Monday, June 17, 2013

A Fiction Writer’s Purpose According to Debby Mayne

Every fiction writer has a reason for sitting down at the computer every single day and pounding out the words that eventually come together to create a story. One writer may want to use story to share a biblical message, while another may want to make readers laugh, tremble in fear, or sob.

Don’t laugh, fellow authors, but I know a writer who does this so she can get rich and never have to go back to her day job. She hasn’t sold her first book yet, but according to her, she’s this ( ) close. And once readers discover her, she’ll be able to give notice at work, buy the house she always wanted, and travel to exotic places that will inspire her to write even more interesting books. Her husband will quit his banking job and be her agent and business manager. (Yeah, right, let me know how that goes.)

I’m often asked why I chose to write novels and what motivated me to keep going after five years of not selling a thing. After all, it isn’t something I wanted since I picked up my first crayon. I enjoyed English classes—particularly those that involved diagramming sentences—and P.E. I also liked math just fine, until we got past Algebra I. After high school, I went to college and majored in recreation with a minor in English. 

Writing was something I did on the side, but I never expected to see any rewards other than an occasional check for doing a little ad copywriting I did on the side. Then when my children were little, I started writing articles for regional parenting publications after a neighbor made an off-hand remark about how there were probably other “clueless” parents out there who needed some helpful tips. I enjoyed (and still enjoy) writing nonfiction, so I had fun picking up an occasional check for my articles, but I still didn’t see myself as a fiction writer.

Then one day my husband commented on how much I enjoyed reading novels. He pointed to a stack beside my chair and said, “You’re a writer. I bet you can write one of those.” At first, I laughed and shook my head, and then I started thinking about it. Maybe he was right. Books had always been my escape, and I absolutely loved romantic stories.

So I sat down and started pounding out a story. Someone at the library told me about the Writer’s Market. I perused the listings until I found the publishers that might be interested in the type of book I was writing. Long story short, that book didn’t sell and neither did the next one. It took me five whole years to write something that editors deemed publishable.

After I got to know my first editor, I asked why she chose my book over the hundreds of others she had in the stacks on and around her desk. She said that my story pulled her out of her world and into the lives of the characters. With a hint of a blush, she added that she'd fallen in love with my hero. That got me thinking about how I finally wrote the type of story I enjoyed reading, and only then was I able to sell a book. When I tried to teach through fiction or give a message that didn’t come natural to me, I flopped. That obviously wasn’t “my thing.”

That was almost 15 years ago. Since then, I’ve discovered that my purpose in fiction writing is to entertain readers with characters they can relate to or fall in love with. As I write each book, I’m entertained by my “friends” who just happen to be the characters in the story. In fact, I’m often sad when I finish my book, which is why I love writing series.

All published authors have their own reasons for their chosen path. Christian fiction offers all sorts of stories, including those that teach biblical lessons, some that make you laugh, and others that might even have you nervously glancing over your shoulder. My fiction writing purpose has developed into entertaining readers with a fun story and a spark of a message that will leave readers thinking about their own walk with the Lord. Most of the time, the message is very subtle, but it’s there.

Readers, what types of stories do you like to read? Fiction authors, what is your purpose in writing?


Lena Nelson Dooley said...

Like you, Debby, I'm first of all a storyteller. The story and the characters are most important in my novels. And because I'm a Christian and often pray for other Christians about problems they are facing, my characters also face struggles they can't get through without God moving in their lives. But first and foremost are the characters and their story

Cherie Burbach said...

Excellent thoughts, Debby! I liked this: "She said that my story pulled her out of her world and into the lives of the characters."

That's the key for a good book to me. When I think about those characters and look forward to going back to read more about them, I know that book was a good one.

Thanks for your valuable perspective.

Debby Mayne said...

Lena and Cherie, thank you both for commenting. I love telling stories and getting involved in my characters' lives. They seem real to me while I write about them, and I pray that the same thing happens when people read my stories.

juliepollitt said...

As a writer trying to get published in the world of Christian fiction, your blog encouraged me. Especially when you mentioned what made your book stand out to your first editor. Thanks for sharing Debby!

Martha W. Rogers said...

Hi, Debbie,
I love all kinds of reading, especially mystery and suspense, but I love writing historical and contemporary romance. I like to tell stories that will touch peoples hearts through characters who go through some of the same life struggles we all go through as Christians. It's my character's story, but it could also be the story of any reader out there.