It was about a year ago when I struggled with the query letter for my first novel. I arranged and rearranged words, trimmed unnecessary phrases and reviewed until I thought I had a good letter. Since I could practically recite this letter word-for-word, I decided I was in no position to judge whether it was any good or not, so I submitted it to a writer’s forum for peer critique.
One comment on the early version of my letter had to do with my mention of “God.” Unbeknownst to me, this fell squarely into the “do not do this” list, as it would turn agents off. Being an eager wanna-be-published-author, I didn’t spend too much time questioning why anyone would be so closed-minded. I jumped right in there and redid my query letter (nineteen times.)
During my rounds of novel edits, I grew more concerned that my novel would be rejected by agents, or worse, agents would ask for changes that made me uncomfortable. My first novel didn’t have foul language, strangers weren’t falling into lust (and bed), and the main character and her best friend discussed God. Even with some scenes made “edgier” for mainstream appeal, the novel retained its PG status. I was okay with that because it remained a compilation of words that satisfied me.
Fast-forward to January of this year – the beginnings of my renewed spiritual exploration. For the first time I asked myself: “Would I remove the references to God in my novel if it stood in the way of publication?” I had to pose the question because I had removed His name in my query letter without so much as a second thought. My answer? A firm, “no.” I felt that extracting God’s small presence would leave my character hollow.
So I chose God over publication. That was it. I had always thought of my writing as mainstream general fiction, mystery or women’s fiction. Now, I had no clue what I wrote. For weeks, I didn’t write anything at all. Even though only a small part of what I write would be suitable for publication, it seemed my words wouldn’t come at all without a market umbrella label to cover them. Finally, curiosity got the better of me and I did a Google search on the question: “What is Christian Fiction?”
Wikipedia definition: “A Christian novel is any novel that expounds and illustrates a Christian world view in its plot, its characters, or both, or which deals with Christian themes in a positive way.”
I thought that many of my stories fit within this description. I mulled it over. I read a book about writing Christian fiction. I thought about it more. And then I realized that I could aspire to write Christian fiction and be true to myself (and not give up on the possibility of publication.) Further thought revealed that as I progress through my spiritual journey, I will be enriching my soul and my writing. I thank God for allowing me to go through this retrospective examination process so that I could arrive at the answer he knew all along.
This was a poem/prayer that I wrote to God on January 5, 2011:
Speak Through Me
Make me a light,
Make me a voice;
You are my sight-
My path, your choice.
My mind wide open,
Released is all burden
From my hope-filled chest.
Your will is mine,
Though I cannot see,
Your power divine-
Speak through me.