The Line

While traversing the internet last night researching a possible new genre for my next manuscript, I came across a debut author who had been kicked out of his church because of the book he wrote. Now, I haven't read the book and the subject matter wasn't something I'd be comfortable reading, but this author felt that he'd written the book that he was supposed to and that the moral lines it crossed were necessary to tell the story in an honest way.

His church disagreed.

But this author is proud of his work and now he's laboring away at the next novel in the series.

It made me wonder: What lines will I not cross in order to be published?

There is such a deep-seated desire to be published, that I think it would be hard to say no to a contract. But I would, if certain things were asked of me.

As I'm an inspirational writer, one thing that has always been important to me is the name of Jesus. I wouldn't want to take it out of my manuscripts, not even to be published. (LOL Not saying anyone would ask me to.)

Now, this is just my thing. I would never expect someone to have the same boundaries as me.

So, in your writing, what line will you NOT cross just to be published?

*and I'm not saying he crossed a line in order to be published at all. I have a feeling it was the book he wanted to write, no matter what others said*


Rita Gerlach said…
Hi Jessica,

Interesting post. The line I will not cross is two-fold. I will not use offensive language or explicit sex scenes. Romance, yes.

In Christian publishing most publishers want a finished manuscript. The majority, in regard to guidelines, have rules for what I mentioned offensive language, no explicit sex. CBA is loosening up though and allowing for more edgy writing.

The best thing to do is write your novel. Polish it. Write a proposal and begin sending it out. When you are ready for submission, contact me and I'll give you a list of CBA literary agents that take email submissions.

Jennifer Shirk said…
Although I don't write inspirational (maybe some day), I try to write stories that would not make my pastor's wife cringe. :)
So there's definitely no foul language or explicit sex.
This post is a keeper, Jessica. I've thought over this time and again, because I think, as writers, we have to know where we're willing to go for a story. The hard part is, the "where" may change with each story. Thus far, I'm not comfortable with anything that wouldn't be considered "wholesome." No cuss words, no sex or random violence, etc. But there's the opposite end for me, too, because I've struggled with how much faith to include. [I blogged about it once, before you were visiting I think:] I'm not one who's found her comfort level in sharing her Christian beliefs in an open and flourished way: I tend to be more reserved. Thus, I fear I come off preachy and forced in my fiction. So not only do I have to consider what I'm NOT comfortable sharing, but also what I AM comfortable sharing.

Wow... talk about a tangent... :)
Kristen Painter said…
I won't write sex. I write sexual tension, but on the VERY rare occasion there is sex, it's behind closed doors. I may use an occasional damn or hell, but that's the extent of the language. It's hard not to write a book without language, because that's how people speak unfortunately. Still, I wonder what my church would think...but ultimately, it's not between them and me, it's between me and God.
Angie Ledbetter said…
Ixnay on the porn/erotica, violence or other dark matter. Very good post, Jessica. Love that you have your boundaries drawn. :)
Hi Rita,
It's true that Christian fiction is opening up. In some ways I think this is a good thing. As a teen, I didn't see or read much Inspirational fiction because the few I found seemed very fake to me.
We'll see how it goes with the edgy fiction, as I'm very comfortable so far with what I've read.
Hey Jennifer,
That's probably a good way to look at it.
Though there are some people who cringe at things I think are funny. LOL
It all comes down to personal moralities, which is what has me curious.
I SO hear you on the preachy thing. Salvation is one of the hardest things for me to write. How do you turn something so personal and unique into something others can relate to? I definitely think that is a challenge.
I would rather read something that is entertaining and tasteful, than something that preaches at me. :-)
Thanks for the link. I'll have to hop on over some time today and take a look!
I LOVE sexual tension. I used to get so annoyed (as a teen) at Janette Oke's books. They'd have a great plot, good characters, but the romance always felt too sibling. Yuck.
So you don't write sex? Interesting. :-) I didn't know that about you.
Hey Angie,
Thanks for stopping by. I like to hear about others boundaries. Personally, violence or darkness doesn't bother me so much, unless it's very sexual. I've heard people go off on violence because they think it's worse than swearing.
Sometimes the line is just not clear.
And sometimes it is.
Hi Jessica -

This is a subject close to my heart. Even though the audience is important, I want to honor God first and foremost.

I've heard all the arguments pro and con, but it still comes down to motivation. Are we looking for the cheap thrill to draw people to our writing or are we reflecting the new life we have in Christ?

God doesn't give us His Word for arbitrary reasons. His authority is for our protection. He knows what will hurt us and what will bless us. I don't want to harm someone else or myself by writing in ways that stir up the old nature.

Susan :)
Great way to put it, Susan.
I'm wondering about non-Christian writers too, though. What boundaries to they have?
But yes, God is definitely the only one we'll be answering to at the end.
Nicely said.
Terri Tiffany said…
I love that you posted this and enjoyed reading the comments. I think we all have boundaries and limits. The hard part will be making sure we stick to them despite the reward not to.
Hey Terri,
That's true. A contract is an enticing thing. I have to say that if an editor wanted me to change a plot thread or a name, I'd have NO problem doing it. But then there are places where you have to follow your heart.
Anonymous said…
Hey Jessie. GREAT post. It amazes me how you keep coming up with one good one after another. :-)

Okay, so you wanted to hear from a non-Christian writer, or a non-inspirational writer? There's a pretty big difference there, I think. I'm a Christian, but I write non-inspirational, if that makes sense.

I will never write about things that I feel are fundamentally wrong. Such as "same sex" relationships, anything other than monogomous relationships, and my heroines will NEVER be adulterers. (I read a historical romance a while back called Fascination that was just HORRIBLE, because the entire premise of the book was centered around the heroine cheating on her wonderful, loving husband then having to end up staying with her husband because she happened to be having his child and not her lover's). Ick.

That's an extreme example, but you see what I mean. I do write sex scenes to a degree, but I try to do them very tastefully--not using graphic descriptions or vulgar words--and in all of the five books I've written thus far, my couples have never fully consummated until after they're married. That's something I hope to stick to, but I'm not sure every storyline will allow it. It really depends on the plot and characters.
Thanks for chiming in, Anita! Funny thing is, I don't mind reading certain things that I'll never write.
I think your sex scenes are fine. It's fascinating to see what people will do, what they won't do, etc.
As for that historical, I second your "yuck".
Hmm, I didn't mean to get all these serious answers. I was thinking along the lines of how far we're willing to go to get published. Huh. That sounds like another post. LOL
Thanks for stopping by after your busy day!
Katie Salidas said…
Not sure what lines I would cross to write a book, or if there are any. I write the story I imagine. Now if my (crosses fingers and hopes) future agent ( no i don't have one yet) tells me I have to change something to make it marketable, and I don't agree, I may see what lines there may be.

Interesting topic =)
That's true. Sometimes the story calls for certain things.
My fingers are crossed for an agent too! :-)
Sarah said…
I don't use cuss words or have my characters go anywhere beyond kissing. That's just my comfort zone. That's not to say I never read anything that doesn't contain one or both of what I just mentioned. I believe a book can contain these things and still be good, but I won't be the author.

I loved reading this post and all of the interesting comments! It's nice to know other people's opinions on this topic.
Hey Sarah,
I think it's cool too. I probably won't have cuss words either, just because I don't like reading them in inspirationals and I don't say them.
Funny thing- cussing in secular books and movies doesn't bother me, only in inspirational fiction. Is it the same for you?
Sarah said…
Yup, it is the same. I guess it's because I expect those things in secular writing, but I hold Christian writing to a higher standard. Sounds completely hypocritical, huh? Oh well, at least I'll admit it.
It does sound that way, so I feel a little bad too. But we are kind of held to a certain standard, right? I don't know...

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