Saturday, April 30, 2011

Secular or Christian




I know. I know. I haven’t been around like I usually am. I can blame it on visiting family for two weeks but I won’t.


I’m at that fork in the road. Again.


This time I’m trying to decide if closed doors and this deep desire to write the way I want to is telling me something. You see, I used to sell Christian books. For five years. And I loved it and them.


But as hard as I try to write one, I fall short when it comes to the Christian aspect. It feels too forced. Well, it is too forced.


And when I look back to see the kind of work I’ve sold, it isn’t necessarily Christian but inspirational instead.


Here’s the problem.

I want a book published in the CBA market. I love those publishers. Barbour, and Bethany House. . .


So am I coveting places because I used to go to the shows and meet the writers who wrote for them?


Maybe.


And I know that’s not right.


So I’m at a fork, here at the beginning of my next novel. Praying.


So—Christian or Secular. And how did you know for sure?

52 comments:

Retired English Teacher said...

I totally understand. God gave you a voice. Use it. He will choose the market. He knows who needs to hear what you have to say.

Loree Huebner said...

I understand where you're coming from, Terri. I stood where you once stood. I don't know what God has planned for you, but you will feel what's right in your heart.

I went through a difficult time with my writing, but then realized my writing mission. Even though my writing is not necessarily directed to a Christian audience, I write for His glory. He has recruited me to write stories that will touch the hearts of those who are on the fence with their faith, not so much for those who already know Him.

It took me a long time to figure this out...I know this direction is right for me.

Listen and He will guide your words. You will know which direction when it feels right.

Analisa said...

I really believe you just write and pray. If it's intended to have a more christian slant then listen to what God puts in your heart. He will give you a genuine voice.

Julie Jarnagin said...

I wish I had an answer. I'm currently writing Christian novels, but I don't know if that's what God has in store for my future. I'm also making some decisions about what's next, and it's scary. I'm just going to keep praying and keep writing.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Hmm...that's very hard.
When I first started writing I thought I HAD to write Christian--or SHOULD write it. But I thought maybe I needed to be a more mature Christian. I've been praying about my writing too--looking to see if I should be taking it in a different direction. Don't have an answer yet.
I do enjoy both secular and Christian books, so it's not about picking a particular publisher for me.
Have you looked into some of the Inspired lines of Harlequin/Steeple Hill?
Keep praying. Let God lead you into following your talent.
I will pray for you too!

Karen Lange said...

Will be praying for you! I know what you mean, and I agree, you don't want it to be forced. I am sure God will lead you where you are supposed to be!
Hugs and blessings,
Karen

Keli Gwyn said...

I pray that the Lord will give you a sense of peace, Terri, as you begin your next story and that the words won't be forced but will flow freely as He leads you where He wants you to go.

How did I choose what to write? I looked at what I enjoy reading: inspirational historical romance. That's what I write, and I have a wonderful time doing so (most days anyhow. =)

sarah said...

People have told me...follow your heart...write for yourself.....and trust. It's so hard sometimes but when I let go and do that...the results may not be what I wanted....but somehow they're better than I could have imagined. Hope that makes sense. Stay strong Terri...don't ever give up on your dreams.

Linda O'Connell said...

Terri,
I think the market is wide for secular and who says you can't write with an implied Christian slant? I do better when I let it write itself. Sometimes I get in my own way. Build it and they will come. Blessings.

Susan Roux said...

Sounds like you need to decide if you want money or or prefer to be true to yourself.

What if you don't think about it and see what pours out of you?

Joanne Sher said...

Praying for direction for you, sweetheart. I really have no suggestions for you - other than to read the comments above (and below) mine.

Susan said...

Hi Terri...Why not a little for both markets? Pray first, then write. Susan

Cheryl Klarich said...

I love that you are starting a new novel!
I agree with the comments about praying, seeking , following your heart. Can't wait to see where it takes you!

Sassy Granny ... said...

Tough question. But this I do know: He alone knows the end from the beginning. We can trust Him to lead and, by the very fact that you've asked the question, I'm thinking He already has your answer.

You'll know when you know ...

:)

Huge hug,
Kathleen

Nehha N Josshi said...

Hope you get the answer soon!

Warren Baldwin said...

Think of Charles Dickens. His books would be considered secular. Yet, in at least a couple of them I have read, he has a strong pro-Christian ethic of honesty, hardwork, being against the exploitation of children, etc. So, how about secular with a ("hidden") Christian ethic?

wb

Lin Floyd said...

it does narrow your niche, my latest book is for LDS or mormon christians so i have my work cut out to market it...

Jill said...

I don't know for sure about anything, so I don't think I can be much help to you. You might want to find an agent that reps both who can guide you to the best market for your work. Of course I might want to find that kind of agent, too. And I might want to see elephants fly, but don't have much hope outside a Disney movie. ;)

Lynda R Young said...

I struggled with this question last year. And I still struggle occasionally. I've decided to go secular because of the same reasons you stated: the Christian theme in my stories tend to come across as too forced or preachy. It took me a long while to realise my talent lies elsewhere in fiction.

Diane said...

I just saw Thomas Nelso publish a book by that girl that tried to sail around the world by herself. It gave a disclaimer that the book was not as Christian as its usual stuff. I think if it has a good, moral message they should still consider it. Hugs and good luck. :O)

Susan Panzica - EternityCafe said...

I don't have an answer to how to know for sure. You have to write the story God gives you. But I'm wondering about your comment that you want a book published in the CBA market because you love those publishers. I know we need to consider who would publish our work, but my questions is - who do you want your writing to speak to? Who do you see as your reader?

Sally said...

I started secular then had a story that just flowed out and was full of scripture. I had no idea where to go with it. Stumbled upon a short story contest, edited what I had down to 7000 words and won honorable mention. They only thing I've written to place. Who knew? I sure didn't.

Write what flows and see where it goes. God knows.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Terri, my suggestion is to just let it flow out on the keyboard. Once it's written, then see where it lies. You may find that you're calling is to write for ABA. God uses His children in all ways for His greater good!

I'm lifting a prayer for you!

Tana Adams said...

Secular, it's where the Lord did all his work so who am I to disagree?

Lynn said...

Wishing you peace to just write with full understanding that God will use you for what He has planned. I read Christian and non-Christian, but I also read what I call cross-overs. I think of Ted Dekker who is not in the Christian section of my library but sells in the Christian stores. And I so agree with Tana!

Jill Kemerer said...

Our writing changes as we deepen our understanding of what and why we write. Follow your heart!

Julie Musil said...

Terri, I don't have the right answers, but I agree with some of the other comments. I think it's best to write the best STORY, and worry about the genre later. Know what I mean? If you're trying to twist the round words into a square hole, you'll frustrate yourself. Write from your heart, write the story you'd like to read. Not that I know much of anything, but that's what I'd do. You're praying about it, and that's the best first step to take.

Deb Shucka said...

Sally said it perfectly. God gave you the voice and the stories to write. You can trust him to find just the right avenue to bring your books to the world.

I wonder if there's a line where on one side a book is appropriate for the Christian market, and on the other it's not.

On a personal level, I shy away from the Christian market, for fiction at least, because I don't want to be preached to in story form.

On the other hand, I did read Jody Hedlund's first book from Bethany House and loved it.

So probably the very best thing for you to do is to listen to your heart.

Julie Gillies said...

I agree with one of your commenters, Terri. Write what is in your heart and then see where it falls.

When I'm trying to make a decision, I always follow after peace.

Colossians 3:15 says:
"And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts [deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds, in that peaceful state] to which as [members of Christ's] one body you were also called [to live]."

Hope this helps. Praying God's peace leads you, my friend!

Jessica R. Patch said...

Terri, I'm saying a prayer for you that God will direct your heart and your words onto the page and that you'll know exactly where you and the stories you write fit. I've missed reading your posts!

Jessica R. Patch said...

Terri, I'm saying a prayer for you that God will direct your heart and your words onto the page and that you'll know exactly where you and the stories you write fit. I've missed reading your posts!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Wow, that's a big fork staring you down. Praying you feel a sense of clarity as you seek the Lord's will.

Beth in NC said...

Terri, perhaps you are supposed to be in the secular market so that you can reach a group that would never touch a Christian book.

I pray you'll have peace in your decision and hear clearly from the Lord.

Love,
Beth

ginny said...

Once you start questioning the answer is already there. Take it inwardly and listen to what He says!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Trust God to guide you, Terri. Go with what your inner voice says.

Rhonda Schrock said...

I can only write what God gives me. Sometimes it's a clear call to faith. Other times, it's about dirty socks and socks that vanish and mommy hassles and why can't diaper changing be an Olympic sport with nary a Bible verse mentioned.

I often ask Him to give me His message and then let it come out. So sometimes it's hilarious and everyone - believers or otherwise - can identify, and then other times it's serious. And people identify that way, too.

Bless you as you write whatever He gives...

Gina Conroy said...

My first book sold to the Christian market, but the book I'm writing now can go either way. I'm not holding back, and I'm just writing the story of my heart. Then when it's over, I will take a step back and look at the story, consult my agent, and decide. At least that's the plan!

Carole said...

I can certainly relate to your post - I too am waiting for God's leading with my music compositions - where to go next? I am trying to listen:-)

Warren Baldwin said...

Just reviewed this again. Interesting to reconsider. Either path you decide to travel, your Christian convictions will come through.

D. U. Okonkwo said...

I think you just have to write from your heart. There's no doubt that writing for the CBA market is different from writing for the secular one. But in the end, secular or Christian, we all liv ein one world and we all need to hear The Good News.

Jeanette Levellie said...

How do you know for sure? Get your Bible, go to a quiet place. Tell the Lord you are not leaving until you hear from Him. Then listen and take notes and write down what you believe He is telling you. Then obey. You may be surprised how He leads you by that still small voice, and His word of truth. And even if you hear wrong, don't worry. He can fix it.

Jessica Nelson said...

Terri, I wouldn't worry about seeing where it fits yet. I'd just write it and let what's natural flow out. You know how much things change in revisions anyway!! LOL

BECKY said...

Hi Terri. I haven't read all of the above comments, but the ones I did notice said pretty much what I think. You cannot force your writing. Write what you want. Let your thoughts flow from your mind and heart onto your keyboard. Sometime during that process, you will know what to do! One more thing....since you've been so successful being published in Chicken Soup for the Soul...remember those stories are more inspirational than religious.

Melissa Marsh said...

Very tough question. I struggled with this, too. God wanted me to write a Christian novel once - and I did. But after that, my writing went in a different direction. I'm not sure why He wanted me to write that one novel so badly, but I can remember the time when I finally surrendered to His will and the peace I felt. That book didn't sell, but I still love that story. My grandmother read it recently and she loved it, too. So maybe that was why I wrote it. I don't know.

I write secular now, but my characters usually are Christians.

Lydia K said...

Follow your heart and try to write for you. See what happens!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Terri -

While I'm not pulled between Christian and secular markets, non-fiction and fiction creates a measure of conflict. I continually ask the Lord to lead me on His path.

Blessings,
Susan

Tabitha Bird said...

How did I know for sure? I don't know that I know anything 'for sure', but this much I did know. I simply could not write a book for the CBA market. I have tried. It failed before it even got on the page.Like you said, it all felt too forced. And like you, the stuff I feel most comfortable with is more inspirational. So, maybe you know which market by the kind of book that springs out of you? I think God puts stories inside us. Not all of them are going to be for the CBA. God needs mainstream Christian writers too I think.

All the very best deciding.

Saumya said...

That's tough. I think when you write from your heart, the home for your words will come naturally.

Carol J. Garvin said...

I missed this post earlier, Terri, but just want to say I've felt that same uncertainty. I had no intention of writing for the CBA but each of my novels is written from a Christian worldview and one of my beta readers suggested I develop the Christian theme a little more and consider that market.

The problem is that I don't do well at controlling my writing to fit the necessary CBA guidelines. And if I try to fit the constraints, the writing becomes stilted and artificial. If we can't clearly identify the appropriate shelf for our books to sit on in a bookstore, it's likely agents can't either, and will be reluctant to represent them. So the question becomes, how important is publication compared to just writing? Are we writing to sell, or just for ourselves?

God has been nudging me in the direction of the Christian market but I'm not convinced yet that he intends me to write for the CBA so much as to honour him in general fiction that's written from my Christian worldview. That's where the reality of my daily life is and what I most like to read about. So I pray before each writing session and stay open to God's leading. I hope one day to find an agent who knows where my work belongs. :)

Heather Sunseri said...

Loved reading this post and these comments, Terri. I'm catching up on some blog posts, and I stumbled upon this gem. Such a difficult question, and one I've been thinking a lot about lately, so I know it's a tough crossroads you're standing in. I agree with the masses who say you must allow your story to form organically and in the end you'll just know. good luck.

Margo Berendsen said...

I faced that same fork a couple years ago, and I think I will face it EACH time I start a new book. First one: went secular but with deep Christian themes. Second: definitely written for CBA (and yeah, I know what you mean about how the Christian side felt forced, sometimes). Third: I'm back to secular with subtle themes. Fourth may be CBA again (I trying to pray more about where God wants to take my projects). I am really curious to see which path God decides to take me on, as far as publishing, someday. I know He has me write each book for a purpose thouugh, even if it doesn't ever get published.

C. S. Lakin said...

I go through this every time I start a new novel, Terri. My prayer is always that I reach unbelievers. I keep writing for the general market, hoping my novels will get picked up there. All eight books I've contracted in the last few years have ended up in CBA, although I did not write them for CBA. So I guess you write the story God has put in your heart, be true to it, and then let God place it. I do query both markets and still pray and hope my five unsold books will end up there.

BTW, thanks for the mention of my novel you plan to read. If you are interested in getting on the list for the ARCs of my fantasy books as they release (next one in fall) in order to post a book review, please send me a private message with your mailing address! cslakin@gmail.com God bless!