4 Ways to Write for Your True North
It means to move in the right direction. To proceed at a compass heading that is static. One that won’t change course. No matter the beginning or middle of a journey, the end will be the same.
It’s why I love writing. Or, one of the reasons why I love it. Because my journey won’t be the same as the writer to my right or left, and it won’t be the same for you. We just know that there’s a calling to paint story worlds with words. Writing for the true north becomes a compass point that allows us to explore who God is calling us to be – writing without boundaries – because we always know where we’ll end up with Him.
Looking for your true north? Here are (4) ways to focus your writing compass:
- GENRE: Long before my debut novel was published, I’d been writing manuscripts in contemporary women’s fiction. Yet, every story I wrote seemed to incorporate vintage themes within a modern storyline. It wasn’t until I shifted my focus to historical fiction that I finally felt at home with writing. Resist the urge to write for what’s trending, or what you think might sell. A publisher has to appraise potential projects years in advance, so what’s trending today isn’t necessarily a given it will be a year or more down the line. Instead, focus on the true north of the genre that feels most at home for you. Publishers are always looking for great stories with memorable characters. If a genre feels natural to you, chances are it will to your readers too.
- STORY: At a conference years ago, I had a meeting with an editor who’d been accepting pitches from aspiring authors. Two writers stuck out to her most that day. One had story ideas bridging several genres. Essentially, they came to the meeting as a “jack of all trades”; they could write whatever the editor wanted. The other writer came to the pitch session with a clear idea in mind, deeply-rooted research, and excitement about her story that was infectious. The editor remembered both, but she was inspired by the latter writer because of her genuine passion for the story. The true north is to write a story that grabs you at a deeper level. One that you have great interest in or strong convictions about. That passion will translate to the story every time, and that’s what inspires both publishers – and readers.
- AUDIENCE: When I started out in the industry, I felt a calling to encourage and uplift believers with stronger faith threads in the stories I wrote. But on a business flight home one day, I met a fellow passenger who was firmly rooted in his non-faith beliefs. What he didn’t know was, the book he’d tucked in the seatback pocket in front of him was from a faith-based publishing house. The story had an undercurrent of faith that he thoroughly enjoyed, but he hadn’t known or put down for being a “Christian” book. That moment was quite a witness to me! We should always write to the true north of the mission fields to which we’re called. I’ve changed my view after that experience and write for the true north of each story instead of for an audience. When a reader picks up our books, we can trust that God will use the faith thread – no matter how deeply it goes – to encourage and inspire, right where they are.
- HEART: They say that every writer is a reader first. I believe it. Chances are, we write because we love words. And books. And stories that inspire. Often, we find that inspiration by reading ourselves. It’s why writing from the heart is so important. It’s the true north that matters most. More than what we write or for whom, is the why. The heart motivates how we’re able to handle rejection, lackluster reviews, and the long, late nights of editing. Writing is hard work. It’s beautiful and soul-feeding work, but it’s still hard. Focusing on the true north of why you write (and revisiting that motivation often) will take your writing to deeper places, and encourage you along the story road.
Whatever you write today, don’t be afraid to explore. Get out there and journey a little, knowing that wherever your adventures take you (and eventually, take your readers), writing to your true north will always bring you in the right direction.
It will bring you home.
Kristy Cambron has a background in art and design, but she fancies life as a vintage-inspired storyteller. She is the author of The Ringmaster’s Wife, named to Publishers Weekly Spring 2016 Religion & Spirituality TOP 10. Her novels have been named to Library Journal Reviews’ Best Books and RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards Best lists, and received a 2015 INSPY Awards nomination for best debut novel. The Illusionist’s Apprentice (HarperCollins, 2017) is her fourth novel.
Kristy holds a degree in Art History from Indiana University and has 15 years of experience in instructional design, corporate training, and communications for a Fortune-100 Corporation. Kristy lives in Indiana with her husband and three sons, where she can probably be bribed with a coconut mocha latte and a good read.
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