God in Writing

It was about a year ago when I struggled with the query letter for my first novel.  I arranged and rearranged words, trimmed unnecessary phrases and reviewed until I thought I had a good letter.  Since I could practically recite this letter word-for-word, I decided I was in no position to judge whether it was any good or not, so I submitted it to a writer’s forum for peer critique.

One comment on the early version of my letter had to do with my mention of “God.”  Unbeknownst to me, this fell squarely into the “do not do this” list, as it would turn agents off.  Being an eager wanna-be-published-author, I didn’t spend too much time questioning why anyone would be so closed-minded.  I jumped right in there and redid my query letter (nineteen times.)

During my rounds of novel edits, I grew more concerned that my novel would be rejected by agents, or worse, agents would ask for changes that made me uncomfortable.  My first novel didn’t have foul language, strangers weren’t falling into lust (and bed), and the main character and her best friend discussed God.  Even with some scenes made “edgier” for mainstream appeal, the novel retained its PG status.  I was okay with that because it remained a compilation of words that satisfied me.

Fast-forward to January of this year – the beginnings of my renewed spiritual exploration.  For the first time I asked myself:  “Would I remove the references to God in my novel if it stood in the way of publication?”  I had to pose the question because I had removed His name in my query letter without so much as a second thought.  My answer?  A firm, “no.”  I felt that extracting God’s small presence would leave my character hollow.

So I chose God over publication.  That was it.  I had always thought of my writing as mainstream general fiction, mystery or women’s fiction.  Now, I had no clue what I wrote.  For weeks, I didn’t write anything at all.  Even though only a small part of what I write would be suitable for publication, it seemed my words wouldn’t come at all without a market umbrella label to cover them.  Finally, curiosity got the better of me and I did a Google search on the question:  “What is Christian Fiction?”

Wikipedia definition:  “A Christian novel is any novel that expounds and illustrates a Christian world view in its plot, its characters, or both, or which deals with Christian themes in a positive way.”

I thought that many of my stories fit within this description.  I mulled it over.  I read a book about writing Christian fiction.  I thought about it more.  And then I realized that I could aspire to write Christian fiction and be true to myself (and not give up on the possibility of publication.)  Further thought revealed that as I progress through my spiritual journey, I will be enriching my soul and my writing.  I thank God for allowing me to go through this retrospective examination process so that I could arrive at the answer he knew all along.

This was a poem/prayer that I wrote to God on January 5, 2011:

Speak Through Me

Make me a light,

Make me a voice;

You are my sight-

My path, your choice.

My mind wide open,

Arms outstretched,

Released is all burden

From my hope-filled chest.

Your will is mine,

Though I cannot see,

Your power divine-

Speak through me.

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25 thoughts on “God in Writing

  1. pattyabr February 27, 2011 / 8:46 AM

    follow your heart and happiness will follow – good wishes to you

    • jannatwrites February 27, 2011 / 8:04 PM

      Good advice, Patty. A recommendation I will certainly pay attention to 🙂 Thanks for your well-wishes – I appreciate you stopping by!

  2. nrhatch February 27, 2011 / 9:25 AM

    Good luck.

    When we know WHO we are . . . we know HOW to live) and write.

    • jannatwrites February 27, 2011 / 8:05 PM

      You’re right, Nancy. Knowing who I am is an ongoing process, but I’m getting there 🙂

  3. clarbojahn February 27, 2011 / 11:04 AM

    Love your poem, It could be me. I was having second thought on what to post this next time. My Faith journey or my thoughts gathered after a devotion. I’ll post the devotion. It kinda answers your question about where God is in writing. You must do what your soul says. you must follow your heart. I so don’t think everything that mentions God is Christian fiction or would be rejected by publishers. I have read lots of works that mention God and the main theme wasn’t God oriented.

    • jannatwrites February 27, 2011 / 8:14 PM

      Thanks, Clar! I’m happy you enjoyed the poem. I agree that God in a novel means it would automatically be rejected, but I think it makes it much more difficult to be published mainstream – especially for a new author. But then again, isn’t everything more difficult for a new author? 🙂

  4. Ollin February 27, 2011 / 11:59 AM

    Some people just don’t want to take the risk, but then, if we don’t take a risk, how are we ever to be original–and how can we reach a point of truth of all of humanity. I am more a spiritual person than a religious person, but I am open and eager to see how other humans deal with the notion of God, and spirituality and faith. I think we can all learn from each other there–because we’ve all been in those moments where sometimes prayer is the only answer. I think leaving out god would have left out what connected you with other human beings. I’m glad you stuck with it.

    By the way, this reminds me of a guest post I wrote for storyfix.com: http://storyfix.com/top-ten-tuesdays-please-welcome-ollin-morales

    I hope you read it and it encourages you to continue to be your authentic self.

    • jannatwrites February 27, 2011 / 8:33 PM

      I am drawn to spiritual people because they exhibit faith and hope and have a peaceful aura about them. I don’t like to be described as ‘religious’ because that descriptor makes me think of the rituals and acts – the things people “do” to display a belief in God. My problem is that I’ve seen too many “doers” whose participation in rituals concealed the fact that their heart wasn’t with God.

      I read your guest post and thought it was well-written, Ollin. I didn’t know about your one-man production, but I’m glad you got back into writing. About rejection: I know not everyone will like my writing. I’m okay with that – as long as I’m satisfied with my final piece.

  5. Debbie February 27, 2011 / 12:37 PM

    Thanks for sharing this. It’s kind of a dilemma all writers face: What would I do (or not do) for publication? I think Shakespeare said it best, “To thine own self be true.” I’m glad you found this out. Just because a work mentions God doesn’t put it into the category of Christian fiction; just because something mentions God doesn’t remove it from the category of mainstream fiction (or it shouldn’t, anyway!). Love your poem, by the way!

    • jannatwrites February 27, 2011 / 8:39 PM

      Glad you liked the poem, Debbie. I agree with your statement about God in Christian vs. mainstream fiction. There are many other characteristics needed for a novel to be Christian fiction. As for mainstream, I think it may be easier for an established author to bring God into a novel. Of course, I don’t know that for sure 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this…and I love the appropriate Shakespeare quote 🙂

  6. Carol Ann Hoel February 27, 2011 / 2:58 PM

    You will be blessed, and God’s blessings are worth more than publication. Your work will be published in due time. There is a large readership for it. Christians are many more in number than we realize. I truly enjoy reading your blog, Jenna.

    • jannatwrites February 27, 2011 / 8:44 PM

      Thanks for reading and offering your kind words, Carol. It’s strange, but I’m not concerned about publication at the moment. I couldn’t imagine writing that sentence – and believing it – a year, or even six months ago. I’m thinking, learning, writing and growing. Whatever happens with it will happen.

  7. duke1959 February 27, 2011 / 4:46 PM

    He is in control and this will happen for you!

    • jannatwrites February 27, 2011 / 8:46 PM

      Hey, you’re back, Duke! Glad to see you around 🙂

      It’s a daily struggle for me to follow His lead, but I pledge to write and let God determine my path.

  8. Brown Eyed Mystic February 27, 2011 / 5:10 PM

    That poem, is beautiful Janna.

    Happy that you stuck to your beliefs. You are blessed!

    -BrownEyed

    • jannatwrites February 27, 2011 / 8:47 PM

      Thanks, BrownEyed. I’m writing and learning every day, so I’d call it progress 🙂

  9. 2blu2btru February 28, 2011 / 8:08 AM

    People are always trying to tell us what “agents are looking for.” I’m sure there are plenty of agents who want baulk at the mention of God in a novel that isn’t specifically Christian fiction; nowadays it might even be considered edgy. I rarely ever listen to people who tell what agents are looking for, unless it’s general good writing practices. If I did, I’d be writing Young Adult fiction about vampires, shape shifters, angels, and teen angst, which is fine for those who love to write that, but it wouldn’t be true to me.

    After years of chasing the publication ring, I’ve discovered a Field of Dreams mentality: if you build it, they will come. If you write good work for quality writing’s sake, it will get published. I no longer write to be published, but write what I believe in. I think that’s the best way to go about it. An authentic voice is one of the most important parts of writing a great novel, short story, or poem.

    If you feel Christian Fiction is your niche, then go for it and make it your own. Good luck! 😀

    • jannatwrites February 28, 2011 / 8:14 PM

      I like how you think, 2blu. I’ve noticed that YA is the ‘in’ thing rigt now, too. I’m glad you’re able to resist the temptation and stay true to yourself – I can’t wait to read your published novel(s) 🙂

      I don’t know if publication will be in my future, but I want to write stories that I’m not ashamed to attach my name to…well, whenever I use my name, that is 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your opinion, 2blu. I always appreciate the advice you have to offer!

  10. dorcas February 28, 2011 / 8:51 AM

    I heard someone say this . Try not to involve too much God in your writing.Cause the very mention of God, puts people off.Rather try to include the values of God.This way, people can know that clean entertainment is possible.

    I don’t have a take yet on how we should write but I sincerely believe that the trick is knowing what God wants you to write. If He inspires you to write a Christian Fiction, then go right ahead. He will open the doors required for it to reach people.

    • jannatwrites February 28, 2011 / 8:19 PM

      I know God in writing can turn some people off. It has happened to me when I felt “preached at” and it usually ends with me rolling my eyes and closing the book. I don’t want to write THAT kind of fiction.

      I’m not sure how this writing experiment will turn out, but I’ll call it a success if finish the project without getting bored with it 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, Dorcas. It’s always nice to get your opinion 🙂

  11. SAS Fiction Girl February 28, 2011 / 7:58 PM

    Christian fiction (CF) can be a great niche. We need more strong writers in that group. I’ve read some of what passes for CF these days, and it is not polished writing. They need someone to raise the bar. (Janna T., maybe?)
    Have you been looking into CF publishing houses? I know they’re out there!

    • jannatwrites February 28, 2011 / 8:46 PM

      I’ve only read a few CF books (I have more books than time, these days.) I have not done research on publishing houses, but I do know of several agents who will represent CF. I probably won’t do more research on that front until I have at least one completed manuscript. I don’t want to jinx it!

      I don’t know if I can raise the bar, but I do appreciate your supportive comment 🙂 Thanks, Jen.

  12. Barb February 28, 2011 / 11:24 PM

    I was about to suggest Christina fiction for you…
    Me think that you should never let others tell you what to write.
    I write fantasy, but unusual, original fantasy that doesn’t fit any fantasy clichés at large (there might be some minor ones in the plot, but it’s not quests, nor good vs evil, etc). It’s medieval, and the huge thing today is Urban fantasy.
    I’m not writing for the mass market appeal. That would mean betraying my muse. I want to find my little niche with my few thousands readers and live happily ever after – or something.
    You don’t seem to be somebody who wants to write for mass market either. So you WILL find your audience, just keep writing what you feel passionate about! 😀
    Happy writing!

    • jannatwrites March 1, 2011 / 10:08 PM

      I chuckled at your second sentence, Barb, because that’s what I’ve been dealing with tonight. (Will be explained on tomorrow’s post.)

      You know one of the things I like about you? You aren’t hungry for the ‘big time’ – you know what you want to write and are satisfied with a smaller group that appreciates your writing. Stay passionate – your positivity is so cool!

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