As I have watched the Edgy Christian Fiction discussions over the past year or so, I haven’t really seen what I think is one of the major issues discussed to any great extent.

One particularly interesting conversation centered around the people who are willing to read “edgy” ABA fiction but not similar CBA fiction. And while much of the overall “edgy” conversation has dealt with the fact that Christian publishers will not allow certain things in their fiction (though there are a few exceptions these days), I don’t think publisher standards is really at the heart of the matter. There is another factor I think we need to consider.

The ABA authors are better at it than we are.

OK, I know there are exceptions, but by and large the prose of Jonathan Kellerman, Jefferson Bass, Dean Koontz, Margaret Maron, Sharyn McCrumb, Joe Lansdale, Jonathan Maberry, and others considered to be “edgy” is just a higher quality. Period. And again, I’m aware that there are some notable exceptions, but not many considering the overall number of authors wanting to be “edgy.”

And if you’ll notice, many of the successful ones in the CBA were once ABA writers. I think part of the reason is the difference in the “apprenticeships” if you will. I can remember when I wrote in the ABA submitting a story to an anthology that received a total of 1800 submissions (I got in). Such numbers were the norm for major anthologies and many of the people submitting were the top names in the industry. So the writing had to be first quality if you stood any chance at all. And while there was certainly a fair amount of drek, there were also really good mid-list authors scratching for their place on the shelves. So the writing had to be a cut above. And the writing wasn’t limited to novels. There were a good number of short story and similar opportunities available.

All of which meant writing, writing, writing.

There also wasn’t the I’ll publish it myself attitude in years past the way there is now. Self publishing was called vanity publishing because that was what prompted it. Not a niche that a major publisher wouldn’t handle. It was a place where pitiful manuscripts went to be enshrined, and from there they went by the caseload to basements and storage closets around the country. and even today, while there are certainly some very admirable and compelling reasons to consider the self-publishing avenue, we also massage the truth enough to expand those reasons to our own particular wants. And the outcome in many cases is substandard prose that strives for edginess (or any other “ness” you can think of) and falls miserably short. Often self publishing is seen as a shortcut for getting a manuscript out to the public without having to meet the criteria of the various publishing houses. And that too hurts the overall “talent pool.”

Maybe instead of being so concerned about being able to put certain things in our fiction, the better thing would be to hone our craft to the point that it is edgy regardless of what the reader sees or does not see. Hone our craft to the point that our pages crackle and pop. I have seen few CBA novels where the setting and atmosphere is as much a character as the protagonist. And while I’ve read a lot of good CBA books, I’ve read very few where the words sing and the atmosphere sizzles.

What say you?

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