Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is an award winning writer, newspaper reporter, TV producer, playwright, and essayist. His work has appeared in a variety of places, from Haunts magazine to Zondervan's New Men's Devotional Bible. A three time winner of the American Christian Writers Association Writer of the Year award, he is also a speaker, musician, worship leader, ordained United Methodist minister, and a pretty fair banjo picker.

The Flip Side - One-Trick Pony

Does the idea of becoming a novelist, saying adios to your day job, and hitting the writers conference circuit bring waves of ecstasy? Are you working on your WIP (work in progress), with images of advances, contracts, and meetings with your agent rolling around in your noggin?

In short, are you longing for the day when you shuck your day job and make a living writing fiction?

Ted Dekker does it. Brandilyn Collins does it. Frank Peretti does it. So you may have a shot at it, too. But before you give up that day job and order the fuzzy dice for your new Lexus rearview mirror, here’s a little statistic for you: More people make a living playing Major League Baseball than writing fiction . . . Christian, secular, or otherwise.

I’ll wait while you cancel the fuzzy dice order.

Walk through your favorite bookstore and study the books on the shelves. With the few obvious exceptions, most of the fiction authors either 1) still have their day jobs, or 2) have some other source of income (spouse, etc.). Does that mean it can’t happen to you? Not at all. But what it does mean is you would do well to approach the writing profession realistically, and the first thing to consider is whether writing is a hobby or a profession. Now, nothing is wrong with writing as a hobby. Send out the occasional contest entry, or write the occasional story for a Web site or magazine. These are fine goals. But for those who want to make a living writing fiction, consider this little nugget of advice.

Don’t be a one-trick pony.

You may have hopes of being the next Janette Oke or Bill Myers, but until you get a readership and can write historicals, suspense, chick lit, or whatever genre you are drawn to, you may have to first be a nonfiction writer. Not a fiction writer, but a multifaceted writer. In other words, you may have to stretch yourself.

As John Riddle says, “Nonfiction feeds your fiction habit.”

Look for nonfiction assignments. Why? Because many more of them are out there, and many editors are hungry for good writing talent. Magazines, Web sites, study guides, Sunday school curriculum, essays, anthologies (Cup of Comfort, Chicken Soup for the Soul, God Allows U-Turns, etc.), gift books, greeting cards, and bumper stickers just to name a few. It is all grist for the writing mill, and it all brings in a paycheck.

Plus, the research you put into nonfiction writing can provide great background for your fiction writing.

However, if you are determined to ignore this advice, at the very least, don’t limit yourself to one single genre, or writing only novels in the beginning. Experiment a little. Write short stories, novellas, or start a novel in a genre different from your first choice. Don’t sell yourself short. There may be stories you haven’t thought about that are just waiting to be written.

And remember . . .

A one-trick pony rarely headlines the circus.