeves and prepare to tackle each one with confidence.
As we stumble along in Jesus’s footsteps, we want the stories we craft to be a source of light to our broken and chaotic world. But we don’t own a corner on the lane of creativity. We share the space with hundreds of other authors, many of whom have different beliefs yet still sprinkle wisdom into their work. The general market holds many treasures in the children’s book category, inspiring young people to appreciate diversity, treat others with kindness, and develop strong values like truthfulness and responsibility.
If you’ve ever gone hunting for advice on finding your writing voice, your brain is undoubtedly tuckered out. Many tips are vague at best and confusing or contradictory at worst. Some claim that voice develops over time. But that leaves you wondering when it will appear to you in a poof of smoke. Others treat it like a supernatural gift that some writers have and others don’t. So helpful, right?
On the surface, writing seems easy. You plop into a chair, uncap a pen or power on your computer, and rack up a word count. Right? If you’re a hobbyist, that description is generally accurate. But, if writing is your profession, any burst of creativity also brings an explosion of related tasks. Tackling all these responsibilities can daunt even the most determined writer. But you can keep stress at bay by pacing yourself and developing a healthy amount of productivity in three crucial areas.
Beta readers are a writer’s best friends, but they don’t come with user manuals. You need a strategy for communicating and cooperating with them so the experience is positive for both parties—and your book emerges stronger than ever! I’m going to walk you through the process of acquiring a team of beta readers and provide tips on how to handle the challenges you’ll face as you interact with them.