O Me of Little Faith

O Me of Little Faith

Where Do I Go from Here?

One of the questions I get asked pretty frequently — especially with the release of a new book — is this one: What are you writing next?

That question comes from fans, family members, agents, editors, and interviewers. Up to this point, I’ve always had a pretty good answer to that question. But right now, my answer is…

I don’t know.

Really. Currently I’m working on a two-book contract for a couple of Pocket Guide-ish children’s books about non-religious subjects. They may or may not be released under a pseudonym. (I’m thinking of going with “Stephenie Meyers,” because: genius!) Anyway, once these books are complete, I don’t know what I’m doing next.


Another Pocket Guide? Yes, there are plenty of religious/historical subjects that could easily receive the Pocket Guide treatment. Eastern religions. Greek mythology. Mormonism. I have a pretty long list. But after several years of the heavy research involved in writing these books — and I mean heavy research — I’m a bit burned out on it. And I wonder how far these books can take me, career-wise. I mean, it worked for Kenneth C. Davis and his Don’t Know Much About… series, but so far I haven’t been able to add that “New York Times Bestselling Author” tag to my book jackets. Do I keep plugging away on these until they take over the world? I don’t know.


Another memoir? Other than the struggles of trying to write with honesty and vulnerability, drafting O Me of Little Faith wasn’t really that difficult, simply because the subject was me and not, say, the afterlife beliefs of ancient Chinese mythology. Being able to just write and tell stories without all the research was pretty liberating. I enjoyed it. Only this book sort of ends up where I am today. What else am I going to write about? If I want to do another memoir, I’m going to have to go do some more living for awhile, and then come back to it. Or I’m going to have to remember some big, exciting chunk of my childhood that has so far eluded me.


A gimmicky A.J. Jacobs-style immersion book? I’ve had some folks in the publishing industry ask me to think of an idea in this genre — like Jacobs’ mega-selling The Year of Living Biblically and all the other books his idea has spawned — but I’m hesitant. It seems fairly derivative at this point, like trying to jump on the coattails of a successful trend. How long with the trend last? Has this nonfiction genre run its course? Why don’t I just write a novel about brooding romantic vampires? Which leads to…


Fiction? Mmmmm…I’ve been secretly leaning this direction for a couple of years now. Part of me wants to toss away the shackles of research and truth-telling and spiritual insight in order to just sit down at my computer and tell a really cool story. Right now I’m reading a lot of children’s and young adult fiction, because that’s what my kids read. I love this genre and have always harbored dreams of being a novelist. (Ask me about the Jason Bourne-as-pacifist-shepherd novel I wrote the year after graduating from college.) But writing fiction would be like starting over in the publishing industry. Any success or platform I’ve built with Pocket Guides or religious books doesn’t exactly transfer over to YA fiction. But the freedom and creativity? It’s tempting, so tempting…



What do you think? You guys are (hopefully) familiar my career path up to this point, so what should I do next? I’m asking this in all seriousness because you’re smart and thoughtful and I value your insight. Also because I’m hoping you’ll give me some good ideas for a novel.

Please share.

Comments read comments(12)
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shawn smucker

posted May 10, 2010 at 10:55 am

Thanks Jason. I was about to email you my list of questions for next weeks Q&A . . . but this was my last question, soooooo, back to the drawing board.

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Kristin T. (@kt_writes)

posted May 10, 2010 at 11:26 am

Hmm…that is a tricky question. I've always thought of myself as ONLY a non-fiction writer, but then I heard Rudy Wiebe talk at the Festival of Faith and Writing (did you happen to go to his session "Where the Truth Lies: Exploring the Nature of Fact and Fiction"?). This quote in particular sort of changed my whole perspective on the matter: “Fiction is the narratives you and I make out of the facts of our lives….A fact is something you see—an act of witness and then an act of memory. A fiction is a thing made or shaped out of words….The things we do and witness every day, we also recast into words every day. We are creating fictions. All stories fall on this continuum, somewhere between fact and fantasy.”Of course, the platforms and publishing issues are probably less on a continuum than the writing itself, but assuming you could figure all of that out, I think giving fiction a shot would be fun.

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posted May 10, 2010 at 12:03 pm

you could always try a book of 5-sentence stories…

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Rob Swick

posted May 10, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Writing fiction may not only be your next step, but you could even involve some of the research you have been doing for the past few years. Confused? Try a Mormon teenage boy who takes a semester abroad in China that stumbles upon a mystic order of Shaolin Monk farmers/herders, only to be trained as a secret Jason Bourne-esque operative.Hey, if anything else writing that would give you tons of experience to write another memoir…….

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posted May 10, 2010 at 1:19 pm

you said to ask you about the "Jason Bourne-as-pacifist-shepherd novel"?…sooo…c'mon..don't leave us hanging!

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posted May 10, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Definitely absolutely go for YA! And it will transfer a little bit…some people like me read both and would check out your fiction for sure!

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posted May 10, 2010 at 5:20 pm

If you do fiction, I'd suggest doing something other then:1) The quest of the cute foozels to destroy the evil power trinket to prevent the evil grand Poobar from taking over the magical realm (aka Lord of the Rings)2) Star Drek and Star Bores3) Romantic Vampires… It's been done to death ;)4) Time Travel where the actions don't affect anything (about as bad as Bobby Ewing walking out of a shower, and the previous two seasons where just a dream…)- Fastthumbs

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posted May 10, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Writing fiction also heavily involves research. When you're describing things, causes and effects that didn't actually happen, they require a lot of background knowledge to appear plausible. Your readership will always contain someone who's an expert in any small detail you add to your story.Most of us have at some point sat next to a nerd, watching a movie that involves usage of computers, and suffered through a passionate lecture on why whatever detail shown on screen is utterly implausible.Now imagine that, times thousand, written in ALL CAPS in a furious 1-star Amazon review.Creating a fictional setting (or your own laws of physics in a fantasy setting) won't make it any easier, as you still have to tread just as carefully to maintain internal consistency.I'm not saying fiction is a bad idea, just that it might involve some heavy research when done properly.

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posted May 10, 2010 at 10:09 pm

Even things we have experience with might get tricky when you drill down to the details. I've taken apart and put back together 7.62 RK-62 (Finnish military assault rifle) hundreds of times, and I'm sure there was a time I could have done it while asleep. But recently, as I was writing a detailed snippet describing a person handling one, I had problems recalling simple actions like operation of the safety lever.

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Kevin D. Hendricks

posted May 11, 2010 at 9:17 am

I say you throw off the shackles of market expectations and write some fiction. Platform be damned. I mean, @FakeJasonBoyett rocked.

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Nicodemus at Nite

posted May 11, 2010 at 10:24 am

What about a book on how Christians should balance Christ and Culture in our lives?

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