At the outset of writing my first book, I decided to take an unconventional approach to drafting the manuscript.
Before the first keystroke was typed, I sold an editor on the book’s topic and was fortunate he agreed to edit my work in progress, rather than as a finished draft. The benefit was learning how to correct my mistakes early on rather than repeating them endlessly through a 40,000-word body of work.
Early on, Brad’s typewritten editor’s notes introduced me to a fictional reader. Brad called him Boris. Occasionally, Brad gives me an account of Boris’s reaction to my work.
Boris is a multi-faceted reader. He’s a Christian-atheist-agnostic – a citizen of the world, skeptical, cynical with a short attention span. He’s intellectual, not easily impressed, and frequently puts my book aside for a scotch rocks. Sometimes, he’ll come back to the book. Other times, he’ll toss it aside.
The point is, Boris is every reader.
By our very nature, our upbringing, our limited life experiences, and the culture in which we live, as writers we have shortcomings, blind sides and a plethora of limitations.
I’m a 46-year-old Christian, who’s lived his entire life in the South with limited exposure to the vastness of the world. The very nature of who I am intuitively causes me to write for people who are well – just like me. Boris helps me break outside the mold.
Today, with many lessons learned, I’d submit most Christian writers’ significant limitation is that they are, in fact, Christian. We see the world through our profound belief for what’s right, good and pure. And that’s all well and good but…
What good is a “Christian” book that appeals to Christians only? People just like us?
Is not the world our mission field?
The best Christian book may just be the one that appeals to a Buddhist, a Hindu or an atheist. Is my love so strong for my own beliefs that it should be shared only with others who think just like me? What purpose would that serve for the greater good?
Boris is every reader. Today, not a single sentence is written without consideration to Boris’s reaction. If my words turn him off and he never picks up the book again, I’ve lost him. The better approach is to push him just far enough to think. Right to the edge of his comfort zone so that he might put the book in his lap for a moment, ponder, and return for more intrigue.
It’s a fine line, and a slippery slope.
Each of us as Christian writers have a certain set of values – a belief system. It’s not our job to impose our beliefs on others.
It is our job to maintain our integrity, speak truth in love and push all readers, both Christians and non-Christians to the edge of their comfort zone. To raise questions in their own mind, and go beyond our work to seek out their own truth.
The Christian life is not designed to make us comfortable. It’s a life of never-ending questions, discomfort and the realization of this truth:
The most dangerous of us all is the one who believes he grasps God‘s truth, gets it fully, and is completely comfortable in his own faith.
Thank goodness Boris came into my life. I’m a better writer because he reads.
For related posts on writing and editing please see: How to Write Copy that Kills: Part 5: Pursue @ http://wp.me/p2bjEC-nX This post includes links to a series of writing-related topics.