God Told Me To…

Posted: May 31, 2011 in writer, writing, Writing/Publishing
Tags: , , , , ,

Secular and Christian publishers face some of the same issues: Tight deadlines, print runs, where to put the advertising dollars to bring about the best returns, how to spot new trends, how to find a real gem in the middle of the slush pile, and how to attract new readers in a sound-bite world.

Even with all the similarities, Christian publishers have a rather unique problem to deal with.


OK, God is not the actual problem. In fact, most people in Christian publishing circles are quite fond of God, talk to Him on a regular basis, and know His Son on a first name basis.

The real headache lies in their dealings with writers who approach publishing as if God has signed on as their exclusive agent. And while it is an appropriate and important thing for a writer to ask God’s blessing on his/her work, there comes a point where some folks confuse Supreme Being and Supreme Agent. And that can lead to some interesting letters.

Generally they start something like this:

Dear Editor:

I am writing to offer you the opportunity to publish my novel titled, Buffy The Vampire Slayer Meets Godzilla at the Little House on the Prairie. It runs 500,000 words and is the first part of a trilogy.

God told me to send the manuscript to you personally, so I know you will want to publish it as soon as possible…

Or, it may be a little more straightforward:

Dear Editor:

God gave me this story and then told me I was supposed to send it to you. You may send me the check and a contract today and I will send you the story as soon as I finish it.

In the immortal words of Larry The Cable Guy, “If I’m lying I’m crying, and I ain’t shed a tear.” In fact, I’ll bet you a signed photo of Steve Laube and two used Brandilyn Collins printer cartridges that there are editors and agents reading this column right now who can pull a few such letters out of their files.

What these writers seem to forget is that if God told them to send the project to a specific person at a specific publishing house at a specific time, it’s not likely He would forget to tell the editor the project is on the way.

Please understand, I am not making fun of writers who put God at the center of their writing. In fact, if we as Christians write anything from a book to a bumper sticker, that should be the first thing we do; ask God’s blessing on our efforts. If God is not front and center in our lives and in our work, then neither one will have anything of lasting value to say, and both will be doomed in more ways than one.

Most certainly God guides and directs our actions and our efforts as writers, but the sad truth is, we sometimes get so carried away with writing for God, we make the process more of a mystical experience, or we dump the responsibility of everything beyond putting the words on paper in God’s lap instead of laying it ay His feet.

Or worse yet, we try to use God as leverage since we are Christian Writers.

We sometimes forget we are still expected to edit the work, do the market research, and carry out the business of writing.  But the reality is, if we do our part, God will do His. And we won’t have to tell anyone that He was the source of the effort.

It will show.

  1. Pepper says:

    Oh wow, I can’t even imagine saying something like that to an editor. Sure, I can ‘feel’ God’s call when I write, but I’m with you – if God’s doing the calling, then I’m sure it’s loud enough for both the writer and the editor to hear.

    Thanks for the post.

  2. vie says:

    I have a many examples. I always feel so guilty dealing with these authors–maybe God did tell them–but then I remember that God can spell and knows how to produce an organized manuscript.

    Okay, I’m taking this out of context, but…”Study to show thyself approved.” None of the writers who’ve used “God told me…” and “I am praying that you are open to God’s leading…,” on me have ever heard of a writers conference,market guide, or style books; don’t know what the word count range is for fiction or NF; and think they can support themselves on the royalties from one book.

  3. Thomas Smith says:

    I’m with you. Yet there are those who use God as what they consider “leverage” to get their work published. Though there are some folks who are sincere and truly believe God not only all but dictated the manuscript, but wants them to submit their work to certain publishers. And while I’ll never say He can’t do it, I’m afraid the times He actually does that are more rare than some writers believe.

  4. hannahkarena says:

    I stopped breathing when reading this–call it shock, humor, surprise. I’m currently in the process of querying my middle-grade novel about a Saint and I NEVER would have thought to use God anywhere in the letter except in the summary paragraph (God is pretty big character in the manuscript). I totally agree with you about the respectful business approach.

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