Writing Christian Fiction

Want to Write Best Selling Christian Books?

Writing Christian Fiction is a Calling to Touch Lives for Christ

First things first: writing Christian fiction is a calling. We write to touch lives for Christ.

As Christian writers, we don't write merely for fame or fortune -although God may graciously grant us both for His glory and purposes. Beyond this, we have a higher calling: we write to honor God and reveal Him to readers.

Whether we're writing Christian fiction for kids, teens or adults, our audience is our mission field. Many of our readers may not know Jesus as their personal Savior. Others may have misconceptions about God or be far from Him. We are privileged that they have chosen our books and invited us into their hearts for the brief time that they read our stories - for stories are the way to the human heart.

Let us therefore learn our craft well, that we may write with the pen of a skilled writer... that we may touch the hearts of our readers.

Writing Christian Fiction: Want Your Book to be a Bestseller?

Of course you do! Why write for 500 readers when you can touch 5 million for Christ? Why earn $1,000 in royalties when you can have $10 million?

First off, though, let's get this clear: our primary goal in writing Christian fiction is not to publish a bestseller at all cost. Sure, we can employ the "tricks of the trade" to rev up sales - just play up the sex and violence. But we don't want that; there's a better way...

Wait upon the Lord.

Here's how Francine Rivers came to write her bestseller, Redeeming Love: in her Author's Note in the 1997 edition of her book, she recalled how, after her conversion, she started reading her Bible cover to cover. She prayed, she opened her home for a Bible study led by her pastor. Beginning with the Gospels, the study group moved on to the minor prophets, coming eventually to the prophet Hosea.

The Book of Hosea hit her so profoundly she knew this was the love story the Lord wanted her to write - "His story, a deeply moving story of His passionate love for each of us - unconditional, forgiving, unchanging, everlasting, self-sacrificing."

What's the story the Lord wants you to write? Ask Him! It may not come at once; like Ms Rivers, you may have to go through a period of spiritual growth, studying God's Word and spending time with Him. But, rest assured, where God has given you a dream of writing Christian fiction, you will get to write the books you were meant to write.

Recommended Reading:
Write His Answer by Marlene Bagnull

Writing Christian Fiction: Unveiling God to Readers

What do buyers of Christian novels want? Readers' reviews and studies of bestseller lists provide some answers: readers want a rousing good read - heartwarming stories that draw them closer to God.

Here's what some readers say they like about Christian novels they've read:

"(The heroine's) walk of faith... resonated in my heart."

"(This story is) an invitation to journey to the very heart of God... I have been indeed transformed."

"(This book) sings throughout with the pulsating rhythm of love – God’s love for his people."

"I came to truly understand what love is... this book changed my life."

Buyers also want stories that reveal God's love, books they can give to family and friends. One reader wrote that she bought more than 18 copies of Redeeming Love to give away, "because it is the best witness of the Father's love that I can give to someone who will not listen to 'God talk'".

Don’t preach at your reader. Write a warm, entertaining story, and weave in a message of God's love. The most effective way to convey biblical truths is to have your characters live them out.

Writing Christian Fiction Well: Create Endearing, Believable Characters

Create believable characters with endearing qualities as well as flaws your readers can identify with. A common complaint is that "Christian fiction books are stiff and lack a depth to the characters" (one reader's comment). Or that characters are "cardboard, overly pious... too Pollyanna-ish to be believed" (this from another reader).

Readers expect your heroes and heroines to have weaknesses and struggles similar to theirs. They want flesh and blood human beings, not plaster saints. As one reader puts it, "I felt what they felt, I saw parallels to my own life in their lives".

Recommended Reading:
Building Believable Characters by Marc McCutcheon
Characters Make Your Story by Maren Elwood

Writing Christian Fiction Well: Be Real - Without Being Raunchy

Write stories that mirror real-life situations - broken relationships, betrayal, adversity, tragedy. Write so that readers can say "Yes, I've been there; this story feels real."

Show life as it is: that even Christians struggle with daily challenges and their own human failings. Here's what one reader says of the characters in Karen Kingsbury's books: "Each of them faces temptations, whether it is lust, anger, unforgiveness or waning faith. I wish more writers had Ms. Kingsbury's honesty about the life of faith." (Karen Kingsbury is a Christian writer whose bestsellers include the following series: Above the Line (4 books); Sunrise (4 books); Firstborn (5 books); and Redemption (5 books)).

But - you may say - if we are to be true to life, how do we deal with scenes involving sex, rape or violence? Should we be discreet, gloss over them? Or should we be explicit in our writing?

We're not talking here about sex or violence for its own sake, but where it's an integral, unavoidable part of the story; as, for example, in Redeeming Love, the story of an "irredeemable" prostitute, that unflinchingly reveals the horrendous side of human nature, complete with child rape, child and adult prostitution, abortion, adultery, violence, murder and much more. By showing the worst that human beings are capable of, the author Francine Rivers delivers a powerful message of God's forgiveness and redeeming love.

Does dealing with so many "sordid" issues make Redeeming Love sound like a cheap sex story? Not at all. Francine Rivers does not go into explicit details, there's not a single four-letter word in the book, yet the scenes pack a punch. It's all in the treatment: the building up of tension, a few well-chosen words to pen a lightning sketch - and knowing when to stop, knowing the drama and power of silence. Read the book yourself to see how it's done.

Writing Christian Fiction: Study the Craft of Writing

"Words - so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them."

- Nathaniel Hawthorne

Study the craft of writing. You are serving a great Master. You have an important job to do. So, strive for excellence when writing Christian fiction.

Learn from the Master Himself. Read His book, the Bible; it's the finest English writing of all time. Learn from the masters too: read the classics and good contemporary literature.

Take writing courses. Read books on the craft of writing. And write, write, write - that's the best way to hone your writing skills.

Recommended Reading:
A Complete Guide to Writing for Publication by Susan Titus Osborn
A Step in the Write Direction: The Complete How-To Book for Christian Writers by Donna Clark Goodrich
An Introduction to Christian Writing by Ethel Herr
Complete Guide to Writing and Selling the Christian Novel by Penelope Stokes
Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Christian Fiction by Ron Benrey
How to Grow a Novel by Sol Stein
How to Write and Sell a Christian Novel by Gilbert Morris
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King
Stein on Writing by Sol Stein
The Making of a Christian Bestseller by Ann E Byle

For tips on writing, go to:
Creative Writing Tips: Success Secrets of Top Authors
Creative Writing Tips: How to Improve Writing Skills
Connotation Denotation Synergy
Steps to Write a Book
Creative Story Writing Tips

Writing Christian Fiction: Christian Stories for Children

To write saleable books for children, you need to cater to two groups of people: the kids who will read your stories, and the adults who decide which books to buy.

What children want are action-packed adventure, humor and mystery stories, and books revolving round family, friends and school. It doesn’t matter to kids if the story contains Christian themes so long as it’s interesting and not preachy.

What do adults - for example, parents - look for in a children's book? It must benefit the child in some way, of course: a well-told story that holds the reader's attention - even better if the book is also informative, educational or character-building. Christian buyers would want the story to impart biblical values and truths as well.

To get a feel of what kids want, read as many best selling children's books as possible: here's a list to get you started.

For more tips and ideas to help you write children’s books, go to:
Creative Writing Ideas to Help You Write the Best Books for Kids
Creative Writing Ideas: How to Write a Story Kids & Teens Want to Read

Writing Christian Fiction: Christian Novels for Teens

Teens need Christian novels that address issues from a biblical perspective - challenges they're facing in their own lives, such as relationship problems with family and friends, parents' divorce, peer pressure, boy-girl relationships, sex, bullying and drugs. They don't want anything that smacks of preaching or moralizing; you'll need to approach your subject with sensitivity and understanding, and from the perspective of a teenager.

Who buys Christian novels for teens? Most often, it's women shoppers who get them for their teenage children or grandchildren; what they want are character-building stories with biblical values or a Christian theme. They'll also snap up the latest novels by their teen's favorite authors.

Teens are loyal readers; when they like a story, they'll want to read the rest of the series, or other books by the same author. This is good news for writers: once you've got your audience "hooked", selling your next book becomes that much easier.

What's hot among teens are light romances, "chick-lit", historical fiction, thrillers, mysteries and adventure stories. Some readers love fantasy fiction. Writers of Christian speculative fiction may find it rewarding to write for teens who enjoy edgy, "out-of-this-world" stories.

To help you get an idea of what teens like to read, here's a list of bestselling teen books.

For more tips and ideas to help you write books for teens, go to:
Creative Writing Ideas: How to Write Cool Stories for Preteens & Teens
Creative Writing Ideas: How to Write a Story Kids & Teens Want to Read

Writing Christian Fiction: Christian Romance

Who reads Christian romance? Mainly women. In fact, women are the most avid readers, buying up over 90% of the Christian fiction published today - the bulk of this being romance novels.

When writing Christian fiction for this huge and expanding market, you need to know what readers want. Whichever genre of Christian romance you're writing in - whether it's contemporary romance, chick-lit, biblical romance, historical romance or romantic suspense - here's a "must-have" list:

  • Write from a Christian worldview.

  • Absolutely no profanity, physical sensuality, explicit sexual content or violence in the story (Christian romantic suspense may contain some violence - but only what is essential to the storyline).

  • Show the characters growing spiritually as they struggle through trials, emerging stronger in their faith at the end of the story.

  • Give your story a happy ending and include an uplifting faith message for readers to take away.

Writing Christian Fiction for Women: How to Grip & Hold Readers' Attention

What readers want is an entertaining, absorbing read: they want to enter, for the brief time of the story, into the world you have created. They want to feel, and laugh, and cry with your characters; they want to satisfy their hunger for emotional engagement and spiritual uplift. They want the story to affirm for them that "God's in His heaven, all's right with the world".

Write about real-life issues: physical and verbal abuse, domestic violence, unfaithfulness, abortion, divorce, drug addiction, alcoholism, illness, death. Create multi-dimensional, believable characters - warts and all - that readers can relate to. Show how your characters' wrong choices create problems for themselves and others; how they make a comeback and overcome challenges; and how, through the rough times, they grow in their character and faith. Most of all, weave a shining thread of God's love and faithfulness through the story, and show how He makes all things beautiful in His time.

Recommended Reading:
Writing the Christian Romance by Gail Gaymer Martin

Writing Christian Fiction - and Getting It Published!

Have you written a Christian novel for teens, or a story for kids? Are you looking for a traditional publisher - one who offers a publishing contract, pays royalties, and does not expect you to foot any part of the publishing expenses? If so, come publish with us. We are Christian book publishers looking for good manuscripts.

Coalition independent authors offers all Christian indie authors FREE advertising.

Christian books Bible stories offers entertaining and enlightening Christian books for the whole family.

Return from Writing Christian Fiction to Creative Writing

Acknowledgments: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, 1997, Multnomah Books, & Author's Note therein; Amazon.com Reader Reviews; Christianbook.com Reader Reviews. Also, to all who have contributed comments, information and advice on writing Christian fiction, Thank You!

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