To discuss this, I need to break two of my unspoken Spec-Faith column rules.
- Speculative Faith is primarily for readers, secondarily for writers.
- Ergo: self, don’t write only about writing tips for writers.
The rest of you, however, are more than welcome in this little clubhouse. Mind your head.
Seven years ago I attended my first writers’ conference. That was a heady experience:
Wow here are other writers just like me who like writing about actual science fiction and things like that and best of all from a Christian perspective so where do I sign up and will you listen to my very naïve science-fiction novel proposal please with a minimum of laughing?
It bore fruit. That’s how I made real- and aspiring-author friends. I joined Speculative Faith. That site grew. Other sites, networks, independent publishers, and even some traditional Christian publishers’ slow acceptance of some fantasy, also grew. That’s fantastic. And it’s likely true that any growth here may be better than none.
But this can reach a plateau. Many websites and writers neglect the main reason they should grow. They turn into what I’ll call Writers Who Write about Writing for Writers Who also Write about Writing. Writers end up practicing writicism.
We’re doing the same thing we’d do if we decided: Hey, let’s try not to reach out to regular readers.
Just now I’ll take a stroll through my social-network feed and recount what I read only from the writers I follow. (Again, this is not condemning, only observing.) Apart from justifiable excitement over the third Man of Steel film trailer, I found:
- A comment on a tips-for-writing article.
- A twice-shared blog post about personal encouragement for writers.
- A blog post about writing particular sorts of characters.
- A post more broadly applying to readers — a novel chapter preview — yet the word “writing” is still in its title.
- An author’s FB-echoed Tweet that’s specifically about another writing tip.
- A contest announcement by writers, about writers, for writers.
- A blog post about family members and writing hardships.
- This comical post: Ten People You Don’t Want to Meet at a Writer’s Group. (The eleventh person may be the man who wants to quit writing about writing so much.)
Writers, put your imaginations to work and consider: 1
- If you were a reader only, would you feel like these posts are meant for you?
- Might they lay down needless “stumbling blocks” to promoting fantastic stories?
- Would you feel drawn into stories and wonder, or writing about stories for wonder?
Perhaps we must re-introduce the kinds of readers that writers should be reaching.
Adults with children and teens
Who are they? The furthest you can get from any writism. If they ever wanted to be writers, now they don’t have time. They work other jobs, raise their families, go to church, care for relatives, host birthday parties, try to keep their teens on the right path.
What do they want? Decent stories for their kids.
What do they need? The same. They also should know that it’s good for them to enjoy epic stories for God’s glory — beyond the assumed justifications of entertainment, edification and evangelism. In fact, this is vital God-worship that their children must see them doing.
What do they not need? First to be acknowledged. To be spoken to. To see their “names.”
‘Lewis/Tolkien or bust’ readers
Who are they? We’ve all encountered these folks. They go to your church or library and enjoy the works, and films based on the works, of Inkling scholars. As far they know, these are the only great books out there. If asked, they will say, “Christian fiction is lame.”
What do they want? The sense of a great story, the rightful “escapism” it brings.
What do they need? More stories, and the fact that we can enjoy beyond only top classics.
What do they not need? The persistent assumption that “Christian fiction is lame” or rare. Yes, some is lame — and much of secular fiction is lame. Great stories by Christian authors are out there. We can’t simply act like we can talk about writing and better craft and thus magically generate better, more-popular novels. We must promote the stories themselves.
Who are they? The people we know at our churches, including members of the above groups.
What do they want? To enjoy God, to glorify Him in all they do, and to enjoy others’ gifts.
What do they need? They need to know that you are not only a “writicist,” but that you love stories, and that you love them for reasons that are Biblical and worshipful and necessary.
What do they not need? A notion that you only have a silly hobby that is at best optional and at worst a distraction from more-spiritual pursuits. They also don’t need to feel any “hipster” or artistically/spiritually superior vibe. If you have this vibe, they will sense it.
What can we do?
- Write a blog about other readers whom writers and authors may have forgotten.
- Excerpt that blog below.
- Then flagrantly advertise your link so this conversation can build speed.
- Next week I hope to explore writers, blogs and social networking that do a better job of reaching out to readers. ↩