Writing Issue Fiction
By Jennifer Slattery
I wanted to hurl. Or cry. Except there were way too many people EVERYWHERE. So I did the only thing I knew to do—run! I spent the rest of the evening in my hotel room, tears streaking my puffy face with mascara.
It was my first national conference, and quite frankly, I arrived to my initial appointment more than a little cocky, believing I had crafted the next literary masterpiece.
Obviously this was pre-critique partners.
Appointment after appointment, my confidence waned and seriously considered smashing my computer to bits, forever destroying every story within it.
Apparently my genre of choice—if you can call it that—wasn’t selling. Rather, at the height of the recession, everyone wanted to find what I coin lollypop tales where the greatest character conflict evolved around a bad hair day or mismatched socks.
“People don’t want to read about real life,” I heard. “Theirs is hard enough already.”
My friends, wanting to encourage me and to help the thousands-upon-thousands of words I’d PAINstakingly pounded gain actual ink, urged me to write a sweet, fun romance.
Everything in me rebelled at the thought. Not that there’s anything wrong with sweet and fun. It’s a big world, after all, filled with many genres that appeal to a widely diverse readership, and I actually enjoy adding a fair amount of hilarity to my stories.
With an equal amount of depth centered on real issues—issues I felt we as a collective church needed to address.
Back home the following Monday, God and I had a long, very melodramatic talk. (Insert image of a snotty faced, pouting, foot stomping thirty-something two-year-old.)
In essence, I told Him if I couldn’t write stories with depth that focused on Christians reaching out to some really tough and incredibly broken folks, I didn’t want to write at all.
“This,” I said, pointing to the floor, as if words would suddenly appear there to emphasize my point, “is what I want to write.”
“Then do it.” The thought came so quickly and with such clarity, halting my tantrum, I knew it came from God.
I stood there, mid-stomp, stunned.
“Uh… Okay, then.”
And then I returned to my computer where I proceeded to pound out another million or so words, over half of which I quickly deleted.
Fast forward a couple years to another conference where, wise enough to know 90% of my work stunk but as convinced as ever of my calling, I met my publisher who was… Yep, you guessed it. Looking for issue or “missional” fiction.
I was glad I’d held tight to my stories, my passion, my brand. Because God knew all along, and by the time I signed my first contract with Dr. Andrea Mullins from New Hope Publisher, I had five completed manuscripts waiting. She asked to see them all, offering two additional contracts in the months that followed.
Meanwhile, “issue” fiction has grown with an increasing number of publishers looking for stories that deal with things like domestic violence, alcoholism, orphanology… homelessness. *wink*
This doesn’t surprise me. Studies tell us millennials are the most cause-oriented generation yet. Meaning, they’re passionate about social justice issues. It’s only natural their taste in fiction would show a similar pattern. If this growing shift is any indication, issue fiction will thrive for some time.
So what’s the point?
We writers are an insecure bunch who like to measure our work against market trends or the most recent best seller. But if we’re not careful, we’ll lose our sensitivity to the still, small voice beckoning from within. The One who created us to write that very story burning within—perhaps the story we’ve been told will never sell.
In other words, write what you love and leave the rest to God.
Jennifer Slattery writes Missional Romance for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. Her debut novel, Beyond I Do, is currently available in print and e-book format for a great price! You can find it here:
Jennifer loves helping aspiring authors grow in their craft, and has editing slots open beginning in November. Find out more here: http://wordsthatkeep.wordpress.com/
Beyond I Do:
Will seeing beyond the present unite them or tear them apart?
Marriage . . . it’s more than a happily ever after. Eternally more.
Ainsley Meadows, raised by a hedonist mother, who cycles through jobs and relationships like wrapping paper on Christmas morning, falls into a predictable and safe relationship with Richard, a self-absorbed socialite psychiatrist. But as her wedding nears, a battered woman and her child spark a long-forgotten dream and ignite a hidden passion. One that threatens to change everything, including her fiancé. To embrace God’s best and find true love, this security-seeking bride must follow God with reckless abandon and realize that marriage goes Beyond I Do.
Novel Rocket Staff: Kelly Klepfer