What steps have you taken to learn the craft of writing?

I suppose you might say I’m mostly self-taught. I’ve been writing since I was a young teenager, so over the years I’ve spent a lot of time writing. When I started writing Bible studies, I didn’t give a lot of thought as to whether I knew the proper ins and outs of writing; I simply wrote as God led me. When I started writing novels, I recognized a greater need to follow proper writing protocol. Now whenever I have questions, I search for the answers on the Internet or in one of the books in the small library of how-to books I’ve acquired on novel writing, and then edit as needed. I’ve also attended writer’s conferences, which are always helpful. 

How many hours a day, a week, do you spend writing?

On average, three to four hours, four or five days a week. Sometimes more if I’m on a deadline to finish a book.

What is an average workday like for you?

I spend the earlier morning hours having my quiet time and doing housework. Generally, I don’t settle down to write until late morning or early afternoon. Depending on the day, I will sometimes spend a little more time writing in the evenings after supper. 

How do you choose the genre, setting, & story line for your novels?

Genre:

I have to confess that when I first started thinking about writing a novel, I didn’t know much about the different genres. I just started working on the story I felt God had laid on my heart. The first three stories I wrote would be considered women’s contemporary or contemporary romance novels. They may not be considered “true” romances because the heroines and heros don’t meet in the first chapter, which I understand is a criteria for being considered a romance. Never-the-less, a romantic interest still plays a significant role in all my novels. The Island Legacy Novels could also be considered women’s contemporary novels because they address modern-day women’s issues.

Setting & Storyline:

Because I’ve dreamed of writing a missionary story since I was in my early twenties, the settings and story lines for my first series was a given. For the most part I write about what I know and the places where I’ve lived, worked, and visited. The third novel in the Island Legacy Novel series was a bit more of a stretch as I’ve never been to Cuba, but I spent a great deal of time in research and felt in many ways like I’d been there. 

My latest novel is the first in the Southern Heritage series. It is set in a fictional town in my home state of Mississippi. 

Which do you enjoy writing more, Bible studies or novels?

It depends on which one I’m working on at the time. Truth is, I’m thankful I get to do both. I’ve discovered, however, writing fiction is more of a challenge for me personally than the Bible studies. But maybe that’s only because I’ve had a lot more experience in writing Bible studies. 

What influenced you to start writing Bible studies?

The first Bible studies I remember writing were for a Bible study group I was leading in my collage dorm. Basically it was a case of seeing a need and responding to it. Later, the same was true when I wrote a series of basic Bible studies for a group of Vietnamese refugees I was teaching in our church in Kansas. There were no available resources I could find at the time that met the criteria I was looking for in teaching materials, so I undertook the task of writing them myself. For the most part, that has continued to be the pattern. I’ll see a need and then ask God to lead me as I seek to put together the appropriate materials. 

What influenced you to start writing Christian fiction?

I’ve been an avid reader of fiction since I was a small child. When I was around sixteen or seventeen, I read a book by Grace Livingston Hill. This was my first introduction to Christian fiction. Reading that book was an “ah-ha” moment as I realized the possibility of writing novels with a strong Christian foundation. Even so, once I started writing Bible studies, the dream of writing fiction fell by the wayside. Then several years ago I started having these nudging thoughts (that I honestly believe were from God) about trying my hand at fiction. In time the nudging became stronger and I could no longer ignore it. I suppose you might say, “the rest is history.” But one thing I know for sure, if God hadn’t been leading, I would have never been able to do what I’ve done . . . because when I first started out, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. 

What are the biggest challenges you face when writing a book?

*Staying focused.

*Getting started and then hanging in there until the momentum builds and I feel I’m making progress.

*Not allowing other things to become a distraction or keep me so busy I don’t have time to write.

*I have fibromyalgia, so sometimes the biggest challenge is overcoming the obstacles of fatigue and “brain fogs.”

*Not being too hard on myself. I’m convinced I’m my own worst critic. 

How long does it take you to write a novel?

My first three novels took approximately a year from the first word I put on paper (or typed on the computer) to the final edit. My fourth novel has taken almost three years to write, but is much longer than the first three and is also more complex in structure. 

What are your hopes, dreams, and goals as a writer?

To continue to use the talent God has given me for as long as He leads.  

What kind of impact do you hope your books will have on readers?

My greatest prayer is that what I’ve written will in some way draw readers into a closer walk with God as they encounter Him in new and fresh ways through one of my Bible studies, or as they are able to relate to and learn from a journey toward emotional or spiritual healing as experienced by one of the characters in my novels.

What motivates you to keep writing?

First and foremost, what I believe to be a God-given call upon my life to write. Secondly, the words of encouragement I receive from those who have read my books or done one of my Bible studies. Nothing spurs me on more than to hear, “I love your books. When’s the next one coming out? I can’t wait to read it!” 

Share a little of your journey toward publication.

Initially with my Bible studies, I didn’t give much thought to publication. They were all written with certain target groups in mind, and as long as those target groups were being reached and ministered to, I didn’t see much of a need to have the studies published. At the prompting of an individual or two, I did try on two different occasions to seek publication, but nothing came of it. 

When I started writing my first novel, I wondered what I would do once I finished. After all, novels are different from Bible studies, and there would need to be some means of getting what I had written into the hands of potential readers. Even so, I didn’t give it much thought until the first book was near completion. Once I started looking into what it would take to get published, I became a bit discouraged; especially when I read that on average it takes 7 years to move through the process of finding an agent, landing a contract with a traditional publishing house, and then finally getting to see your book in print. What can I say? I want my books to be read, not sit on a shelf somewhere while I wait and hope for someone to pick them up years down the road. I committed the matter to prayer, and in the next section you’ll find the answers God gave me. 

Why did you choose to independently publish?

In more recent years, e-books and print-on-demand publishing have had an undeniable impact on the traditional publishing industry. As I thought about that 7 year time frame in terms of seeking publication by a traditional publishing house, I decided to take a closer look at the self-publishing industry. I was hesitant at first, because for the most part the quality of books by self-published authors has been considered inferior to those written by traditionally published authors. You might say that up until more recent years, they’ve been the red-headed stepchildren of published authors. And secondly, I didn’t have the financial resources self-publishing companies often require of their authors. 

In early June 2010, I shared my struggles with our oldest son, who told me it was as easy as 1-2-3 to publish a novel as a Kindle download through Amazon. And the best news: it would cost me nothing. I could set the price for my book and would receive royalties on the sales in proportion to the price I set. In less than an hour, he had published my book as an e-reader. He also told me about a print-on-demand company he’d heard of called Createspace that he thought would publish my book without any out-of-pocket money on my part. When he said that, I thought . . . “Okay, now this is sounding way too good to be true.” But it was true. A little over a month later, I was a published author, with beautiful paperback copies of my book in hand — copies I was able to purchase at a very reasonable price and in turn sell at a reasonable price. 

What are the pros to publishing through Createspace?

Lots of hands-on opportunities. Createspace is simply the company that provides the basic set up I need in order to independently publish: upload my manuscript, create my cover, and assign my books ISBN numbers. Other than that, as the author I maintain complete control of my works. I choose my editors, first readers, cover designs, and distribution channels. I also get to set my own prices, purchase copies (as many or few as I want) at a very reasonable price, and then sell them at a price of my choosing. I retain full ownership and control of everything.

I’ve also discovered Vistaprint is a great printing company with reasonable prices where I can design and purchase promotional materials such as rack cards, post cards, small magnets, brochures, and a variety of other products that can be used in marketing my books. 

What are the drawbacks to publishing through Createspace?

I not only write my books, I also have to market them. I don’t do well with self-promoting. I’m the kind of person who says, “You don’t want to buy one of my books, do you?” 😉 Maybe it’s not that bad, but lets just say promoting my own books pushes me way outside my comfort zone. Even so, I’m discovering creative ways to get the word out, and so far it’s working well. Word of mouth, e-mails, book signings, websites, blogging, and let’s not forget Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest — all valuable tools that make it a lot easier than it was twenty, fifteen, or even ten years ago for an independently published author to market their own books. 

Do you think the route you’ve taken is the route every new author should take?

Absolutely not! It has definitely been the route I feel God has led me to take, but may not be the direction in which He will lead others. I believe He is still leading some to go the traditional route, and if that is His will for you, don’t deviate from it.

However, I do feel both the traditional publishing industry and the independent-publishing industry are on the threshold of a new day. What that will ultimately look like, I’m not sure anyone knows for sure. I’m fairly confident the independently-published author of the future will no longer be looked down upon as they once were, and we’re going to see (already are) more and more indie authors making a name for themselves in the literary world. 

What advice would you give someone who wants to write a book?

Start writing. I’ve discovered there are a lot of people who say they want to write a book, but only a small percentage ever get around to doing it. I understand it can seem a daunting task when not one word has yet to be written, but until you sit down and start pounding away at those keys, you’ll never know for sure whether this is something you’ve been called to do, or just a good thought that was never meant to become a reality. 

Study the craft of writing. There are lots of self-help books out there, and more information than you could ever hope to read can be found on the internet.  

Read lots of books in the genre or field you feel called to write. As you read, study how the author handles the craft of writing. This can be beneficial in two ways: it can help you discover what you would like to emulate as well as what you don’t.  

Attend a writer’s conference. Google Christian writer’s conferences to locate the ones closest to you and/or that best fits your needs and budget. 

Become well-acquainted with today’s publishing industry. In all fairness, I have to say becoming a successful independently-published author places a heavy responsibility on the shoulders of the author. It is our responsibility to make sure our writing is the best it can be. There is an element of truth to the sentiment that many self-published authors’ books have not landed a publishing contract due to inferior writing. If you choose to self-publish or independently publish, don’t settle for less than the best you have to offer. Become well-educated in the craft of writing. But also be aware that in today’s traditional publishing market, more and more first time writers are being turned down, not because they’ve not written a good story, but because the shifting sands of the publishing industry have produced a world of agents and editors who are less willing to take a risk on an unknown. Perhaps in time this will change, but I seriously doubt it. I recently read where one well-known traditional publishing house is publishing a handful of books by first time authors as e-books only, which can be done for a fraction of the cost of a hardcopy of the book. Will this prove to be the new wave of the future for traditional publishing houses? Time will tell. 

Don’t expect to become rich anytime soon, if ever. 😉 For the average Christian author in today’s market, I’ve decided writing is in many ways a labor of love: love for their heavenly Father who has given them the ability to write, love for writing itself, and love for those who will be blessed by what they have written. If you are considering becoming a writer because you think there’s a lot of money to be made, think again. That may be true for a select few, but chances are slim you or I will ever be included in that few. Even if you were to land a contract with a traditional publishing house that pays an advance to their writers, chances are as a first time author, you will not be making a significant amount of money.

Keep your eyes on God, not man. Once you’ve determined what God has called you to do whether it has to do with what you’re writing or the publishing route you choose, go forth in boldness and confidence. There will always be killjoys and naysayers in this world who think they know better or that their way is the only way, even in Christian circles. Don’t let them rob you of the joy of knowing you are being obedient to God’s leadership in your life and circumstances. 

“Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things that don’t really matter.” Francis Chan

Recommended Reading:

A Novel Idea – Best Advice on Writing Inspirational Fiction. Published by Tyndale House. “Expert advice from successful fiction writers . . .”

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Christian Fiction by Ron Benrey. “Inside advice on crafting compelling, faith-based stories.”

The Everything Guide to Writing a Novel by Joyce and Jim Lavene. “From completing the first draft to landing a book contract – all you need to fulfill your dreams.”

The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them) by Jack M. Bickham.

Description & Setting by Ron Rozelle (Write Great Fiction Series). “Techniques and exercises for crafting a believable world of people, places, and events.”

Dialogue by Gloria Kempton (Write Great Fiction Series). “Techniques and exercises for crafting effective dialogue.”

Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell (Write Great Fiction Series). “Techniques for transforming your first draft into a finished novel.”

Many more valuable books and resources can be found online. These are but a few I’ve found beneficial as I’ve sought to better understand the craft of writing fiction.

If you have any questions I’ve not answered on this page, please don’t hesitate to contact me: terimetts@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you.

You can also visit me on Facebook: Author, Teri Metts or follow me on Twitter or Pinterest.