Looks like CBA is about to enjoy another growth spurt.
And, like growing kids literally experience some pains along with the growth of those bones and joints, it seems the industry must feel a little pain to expand and grow too. There is hardly a writing-related blog you can visit that isn't abuzz with a clamor for a wider scope of fiction. From the ever present push of "edgy" fiction writers, to the recent posts by Eric Wilson to the many others, there is much push for change.
Part of it I understand, part of it I don't. Despite the plethora of posts by "edgy" fiction writers, I do not understand all of their motivation. Should characters be flawed and real world? Someone with whom the reader can identify? You bet. And I agree, in some fiction the characters are too perfect. But I doubt that is isolated to CBA.
Should books dig deep and explore a lot of different issues? You bet. While I certainly like reading for entertainment, I want to read deep stuff too.
And there should be a wider availability of fiction out there. Heaven knows I have cried out for more non-romance historical fiction. And I want to be able to see more non-romance fiction without romance writers getting upset about my desire to do so. They want to have plenty of good romances to read. And they should have them. But guess what? I want to have plenty of books to read too, but in historicals, there are very, very, very few that are non-romance. So yes, I'm among those who are clamoring, in my case, not for change, but for ADDITIONS to the existing fiction selections.
But the clamor among the "edgy" writing community concerns me on two fronts:
1. They, at least in their discussions, leave out the obvious fact that many book buyers want to read "mild" fiction.
It is always an either/or discussion in this business. Either safe fiction OR edgy fiction. There needs to be fiction to satisfy both. Because they want to write "edgy" fiction does not negate the desires of other readers who want milder fiction. Just as my desire for non-romance historicals does not negate the desire of others to have romance in their historicals.
2. While it may not be intended, the edgy arguments sound like writers want no distinguishing between worldly and Christian fiction.
I understand that there needs to be fiction that not only appeals to existing Christians, but that also appeals to non-believers--to reach them with God's word. But in the discussion I'm reading, sometimes I get the feeling that some want to write worldly fiction and shove it into CBA. There's a difference between being realistic and being so worldly that the light doesn't shine in us.
Take for example, the desire to insert "curse words" into fiction. Yes, I understand people use profanity. But just as we don't write every um and uh that a person speaks in real terms, so is this unnecessary. It doesn't matter what character you are writing about--if they have hard, flawed edges, there are many more ways it can show up than in their language.
And if a writer's work IS that worldly, I do not understand why they simply do not market in ABA? It's not like there is an iron curtain preventing them from submitting to ABA publishers. Yes, I'm sure it's just as difficult to get published in ABA as in CBA. That's life. But that's the difficulty we signed up for when we began to write.
Tough issues are already being tackled in CBA--it's not like they are absent. But for some, evidently they are not presented in a way that seems "real" enough. Well okay then. Get out and write it how you see it, and publish it in whatever arena is appropriate be it CBA or ABA. I'm sure there are books that are rejected as being "too religious" for ABA and "too secular" for CBA.
I understand the frustration that results. We all want to be published, but in the end the author has to ask themselves if they wrote that story because it meant that much to them. If they did, then nothing should deter them from the story. I have to wrestle with this all the time. My heart's desire is to write non-romance historical and I usually prefer a male protag--at present, that is pretty much swimming against the tide in CBA fiction. But I write it because I HAVE to, not just because I want to. And I'm willing to wait as long as it takes for it to find an appropriate home. And even if it never finds a home, so be it. I still have to write what my heart desires.
In any case, the overall discussion is good. Growing pains hurt. It's hard to see unrest in the writing community. But I think ultimately it will be to CBA's benefit. It may not be fast enough for people's liking, but I think the market will continue to expand and encompass books it had not before. But even as it does expand and evolve, it doesn't change the writer's responsibility---which is to write the books that are pressing on our hearts, and market them wherever it is appropriate.