Genre Makes You A Better Writer

by Susan May Warren, @SusanMayWarren

I’ve written more than 50 books.  Many of them have been on the best-seller list.  A number have won awards.  And at least half are….romance.

When I get to that last sentence, whatever literary cred I’ve earned with the first three statements seems to vanish.  “You write Romance?” someone will ask, (as if they haven’t heard me) and sometimes add an accompanying look of…disdain?  Disappointment? As if writing romance is somehow less highbrow than general fiction.  I hate the assumption that general fiction is better written. Hogwash.

Words are words, and the truth is, writing fabulous genre fiction is harder than general fiction. You have to stand out in a category with your words while delivering a plot that follows the genre constructs.  General fiction can be wonderful…or it can be a “the emperor has no clothes” moment – everything thinking the same thing, but afraid to say it.

Here are some truths:
~ Genre fiction gives a writer framework that allows them to hone their wordsmithing.  Because genre fiction comes with expectations about plot, the author must adhere to them – and then work diligently on emotional layering and wordsmithing to stand out.

~ Genre fiction gives an agent or editor a niche in which to sell the novel.  It helps them find the right market or line, connects them to the right editors.

~ Genre fiction makes it easier for an author to find a following. If they can construct a story within the structure of genre, but with a winning, distinct voice, fans of the genre will champion them and their following will build….even over to other genres.  Look at JD Robb, aka Nora Roberts.

Here’s how to make Genre fiction work for you.

1. Find a genre and stay in it long enough to master it.  Work on one element of storycrafting or wordsmithing at a time.  I would use each book as an opportunity to hone dialogue, or storyworld, or emotional layering, or the romantic elements…whatever.  Eventually I felt confident in every area, and my books got better with each story.

2. Study the best-sellers in the genre and ask: what do they right?  Keep a highlighter with you and mark up your stories with passages or techniques that stand out.  How can you apply the principles you’ve learned from these best-sellers into your stories?

3. Look at the plot constructs and ask: what works, what doesn’t?  If you are going to have a rogue agent that kidnaps his former handler in a romantic suspense, how does the author make that agent likeable?  Or is he?  Find the nuances that make a story powerful.  Look at the rhythm of when these constructs occur.  How do they add to the character’s emotional journey and make the story more satisfying?

4. Ask: How can you make your voice stand out?  What unique element do you bring to the genre?  I wrote six novels for Steeple Hill/Love Inspired…all of them with an international theme.  But I lived overseas and could easily write stories set in an international – especially Russian (where I lived) setting.  This became part of my voice.

5. Focus on character.  Because you are writing inside genre, you’re plot will be a “repeat” to some extent.  (let’s be honest  – there are only 7 major plots in the world anyway!).  So, it has to be your characters who make your stories powerful.  Dive deep and create characters who live and breathe.  (we have a few techniques here at MBT.)

Quick Skills Exercise:   Read a genre novel (in your genre!) this week. Write down the genre constructs in the novel, and when they occur. How does the author make their voice or character stand out?  Are there any techniques you can apply to your own writing?

Genre is an author’s friend.  Make it work for you as you build your career and you’ll become a better writer.

Susie May

A Matter of Trust (Montana Rescue Book #3)

Champion backcountry snowboarder Gage Watson has left the limelight behind after the death of one of his fans. After being sued for negligence and stripped of his sponsorships, he’s remade his life as a ski patrol in Montana’s rugged mountains, as well as serving on the PEAK Rescue team. But he can’t seem to find his footing–or forget the woman he loved, who betrayed him.Senator and former attorney Ella Blair spends much of her time in the limelight as the second-youngest senator in the country. But she has a secret–one that cost Gage his career. More than anything, she wants to atone for her betrayal of him in the courtroom and find a way to help him put his career back on track.

When Ella’s brother goes missing on one of Glacier National Park’s most dangerous peaks, Gage and his team are called in for the rescue. But Gage isn’t so sure he wants to help the woman who destroyed his life. More, when she insists on joining the search, he’ll have to keep her safe while finding her reckless brother, a recipe for disaster when a snowstorm hits the mountain.

But old sparks relight as they search for the missing snowboarder–and suddenly, they are faced with emotions neither can deny. But when Ella’s secret is revealed, can they learn to trust each other–even when disaster happens again?

 Susan May Warren is owner of Novel Rocket and the founder of Novel.Academy. A Christy and RITA award-winning author of over fifty novels with Tyndale, Barbour, Steeple Hill, Summerside Press and Revell publishers, she’s an eight-timeChristy award finalist, a three-time RITA Finalist, and a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award and the ACFW Carol. A popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation, she’s also the author of the popular writing method, The Story Equation. A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at: Contact her at:

So Why Write A “Christian” Novel?

By Rachel Hauck

I started building new characters for a new story the other day and as I considered the journey on which my characters would embark, I thought, “Why do I write Christian novels?”

Christian stories get kicked around for being preachy, soft, not well written. Often its friendly fire, too. Accusation from within our ranks.

Sadly at times, those accusations are not without foundation.

Yet, I’ve read plenty of books in the secular market that were not well written. They were soft. Preachy.

Word on the street is 50 Shades of Grey, the top selling novel of all time, is not well written. I’ve not read it so I can’t personally attest, but criticizing a whole publishing space, Christian publishing, for being “not well written” falls a bit short.

There are many amazing Christian novels, very well written and inspiring.

Yet I can’t launch a dog into that larger fight, you know?

It’s too broad. Too generic. Too ambiguous.

I have to stay in my wheelhouse. Write what’s on my heart. Write WHO I am.

So that’s why I write novels with my Christina faith in mind.

Because I cannot deny the hope that is within me.

I want to write stories that inspire people to seek out Jesus.

That give the readers hope. Inspiration.

I write in the romance genre and of all Christian novels, romance has taken the biggest hit.

Critics proclaim Christian romance novels create unrealistic expectations and send women off to fantasize about what they don’t have.

This is from More To The Point by Russell Moore:

A lot of this genre, though, is simply a Christianization of a form not intended to enhance intimacy but to escape to an artificial illusion of it. Granted, there’s no graphic sexuality here. The hero and heroine don’t sleep together; they pray together. But that’s just the point.
How many disappointed middle-aged women in our congregations are reading these novels as a means of comparing the “strong spiritual leaders” depicted there with what by comparison must seem to be underachieving lumps lying next to them on the couch? (Newsflash: They can do that every week by comparing their husbands to the pastor!)
This is not to equate morally “romance novels” with the grave soul destruction of pornography. (Shew, glad he cleared that one up!) But it is worth asking, “Is what I’m consuming leading me toward contentment with my spouse (or future spouse) or away from it? Is it pointing me to the other in one-flesh union or to an eroticized embodiment of my own desires? Is this the mystery or a mirage?

Trust me, Mr. Moore’s, you don’t need a Christian romance novel to point out to some “middle age woman” that her husband is an underachieving lump on the couch.

Women can get that image from a myriad of places if that’s what she’s looking for.

However! In a Christian romance novel, our characters deal with their own weakness and frailty, and each one, hero and heroine, has their own journey with God.

My characters rarely if ever “pray together.”

Christian novels inspire hope. To trust God’s will and pleasure in each of us. I’ve heard from readers and not one has ever said, “I read your book and now I can’t stand my husband.”

In fact, here are a few examples from readers. All three of these women wrote me from other countries. Indonesia. Poland. Brazil.

After I read your novel. I promise to myself to keep love (my husband) with my way. Unconditionally. Just like Jesus did. I don’t expect anything in return. He can love me with his way. I tell to my friend about this also. to encourage them to do the same thing.

I didn’t think the Gospels had anything else for me. I’d read them. But after I read your novel, I changed my perspective and I sat and prayed for a long time.

(This reader was 17) I didn’t know Christian romances like this existed. I can’t wait to read more. I’m going to tell all of my friends. And tonight, I’m going to pray for you.

Tear. Lots of tears while reading these letter.

Do you know how long it might have taken me as a missionary to impact these women in the same way one story did?

Look, I love our missionaries! We need boots on the ground. But look at the power of story to get straight to the heart.

Christian romance inspired them to love. To be kind. To pray. To hold to their virtue. To wait for “the one” God has for them.

I pray for my books to make a difference in this age as well as the age to come. I want them to last for eternity! Not just this life.

That’s why I write Christian novels. I’m selfish I guess. I want to put my hand to what will endure forever! Ecclesiastes 3:11 says God has written eternity on our hearts.

I’m not saying every Christian novelist has to write “Christian” novels. Please hear me on this. Each one of us must follow the calling on our heart.

I have many Christian author friends making a difference in the secular market!

I’m saying this is why I write Christian novels.

Those letters from international readers beat any best seller list or award. They affirmed what I do and why.

So why do you write what you write? You write the stories on your heart! All I ask is that you seek the heart of Jesus before, during and after.

Write what will endure. Write to entertain. Inspire. Draw the reader into hope.

Now go be brilliant!


Rachel Hauck lives in sunny central Florida with her husband and ornery pets.

A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in Journalism, she worked in the corporate software world before planting her backside in uncomfortable chair to write full time eight years ago.

She’s the author of EPCA and CBA best sellers, RITA and Christy nominated books. 

She also co-authored the critically acclaimed Songbird Novels with platinum selling country music artist Sara Evans. Their novel Softly and Tenderly, was one of Booklists 2011 Top Ten Inspirationals.

Rachel serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a mentor and book therapist at My Book Therapy, a conference speaker and worship leader.

Rachel writes from her two-story tower in an exceedingly more comfy chair. She is a huge Buckeyes football fan.

Visit her web site:

A Visit to a Friend’s Home Births a Novel

Huddleston is a multi-published author of books, articles, and short stories.
Her debut novels in the Caney Creek Series and her latest book, Wait for Me are sweet Southern romances.
She is a member of ACFW, the Literary Hall of Fame at Lincoln Memorial
University (TN), and holds a M.Ed. degree from Mississippi State University. Jo
lives in the U.S. Southeast with her husband, near their two grown children and
four grandchildren. Find Jo on her website,
her blog, Facebook, and Goodreads.

What sparked the story
for this novel?
When I
wrote my latest novel, Wait for Me, I
had been to a real coal mining community one time. One memorable time. I went
home from college with a friend for a weekend. Her home was in the coal mining
region in southern West Virginia.
We had
arrived at my friend’s home after dark and I did not see any part of the coal
community until the next day. My friend took me to the company store. When we
left the store and stood on the wide porch, I saw the tipple. An imposing
structure towering above all else around it.
memory of that tipple burrowed deep within my mind. When I began writing for
publication, I wanted to write a book about a coal camp and its tipple. I write
sweet Southern romances with settings I know. My first published fiction
series, the Caney Creek Series, was set in the southern Appalachians of East
Tennessee. I decided to release that memory of a coal tipple and set my second
fiction series in the coal-mining region of West Virginia.
Share a bit of your
journey to publication. Was it short or long?
My journey to publication was interrupted. I had traditionally
published three nonfiction titles and over 200 articles and short stories in
more than fifty well-known periodicals. I had begun to mull over a novel idea
but then I experienced a health issue that prevented me from writing with pen
and paper or on a keyboard.
For seven years my body wouldn’t do what my brain told it to do.
But I recovered somewhat and could get back to the keyboard. During those seven
years I had a lot of
time to meditate. A relative marvels that I’ve never questioned “God, why me?”
I have not become bitter because of the health issue. I think God just gave me
time to understand a lot of things when I was inactive.
a more peaceful, patient, and faithful me. The writing journey is never-ending.
How could I not write? What writing ability I have comes from God and I
must be the best steward of that gift that I can be.
What would you do if
you didn’t write?
I’d have more time to read!
What makes you
struggle as an author? How do you handle it?
Marketing causes me to struggle a bit. Writing is not a struggle.
As for the marketing, I just buckle down and do it. I don’t stress over it and
I know how much I can do and what I cannot comfortably do.
Where do you write: In
a cave, a coffeehouse, or a cozy nook?
In a
corner of a bedroom I have a desk that’s anchored by a laptop, printer, lamp,
and ordered stacks of paper. I used this desk while in high school.
Do you prefer the
creating or editing aspect of writing? Why?
I prefer the creating aspect of writing. I’m a pantster writer—I
plot only in my head. When I write, my story is a stream of creativity that I
want nothing to slow or stop. I see my characters say and do things that
surprise me and I smile. Writing is a joy. The editing aspect of writing is
more like work.
Do you consider
yourself a visual writer? If so, what visuals do you use?
Visuals in my mind, from my personal experience or research, not
physical visuals I need to see.
What are your top 3
recommendations for a new writer?
1.   Ask God to help you
write before your fingers touch the keyboard each day.
2.   Be teachable.
3.   If writing for
publication, be patient.
Then what 3 things
would recommend not doing?
1.   You can benefit from
reading other authors in your genre, but don’t try to copy them. Use your own
unique voice to write your story.
2.   Heed the rules of the
writing craft. But don’t get so hamstrung by the rules that your creativity
3.   Don’t try to write for
the trends that may appear to be popular. By the time you would finish your
manuscript, that trend may have vanished.
What’s next for you?
Book 2 in the West Virginia Mountains Series. I don’t have a title
yet—I usually get my titles from a scene or chapter in the book as I write.

Can Julie, an only child raised with privilege and groomed
for high society, and Robby, a coal miner’s son, escape the binds of their
socioeconomic backgrounds? Set in a coal mining community in West Virginia in
the 1950s, can their love survive their cultural boundaries?

This is a tragically beautiful love story of a simple yet
deep love between two soul mates, Robby and Julie. The American South’s
rigid caste system and her mother demand that Julie chooses to marry an
ambitious young man from a prominent and suitable family. Julie counters her
mother’s stringent social rules with deception and secrets in order to keep
Robby in her life. Can the couple break the shackles of polite society and
spend their lives together? Will Julie’s mother ever accept Robby?

Understanding Work-for-Hire

By Elizabeth Ludwig
I started a new project last year…one that I have been fairly quiet about as I learned the ins-and-outs of the subject I was about to tackle. You see, for the first time in my career, I was undertaking an Amish cozy mystery (see below for a preview of my new book cover!). And it was a work-made-for-hire project for Guideposts. Two things I had never before done! God has certainly been stretching my boundaries and making me see beyond what I thought was possible. 
But what exactly is a work-made-for-hire, and why did I agree to do it?
Weighing Work-for-Hire
A work-made-for-hire (sometimes abbreviated as work for hire or WFH) basically just means that the author agrees to create a work as part of their job and that both the author and the company they are writing for agree in writing to the WFH designation. The author does not own the work, but is contractually obligated to submit the work on the same basis as they would any other standard publishing agreement.
I should also note that in standard publishing agreements, the person who actually creates a work is the legally recognized author of that work. According to copyright law in the United States and certain other copyright jurisdictions, if a work is “made for hire”, the employer—not the employee—is considered the legal author.
Confused yet?
Where Hope Dwells, 2015

So then, what are the benefits to WFH? I admit, there is some disagreement over this. For me, the benefits were simply signing on to work for a major publishing house and everything that entails, IE: access to marketing, promotion, readership, networking, etc. It also enabled me to expand my publishing credentials, earn valuable writing experience, and finally, to “get my foot in the door with an attractive publisher”, for lack of better explanation. All of these swayed me in favor of the idea of a WFH project.

 Others would disagree and say that they are not willing to give up ownership of a created work, especially if they were not going to get credit for the work by having their name printed on the cover (which can also happen, but didn’t in my case).
Both views are arguably correct. I suppose the bottom line would have to lie in the heart of the author and what they are attempting to achieve. What do you think? Is a work-made-for-hire something you would ever consider? I’d love to hear what you think!