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
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
Plus, the research you put into
nonfiction writing can provide great background for your fiction
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
And remember . . .
A one-trick pony rarely
headlines the circus.