Own It Or Shut It

The last few weeks have had me chewing on a lot of controversy in the Christian writing community. A heated debate erupted that pitted one side against another. The topic at hand? Many actually, but the gist of it was the insinuation that Christian writers were sub-par and they needed to up their game, allow for a different model in their predetermined publication rules and that those writing on the fringe should abandon the CBA altogether and move to the ABA. As you may guess, this angered a lot of people in the Christian writing industry and the blow-back fueled many ranty blogs from both sides.  It got brutal with full snark and hackles in many cases.

Let me state this now before I go forward, I did not get involved directly in this dispute. I watched, helpless from the sidelines.

There are many reasons for that. First, I cause enough disputes all on my own, no need to be involved in one I didn’t start. Second, a lot of people I love and respect were hurt by it. I don’t like to see people I love and respect getting hurt. If I would have jumped in, there may have been blood.

Since I didn’t jump in, I’ve been able to keep most bias at arms length to ponder the points made.  What I have decided is that the whole thing was handled poorly by many on both sides. That can be expected when you pit a bunch of writers (moody by design) against each other. But it is sad because these are brothers and sisters in Christ. I will not name names or point fingers. If this post pisses you off, maybe think about why it does.

I’m going to address some of the debate topics below. Then I will give you my overall opinion.

Christian Writers Are Sub-Par

My problem with statements or insinuations like this is the broad-brushstroke method of insult. I can think of not one occasion in which a broad-brushstroke was applied that was accurate or reasonable. I have found every time I remember a person use one, it is out of ignorance, spite or jealousy.  For the people that did so, I am going to give them the benefit of doubt that they were ignorant.

Different Model Publication Rules/CBA

These words are not a quote but more the spirit of what was implied. It is not a new one. Many times I have heard writers bemoan the formula of much Christian fiction…male sinner and alter-call in which he prays the prayer. Also the idea that CBA publishers are stuck in a time-warp. This is true, but what the cranky writers must realize is publishers want to publish what sells best. If that means the largest portion of CBA books each year are romance novels, then you can’t be mad at the publishers for wanting to make a profit in their business. It is no different for the ABA…no matter what anyone tells you. Just because they believe in God that doesn’t mean they throw business logic out the window to appease a bunch of bitter writers. It doesn’t seem fair if you are the bitter writer, but life isn’t fair. Suck it up and move on.

Fringe Writers Abandon the CBA

I am a fringe writer. I write fantasy with a Christian worldview. Some Christians do not see my work as a legitimate contribution to the CBA because it doesn’t match the formula I mentioned above. I should be in the camp with those calling for us to abandon the CBA, but I’m not. Want to know why? Because I do not let the words and actions of other people dictate my calling. Anyone that does may want to reexamine why they write Christian fiction in the first place. For me, it is not about self-gratification but God’s glorification. Yes, I would love to make a living writing. It would be a blessing, but I know that of that happens it will not be because anything I did and every thing to do with what God did.

Conclusion

As I look over the events that occurred, I see a few things that need to be addressed further…beyond the topics that started the firestorm. If you decide you want to debate, do not try stacking the deck in your favor by eliminating the opposition. A true debate offers two sides. That can’t happen if you delete the comments of those that oppose you. It would be a lecture and you can’t get mad when people pull up stakes and leave or tell everyone they know what you did. Yes, I know people are mean and maybe not always fair. That should make no difference. It actually could help you win a debate if you too haven’t called names or made it a personal issue. Also, if you start a fight, own the responsibility of your actions and the consequences of the pain you doled out.

Own it or shut it, my friends!

Peace, love and God’s will.

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Categories: Random Stuff, Work Stuff | Tags: , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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16 thoughts on “Own It Or Shut It

  1. So much for staying neutral…

    • Diane Graham

      Never said I would. I only said I stayed out of it while it was happening. That allowed me to really think about it instead of knee-jerk. I own what I say. :P

  2. I, like you, chose to simply watch this particular gladiator match and stay out of it. Like you said, there were points well-made on both sides and childish lashing out on both as well. What can we expect when the thing nearest our artistic hearts looks threatened?

    My take is this…if you know your market and write the absolute best you can for that market, that’s the right thing to do if you are approaching this as a business first. If that involves formula, tropes, and norms, so be it. If you can work that way and cash a check at the end of the quarter, who am I to criticize? After all, few people would say certain wildly popular books in the ABA market are art, but their authors probably aren’t turning down the 6 or 7 figure royalty checks either. If you are approaching this as an art form first, where sales are just a bonus to making your art, then that is a different pursuit altogether.

    The whole argument makes me grateful we can live in a world where we can read or publish what we like, and are under no compunction to do either of those things with stuff we think is dreck. I have enough trouble staying focused on what I need to do to bother trying to change what anyone else is doing.

  3. Ralene Burke

    Here, here! I stayed out of it, too, but I’m pretty much on the same wave-length as you, Di.

  4. Oh, man! What did I miss?

    • Diane Graham

      Just some drama. ;)

      • I think I can sort of put the pieces together…I just didn’t realize how big the debate got or where the debating was happening beyond the few blogs I read. Interesting….well, I can live without the drama :)

  5. Oh, Diane, it spread onto Facebook statuses and Facebook links, too. I think I only let myself get sucked into that once, and then only because I can’t seem to help myself when I see good people being unfairly attacked and criticized, especially when it is for doing what they honestly feel God is calling them to do. Definitely, both sides are at risk of violating Romans 14 and insisting everyone must write according to their own convictions or else they’re bad Christians, bad writers, or both. I have seen such misbehavior on both sides too often and try to pull myself back if I catch myself slipping.

    • Diane Graham

      Like you said, it is hard when you see it happening to stand back. I saw it a few times on facebook also, and it made me sad. Hopefully we learn from these happenings and try hard to not get sucked in. That is the best we can do, because you and I both know we can’t change other people but we can be an example.

  6. You are wise beyond your years on this matter my friend. I wrote about this subject not along

    What these reviews and a million other words floating around the Internet about the validity of fiction with a Christian world-view do for me is confirm how we all tend to be filled with illusions of our own self-importance. I would offer links to articles on the matter but the result is always the same – plenty of heat but little light. To listen to some, one would think we writer types are working on a cure for cancer; or even more delusional, the answer to bridging the gap between fallen man and God.

    Why can’t a writer just write what he or she wants to write and hope to connect with readers looking for that kind of story? To my writer friends out there, quit lifting yourself up as the saviors of civilization by questioning what others write or read! Some of my friends have adamantly proclaimed, “I don’t read Christian fiction.” That’s their choice. Thankfully I choose to read what speaks to me regardless of the label.

    Responding to the contentious things said on the subject have cost my blood pressure and I fear some loyal followers who just wanted to read what they wanted to read and leave the infighting to those who fancied themselves smarter. Among other things here are some of the words I have noted from this ongoing debate (Note were written for public consumption by Christian writers disaffected with “Christian writing”):

    * I’ve read hundreds of Christian novels and none of them was equal to anything in the ABA
    * If you want to be taken seriously as a writer, don’t write Christian fiction.

    I have a hundred more but will stop there. Now I’ll just say, “What Diane said!”

    • Diane Graham

      So many ways I could respond to those comments made by other people, but I’ll just roll my eyes. Can’t change their minds. For every 100 craptastic books I’ve read in ABA and CBA, there were another 100 that are wonderful.

  7. Heard about this, among many related though less-visible debacles, from friends.

    It’s something where all I can say is, it should not take up the kind of time it does. When it gets out of control or becomes a central obsession, it’s detrimental to work getting done, to publishing relationships, and to relationships with readers. It’s not smart business.

    “If you decide you want to debate, do not try stacking the deck in your favor by eliminating the opposition. A true debate offers two sides. That can’t happen if you delete the comments of those that oppose you. It would be a lecture and you can’t get mad when people pull up stakes and leave or tell everyone they know what you did.”

    The problem with setting up an echo chamber is that it provides only bias confirmation, and prevents one from learning what life has to teach. Eventually the individual gets hurt far worse than was really necessary, when something overwhelming finally bursts the bubble. That’s not something I’ve ever been willing to participate in, neither as a writer nor in editing/mentoring work. No way would I help anyone run on toward such a painful reckoning. But I also can’t make that decision for anyone.

    So yeah, I pulled up stakes quite some time ago. No time to waste. I have a stack of great clients I can barely keep up with, the Schooley collab project just finished (still happy dancing!), and other manuscripts of my own that I’m enjoying working on. I figure we can tell about the writing life or show it.

    That’s all I have to say about the matter. Looking forward to seeing you and others in September. Fun times ahoy…

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