So you want to push the envelope?
There’s a lot of discussion about understood rules in CBA fiction. What is acceptable and what is not acceptable. For instance, some violence is acceptable (this is something that is becoming more and more acceptable and in more gratuitous description), sex is not acceptable unless tastefully implied between husband and wife (again, the rules are loosening with this . . . a little), and cursing is not acceptable (under any circumstance).
Some novelists, though, and it seems it’s more the new writers coming on the scene or hoping to break onto the scene, are increasingly tempted to try and push the envelope. Write racier love scenes, throw in a few choice words, carefully and appropriately placed.
I’m all for telling the truth, how life really happens. I think it’s one of the hallmarks of good fiction, but we need to remember who it is we’re writing for . . . readers of CBA material. The bottom line is, we want people to buy our books, for various reasons, one of which is the theme or message we hope our story proclaims and the reader grabs.
Look at it this way, you write a novel that has a few curse words in it and a carefully written, but somewhat graphic rape scene. You find a CBA publisher to go out on a limb and publish the book. The book is stocked in a Christian bookstore. A customer buys the book, reads it, is offended by the pushing of the envelope and goes back to said bookstore complaining. Then another customer complains, and another. You see, when readers are offended it’s often the bookstore owner that hears about it. So what does the ownder do? Well, if he wants to keep his business and the customer is always right, he stops stocking your book. Now, if this happens across the country, you lose and your publisher loses.
I know it’s an extremem situation but it does happen, trust me. That’s one reason why publishers are hesitant to push that envelope, readers aren’t enthusiastic about it, and readers buy books.
If you want to push the envelope, think about a few things. Why do you want to go there? Why do you feel you should go with a CBA publisher (as opposed to an ABA one)? How will you handle rejection of your manuscript and, if it gets published, the finished product? Are you willing to wait?
I added that last one because I’m sure change will come. It will be in small increments and will take some time, but it will change. Change is already taking place. Writers like Ted Dekker and Robert Liparulo and Frank Peretti and others have played huge roles in expanding what is acceptable in CBA fiction. If you’re set on telling the complete truth and not just implying truth, use wisdom and be patient. Or just go with an ABA publisher (a very valid and, in my opinion, acceptable option).