Faith writing in fiction is practically worthless…
I’ve been told that many of my blogs may come across as venting and negative, though I’ve scoured the last year of posts and only found two. Be warned, this may be such a post. But writing can be very therapeutic, and what’s a blog for anyway? It’s no secret to those who know me that I’ve been in somewhat of a slump, possibly even depression, over my writing career. I’ve spoken about this at length with my wife and with some writer friends who feel the same, but I’ve not yet put down exactly how I feel and the things running through my head here on my blog for others to see…namely fans who are wondering why my next book isn’t out yet and other writers who are quietly feeling exactly as I’ve been feeling. And once I’ve said my piece here today, I’ll speak nothing more of it.
The writing industry has changed drastically since my first book released June 1, 2011, and the industry is continuing to change. I wrote earlier this year about how the publishing industry bubble has burst, and indeed it has with the gluttonous excess of books being “published” every day. Supply and demand has devalued writing and writers to ridiculous levels. I’ve even written about what the future might look like for indie writers, if the writing industry follows such trends blazed by the music industry.
Yet while these things weigh heavy on my mind, they don’t tell the whole story.
Writing is hard work. Or at least it should be. The flood of young and eager authors rushing their work onto Amazon would suggest that many are not putting in the time and effort to produce writing of quality. But a person who does it right, even one who is experienced and has been through the game before, could and should easily spend a year on a single project before presenting it to the public. And that’s not just one person. That project should be evaluated by peers, editors, proofreaders, and other such industry personnel needed to ensure the greatest quality possible.
It is hard work. And with the industry changes, there’s little to no reward anymore.
A year’s hard work is expected to sell for less than $10 in paperback and $.99 or even free for eBooks. Anything else is “too expensive.” And with the flood of titles out there now, even those prices may not guarantee sales, much less people actually reading the book. Not to mention, in my experience (and other’s that I’ve spoken to) series books are flopping. Readers may try out the first book, but with so many new choices to experience, why rehash something old?
Here I am on the cusp of book three of a four book series. I had moderate success with book one, book two was almost invisible with probably less that 25% the success as the first. If the negative bell curve holds then book three is sure to release with abysmal numbers, and most people may not even realize there’s a book four until I’m fifty.
There’s my demotivator #1.
But I know what you’re saying. Don’t write for people, write for yourself and for God. Don’t worry about the money, do it for the passion of the craft. And while I would generally agree with you, I also disagree in some respects. I won’t rehash that. Let me take another angle.
I write, not only because I enjoy it, but because I feel it is a gift I should use from God. But to what end? What good is fiction? How does it spread the Gospel? How does it accomplish the work of Christ? Us “Christian writers” have been bashed over the head about not “preaching” in our fiction, to just tell a “good story” and let the examples of the characters and our own lives be the Gospel message because the people who need the message won’t pick up a preachy book. And certainly there’s some legitimacy to that thinking, I would not argue otherwise. But there needs to be a balance, otherwise faith writing loses all meaning.
But in the jungle of so many books and so many authors, nobody cares about the person behind the book anymore. If the author can’t tell their message through their writing, then the reader will never see it. So again I ask, what’s the point? That’s not rhetorical. I really want an answer.
If I write fiction that takes me a year of hard work, goes largely unnoticed by a majority of the reading audience, does nothing to further the Gospel, and has no life-long effect on the reader, then what am I doing? Probably just wasting my time. And I certainly don’t think that kind of effort glorifies God with my talent at all. I might do better using my energy to convert my sermons into devotionals, and I’m perfectly capable of doing that as well. At least then I know there is a point, there is an audience, and there is a message that makes use of my talent to further the Gospel and to please my Lord. As a Christian, my number one goal in life should be to further the Gospel, and if my fiction writing uses all my time and resources to NOT do that at all, then what’s the point?
That’s demotivator #2.
So to sum up…The Christian fiction industry is telling everyone to STOP PREACHING, preventing God-called writers from using their story-telling talents to further the Gospel. Yet even if I did manage to strike a compromise with a publisher and build balance in fiction with the Gospel, my hard work and year-long efforts will largely go unnoticed in this gluttonous market.
I can’t help but feel like there’s a better use for my time and energy. And that’s why I’m having so much trouble getting motivated to write my next piece of fiction.
What about you, author? Do you feel the same way? Or do you have some other perspective on the matter? I imagine I’m not the only one who feels like this, but I also imagine there are authors who have struggled and come to a healthy productive perspective on the matter. I’d like to here from you too.
What about you, reader? Is there any value in fiction at all? Does fiction hold any influence on your theology or relationship with God? Or is fiction merely relegated to disposable entertainment, and the real value lies in well-written non-fiction? If fiction is merely the “candy-bar rack” of the literary world, then I’m not sure I want to be a part of such disposable, forgettable, thankless, and exhausting work,
And a word to my fans. I do fully intend to complete Winter’s story, so don’t worry. I’m just not sure when and I’m not sure if there will ever be anything after that.
After all…faith writing in fiction is practically worthless.