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Imagine There’s No Christian SF Writing Blogs

Either my perception is limited or magnified, or Christian-speculative-fiction blogs really are overly focused on writers. Shouldn’t the ratios of writers’ and readers’ material be reversed?
| May 2, 2012 | No comments |

Over the past months, I have begun speculating either that my perception is limited or magnified, or that Christian-speculative-fiction blogs are overly focused on writers.

If you’re in this “circle” of Christian speculative writers who blog about such issues, you might recognize this. If you’re outside that circle, that’s partly why I’m wondering this: because an (apparent?) near-exclusive focus on writers may not be what you seek.

Yes, like many I’m an aspiring author myself. (Long ago, I used to think this was a rare aspiration.) But first, I’m a reader. I love stories — speculative, Christian stories.

And I begin to wonder if some of the Christian-spec-focused blogs out there are for me.

I frequently visit many of these blogs, and I read their columns and features about The Industry. I read about how to develop characters, how to lower/increase your word count, how to get a literary agent, how not to scare your agent away, how to plot, how to make a book promo video, how to write a proposal, how to stay awake at a conference.

It’s mainly shop-talk. “Inside baseball.” Evaluating the machinery.

This has exceptions. A blog host, whether a published or aspiring author, may write book reviews or other material specific to readers. But those do seem to be exceptions.

Shouldn’t the ratios of writers’ and readers’ material be reversed?

Isn’t is true that every writer is a reader, while not every reader is a writer?

Will a glut of writer-specific blogs and columns keep generating an impression that too few Christian spec stories are available, and so everyone should be writing one?

Naturally we do include some writer-specific material on Speculative Faith. Yet our focus seems to be more unique, and not something that should be unique: we want to focus on readers. Maybe material specific to writers should instead be the exception.

Otherwise, I doubt this genre will grow much beyond a small cabal of aspiring writers.

Otherwise, we may accidentally reinforce a kind of “hipster” market for these stories.

Otherwise, as a reader, at best I feel a bit left out. But even as an aspiring writer myself, I begin to feel an odd sense, perhaps even an appeal to my baser desires, that is hard to describe: I only exist to write stories for others. The stories I do enjoy, I mainly enjoy because I’m using them to become a better writer. It’s all about climbing a pyramid.

Speculative Faith can address this. That’s why, come this summer, we hope to make the Library even better. To showcase the book reviews and encourage others. To publish new features from authors outside the Christian spec-author “fold” on why we love, or should love, these kinds of stories. To publish features specifically targeted to parents and others who either don’t get why we “need” stories, or want to explore them.

Yet I doubt this site should stand alone as the only source on the internet of reader-directed resources about Christian speculative fiction.

Well. That’s the exposition. Now for suggested applications.

  1. Blog hosts: consider writing for specific “demographics” beyond Christian speculative writers/agents/editors. What about parents who want good books for their children? Pastors who don’t “get” fiction? General readers?
  2. Writers: hey, I know we need the shop talk! But consider folks, even if it’s only me, who gets tired at writing conferences of all the shop talk. I likely want to head back to my hotel room and put it all into practice now, and stop talking about it. Or I simply wish to relax and be carried away into the wonder of story.
  3. Published authors: I’m sure we’re not all reading your books because we want to dethrone you, or at least join you on the Grand Fiction Vizier platform. Maybe you could make your blog columns about writing and The Industry the exception among reader-centered columns. I’d thank you, anyway.

And a few questions for more discussion.

  1. Does anyone reading this now enjoy Christian speculative stories but not also try to write it? If so, may I shake your virtual hand, and plead with you to share with us what you hope to see among Christian SF blogs? Or do you think everything is fine and that I’m overreacting?
  2. If you host a blog, how much do you write about writing, as opposed to reading?
  3. If you’re a writer, do you discuss with friends or family why you love to read books, humbly “giving yourself over” to the storyteller? Or do you fall into what I’m tempted to do — salvage books, especially good ones, for spare parts for your own manuscripts?
  4. How do you share with others, perhaps at your church, how your love for God leads to love for good stories, and vice-versa?

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Jennette Mbewe
Member

I agree! And it isn’t just Christian speculative fiction writers blogging on writing, its everywhere. Kristen Lamb has a good post on this:  http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/sacred-cow-tipping-why-writers-blogging-about-writing-is-bad/
 
I’m not entirely there yet, but I am learning. Beginning of this year I started Yo Ho A Writer’s Life For Me to create an online study group to focus on the art, the craft and the business of writing since I couldn’t do it in person at my local writer’s guild.

I also created a book club, but I moved it to Facebook. I am hoping to eventually be able to go to the public school to connect with teen readers just because I love reading and I also want to learn why they love reading. And maybe for a little market research 😀 I want to share that love with others and I don’t want my “writer hat” to get in the way of that. And I think that has been lacking in my life.

I’ve also started a category called Snapshots: Living a Life balanced between reality and dreams. and I hope to start a creativity page where I’ll share artistic stuff, or even poems or something… oh…I think I’m getting another idea 🙂

anyways, I’m trying to expand beyond just talking about writing because that is something that is important to me but if all of our focus is on writing we really limit ourselves and our own writing.

You’ve given some good points to think about. Like writing posts to parents, people who don’t “get” spec fic, topic important to our targeted audience… Thanks for the post! 

Kessie Carroll
Member

I have a blog, but my blog has always been about artwork. So I can toss in some rambling about writing once in a while, and my three readers don’t care. 🙂 (I’m busy shouting into a completely different echo chamber …)
 
What I hope to see among Christian SF Blogs? The nuts and bolts of writing. What makes a good story? What sorts of things have you had to cut from your manuscripts? What words do you edit out, i.e. that, saw, would, could, etc.? What’s your favorite character you’ve written and why? Do you torture your favorite characters much? How many stories should a character live before you kill them off?

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

The nuts and bolts of writing. What makes a good story? What sorts of things have you had to cut from your manuscripts? What words do you edit out, i.e. that, saw, would, could, etc.? What’s your favorite character you’ve written and why? Do you torture your favorite characters much? How many stories should a character live before you kill them off?

Of that, Kessie, I prefer only reading the non-crossed-out portions! Sure, there’s a time to discuss the mechanics of writing. But to focus only on such things in writers’ blogs seems to ruin the magic of story — and over-narrow the focus.

It’s the author constantly stepping in front of his story and saying, This is pretend.

It’s Jim Henson or Frank Oz sticking their 70s-bearded heads above camera level, along with Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, letting you see their arms inside them.

It’s a musician reading aloud “A-flat, F-sharp,” etc., instead of playing his instrument.

I’d rather discuss why we love stories and what is good, or not so good, about specific stories. That results in reader-centered opinion pieces, and novel reviews.

Kessie Carroll
Member

You asked what I, personally, want to read about on writing blogs. If a person blogs about writing, then talk about something useful to the people reading.
 
Anne Elizabeth Stengl does it right, I think. She writes about dragons in literature, or fairies in literature, holds book giveaways and art contests. She has a ton of followers. And she updates fairly often–once a week at least. I think if all author bloggers did that sort of thing, they’d get a lot more attention.

Galadriel
Guest

I have two blogs at present, plus a Tumblr which is mostly reblogging. I’ll look at the last three  unique posts on each (granted, a small sample) for examples.

The Dying Stars: Speculative-focused blog

Review of a Doctor Who book
a Doctor Who filming clip with reflection
a comment on the Doctor Who episode School Reunion*

The Wordsmith’s Shelf My original blog, started to do book blog tours

Reflection/rant on a writing class
Review of a book on ministry to Muslims
link to the free ebook of Heartless

*a theme, anyone?

The first blog tends to be a lot of reflections on sci-fi, while the second does have quite a few of writing and reading posts.

Literaturelady
Guest

To be honest, this is the only Speculative writer’s blog I read; so I’m not aware of any of the problems you speak of!  But I would be interested in more SpecFaith articles about reading in order to broaden my perspective, consider new aspects of stories, and to continue observing all the different viewpoints in the comments!
I would also be interested in the personal stories of the sort Kessie mentioned: what tips and tricks and life lessons you contributors learned, what you had to cut from your stories, where you got your ideas for your debut novels, some of the roadblocks and pitfalls you’ve run into and how you overcame them.
Y’all have done a great job with the Library; I’ve enjoyed browsing and found some new titles that demand my attention.  And thank you for being open to readers’ needs and wants and being willing to tailor your blog to meet them!
Blessings,
Literaturelady

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

Thanks much for your perspective, Literaturelady.

But I would be interested in more SpecFaith articles about reading in order to broaden my perspective, consider new aspects of stories, and to continue observing all the different viewpoints in the comments!

Thanks for this, too. We especially hope better to showcase novel reviews in the Library, with a pending redesign to the site, likely coming this summer.

I would also be interested in the personal stories of the sort Kessie mentioned: what tips and tricks and life lessons you contributors learned, what you had to cut from your stories, where you got your ideas for your debut novels, some of the roadblocks and pitfalls you’ve run into and how you overcame them.

… Which is why we are sure to have at least one guest author every week, usually a published author, who can take the platform for a moment to share his/her story behind the story. (I myself have no such stories to offer, at least not yet.)

Y’all have done a great job with the Library; I’ve enjoyed browsing and found some new titles that demand my attention.  And thank you for being open to readers’ needs and wants and being willing to tailor your blog to meet them!

Just this afternoon I received word that we’ll likely be able to have a multi-part, all-new series about parenting and discernment/enjoyment of stories. So it seems Someone else is aware of this need and just may be helping us address it!

Jessica Thomas
Guest

I don’t think this is primarily a Christian Spec-Fic thing, I think as a whole, writers tend to write about writing…and…as a writer myself, I became bored with that blog topic sometime last fall.  It was interesting for maybe 6 months, then it all starts sounding the same.

I haven’t figured out what I want to blog about yet, but I don’t blog about writing very much any more.  Basically, my goal as a blogger is to not bore myself.  Perhaps I should strive for a loftier goal…

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

I don’t think this is primarily a Christian Spec-Fic thing

That makes me curious whether this is indeed true of secular authors as well.

However, when I read from the famous guys, such as Stephen King, I find them commenting on other stories. King, for example, overviewed the entire Harry Potter series in summer 2007, when Deathly Hallows released, and discussed what made those stories so endearing, and the characters grow with their audience. He didn’t talk shop about the process of writing at all, and said little about the publishing industry.

I think as a whole, writers tend to write about writing…and…as a writer myself, I became bored with that blog topic sometime last fall.

I’d be curious what topics you tried and how you became bored.

That’s another aspect of writing only about writing. It can become navel-gazing. Instead of writing about what you know, you’re writing about writing about what you know. And who wants to write about, say, driving when you can just drive?

Bethany A. Jennings
Member

These are interesting thoughts.  I know I tend to write about writing…I guess that’s because it’s a familiar topic, I love it, and I enjoy sharing how I do it with others who are interested.  I don’t think my two blog readers mind.  🙂  I notice, though, that what brings people to my site again and again (not regular readers, but just people Googling terms) is my review of “The Hunger Games”.  I would love to do more reviewing, if I was more faithful about blogging in general…

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

I notice, though, that what brings people to my site again and again (not regular readers, but just people Googling terms) is my review of “The Hunger Games”.

We also saw increased traffic for Adam Ross’s review of that book. I think that took everyone by surprise. Christians, fortunately, weren’t stuck on any kind of “oh no, there’s magic in it” stigma for The Hunger Games, and with some exceptions, were open to exploring what positive themes were in these books, for appropriate readers.

I would love to do more reviewing, if I was more faithful about blogging in general…

Soon we’ll have more reviews on Speculative Faith, and better, a built-in mechanism to encourage more reviews. That may include incentives for those who write their reviews in comments after the Speculative Faith Library listing — with permission, we might adapt those comments into specific reviews. Perhaps we might also republish reviews from other blogs and authors, maybe even in conjunction with the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour. After all, why try to do what others are already doing so well? It would be better to work together for the sake of readers, and bring all of these separate efforts together.

Morgan Busse
Member

There is definitely more to speculative than writing or books. There are games (both video and table), movies, shows, ideas, fanfiction, art, even t-shirts ;). Then there is how to be discerning, how to teach kids to make wise choices, how the speculative influences society and science, and how far should we use our imagination. 

Personally, I blog about what is on my heart every week. From “Have you ever lost your faith?” to “What is the personal life of a pastor’s wife like?” to “Marriage is like Star Trek” 🙂 And a couple book reviews 😉

Kessie Carroll
Member

Now that’s the way to do it. Blog about real stuff that interests you. Chances are, it’ll interest somebody else out there. 🙂

Maria Tatham
Guest

Stephen,

Let me answer this question:

“If you host a blog, how much do you write about writing, as opposed to reading?” 

In my blog, there is little about writing or the industry, some about reading (e.g., a series on ‘Fiction and Film’s Ten Most Wanted’ villains), but lots of fiction plus some poetry. 

When my book was published, I was told that I needed a blog, and that in a blog authors ‘always’ focus on one of two things: selling their books or creating relationships (with potential readers).

I decided to do a ‘writer’s journal,’ where stories and poems, etc., could be posted. Since fiction (and poetry somewhat) are my thing, I decided to do this. This has become a joy. Plus, it puts out there, in a small way, more Christian stuff that may have merit. No talking shop – horribly scary or boring or unnerving, unless it’s your calling to help fellow writers succeed.

There is much more to your post that I can’t comment on. This is one blogger’s experience. I haven’t been here for a while and am glad to see what you’re doing,

Maria
           

Jessica Thomas
Guest

Stephen–
I was taking part in something called ROW80, which is a neat little writing challenge.  No slam on ROW80, it creates a nice community, however, most are writers (not Christian writers) and the main topic of discussion was writing.
J.L. mentioned Kristen Lamb above, and she’s one steers writers away from navel gazing.

Paul Lee
Member

Does anyone reading this now enjoy Christian speculative stories but not also try to write it? If so, may I shake your virtual hand, and plead with you to share with us what you hope to see among Christian SF blogs? Or do you think everything is fine and that I’m overreacting?

 
Yes, that is me.  I love reading good reviews, thoughtful ones that are deep and analytical without being too scientific or too spoilery.  I’m glad to hear that Speculative Faith is going to increase the prominence of reviews.

I also like writing reviews, but doing so is very difficult.  It’s a slow process for me, and I usually read the thing I’m reviewing twice.  (Otherwise, I can’t come up with enough thoughts to sustain the review.)

I have started my own blog for reviews.  I had originally intended only to post reviews, but I conducted an interview recently.  I thought the interview went along well with the mission of the blog.  Interviews are good for readers too, at any rate. 

TheQuietPen
Guest

My blog consciously stays away from writing subjects.  I just feel like there are a lot of blogs focused on writing already.  I don’t have anything new to bring to that party.

I focus on book/movie reviews, research on the weird/obscure/mythological, commentary on current events, and the occasional Scripture meditation.  My major goal is to be a meeting place for Christian and secular fans of speculative fiction.  For a long time I’ve felt my interest in spec fic–and often identification with the surrounding subculture through LARPing and “geek stuff”–couldn’t mesh with my “Christian side.”  But God can redeem anything!  So why not be a place where Christians can be introduced to spec fic and other strange/curious matters, and non-Christians can enjoy thoughtful, often wry commentary from a faith-based, non-preachy perspective?

It’s a tight balance, and often I’ve stressed over what exactly I’m accomplishing.  Still, I believe God’s called me to this, so I plugged ahead.  I’m also a full-time elementary school teacher, so balancing that with writing is a real challenge.  I know that getting interviews and stuff is a great thing, but who has the time to track people down? 

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[…] This site began in reality. Our readers enjoy Christian speculative stories and want to talk about them. That’s developed into what is, for our readers, mostly online-only discussion. On other sites, people seem to assume we already know why we love these stories, and have moved on to over-limited conversation about Speculative Writing Tips and Tricks. […]

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