Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Pushing the Envelope--Day 2

We had some good comments yesterday. I'm answering a few questions contained within those comments:

When you reach a point where you think your writing is ready for the big time, but you're still getting those rejections, how do you figure out what's wrong? I was good enough to attract an agent, I've had a glowing professional review of one of my proposals, and I've even had bites from editors who had good things to say about my writing but their house wouldn't purchase the work. After going through your blog, I now know my writing wasn't stellar. My next proposal will up the ante, but if I still haven't reached the pinnacle, who can point to the specifics and tell me why?

Other than hiring a professional editor, which can be expensive, your best bet is to simply keep at it, keep studying and learning the craft, and slowly as you improve you will begin to see where your writing needs to be improved. Keep reading blogs and/or books that will help you, perhaps join a critique group (if it's a good one). Even with hiring a professional editor, many times when an author's work isn't yet ready to compete in today's difficult market, there are many issues that need to be improved on. When I look back and see how my work improved over the years, I couldn't point to specific line edits that made up those improvements. It was more focused on learning the big stuff--stronger story structure, deeper characterization, etc. And that kind of thing simply comes with time and a lot of work.

The other thing I'd like to say may not be real easy to hear, but it's a caution. All agents aren't created equal. There are agents out there who will accept work that's really not ready for publication. The editors may see some potential in the writing, as the agent does, yet the manuscript isn't there yet. So I just want to caution anyone that just because you've attracted the attention of an agent, unfortunately that doesn't necessarily mean the manuscript is really ready. It depends upon who the agent is, and how much experience he/she has at selling your type of manuscript to major houses.

Bottom line, keep working on the craft. You will improve with time, but as you know from my own story, it can be a slow, long journey. Let's hope yours is much quicker than mine!

I had never really considered publishing through CBA, I want to be in the SciFi/Fantisy section not Religious. I don't want to depict lewdness and depravity, but I figured I would write Christian solid stories for the readers who are looking for things like my wip: 100% non-human SF rated-R action/romance + magic. Ultimatly my goal was to write not for a market or genre, but the kind of story I want to read.

Grady, go for it. We need more Christian authors writing in the general market. Though you may not be writing overtly Christian stories, your worldview will come through if you remain centered on God and his principles.

I have also seen a lot of talk about pushing the envelope and I believe there is a certain line out there that shouldn't be crossed and still be considered Christian. I believe they are the standard: no sex, no cuss words. But where exactly are those lines? I recently finished the revisions on my suspense novel and let my wife read it. There is a scene in the book that raises the question: where does God draw the line on sexual activity? The characters go further than they should and wake up to those consequences. But my wife didn't question that chapter. However, she did question when I used the phrase, "He's made life a living hell for all of us." She wanted to know if that was cussing. My reaction was, "No." But then I had to question myself about it. I'm still not sure. I'm afraid the sex discussion/scene (I treated it the same way you do) will cause publishers pause, but I also believe it is a real issue within the dating Christian community. What is okay and what isn't?

Sometimes it is the smaller things in CBA that cause trouble. The word hell may indeed be looked upon as a cuss word. But it's only one sentence and not important to the plot--you can do without it easily. Because of that, I'd advise changing the sentence. You really won't lose anything.

The sex question issue is more important to your plot, and I'm glad to hear your story includes it. There are quite a few CBA publishers who won't be put off by that issue being discussed in your book, or by the scene as a whole, as long as it's written to abide by biblical principles. That is, for all the mistakes your characters might make regarding sex, in the end at least one character needs to see the error of his/her ways so that the worldview of your story isn't condoning sexual behavior that the Bible says should not be done. I'd say keep that in your story and work on that scene with all the skill you've got.

Thanks to those of you who left comments. If you have more to say on this issue, please go ahead, and I'll spend another day on it. if not, we can move to a new topic.


glimpsing gal said...

I'd just like to say a great big "amen" to Brandilyn's comments about agents not being created equal. I can attest to the liability of having an agent that's not the *right match*. As Christians I suppose our number one rule should be to run all decisions by God, right? Well, I was so ecstatic that an agent liked my work and wanted to represent me (hey, it MUST be God, right?) that I inked a contract without spending proper time in prayer about it. We stayed together for two years. Even though I never sold a manuscript, that wasn't the largest travesty that came out of the relationship. There was a grave breach of trust and I had to learn a painful lesson the hard way. The past few months have been healing ones as I've terminated the contract and started trying to begin from scratch again. Please take my experience and don't let it happen to you. PRAY and be patient. The right person will come along who will do your work and your reputation the justice they deserve.

Ron Estrada said...

Yeesh. Every time I go Up North (it's always capitalized in Michigan), I miss some good stuff. We've had a lot of discussion on this topic at ACFW. As someone who came to Christ later in life, I'm very close to the issues that are considered "edgy." I agree with you, BC, our writing needs to be there before we can push ahead with the CBA. So, next topic?

C.J. Darlington said...

Sometimes I think people write "edgy" just to write edgy. The story needs to be there before we even think about writing scenes that might be considered controversial. CBA fiction has come a long way. I find myself picking up CBA books that are even TOO edgy for me once in a while.