Don’t Let the Tail Wag the Dog When Writing Your Novel
By Editor John David Kudrick
So you’re a Christian and you feel like the Spirit is speaking to your heart about writing a novel. If that’s you, then I hope you’ll take up the gauntlet and go with the Spirit’s leading, because your story has the potential to speak to the hearts of others, as I wrote about in a previous article. Now I want to share some thoughts about how the tail should not be wagging the dog in relation to your story and its market.
If you feel that God has given you a faith-based story to share with a primarily Christian audience, great! As believers, we need them, because they can edify, encourage, and entertain us. Your gift of storytelling through the crafting of the written word is one more way that the body of Christ is built up. So if this is you, I pray that you’ll write your story just as you feel God is leading you to do so.
But some of you may have ideas for stories that you know most Christians are not going to pick up, simply because the Spirit has whispered to your heart about a faith-based tale that’s likely going to be raw enough that it would warrant an R-rating in a theater. This kind of story is for a different audience—maybe readers who have shut the door on God or who haven’t given two thoughts about God in their lives. And just maybe your story will be the open door for God to speak to their hearts—planting seeds that other will water—even if it’s just for readers to think for the first time that maybe something bigger than them is out there and maybe they really aren’t a worthless piece of trash that the world has kicked aside.
The point is that God’s Spirit speaks to your heart about the story he wants you to write and then breathes life into it as you write, using the creativity and imagination that he’s given to you as a gift to bless the world and build his kingdom, wherever your story may fall on the audience spectrum. So the story comes first—and then the potential market it will reach. Yes, you may have a heart to reach a certain market and God may then lead you to write a story that will reach those readers. But I’m offering a warning here about trying to choose a market and then forcing a story to fit that mold even though you really don’t feel like it is the story that God has percolating in your heart and imagination.
So follow the Spirit’s lead and don’t let the tail wag the dog in terms of the market for your novel. God will not only breathe life into your story as you write it, he’ll also help get it into the hands—and hearts—of the people he wants it to reach.