Okay, so before I get any angry comments or emails, let me explain.
When a writer tells me, "God told me to write this book," I'm so happy for them. Every Christian writer hears and follows this call. None of us would write if not called—certainly not for the amount of pay we receive.
But when a writer uses this as a defense for why they won't invest in the craft or in research ... that's when it doesn't become enough.
God may tell you to write a book, but He also tells us to put our all into whatever we do (Colossians 3:17). That means taking classes on craft, reading recently published books in our genre (even if we don't agree with the content in all of those books), and building your platform. Yes, marketing falls under this too.
Let's explore all the reasons why Christian writers cannot subsist on "God told me to write this" alone.
It's Arrogant to Assume Other Christian Writers Didn't Receive the Call
It just plain is.
All of us can point to a time where, in Chariots of Fire fashion, we felt God's pleasure when we wrote. We felt a calling toward a certain story, etc.
So if we use this as an excuse for why we can skip the line and all the prep work, we're basically telling the hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of Christian writers that they weren't told by God to write their book.
Which simply isn't true.
Christian writers START with the calling, but they don't END with it.
God Calls Us to Also Put in the Work
Joseph worked 13 years before he assumed a high position in Pharaoh's court.
Ruth worked in the fields before Boaz showed up.
Daniel and his friends did their schoolwork and exceeded expectations before the King gave them lofty positions.
We can't reap a harvest if we don't till the ground first.
God Doesn't Always Call Us to Publication
God may have given you this story to help you heal. To help your beta reader heal. To help hone your writing.
Confession time: I have 11 books that will never see the light of day. You read that right, 11. Because it took me 11 books to finally nail my writer's voice.
But those 11 books weren't a waste. They helped me to hone my craft and better myself.
The Industry Expects You to Take the Right Steps
Yesterday in a conference panel, one of the authors asked us (a panel of editors), "I have a friend who has a book I think many of you will like. Can I just tell her to send it to you, even though she doesn't have an agent?"
All of us only took on agented submissions.
None of us spoke, until one brave editor said what we all were thinking: "If she's really serious about this industry, she'll show up to a conference and meet one of us. Or take the proper steps in getting an agent. No one is the exception."
If you think your book is the exception, think again. People who are "the exception" spent years getting there and probably had to be "the rule" for a while.
God May Call You, but He Doesn't Copy Edit You
An editor once said, on a conference panel, "Whenever someone tells me that God told them to write the book, I say that He clearly didn't tell them how to copy edit it."
So often, Christian writers will use "God told me to write this" as an excuse not to do the work that is called of them, in order to be successful in this industry.
And honestly, y'all, that's anti-Christian.
You heard me right. Laziness (Genesis 2:15), half-heartedly doing tasks (Genesis 4:1-16), and expecting pure blessings to flow without tilling that ground (Proverbs 12:11)—are anti-biblical states of hearts and minds.
And if we want to be a Christian writer ... we want to have nothing to do with those things.
Think about it This Way
When I lamented to my friend about how many Christian writers adopt the attitude of, "Well, God will open the right doors, so I'm not going to do any work until He does," she said this:
"Hope, God told me to be a doctor, can I operate on you now?"
She was, of course, being facetious. But can you imagine how ridiculous it would be to hear a friend tell you this? No, they have to invest years in medical school, endure long shifts, and literal years, just to earn a piece of paper saying they can operate on you.
So why do we treat publishing any differently?
So What Should I Do?
The years of craft.
The platform work.
And yes, years. It's a slow industry, and there's a lot of competition.
So if you want to write for the Lord—to write the books He's called you to write—and get them published? You need to go the extra mile to do so.
This means attending conferences, finding critique groups, hiring an editor, reading books in your genre (recently published books, aka less than five years old), etc.
We're held to a higher standard as Christians. So as Christian writers, let's live up to it.