f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Day 2 of a New Writers Organization – Setting Yourselves Apart

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Day 2 of a New Writers Organization – Setting Yourselves Apart

Goat. Sheep. Goat. Sheep. Sheep. Goat.

Welcome to, what I think, is going to be the thorniest problem that is going to be faced in getting this organization off-the-ground—and the most important, too. Defining yourselves.

Why do I think it’s the thorniest problem? Because it’s the one where our vocabulary begins to break down and our language becomes very imprecise. It’s the one I dance around every day in what I’m doing. It’s the one that other editors at other publishing houses are struggling with, too. What are we to call this “new” kind of non-CBA-ish Christian fiction? And does it necessarily matter?

When I started talking about this I used the words “emergent fiction” but that was simply co-opting some popular jargon of the time, and while there are still solid parallels, it’s a link that only confuses the issue.

“Literary” is another way to go, but that can be a pejorative term in a lot of circles. Plus, who’s the final arbiter of what qualifies as “literary”? Is there an “average-word-per-sentence” quota that needs to be met? A certain number of metaphors per chapter? Does this exclude genres like romance and mystery and science-fiction, few of which ever get tagged “literary”?

What I have found in the months I have been doing this is the opposite of what I expected. I expected everyone to be a touch piqued that I’d even suggest the need to do something new. The old worked, why not stay with it. What I’ve found shouldn’t have surprised me, though, and that is that almost NOBODY wants to be doing the same old thing. Pretty much everybody thinks that their work is different and pushing boundaries, at least on some level. And, that’s fine, I have no problems talking with everybody. But it’s going to get messy when folks are joining the organization who don’t have quite the same overall vision.

So, the question is raised does the organization need to be defined by the kind of fiction it supports. Or would it be better off being defined by guiding principles at its core? I think you know my answer.

If this organization can do one thing to set itself apart, it can preach and teach CRAFT. (Art will follow. Craft must come first.) Message is not an issue here. Get a bunch of Christians on the same discussion board and message is going to come out. It’s part of us. It’s needs to be watched. It needs to be prayed over. Discernment needs to be practiced. You need solid, mature believers in key positions. But it shouldn’t be the core of the group. At the core of the group should be CRAFT.

(And this gets back to why solid critique of books--CBA and not--seems to be so intrinsic to the cause. It's a vital part of learning more about writing. What works and doesn't. To ignore this would seem like missing out on a huge chunk of possibility.)

Writers conferences talk about craft some, but not enough. Too often, they talk about it as a mere tool that can be exploited on the way to getting published. That’s backwards thinking. Craft is it. Writing is all there is. Getting published should only be the cherry on top. That’s a hard way of thinking, especially for a group of aspiring writers, but if you keep that focus, I think you will set yourselves apart.

What say ye?