Friday 18 March 2016

360 Writing Review

I’m very excited about my tenth novel, Beyond the Fight, being released in a few weeks. I’ll be planning a big celebration. But I feel it’s also time to have a 360 review of my writing. My desk is piled high with ideas and material for another series of novels, but I have mixed feelings which I’ve been wrestling with for a few months now. I’m wondering if others have gone through similar experiences and would value feedback and comments from other writers and from readers.

Being honest with myself about this has not been easy. Part of me responds to my love of writing and wants to dive into the next story. But there are other considerations. After ten novels I certainly can’t say I’ve hit the big time. I’ve never expected to make a fortune from writing or even to be a best-selling author, although that would be wonderful. However, I do believe my publisher has given me a fair chance to be a reasonably successful author, one worth continuing to publish. With only moderate success, can I expect a publisher to continue to support me?

Have my novels become too similar? Are readers tired of the forays into early Australian history, which has been the setting for all my stories? Has my writing style become too predictable? Am I not doing enough self-promotion and marketing? Do I need to work on improving my writing skills and style?  Should I take a break, perhaps a sabbatical, so I can come back to writing with a fresh approach? Do I need to accept that I’ve made my contribution to the world of historical novels and call it quits?  

And, central to my reflections, what is God saying to me about all of this? More recently I have eased back on the Christian content in my stories, in order to increase the likelihood of my novels being accepted into the cross over market. I’ve wanted to interest readers who are less likely to read overtly Christian material, and to introduce Christian beliefs in a way that draws readers’ attention to God in more subtle ways. Has this been a good idea? Has my writing not been bold enough in my acknowledgement of Christian beliefs? Is the lack of more overt Christian content been a watering down of my desire for my writing to be a witness of the love of God to readers? Is it worth trying to break into the general market or is it better to content oneself with Christian readers? 

Last week, after spending a lot of time reflecting and praying about all of this, I attended a View Club meeting where many of the members have read my books. It's not unusual for me to receive positive feedback from them, but this day I had three women come to me within a short time of arriving, to tell me how much they enjoyed my writing. The next day I spoke at an International Women’s Day luncheon and sold 45 books. I was greatly encouraged both days, but not sure if either experience suggests I ought to write more novels.

As I wrestle with these issues, I'm concerned that this blog may be too self indulgent for a public site, but I am genuinely wondering if other writers have this experience. When is it time for an author to sit back and honestly assess their progress/success? Surely this is something necessary in any career, or for any artist. And what criteria should one use? The number of sales? Breadth of readership? The kind of reviews novels are given? The author's passion for writing or sense of calling? 

Big questions. No clear answer yet. I’m sure I’m not the only writer who’s been through this struggle and I would be grateful to hear others’ reflections and comments. I’ve appreciated the support I’ve had from writers’ groups, readers, editors and my publisher, and thankful for those who have offered constructive criticism, rather than only unqualified positive feedback. I believe sharing our ups and downs, doubts and convictions, struggles and highlights can be really helpful. And I’d certainly appreciate your prayers.
Carol Preston

Carol writes historical novels based on her family ancestry in Australia from the First Fleet. They include the Turning the Tide series; Mary’s Guardian, Charlotte’s Angel, Tangled Secrets and Truly Free. Her earlier novels Suzannah’s Gold and Rebecca’s Dream have been re-released by EBP. Her new novel, Next of Kin, was released last year by Rhiza Press and her latest novel, Beyond the Fight will be released in April. You can see more about Carol and her novels on her website, her Amazon author page or FB author page .


  1. You ask questions that are relevant to all writers. I think it's good to assess what it's all about.

    Every time I think about giving up, something happens—a comment, a review, a book sale. Someone asks me when my next book is coming out. I get a letter from someone telling me how much the book meant to them at a time they were going through something hard.

    I guess it's a calling when it's like that. It costs us to keep writing—spiritually, emotionally, finically, time and so on, but the cost is worth it if we write for a purpose bigger than money or success.

    I began writing non-fiction and was inspired to write fiction. The journey isn't over and perhaps what I write, and how I write, will change, grow and develop into new arenas.

    I hope you find the answers you're looking for, however, I think they are already there in what you've been contemplating.

    I've enjoyed your novels very much and I'm looking forward to reading your latest.

    1. Thanks for your comment and encouragement Elaine. It's good to know other writers have the same experience and to hear how they deal with it.

  2. Hi Carol … thank you for sharing your heart with us. All good questions. The Lord's desire is for our transformation so taking stock as you are doing is a positive thing. Even if the answers aren't immediately forthcoming.

    Keep leaning into Him - He will guide you.

    Congratulations on "Beyond the Flight" - do celebrate it. No 10 - amazing achievement.

    1. Thanks Ian. I know you are right and the answer is pressing into God and listening to His voice through others, His word and my experience. I will keep doing that.

  3. Oh, Carol, I certainly understand those questions you are wrestling with right now. So much I could say in response but, overall, I think I agree with Elaine's point that at least some of the answers you are seeking are already there in the things you have been mulling over.

    Re attempting to write for the 'crossover' market, I guess there would be concrete ways you could check how successful your more recent novels have been in finding that wider readership. Have the distributors been able to get your books into more general market bookstores or into more libraries or whatever as a result? Also, if the publisher feels it is worth continuing down this track and is prepared to continue backing your books, then that would be a practical consideration for me anyway. But beyond all that, as you indicate in your questions, is how you feel about it or how you sense God is calling you to write at this point.

    Re the possible criteria to use when assessing our progress/success, personally, I think our passion for writing and sense of calling far outweighs the others you mention. Yes, they may be practical considerations, but if we lose our sense of joy and fulfilment as we write, our deep conviction that we have something unique to say and, most importantly, a sense of God's presence and favour and strengthening as we write, then I would begin to question whether it's time to take a break and reconsider--or at least consolidate and seek to speak and promote the books we have already written. But that could be just me!

    1. Thanks Jo-Anne for your response and wisdom. I know you would identify with my reflections, perhaps because we started writing at a later age and have a similar journey. I'll keep mulling it all over and listening.

  4. Hi Carol,
    I understand your heart's cry, since I've asked every single one of those questions myself. I even took a sabbatical after the publication of Imogen's Chance around Easter 2014, since I felt burned out and confused over whether I should keep writing or not. I got myself to a place where I was quite willing to stop, if I felt that was right.

    At the end of the two years, I'm back working on something again (my 10th book too), and feeling as if my spark is back. I wondered if maybe the calling factor and the success factor are two different things, and my downfall was trying to gauge one by the size of the other. And that maybe I shouldn't have been using what I've observed as success in the American market to gauge how I've fared in the Aussie market, as they're really two different beasts too.

    I still wish I had more answers to those questions. All I know is that during the last two years, I've been in a sort of torpor/low level depression about not writing, and starting work on something new has snapped me out of it. I wonder if you'd feel the same if you tried to stop. I found that nothing else I tried to replace that gap with was anywhere near as satisfying as writing. And a passage in Elizabeth Gilbert's 'Big Magic' woke me up, when a writer advised a disillusioned gentleman in our position, 'If nothing can possibly replace it, I'm afraid you have no choice but to take it up again.'

    1. Thank you Paula. It's been good to hear your experience, having had a break. I suspect you are right in that I wouldn't be satisfied with a replacement for writing.


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