Give It Up, Grousers!

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Disagreements, differences of perspective, verbal sparring. This is what good stories thrive on. So it's no wonder that sometimes in the course of discussing things we're passionate about–like writing books–writers can get a little heated up.

I witnessed a couple minor disgreements between writers and editors this week over the definition of quality, and I was reminded of the early days of this blog, back when I'd take on the "establishment" and picket low quality in Christian publishing, excited to find quotes from folks like Marilynne Robinson in The Tennessean this week who said, "I think a lot of Christian fiction feels pat." Which sounds like she's saying something to the effect that Christian fiction is low quality, though she goes on to say that it seems many writers (many, not all) don't learn in the course of writing. And this is why it feels pat. Predictable. Expected.  

These days, I think my fire has turned into a babbling brook. Or maybe a little bunny. I don't want to argue anymore. Some people think predictable writing is boring and pat and connotes low quality. Others think it's nice to escape in something comfortable and safe. Whatever. We all have different reasons for reading and different qualifications for our reading material. I think I've grown to appreciate more pat writing in recent months. I don't care if it makes me seem less intelligent or interesting at parties. Pompous objections to predictable fiction are so predictable and they bore me. So there.

After so many years of fighting for "high quality," working to define it by some objective standard, and searching for new ways to enforce it–or at least get high-quality equal attention–I'm tired of it. I love the difference of opinions, but I just want to read good stories. Maybe I'm compromising. Maybe I want too little out of life or something. But I still want a lot. I want to be surprised, challenged, gripped, inspired. I want to read things that expand my view and make me more accepting, more loving, more dead to my selfish demands, not more. I want excellence, but I want a broad definition of that when it comes to opinions about something as particular and complex as novels. Most of all, I want more respect paid to the people who just enjoy reading and for writers to forget the elitism and attitude, the arguments that go nowhere, and the whining about there not being enough good stuff to read. There is. You just might have to search for it among the piles. Or you might just have to write it yourself. Quit your grousing.

That's the way it is in life. You have to work for it.

So my word for the week is to keep reading, keep writing, and keep fighting for high quality however you define that. Just don't be narrow. And don't come barking at my readers when you don't agree my fiction is high quality. Differences of opinion are what make reading much more fun.

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7 thoughts on “Give It Up, Grousers!”

  1. Well, I never thought I’d see the day, but here it is nonetheless!
    I have to say though, it was the early days of your blog that got me excited about being passionate for quality – that pushed me to write better, stronger fiction.
    So, thank you for your earlier days. And thank you for your balanced “old man” perspective. I’ve needed both.
    Madison

  2. Well said. It seems that all too often the very folks doing the Grousing are fellow writers. We are harder on each other than our readers ever would be. I think it is because we are insecure about our own writing.
    The truth is that while we are striving for excellent writing, our readers want one thing – a story that keeps them turning the page. That is excactly why I think The Shack is still selling.
    I can’t help but think that writers who complain the most about quality in fiction should be spending more time writing fiction and less time bemoaning the state of fiction on our blogs.
    I am not saying we should not aspire to write better, read better, and have very high standards, but I agree with you. It is really getting old.
    The field of Christian Fiction is growing. Writers are growing. Readers are growing. Let’s be patient while things grow and let’s stop trying to compare daisies with roses. They are both beautiful in their own way. God created them to be different. So it goes with writers…

  3. I think of the Christian music industry starting in the 70’s. Horrible production made for some awesomely horrible 8-tracks. Some incredible artists were never discovered due to (lack of) technology.
    For Christian writers the good news is: The playing field has been leveled. For Christian writers the bad news is: The playing field has been leveled.
    For the consumer it is ALL good news.
    And great things are coming because of it.

  4. Last year John Olson said, “I’m really loving YA these days. What do you love to read when no one is looking?”
    Here’s a guy with a PHD in bio-chemistry admitting he loves books targeted at teenagers.
    The point? I think we often slam writing to impress others and sound intelligent.
    You’re right, Mick. If you don’t like it, don’t read it. If it’s selling someone does like it.
    Find something you do like to read. End of discussion.

  5. The author’s responsibility is to write the best he/she can do at any given moment, to let the story tell itself, to push through mediocrity. And we’re all different, right? So I hear you.
    And really, it’s the reader who decides what he/she likes. My books are not escapist reading, so readers who want that will absolutely despise my work! And I won’t pick up chick lit because it’s not my cup of tea (chai).
    This whole thing is subjective, which is why I bring it back to myself. Am I doing the best I can?

  6. Part of the problem is the perception that Christian fiction writers are all attempting to accomplish the same goal – that they are a religious and therefore homogeneous.
    I don’t think we’re all trying to accomplish the same goal, even on the most general level. And thats a good thing.
    How come no one complains about the lousy writing in the general market? There are some really ugly cousins our there.
    Lots of pat ones too.
    (Disclaimer: Bonnie Grove is not an advocate of nay saying nor poo-pooing books/writers of any sort)

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