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Lessons Learned (so far)

I’ve been doing this for quite a long time now and, in spite of my best efforts and being told by many people that I “should be published”, I have yet to have a single word make its way to print. Here’s what I have learned over the years as an aspiring writer:

– you can follow all the rules of good writing and produce a story of publishable standard, and not be published
– you can break all the rules of good writing and produce a story that should never have made it past the editor, and be published
– you can do writing courses and attend conferences and network for years, and not find a publisher
– you can show your manuscript to one person, who knows someone who happens to know an agent, and be published
– you can study the market and write a novel that fits perfectly with current and emerging trends, and not be published
– you can write something completely off-the-wall that flies in the face of current and emerging trends, and be published

After finding an agent and “coming close” so many years ago, and then riding the emotional roller coaster that comes with trying to get a story published, I simply gave up. Every now and then I would send a piece out. Every time it would come back with a stock letter or even (shudder) a stock slip. After each rejection I promised myself that I would never write another word. A week later I was back at my keyboard.

At some point my writing goals changed. Until recently my aim was to see my story on a bookshelf. I figured that that was where it would do the most good, right? My prayer was always: “please God, let my book be published”. When my goals changed my prayer changed as well. It became: “please God, let me become a good writer.” These days, whenever I send a story out, I pray that it ONLY be published IF it is God’s will. I would rather wait and have a book that God can be proud of than be published and regret it because it wasn’t as good as it could have been.

I think that as Christian writers we should make being published a secondary goal. Our main aim should be to glorify God by being the best writers we can be. If we focus on that and pray for God’s will, I believe that one day our books will make it to print–but only if it is meant to be. When I look back at how close my first attempt came I cringe because I have read my original manuscript and it was pretty weak. My writing is now substantially stronger than it used to be but it may still not be good enough. Perhaps I still have further to go and more to learn, but I hope not. Perhaps I have missed my calling and should never have started writing in the first place, but I don’t think so.

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our goals that we miss what’s happening on the way (see Mauricio’s post : https://newauthors.wordpress.com/2010/01/18/road-map/). It’s fine to have a goal but sometimes we need to leave that in God’s hands. I remember as a single man being desperately lonely. I was always on the lookout for Mrs Right but, no matter how hard I searched, she was never anywhere to be found. Then one day I decided to stop looking. Within a matter of months the woman I was destined to share my future with walked into my life. I was not yet a Christian (at least not officially) but, looking back, I can see God’s guidance all the way. I now believe that my wife was out there; I just had to wait for our paths to cross. I believe the same will happen with my writing. I’ve stopped worrying about finding a publisher. I still send my stuff out but I’ve stopped fretting about it. If I’m meant to be published, I believe God will cross my paths with the right person at the right time.

About P.A.Baines

P.A.Baines writes computer programs for a living but would much rather be writing Christian speculative fiction, which he does whenever he gets the opportunity. Educated in Africa, he is studying towards a degree in Creative Writing through Buckinghamshire New University in England. He enjoys asking "what if?" but is tired of how speculative fiction deals with religion in general and the God of the Bible in particular. His stories are for Christians who enjoy science fiction but who normally avoid the genre because of its tendency towards an atheistic world-view. His aim is to write entertaining and thought-provoking stories that stretch the imagination, but which keep God in His rightful place as Lord over all creation. P.A.Baines is British but currently lives in a small corner of the Netherlands with his wife and two children and various wildlife. He spends what little spare time he has keeping fit, watching films, and playing computer games with his children. He does most of his reading via audio books, which he listens to while commuting to and from work on his trusty bicycle. He speaks reasonable Dutch and is in the process of learning French.

6 comments on “Lessons Learned (so far)

  1. P.A. — wow I am so happy to find this site. I am an unpublished author, a Christian, sent out queries for several years, got close like you did, then got disspirited and put my manuscripts in the closet. Then I began to write meditations for my congregation and then a blog, Sounding the Soul (www.rbjennings.wordpress.com). And I think you are so right! We are to use our talents to reach out to others and to illuminate the glory of God. If we get published in the process — huzzah! Thanks for sharing your Lessons Learned. RBJ

    • Hi RBJ, welcome and glad you found us. Thanks for the comment. I think it’s brilliant that you have continued to write in spite of your disappointments.

      Not so long ago I was discussing with my daughter my failure to find a publisher. To my surprise she told me that I have always inspired her with my perserverence. I never gave up but kept on trying, which she said helped her to do the same. She does not see my inability to find a publisher as a failure, but rather as a show of character. She also told me that my story was the first she had ever read that made her think about life and what she wanted to do with her future.

      So even if I never see one of my stories on a bookshelf, I will be happy knowing that I have inspired my daughter to keep going and not give up when things get tough.

      Paul

  2. Praise the Lord and pass the biscuits!

    There are so many of you wonderful people out there finally getting it. Wat is published? Mans approval of our work? We are published, in the eye of God and anyone who really wants to see. Cast not your pearls among the swine for the Lord will use you in his own good time. In the meantime, praise the Lord and pass the biscuits.

    • It was a tough lesson for me to learn! I think I always knew it in my head but never really felt it in my heart. The penny finally dropped about two years ago and the peace that came with it was wonderful.

      But don’t get me wrong; being published is still my goal– just not the top one. And if I ever do see my story in print, you guys will probably be able to hear my shouts of joy from over there

      Paul

  3. I just want to say, that I feel if my story reaches just one person then it was all worth it. I do think that we shouldn’t “bury our talent” as the parable says. If our goal is just to minister, there are easy ways to make our works available even if we never see a dime. EBook versions are easy to make and email. Ryan Grabow even has Caffeine freely available to download for all of internetdom on his website. I’ve made one that I email when I get a request. Also, Lulu.com gives you a FREE print on demand option. It can only be bought at their website and the buyer pays print cost + what you add on (if any). It costs more to print through lulu, but it’s an easy way just to get the story out.

    Just because it’s your ministry and you’ve never gotten a publisher, it’s no reason to let the story sit on the shelf. Let it do the work God has for it… eBooks and Lulu are free, take advantage and invest the “talent” even if just a little.

    Just sayin’. 😉

    • Keven, yes I agree completely. I believe God was teaching me a lesson through my writing, and that He could not do anything with me until I had learned that lesson. When I first started out I was given a prophetic word about this. I didn’t understand it then but I do now. (I can be a slow learner sometimes 🙂 ).

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