Blog Flashback: Staying the Course

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This post originally appeared on my site on 1/25/13. With contest results coming out this month, it felt like a good time to revisit the post I wrote after my last contest loss. It’s interesting to note that the novel I’m talking about below is releasing next week! Clearly, as writers, we need to take critiques as useful input, but they’re not always the final arbiters of talent or marketability.

Photo by rachaelvoorhees via Flickr.
Photo by rachaelvoorhees via Flickr.

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

–Philippians 3:14

I’ll admit it: I’m competitive. I like to win.

So when I woke up this morning to an email from a contest coordinator that essentially said, “Thank you for playing, but you didn’t make it into the finals,” I felt a twinge of disappointment. Then I opened my score sheets.

Two judges loved it. One judge said nice things about my writing but didn’t think my main character was likeable. And one judge hated it, my writing, the characters, and thought there was no place for it in the inspirational market. (I’m still not clear whether the tipping point was the fact my heroine was drinking a glass of wine in a pub or wearing bright red Jimmy Choo pumps.)

I could let those less than enthusiastic critiques shake my confidence for the novel. I could start second guessing whether my writing is good enough to be published, especially considering my contemporary style is much different than my fantasy voice, which has so far been well-received. I could begin wondering if maybe contemporary romance is even a genre I’m meant to write, at least for the inspirational market.

But that would be a diversion from what I believe I’ve been called to do. While my fantasy books are much more conventionally Christian, my contemporaries are aimed to a different audience. Women who can’t relate to heroines with unshakable faith. Those who prefer Paris, France to Paris, Texas. Those who struggle to live a spirit-filled life in work environments, heck, in a world where being a Christian is seen as intellectual suicide, a sign of an untrustworthy mind, or just plain strange.

Yes, my characters are moral but not very Christian at the opening of the book. Just as Paul was a persecutor of Christians before his conversion. God’s work through him is all the more amazing because of where he started. I’ve been called to show what God can do through the least spiritual– maybe just like you and me– rather than the most. And if I let criticism divert me from my path, make me water down my message to please a subsection of readers that probably wouldn’t like the story no matter what I did, I’m not being faithful to that call.

So, I will take the helpful advice those judges gave me and use it to make my writing better. I’m grateful for the time they took to score my entry honestly, and for the sneak peek of the kind of response that I’ll get if and when it’s published. As for the rest, I will write it off as opinion and use it as a reminder that I write the stories I’ve been given for a reason, not for the acclaim of man, but for the glory of God.

I will stay the course.

Though I’ll admit, I may have pulled out my favorite red patent leather stiletto pumps today. Because if you’re going to face criticism, you might as well do it while wearing great shoes.

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  1. Jennifer Major says:

    “Because if you’re going to face criticism, you might as well do it while wearing great shoes.”

    Yet another reason I love you!!

    I took alot away from this post, and I’m going to bookmark it. I also am QUITE encouraged that the results you got were for a book that is coming out next week, and that I truly LOVED.

    • Carla says:

      LOL. Great shoes make everything better, right? I’m glad you found it encouraging, and I’m so glad you loved the book! It goes to show you that while opinions may be valid, they aren’t necessarily universal. Some things are just really subjective.

  2. Liz Galvano Harshbarger says:

    Way to go, my friend. This is the kind of post that keeps me going and keeps me writing. Thank you

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