Why You Need To Choose A Sub-Genre For Your Christian Fiction
Several years ago I went to Disneyland with a group of friends. As a bonus for purchasing tickets to the happiest place on earth, we were given bonus tickets to go to the theme park across the way called California Adventure on another day. When that other day came a few weeks later I had to sit out a few rides as I have no interest in roller coasters. They’re just not my idea of fun.
As a storyteller, I prefer rides that bring me into the story, like the bumpy Indiana Jones Adventure, the laughable Pirates of the Caribbean, and the spooky Haunted Mansion. Well, California Adventure contains both roller coasters and themed rides, so after a few roller coasters my friends decided to let me have some excitement as well. They told me about a ride I had never been on before called The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. They said it was just like Haunted Mansion. They lied.
When we got on the ride, we had to sit down in chairs and buckle our seat belts, which were located in an elevator. No big deal. Plenty of children’s rides at Disneyland have some kind of safety harness no matter how safe the rides would appear without them. But when we were settled, the lights cut out and we dropped down a level. It was just one level though. That wasn’t half as scary as when it happened in real life in my poorly maintained college dorm’s elevator.
But that was just the beginning. After a quick narration on the basement level, the elevator began going up and down at breakneck speeds while I clutched my hands to the arms of the chairs. My eyes bugged out (there’s a grainy picture of it somewhere) as my friends made faces and laughed at their successful treachery.
And this is why you need to choose a sub-genre for your Christian fiction. Because if people don’t know what they’re getting into, they’re going to feel like I did when I was on the Tower of Terror. You will not get precious five-star reviews, you will get an emotional punch to the gut when they feel like they’ve been misled to read your work. When all along those who wanted to ride with you on your adventure (like my friends did) might miss out on what you have to offer.
The Secret To Choosing A Genre Is Within Your Reach
The biggest obstacle a writer is ever going to face is knowing where to start. It’s one thing to have a general idea in your head, but it’s another to make it a reality. Choosing a genre is one barrier that is much easier to climb over than what it may seem like at first.
By the time you finish reading this blog post, you’ll understand what it takes to choose a genre within Christian fiction so that you can move on to the next phase in your writing cycle.
Imagine Your Christian Fiction Novel on the Shelf in Your Favorite Bookstore
When I walk into my local Barnes & Noble store I am quickly overwhelmed with choices. There’s a little bit of everything and it’s hard to know where to start unless I have something very specific in mind. Some days I just wander around until something jumps out at me and demands to be picked up and examined. Others I have a specific book in mind and I want to find it as quickly as possible. This is where choosing your genre comes into play. People need to know where to find your book, even if they don’t know who you are.
Know Your Audience
When you walk into a general book retailer like the one I just mentioned, the Christian inspiration section tends to be quite condensed and lumped into one section. But if you go to a Christian bookstore or my preferred destination the Amazon Kindle books section it is a little easier to find sub-genre after sub-genre after sub-genre.
If you want to find an audience, you will want to understand the market place. After all, if you want to be a Christian fiction author, I gather that you will want someone to read your work someday.
The first thing you want to do when it comes to picking out a genre within Christian fiction is to do your research and see what’s popular. It won’t take you long to see a theme within the market as to what stands out among the crowd, as most of the top sellers look very similar to each other. But that doesn’t mean you absolutely have to pick the top selling genre or even one of the top two, three, four, or five top selling genres. But if you want to be successful, it is best to know your market so that you know what kind of battle you’ll be facing when you put your own work out there.
Before we go any further, I want to remind you that book sales aren’t everything. You can find a genre with a huge market and eager buyers, but if you’re just writing for the money or fame then you’re going to be missing out on one of the main reasons why writers exist: to tell the world what we believe through the art of story telling.
Ask Yourself These Questions Before You Continue
1) What kind of literature do I enjoy?
Although the topic deserves much greater attention that I can give it right here right now, it is clear to see that Romance is a huge hit when it comes to Christian fiction. It comes in many different forms, but it comes in droves. But that doesn’t mean it is the only genre worth pursuing.
My books have all displayed some level of romance in them, but they do not fit into the category of Romance itself. But thankfully there are other genres within Christian fiction that can make an impact if they include exceptional story telling and marketing.
2) What do I want to tell the world?
The great thing about genre selection is that it isn’t as limiting as you might think. I have read a Christian romance novel whose author used her platform to warn of the dangers of drug addiction. My collection of novels that I call The Dream Saga (The Dream, The Vision, and The Nightmare) discuss the ills of the so-called “American Dream” and putting our faith in our own strength and ability. You need to decide what you want to tell the world and how that fits in with which genre you will write.
3) What is the ultimate purpose in writing Christian fiction?
My thoughts on this aren’t going to go without controversy. After covering Christian music as a blogger for many years, I know how many differing opinions people have on the career choices artists and creators of any kind exist. But I will stand my ground on my opinion because I believe it to be true without exception.
The main reason that you should be writing Christian fiction is to glorify God. I don’t believe that you have to have the Gospel in every novel you write. It’s hard working the Gospel into a work of fiction without it sounding forced. But everything you write can demonstrate your worldview and how you address real life topics through fantastical or realistic setting.
But in the end if you aren’t glorifying God in everything you do then I suggest you go back to the source of your salvation and rectify your relationship with Christ before you write another word. If your relationship with God is on track, then whichever genre you choose, you will do so with the intent of telling a story that ultimately glorifies God, wether it is about a city girl meeting a country boy or if it is about a zebra’s first trip to space.
How Choosing Your Christian Fiction Genre Will Make Your Writing Stand Out
When I first started writing Christian fiction, I thought that was a good enough genre as it was. After all, Christians who want to support other Christians would naturally flock to helping them out, right? There’s a huge problem with that line of thinking: there are thousands of other Christians putting out books too and they know their market.
My first book series, The Dream Saga, is Contemporary Christian Literature, which is a fine genre to get yourself into if you already have a platform for customers to know about your work. But most of us start out with nothing and want to build our platform based on our writing. So how do we change that? By focusing on what makes us stand out.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been working on a new series that will still serve much of the same audience, but with greater focus. I have chosen to be a suspense writer because it fits well with what I described above.
The story I am working on now is going to
1) Have an audience. Suspense isn’t the cash cow that Romance books are today, but there is still a market, just ask fans of Ted Dekker.
2) Be something that I would enjoy reading and writing.
That’s all a market is anyway: people who care about a product or service produced by people who care about their product or service. Choosing a genre that you and your audience will love is the greatest way you can show them that you care. That’s what will make your books stand out above the others.
What Do You Do After Choosing Your Genre?
Choosing a genre is simply one small, but greatly important step in the writing process. There is still a great deal of work to do, but I hope this guide on choosing a genre within Christian fiction helped you focus your craft as you work on spreading the love of Christ through your fiction writing.
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