On Being Yourself

cat pic

This week, I’ve plunged into final edits for Miranda Warning. I haven’t really delved deep into this novel in months. Two words: Freaking. Out.

This may or may not involve frantic messages to my crit partner asking if I actually have the ability to write in the first place. This may or may not include a dramatic monologue to my husband about why my writing isn’t as lyrical as so-and-so’s, or as popular as so-and-so’s, and by the way, why did I think I could write in the first place?

This may or may not mean I have emailed my cover artist (my brother, bless him!) and changed direction for the cover art about ten times over the span of two months.

I confess to none of the above.

But as I was comparing my writing to so-and-so’s, both my hubby and my crit partner (bless them!) told me, in so many kind words, to knock it off. If people want to read a book by so-and-so, they’ll get that person’s book. If they want to read a book by Heather Day Gilbert, they’ll get mine.

On the topic of cover art, I kept comparing my mystery cover to regular ABA (non-Christian market) covers. They often have words and one graphic element–no faces. But I LIKE FACES. After I asked my FB readers what they like to see on covers (you might’ve been one of them!), everything was confirmed in my mind. We were going the right direction. Deep down, I know my audience and what they would like, because quite often, my audience thinks like me!

I’ve also been wrestling with whether to categorize Miranda Warning as Christian/Inspirational or not. Most of my readers know I’m a Christian. I write from a Christian worldview. But that doesn’t mean all my characters are Christians. That doesn’t mean they always do things right (um…not that  Christians do, either!). From the very start, I’ve always wanted my books to reach both Christian and non-Christian readers (yeah, I’m one of those weird “crossover” authors). BUT if I put it in the Christian category on Amazon, it might limit it.

And yet, if I don’t put that label on there, I’m afraid it might limit me as an author. I don’t want to have to go through and scrub my book of Christian elements, and I know full well that people sometimes leave bad Amazon reviews if they perceive it’s a Christian book and you haven’t told them. Sad but true. I feel like my novel is along the lines of Jan Karon…but I see she’s got a Christian/Inspy label on her book.

In the end, for every one of these issues, I realized I have to be me. 

As an author, I tell stories. I tell different kinds of stories–thus, the historical fiction AND the contemporary mystery (and whatever other genre I take a notion to write). I tell them the way I like to tell them–thus (quite often), the first-person point-of-view.

And in the end, some will like them and some won’t. Much as I want to be winsome and all things to all people, I can’t. I can’t inject extra metaphors/adjectives to amp up the literary feel–that’s not me. I can’t use a cover that doesn’t catch my eye. I can’t scrub my books of themes that are important to the story.

Authors, I just want to encourage you, like my husband and friends have encouraged me (not to mention my readers, whose thoughtful support always touches me so deeply!). Sometimes you might not look like every other writer. Sometimes you might even get not-so-hot reviews. But in the end, if you’re writing the very best books you can write, you’ve accomplished something wonderful.

You’ve brought new stories into the world.

–Heather

me funny

13 thoughts on “On Being Yourself

  1. I think I see crocodile teeth on that author…. Love this post. Been feeling much the same and wondering if I have what it takes to go the distance. Thanks for sharing and being real – you encourage me greatly.

    1. I’m sure it’s happened, Sarah! I think we just keep writing what we write and praying God gives it to the people who need to read it. All the others who were a “miss,” I think it’s best not fretting over. I say this, but it’s not so easy to do!

  2. Thank you for being so honest! I struggled with some of the same issues with Haunted. It deals with some serious faith issues but because none of my characters are believers in the beginning, there are references to behavior that is not CBA approved. I know there will be Christians who may be offended and regular readers who may think its preachy. However, I wanted to tell a story which displayed true reality (both despair and hope).

    And I had some people who spoke truth to me like your husband and CP did for you. Aren’t those people great?!

    One last thought that has been an encouragement to me: God has not called me to make my book a success but just to be faithful with the gift He gave. Whatever happens is up to Him. I pray you will see His faithfulness as you are faithful to who you are!

    1. Charity, I totally understand. I’ve had a couple main characters in stories (yet to be published) that are not Christians. I also have Christian characters who fail, sometimes miserably. That’s what I write because I see that happening all the time, and I feel it’s better Christians acknowledge it and then try to find ways to get back on the right path, rather than pretending people always make the right and noble choices. Yes, some really do, but we all have our weaknesses and I think God can use different books to address those. The ones who don’t understand why our characters act the way the do might not be our target audience anyway. However, I recently read a book I recognized was beautifully written, with a great storyline, even though the main characters were nothing like me. I gave it five stars, because I know there are PLENTY of people who ARE like that and struggling with those issues. All the best with your release! And I’d love to have you guest post here sometime about your indie process!

  3. I love what you said in that last comment about how there are plenty of people like (whatever character) who are dealing with the same issues, and I really think that is what it all boils down to: God has put this book on your heart so it can fall into the right hands at the right time and be used by Him. AND (here’s the part where all the CBA readers and writers gasp) I think God uses ABA books to speak into people’s lives just as much as CBA (if not more, because *shocker* ABA authors are more free).
    Now the room is quiet, and it looks as if folks are about to start throwing rotten tomatoes at Bethany… so I will step down from my soapbox. Hah
    Anyway, thanks for the post, Heather! Loved it. 🙂

    1. Bethany…gasping…hee. Just kidding. I think God can use all kinds of books to reach readers. Honestly, I love classics because they get deep into character motivations (good and bad) and show us the results of said actions. No rotten tomatoes coming from me. But I will add that I’ve seen more Christian novels lately with realistic characters struggling with big issues and hurts. I’ve also read some lighter Christian books (with near perfect characters) that I did have some takeaways from. So I guess, as you say, the key is writing what God lays on our hearts, whether ABA, CBA, or crossover.

  4. I write about real people who happen to practice Christianity, and who generally need a LOT more practice.

    Anyone who doesn’t like it doesn’t have to read the books. The DO have to buy them, but I won’t make ’em read them. (it I could only enforce the first part, there…)

    Seriously, I just try to remind these self-righteous nitwits…”I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners to repentance.”

    1. Andrew, I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of that command if you start enforcing it! Ha. But I agree. Even the most perfect-acting Christians I know aren’t totally sinless. Just human nature. But we can definitely bring stories that show real people struggling with real things…and hopefully overcoming (though sadly it doesn’t always happen, either).

  5. At the risk of responding the same way as I did previously on FB – just be you. Your readers want to read YOUR books. Some will love you, some will not, but that doesn’t change you. You need to deliver to the fans that do like you, and to do that, you have to continue being you. No one else is you, and you are no one else. That’s what makes you special.

    1. Graeme, yes, your FB comments were such a blessing to me that day! It was a great reminder to me. I think as readers, we love authors for writing JUST the way they do, about JUST the stuff they want to write about. We “get” something about their way of looking at the world and we relate. Thanks again for all your encouragement along this indie pathway, my friend.

  6. Thanks so much for sharing this. As I get closer to publishing my book I have similar conversations in my head and with my hubby and so on. And you’re right, I’m me. God created me just as I am, so I have to trust Him even if I don’t trust in my own God-given writing ability.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s