Friday, July 22, 2011

Of Art and Marketing by Deborah Kinnard

My guest this week is author Deborah Kinnard. A fearless author who writes from the heart, she's written for the Christian market time-travel, second-chance romance, and short-story romances and her soon-to-be-released historical fiction. Did I say a Christian fiction time-travel? Yes, indeed! Deb will talk with us about the writer's chicken vs. egg which-came-first dilemma: should the writer focus on the writing first or which market the story is appropriate for? Both the fledgling writer and the published author can benefit from Deb's words. And besides, enjoy the visit . . .this guest is an all-round nice person!


Would you like to win a print copy of her time-travel novel SEASONS IN THE MIST, a 2010 Grace Award winner? One randomly chosen commenter will win a copy generously donated by Deborah. 
Here's what you have to do:
1. Become a Follower of Everyone's Story, if you aren't already
(okay, you really don't have to but it would be appreciated!)
2. Leave your e-mail address in your comment so you can be contacted.

First, a few fun questions for Deb:

Your signature line is "Timeless Romance, Transcendent Faith"--which I love! Very gripping. Can you elaborate why you chose this to describe your stories? 

A tag line that encompasses all I do was quite a challenge. I've written contemporary romance, time-travel romance to the Middle Ages, and now straight historical. I looked for a summary of all that, and brainstormed my critique partner until she and I came up with this. I hope readers will say it's a perfect fit.

Would you say your novels fall within or just outside of "the box" of what is traditionally published in Christian fiction? If the latter, did that alter your approach to pitching your work to distinct agents/editors?

Oh, out of the box. Definitely. I'm a member of the Edgy Christian Fiction Writers' group and that's a good fit also. Being out of the box means that I can't always expect to sell a book just because I've learned how to tell a story a little better than I once did. I've warned my agent I'll never write a totally sweet book -- there's always some dark mixed in with the light. She seems to be okay with that... Pitching my books is usually rather a challenge, but as the market seems to be opening up a bit, I hope it will become a tad bit easier to sell the unusual project.

Would you like to confess: SOP or Detailed Outliner?

SOP and proud of it. There's no "one way" to write other than that the end product glorify God. Everything else is a matter of work-style and each writer should do as s/he finds works best. But my critique partner practically faints if I tell her I've pre-plotted anything!

Of Art and Marketing by Deborah Kinnard

Many writers, aspiring and experienced alike, worry first about marketing a manuscript. How? Where will it go? When? In what form? Until you’ve finished the book, worrying about marketability is a mistake. Why is it? Because job one, the first cause, the sine qua non, is story.

Courtesy istockphoto
A writer should fret about story first and foremost. Ideally, a story will pop into the mind that utterly fires your imagination, and you’ll learn the craft until you can tell it well. If a story’s never caught you up in it, you have a treat waiting for you. It’s fun to write when this happens. Warning: it can be all-consuming when this happens. In my house, it particularly eats into housekeeping and cleaning time. Hope your family likes frozen pizza for supper.

At this point, ideally you’re just worried about telling your story. Some writers inelegantly refer to this as “barfing the book.”

Folks who write this way get the whole story told as succinctly as possible. Some sketch it out on paper, not even starting to write until they know beginning, middle and end.

Once you have your story, and know how you’re going to tell it, only then are you ready for Part Two. At this point, it’s time to worry about whether you’ll outline versus doing seat-of-the pants writing, plot storyboards, the Snowflake method, stylistic no-nos, taboo words, passive versus active writing.

What is seat-of-the-pants writing? It starts like this: some writers start writing when they get a scenario in their minds. “What if?” they ask, and begin to pound the keyboard. This isn’t bad, it’s good, because you get started, which is always a good thing. And no, I won’t entertain argument about whether a writer “should” outline or go seat-of-the-pants. All of this is work-style, not story. Remember the sitcom? Trying to write from a scenario is like knowing Lorelai and Rory Gilmore live in a small town that doesn’t understand them. That’s set-up, not story. What happens to them is story.

Okay, let’s say you’ve done your storytelling job, either through outlining and writing carefully to the outline, or going seat-of-the-pants and discovering what happens along the way. You’ve written THE END, which many would-be authors never do. You’re finished—right? Congratulations!

No. Now it’s time for Part Three. You edit, revise, buff and polish until it shines. Your voice is now down on paper, telling YOUR story as only YOU can.

Now, and only now, comes Part Four. Now you get to fret about where the story will fit. This is your time to do research on your chosen market.

Let’s say you’ve written a romance. You look in the Writers’ Market books to find out what houses might be a good fit for your word length. If you think a house is publishing the type of book you’ve written, you’ll want to buy a few titles to see what this house thinks is good, sellable fiction.

Courtesy istockphoto

You’ll look to see if that house accepts un-agented submissions. If they do, you move on to writing query letters. At this point, once your story is done, you can worry about writing a synopsis if you haven’t already. If you’ve worked diligently from an outline, writing the synopsis is easy.

But there’s no getting away from story. Without a tellable story, you might as well put 1” margins on your grocery list and send that in. Newcomers worry about the peripherals (synopsis, query letter, length, marketability) when instead they ought to concern themselves with telling the story.

 If you have any questions for Deb, or would just like to say hello, drop her a line or two. She'd love to hear from you.

Guest Bio:

Deborah Kinnard started writing at age ten, frustrated because there was no preteen girl with a horse on “Bonanza.”  From there she progressed to short stories and dreadful poetry.

In college, she gained two degrees in health care and spent time observing hippies, basketball stars, el-ed majors and other strange species.
While raising two active girls and cherishing a husband, she’s enjoyed a career that has encompassed Spanish translation, volunteer work at a crisis line, years in assorted ERs that don’t resemble the one on TV, and a day job at a big Chicago teaching hospital.

She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, serving as Midwest Zone Director, and confesses to being a loud singer at church. In 2002 and 2003, she sold her first and second novels, POWERLINE and OAKWOOD to Treble Heart Books. ANGEL WITH A RAY GUN, ANGEL WITH A BACK HOE and DAMAGES are available from Desert Breeze. SEASONS IN THE MIST was released by Sheaf House in April ’10 and ALOHA, MY LOVE, a novella, in December ’10 from Desert Breeze.

When Deb’s not at the computer writing, she keeps busy with the SCA, reading, beadwork, and needlework. She loves to travel and meet new people, some of whom turn up later in her stories.  So if you meet a short woman with a light in her eye…


  1. This is the opposite of what I've always been told. My first novel didn't fit any houses. Frustrated, I wrote another novel. It didn't fit. So, I researched the market and found very few agents or houses where my type of story did fit. I outlined my next novel, trying to fit the market, and there was no joy in that story. I put writing away for a while, until a story came to me and I had to write it. I now write for myself and if God wants my story out there, he'll make the way. I love edgy writing and LOVE time travel stories. I would love a copy of your book, even if I don't win one :D God Bless!

  2. So excited for you Deb, for your success as a writer. And (smile) I get to say I knew you when. Would love to read some more of your work my friend. Maybe I will purchase another or more. Or maybe I,ll win this one.

  3. i'd love to be entered to win this novel! i am a follower now. :)

    the character therapist
    jeannie at charactertherapist dot com

  4. I would LOVE to have this book. I have "met" Deb on the web, and I'd really like to read some of her work. Thanks so much for this interview. There IS always a spot of darkness in every story. It makes it more real for me.
    Tamara Cooper
    Would you mind deleting my email after you have chosen a winner? Thanks so much!

  5. oops. Forgot my email in my post. it's usleann at hotmail dot com. Thanks :D Leann

  6. AnonymousJuly 23, 2011

    I've never read a time travel novel, but I've met Deb at ACFW a couple of times. If I win this, it will be my first intro to time travel, and I'd be very excited.
    Bonnie Engstrom

  7. Elaine and Deb;
    I've enjoyed Deb's work before and have yet to read a time-travel novel of ANY kind. ;)

    I'm not adverse to trying Deb's because she IS a good writer.

    I agree with Deb - as much as I'd LOVE to sell my novel - I'm more inclined to be concerned about GOD'S DIRECTION in the 'story-telling' since He's the ONE who called me to write.
    In the last three years (A restart after years of having packed the work away) I've studied, I've read, I've written, revised- rewritten. Joined ACFW a year ago in April - studied, read, edited and revised and rewritten and I'm so close to THE END I can nearly see the page number it's going to sit on.
    Just a bit more work and the novel will have those wonderful words attached AND will be going by way of a Synopsis with me to the ACFW conference in Sept. LORD WILLING ~
    Praying God will further bless your writing, Deb and yours as well, Elaine.
    Thank you for the article. joyjournaling(at)gmail(dot)com

  8. Joy, thanks for visiting my blog. Between Deb's guest appearance on my blog, reading a few other blogs, watching the DVD of Freedom Writers (a must see movie, especially for writers!), and your encouraging words, I seem to have a theme going these past few days: writing the story God wants me to write. And revising it until it shines. I'll worry about all else afterwards.

    Thanks for posting!


  9. @Leann -- I hear what you're saying. Let's say, though, that you do a good all 'round study of what Christian fiction is publishing right now. Let's say it's Amish detective vampire/zombie stories (just kidding). So you sit down and write an ADVZ story. Trouble is, by the time you're finished writing, polishing, tweaking and summarizing for your proposal, the market may well have moved on to space cowboy salvation stories. None of the publishers know what's going to become the Next Big Thing. They hope that what they're acquiring now will be the big thing 1.5-2 years out, but they're not gifted with prescience. They're guessing. Wouldn't it be best to tell the story that's in your heart, and hope it can find a home, than to write "to market" and find the market-train has already left the station?

    I'm not saying there aren't stable areas in the market. We all know there are. But I don't think it serves God best, at least for me, to fail to tell the story that burns in my mind, because I may not find a market for it.

    My take. Thanks, everyone, for all the good wishes! I hope to get a copy of SEASONS IN THE MIST to one of you, very soon.

  10. What a great week it's been with my guest, author Deborah Kinnard. Deb, heartfelt thanks for being my guest and taking the time out of your busy schedule. Also thanks for seeking information on getting the kinks out of the blogging system. You've encouraged me to keep on writing the stories I want to, and I'm sure you've helped many others. Again, thanks so much.

    And thank you to my new Followers. That really means a lot to me!

    The winner of SEASONS IN THE MIST is Jeannie Campbell. Yea, Jeannie. Deb will be in touch with you shortly.

    Hugs to you, Deb, and to all.

    ♥ Elaine


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