Not Qualified? Think Again!

ACFW Advice, Authors and writing, Encouragement, Friends of ACFW, tips Leave a Comment

By Sarah Sundin

“Who am I to write a novel? I didn’t major in English! I’m ‘just’ a mom/teacher/police officer/nurse.” Ever think something like this? Many of us feel our lack of literary credentials will block us from achieving our dream. However, scanning the biographies of published novelists reveals a sparkling diversity of backgrounds.

Those diverse backgrounds make each novelist and each novel unique. What credentials do you bring to the table?

In my case, I had no business taking up fiction. I majored in chemistry. I’m a pharmacist who works on-call so I can be a stay-at-home mom and teach women’s Bible studies. How does this odd background enhance my writing?

Chemistry Major

How boring can you get, right? I agree. But my training in physics and chemistry helps me write the technical stories of my military heroes.

In Through Waters Deep, Ens. Jim Avery serves as a gunnery officer on a destroyer in 1941. I had the joy of reading the US Navy’s Naval Ordnance and Gunnery manual from World War II. All 564 pages of it. When I understood the workings of naval guns, I understood my hero better and made his story more authentic.


Because I’m mean, I keep giving my characters illnesses and injuries. And because I’m a pharmacist, I know how to treat them.


God blessed me with two sons and a daughter. My sons are now 17 and 22 (yikes!). Watching them grow up has given me a greater appreciation of what makes a man, how men think, and what men care about. I still see the sweet goofy little boys behind the bearded, muscled façades. This helps me create multi-dimensional heroes. Jim Avery may be a tall, handsome naval officer, but inside he still feels like a goofy little boy.

Bible Study Teacher

For years, I felt like I was the only Christian woman who battled fear, shame, and worrying. Then I began teaching. As I opened up about my own issues, the ladies in my classes opened up too. All Christians have struggles, and we deal with them in different ways. Following my friends’ journeys and stumbling along my own path inspires the spiritual side of my stories.

What Do You Bring?

God made you unique, and He brought you along your own special path in life. How does that make your novel richer? Does your background as a high-school dropout lend your stories a note of compassion for the less privileged? Does your work as a teacher give you an appreciation for different personality types and how they react? Have your short-term mission trips inspired story ideas?

What special talent, history, skill, or trait do you bring to the table? How has that made you a better writer? Please share!

Through Waters DeepSarah Sundin is the author of seven historical novels, including Through Waters Deep (Revell, August 2015). Her novel On Distant Shores was a double finalist for the 2014 Golden Scroll Awards. Sarah enjoys speaking to writers’ group, works on-call as a hospital pharmacist, and teaches Sunday school. Visit her at

Comments 0

  1. My fiction bent for writing seems to be mental illness (I’ve struggled with depression my whole life) and the things that make people odd to me (the cat obsessed for example). I also want an element in my stories focused on how Christians should treat odd people (outsiders, I guess). I also seem to create characters that do what I wished I would have done in similar situations as if I can make up for those mistakes. This was good for me to think about. Now, to build confidence and overcome loneliness to make the stories happen!

  2. That’s wonderful, Kari! As someone who’s always been a bit odd (see “chemistry major” above), I love to see people reaching out to those on the outside. The truth is, many people struggle with mental illness and loneliness and rejection – and they need hope. Write it!

  3. Hi Sarah, You’re not mean! Most of can make our characters sick, but we don’t all know how to treat them like you! What an asset! Having lived long enough to experience many things, I use that experience in my stories. I was shocked to see an editor’s comment in her rejection letter of one of my manuscripts concerning the selfish lie my main character told. She said “This isn’t how a young Christian woman would act.” You mean I’m the only person who ever did that? Maybe we aren’t supposed to behave that way, but thank God for His grace, forgiveness and repentance that allows us to see our error and change our ways.

  4. Hi Marilyn! Selfish lies? What Christian woman would do that??? Me, me, me!!! Personally, I’d rather read about Christian women who DO make boneheaded, pigheaded, selfish mistakes – and turn to God to overcome. Because that’s what happens daily in my life.

  5. Thank you, Sarah, for this encouraging post. I bring life experiences and an overactive imagination to the writing table.
    The comments and replies here are encouraging too. I couldn’t agree more with what was shared. God specializes in shining through cracked vessels–this gives me hope. 😉
    Blessings ~ Wendy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *