The Downside to Becoming a Better Writer

Yes, I absolutely believe in striving to become better at what you do! When it comes to writing, it seems I’ve always heard a lot about authors continually working to improve their craft, no matter how long they’ve been in the game.

However, before I was published, I didn’t hear much about how it actually feels when you, as a published author, do improve. When you’ve learned more, and you’ve lived more. When your passion and style has hit a stride on a whole ‘nother level (ahhh, yes!)—and then you think about or look back at your earlier, published work…and see all the things you could’ve done differently. (Ahhh…oh?)

Yup. What was once my absolute best work, years ago, is now years behind where I am today as a writer. And as a person. When you believe in all of your work, you can’t just leave the older stuff high and dry like it doesn’t matter anymore. It does matter. Still, as you promote an older book of yours, you may be thinking, “But please, dear readers, particularly any brand new dear readers: if you should notice my weaknesses here, do be so kind as not to prejudge all of my other writing, based on this.”

If only an author’s earlier material could all magically revise itself as the author continues to publish better and better work.

Now, lest anyone should think, “Oh. So this is her way of confessing that her older books aren’t as great as she thought they were, so I won’t waste my time reading them”—no. That’s not what I’m getting at. While I may be improving as a writer and as a human being, I’ve never been an idiot. 😀 I wouldn’t have published a book if it wasn’t any good. And, yeah. All of my books are good. (Author bias, here? Perhaps. But even one’s bias can be informed, and quality literature has been informing this bibliophile ever since she learned the alphabet. Besides, I firmly believe that authors should firmly believe in their work, or else they shouldn’t be publishing it.)

Anyhow, and thankfully, I think many readers do realize that authors grow as they go, just like anyone or anything else in life. I do reread my own books for pleasure, and I pay attention to my readers’ feedback. So if I find or am alerted to an error that truly matters in an older book of mine, yes, I’ll correct it. One of the perks of independent publishing, there. As for areas in my older writing that could’ve been better but that don’t really need to be changed now, I make a note of those areas for future writing. Then I have to breathe, know that my older writing is what it is, and know that it’s okay. I was a good writer when I published it, and I’m an even better writer now. That’s life.

With that said, I do think there are good reasons for authors to go back to revise older books, at times. I myself have revised and published new editions of some of my work. Even so, if you want to be a prolific author, it won’t be possible to keep going back to revise everything you’ve ever published. Therefore, you’ve got to have grace with yourself. Know that there’s no such thing as a book that’s perfect to everyone, and your older books don’t have to be perfect in order to keep making a positive impact in readers’ lives.

You were a good writer back when you published it. And you’re an even better writer now.

_______________

Here are two love stories, second editions of books that are even better now: Yella’s Prayers and World of the Innocent.

  

 

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Diversity and Christian Publishing

Diversity and Christian Publishing

So! I was in a discussion at what has become one of my favorite blogs, Diversity Between the Pages. The latest chat posed a question, asking why ethnically diverse Christian Fiction is so important. I’ve blogged about this topic before, and I wanted to post my answer from last Saturday’s discussion here, slightly edited to make more sense as a standalone post. 🙂

Among other good reasons for publishing more diverse books, I don’t think Christian publishing would want to fall on the wrong side of history.

By that, I mean like Crusaders who murdered people in the name of Christ in medieval times. Or unscrupulous Church leaders who contributed to the need for the Protestant Reformation. Or preachers in the U.S. who condoned and pushed for American slavery over the pulpit. I know those examples may sound like extreme comparisons to fiction publishing, but I believe the principle is comparable. In super-simplified and understated terms, when we don’t value humanity as we should, the legacy we leave isn’t too pretty.

The Bible speaks of those from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation” who were redeemed by Christ (Revelation 5:9, NASB). I think it’s important for Christian Fiction to reflect that kind of diversity—especially now, at a critical time when there’s a struggle and a fight going on for the rights, the dignity, and the very lives of people of color. We wouldn’t want Christian publishing’s legacy to be, “At that critical time, we still shied away from publishing diverse books because it didn’t make sense to us, money wise,” or “We didn’t think it was essential,” or “We discussed it but couldn’t get our ducks in a row to make it happen.”

Now, I’m not saying that Christian publishing is deliberately devaluing humanity. Or that no one in Christian publishing sees the seriousness of the time we’re living in. But I do think it’s important to consider the picture we’re painting that people will look at, years down the road. Will the books we’ve published indeed reflect that we value all humanity? What will the lens of history reveal about what we’ve produced—and what we haven’t?

Even as I’m mentioning “the wrong side of history,” I don’t think Christian publishing has to come at this from a negative angle, producing from a place of what we don’t want to be, or just trying not to paint a bad picture. But literature is a huge part of any crucial point or movement in history. How positive and powerful a message it would send should Christian Fiction become more dynamically diverse now!

And when I talk about Christian publishing, yeah, I’m including myself. There’s so much more writing and publishing I need to do.

 

A Harvest of Thorns by Corban Addison

BookLook Bloggers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book, and I’ve given my honest opinion.

A Harvest of ThornsA Harvest of Thorns by Corban Addison

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

A large American corporation. A garment factory fire overseas. Labor rights. Globalization. I wanted to read this novel and get something meaningful and challenging out of it.

Instead, I rather felt like I’d been duped. Partly my fault, since I’ve run into this with a HarperCollins Christian Publishing book in the past, and I’d told myself I’d be more cautious about selecting books from them. (I believe it was a Zondervan book before, while this one is a Thomas Nelson.)

Call me old-fashioned, but when I reach for novels from a Christian publisher, I’m not looking for books that contain profanity. I’m just not. Sure, when I knowingly choose to read a secular book, I’ll deal with a certain amount of foul language or other content I prefer to avoid, if I find the story and message especially compelling and relevant–that’s my choice. But I personally don’t see the point of continuing to call yourself a Christian publisher if not all of the novels you’re publishing now are Christian Fiction.

Yes, yes, I know–different folks’ definitions and standards of Christian Fiction are different. The publishers have their business reasons and all. That’s fine. But in keeping with my standards as a longtime ChristFic reader, I’ll now be choosing Thomas Nelson and Zondervan books based on what I know or have researched about the authors, not based on the publishers’ names anymore–since, unfortunately, I can no longer trust what I’m getting from said publishers.

This is rare for me when I originally planned to review a book, but I got less than a quarter of the way through this one before I decided not to continue.

Writing for Love or Money?

writing-for-love-or-money

Oh, I’ve heard various tips and ideas from various folks in the business.

“Authors have to study a genre, research the current trends in that genre, and then write books that follow those trends, if they want their books to sell.”

“You’ll lose your passion for writing and limit your creativity if you’re only trying to be trendy or fit in a popular box. Besides, readers don’t want the same book they’ve already read, just with a different author’s name on it. Stop worrying about the fads and write the book you’re meant to write, since there are people who’re meant to read it.”

“You have to pick up the pace and put out several books a year if you want a worthwhile return on your writing investment.”

“Quit trying to write and publish so many books so fast. That’s sloppy, and it’s not fair to readers or to yourself. Slow down and respect the art of writing.”

“It’s pointless to write and publish if you’re not making decent money from it.”

“It’s pointless to write and publish if you’re in it for money. That’s not what writing’s about.”

I’m paraphrasing, but you get the gist.

So. Is it better to write and publish for the love of books, or is it better to write and publish for other rewards? Hm. Well, I’m of the mindset that different writers write for different reasons, and I believe one writer’s reasons can be just as legitimate as another’s.

Some authors are looking to publish masterpieces that people will read, contemplate, and learn from for generations. Other authors focus instead on giving their fans a good time, here and now. Some writers are looking to make a living from their writing. Others aren’t. Some authors are looking to publish and sell multiple books in their lifetimes. Others aren’t. Some writers write because there’s a burning, vital message in their souls, and they simply must unleash their voice into the world. Other writers research market trends and deliberately write what’s trending in order to sell a lot of what people are enjoying these days.

Whatever one’s different purpose, motivation, or goals may be, I don’t think it makes one writer’s love and appreciation for literature, or even one’s professionalism, more or less than another’s. I believe the world needs all kinds of authors and different kinds of books, from the deep masterworks to the fluffy-and-fun stuff and everything else in between.

I’ve often said that for a writer, it’s important to know specifically why you, the individual, write. It will affect what decisions you make, what risks you’ll take, where you’ll place your priorities, and what will make it all worthwhile or rewarding to you.

Someone else’s reasons for writing may differ from yours, but that doesn’t mean those reasons are better or worse. Be true to your purpose for writing, put in the work toward your goals, and celebrate others who are doing likewise.