How I Became a Writer
by Jan Christiansen
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In 1998 I went to a women's retreat with a few gals from my church. The retreat was fine, but nothing spectacular. In fact, there was a bit of an incident that left me in a melancholy mood, so on the ride home in the van, I was rather quiet. I remember leaning my head against the window and watching the countryside go by when I "heard" (but not audibly) God say, "Jan, I want you to write a book and be a speaker to women."
In my heart, I knew it was God, but my mind immediately began to question the message. Me - write a book? About what? I've never wanted to be a writer. What would I write about? Even if I wrote a book...how would I get it published?
The “speaking to women” part didn't bother me too much. I had led many women's bible studies and spoken a few times at women's meetings at our church, but write a book?
I shook it off as we pulled into the church parking lot, chalking it up to the “hype” from the retreat, but it wouldn't let go of me. Several days later, I finally threw up my hands and said, “Okay, Lord – if this is you, then I need to know it beyond a shadow of a doubt. I don't want to waste my time chasing something that isn't from you.”
I asked God for not one, but two confirmations, just so I would be sure. (I'm not in the habit of asking God to confirm things to me, but it seemed necessary this time.) I was even specific about the confirmations. I wanted one to be from my husband, since he would have to support (or at least put up with) whatever the future held and one from a totally outside source.
I explained to my husband that I felt God had asked me to do something, but didn't tell him what it was. I asked him to pray for me and let me know if God revealed anything to him.
A couple of days went by as I patiently waited for my husband to seek God. Well, I take that back – patience was not really a part of the picture. Every day I bugged my husband, “Did you pray? Did God say anything?”
Hmmm – maybe the patience was on my husband's part, because he just kept praying.
A few nights later, I received a phone call from a girlfriend from church. We were in the same weight loss group and she was struggling. I quickly grabbed my bible and shared with her a verse I had found that morning that had helped me avoid a doughnut that had been calling my name, then I prayed with her.
A few minutes later the phone rang again. It was another friend who had just lost her baby. We talked and prayed for quite a while, then said goodbye.
As I hung up the phone, my husband said, “That's your ministry, right there.”
“Talking on the phone?” I asked..
“No, speaking and ministering to women.” he said. He pointed out frequent phone calls from women that were struggling with one thing or another and how I always took the time to speak to them and pray for them and how it always seemed to help them.
I thought about it...that could be the “speaking to women” part of what God had said to me, but what about that “writing a book” part?
“Anything else?” I asked him?
“No, that's it.” he said.
That night I prayed, again asking God to give me an outside confirmation about writing.
The next morning was Sunday. After the morning service was over, the first friend I mentioned made a bee-line for me, dragging her sister behind her.
“Jan,” she said, “tell my sister the verse you gave me last night and how it can help us avoid temptation to overeat.”
I glanced at her skinny sister and wondered why she would want to know how to avoid overeating, but shared the verse with her anyway and what I thought it meant for those trying to lose weight.
To my surprise, she listened intently and then said, “That's amazing, Jan...you should WRITE A BOOK.”
I went home that day knowing that what I had heard in the van that day was indeed from God, but still wondered about the specifics.
What book? What topic?
I decided to again let God fill me in on the details. I asked him to reveal the whole plan to me. Unfortunately, God wasn't cooperating. Another couple of days went by with no answers from on high. (Did I mention that I'm impatient?)
In my frustration at not hearing immediately from God, I decided to distract myself by setting up a web site to share the verses that were helping me lose weight. Early on a Saturday morning, I dug out my journal and typed my daily entries into the computer. I created a site called, More of Him, Less of Me and spent the entire day filling it with helpful tips, personal experiences, scriptures and encouragement for those trying to lose weight. I finished at midnight and fell into bed.
The next morning I got up to find that the site had already logged over 100 visitors! I opened my email to find several people had written to say thank you and tell me how much they liked the site.
Encouraged by the response, I quickly set up a forum for the site so that I could communicate with visitors online and so that they could get to know one another.
Within a week or two, I started receiving email and comments on the forum asking if I had a BOOK out with the information I was posting on the site.
Was this it? Was God wanting me to write a book to encourage people as they lost weight? I felt totally unqualified to write such a book, because although I had lost about 30 pounds at that point, I still struggled daily with controlling my own eating, but I didn't want to miss God's leading.
Still having no idea how I would get such a book published, I did something only a novice would do. I did a search online for Christian publishers, chose the first four that came up and sent them an email saying...
“I have this web site and people are asking me for the information in book form. What would be my first steps to getting a book published?” I included a link to my site and waited to hear from them.
To my surprise, one of the publishers sent me an email the next day asking me to call him to discuss publishing my book.
I made the call, but being the skeptic that I am, I informed him up front that I was not interested in vanity press or investing any money to have a book published. He laughed and said that his company was not a vanity press, that he had read my entire site,liked my writing style and that he wanted to publish my book.
He sent out a contract, a $1000 advance and a deadline and suddenly I was a writer. I finished the book ahead of schedule and it was published with in a year. Pre-sales were good, so he offered me a contract for a second book.
Between the writing of the second book and the time it was published, my life turned upside down with personal issues. The book was published and I was offered a third contract, which I had to turn down due to the family matters and I made a move across country.
I couldn't write for a long time after that, although my heart yearned to get back to it, I just couldn't write. Some time later, I learned that my publisher had gone out of business.
And that's where I am today. I have started writing again, and I'm loving it. I've branched out into fiction and have just finished the first draft of an inspirational novel – Vintage Roses. I wrote it in 30 days with NaNoWriMo (http://www.nanowrimo.org).
Again I am faced with the question of how to get a book published. I've educated myself on the whole process and it seems so overwhelming.
I am also finding myself intimidated with a really rough draft first novel and the whole revision/editing process. I'm wondering if it would just be easier to start another book and take my time with it so the revision process will be easier later, or to try to make sense of the one I've already written and try to revise it. (Did I mention that I wrote it in 30 days with absolutely no planning...and that it's really rough?) I do like the story, but it needs lots of work.
*Since I wrote this, I have finished another non-fiction book – Wake Up Your Muse – 1001 Story Starters for Fiction Writers, which I've submitted to a publisher and I'm working on another novel.
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What an inspiring story. Thank you for sharing it with us.
You go girl! Very encouraging story. Just curious...what is the time span between when the Lord spoke to you and right now? How much time has elapsed to bring you to where you are right now?
God spoke to me in 1998. I had a contract for the book within 30 days. Took 30 more days to write it, a month or more of editing and revising and it came out in January of 1999. My second book came out in February of 2000. I've written off and on since then, but not books - devotionals, small group curriculum, blog articles, etc. Did Vintage Roses in 2009 and just finished Wake Up Your Muse. Now, I'm ready to start my new book...a romantic comedy. Thanks for taking the time to read my story. - Jan
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