S.T.O.R.Y. – Five Factors Of Great Novels

Allen Arnold loves great stories, passionate
conversations and authentic living. As Senior Vice-President and Fiction
Publisher at Thomas Nelson, he spends his days acquiring, reading and
publishing world-class adult and young adult fiction written from a Christian
worldview. Allen’s favorite way to spend the day is with his family –
preferably with a C.S. Lewis book or Superman comic close at hand.
S.T.O.R.Y. – Five Factors Of Great Novels
Used with permission

You have so many
considerations as you craft your novel. My goal isn’t to add to the list – but
to raise five to the forefront. For our Fiction team, these are key elements we
discuss as we review proposals. Does your novel excel at all five?
 S = SHOW.
Show rather than tell. Don’t spell out what’s playing out. The joy of discovery
and savoring is depleted for the reader when themes are spoon-fed and
characters tell every thought rather than showing through their actions. It’s
story versus sermon. Trust readers to get the nuances of your story.
T = TRANSFORM. The
best stories leaves readers in a different place internally than they were on
page one. Does your novel call readers to something more, give them a hunger
for something greater? Christian Fiction, especially, should contain the major
theme of hope.
O = ORIGINAL.
Chasing a trend or trying to write like your favorite author never delivers the
anticipated results. Because the market already has that voice or that novel.
Only you can tell the stories God has given you. Rather than do a Christian
version of what is hot in pop culture, write with such originality that the
world wants to make a secular version of your Christian Fiction novel.
R = REAL.
Through focus groups, Christian Fiction readers tell us they don’t want sappy
(their word) stories. Regardless of the genre, they crave stories with real
emotion, real consequences, real outcomes. But don’t confuse authentic with
gratuitous. Real doesn’t mean scenes of over-the-top language or violence. The
Bible is filled with real stories that honor God without being gratuitous.
Y = YEARNING. When
a reader finishes the last sentence of your novel, the worst thing they can do
is toss it on the shelf and move on. That’s a symbolic yawn. How do you move
readers from a yawn to a yearning? Yearning to tell others about this story?
Yearning for your next novel?
These aren’t the only factors to a great
novel.  But they’re five big ones worth pondering.

Catching the Publisher’s Eye

Allen Arnold loves great stories, passionate
conversations and authentic living. As Senior Vice-President and Fiction
Publisher at Thomas Nelson, he spends his days acquiring, reading and
publishing world-class adult and young adult fiction written from a Christian
worldview. Allen’s favorite way to spend the day is with his family –
preferably with a C.S. Lewis book or Superman comic close at hand.
Catching the Publisher’s Eye (used with permission)
How can an aspiring Christian Fiction author best catch
the attention of a publisher?
Yes, a well-written proposal is important. There are
many sites that share how to create one. But there are even more essential
traits that catch my eye. I’m drawn to writers who:
Create stories with intoxicating premises, brimming with
rich characters and buzz-worthy plots.  ”Stirred” and written well.
Demonstrate their ability to sell ideas by first selling
a book agent. If an agent isn’t interested, ask why and keep polishing.
Succinctly articulate their story in a fresh, memorable
way. If you can’t – no one else can.  Nor will they want to.
Make rooms brighter with their personality and passion.
Otherwise, the relationship isn’t fun. And life is too short for that.
Tell their personal story as powerfully as the story
they’re writing. Because tribes (fans) are most drawn to those who can.
Listen well. The amount of time you listen vs. talk is
your learning bandwidth. And you never learn while talking.
Seek long-term consistency in their Author Brand.
Writers tire of a successful brand far sooner than fans. Stay the course.
Engage in blue-sky thinking with the publishing team
about how to make their stories bigger, better, more. Always ask, “what  
if?”
Celebrate victories rather than camping in the land of
what didn’t go right.
Understand the definition of success for their story –
but don’t base their identity on it.
Pursue their calling by pursuing first things first.
Love God. Love others. Then write story. As you’re transformed, the story will
follow.
Savor the journey. No one is guaranteed a bestseller or
a next story. Remember what we do will echo in eternity. Echo well.
Yes, many of the above are more inner than outer qualities. More
about the person than the story. Yet these are the qualities that catch my eye
as a publisher. Because inevitably what’s on the inside shines through to the
story. May you shine brightly as you pursue this high calling.

Webcast Alert! Christian Book Buzz 2009 –

DATE: Thursday, November 19, 2009 TIME: Noon–1:00 PM EST REGISTER TODAY

It may seem simple, at first, to categorize Christian fiction. Most readers would agree that there is a core of biblically-based attitudes, values, and actions, and likely there would be very little, if any, profanity, sex or violence. Generally, Christian fiction has religious themes infused into a regular genre story. But there are as many subgenres in Christian fiction as there are in popular fiction – from cozy mysteries to legal suspense to fantasy. And readers aren’t all looking for the same message – Christian historical fiction can inform and entertain, while women’s fiction may be sought for comfort or advice.
Christian fiction gives readers characters and situations that demonstrate the growth of faith, depth and breadth of moral responsibility, the possibility of conversion and redemption, and examples of Christian living for men and women of all ages, races and cultures. Many libraries are seeing an increased demand for Christian fiction with more readers looking for inspirational and uplifting stories and finding good writing in newly discovered places, contributing to the cross-over appeal of this growing genre.
Join four leading publishers for this one hour webcast which will feature over 60 new and forthcoming titles in all Christian fiction categories for adults and young adults.
REGISTER FOR THIS FREE WEBCAST TODAY AT www.libraryjournal.com/christianfiction2009

PANELISTS

Susan Salley, Executive Director of Marketing, Abingdon Press
Nathan Henrion, National Account Manager, Baker Publishing Group
Allen Arnold, National Account Manager, Thomas Nelson
Karen Watson, Acquisitions Director of Fiction, Tyndale House Publishers