3 Ways to Support Your Fiction Habit While Working Towards That Big Contract

Many of us are committed fiction writers, yet haven’t been paid for our efforts in years. Sometimes it’s hard to convince family and friends we’re working when we don’t bring home a paycheck. Sometimes it’s even hard to convince ourselves.


So what’s a devoted novelist to do while waiting to land a big contract?

Freelance
Before the fiction bug bit, I freelanced for several local magazines. But when raising kids, writing fiction, and freelancing became too much to juggle, I hug up my press hat. Unfortunately, I forfeited the little money I was making that “made” me a real writer. Now almost ten years later and one book contract advance spent, I need to make money while I wait to land a bigger contract. Since getting a J.O.B is not an option for me at this point, I’ve decided to go back to my freelancing roots.

At a recent writers conference, Chuck Sambucino offered great insight on freelancing. In class I realized I had years worth of blog content that I could repurpose for different periodicals, and was inspired to send out queries. My first query to the local paper didn’t get a response, but I got a “yes” twenty minutes after I emailed a query to a magazine I used to write for. There might even be an option for writing a column when there’s an opening. Now it’s official, I’m a working freelancer again and all because I decided to send out a query!

Think about how you can repurpose blog posts or articles you’ve already written, then send out those queries. 
 
Teach
Last summer I taught story telling/plotting to a group of preteens and had a great time teaching what I love, and I got paid for it! This year I’ve added new classes to my creative writing camps and hope to hold one or two this summer. I also plan on pursuing more speaking engagements with local women’s and writer’s groups.
 
Think about what you might be able to speak on. Do you have some blog posts that people have really responded to? Maybe you can create a talk from those!

Ebooks
Remember those blog posts and talks you created? Why not consider converting them into ebooks? If you look at your blog content, I bet you’ll see various themes running through the posts. Why not organize your posts by themes and publish them as ebooks?

You might not get rich from these ideas, but you may just earn a little money to support your fiction habit while you wait for that  big contract and prove to the naysayers that you are a legitimate writer.

Unfortunately, the downside to trying to support your fiction habit is that it gives you less time to actually write. But that’s another subject for another day. Til then… keep writing, one word, one project at a time!
 
Let’s talk: How do you financially support your fiction?



Gina Conroy is founder of Writer…Interrupted and is still learning how to balance a career with raising a family. Represented by Chip MacGregor, she writes quirky mysteries full of deep truth. Her first book Cherry Blossom Capers, released from Barbour Publishing in January 2012 and her newest mystery, Digging Up Death  is available November 2012.

Breathing Life into Your Characters… Even the Dead Ones

Jennifer AlLee believes the most important thing a woman can
do is discover her identity in God – a theme that carries throughout her
stories. She has written skits, activity pages, and over one hundred
contributions to Concordia Publishing House’s My Devotions series. Her novels
include The Love of His Brother, The Pastor’s Wife, The Mother Road, and A Wild
Goose Chase Christmas
, book two in the Quilts of Love series. She’s an
active member of American Christian Fiction Writers and loves connecting with
readers on Facebook and Twitter. Jennifer resides in the grace-filled city of
Las Vegas with her husband and teenage son. Visit her website at www.jenniferallee.com

NR: Leave a comment or question for Jennifer and be entered in a drawing for A Wild Goose Chase Christmas. Continental U.S. residents only, please.
Breathing Life into Your Characters… Even the Dead Ones
Sometimes, characters fight you. They resist every attempt
at making them fit into the mold you’ve created for them, insisting on breaking
out. But every now and then, a character presents herself to you like a
fully-formed, three-dimensional gift.
When I began writing my latest novel, A Wild Goose Chase
Christmas, I had my main characters all wrestled into submission. I knew their
names, what they looked like, and something about their personalities. The only
person who was still a mystery to me was Grandma Isabella, but that didn’t seem
like a big problem, since Gran is dead when the story opens. She wouldn’t even
be showing up, except when others talked about her.
I underestimated the woman.
Gran makes her presence felt in the first chapter when Izzy
is trying to decide which photos to include in a photo display for Gran’s
funeral. Here’s an excerpt:
One was a
black and white of a young Isabella in a classic dance pose. She balanced on
one leg, satin-clad toes stretched into perfect pointe, her other knee drawn
up, arms held out in front of her. The rapturous expression on her smooth,
unblemished face and the extension of her fingertips gave the impression she
was reaching for her one true love.
The other
picture was much different. It was a headshot, probably taken the last time her
church updated the picture directory. She wore a burgundy sweater with a silk
flower pinned to it, her silver hair pulled back into a tidy bun. This was an
Isabella mellowed by time, her skin etched with lines, her smile content.
Two
pictures representing two very different sides of the same woman. Izzy looked
from one to the other and shook her head. “I’m just not sure how she’d rather
be remembered.”
When Izzy picked up the first photo, there was Gran in all
her glory. I knew exactly who she was. In fact, she could have been my own
grandmother… because that’s who I modeled Gran after. I didn’t plan it that
way. My original inspiration for Gran was Jessica Tandy (Driving Miss Daisy).
Apparently, my own dearly departed grandmother had other ideas. I can imagine
her in heaven, tugging on the sleeve of God’s robe, grinning up at him and
bouncing on the balls of her feet. “Father, I would love to show up in one of
my granddaughter’s books. What would you say about giving her a nudge?”
Naturally, there are differences. For example, my grandma
had a fondness for wigs, not buns. Before she died, there was a cat living in
her home, not a dog. But years earlier, when she did have a dog, it was a black
poodle named Bird (a long story). When you use a real, flesh and blood person
as the pattern for a character, you never want to clone them. You want to get
their essence.
Grandma Isabella captures the essence of my grandma, Marie
Staats. She was a former dancer. She had a mischievous side and a slightly
off-center sense of humor. Grandma Marie so would do what Grandma Isabella
does. Match-making from beyond the grave? Heck yeah!
This woman, who I expected to simply pass through the book,
ended up becoming a pivotal character. If you take her out of the story, it
would all fall apart. Which is why I dedicated the book to my grandmother. A
lifetime of memories came together in the right place at the right time and
bonded to form the most awesome fictional grandmother. Job well done, Grandma.
Now you can dance off across the clouds to see what new, lovely commotion you
can cause.
The other grandkids had better watch out.
A Wild Goose Chase Christmas
Upon her grandmother’s death, Izzy Fontaine finds herself in
possession of a Wild Goose Chase quilt that supposedly leads to a great
treasure. Of course, once the rest of the family finds out about it, they’re
determined to have a go at the treasure themselves.
If that’s not enough, local museum curator Max Logan claims
that Grandma Isabella promised the quilt to him. What is it about this quilt
that makes everyone want it? Is Izzy on a wild goose chase of her own, or a
journey that will lead her to the treasure Gran intended?

On Offending Christian Readers

One of the most common arguments for “clean fiction” — i.e., fiction that is not offensive,
contains no morally objectionable elements, and is safe for the entire
family — is that it doesn’t offend “weaker brothers.” That phrase, and
the concept we import to this argument, is taken from several important
sections of Scripture.

Jesus warned about putting “stumbling blocks” before the “little
ones”  (Luke 17:1-2 NASV) and the apostle Paul cautioned, in two
different places

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. (I Cor. 8:9 NIV)

and

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one
another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or
obstacle in your brother’s way. (Romans 14:13 NIV)

When discussing Christian fiction, the argument for keeping it clean,
profanity free, graphically innocuous, and family friendly, often comes
back to the “stumbling block” concept.

Sex,
language, and violence potentially offends “weaker brothers and
sisters.” Therefore, Christian literature should avoid such elements so
as to not stumble brethren of another persuasion.

That argument, I assert, is skewed on two different counts — one theological and the other aesthetic.

First, the above Scriptures are not sufficient impetus to make “clean fiction” normative for all Christian literature.

In a fine essay entitled The Tyranny of the Weaker Brother, the author exegetes Romans 14 and concludes that the apostle Paul’s concern is to

“…protect Christian liberty in both directions,
liberty to partake and liberty to abstain. This protects the stronger
brother from the tyranny of the weaker, and as well diligently warns the
stronger brother not to ignore the weakness of the weaker brother and
draw him into behavior that is contrary to his conscience.”

Rather than “protect Christian liberty in both directions,”
the Christian fiction industry appears to have caved to “the tyranny of
the weaker brother.”
For the moment we say “this will offend
them” or “that will stumble them” and adjust our fiction accordingly, we
normalize a specific cultural preference or moral sensibility.
Christian liberty must exist in both directions, not just toward those
who advocate “clean fiction.” 

The second problem with “the stumbling block argument” and how it’s employed is that it potentially “incapacitates” creativity. The Christian artist who submits to “the tyranny of the weaker brother” is creatively hamstrung.

Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, once gave a lecture on Flannery O’Connor’s work

Some of her most pungent observations are to do with assumptions about ‘Catholic art’ which insist that such art should be edifying and moral; this, she argues, plays straight into the hands of critics of the Church who hold that dogmatic belief incapacitates a creative writer. (emphasis mine)

It’s safe to say that similar “assumptions” are embodied in today’s
“Christian art” debate. An entire industry has formed around the notion
that Christian art “should be edifying and moral.”  But like O’Connor’s
age, this camp “plays straight into the hands of critics of the Church
who hold that dogmatic belief incapacitates a creative writer.” How can a
Christian writer really explore the horror and angst and emptiness and
transcendence of life while fearful of offending someone along the way?

Rather than restrict themselves to only what is “edifying and moral,” Williams contends the Christian artist

…is precisely someone who cannot rule out any
subject matter. ‘The Catholic fiction writer is entirely free to
observe. He feels no call to take on the duties of God or to create a
new universe…He feels no need to apologise for the ways of God to man or
to avoid looking at the ways of man to God’. This imposes on the
Catholic writer a dangerous task, since she has to deal with matters
that may indeed be ‘occasions of sin’, subjects that expose the worst in
humanity. And while ‘to look at the worst will be for [the writer] no
more than an act of trust in God’, it may be a source of danger for the
reader.

Belief in God, rather than inhibit the writer, forces her to not look away, and makes her “entirely free to observe.” Thus, the Christian artist is “someone who cannot rule out any subject matter.”
How contrary to today’s Inspirational market! Rather than crafting
stories that may be “a source of danger for the reader” (as in
potentially “offending the weaker brother”), we rule out subject matter
and insist that “art should be edifying and moral.”

All on the grounds that we might “stumble” someone.

The “stumbling block argument” has been misused far too long in
Christian writer’s circles. Of course, the more mature should, on
occasion, defer to the weaker brother. I must be careful about my words
and conduct in certain situations. However, Christian liberty should
exist in both directions — liberty to partake and liberty to abstain. Yet when it comes to Christian fiction, sadly, liberty only extends one way.

* * *

 
Mike Duran writes supernatural thrillers. He is a monthly contributor to Novel Rocket, and is represented by the rockin’ Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary. Mike’s novels include The TellingThe Resurrection, an ebook novella, Winterland, and his newly released short story anthology Subterranea  You can visit his website at www.mikeduran.com.