Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Make Your Own Realm

I posted nearly a year ago on NAF about the "war" between different factions of the Christian market. Please take a moment to read "Put Down Your Sword and Write" and then come back and find out my current take on this, which has sprung from a battle I witnessed this weekend.

OK, I know some of you (all of you?) did not go read the post I referenced, so let me give a quick summary. I think too many Christian writers focus on trying to change other Christian writers. My opinion: There are different segments of the Christian reader population and there needs to be different kinds of writing to reach each of them. So, put down the swords, pick up your pens (or laptops), and write what you want.

What happened recently though, is a blogger (and writer, and editor) posted a supposed "wake-up call" to Christian writers. She is on a rampage to change the face of Christian writing, to improve it, to raise the bar of quality....

The problem is this: She is totally missing the point. Most Christian novels are written for the Christian market, for a certain demographic that, let's face it, wants that kind of novel. And quality, to a certain degree, is subjective. Yes, there are some absolutes in writing craft. But different types of books are written differently. Contemporary vs. historical, literary vs. commercial, romance vs. military thriller, adult vs. YA/MG. The rules don't all span all genres and styles. The focus is different for each. The target audience is different. The level of literary-ness is different.

You all know me. You know I don't write typical Christian fiction. I don't read it, because in general I don't like it. There ARE some brilliant Christian novels out there. And many of them are published by specifically Christian publishers. But overall, I tend to read secular novels, or Christian novels on the "fringe"--fantasy, sci-fi, horror, etc, which aren't taken too well by the bulk of the Christan readership.

However, you won't find me fussing at the readers and writers who don't accept me or my weird stuff, or who write the stuff I'm not fond of--or even write poorly (imo). Instead, I look for my fellows. I hang with those who want the same things out of fiction that I want. Instead of pointing fingers and telling Others they need to be like Us, I focus on improving in the area I, and my peeps, write in. If you like what you see, you are welcome to join us. If not, you may continue on your merry way with not an ill word from me.

The reason for this is that we aren't going to move in the direction we want to move if we're dragging along people who don't want to go. Who don't, if you really think about it, need to go. They are happy, and they have an audience that they love and who loves them. Leave them be.

The whole thing reminds me of high school and cliques and social clubs. I was never one who looked for popularity. I knew that to be popular, to hang with the in crowd, I'd have to change who I was. The in crowd looked down on me, but it didn't matter--I didn't need their approval. I didn't like what they were doing.

The key, though, is I never tried to be a part of Their Club, or try to get them to change Their Parameters to accept me. Instead I ignored them, and I focused on Me. By finding my Own Crowd, I found a place I could grow through real friendships. Eventually, some of the populars began treating me with more respect--but because they saw me being who I was and not being affected by them.

Christian writers who don't like the CBA, who don't like the in crowd, can always find--or form--their Own Groups. Ignore the CBA, and ignore the populars you think are full of fluff, and forge in the direction you choose. Let them have their successes in Their Realm, and you go MAKE successes in Your Realm.

(And if you don't get the photo reference, it's from the movie Heathers, which has this message: You can't change or kill off the populars. If you want to be part of them, you have to change. If you don't want to change, make your own way.)


Caprice Hokstad said...

I am very willing to change to be like the populars, but no matter how much I try to be like them, I still end up being me and it's super darned frustrating. Not at all interested in being like the some of the other less-popular groups though. I feel as you do: let them have their little bubble parties. Just because I can't be in the big leagues doesn't mean I'm going to settle for their lameness or try to make them conform to MY perception of awesomeness. I'm glad they can be content with their place. That's a gift and they're lucky to have it.

Kat Heckenbach said...

That, my dear, is because you are you, and you shouldn't be anyone else :).

Kessie said...

At this point, I want to be part of the Crowd Whose Books Have Good Grammar And Editing. :-p Seems to be a shrinking, highly exclusive group these days ...

Kat Heckenbach said...

I've noticed that, too. There is a part of me, now that I know all that goes into publishing a book, that sympathizes with authors when I find mistakes. Oh, but there are times when I want to bang my head against the desk....

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Good post--you know I was following that discussion thread and I agree w/you. (AND I AM A "HEATHER!" FOR REAL! hee...seriously, I need to watch that movie sometime).

As I commented there, I think we have to realize that just as we all have differing spiritual gifts, we have different markets for our writing.

Although sometimes it SEEMS as if the only way to get in the door is to write romance, (and believe me, I do kick that one around sometimes) you are so right that we have to write what's right for us. It's hard when it isn't in a popular genre or it doesn't fit into a niche.

But in my opinion, the books that stand out don't often fit into a pre-existing niche. "The Help," "Twilight," "Harry Potter," to name a few...someone took a chance on something different. And now everyone wants to be a part of those packs. Well, everyone in the ABA, that is! Grin.

(And I've just started reading Christian fiction myself. I've been more of a classics gal, or ABA, till now). But I'm not going to say, "I'm not into romance," and just give up on reading it (I did do this once. I have a tendency to rant about Amish fiction). Now, I'm giving it a chance. Because I know we're all writers, working hard at our craft.

Great post, Kat. Glad I found your blog. We're on the same page here!

Kat Heckenbach said...

Thanks so much, Heather!

Agreed--it's not about mucking around with existing genres, but rather looking for something that steps outside of that if that's what you want.

I do read the occasional romance, btw. I'm just very particular ;).

Oh, and word of warning--in "Heathers" the Heathers aren't so nice. No reflection on the name, though!

I'm glad you found the blog, too--thanks for stopping in :).