Questions Fourth-Grade Aspiring Writers Ask

Cynthia Ruchti

Blogger: Cynthia Ruchti

What questions do aspiring writers ask?

Everything imaginable, according to these questions fourth-grade aspiring writers asked during an author visit.questions aspiring writers ask

What is your favorite book cover?–Lexee

  • Leather.

Where do you like to eat and do you write there?–Abby

  • I can’t explain why, but Asian restaurants are my favorite places to write.

How many books did you publish?–Sloane

  • So far, I’ve written or collaborated on twenty-two. Nine years ago, I wasn’t convinced I’d ever see one published.

What animals were in They Almost Always Come Home?–Julian

  • Wolves and bears. In supporting roles.

What is the hardest part of being an author? –Alexis

  • Waiting.

Would you suggest writing a video if you are stuck writing a book?–Israel

  • I hadn’t thought of that, but it might be a good idea, Israel.

What is your favorite book that you wrote?–Ellie

  • My goal is for the last book I wrote to always be my current favorite, each one a better story than the one before as I grow as a writer.

How long does it take for just the writing part of publishing a book?–Kaylee

  • Every author will give you a different answer. Usually the first one takes the longest. For me, I think about a book long before I get the words into my computer and onto paper. A comfortable pace for me is nine months. But for years it’s been more like four to six months between deadlines. Sometimes less than that.

My brother wrote a book and I came up with the name Marstown and the beginning. Have your grandchildren helped you with some of your books?–Nick

  • Definitely. Plot points. Character occupations. Unique twists. Clever details. And praying while I write.

Why did you write my dog Sadie in that new book?–your loving granddaughter Hannah

  • Because Sadie (aka Comfort) has so much personality. She deserved a role in a book.

When you were a scientist did you do any explosions?–Katie

  • Not intentionally.

How would you start and finish a book?–Jackson

  • So far, I’ve only tried using words.

How do you find a publisher? Because I write a lot of books.–Reggi

  • (Crickets.) The real answer takes volumes.

writers ask questionsAspiring writers are full of questions, as they should be.

  • Agents, instructors, and writer friends can answer some of them. But among the most important questions aspiring writers ask are those only they can answer.
  • Am I in this for honorable reasons? (Note that we don’t presume what makes your reasons honorable, just that you’ve asked the question.)
  • Am I in this for the long haul? Those with unrealistic expectations will have more than enough opportunities to give up.
  • Am I teachable? Writers–both aspiring and veteran–who assume they already have all the answers set themselves up for unrewarding careers.

What questions are on your mind, Writer? They may become subjects for future blog posts.

CLICK TO TWEET: What questions do aspiring writers ask?

25 Responses

Leave a Reply

  1. Thank you, Cynthia, for this child’s-eye view of writing. I am grandmother to 3rd and 5th grade aspiring writers. I love the questions the kids don’t ask:
    How do you come up with an idea for a book?
    How do you overcome writer’s block?

    * As to Reggi’s question: my grandson’s school “publishes” their books–that is, their manuscripts are on the shelf, available for their classmates to check out and read. Unfortunately, Granny doesn’t carry the right library card.

  2. Oy! I’m a little reticent to toss this out there, but as a friend once told me, “Come on, Damon. Put your rock up there on the table with the rest of us.”
    The question I wrestle with the most is the persistent question from the obnoxious roommate inside my head that asks, “Am I sure I’m up to this task? Who am I to write this? Who cares what I have to say?”

  3. Angie Arndt says:

    With more and more writers competing for fewer spots in agencies and publishing houses, what’s your personal opinion of the future of Christian fiction and how can we make our manuscript stand out from the others (even though we love our writing brothers and sisters)? 😉

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      And…there’s the million dollar (even though no actual dollars exchange hands) question! Sometimes it’s an indefinable “it” factor, as in “This is it! What I’ve been waiting to see!” Sometimes it’s a unique twist on other good books just like it. Sometimes it’s moving from great writing to spectacular writing. It might be timing. It might be waiting for a dip in a publishing cycle to take an uptick, and catch it at the right moment. As someone once said, “It’s not rocket surgery,” mixing metaphors on purpose. The decisions are informed decisions, but defy formula. Frustrating for both authors and agents. As one hymn writer said,

      “We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender;
      We go not forth alone against the foe;
      Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender.
      We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.”
      –Edith Gilling Cherry (1872-1897)

      • Angela Arndt says:

        Such a beautiful answer! Perhaps since God guides our careers, our books, our writing, He controls that “it” factor, too.

        I needed to hear that answer and especially the hymn, Cynthia. Thank you so much!)

  4. “Why do you write?”
    * I write to show that it is possible for anyone to face death with the heart of a Klingon, and that while it is of course best to die in combat, there is no dishonour in illness.
    * The greatest honour is within reach of the meekest heart.

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      Andrew, you should post “goosebumps ahead” warnings before your responses. I will chew all day (or longer) on your line, “while it is of course best to die in combat, there is no dishonour in illness.”

  5. Carol Ashby says:

    A scientist? Cool! What specialty?
    Am I improving my skill as a writer so that each book is crafted better than the last?
    I write to encourage the faithful and to make others curious about our faith. My frequent question as I write: does a character’s spiritual arc feel real in every conversation, struggle, and choice?

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      My specialty was going to be hematology, but I was hired to work in a medical center chemistry lab instead. 🙂

      I’m saving your question, Carol: “Does a character’s spiritual arc feel real in every conversation, struggle, and choice?”

    • Cool Line of the Day:
      “I write to encourage the faithful and to make others curious about our faith.”
      – Carol Ashby

  6. This isn’t my question, but I get asked this a lot: How much money do Christian writers make? Will you be paid sufficiently for your time and effort? *This is a question that I can’t really answer. I always say that I believe it’s different for all writers. Some act like if you don’t expect a reward in the near future for your efforts, that you should toss it all aside and head down another path. Time is valuable, afterall. When you try to explain that you write because you love to … you receive the nearest expression next to an eyeroll. There are many things we pour our lives into that we may or may not see a return. But we do it because we love to or because it’s right. What is wrong with trying?

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      Yes, a frequent question we field. Tongue-in-cheek, some writers respond, “If you have to ask, this isn’t a job for you.” 🙂 Writers write. It’s what they do. As a career. As ministry. As a service to the nonwriting world who can’t find words to express what they feel or know. For enjoyment and personal pleasure. To help bolster the family income. To provide the family income. Writers write for a variety of reasons. Some professions can give a projected income range. If you graduate with a degree in information systems, you can expect to make x number of dollars per year in an IT position. Physical therapists can expect salaries between y and z per year. Except for technical writers or specific writer-related positions, it’s almost impossible to pinpoint a range, unless you’re satisfied with hearing “between zero and six figures a year.” The same can be said for sculptors, potters, fabric artists, painters, stained glass artists. But the drive within the heart of a committed writer says just as you did, Shelli: What’s wrong with trying?

      • I love that response, Cynthia. I’d love to use that, in the most loving way. 🙂

      • “As a service to the nonwriting world…”
        Another great line. My beloved wife is a non-writer. It is a week-long endeavor for her to write a message in my birthday card. It’s just not her thing! But, she reads four books to my one, so their is a plethora of writing (mysteries, mostly) that has been spilled out as a service to her world.

      • “A service to the non-writing world” is what really brings joy isn’t it. When I write a blog post that shines a light on what happened during an amazing week of Bible Camp and my elderly grandparents (93 and 99) clasp my hand and say “You said it just right. Just how we wanted to.” That is just pure bliss. To have given voice to the camp experience when they were unable to do so, even though they were the ones who founded the camp. I have a skill that is a joy to them.

  7. Jaxon M King says:

    I have a question, Cynthia. If an author secures an agent and then a contract from a publisher, I assume there will always be changes the publisher’s editor will want to make to the work. My question: Is it pretty much a “Just want to let you know, (author), we are making these changes, and if you want the contract…” or is it more of a collaborative effort, where the author has some say in what changes will be made, with the exception of glaring errors, of course?

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      Jaxon, that’s a great question. You’re right in saying that all editors will find the need to make some changes in the work an author sells to a publisher. Those changes may be minor–grammatical and punctuation errors missed by or unknown to the author–or mid-range–timeline issues, missing attributions, clarifying points–or even complete rewrites. Even the most prolific, skilled authors are sometimes asked to do a complete rewrite if necessary due to theological sticking points or missing elements (like major plot holes or research flaws). The key point of an editor’s input is to make the book stronger. An editorial goal is never change for change’s sake, or so the editor’s “voice” is heard. Typically, the contract is signed before any editorial work is done. Contract is signed. Author finishes the book (if it isn’t already) and turns it in to the publishing house editor. That editor may will enlist a content editor, line editor, and copy editor during the editing process and usually at each of those stages sends the recommended edits and editorial notes to the author to make the changes or to make a compelling case for retaining the original word/line/paragraph/premise/subplot… As much as we believe our own work is pristine and without error when we turn it in, we soon find that editors are trained to notice what we don’t, to pick up on what we inadvertently overlook or can’t possibly know. The process is collaborative to a great degree. But a good editor’s input is priceless. If a publishing house editor feels strongly enough about needed changes and the author refuses, yes, the contract may be in jeopardy. A contract usually includes a clause that defines that payment (and publication) hinges on the author turning in “an acceptable” manuscript. An author who takes a crossed arms, heels dug in stance on suggested editorial changes–unless there’s a compelling, defendable reason–will either find herself/himself without a contract or without future contracts. If that sounds hard to swallow, please be assured that editors are not capricious in their role. They want their authors to succeed, and want most of all for the book to communicate clearly and sell well. You may hear an occasional “horror story” about an editor/author relationship. But those are rare, and even rarer within the Christian publishing community. Most authors like their own books even better after the editorial process is complete.

      • Jaxon M King says:

        Thank you, Cynthia, for the time you obviously dedicated to write this response. Greatly appreciated. And I have to say, that all makes sense. I like your statement that “An editorial goal is never change for change’s sake, or so the editor’s voice is heard.” That will stick with me. And it helps that you clarified the process. You’ve given me a better outlook, although the thought of possibly entering the traditional publishing field still causes me to feel the same as when I first entered the teaching workforce years ago-highly intimidated! 🙂

  8. These made me smile. And snicker. Thanks for sharing!

  9. 4th graders are awesome. I have one of them. I just talked with a small group of 6th-8th graders about writing for magazines and they had great questions. Young writers are the best, so full of fun ideas and dreams.

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      So true. I gave each of the kids in the class a journal and a cool pen for “collecting story ideas.” MONTHS later, I would run into one of them in a restaurant or at church and they reported about what they’d been writing in their journals! Sweet moments!