Friday 26 October 2018

Who do you write for?

By Jenny Glazebrook

Who do you write for?

The easy answer is God, but it’s a question I’ve had to think through a lot lately.

It’s easy to write for the publisher, the critics, for judges, for literary experts, for mentors, for those who might review your work …
But what about those you are actually writing for?

I write Young and New Adult Christian fiction. When I first wrote as a teenager, it was because the stories I wanted to read weren't out there. Then I began to write for others like me, who wanted challenging, life-changing fiction. I received encouraging, positive feedback from others my age. However, adults and professionals picked up multiple ‘issues’ in my books.

Original published book
I misused dialogue tags, I didn’t understand ‘show don’t tell’, I switched point of view, some parts of the plot didn’t fit the expected narrative structure, I used conversion scenes (based on my own experience) and was too overt in my presentation of Christianity.

But the teens and young adults who read my work loved the stories and were challenged into a closer walk with God. The characters became friends to them; real people they could learn from. Some even started up a ‘Phil and Clare Club’ (the names of the main characters) to pray for and talk about reaching others in their school.

Manuscripts left on the shelf for years
But I didn’t market the book because of the issues picked up by experts, and my embarrassment when I realised my first publisher didn’t really believe in my work and it was all about money. They hadn't even edited properly. It wasn't perfect. I requested the rights be reverted back to me and put the following five manuscripts in the series on a shelf and left them there.

Years passed, I published a different series and left the first on the shelf. Then I felt the prompting of God to get the first book out there again, this time with the rest of the series as well.

Two years ago, a new, genuinely traditional publisher picked up my work, and I signed a contract. But the publisher also picked up issues. The original cover was confusing, the characters spoke too well for teenagers, it needed a tighter plot, a new title, names and technology needed to be updated, it was double the length it should be, it would work better for young adults in a different point of view.

So I began work and completely re-wrote the whole novel, along with the second novel in the series. The end product was much more professional in style. But those who had read the original were disappointed and thought it had lost its heart and depth. These were the people who loved the book and whose lives had been changed by it.

But was this just because it’s hard to change? ... because they had loved the first novel and they couldn’t let go of the original?

Working out title options for the series with the help of
my target audience of young and new adults
I began asking teenagers themselves about it. Which version did they prefer? Which title? I asked the middle school students of a Christian school which title drew them in. It was unanimously the original title, the original names and characters … not the title adults and the publisher preferred - a title some adults had told me was 'terrible'.

I had another editor assess the first few chapters of the first book and she found the characters of the updated version ‘tweeny’. Maybe I’d overdone the teenage talk my new publisher wanted? And yet I hadn’t changed much.

I realised then, that opinions are just that. Subjective. Often there is no ‘right and wrong’. What about the old classics I’d just read which broke all the rules but were brilliant stories? Stories like Pollyanna and The Atonement Child where the author head-hopped but it worked and even made the story better? 

How many of the 'rules' we are given are about style and writing craft rather than story and quality? I know I need the rules to guide me, but I need to discern which are just preference or advice and which rules are necessary to follow. I need to know, as Melissa Gijsbers Khalinsky said in her excellent post a few days ago, which advice works for me.

So what now?

My first series self-published with
the help of Book whispers
God very clearly directed me once again to write for Him and for the teenagers and young adults I care so much about. This means no longer working with the traditional publisher and instead, self publishing through Book Whispers who helped with my last series. It means being in close contact with teenagers, learning again what they need and what they enjoy. It means writing for them, despite the fact they don’t very often review books they read. It means once more giving my heart, my all, for them because God loves them and has directed me to.

But more than that, it means working closely with God, asking Him for wisdom, direction and ideas. It means trusting Him for finances and including my husband and children in the decisions and the ministry (because it costs them, too!). It means seeking God’s ‘opinion’ which is always right. Only He knows the future and who He wants the books to reach. It means accepting that there will be negative reviews. It means keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus, the author of all, and asking Him for direction every step of the way.

Sometimes the answers aren’t clear, but I seek God’s will and His heart until He makes it clear.

As writers, we need to discern when we are being given subjective opinions or constructive criticism. Not all publishers, editors and critics will understand the heart of our story or believe in the power of it. Only God, the author of life and love, understands the true power of our words and who needs to read them.

Connecting with those I write for
I have been reminded to write with Him, to please Him, to share His heart with those He has given me a great love for.

In some ways it feels like I’ve wasted so much time and effort. I have so many versions of the manuscripts in different points of view, with different characters and style, it gets confusing. And yet, I do believe God does everything in His perfect time. Nothing is wasted. So now I leave it in His hands, (and in the hands of the editor He directed me to), I keep my eyes on Him and wait for Him to make my path straight.

May we, as Christian writers, never forget who we are writing for (and with!), and seek God every step of the way. May we not let our desire for perfection get in the way of letting God use us in our imperfect state. May we present our words to the world in God's time as He leads and directs.

Please note I am not dismissing the value of professional advice and rules, nor saying there is any excuse for publishing unpolished stories. I am saying we need to listen to God’s voice above all others and know what works for our story. I am more grateful than I can say for the input I have received from experts who have brought my writing to a point of excellence and quality I could never have achieved on my own.

Jenny Glazebrook lives in the country town of Gundagai with her husband, Rob and 4 children along with many pets. She is the published author of 7 novels, 1 traditionally published, and 6 self published. She writes because words burn within her. She is an experienced inspirational speaker and loves to encourage others to walk closer with God and hear His voice each day.  Jenny’s website is:


  1. Looking forward to reading these new stories, Jenny (as are my teenagers). God bless you as you walk in step with Him. Xx

  2. Yes. Oh the embarrassment of reading the first edition of my earlier works. But while some things have to change and be tidied up, other things you have to know if it is reflective of the heart God originally inspired. Keep going Jenny. Let’s pray you will connect with a publisher who gets it.

    1. I loved your earlier works just as they were ... My Uncle is an artist, and he said something that made me think. He said, Leonardo da Vinci didn't keep taking the Mona Lisa off the wall and touching it up. It's a masterpiece just as it is and is a part of his and our history. In saying that, I do admit I keep 'touching up' my earlier works.


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