I have been reading Christian fiction for fifty years. At several points during that time, I stopped reading the stuff altogether because the cheese dripping from those poorly written, lack of plot volumes could have topped McDonald’s burgers for a decade. I’m totally serious. I cannot believe how the majority of those books even got published, they were that bad. And if you’ve been around the Christian fiction circles for any length of time, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
I can’t tell you how many times I picked up a book from the local bible book store or the church library only to toss it aside after reading the first chapter. Bad grammar, incredibly amateur sentence structure, incomplete or disjointed storylines. Did these people not have an editor? Even a fifth grader could have done a better job of writing some of these books.
And this is what the world came to know as Christian fiction. Ugh.
I started thinking about this perhaps a little too much because I got really upset. For years. It seemed somebody out there in the publishing world decided it was okay for Christian fiction to be crappy because Christian readers wouldn’t know the difference anyway. Like we were dummy heads who wouldn’t know a good book from a bad one. And these publishers kept churning out the junk.
Then along came the likes of Frank Peretti, Ted Dekker, Karen Hancock, Nancy Moser, James Rubart, Francine Rivers, Joel Rosenberg, James Scott Bell, and others who actually knew how to write. They had (and still have) the ability to create a great story with skill and excellence. They have studied their craft – worked at it to become skillful. And Christian readers everywhere thank you from the bottom of their hearts. Especially me.
But . . . yeah, there’s always a but.
The cheesy Christian fiction is still being published. Lots of it. And I guess there must be a market for it or these books wouldn’t keep showing up on the shelves of every bookstore in town. Haven’t we seen enough Amish romance stories by now?
Contrary to what you might think, the purpose of this blog post is not to bash the writers of the cheesy fiction. Really. The purpose is to encourage the Christian writers out there to pay attention to the quality of their work.
Don’t allow yourself to settle for mediocre writing. Learn your craft. Develop your gift. Go to writers’ conferences and take the advice they give you. Read books about writing. Practice. Practice some more. And for heaven’s sake, stop reading fluff (another word for cheesy).
Several weeks ago, our pastor prayed for me – that the books I write will impact and change lives. Yes, fiction can do that. I know because it’s happened to me. More than once.
The bar has been raised. Step up to the challenge.
Observe people who are good at their work—skilled workers are always in demand and admired; they don’t take a backseat to anyone. – Proverbs 22:29 (The Message)