Christian YA Fiction- Writing the Good with the Bad

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…

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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.

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Today I Choose God

Today I felt the rush of anger and remembered God’s peace.

Today I felt the sting of bitterness and remembered sweet faith.

Today I thought of the shame of past mistakes and remembered that all things are new.

Today I was tempted to gossip and remembered what kindness means.

Today I felt the depth of sadness and remembered His love.

Today I was haunted by the pain of grief and remembered His promise.

“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Rev. 21:4

Tomorrow will come and with it these thoughts might as well. It is then that I will remember I am saved. I am saved because I choose Jesus. Over every worry, every doubt, every pain, every temptation, I choose Him.

Just some Friday thoughts. Please share if you can relate!

 

Daily Prompt: Graceful

via Daily Prompt: Graceful

Graceful. What do you think of when you hear that word?

Many equate that term with a vision of glamour. Maybe a cool, collected woman with class who knows how to win over the love of people. A certain way she dresses, behaves, and reacts.

It is the reacting that comes to mind when I hear that someone is graceful.  I envision a person who has been hurt. Emotionally torn apart and betrayed. Rather than react with hatred and anger, the person in mind responds with grace and dignity.

That might be very different from what many view as the meaning of the word, but my understanding of that word stems from my understanding of what grace means from a Christian perspective.

When Jesus sacrificed Himself for us, that was grace. He bestowed grace upon us as He suffered. He was beaten beyond understanding, betrayed by one He loved, murdered for crimes He did not commit, and never once did he respond with hatred.

Now, Christians understand that Jesus is God’s begotten Son. Of course He wouldn’t respond that way! But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t an immense lesson for us to learn from it.

Though we are grateful for grace, can we exemplify it in our own lives?

When we are wronged, do we truly forgive?

When we feel we have been treated unfairly, do we become angry and dissatisfied? Upset that we didn’t get what we deserved? After all, look at how hard we have worked!

There is one answer to that- look at how hard Christ worked. He spent 3 years of His life preaching, teaching, putting in an amazing effort and look what was done to Him. Yet, He responded with grace.

Our job is to follow Him. His ways, His teachings, and His forgiveness of His persecutors, others, and ourselves.

He not only forgave what was done to Him that day, He prayed for His murderers!

How often are we graceful enough to pray for those that hurt us….and mean it?

Not because it’s what we are supposed to do but because we really want them to be saved? We want them to receive Gods help?

It isn’t easy. If you think it is than you are either very well practiced or you might be deceiving yourself. We must let go of pride and sometimes our own ideals about worth. But it can be done.

We will slip up, we will make mistakes. But that’s no reason to ever give up trying to be graceful.

In the current book I am writing, there is a character who is struggling with this-big time. She is prideful and unforgiving of what has happened in her life. She feels she is truly independent enough to handle it all. One thing she eventually learns is what most of us learn with enough prayer. That not only can she not handle it all, but why would she want to? Why suffer when the Lord is there to lighten your load?

Sometimes it is not just other people we must be graceful towards, but God as well.

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And those are my thoughts on being graceful!

If you’d like to follow me for daily thoughts and writing updates, please visit my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter at @ac_writes!

7 Ways to Experience Jesus

I have had so many thoughts lately on what it truly means to be a Christian so I wanted to compile a little list of ways to experience Jesus in our lives. This is not all inclusive and really, is just an extension of thoughts and ideas I have when I’m thinking about how much I love God. I am not any kind of authority on Christianity. My only qualification is that I love Christ with my whole heart. I truly want to be the best Christian I can be to honor Him. I am not there yet…and may never be, but I will always be working toward that goal.

1.) Accept Him. It’s simple. Grace. Jesus died so that we may be separated from sin in eternity. So that we may spend that time with The Father in heaven. If you want to truly experience Jesus, what better way than to allow Him in? If you won’t do that, the rest of this list need not apply. He is a gentleman, He won’t come into our lives without being invited.

2.) Stop trying to be perfect. I know I said I will always try to be the best Christian I can, so maybe what is important here isn’t if you are trying, but why? Trying to be perfect is an effort in futility. It will not and cannot win us favor with God. Jesus always reveals Himself to the broken, to those who need Him. Let yourself need Him.

3.) Stop judging those around you for not being perfect. This one goes well with the above. Stop comparing yourself to others and stop feeling superior (or sometimes inferior). Now, I am not talking about discernment. Discernment is not judging. Discernment is accurately viewing right from wrong.  Judging is feeling as though you know what another deserves or that you somehow are better than them. An entire post could be devoted to discernment vs. judgement.

4.) Think about Him. Seriously. Look at the trees, the sky, admire His beautiful handiwork. Think on the sacrifice He made for us. Do it daily.

5.) Thank Him. In every moment of everyday, be grateful for the love He gives us. Show that love to others, even if your judgement from #3 makes you feel they don’t deserve it. We don’t deserve it either.

6.) Pray. Pray about yourself, your family, friends. But most importantly, pray for His will. That’s kind of scary. That involves a huge amount of faith. He has shown us how much He loves us. We can trust him. Give Him your heart, your mind, and control in your life. I’ve never met anyone who regretted that decision.

7.) Be patient. Everything for your good is done in God’s timing. Wait on the Lord. There is nothing more worthy of our patience than Him.

Thats all I got today folks! My future posts will probably be more about the novel I am working on. Oh, who am I kidding? I have too many interests! You might find posts on love, God, writing, horses, even my Yorkie, Zoey, but I hope you enjoy them all!

If you’d like to see my daily posts, you can follow me on Facebook or Twitter @AC_Writes!

Determination, Talent, and….Faith?

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately on expectations. Expectations we have for ourselves, for others, and expectations the world has of us. I mean, let’s be real, we live in a goal-driven, go hard or go home society and that can be completely exhausting.

Goals are great. Determination? Better. But what happens when we work so hard, we forget our faith? Forget to pray? Forget to seek guidance from God about what it is we are supposed to do?

A whole lot of nothing good, that’s what!

So, how many of you have seen this? Yes…look below. The big red, white, and black quote glaring directly at you.

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What do you think about it? Is is true?

A few years ago I would have said yes. Hands down. No mistake about it. But those same few years ago I was tirelessly working on a book that I didn’t even care about. I was so driven and determined to be successful at what I was doing, I forgot why I was doing it. The first 3 books I wrote were straight out of my soul. I literally poured my heart onto those pages. I loved everything about the process and I loved the result. The book I began to write after those 3 was not for me. I read one negative review of my first book and decided I had to change my writing completely. One review did that!

So now I must say, I find this quote lacking. Dont get me wrong, I definitely think that a hard worker can outshine a talented person who is a bit on the lazy side any day.   What I don’t believe is that we, as hard workers (whether talented or not) can always do it all on our own.

Where is the faith in this statement? Where is the idea that we are meant for certain things and others we are not? For instance, I am completely untalented when it comes to sewing. Seriously, if you want to look like you’re wearing a patchwork outfit made for a clown, I’m your girl! So, if I work hard and sew every single day of my life, will I become a successful seamstress?

I might. I mean, it’s possible. But would it be enjoyable? Probably not.

Why? Because I don’t feel driven to be a seamstress. I do not feel guided by God toward that path.

I think that we sometimes believe we should be able to accomplish anything the world expects of us. What happens when we can’t?

Shame. Doubt. Failure.

If we can stop living by what the world expects and focus instead on what God expects, we might find ourselves much happier.

That is my new goal. That is what all of the hard work will be directed towards with the new novel I am writing. Not towards success, not towards people pleasing, but towards truth. The truth I have to offer that God has inspired me to share through works of fiction.

How do I know that is what’s meant for me?

Because nothing has ever made me feel so alive.

Besides, who said I had to be a seamstress anyway?

Have a blessed week, friends!

Begin Again

There’s a saying that goes “Inspiration will come, but it must find you working.”

Well, that happened today!

I was going about my normal day at work and it struck me how much I truly miss writing. It has been 2 years since I attempted to work on the last book I was writing. I really don’t have an explanation as to why. Something in me just stopped back then and didn’t want to go on with it. Maybe it was the constant push, the business of life, or the fact that I was trying to write something that just didn’t fit me?

Being an author, and an authentic one at that, sure isn’t easy these days. There is such a demand for a certain kind of story and if yours isn’t juicy enough (or dirty enough), it may well just flop.

Now I’ve never gone beyond a PG-13 rating in any of my writing. It’s just not me. Aside from the personal, moral concerns I have with it…I feel completely ridiculous even attempting to write explicit romantic scenes! It’s just so not me!

So, for whatever reasons, I quit. I got frustrated. I was tired of trying and I stopped.

But today….oh today! I am so grateful for today! I have been thinking and praying about this for so long and today I feel like God answered me in the form of inspiration!

I have a new idea for a novel and have already completed character profiles and the plot outline. So, friends, if you like, please follow me on this journey as I begin again. I am hoping to use this blog to post about writing updates, publishing questions, and of course….frustrations!

Thank you for following and I hope you have a blessed day!

No matter what comes, God is still God.

Wow, wow, wow! This past week has just been a crazy emotional roller coaster! I mean, sure there is the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Work, kids, husband, housework, horse work (because I am inlove with those warmhearted animals!). But on top of all the normal stuff, we’ve had more appointments, more insurance issues, and more concerns with this whole HCM business. (If you’d like to read about that, I posted it here.)

So, more stress. And what always comes with stress? Doubt, worry, even fear.

But I’m supposed to block all that out, right? That’s what a good friend was telling me. She said something along the lines of “faith will cancel all that out, pray for endurance in your faith and strength…” Or something like that. I’m not sure. I wasn’t even listening.

Want to know why?

Because I was FREAKING OUT.

SERIOUSLY.

She was all…”calm down, listen to me, this will all work out…”

Meanwhile, I’m all “NO! YOU DONT UNDERSTAND!!!! THIS IS JUST SO HARD! WHY IS IT SO HARD?!!!”

It was just…guys, it was bad! Pretty much laughable in hindsight. 😂

Finally, after I went on ranting. I was rudely interrupted by her to stop. Just stop. Then she said these words…

God is still God.

Simple. To the point. And exactly what I needed to hear.

She was right. God is still God. Nothing has changed that. Nothing can change that. I can trust Him…I mean I just posted about trusting him last week! Why was I now in such doubt?

Why is it…that when we need it the absolute most, we simply forget to pray? To trust? To be still and KNOW He is on the throne?

How many times do I need Him to carry me before I will know that He will pick me up?

So, my new goal is not just to have faith, but to consciously maintain it.

Its not that I actually didn’t trust Him during those moments. It’s that I let my own human emotion completely override my trust. I had let fear and doubt and negativity darken the light He shines on my soul in that moment.

What I realized I was doing was effectively blocking Him out, without even knowing it!

Thats just a part of the fallen world we live in, I suppose. But I am not going to let that type of worry take over my life. I refuse to let anything or anyone rule over me other than Jesus Christ.

Fear and anxiety have lost this battle! Now the trick is to remember to consciously choose Him…in every moment…of every day…regardless of how I feel.

Maintain Faith.

Sounds easy, but it’s not always. I guess that is why it is so worth it.

Have a safe and Happy 4th of July everyone!

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