Many authors keep in mind an avatar or ideal future reader while writing their books. Christian writing podcaster Thomas Umstattd, Jr. suggests directing our stories to a real person rather than an imaginary persona. The apostle Paul was writing for Timothy—one person—when he scribbled the biblical epistles of I and II Timothy. Yet millions of people have read those books over the past two thousand years.
Screenwriting guru Robert McKee says (in Story) that it takes 10+ years of adult life to find something many people will want to read and probably another 10+ years to master the demanding craft of writing before it’s ready for the world. While that might discourage me, it’s no doubt true. “Writing is like a sport,” Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson fantasy series, says. “You only get better if you practice.”
“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” –Benjamin Franklin
So taking Rick’s and Ben’s advice: Practice, practice, practice…makes perfect. Hardly, but after at least two million words written, I hope I’ve improved a little.
In the beginning, I wrote what I wanted to read, like Tolkien and Lewis in their Inklings club. Later, I may have thought vaguely of possible readers. Now, I often reflect on a few definite people I know. You might say, I’m writing for Timothy.
Searching for Teresa
Although my “Timothy” is more likely a Tessie or a Teresa. Not their real names, of course, but they’re certainly real people.
Let’s think of Tessie as a smart, godly older woman with granddaughters and many others that she regularly nurtures and mentors in formal or informal settings.
And Teresa…she could be my daughter or my sister, but we’ll say she’s my niece. Teresa’s a beautiful young wife and mom in her early 30’s. She’s super creative and talented too—a musician and textile artist.
Now, not all my friends love the genre I write, which I call Christian Young Adult/New Adult International Romantic Adventure. (Yes, a mouthful, I know. But I wanted to be as explicit as possible.) Some of those, like my husband (God bless him), will read what I write because they’re my fans despite the genre. (I owe Hubby a WWII novel as a thank-you gesture!)
“Sometimes God speaks to us for us. Sometimes God speaks to us for others.” –Mark Batterson, Whisper
But mostly I’m writing for Timothy…or Tessie or Teresa. I’d love to meet more “T(ea) Club” members. That is, people who enjoy the genre I write and would look forward to reading more. People that I could write to please—and thrill.
Not everyone fits, I realize. While I don’t see any age boundaries here, I do assume that most of my readers are females? Then my T’s are:
- Readers. Period. If your house has no bookshelf, you aren’t my Timothy. Tessie reads a lot. Otherwise she wouldn’t bother picking up my stuff.
“If all the riches of the Indies, or the crowns of all the kingdoms of Europe, were laid at my feet in exchange for my love of reading, I would spurn them all.” –Francois FeNelon
- Fans—of my writing, not necessarily of me. Sure, it’s wonderful to be loved, but Timothy and Teresa need to love my work and enjoy my genre. Even family and friends must give constructive criticism as well as encouraging feedback. If you can tell me the truth in a nice way, maybe I can discover how to make my books better for you. And that story niche you feel is overlooked? By all means, tell me!
- Adventurers. Tessie is willing to beta read. That means to jump in and wade through a (possibly) unpolished manuscript ahead of the crowd. Teresa likes to try new things, maybe a genre or setting she’s never experienced before.
You might call these folks guinea pigs, but I prefer to think of them as heroic “samplers.” If you like taste-testing trays of goodies at the supermarket, you might just have the adventuresome spirit of one of my Timothys.
“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” –Haruki Murakami
So if I’m going to write for you, Tessie, let’s get to know each other better. I’m personally acquainted with some of the readers of Seaglass Blog; about the rest, I don’t know any specifics at all. God willing, my books (Return to Chiloé, Destiny at Dolphin Bay, and others) will reach an even greater and more unknown audience as time goes by.
“Develop interest in life as you see it, in people, things, literature, music—the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls, and interesting people. Forget yourself.” –Henry Miller
As I’m writing for Timothy and Teresa, I should have some idea of who they are. Who you are. I’d like to hear what your hopes and dreams, passions and pet peeves are. And since I write a lot about Chile, tell me what you know—or don’t know—about Chile.
Would you answer a quick four questions, Teresa? (Or if that seems like a lot, how about just one or two?)
- What are your favorite movies and why? Maybe I could learn something from them.
- If money were no object, where in the world would you travel? It could show up as a setting in my next book.
- What is your favorite era in history? I write more contemporary or the recent past—with some historical twists. But maybe it’s “time” to go back in time.
- What books are you reading right now? I need to know what Teresa’s into!
Working with Teresa
If you read this blog occasionally, you’ll gain some idea of the things that are important to me: Jesus. Spiritual transformation. Soul food. (Real food, too!)
Lifelong learning. Reading, teaching, schools, libraries, and books.
Investing in marriage and family. Home and hospitality. Children and youth. Mentoring young moms.
Beauty, joy, art. Travel. Chile comes in here, perhaps. The ocean.
Do any of those elements touch your heart as well?
Writing for Timothy and Teresa, I’m feeling in the dark right now and trying to get my head into one of many potential projects. Want to help me decide?
“People just want good stories.” –Brian K. Vaughan
Which book would you be most likely to pick off the shelf and take home?
- Joy Ride – Book 2 of an 8-book series about Angie De la Cruz, the “White Lady” of Chauquelín. If you’ve read Destiny at Dolphin Bay, you’ll recognize this spin-off story built around an island legend.
- Elena’s Song – a fictionalized memoir about the life of a Californian missionary who discovered she was an abandoned baby only when she went to join the Navy during WWII.
- The Legend of Point Michaud – Keli Peterson, another secondary character from Destiny at Dolphin Bay, traces her great-grandmother’s roots in French Canada.
- The Quarantine Quandaries – an ensemble cast of next-generation Destiny characters recounts a round-robin of campfire stories during the worldwide pandemic of 2020.
Does any one of those strike you in particular? With time at a premium and torn every which way, what should I be writing for Timothy and Teresa these days?
“Your purpose is the place where loving God and loving others meets your particular set of gifts.” –Chris Syme, Women Finishing Well website
I’m so grateful for your input, Tea Club. Maybe together we can leave a thousand-year legacy of stories that will continue to transform lives long after Timothy, Tessie, and Teresa have slipped into history themselves.