Novelist Deborah Raney on writing

Mike Miller  ·  Jan 01, 2016

Deborah Raney started writing by reading.

“I found by being a voracious reader, I had learned a lot about writing,” says the author of 30 published novels and a teacher at writers’ conferences. “I read all the time. I used to read a book a week, if not more than that. I really don’t see how a writer cannot continue to be a reader. Part of my research is just to know what else is out there. It’s also still the most enjoyable thing I do. If I have an eight-hour day and I don’t have to do anything else, reading is still what I choose to do.”

That’s one of several insights on the writing process that Deborah, who is married to illustrator Ken Raney, offered in a recent interview.

Here are others:

Have somebody else read your stuff. “I remember writing what turned out to be the prologue for my first novel and typing it out and handing it to Ken, just to ask his opinion, and he read it and looked at me and said, ‘Honey this is good, keep writing,’ and that was all the encouragement that I needed to keep going.”

As part of somebody else reading her work, she has a critique partner—fellow Christian author Tamera Alexander. “She and I have been critique partners for going on 12 years now. We read everything the other one writes and do kind of a pre-edit before our actual editors get hold of the book. It’s been great to be able to have that kind of feedback, from a person who knows writing well. I know several other people have partners or part of a group. It’s uncommon but not unusual.”

She thrives on deadlines. As she begins work on a new novel, “I do the math and figure how many words I need to write each day to make that deadline, then I procrastinate for six months, write frantically and make everyone around me miserable for the following three months before the book is finally turned in.”

She doesn’t outline her novels. “For me knowing how it’s going to end takes all the fun out of writing. I want to discover it as I write just the way the reader will as she reads. I think that’s part of the reason that I’m such a procrastinator.”

Deborah also says that the Christian fiction market has changed drastically, mainly because of e-books.

“Publishers are really struggling,” says Deborah, who serves on the board of American Christian Fiction Writers. “For a long time we (the ACFW) strongly recommended that writers not self-publish, that they wait until they’re writing well enough to get a publisher. But that has all changed even within the last five years because of e-books and because Amazon now allows a person to write a book and offer it on Amazon the following week if they want to.”

It’s also less expensive now to self-publish, she says.

“It used to cost you anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000, even up to $20,000, to get that book published, and your chances to make that money back were slim to none,” Deborah says. “Now it costs very little. All you really need is someone to design a cover—and that’s one of the things that Ken does in his graphic design work—and then hopefully have an editor for the book.”