Jan Flanders

As everyone who has not been dwelling under a rock for the past half century knows full well, Jan Flanders is a world-renowned expert on writing, editing, and publishing fiction. A bona fide member of the landed gentry dating back to the Jamestown, Virginia, settlement, she resides with her three Angora cats in the heart of the deep South on the plantation, sadly diminished, where she was born and reared, and which her family has owned since the early 1700s. She is still mourning the lamentable outcome of the War Between the States, and if you know what is good for you, you would be well advised not to bring up the subject unless you wish to have your ears pinned back. Rest assured that if anyone knows etiquette, it is our own Ms. Flanders

Fiction Etiquette with a Southern Twist Twisted Southern

Just so we’re totally clear, our discussion in this column will center on the Sacred Laws of Fiction Etiquette that govern the world of fiction publishin’ and your proper response to those Laws.

Good mornin’, everyone. This heah column will delve into the world of fiction etiquette according to moi. And that would be me, Jan Flanders—Ms. Flanders to you, honey chile. Let me assure you, Ah do not ascribe to the type of casual familiarity that is just toooo prevalent among young people today. To indulge in such folderol is certainly not the way Ah was reared, thank you very much, and Ah don’t have the least intention of perpetuatin’ it.

Close that door, sweetheart! What are you thinkin’?! Were you reared in a barn?

Bless your heart . . .

Now, what was Ah sayin’? Oh, yes—everythin’ and everybody in their place is mah motto. And, honey, don’t you be thinkin’ you’re any different from everybody else. Ah expect you to toe the line just like your betters. Should you step out of your place, don’t y’all expect a civil answer from me.

Just so we’re totally clear, our discussion in this column will center on the Sacred Laws of Fiction Etiquette that govern the world of fiction publishin’ and your proper response to those Laws. Which is, of course, abject and unquestioning obedience. Ours is not to question why; ours is but to do or die. Be so good as to keep that principle firmly in mind at all times.

Keep in mind as well that this is a subject Ah am extremely well versed in, bein’ a graduate of Ms. Finicky’s Foundational Finishing School of Fiction for Well-Bred Females, or FFFSFWBF for short. Do not under any circumstances question mah authority. You do not want me to come back theah, do you? No? Ah didn’t think so.

Well you might be askin’ how in the world a highly respected fiction authority like yours truly got roped and hog-tied into writing a column for this heah magazine. It seems this crazy blonde-headed author got her unmentionables in a twist, and bein’ the Christian lady that Ah am, Ah just could not refuse her desperate pleas for assistance. And considerin’ that there is nobody else who has the expertise in the subject that Ah do—bless mah heart—Ah let myself be persuaded to whip you addle-pated young’uns into shape. Though to be perfectly honest, Ah’m beginnin’ to think mah foundation garment was just waaay too tight when Ah agreed to put pen to paper.

By the way, is it hot in here or is it just me? Yooo hooo! Would somebody there in the back be a dear and open up a window? Honey, you’re just way too good! Ah assure you, Ah shall remember your kindness—unless, of course, you have the temerity to transgress one of the Sacred Laws of Fiction Etiquette. Ah may be a Christian, but Ah’m no fool.

Now that we have the formalities out of the way, let us get down to business, shall we? Our first question comes to us from

a writer who, for obvious reasons, has been strugglin’ mightily in her career and needs to be set straight. Bless her heart.

Dear Ms. Flanders, ten years ago the good Lord called me to a ministry of writing stories that would touch the hearts of His people and impart the Word for the salvation of their souls. Since then I have written with passion the vision I have been given. I have pored over every manual on fiction writing I could lay my hands on, and I have followed their instructions, even when the advice seemed contradictory, which I just figured was because I was inexperienced, so I redoubled my efforts. I have attended innumerable writers’ conferences, where I met with editors and agents, all of whom were tremendously encouraging. All my manuscripts have been reviewed by my critique group members as well as by a number of published, best-selling authors, and I have taken their advice in every instance. I even went so far as to have my manuscripts professionally edited. I’ve received glowing feedback from everyone who has read my stories, and they all told me that my work is Holy Spirit anointed and needs to be published to bring hope to a dying world. In spite of everything, all I have to show for my efforts is a stack of rejection slips that say, although my work is excellent, it does not fit into their publishing program. Do you think that if I continue to work very hard there is any hope that I will ever break into the Christian fiction market?


That’s all for this issue, and didn’t we have fun? More important, didn’t we learn a great deal? Of course we did, dearie. If you ever hope to get that publishin’ contract, be sure y’all do not neglect to join me again next time for more unstintin’ admonishment in the Laws of Fiction Etiquette. You’ll be very glad you did.

Upcoming Topics

August: What is the proper etiquette for approaching editors and agents at a conference?

September: Why are Christian publishers so resistant to publishing edgy stories that portray real people in the real world?

October: If your publisher insists on putting the purple monstrosity cover on your book, what should you do?