So You Think You Can Write


Sometimes I feel like those contestants on shows like American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance. You’ve seen them—people who seem absolutely clueless that they have no business on a stage, who for all the world seem genuinely to believe they should be the next Idol or America’s favorite dancer. Meanwhile the judges are laughing behind their hands, and sometimes cutting them cruelly to their faces.

But isn’t writing fiction a lot like that? We writers slog away putting together a story we like, peopled with characters we care about. But what does everyone else think? Do they see the scene the way we do when we paint it with words? Do they know the characters in depth the way we do?

And how about those judges, the editors and agents and contest judges we send our work off to? Are they laughing behind their hands? They’re human, after all, and entitled to an opinion. But how do I know their opinion of my work isn’t disdain?

Maybe, just maybe, I don’t belong up on that stage. It’s a question I ask as I prepare yet another proposal to go out.

Is the opening strong enough? the title catchy enough? the writing good enough? Does the proposal sound too formal? or not professional enough? Do I accurately represent my story? or do too much so it looks like I’m trying too hard? Did I include enough marketing information? or too much?

Yesterday I wrote about conferences, and one thing that happens at even the small ones I’ve been to is appointments with editors and agents. So any number of writers are in Denver this week meeting with professions in the hope of finding out if they’ll be going to Hollywood or getting a ticket to Las Vegas.

For writers, I think that next step is an editor or agent saying, Go ahead and send me a proposal (or full manuscript). With that request, maybe we can at least put to rest the idea that the professionals are getting a chuckle at our expense.

But what about that next round and the next and the next. What about after the contest is over and the hard work of marketing a book becomes a reality?

In it all, it seems to me there is one and only one thing a Christian writer can know for sure: God knows what He’s doing. He hasn’t forgotten a single one of His children. He will complete the work He’s begun in us. And most likely, He’ll use writing and the writing business to shape and form writers into His image. No matter what happens on stage.

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