Novelists are Public
For better or for worse, novelists become public. Some more than others, obviously. For that reason, it’s good to stop and consider from time to time–how do you want to be known?
Picture yourself at a ripe old age, looking back across the expanse of time. Your life is drawing to a close. What would you like for people to have said about you along the way? Whether that be book reviews, public sentiment, your readers, or for that matter your own family members and close friends.
In the early days of my writing career, everything lay ahead of me. The slate was pretty much clean. I was, at that time, a member of a couple of local writers groups. Some of the members were writing romance novels–ones that by today’s standards might be considered pretty mild, but to me were way too explicit. That’s what was selling.
These authors were my friends and mentors. They were published novelists; I was still selling short stories and articles. I wanted to be where they were. I was told repeatedly how easy it was to write a romance novel–and past that, how easy it was to get them published. And the advances were nothing to be sneezed at either.
But was that how I wanted to be known?
My children were still very young. Grandchildren were vague dreams in the future. I did a lot (read that “a LOT”) of soul searching and it finally came down to this:
My highest desire was to have books with my byline that would never cause me a moment of shame of discomfort if one of my children (or future grandchildren) took it down from the shelf and read it. I wanted to be known as one who set God’s standard as my standard. Even if it meant foregoing present sales and cash advances.
Author, Francine Rivers, at the beginning of her romance-novel-writing career was not serving God, and her earliest novels reflect that. But eventually there was a change in her life–and that was no longer how she “wanted to be known.”
In 1986, Rivers became a born-again Christian, and for three years she had difficulty finding plots for new novels. She spent her time instead studying the Bible, and decided to adapt her writing to focus on more Christian themes. Her first novel in the new vein, Redeeming Love, was released in 1991. Rivers considers it to be her statement of faith. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francine_Rivers
Redeeming Love today is considered a classic work of Christian fiction and continues to be one of the Christian Booksellers Association’s top-selling titles; it has held a spot on the Christian bestseller list for nearly a decade. Twenty-some novels later, Francine Rivers, the novelist, is no longer known for her earliest books.
So again, the question comes–how do you, as a novelist, want to be known?
Seriously think about it. Then proceed with caution. Plan now so there are no regrets later!
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