probably get a lot of disagreement on this one, but usually when people
tell me they have written a crossover book, their manuscripts have too
much faith content for the secular marketplace but not enough for the
Christian market. In short, it is trapped in no-man’s-land, where
nobody wants it.
I believe it is necessary to
choose a side, then write the book in such a way to cause people on the
other side of the fence to cross over and read it too. But how do we do
Maybe the answer comes from a
program I do called “Writing to Reach the Unbeliever.” Writing
Christian fiction, authors need to decide whether they are writing for
the faithful, or writing to reach that person who needs to hear the
message but will not read a “Christian” book.
Trying to do both takes us into
the no-man’s-land again. If Christian readers don’t find faith content
and inspiration early in the book, they are likely to feel it isn’t
what they want to read. But heavy faith content at the front of the
book will surely cause a nonbeliever to put the book down. These two
sides are written 180 degrees differently from each other. That’s why I
say one book can’t do a good job of doing both. The book has to be
aimed at one or the other, then hope to pull from the other side.
Why do nonbelievers fight that
faith message so hard? A dyed-in-the-wool atheist proactively
disbelieves, but there are many more agnostics, people who don’t
believe yet don’t disbelieve either; they just don’t know what they
think about faith. For these people, hitting faith content very often
has the effect of allowing the Holy Spirit to go to work on them, and
the next thing they know they are under conviction. Being under
conviction is not comfortable for believers who understand what is
going on. Think how it is for those who are being made uncomfortable by
what they are reading yet but don’t understand what is making them so
uncomfortable. They put the book down.
The goal in trying to reach the
nonbeliever is never to allow our faith to be in the book. If we do
that we are talking directly to the readers, we are preaching, and they
are sure to put it down. Instead the interaction of the characters has
to deliver the message, some having faith and some not. That is not
threatening to the readers because it isn’t aimed at them, and we have
to trust the readers to draw the parallel to their own lives. They
also withhold any faith content until we are sure they are invested
enough in the story that they won’t put it down when they encounter it.
And finally the amount of faith content needs to be appropriate for the
story. It is unlikely that an author will be able to save someone with
a work of fiction. There are sowers and there are harvesters, and our
job is to sow those seeds, get someone thinking about it and open to
talking with someone.
Some stories will carry a
stronger message than others. How do we know? The message cannot
overpower the story in these type books or the reader becomes aware of
what is going on and again we are in danger of the book’s being put
down. If a stronger message works in the story and doesn’t stick out,
then it may work, otherwise we need to dial it back to where it does
not overpower the story itself.
Can we write a crossover book? I
don’t believe such a thing exists. Can we write a book that will
cross over? I think so. If you don’t hear the difference between those
two statements, however, you may not be ready to get it done.