A Crisis of Genre


Photo: Dariusz Sankowski

It could be that I’m dragging things out finishing Rescuing Christina because I’m not sure what to do next and don’t want to spend my mornings sweeping our expansive hardwood floors and coddling our inconsolable Bichon Frise Sophie as the only way to silence her incessant whining.

Actually, I wouldn’t say I’m dragging it out. I’m thinking about it. After receiving beta reader feedback, I panicked for a couple of days, feeling reticent to do what they had asked. If the dang story wasn’t true and so personal, it might be easier to add a few things here and a couple of scenes there. In fact I know it would be easier. You know those novelists…making things up as they go along. I say pshaw to them! Try spilling out your true-life flaws and foibles for the world to see and then let me know how quickly you assimilate and act upon the feedback you get that says, “Not enough! We want more!”

It took about 36 hours to talk myself off the ledge and back into the hard work of moving the story to the final level. I’m better now, and it’s not so bad.

But I still have a problem. You see, officially I’m a writer, which means I write stuff. Sometimes that stuff gets published. And sometimes people buy that published stuff and I make a royalty on the sale. It’s how it works if you want to make a living as a writer. Many try, yet most do not make a living. Me included. So far.

Many writers like writing fiction. I don’t. I have no desire to write fiction. No, I haven’t tried it and maybe I should before making a final decision about the whole genre thing, but honestly, I’ve never heard a voice in my head saying, “Go make stuff up and publish it.”

The helpful ones say (the helpful ones being the people who write novels), “What do you like to read? That’s what you should write. Easy peasy!”

And I say, “Easy peasy for you to say.”

I read non-fiction 99.98 percent of the time. And they’re not self-help books. Here is a list of the first ten books on my Kindle (seriously):

  • Geometry, Relativity and the Fourth Dimension – Rudolf Rucker
  • The Divine Conspiracy – Dallas Willard
  • Weight of Glory (collected letters of C.S. Lewis) – C.S. Lewis
  • The Pursuit of God – A. W. Tozer
  • Holy Bible: NAS
  • Love to the Uttermost Exposition of John XIII-XXI – F.B. Meyer
  • The Ideal Life: Listening for God’s Voice – Henry Drummond
  • Abide in Christ – Andrew Murray
  • Immortal Diamond – Richard Rohr
  • The Glorious Lord – F.B. Meyer

You see the problem.

All of the authors except one are renowned scholars and lettered men. The one exception is the Bible, written by the Holy Spirit through many men, few of them renowned scholars and lettered men (except maybe Paul, but even he had to throw out much of what he’d been taught once he met Christ on the road to Damascus). Just thought I’d throw that in.

This morning while working my way through another fiction writer’s approach for selecting a genre, I realized I have an unchangeable proclivity for nonfiction. And I must come to terms with it. Otherwise the joy of writing will quickly morph into the dread of writing. It was an interesting realization, leading me to question myself about this hankering I have for reality. Here is the transcript of my conversation:

Why do you like nonfiction?

Because I want to know things and how things work, including the human spirit and how we live our life with God.

How do you think?

I look at the big picture, deconstruct it into parts, understand how each part fits and interacts with the others, and then explain I it to myself (metaphorically speaking for those of you envisioning me standing in front of a mirror talking to myself). Basically, I am always seeking to make sense of things.

What do you like to do?

I like to write stuff that helps make sense of things.

Ironically, the 11-page “find your genre” cheat sheet one fiction author sent me last week, the one that this morning seemed worthless at first glance, ended up helping me see the real issue. And here it is:

I am unqualified to write what I’m most likely to enjoy writing and therefore will not make much money writing books.

OR

I am unqualified to write what I’m most likely to enjoy writing and therefore I must rely upon what I don’t know and trust that God has put this proclivity for nonfiction in my being for a reason.

At some point I’ll let go of the need to make an income and just do the thing I feel most revved up to write about. Oh…and forget about all the money I’ve spent on building my fiction series marketing machine that I’ll probably never use. There’s that too.

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