Write what you know they say. In non-fiction, such as blog posts, you can change that phrase to read, Write what you learn. Problem is, I am in a pinch today. I took too long on my blog post at my own site and have put myself on a schedule in order to get back to work on my trilogy.
That means, I’m running out of time to figure out something wise, insightful, or even interesting to write here.
So, I’m reverting to what I know, which is my own writing journey. It’s not the kind most people want to read because I have no publishing contract at the end of the road to report. I may or I may not end up seeing The Lore of Efrathah in print some day.
Still, I am excited about a recent writing success. But let me back up.
The first agent I ever contacted, back in 2001, asked me if I considered trying to publish with a general market publisher. My immediate and unprompted thought was, my writing isn’t good enough to get published by a house that puts books in Barnes and Noble.
That revealed so many things to me. What I thought about Christian fiction, what I thought about my own writing, why I was trying to get published by an ECPA house. My thoughts have changed a lot since then.
Back in 2004, one editor asked in his Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference workshop how many of us had read Christian fiction. When no hands went up, he pointedly scolded us (in a nice way), saying that we ought not try to publish our fiction with those houses if we didn’t even know what kind of fiction they were producing.
That started me on a quest to learn about Christian fiction. In the three years plus, I’ve seen big changes. Those first books I read were, regrettably, quite predictable, even the ones that went beyond a formulaic approach to storytelling. Now? Not so much. I’ve read some books I think could hold their own with the majority of books in the general market. Christian fiction is growing as an art form.
Which brings me back to my own writing experience. As I’ve labored away at an epic fantasy, I also dipped into editing, article writing, and short stories, the latter as a result of contests.
Probably because of my competitive nature, I’ve gotten hooked on contests. Short story contests. I started writing Christian fiction for a couple of Dave Long’s (Bethany House editor, founder of Faith in Fiction) contests.
Eventually I moved on to the Writer’s Digest Short, Short Story Competition. I tried contemporary moral fiction first, then wrote something symbolically Christian. At that point, I read one of their articles about the importance of voice in short fiction.
Now I had something specific to work on. My next piece, I believe, was a contemporary multi-cultural story. It didn’t place in the contest, but I did sell the story, my first fiction in print.
I followed that with a longer story for the Genre Short Story contest. This time I wrote a fantasy. It didn’t win, but it was a story I genuinely liked and hoped to sell elsewhere, too.
Another contest, this one held by a webzine, netted another sale. Then the 2007 Short, Short Fiction Competition rolled around. Stories of all stripes vie against one another. I made the decision to write the kind of fantasy I write—symbolic, Christian. And lo and behold, out of 6000 plus entries, “Haj” placed in the top twenty-five.
Not first or even fifth. Seventeenth, earning me a certificate and $50 worth of books. But here’s my real take-home, and the thing that excites me. Christian fantasy can find a place in the general market.
Some people are probably laughing because they’ve known this. But I didn’t know that the kind of Christian fantasy I write could make it. Will it? Or will God open up a place in a Christian house? Or will my epic fantasy never make it? I don’t have a clue.
Am I sad about this? No, not really, because I and my writing are in God’s capable hands. Of course I hope to publish The Lore of Efrathah one day, but for now I’m happy to know that I’m growing as a writer, that Christian fiction is growing as an art form. Will the twain ever meet? That’s the hook, isn’t it.