“What everyone at the Christian Writers Guild had in common is that they all were, or wanted to be, writers. But what everyone has in common at the Calvin Festival is that they are all readers.”
I have to say, I love that I wasn’t the one to say this. It just happens to be from Andy Crouch in the sidebar on the left, “Omit Needless Words.”
Writers are readers. Great writers only become great writers through practice and reading. There is no alternative, no exception. It’s a harsh, unbending, unfair standard. Plain and simple. No leeway. It’s not a superiority thing. It’s a simple requirement for good writing.
The reader doesn’t want to hear cliches, assumptions, and pet opinions. And we all have plenty of them. Ray Bradbury says every writer has to get out their “million crappy words.” There’s no way to do that without writing. And there’s no way to do it without reading. Readers want the culmination of your learning in both. They want you performing at the top of your game. They want to learn and if you’re to teach them, you need to know what you’re talking about. Don’t worry about the dearth of good Christian fiction. Unless you’re reading it all—or at least a good portion—just forget it. So you don’t prefer a particular type. Don’t read it. Leave your fellow readers alone. There’s difference, and that’s a good thing. Let’s try to respect that. If we’re demanding everyone be the same, there’s something wrong.
Is there a “best” kind of fiction? Or how about this: Is there an objective standard of quality? And if a particular type of fiction is intending to be popular rather than high literary quality, do you hold it to a different standard? Maybe we should consult Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for that: The metaphysics of quality? Or how about just Webster’s? “2 a : degree of excellence b : superiority in kind.” Not bad, but that still doesn’t give us the essential part: what’s the degree? What is superior? Ultimately, it’s an opinion. A perception. There may be an objective standard and maybe it can apply to all types of fiction across all genres. But there can also be multiple standards because there are multiple goals. Of course, that’s just my opinion.
Be sure to check out Mark’s blog about this. Thanks, Mark, for your words. Great, responsible guidance here. Pay attention, folks.
I suppose in the end what I’m getting at is balance. And where do we find the perfect balance? Only in our quest for our perfect writers. I’m not promoting perfectionism, but I like the thought of writing the summation of our work.
Will we need to follow the market or seek greater craft? Or both? Equally, or one more than the other? Again, I’ve got my opinions, but they’re not objective. I think you need to forget the market and write for a while. Just jump in. The market will continue to move.
Find your favorites. Copy them. Learn from them. Then move on and discover your superior quality. Don’t judge your counerparts and don’t assume. Just write and make it your goal, your job, your hobby. That’s it.
Isn’t that enough? At least start there.
Oh. And don’t write until you’ve read.