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I’m drafting a sequel while simultaneously launching and marketing its antecedent. One of these tasks is right brain, and the other is left. They pull me in opposite directions. As a result, I sometimes feel as though my brain has been stretched far beyond its limits. You experienced authors know what I mean.

Before I was published, drafting a novel meant my entire focus was on the story’s emotion and rhythm. There was no marketing, only writing. Bliss! I could lose myself entirely in another world. But now, after publication, I must keep my tiny empire rolling. The sales stats must be watched, the social media prepared, the books promoted. AND, I must simultaneously draft another novel.

Before you ever publish, experienced writers always tell you to enjoy that phase. This is why. I’m going to say it again. If you’re still waiting for that big break, look around you at all the frazzled published writers. That will be you one day. Right now, however, you can frolic with your characters, enjoying their lives and basking in their imaginary world. Once you’re published, all of this changes.

Writing becomes your job. It’s a business. You will learn to evaluate plot decisions with cold calculation. You will go for a walk with your friend and ask if she thinks you should kill Tom and maybe also Joe. You will wonder out loud how best to torture your hero. You will talk of methods of suffering with detachment, your mental plotline wheels turning.

These same discussions happen before you publish, but then it’s more visceral and far more emotional. You weep. You lament the emotional and physical carnage you must inflict on your hero’s life. You lose sleep over having to pull the plug. After publication, however, these plot decisions come from careful and objective consideration. After publishing, you know it’s good for sales when the hero suffers. Tortured heroes sell books.

Let’s consider why this is so. Let’s look at real life. Though God is the Author of our real life stories, He doesn’t consider book sales when He determines what trials He will allow into our lives. He considers our spiritual growth, His plan for the world, and His good intentions toward those He loves.

As we look back on our lives and see God’s plan unfold, we will recognize the Master Storyteller at work. In those very times of hurting, loss, and heartache, we have the greatest story of the growth of our faith. We see Christ most clearly then. He is glorified as we comprehend more of His kind and merciful nature, and our lives become a story of God’s grace in heartache, loss, and trial.

And so we, as Christian fiction writers, portray captivating stories, not merely to entertain, but to illustrate the goodness of God in real life trials and heartaches. We write these in story form, like parables, the most potent way to teach a lesson and Jesus’ preferred format.

This is the real reason we Christian authors torture the hero. Yes, it sells books. But, more than that, it draws the readers in, for we have written a story that mirrors their own lives. They can relate. They buy these books, because they too are hurting and confused, and in a story where the hero suffers and God meets him in his suffering, our readers can find help in their own trial.

So, dear writer, balance your writing with your marketing. Both are essential. God will enable you to do it all, if you rely on Him. Tell the stories that help others. And, yes, those tortured accounts will be the books that readers beat down the Amazon gates to purchase.