Writing Tips for Christian Fiction Writers

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Christian Writers market Guide
2010 Christian Writer's Market Guide










 

 
GOD'S WRITING PROMPTS
by Janet Elaine Smith

I started writing my first book twenty-five years ago. It finally got published five years ago. During that twenty-year lapse, I kept writing-books, magazine articles, lesson plans, all sorts of things. There were several things that kept me going, which I would like to share with you so you won't fall into that "what's the point" frame of mind that will make you throw in the towel, or throw out the pen.

It was going to be a fun little Regency romance, with a "Christian twist." However, as I began to write the story, I told my husband that I really needed some sort of hidden treasure in Great Britain. Without a moment's hesitation, he replied, "Why don't you just use our family's jewels?"

I laughed, but I saw that he was serious. Then he began to tell me of the Keith clan (his great-grandmother was Caroline Keith) and the Scottish regalia, which they had hidden at Dunnottar Castle to keep Oliver Cromwell from melting it down, like he had already done to the royal jewels, crown, etc. of England.

I have always loved a challenge. I set out to prove him wrong, but I soon discovered that he was right. Yes, he loved gloating over that fact. But, it gave me a whole new book, set about 150 years before the Regency era, and one which would go on to be my "ticket to publishing success." The change in my plans was caused by God's little writing prompt to me-through my husband.

Meanwhile, as I worked on Dunnottar, which was a big historical epic, not a little Regency romance, I heard someone make a comment that changed the way I looked at my fiction writing from that moment on. What did they say that was so earth-shattering? It was said by a nominal Christian woman. She said, "When I look for a really good book, I never go to a Christian bookstore."

The wheels in my mind began to whir. So if I wanted to reach the non-Christian populace with my books, what could I do? And that is when God's second prompt took hold. I could write a book that would be acceptable by the general public, but my characters would be the ones who would draw the readers to the Lord. There would be no preaching in the books, nor would there be any great narrative orations. It has been said so often that it has become trite, but it is still true: what you do speaks so loudly I can't hear what you say. Yes, my characters would show the readers the path to God, not through their words as much by their dialogue as by their actions.

This has followed with all of my books. I don't write "religious" books; I write books of faith.

As I said earlier, it took twenty years for Dunnottar to get published. But what happened to that book was just the tip of the iceberg. I rewrote it five times, each time to suit the wants of a specific editor at some publishing house or other. They still sent me one of those "good rejections" I have in my filing cabinet. When it finally came out, it was the way I had written it originally-the way it was meant to be all the time!

And then, when I was at a booksigning at our local Barnes & Noble bookstore, someone walked up to me, handed me a paper and asked, "Have you seen this?" I looked at it. It was a printout of an amazon.com page, showing that Dunnottar was their No. 1 best-selling Scottish book! And that was out of over 8,000 other titles at the time! God's prompt was working! And who was reading it? People who also bought books by James Patterson, John Grisham, Heather Graham-authors whose books were in every bookstore in the country, people who probably have never been inside a Christian bookstore.

Now don't get me wrong. I stand foursquare behind Christian bookstores. But, that isn't where you will find the people who need the message my books (subtly) contain. I don't want to preach to the choir! I want to go on the highways and byways with the message that there is redemption-for everyone!

When I get reviews like these, I know that God doesn't make mistakes.

"There is enough adventure in it to satisfy any reader but it also explores ethical and religious issues--and it does all of that with humor." (Carolyn Howard-Johnson, about Pampas)

I'm not a mystery reader, and that's probably because I'm not fond of formula books. But I have read and enjoyed two of Janet Elaine Smith's historicals, so I ordered IN ST. PATRICK'S CUSTODY fully expecting a good read.
I was not a bit disappointed. This "mystery without the cliches" is gently told, and filled with characters whose human foibles make them real. It's also (dare I say this, or will I scare someone away?) a curiously inspirational tale. While the author never preaches, and never allows her characters to do so, either, their faith in the Higher Power watching over their lives comes through loud and clear. (Nina Osier, about In St. Patrick's Custody)

Janet Elaine Smith has done it again. Masterfully written, A Christmas Dream is one one book that will touch your soul. Do you believe in love? Do you believe in miracles? A Christmas Dream will make a believer out of you. (Barbara Williamson-Wood, about A Christmas Dream)

Janet Elaine Smith has done it again. This not-so-keen-on- historicals reader positively craves to see history as written by the funny and talented multi-published author. God, romance, and an old west pioneer spirit wrap their arms around this part western, part historical romance novel set in the Dakotas in the late 1800's. Scandinavians will appreciate a look back into the roots of their American past. Native Americans will appreciate the beautiful way their culture is shown-with respect for life and customs. There are passages that make you laugh, and passages that constrict your throat so much that your eyes water with real emotion. There were a number of times that I wasn't sure that I could keep reading. But I did, and my reward was a well rounded story of characters so real that I wished it wasn't a novel, but a blueprint for churches, schools, and communities everywhere. The theme of "Dakota Printer" is unity and love-a man for a woman, business to business, the white man for the native Americans and (vice versa), a child for his parent, and society for each of its citizens. This is an exquisite book with a superb message, and I adored it! (Donna Conger, about Dakota Printer)

Yes, fourteen published books later and living my dream life, God's Prompts have proven themselves over and over again. I get at least thirty emails a day from people all over the country who are walking into bookstores and finding my books, or they are ordering them online. I am convinced that they are reaching people where they are. I'm not sure it would have worked nearly as well if I had planned it myself. I'd probably be writing "religious" books that very few people were reading. I've learned, years ago, that God is a whole lot smarter than I am!


Janet Elaine Smith and her husband, Ivan, were missionaries in Venezuela for nine years. They have run Mission Socorro, a charitable organization and HELP line, for the past thirty years, since their return. They are located in the Red River Valley area of Minnesota and North Dakota.
Janet has written successfully for many magazines over the years. She still writes for a dozen magazines on a regular basis, some print and some ezines. She has well over 1,000 magazine articles to her credit. She is the Assoc. Editor for Memories and Mysteries Magazine, and a contributing editor for both Heritage Quest Magazine and Writer's Journal.
Janet is also a genealogist, an "addictive hobby" she got into as a result of Ivan's nudges when she began doing the research for Dunnottar. She has successfully traced and documented Ivan's Keith line back to Adam and Eve. She has traced almost 20 family lines of both hers and Ivan's back prior to the 1600's. Several of those lines have gone back into the 1200's. She has taught genealogy in adult education classes for many years.
You can find all of Janet's books, as well as a first-chapter excerpt of each one, at her website at
http://www.janetelainesmith.com . They are available at over 20,000 online bookstores, including Amazon.com , where they are usually 32% off the retail price.
A Janet Elaine Smith novel comes with two guarantees: you will laugh a little and cry a little, and you will never find a Janet Elaine Smith novel that doesn't have a happily-ever-after ending.

 










   
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