Deep POV: Confessions of a Christian Writer

The ramblings of an emergent-realistic-edgy-working-for-God-and-the-pay-isn’t-that-great-sometimes-confused-christian-fiction writer (uh, that would be me).

Friday, February 25, 2005

Story as River

Flogging the Quill: Story as river

A great post by Ray Rhamey discussing the right way to begin a novel. And he mentions one of my heroes, Robert McKee, whose book Story taught me so much. If you want to understand the underlying structure inherent in any good story, I highly recommend it.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Blog Book Tour

Here's another great idea for Christian writers, especially those of us interested in the "pomergent" or edgy novel. M.J. Rose describes a virtual book tour done through blogs (Betting on Bloggers). And while I agree with what Kevin Smokler, who runs a Virtual Tour group says about niche marketing, it seems to me that the new Christian fiction is just that--very nichey (yes, I know--not a word, but we're being revolutionary here). Wouldn't it be cool to do something like that with one of us? Get behind a book when it's published and sponsor a tour? It's the wave of the future! And given the fact that audioblogging is becoming so popular, the ways this could be done seem endless. What if the author included a reading in his/her tour? Too cool!

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The First Chapter

Not too long ago, I "met" another writer re an on-line group. She needed the definition of what, exactly, Christian fiction is within the CBA. I had an answer and shared it with her. Well, we talked because she was thinking about going to Mount Hermon this year and I've been. One thing led to another and I ended up offering to critique her first chapter, which she planned to include in a proposal for MH. It was her first novel and she was hoping to find an agent.

I am not a published writer, but I think I have a solid grasp on what constitutes a good novel. Of course, everyone's taste is different, but I think there are certain things a first chapter needs and one of them is that it should grip you. Strongly. If it doesn't grab you by the throat and pull you into the story, it's not doing it's job. And by "you" I mean not only the reader, but the potential editor and agent who might review it. And, in my humble opinion, this author's work was not doing that job. It was more about giving the reader a lot of backstory, a technique I'm very familiar with and used in my first novel. Boy, did I ever! :-)

So, I told the author, as gently as possible, what I thought, both good and bad. She had some great characters and her grammar/punctuation was impeccable, her writing above average, but she wasn't grabbing anyone with the chapter. I told her, she thanked me, and I never heard from her again.

I say all of this because I was reminded of that episode today when I read Dave Long's post here. He is an acquisition editor at Bethany, so reading first chapters is his job. And he says almost the same thing, including this:
Read ten or so pages. Ten pages is enough to tell whether the nuts-and-bolts writing is impressive enough for me to keep reading. Rare are the books that are written in cliché and weak language for fifteen pages that suddenly turn into Joseph Heller.
If your first few pages aren't compelling, what chance is there that you'll be stunning on page one hundred?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Library Budgets

An interesting article about library budgets. Fiction now accounts for 52 percent of an average library's budget, up from 38 percent only two years ago! To those of us who not only write fiction, but love to read it, this is good news indeed! And Christian fiction, the article says, is more popular than ever.

From the Edge: Celebration of New Christian Fiction

Welcome to the first-ever blog carnival for writers of the new Christian fiction! On the third Tuesday of every month, we plan to regale you with the writings of some of the best bloggers around as we discuss issues and ideas in the postmodern, emergent world of Christian fiction.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, visit Mick Silva's blog, My Writers Group and read his article, Soup's On: Christian Fiction for Everyone for immediate insight into the issue.

The emergence of Christian fiction out of its (self-imposed?) ghetto is often likened to a similar trend in Christian music. Read the clever way Chris Well, author of Forgiving Solomon Long , brings together music and writing: The CCM/Fiction Connection, on his blog The Learning Curve.

Some Christian writers want to publish in the ABA, the CBA's big, uptown cousin, where opportunites are limited for those who don't hide their love of the Lord. However, many people suggest that before we stomp off to storm the gates of the ABA, we need to be certain we’ve produced our best work. Mary DeMuth, author of Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God, discusses this on her blog, Relevantblog. Her article Improve Your Writing in 2005 says it all. Craft, folks—it’s all about craft!

And speaking of craft, part of that process involves passion, doesn't it? Passion is a necessary component of what we do for without it I doubt we'll push ourselves to learn all that we need to learn. Read Jeanne Damoff's article, Brett the Tea Man at her blog, ElleZymn.

What’s it like to be a Christian writer working on a novel where art and faith must be balanced from page to page? Check out Valerie Comer’s blog, In My Little World and read her article, Walking the Tightrope.

How about sex? Is it something a Christian novelist, even in the new order of things, has to be concerned with? Or do we have a clearer perspective than others because we’re Christians (and I don't mean a prudish perspective either)? See Susan Kaye’s blog, wordworking , and read the article Lipstick on a Pig.

Words! They are at the heart of what we do as writers. But what responsibility do we bear as Christians who are writers (or writers who are Christians?) to these words? Read Marcia Laycock’s post, Redeeming Words in her blog, Writer-lee.

And, oh, how we struggle with those words! For a delightful take on this aspect of our lives, see Paula Moldenhauer’s poem about the writer, her words, and their "relationship." Words, from her blog GraceReign.

And finally, my own attempt to define the new/edgy/postmodern/emergent Christian fiction (which I think I'll call "pomergent" :-) with ample help from Steve Turner. The New Christian Fiction.

From the Edge: A Celebration of New Christian Fiction happens the third Tuesday of every month.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Ouch!

The writer of this post is a fifteen-year-old. His view of Christian fiction and Christian music isn't original; it's his age that alarms me. How are we going to reach the next generation if a fifteen-year-old Christian thinks a lot of what we're doing stinks?

A quote:

"The same goes for a lot of Christian fiction being pumped out these days. A lot of it exudes more of agenda-driven politics and morality than true expressions of art. This turns off anyone with other ideas about life and should leave the rest of us wondering why we can't confine political activism to Jerry Falwell's appearances on Fox News."

Friday, February 04, 2005

New Christian Fiction

Over the last few days, as I attempted to pull together my ideas (and the ideas of others) for a Christian writers’ blogging community around a “carnival” of blogs concept, I've searched for a good name for said carnival and keep coming up short. Why? Because what we’re trying to do as Christian artists has never been officially labeled. Dave Long called it Emergent Christian Fiction for a time because it followed some of the precepts of the Emergent Church. But he doesn’t like that title anymore. Mick Silva calls it the Christian Writing Revolution, which doesn’t really roll off the tongue that smoothly. “The Carnival of the Christian Writing Revolution”?

Meanwhile, over at the Faith in Fiction on-line forum, they’ve been debating exactly what Emergent Christian Fiction, or whatever you call it, really is. Quite a few opinions floating around. So, here’s mine, taken from Steve Turner’s book, Imagine.

A New Christian Fiction Writer can be defined as a Christian writer whose work falls into one or more rings of a set of concentric circles as defined below and who supports all Christian writers no matter what circle they choose to write in. The rings are as follows:

The outermost ring is composed of “…art that doesn’t suggest an obvious worldview,…” This is easier to see in a non-writing example, such as a sculpture or a nonsense type song, but perhaps some poetry might fall into this category. It's art for art's sake without a message although, that, of course, will always be debated.

The fourth ring “contains work that is an expression of our Christian faith because it dignifies human life and introduces a sense of awe.” This reminds me of the scripture that says the heavens declare the glory of God. If you’re writing about the Grand Canyon, one single flower, or a baby’s birth, and you focus simply on that, you’re still glorifying God and affirming His creations.

The third ring “contains those things that carry an imprint of clear Bible teaching, but which we know are not uniquely Christian.” Certain traits in humankind are universal and understood by people who’ve never read the Bible: peace, love, forgiveness, or reconciliation are the examples Steve gives. This, I don’t think, is the place where you’ll find any CBA fiction, but will find a lot of good general market religious fiction.

The second ring contains issues “inspired by some of the Bible's primary theological themes.” Here we’re talking about issues like original sin, human moral freedom, and the spiritual realm. At this point, in my opinion, we’ve entered the realm of the CBA, although people of other faiths, include atheists, could also tackle these subjects. This may also be the place where “edgier” CBA fiction is found.

The center ring is where “the unique Christian gospel lies” and is the home of most CBA fiction. Here our Christian worldview is on full display as we testify about Jesus and what He’s done for us while weaving our story. A novel in this center circle needs a spiritual thread that runs through it from start to finish as well as a definite evangelical Christian point of view.

These circles are not exclusive. You could be a novelist who writes half in one and half in another. But you won't find a lot of books being published in the CBA that are in rings four and five.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Celebration of New Christian Fiction

Listed below are three of the carnival-type blog communities that now exist on-line. I am sure there are many others.

For want of a better name, I'm calling this the Celebration of New Christian Fiction. If you have a better title, please don't be shy because I'm open to changing it. I'd also changed the "New Christian Fiction" part if anyone has a suggestion.

It works like this:

(1) Once a month, every NCF writer who's interested in participating in the Celebration will send the title and permalink to an article he/she wants to share (from their blog) to the host site blogger for that month (host sites will rotate).
(2) The host site is responsible for posting all participants' links along with the title on the day of the CNCF. She can also make a brief comment if she's actually read what her fellow blogger said.
(3) On the day of the Celebration, each participant mentions it on his blog and provides a link to the host site.
(4) Each participant makes an effort to showcase the Celebration in their blog a few days before the actual date.

I think that about covers it. I'll be contacting the folks who've expressed interest and reminding people about dates and such so no one will have to keep track of what's going on except me.

I hope the idea will catch on. :-)

Carnival of the Recipes

Bonfire of the Vanities

Carnival of the Vanities

Matron Lit?

In this new genre, no heroine can be younger than 48

This seems like a great idea. Given that my generation is still the largest in population, you'd think there'd be a huge market for this kind of story. After all, not all of us want to read about a twenty-something's romance!

Donald Miller

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

I've never heard of Donald Miller, but the book Blue Like Jazz is familar to me. Depending on where you stand as a Christian, he'll either infuriate you or make you think. He's surely one of the best known emergent Christian writers.

Here's a quote:

Most people who love Don Miller seem to be more conventional Christians who feel cast adrift in the conservative megachurch world. "I think most of my readers are disenfranchised evangelicals," Miller says. "They've been going to church and voting Republican all their lives, but it's not working for them anymore."

"Beneath the evangelical power crust, a lot of stuff is bubbling," says Jess Bielman, the campus ministry director at Warner Pacific College, a tiny Bible school on Mount Tabor where many students read Miller. "Miller taps right into that. And sarcasm is underappreciated in the Christian world."

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Top Eleven Films of 2005?

Here's a list of the top films coming out in 2005 that will likely spark questions and, thus, opportunity for debate among believers and non-believers. I thought that was a great idea!

Christian Book Store and Harry Potter

Here's a fascinating article about a Christian bookstore that's selling Harry Potter books. Yes, you heard that correctly, a Christian bookstore. Ever since Harry Potter books were first published, I've been in the middle of many intense firestorms over them, with some Christians arguing that they are the devil's spawn, and others claiming they display Christian principles. I don't know enough about them to comment because I've never read them ... though I want to. Still, what a breath of fresh air to see a Christian bookstore with this philosophy:

But O'Reilly-Amandes believes the Potter books fit the store's mission to bring in more customers. The Oak Park Logos is part of a 30-store chain in the United States, Canada and the Bahamas that targets both Christians and non-Christians. The philosophy is to attract "hidden people," including those who don't shop in religious bookstores, and "are completely unaware of the wealth of Christian literature written on their level and addressed to their needs."