CAROL: As a Christian writing my first young adult novel, I have often struggled with how to write a book that is God-honoring and still appeals to contemporary young adult readers who prefer edgy novels and vampires. How do you write a non-preachy book that glorifies the Lord and appeals to today’s teens?
NICOLA: The Christian YA market is tough for the very reason you’ve mentioned. I think the best thing always is to write the story that’s itching to come out of you. If you do that, you won’t have to worry about being preachy, because the Christian element will be an integral part of your plot or your characterization. Don’t write a story with “preaching” in mind. Don’t put unnatural dialogue into your characters’ mouths because you’re trying to make a point (no author intrusion!) Don’t bend Christianity or flake out on it simply to try to make your story appealing to a secular audience. One problem with many Christian stories today is that the Christianity is compromised under the guise of “being real.” One can be both real and Christian. After all, Christ was! He is the standard, not trends in publishing. If you write interesting characters who overcome obstacles, who are scared to death but rise to the occasion, who are tempted but either don’t fall or if they do, pay the consequence and then find redemption, then your story will be appealing.
Speaking to the problem I mentioned, what I see is that authors are writing to the lowest common denominator in order to grasp popularity, and they aren’t showing our young adults that life should be lived to the highest standard, not the lowest thrill. If your book illustrates that choosing well, doing good, being faithful is actually the best way to have an awesome, hopeful and fun life, then God will do the rest to put that book into the hands of teens who need it.
FIVE TIPS TO KEEP YOU ON TRACK
CAROL: Many of the writers who come to the Write2Ignite conference are either new writers or are breaking into the children’s and young adult market for the first time. What are your suggestions for “newbies?”
NICOLA: Here are my top five:
1) Hone your craft and don’t rush the process. The ease with which one can self-publish seems to be making people impatient, and because of that, a lot of books are being published before they are ready–or even good. You want to tell a great story, and that means you have to learn how to write. Learn the rules (from grammar rules to the rules/formula of your genre.) If you don’t know terminology, that’s an indication that you still have something to learn. For example: If you hear the term show don’t tell and you have no clue what that means or how to accomplish it, then take the time to learn.
2) Follow the rules/formula for your genre. They are there because that’s what readers expect. Follow those rules. Get so good at them that including them becomes automatic. Once you know your genre and can write it well, then you can bend the rules with your own unique twist. . . and don’t think because you aren’t writing romance that there isn’t a formula. Every genre has its own. Can you imagine an action-adventure without a chase scene, or a [mystery] without a sleuth?
3) Listen to feedback. If editors, crit partners, agents, etc. keep telling you the same or similar things about character development, plot flaws, believability, etc., listen to them. Then, figure out how to fix the issues.
4) Get crit partners who will tell you the truth. If your manuscript is terrible, you need to know it. A terrible manuscript isn’t the end of the world; it’s a starting point, but if your CP’s will only stroke your ego, then you will never improve.
5) Don’t just polish the first three or four chapters of your manuscript. I see this very often where a book is great until chapter four. That’s because the first three chapters get revised each time they are submitted to an agent, publisher or contest, while the rest of the book just sits waiting for the magic request-for-full. You will be highly disappointed if you keep getting requests for your complete manuscript followed by subsequent rejections because the quality of your book fell apart sixty pages in. It’s disappointing for editors, too.
CAROL: It appears that most of your publications are e-pubs of one sort or another. Was that because you see readers moving in that direction? How do you decide if you will publish the book in print?
NICOLA: All titles are released in some electronic format. Many readers like the convenience of being able to read a book on multiple devices without having to haul around paper–or having the luxury of owning a paperback to read when at home, but the e-version on their phone/tablet/laptop when away from home. Some novellas and all full-length novels are considered for paperback and/or hardback editions. Most full-length novels go to print, although not necessarily at the same time as they are released in e-format. The decision is based on prayer and whether we feel the market exists for print.
CAROL: A publisher who prays about these decisions–that’s amazing!!
NICOLA: Thanks for reaching out!
You will find links to several Pelican Imprints below. Please read the guidelines for each imprint before submitting.
Watershed Make a Splash!
“All stories must be Christian fiction between 25,000 and 65,000 words. All stories must be written for a target audience of ages 14 to 19, but with an appeal that will transcend the teenager.”
Prism CW “Clean & Wholesome secular fiction that reflects hope to a troubled world. Prism CW is our clean and wholesome fiction imprint. For this imprint we acquire all fiction sub-genres from romance to sci-fi/fantasy and everything in between. PCW titles feature strong heroes and heroines who have a strong moral compass. While these titles do not have a Christian element, PCW titles feature characters who understand right from wrong and ultimately understand the right choice even if they come to that conclusion by living through not-so-great decisions.”
Prism Lux “Christian fiction that reflects the the Light of Christ. “Prism Lux is our Christian fiction imprint. For this imprint, we acquire all Christian fiction sub-genres from romance to sci-fi/fantasy and everything in between. Lux titles feature strong heroes and heroines who are Christian throughout the story or who come to a knowledge of Christ before “the end.” These stories contain a strong Christian message that adheres to mainline Christianity (e.g. The Trinity as one God, three Persons; Through the grace of Christ’s Pascal sacrifce, all can receive salvation . . .)”
Nicola Martinez is editor-in-chief at Pelican Book Group, where she is privileged to work with many talented authors and staff.