Thursday, September 8, 2016

Craft, Commerce, and Christ by Erin Taylor Young

Erin Tayor Young
Some folks know they want to be writers from the first moment they pick up a crayon. Others, like myself, figure it out only after a long trail of dot-to-dots makes the picture unmistakable. But no matter how you arrived at the realization, you’ll eventually need to decide exactly what “being a writer” means to you.

For some, writing is an outlet, or a hobby, or a gift of words you give to family and friends. For others, being a writer means having a professional writing career. You want to do this for a living—at least someday—even if it has to be a second job for a while. If you’re in the career-choice camp, welcome to the wonderful, bewildering, chaotic world of publishing.

It’s a world of all the joy, astonishment, creativity, and delight you could hope for. But it’s also a world of rejection, criticism, dismay, regret, worry, and more tribulation than you can imagine.

Brave heart, friends. If this is the task God has given you, dive in!

But dive in with a plan.

Though words are your commodity, you can’t focus solely on writing. Perspective editors and agents are going to ask you about your platform, your website, your marketing savvy, etc. That doesn’t mean craft is irrelevant. It’s crucial. Your writing will be scrutinized for quality, voice, message, flow, and more. But while you’re focused on the writing and business aspects, your desire to serve God will be hammered by lies, discouragement, fears…you name it. All tools of your soul’s enemy who wants nothing more than to crush your writer’s heart.

In the years I’ve been in this industry as an author, editor, writing teacher, podcaster, and publisher, I see the increased need for writers to build their career on a balanced three-part foundation: Craft, Commerce, and Christ. Like a tripod, each leg is vital. Here’s how that plays out, with my best tip for each leg.

Writing. Takes. Work. Sure, you might have a gift for writing, but that doesn’t mean getting to a professional level will be easy. Or fast. You’d be surprised by how many people crawl out of the writing waters never to return because they didn’t know it was going to be such a tough swim. Go into this knowing you have to sweat and bleed. When that editor you’ve been dying to meet with tells you your writing isn’t ready, roll up your sleeves and get back to work. Industry pros want to work with writers who are dedicated to improving their craft throughout their whole career. Be that type of writer. How do you do that? Finding good resources is vital—writing groups, critique partners, mentors, conferences, editors, courses, etc. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, though, because they’re not all created equal. The wrong ones weigh you down. The right ones propel you forward.

The writing industry is a business—an activity engaged in for profit. The publisher you want to write for has employees counting on a paycheck. Consequently, editors and agents want to work with reliable professionals. Be one of those professionals. Legally set yourself up as a business, create your presence on the web, understand and utilize the ever-changing tools of marketing, and home in on the resources and schedule that allow you to be consistently productive. That all sounds overwhelming, but you can keep your sanity by simply asking, “What’s next?” You don’t—can’t—do this commerce collage all at once. Break big tasks into small steps. Creating an entire website may be overwhelming. But the first step—getting your domain name—is bite-sized. Set aside a little time each day, or each week, specifically for business, and do the next small step.

This is where everything comes together…or falls apart. One of the lies writers often struggle with is: You have nothing to say. There’s an element of truth there, because apart from Christ, what do we have to say? But with Him…oh, the things you can share! Deep inside you is a God-given message for a God-given audience. Sometimes that audience is only two—you and God. Sometimes it’s a handful of people. Sometimes it’s hundreds. Or thousands. But here’s the thing. The size of your audience doesn’t define your success. Your obedience defines your success. That’s all. A writing career is a long journey of deep places with God. You travel where He takes you and write what He tells you. Learn to be faithful everyday and trust Him for the outcome. Writers who do that reap peace and joy. No matter what.

Surviving Henry
Erin Taylor Young is a founding member of Serenade Books—a boutique publisher focusing on romance ebooks in the inspirational market—where she hones her publishing skills as an editor and author liaison. Her deepest passions are the Word of God and bringing His truth to readers, whether in her own books or those of other authors. She teaches workshops about writing and publishing, mentors new writers, produces podcasts, and is the co-creator of Write from the Deep with Karen Ball. She’s also an award-winning humor writer whose recent book, Surviving Henry: Adventures in Loving a Canine Catastrophe, has been repeatedly accused of making people laugh until they cry. Learn more about Erin and her mentoring services at