Risks are high in the publishing world. The publisher takes a risk on who it contracts. The author takes a risk every time he submits material to an agent or publisher. Risks include not earning back advances, rejection, unsuccessful marketing endeavors, and multiple other possibilities.
But let’s talk about the writing itself. In fiction. If it’s true we are what we write, the risks of our exposure are tantamount to the cliché of wearing our hearts on our sleeves. I can honestly state that I’m in every character I write. In some capacity there is a part of me within their words or deeds that demonstrates my content, be it emotionally, physically, and/or spiritually. In order to portray the reality of the human condition we must capture all facets of the makeup of people. The unique factors of the individual mesh with those things most all of us have in common such as certain fears, lusts, needs, or those traits which are peculiar to some of us but not necessarily universal. It is our job as creators of fiction to take those risks on the page, to construct stories which capture the realms of existence from a believable and somewhat personal vantage point in order to immerse the reader in the possibility and plausibility of the story. Even in fantasy we must engage the reader from a place where his humanity can identify and/or recognize certain common bonds with a known existence.
There’s another distinct risk for the Christian author who wishes to write outside the boundaries of what is commonly referred to as CBA fiction. We’ve discussed the restrictive nature of certain genres in Christian publishing and argued the pros and cons. In the end it’s the publisher’s right and choice to produce their qualifications/restrictions for their books. This warrants a considerable risk for writers like me who definitely color outside the defining lines for love stories. Let me reiterate here I don’t do graphic sexual content, but I do write more specific sexual attraction and UST than the bulk of CBA romance novels because I believe there is actual merit in being honest about the human sexuality element. So if I don’t agree to compromise to the specific demands of toning down a passage here or there, assuming my writing is worthy of examination, then I knowingly take the risk of not getting published by those publishers who will not allow more specific sexual references or episodes. Since I include Christian content, there is a distinct risk in being accepted by the general market in my genre especially since battling the sheer numbers of romance novels is a risk in itself.
Here’s a risk that isn’t discussed much for obvious reasons. If our fiction gives away our political positions, what does that mean for our appeal? What if our Facebook commentary, our Tweets, etc., outline our political status and some readers vow never to read our work as a result. Does that mean we don’t discuss politics or include our worldview in our novels? Do we censor ourselves for the sake of gaining – or maintaining – an audience? Is a political position so unimportant that we need not expose our feelings about certain issues where other readers or potential readers can disagree and cross us off their reading lists? Do we believe strongly enough to risk exposing ourselves? Many Christians who leave out specific references to their faith believe their Christian worldview permeates their stories. Is it the same with their political worldviews?
Writers don’t just sit down at a computer or huddle up with pen and paper and toss out words to form plots and characters. They invest the whole content of their souls and pour it out on pages which expose who they are at their core – their struggling and fallen humanity. The more they reveal about their inner workings, the more real their literature becomes.
And that, my friends, is exactly why the inherent warning in this title should be considered by all who venture into the realm of writing novels: Write At Your Own Risk.
Nicole Petrino-Salter writes love stories with a passion. You can visit her at hopeofglory.typepad.com.