While working on a novel I am writing, I have come across a few challenges. Now, this is nothing surprising as every writer is confronted with struggles in their work, but I find that the problems I have run into might possibly pose a threat to my acceptance in the publishing world that I hope to enter.
See, I am a Christian writer who is composing a Christian novel that addresses teen rebellion, verbal abuse, bullying, and the realistic party scene that many teens live in now a days.
The main character, who is yet to be named, struggles greatly with manipulation, pressure from her friends and boyfriend, and a volatile relationship with her parents. She has yet to discover her self-worth and the treatment she endures as a result is horrible, and that’s putting it lightly. I feel the need to describe the experiences she endures both accurately and realistically. I cannot in good conscience water this story down to appease the market. On the other hand, I also wish to reach a broad spectrum of readers, so gaining acceptance in the Christian fiction market is pretty important to me.
Here in lies the problem. The Christian market seems to be flooded with feel good novels that many enjoy, myself included. However, the YA market in Christian fiction seems to be lacking an element of realism. Many young adult readers have a hard time identifying with the stories that are out there as they do not always accurately represent the many challenges that they are dealing with on a day to day basis. That is not to say that the YA Christian Fiction that is out there is not good, it’s fantastic! There are hundreds of good novels available that stretch from contemporary to historical fiction and each has their own merit. I guess I just feel, as a writer, reader, parent, and former teen who was, unfortunately, a part of that realistic scene, that there are many readers who might be reached by a novel such as this one. It’s not that this type of story should replace what is currently available, but I do believe it would be a valuable addition.
The world can be an ugly place and I find it necessary to show that hope may still be found even in the midst of that ugliness in my work.
My teenage years were turbulent to say the least. Having lost my father at a young age, depression, anger, and a very low sense of self-worth took over my life. The decisions I made were hard on me and my family, especially my mother. It wasn’t until I was about 18 that I realized what I was doing to myself. I know, I know, 18 seems quite young still, but at that point I had already been living recklessly for 4 years. So, for me, it was time to grow up. I never would have been able to do that on my own. It was being introduced to Jesus Christ that saved me, as it saves all of us. He showed me the way. He led me out of the darkness. He showed me what real love was and how much I was really worth.
Psalm 16:11 really sums it up nicely…
God will show us the path of life. He can show us how to survive after having lived in the darkness for far too long.
This novel might show that darkness. No, it will show that darkness. It might be uncomfortable for some to read, but it will also show how bright His light can shine. How God’s love can truly infiltrate every aspect of one’s being and change hearts and minds.
After having a few conversations about this with fellow writers, the list of advice I have received is exhaustive. I have been advised to bleep out any bad words, to completely avoid the topics of alcohol, drugs, and premarital sex. Or, to make up my own swear words rather than use the ones that exist in our culture.
After some long thought I realized, none of those options will work. This is a real story and it must be told in a real way. I do not condone the use of foul language nor do I seek it out. I feel as though I can tell this story with out using inappropriate language. As far as the mention of drugs and alcohol go, that’s going to happen. It is present in 75% of the American teenagers lives every single day. That is a fact that cannot be ignored. In fact, ignoring it would ruin the entire point of the book.
So, my challenge is this. Write this book. Do it well. Keep it as clean as possible and let the good outweigh the bad at every chance. Because that is more realistic than anything, that God’s good outweighs any amount of bad in this world.
As far as my concerns about whether it will fit in the market well…I can’t concern myself with that right now. I have to believe that there are other people out there who think this is a story that needs to be told, who will see the value in it. If I want the point to be heard, I have to let go of the worry and focus on the work at hand.
And I’d really appreciate all of your prayers for God to help me with that.