Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Convention Season: In Which I Practice Discernment (or which seminar was the stinker)

Immediately after the successful first seminar on teaching the reluctant writer, I headed over to a seminar that was supposed to help both children and adult writers get published. My goal here was to find some information on writing that would help me personally. The three speakers were all published authors of Christian fiction. Since I was unhappy with the seminar in general, I am leaving off the names of the speakers and the title of the seminar.

Let me first say that, after this seminar, I searched out the booth and looked at the books of these authors and they seem like perfectly fine Christian literature. My problem with the seminar was not with their books or their methods specifically.

Making me uncomfortable was the definition given in this seminar of "good literature". Here is the list of items that characterize "good literature" according to the speaker.
-Spiritual content (meaning it is supposed to turn the person toward Jesus)
-The message (same thing, I suppose)
-Sparking good conversations
-Well-constructed plot
-Good character development (and this may not be what you are thinking it is)
- Proper grammar & punctuation
-Quality literary style
-Moral tone of Philippians 4:8 
-Incorporates a Christian worldview
-Stimulates thought
-Positive lessons
-True to the period
-Does it glorify sin or show its horrible consequences?
-Does it promote worldliness or godly character?

While I have nothing against stories that promote godly character or incorporate a Christian worldview, I do take offense to the idea that *all* "good literature" does so. I think that a discerning Christian reader can learn from many stories that fall outside of the Philippians 4:8 filter. In fact, that verse does not limit us to only things that are pure, noble, right, etc...; it merely instructs us to think about those things. If we were honestly to *only* think of those things, then why are stories such as Judges 19:22-29 or Judges 11:30-39 in the Bible?

The rest of this seminar was intended to encourage writers in their craft and help them get published. However it was quite general in tone and not very practical. Here are the remainder of the tips:
  • Good readers make good writers. 
  • Set the example. 
  • Read as a family.
  • Discover students' interests.
  • Teach students to critique (other people's writing).
  • Enter a contest.
  • Generate creative ideas.
  • Read in your genre. See what works, what doesn't work.
  • Carve out space and time to write. Decide to write. No excuses. Take your laptop wherever you go.
  • Continue your education. 
  • Join a writer's group of like-minded writers. (With a warning to avoid writers who go against the "good lit" criteria above)
  • Write for publication, such as a blog, letters to the editor, travel articles, Sunday School take-homes (suggested for teens to do this specifically).
  • Check the Sally Stewart Christian Market.
  • Prepare your manuscript. 
  • Use beta readers (term was not explained). 
  • Send to a paid editor. 
  • Find an agent/publisher. Do your homework first.
So, there you have it - how to get published in the Christian fiction market.

1 comment:

Tom Mellon said...

Wow, very well done! I'm sure glad you express yourself and do it so succinctly!