Thomas Umstattd Jr., of Author Media fame (https://www.authormedia.com/ ) asks writers, “Who is your Timothy?”
Umstattd, also an author, owns Author Media, which he established to help authors sell more books. Although we members are Christian authors, his principles apply to secular fiction and non-fiction book publishing and sales as well.
St. Paul wrote encouraging letters to his young protégé, Timothy, to guide him as he pastor-ed newly formed churches. He knew what Timothy needed to learn, what issues he was facing, and how best to do the work set before him. In other words, Timothy was Paul’s target letter audience.
So, as a writer, who is your Timothy? That seems like a simple question, but it’s not. For example, I do not write for children, so is my Timothy, by default, all adults? Which age group? Which interest group? Railroad buffs or housewives? As a writer, I cannot be all things to all people.
When I returned to writing after retiring from my nursing career, I thought, “Great. Now I can write.”
Then I had a conversation with myself.
“Write what?” I asked. I had no great plot brewing for a novel, or research idea to pursue for an article.
“I know! I’ll write about God and how he moves in our lives.”
“That’s nice. Specifically though, what will you write? That topic is too broad.” (I didn’t know about Timothy at the time.)
Just then, Good Neighbor Dave stopped by with a story about an amazing God-intervention he and his wife experienced. For lack of any other idea, I wrote his story, showed it to them, and asked if I could share it. With their permission, I approached my church.
All new members at my church at the time took a “Discover the Gifts” course, designed to highlight one’s areas of interest and expertise. They did this believing a person would more readily volunteer to serve in an area they liked.
Off I trotted to church, story in hand, and offered whatever writing they would want. Long story short, this led to my work as a reporter for a Christian newspaper, and a growing drive to write more and better. But, other than assigned articles, I still did not know what else to write.
Enter “The Divine Meddler”
Fast forward to my novel. By now, I realized I was a “Christian writer,” or one who wrote for the Christian market. But there are millions of Christians with differing experiences, theologies, cultures, ages, etc. Who among them was to be my Timothy? When I wrote for the newspaper, my Timothies were Christians involved in their churches and various ministries. They were active in their faith.
Timothies can change
Once I plotted my novel it became very clear its theme was one of redemption. No matter what sin or evil you did, God wants to forgive you. So my protagonist did a very bad thing, something 99.9% of Christian readers would never do.
But most Christians know God forgives sinners. That’s not news. What about those who aren’t so sure? What about those who once believed, but no longer do? Maybe they have been hurt by church. Maybe they don’t understand how so many bad things could happen to someone who goes to church and believes in God. Maybe they are just plain furious at God, or church, or both.
With that, my Timothy changed from the active, faith filled churchgoer, to someone who squirms at all things smacking of God. A good person by earthly standards, but one who does not believe God cares a whit for him.
In other words, unlike many who find joy and peace reading novels that reinforce their faith, my Timothy definitely does not. That’s why I say I do not write for the “spiritually comfortable.” When I wrote the scene where my protagonist, Lou Skalney, yanked the crucifix off the wall and furiously threw it into the waste-basket, I mentally ducked to avoid a celestial zap.
Then there is genre
Now that I know my Timothy, I have yet to settle on my genre. Will it be a mystery, a thriller, a literary novel, or a historical novel? Timothy could read any of those.
I know this is probably amateurish, but I simply wrote the novel and let the genre take care of itself. I looked at the finished creature and asked, “what are you?” Actually, my readers’ reviews are answering that question…“Message of God’s grace and salvation woven through,”(Okay, a Christian novel) …“kept me guessing”(A mystery?)… “twists and turns (Suspense?) …” angry at God” (literary novel?)
Apparently Timothy enjoys a bit of mystery with thrills mixed in. Amazon lists it under: mystery, thriller, suspense, spiritual.
At any rate, you do not need to be angry at God to enjoy The Divine Meddler, but hopefully Timothy will get the most out of it.
I am certainly one of your Timothys! I say this from a position of belief in a merciful God, even though I doubt I would sin as grievously as Lou Skalney. After all, Jesus himself pardoned the thief next to him as they suffered on the crosses! That’s why I could totally buy into “Divine Meddler”!
Thank you, Cathy. I’m learning Timothy wears many faces!