by Karen Ball
As many of you know, I’ve recently returned home from a series of writers’ conferences. As I met with writers and read their proposals or sample chapters, one thing struck me over and over…
More and more writers are spending time writing what they think agents and editors want to see.
Is that bad? Well, yes and no.
No, because you need to understand what editors and agents are looking for. That’s part of being professional about your career. And yes, because what most of us—agents and editors—are looking for is passionate writing. Writing that comes from your heart and spirit. Writing that grabs you and shakes you and won’t let you go until it’s out on the page. In a word, what we want is your best. Your best message. Your best craft. Your best act of obedience to what God has given you to write.
One meeting with a writer brought this home to me. The woman sat down and handed me sample chapters from a romance novel she’d written. Even as she handed them to me she seemed…hesitant. I read the first few pages, and could tell her heart wasn’t in it. I handed it back to her with a few pointers. We still had time left, so I asked if she wanted to ask any questions. She bit her lip. “Well, I’ve got another project I’m working on, but it isn’t a romance.” She handed it to me and I read. It was leaps and bounds better in craft, but still needed some work. With about five minutes of time left, she looked down at the table. “I do have one other piece…” I held my hand out. She gave it to me, and I started to read.
And I read.
And I read.
It was stunning. Masterful. Heart-breakingly beautiful. The kind of writing that captured my heart and mind and took my breath away. I looked up at her, dumfounded. I’m sure my mouth was hanging open. I had one word for her: “Why?”
She blinked. “Why what?”
“Why did you give me that”—pointing at the less than stellar romance novel—“when you had this?”
She shared that she’d pitched that manuscript last year and no one wanted it. So she decided this year she’d give the agents/editors what they wanted.
“But you’re not passionate about writing romance novels, are you.” I made it a statement. She shook her head. “And you are passionate about this.” I held up the pages I’d just been reading.
Tears filled her eyes and she nodded. “Very much so.”
I lifted the pages and, with one swift movement, smacked her on the top of the head with them. “Stop it!”
She blinked again.
“Stop wasting your time and gift on writing you’re not passionate about. On writing that God hasn’t called you to write. Write this! And while you’re at it, send it to me. Now.”
Her face broke out in the biggest grin, and I responded in kind.
Friends, the difference in what that wonderful woman wrote when she was motivated by passion was remarkable. THAT’S the writing I’m looking for. That so many editors and agents are looking for.
So what do you do if what God is asking you write doesn’t seem to fit the market? Write it anyway. (After all, I’m betting God has a pretty good understanding of the stories and messages readers need, not just now, but down the road.) And even more than that, write it with everything you’ve got in you.
Write it with ABANDON.
Pour yourself into it. Pour your craft into it. Let His breath of creativity and passion infuse you such that you can’t wait to sit down at the keyboard and let it all come pouring out. If you’re that excited about what you’re writing, then odds are good that those of us who read it will be excited as well.
Yes, know the market. Yes, be informed and professional. But don’t ever let what other people say about what readers want keep you from writing what God has breathed into your heart and spirit. Don’t write to the market. Write to the call.
And in those moments when you feel you need to pull back, to be tentative or write something that doesn’t resonate within you, take a moment and watch the video below. Because it’s the best representation of living with ABANDON that I’ve seen in a very long time. Let this kind of delight and pure, unadulterated abandon infuse you and your writing. You’ll be blessed.
And so will your readers.