Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.
Psalm 54:4

Anyone who  attempts to write a book learns one thing quickly: it is difficult. Whatever your genre, the psychological energy it takes to get ideas coherently recorded is immense. In light of the challenges, it can be easy to lose steam along the way–and many do. So what, exactly, makes some people push through to finish their book? How do writers find their calling, and then find the perseverance to pursue it?

Photo of Julie HallAlthough Julie Hall’s award-winning novel Huntress may read like it came out in a few effortless strokes of the keyboard, the real story is one of hard work, dedication, learning by trial and error, and faith. In fact, flashback to her childhood and even pairing her name with the vocation of “writer” would have seemed crazy. “I was always that kid who wouldn’t read or write,” she recalls with a laugh.

That’s probably why she didn’t read until third grade—something her family won’t let her forget now that she is, ironically, the writer of the clan. But for Julie this early resistance to the craft that would later become linked to God’s mission for her life is just another display of His sovereignty. After all, it takes a truly powerful God to turn a resistant reader into an award-winning fiction author.

So, how did He do it? Well, similarly to composing a novel, God took Julie down the path of becoming a writer one step (or page) at a time.

Step 1: The Idea

When Julie finally learned to read, she always felt drawn toward the Young Adult (YA) genre, even into her adulthood, for no apparent reason other than that she enjoyed it. But through this long-lived interest came an important awareness. “I always liked reading YA novels,” says Julie. “But as I was reading, there seemed to be a gap in Christian YA fiction. Especially speculative fiction—or fiction that goes outside of reality.”

This got Julie thinking: perhaps the best way to fix the problem was to write the books herself. It was a strange idea that the late-blooming reader was considering writing her own series, but it was an idea that Julie couldn’t let go.

“I wanted my work to stand on its own for non-Christians, but to also have God’s truth in it.”
–Julie Hall

Rather than writing something geared only to Christian audiences, though, Julie felt early on that she needed to reach and impact a wide non-Christian audience as well. “I wanted my work to stand on its own for non-Christians,” she explains, “but to also have God’s truth in it.” A more clear story began to take shape.

Julie doesn’t know where many of her ideas for the series originated—they just seemed pop up in all manner of places. “Lots of ideas came from Bible studies on Hebrews and Revelations, and I culled from those for inspiration.” She set out knowing that her debut novel would be the first in a trilogy, with each book centering around one of the Godhead. Although part of this decision was a structural one, there was a secondary reason too.

“Most non-believers seem generally okay or familiar with the concept of God, even if they don’t believe it personally,” says Julie. “It’s easier for them to swallow. I thought, if I can introduce God in the first book, that might hook people so that they are more likely to stick with it as I introduce the Holy Spirit and, ultimately, Jesus.”

Step 2: Writing and Trusting

Now that she had a rough idea it was time for her next step: actually writing. For Julie, the writing process certainly wasn’t easy. “I had no idea how to write a book,” says Julie, laughing. Add to her general inexperience an illness that kept her bedridden off and on throughout the process, and the writing of her first book (what would become Huntress) took years.

“I was surprised later to realize how my main character and I went through similar struggles, in a way. We were both asking the same question of God: ‘Why are you doing this?’”

–Julie Hall

But Julie’s struggle with her health was not an empty one. Huntress centers around a young woman named Audrey who dies, has her memory wiped, and ends up finding herself thrust into a new occupation—demon hunter. One of the main conflicts of the book is Audrey coming to terms with where God has placed her. This theme echoed Julie’s own trials. “I was surprised later to realize how my main character and I went through similar struggles, in a way. We were both asking the same question of God: ‘Why are you doing this?’”

These refining trials brought both Julie and Audrey to a deeper understanding of God’s character, and that overflowed into the whole message of the book. “I wanted non-Christians reading the book to receive the message that God loves them. So, even though this is not set in a Biblical Heaven, I wanted them to see the relationship between Audrey and God as a loving one,” even amid Audrey’s doubts and struggles.

Huntress Cover

Step 3: Revision, revision, revision

In the end, Julie finally did finish the book–the unlikely author had completed her work…or so she thought. But now that she had discovered her calling as a writer, it was time for even more refining, this time of a professional nature.

“I learned the most about writing from the editing stage,” says Julie, “working with DRB’s freelance editor, Rachel. We cut 30,000 words. Whether you’re publishing the traditional route, hybrid, or self-publishing, an editor is worth their weight in gold. I learned my own mistakes that I was making repeatedly with pacing or using the same word too many times, and so on. It really improved my writing.”

It only took Julie nine months to finish the second book in the series, and she’s positive that her lessons from editing the first book have carried over.

The Point: God the Sustainer

Julie’s resistance to reading, her newness to the craft of writing, and her struggle with illness all point back to God’s power. Says Julie, “A lot of books don’t get written because the authors are intimidated and think it is something too big for them to accomplish. And that’s true: on our own we can’t do this. But our hope is in the Lord. And success isn’t measured in book sales.”

“Trust the Lord with the results, but work hard. Do what He has called you to do to the best of your ability.”
–Julie Hall

Of course, Julie emphasizes that this doesn’t mean writing poorly and then expecting God to miraculously make a good book out of your laziness. “I think we are called to work hard. Trust the Lord with the results, but work hard. Do what He has called you to do to the best of your ability.” Just as Julie worked hard through illness and many learning curves. Above all she wants to leave other writers with this thought: “Don’t be discouraged!”

Even as you must carefully craft your book one painstaking page at a time, remember that God, the master author, is crafting you into a beautiful work too–one painstaking page at a time. Trust His suggestions for revision, just as you trust your copyeditor. And always remember to keep faith not in your own ability to write, but in his ability to sustain.