The Challenges of Becoming an International Writer


by David Rawlings, @DavidJRawlings

Since the Internet shrank the world – and social media put us in touch with everyone everywhere – there are now opportunities to be an international writer. We can go beyond the borders. Suddenly our audiences aren’t well-meaning family and the biggest segment of our city we can reach. Now we can potentially reach the world with our stories.

Being an international writer sounds so cool, doesn’t it? You might picture a foreign language version of your cover, or flying across the globe to attend a conference.


Early on in my fiction writing journey, I felt led to go for the globe, and if that meant I wanted to write inspirational fiction based on my Christian beliefs, then I needed to focus on the marketplace in the USA.

The trouble is I’m 8,000 miles away.  It didn’t make the job impossible, just harder, and it did raise some challenges. If you’re an American writer, focused on the American market, these are challenges you may not even know exist.

Understanding the culture of your marketplace

I’m an Aussie but writing for an American marketplace, so that means I need to speak a different language when I write. That doesn’t mean I have to type in a Texas drawl, or add extra letter As to get the hard Boston vowel sound, but I do need to ensure that my analogies, phrases, spelling and grammar are seamless for a reader in the USA.

For my latest manuscript, it meant changing my language to call an airbridge (the Aussie term) a jetway (an American term),  put temperatures in Fahrenheit (we use Celsius) and refer to Senators rather than Members of Parliament (we have both, but you don’t have the latter).

Hey, that’s fine. I spend my time researching the right flavor of latte for my protagonist to drink anyway. I’ve already blogged about the things I need to relearn after a career as a corporate writer, and one of the key things was the need to do your homework to ensure you are speaking the language of your reader. It just adds more research to the process.


And it also means that earlier in this blog post, I had to convert my language (13,154 kilometers) into American language (8,000 miles). And I had to misspell kilometres at the same time.


Personal connection is so important in any industry, but it is vital in writing.

We need to stem the smothering isolation by connecting with others to tell us that the last paragraph we wrote wasn’t the worst thing ever committed to paper, and in that I’m including the rough draft of the lyrics for Achy Breaky Heart.

It helps to pitch face-to-face or put a face to the name on the submission. It can be better to catch someone over coffee at a Conference than risk your proposal sliding into the spam folder.

But personal connection can be difficult when you’re physically distant, and are only communicating via social media and email.  You don’t have that same connection.

What it does do is ensure your connection through social media is more meaningful. It should be anyway, so it forces to you to use social media to connect, not just post for the sake of posting. It means you follow up comments and likes with words of thanks or continuing a conversation. It should be anyway. And because the first port of call for people is your web site, it means your blog is updated on a regular basis. Which it should be anyway.  It means that you painstakingly select the right conference to go to. Which you should anyway.

Oh, and God bless Skype.

Time zones

An extension of the distance is the difference in time. I have small windows of opportunity where I know people in the USA will be upright and awake … at the same time as me.

It takes a little more organization, but it can be overcome.  It means I have mentoring sessions or chats with my agent earlier in the day than I’d like, but it’s a necessity to chat at 7 a.m. And it saves you having 2 a.m. Skype calls. Nobody wants to have a sane, lucid chat at 2 a.m. in the morning. Nobody.

And the time difference also slows down conversations. I often find that I’ll get key emails or messages from people overnight, so that instantly adds twelve hours to any exchange.

So they are some of the challenges of being an international writer. Perhaps you have others.  I’d like to hear them.

It’s important to realize these are just the challenges – and it’s not all hard work. Being an international writer also gives you some advantages that locally-based authors simply don’t have.

I’ll cover them in my next blog post.

Based in South Australia, David Rawlings is a sports-mad father-of-three with his own copywriting business who reads everything within an arm’s reach.  He has published in the non-fiction arena and is now focused on writing contemporary Christian stories for those who want to dive deeper into life. His manuscripts have finaled in competitions for ACFW and OCW and he is currently represented by The Steve Laube Agency.

Jet-Fuel Backstory by DiAnn Mills

Jet-Fuel Backstory
By DiAnn Mills

Backstory is your story’s history. Some parts of it will never be visible to the reader. Like jet fuel, it’s the power behind every novel, the motivation propelling every character into action. Backstory reveals the why to unexpected behavior and adds punch to the unpredictable. The result is a believable story with characters who resonate with the readers long after the book is finished.

A jet moves ahead because it’s fueled with power.

When developing story that’s fresh and engaging, a writer strives to understand the character’s goals, fears, desires, strengths, and weaknesses. This task is impossible to navigate without knowing where the character has been, which means discovering what happened in the character’s life before chapter one, line one of the story.

The what-ifs of plot are easier to create when the writer understands the extreme challenges of the point of view character, whether that character is the protagonist or antagonist. Backstory takes the writer into that zone.

Consider yourself: You are the total of all life’s happenings since the day you were born. You inherited genes from your parents that set the stage for how you thrive mentally, physically, emotionally, and possibly spiritually. You’ve been seeped in culture, education, and a span of time called life. Nature and nurture combined with experiences, and there you are.

Which way is your story headed?

  Discovering a character’s personality is a similar process. Fortunately for the writer, the items needed from backstory are those that apply to your story, specifically scene by scene. But the writer still has a lot of work to do. Interview questions help, but writers have to know what to ask.

I’m a fan of Donald Maass, and often his teachings challenge me to stretch my imagination so my creativity can take a leap. The following prompt comes from a Maass exercise in Writing the Breakout Novel. The responses give you a solid foundation for your character’s motivation—and a few things you might not have already known.

  1. What happened in your character’s life up to age 12 that affected who she/he is today?
  2. What happened in your character’s life from ages 13 – 20 that affected who she/he is today?
  3. What happened in your character’s life from ages 21 – 30 that affected who she/he is today?
  4. What happened in your character’s life 1 year ago that affected who she/he is today?
  5. 6 months?
  6. 6 weeks?
  7. 24 hours?
  8. 1 hour?
  9. 10 minutes?

Are you ready to dive deeper into backstory? You can develop the character’s personality, vocabulary, career choices, emotions, attraction to the opposite sex, opinions, purpose, social concerns, problems, mental handicaps, and so much more, giving the story more intimacy because the writer has touched the character’s life. The exciting part is the writer is better equipped to predict behavior, no matter how eccentric.

A writer’s greatest joy is when a reader becomes engrossed in story, living the adventure of the character in unforgettable moments. You can do this by discovering the backstory.

Go ahead.

I dare you. 

Add some jet-fuel backstory.

 DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She currently has more than fifty-five books published.
Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; the 2014 president of the Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope, & Love chapter; and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and International Thriller Writers. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins
Christian Writers Guild. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. Visit her website at and connect with her on Facebook
(, Twitter (@DiAnnMills), Pinterest (, and Goodreads (

A Fresh Slate

Today’s guest
devotion is by Diann Hunt, from: Delight Yourself in the Lord…Even on Bad Hair Days © 2011 Summerside Press
A Fresh Slate
Because of the Lord’s great love we are
not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great
is your faithfulness. 
My husband is an
elementary teacher. When September rolls around each year, he gets as excited
as his students. We go shopping for clothes, school supplies, and he gets his
room ready for the kids. The smell of sharpened pencils, fresh chalk, and
cleaning supplies fill the room. New wall hangings, posters, clean blackboards
and a tidy desk all mark the beginning of a school year.
year, he learns something from the year before—what tools strike interest in
the hearts of the students, what presentations worked and which ones flopped.
He considers new ways to motivate the daydreamers and challenge the restless.
Some days, he comes
home and feels as though he didn’t accomplish a thing. Other days, he wonders
how he could ever do any other job. He takes his newfound knowledge into the
next year in hopes of doing a better job than before. Every class offers new
challenges of its own and my husband faces each one head-on, with renewed
encouragement and excitement for another year.
short, he gets a fresh slate.
When my kids
were little, I wanted to be just like Caroline Ingalls. You know, kindness
lifting from my lips like a soft minuet, and wisdom rolling into every word.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work like that for me.
were days when the kids were rowdy and I had a headache—I don’t think Caroline
ever had those. My patience was short and the tone of my voice carried around
the block like a Marine Corps sergeant. Unfortunately, I resembled Mrs. Oleson
more than I did Mrs. Ingalls.
I prayed for
wisdom, gentleness and, yes, even patience. So many nights I wondered what kind
of memories I had created for my children that day. I’d fall on my knees and
pray, “Lord, help them to forget everything I did wrong and remember if I did
anything right.” It must have worked. They speak fondly of their childhood.
days are hard. The challenges seem too great to bear. Sometimes we can’t seem
to work beyond our past. We feel God is silent and we’re all alone. But then
His Word reminds us that His compassions never fail. They are new every
morning! Great is His faithfulness!
about yesterday. This is the day that
the Lord has made. You have the opportunity to start all over. Trust God with
it. Go into a hurting world and make brand new memories—memories that matter.
You have a fresh slate. Go with His blessings.
Today’s Prayer:
Father, thank You for each new day where we can learn to trust You more. May we
be counted among the obedient, the faithful. Help us to make the most of every
opportunity and to remember your compassions are new every morning.

Hunt admits to seeing the world from a slightly different angle than most, and
she will do just about anything (within reason) for chocolate. Since 2001,
Diann has 20+ books, including Love
Letters in the Sand
. Diann has won
the American Christian Fiction Writer’s prestigious Book of the Year award in
her genre. Diann
and her real-life hero-husband make their home in Indiana. Visit her Website at