Marshal Younger is the keynote speaker for this year's NCWA Writer's Renewal. He is a writer/director and producer for TV, film and radio, including Adventures is Odyssey. Marshal attended Baylor University and graduate school at Regent University. Please welcome Marshal to the blog!
1. Was it love at first sight or did your career in writing & producing gradually evolve? When did you know writing was in your blood?
I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was in the third grade. My teacher would sometimes read my stories to the whole class in lieu of reading actual books by actual authors. And I loved it when the class laughed at what I wrote. Entertaining my friends was what led me to want to be a writer. And I never gave it up from that moment on. I never wanted to be anything else. Of course, I constantly doubted that I would be able to make a living writing (and, in fact, I still have my doubts sometimes), but God was good to me and allowed me to make a career out of the thing that I loved.
2. How have you been able to blend your art & faith into an encouraging medium for your readers/listeners?
At this point, my art and my faith are so interconnected that if they were separated, something would feel wrong. I think artists of faith have a distinct advantage over artists who only want to entertain because we know what we believe. We have a purpose in everything we do, and we have a beautiful story to draw from every time we sit down at a computer. The message of Christ is ultimately one of hope, love, and joy. And those messages are getting increasingly rare in our culture. The negative stuff is emphasized because “it makes better drama”. But as far as I’m concerned, the Christian life is a rollercoaster drama that makes it easy to mine stories.
3. Where do you find inspiration?
My children are a constant source of inspiration. I have four—one in college, one in high school, one in middle school and one in elementary, so lately I’ve been able to get material that matches children’s experiences at pretty much every stage of life. It’s still fun to be driving with the kids in the car, listening to an Odyssey show, and one of them shouts, “Wait a minute! That’s me!”
Good books and good movies inspire me. And, strangely enough, poorly-made movies inspire me too. It makes me think I can make it in this business if I see awful stuff actually getting funded and produced.
I like C.S. Lewis. Garrison Keillor, and Aaron Sorkin. Bible stories where God does the impossible always makes me want to craft stories that show the same thing.
4. Could you offer one nugget of writing truth you’ve discovered that applies to novelists and freelance writers?
The first draft is always, always, always horrible. Don’t ever send anything to a publisher that’s a first draft. The movie “Finding Forrester” has this quote: “The first draft you write with your heart. The second draft you write with your head.” Overwriting is fine in the first draft. But cut your stuff down by at least 20% in the second draft—because you’ll never miss it. Your novel is not perfect. Get someone who knows what they’re talking about and would be willing to crush your spirit, if they have to, with a critique. An honest critic is an ally, not an enemy.
5. Many writers find it hard to “sell” family and friends on their writing career. Could you share a bit of your experience?
I’m still trying to convince my wife that I’m a writer. I understand where people are coming from. It doesn’t look like a real job.
You work in your pajamas?
You start your day at what time?
This is what you spent your entire day doing? Writing 300 words?
So you’re telling me there’s no guarantee you’ll get paid for this?
Writing as a career doesn’t work like most careers. It takes a long time to prove yourself. The process is frustrating, as it has been for my wife at times. Either you really have to believe that God put you here, or you get a second job as a waiter. Don’t lose hope too quickly. It took Noah about 100 years to build the ark. And he got laughed at too.
6. What is that one project you would love to write but haven’t yet?
My dream is to write for television. I would like to write a comedy drama where the church is integral to the framework of the show. The church members don’t have to be the main characters, they just have to have a positive effect on the community around them. The church is so misunderstood in popular television and film. I grew up in the church, and love the church. I have rarely had anything but positive experiences when dealing with Christians, and I would love for that to be represented somewhere.