Monthly Archives: June 2012

Faith and the novel: how much is too much?

The other day our local pool shut down for a few hours after someone mistakenly used it for a toilet.

Right now, I’m currently involved in a debate between several writers  regarding religion in mainstream fiction: is it okay to mention it, and if yes, to what degree? After all, we don’t want to push our audience out of the pool by filling our stories up with too much…

Well, you get the picture.

But seriously, for writers with faith who are not writing inspirational novels, the question of how much is too much can cause us to question our stories and our characters. Will the very mention of God make readers toss our novels?

I am a Lutheran by choice. I pray for my friends and family, though not all of them believe that prayers matter. I do this because I love them, not because I want to convert them. I don’t back down and hide the fact that I’m a believer, but I try very hard not to shove it down anyone’s throat. I respect that everyone has their own set of core beliefs and values and that we are free to live our lives without being heckled because of them.

Yet sometimes when I write, my characters are believers as well. They live their lives with their faith as a part of who they are. Quite simply, religion is a part of their make-up, be they flute-playing short girls going into the tenth grade or muscle-bound seventeen-year-old boys who play soccer, eat an entire pizza for snack and attend church on Sunday with their families. My references to religion fall within the scope of my MCs’ personalities and experiences. They are most definitely not a sermon.

So my question to you, as readers, is this: how does the mention of God, faith or religion enter into your decision to read a book or keep reading it? Do you read books that challenge your beliefs, or do you try to read only those that align with your core values?

In other words, if my MC says “a quick prayer”, would this be considered too much reference to religion to be mainstream? If it is mentioned that he goes to church, would this change your impression of him–make you like him more or less? Or doesn’t this type of faith reference impact your overall feelings?

Curious minds definitely want to know.

*As a side note: Healthy discussion is encouraged and all beliefs and responses are welcome as long as they remain respectful and contribute something useful to the discussion. Those that attack–either for against religion–may be edited or deleted altogether. Thanks for adhering to this policy.religi

 

Newbies Matter

Yesterday, Dear Hubby took our middle son with him to a golf tournament. Eldest couldn’t make it due to another committment and one other player backed out of the foursome. Enter Middle as a back-up player.

He just turned eleven and until about six weeks ago, he hated golf. Yet for some reason this spring, he started saying yes to his father’s invitation to play. According to DH, Middle has a natural swing. But he’s young. And unpracticed for the most part. Still, they were short a guy and the tourney was a fundraiser for cystic fibrosis–a cause near and dear to our hearts.

During the game, they used two of Middle’s shots. Not because they had to, but because they HAD to. His two drives had the best lie. Nobody really expected this ungolfed youth to add value, so they were thrilled when he pulled through.

Over on AgentQuery Connect and other writing sites, it’s not uncommon to hear new writers claim they have nothing to offer in regards to critiques. While it’s true that more experienced writers have more experience to pull from, this doesn’t negate the fact that newbies still have something to offer.

As readers, they have an opinion. They know if they like a book, a character or a plot line and why. They know if something doesn’t ring true or if something feels forced. They either connect to a piece or they don’t. This is valuable for writers to hear, because the general population of readers don’t have writing experience. But they do know if a piece resonates with them or if something rings false. They, too, have opinions that can drastically impact the financial success of a book.

Newbies might not always know how to fix the things they feel or see wrong with a piece, but they can point them out. They can take a shot at giving the writer commentary that will ultimately lead to a better lie–and maybe a better reception with potential audiences.

Yesterday was a great experience for Middle. He got to practice his golf game, experience tournament etiquette and hopefully pick up on some of the nuances of golf by watching his teammates.  He also legitimately helped out his team. Not bad for a day’s work in the life of a newbie golfer.

Critiquers and writers speak up. What are your experiences with critiquing? Please share your memories and feelings as a newbie. Let us know how your critique style has changed over the weeks/months or years. What is your biggest strength in terms of critiquing, the one thing that comes natural to you as a reader?

Curious minds want to know.

Growing Up Too Fast!

My baby girl turned sixteen yesterday. Lucky for me, she’s not a debutante kind of gal, but a fun-loving, young lady who asked for a Hello Kitty cake instead of a car.

Yet, despite holding onto her childhood, she’s talking college. Obviously she’s figured out how to balance growing up with staying young.

Writers, yeah, you know. You can go far by learning some balance on your writing journey. And if you don’t believe me, head over to From the Write Angle and check out Sophie Perinot’s post.

Hugs to you all~

Don’t Assume Anything: Ask Everything

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of visiting with my little sister over lunch. We made our way to Dear Daughter’s must-visit eatery: Buffalo Wild Wings. Ordering was easy, as our tastes run so similar.

Getting the right order was not.

Instead of receiving traditional wings, our waitress had brought us boneless. In our mind, all parties were to blame. We never specified which type of wings we wanted, nor did the waitress ask.

We all just assumed: us because we only eat traditional, and she because the boneless were on sale.

An honest mix-up that was quickly remedied.

Yet, not all assumptions are as easily taken care of. In writing, assumptions can get us in a boat load of trouble.

  • Never assume you know something as fact. Ever. Remember how people used to believe the world was flat? They assumed, and they were wrong. When I write, I check and double-check even simple things like how many kids play on a baseball team. I don’t want to lose readers because I didn’t have my facts straight and therefore lost all credibility with them.
  • Never assume you know what a crit partner meant by a comment–especially those that sting. If appropriate, ask for clarification, particularly before doing a rewrite based on the comment.
  • Never assume you know what an agent or editor meant on something that seems a little fuzzy. Agents don’t bite. Well, some might, but I hear rabies’ shots are required for the higher-ups in the publishing biz. It’s okay to shoot off a quick email as long as you do so appropriately.
  • Never assume all agents and editors are the same.
  • Never assume submission guidelines are the same across the board for all houses.
  • Never assume that a rejection means you’re a crappy writer.
  • Never assume that selling a book means you can quit your day job.
  • Never assume you know anything, let alone everything, about the world of writing.

Instead, check things out. Ask around. Read yourself sick on the topics you write about. Become besties with professionals who know what they know and can make your writing accurate.

And probably the biggest and best advice I can give: research your options and topics from all sides, not just from the POV you want to be true.

On our way home from lunch with Little Sister, DD and I talked religion. She finds it infinitely intriguing that (in her experience) people who don’t believe in God are more well-versed in the Bible than the people who live their religion on a daily basis.

There’s a lot of truth in her observation. Those who cut their teeth on Faith typically assume what they’ve heard in church and in their homes is correct. Those who were never immersed in it as a way of life will often seek to find the truth behind the Faith.  They actually dig into the nitty-gritty of it all. They ask questions and challenge the answers. They research all points of view and probably have a more well-rounded understanding of religion as a whole than those who have never read outside their Faith teachings.

We can learn a lot from this method of asking, not assuming. We have a better chance at succeeding in the publishing biz if we research our options and make informed decisions.

In what ways have your assumptions been challenged as you’ve walked your writing (or life) path? What things did you really know and which assumptions were proven faulty? How has this changed the way you’ve approached your writing/publishing (daily living) endeavors?

Curious minds want to know.  And if you’re still curious, you can check out my post on From the Write Angle regarding bios and bylines.

 

A Few Things of Writerly Interest

Remember The Skeleton Key Blogvel? Well, Michelle, AKA Greenwoman, has started another one. If you’d like a serial read for the next few months, pop on over to Greenwoman’s site and start reading Bloom. Each Monday, a new chapter will be posted on various blogs around the net. Mine will hit cyber space on July 9th.

Remember Possession? Elana Johnson’s YA debut? The second in her series was just released and is available for your reading pleasure. The Fourth of July vacation is a great time to pick up a new book, so give Surrender a try.

Remember Spring Fevers? That awesome anthology on relationships with a short story pubbed by you know who? Well, publisher Matt Sinclair is working on a second one.  Titled The Fall, this newest anthology will focus on the end of the world (as we know it) and is slated for release in time to be used as a handbook for 2012 survival!

Submissions of fewer than 7,500 words in any genre except erotica are being accepted until August 17. For more details, email Elephant’s Bookshelf Press at antholsubs@gmail.com

You do know I’m kidding about the survival handbook thing, right? I mean, the world really isn’t going to end. Is it?

But, if it does end, what will you miss the most about our world as you know it? (indoor plumbing) What will you miss the least? (television and all that implies) What is one thing you’d need a lifetime supply of to make it through an apocalypse? (tampons and toilet paper–I know, I said one, but it’s my blog so I can cheat.)

Curious minds want to know.

*pokes head in quietly*

It feels a bit rude to waltz back in after yet another hiatus and pretend like I’ve been consistent and reliable. So, I won’t pretend. I’ll grovel at your feet instead.

Please forgive me, oh readers, for letting real life interfere.

Tomorrow–yes, tomorrow–I will bring you a real post about real life and real writing.

Thanks for checking in and hanging with me!