Authors have many reasons for writing a particular book. Sometimes those reasons feel so natural you don’t stop to think about them. However, in this market, it’s important to distinguish yourself from other authors and submissions.
For nonfiction, you want to show you are an authority on your topic, or that an authority is willing to endorse you.
You are a Christian psychologist using Bible passages as a basis for dealing with sinful thoughts.
You are writing on near death experiences, and you are an emergency room nurse.
A recognized authority on Bible diets will endorse your book on nutrition.
A “Special Qualifications” section can also work for a novel.
You are writing about a character in hospice, and you are or have been a hospice nurse.
Your setting is Virginia during the Revolutionary War, and you are a Virginia native and President of your DAR chapter.
Your heroine is a chef, and you are a culinary school graduate.
In other words, you have gone beyond merely researching your topic. You have experience in what you’re writing about, or more education than most, or a recognized authority is willing to vouch for you. When an editor has two wonderful manuscripts from which to choose, this type of qualification could be just enough to nudge her to your side of the fence.
Do you have a special qualification for writing your current book?
What author qualification, if any, is likely to convince you to buy a book?
One of the first bits of writing advice I got was to write what you know.
I’ve set my stories in Kentucky and the beaches of North Carolina where I’ve spent a lot of time.
I’ve spent at least fourteen years watching tennis matches and practices, and my first story involved a tennis player. And one of my favorite stories I wrote involved a conspiracy between an insurance company and a law firm. I’m a pharmacist, and you wouldn’t believe some of the stories I hear at work involving prescription insurance. So I’m trying to take your advice and write romance with a thread I’m familiar with.
Thanks for sharing today.
I have been a daughter, wife, friend. I have degrees in Photography and Cinema and Law (how’s that for 2 sides of the brain!). I have studied marketing and consumer behavior, learned other languages, and taken Bible classes from PhD’s and professors known in their fields. I have self-studied archaeology, and nature. I have worked in libraries and universities. I have worked in multi-media, law, and IT. I run a computer consulting company and manage a vacation rental in southern Ohio. I have hiked and biked throughout Ohio and the eastern USA. I look at author qualifications only if it is a book I’m using for research or study where I need to rely on the author’s credentials. That said, when I read a novel set in a particular place or time in history I will check to see that the author presented correct information. Even novelists need to present a truthful scene.
Tamela, I used to think that one “special qualification” I had to write medical thrillers was my experience as a physician. Then, when I was participating in an activity for a thriller writers site, I encountered an attorney who wrote medical mysteries. As we corresponded, I realized that, if you don’t have first-hand experience, painstaking research and the use of a consultant might substitute. What do you think? And, as always, thanks for sharing great insights.
Tamela Hancock Murray
Richard, yes, I do think research and consultations can suffice. It simply isn’t possible to experience everything, nor would I want to!
But when researching? Choose a topic you’re passionate about!
Thanks for your insight.
How about suggestions for the person whose husband or wife is dying, to make the caregiving process easier, written by someone who’s terminally ill themself?
Andrew, many of us have been through the ENTIRE cycle of the death of a spouse/loved one, sometimes more that once. My wife of twenty years died of cancer at age 44. I have been through the entire cycle as the spouse/survivor from initial diagnosis through treatment, then death and burial. There were children involved, our two sons suffered through this as well. This was a drawn out, pain filled, dreadful, preparing, etc. process.
On the other hand, later, one of those two sons, our oldest son, formally of the US Army 82nd Airborne Division, died a traumatic death by gunshot, small arms. Two people in uniform knocked on my door one early evening to inform me of my sons death. ( I am a Vietnam veteran having served in the US Army 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam for a year). With the death of my son I was thrown back to 1969 and experienced what my parents may have endured in the event of my own death as a young soldier and many other parents of that time, did indeed endure, as a result of the death of their young soldiers (sons). My sons death was a totally different death experience as a survivor from his mothers. Unannounced, unexpected, with it came utter shock, disbelief, non- preparation, hope that maybe a mistake had been made, etc.
With all due respect your story, as yet, remains unwritten (not complete). I TRULY believe It is completely possible, under God, that you may recover. Most of us have known people that medical science predicted their impending death yet they lived. There are people that HAVE died (at least by human definition) that are back here on earth with us. Unless we hear the trumpets in the sky heralding the return of Our Father, Jesus Christ we are all on the same road as you, just at different mile markers. It is just as possible for you that you may not die as for any of us. This is not denial, this is scripture. Only God knows.
Rather than focusing on the caregiver, which you are not, why not focus on the person actually dying, which you believe you are. At any given time there are millions of people on this earth going through what you are. Your eloquent and knowing words could give them immense support at a time when most people around them do not understand. In my humble opinion you are best suited to write for the person dying rather than the caregiver. This is the essence of Tamela’s blog, this is “WHAT MAKES YOU SPECIAL”.
A final thought. ALL of us have an expectation of dying and may be interested in some insight. All of us DO NOT have an expectation of being a caregiver.
Isaiah 46:4 NIV
Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
In the way of righteousness is life; in its path there is no death.
I am so sorry for the losses you have endured…and I can’t imagine how reaching back into that past to reply to my comment must have been for you. I am truly grateful.
And thank you for the Scripture; as soon as I write this I will go to the Youtube link.
Recovery’s certainly possible; I’ve seen it happen. When I was much younger, my beloved Belgian Malinois developed a splenic tumor that was inoperable. The vet said that he had months to go.
Funny thing. It was the tumor that had months to go, not the dog. It shrank, and vanished. There was no rational explanation save the miraculous.
I’m writing with an eye to address the caregiver’s situation because I’ve seen how hard this has been on my wife; she and those who are in a similar position need a hand of support and friendship to steady their hearts. In my blog, I’m doing my best to play that role.
I do occasionally write from my own perspective, on how I’m processing this, but honestly, it would be a pretty boring read at length. I accept it; it’s simply where I am now, and I address the developments of each day as they arise. There isn’t a great deal of introspection.
I’m no Randy Pausch, and no Kara Tippetts. These are people who’ve done stellar and stunning work that makes their legacy shine with an inner light that dispels the darkness of fear and sorrow. Though their works are very different in focus and execution, they form a matched set that’s a terrific resource to the dying. They processed their own experiences with an eye that resonates with almost any reader. I can’t match that.
But taking into mind your suggestion – I’ll try.
I have made peace with the past by turning over every claim to every item of my past to Our Father for final disposition. No one has remained unforgiven on my part. A just resolution will be administered.
You remain in our prayers brother.
I love that…”A just resolution will be administered.” Reminds me of Mary’s ‘Magnificat’.
Thank you so much for the prayers. I truly appreciate them.
Andrew, …steady their hearts… I’ve been looking for those words. That’s why I keep going. That is what I want to give. Those are the words for what I did not have at the time I cold- shouldered G-d as a young adult. That is what faithful says, “Steady my heart Jesus.”, as I practice in life’s hits.
How could I all these years of Christian life asking what “heart” means, not know exactly. Last week the dictionary gave me clarity. All. It means all of me.
I want to use those words. If I ever get to publish and you see it you can know again that G-d was glorified by what you shared of your thoughts written. Go Andrew. Go.
Linda Riggs Mayfield
I have used where I live as a setting in both contemporary non-fiction and historical fiction, since after all, it is familiar; but I think unusual experiences, inquisitiveness to an absurd degree, and formal education and experience in research have set me up well for feeling at home in most settings, literally and literarily (Spell check doesn’t know that’s a word, but it is ;-)). I was a White student at a Traditionally Black university in ’68 when everything went up for grabs. That context informed my empathy about race relations. I earned a comprehensive social studies education degree there. That gave me formal education in history, government, economics, geography, and sociology, that has helped me to perceive people and events very holistically, within their contexts. That holistic approach greatly enriches my Bible study and teaching. My husband and I packed up our kids, ages 3, 6, 10, and 13, and moved to Chile to teach in an English-spoken mission school for three years. I had 2 years of HS Spanish is my distant past, and no one else in the family knew any. That experience nurtured empathy in me for people in settings in which the language and culture are unfamiliar, and appreciation, rather than just tolerance or acceptance, of cultural differences. I had the opportunity to go back to school in my 50s and earn my doctorate in teaching and learning, so I did. Besides learnng how to do SERIOUS research, I learned to find a way to fit in classes in which most other students could have been my children–or grandchildren. That was alternately humbling and humiliating, and more good prep for writing. I just don’t take myself too seriously anymore.
I am drawn to writers who have some kind of educational or experiential credentials for the subjects of their books, and/or can demonstrate a high level of attention to accuracy in details, even in fiction. My ability to suspend disbelief and get into a story is tripped up when I stumble across factual inaccuracies. Thought-provoking questions, Tamela! Good reminder to notice God’s hand at work in our lives!
I write YA because I was having a hard time wading through the aisles of Barnes and Noble that would pass my five page flip test (randomly select five pages and look for swearing and/or sex – automatic fail). I wanted to encourage her that biblical stories are relevant even today and God always has a lesson to teach. I’m trying to appeal to her teenage heart and turn it towards the Lord in a way that she will enjoy and not see as preaching. As Robin Jones Gunn eloquently put it, I’m writing for “the girls in the tent.”
Blessings, Tamela. As a non-fiction writer of Bible studies, I do find it challenging to find representation. However, there are several special qualifications in your list that God, in His great kindness, has provided to me. Knowing that these can be deciding factors gives me the courage and confidence to continue pressing forward – so thank you for this encouraging word today ☺
In addition to a master’s in biblical and theological studies from Western Seminary, master’s in criminal justice and a bachelor’s in psychology, God has used my personal life, and the wounds He has healed (abortion, abusive marriage, date rape, to name a few), to give me a passion to minister to those who face real-life issues. My first Bible study was written for women who carry the heartbreak of a past abortion. I eventually opted to self-publish the book, which is endorsed by Pastor Chip Ingram and his wife Theresa, seminary professors and licensed counselors, as well as a number of other nationally known ministry leaders. The current Bible study I am writing is based on the story of Hagar. In His grace, God connected me with best-selling author Francine Rivers who read the first chapter and loves it. I am also a speaker and anticipate teaching my new Bible study next year at my church, where Chip Ingram is the senior pastor. While I still struggle with the realization that I may have to self-publish once again if I cannot find representation, I know that my God is more than capable of opening any door He chooses. He owns me and my future is in His hands (thank you, Jesus! 🙂
My friend was murdered by a serial killer. I never witnessed to her. The whispers of her being atheist at her funeral crushed me. Her husband became the prime suspect. He was stalked, followed and believed to be a killer until DNA would one day clear him, and confirm that a serial killer did this murder. It’s remains unsolved.
My friend’s husband became ill from the stress, lost his business, and became homeless for a time, and died young. My heart goes out to the wanderer, the homeless … thus, my novel series where a hobo girl is a messenger of hope, only she’s unaware of it at times, but sees how God uses her in the lives of those she meets along the rail. And yes, I’ve involved in serving at Church under the Bridge for the homeless, and do street ministry, and teach about the Lord in a recovery center with addicts every week. I took my friend’s death and started sharing the gospel … with love, with zest, and by being a messenger of hope. Even with m blonde hair … I can do all things through Christ!
Pam, words fail me. I’m stunned at the immensity of this tragedy, and at the depth of your courage in facing it, and your resolve in bringing hope from it in your literary work.
You are a giant, on whose shoulders Faith and Hope can ride, and can see for miles.
I’m no theologian, but I will offer this thought, from someone who’s seen a lot of dying. God is not an atheist, and in the end, He makes the rules…and He can break them, if He so chooses.
Don’t worry about your friend, Pam. The updraft from Love’s beating wings can do wonders.
Retired probation officer … hence – Term of Probation. A spiritual allegory where it isn’t the criminal who poses the real threat.
Thank you, Tamela, for posts that challenge us to be insightful about our own work and qualifications.
Until I started writing a book about a preacher, I never considered my history as a life-long preacher’s daughter to be qualification for anything except suspicious looks from elderly churchgoers. 🙂 Now, I’m thankful for my upbringing and the experiences, good and bad, which they’ve afforded me. Watching the cycle of conflict, then love and forgiveness among all God’s children, with an eye to my father’s Christ-like example, has infused my writing with the hopes and inner struggles of a man of God who is a country boy at heart.
As for others’ qualifications, my reader-heart dotes on fiction set in lumber camps, foreign countries and medieval times. When I hear the author has traveled to those places or has family lineage who experienced those things, my “Authentic” radar starts buzzing, and the book goes immediately onto my wish list if not in my cart.