Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Writing (and marketing) Pilot Point, and the D-Word

I’ve mentioned here before that I’ve been rewriting my novel Pilot Point. And now it is pretty much in final draft form.

As I prepare it for potential publishers, agents, and customers, I’m having to face an issue many Christian writers of fiction face sooner or later: the use of profanity.

This is not an easy issue for me as there are strong Christian themes in my novel I think many Christian book readers would appreciate. At the same time, key characters in my novel are rather salty cowboys. And I find deleting their natural mild profanity altogether probably does not work well.

One example of that. Bowie Smith solemnly proclaims an ex-wife of his as “a d--n good woman.” In context, “a dang good woman” or “a good woman” just does not work as well to this writer’s ear.

So I can take a diminished, maybe slightly diminished, but still what I would consider a somewhat neutered novel into both the Christian and secular markets. Or I can keep good writing first and stick to the secular market. (Profanity sharply reduces access to Christian bookstores, to say the least.) At least that is how I see this choice at this time.

I now think I should stick to the secular market because of this issue. I do not take that decision lightly as I have good (if mixed) memories of taking my past book into Christian bookstores. But I would rather sell fewer books for a work I can be proud of without reservation, rather than with a book I weakened to accommodate others.

Two caveats. I do think profanity is overused in our culture. And I am keeping it to a minimum in Pilot Point. I especially think the f-word is so overused, it has become passé. I still smile/cringe at pop artists who think they are so avant-garde when they let the f-words fly.

More importantly, this should not be taken as a knock on those Christian stores and customers who want no profanity at all in their books. I understand and respect them as well as good readers of this blog who may disagree with me on this. And I’ve gladly written for that market before and may do so again.

But I’m reluctantly coming to the conclusion that Pilot Point will not fit into that market. I am going to sleep and pray on this issue, though.


RECCHIP said...


I think you are on the right path. Cowboys swear, so do sailors, and butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers.

I think that, if you avoid the "f-word" then I would not see profanity, if you use the Lord's name in vain, that's a different story.

I have heard MANY Christians say damn as in damn yankee!! or I don't give a damn. Darn would be OK. But please don't do the "Christian Swear words" of "jeese" or "gosh" or "gosh darn". Those are trite. I personally don't see any book store having a problem with a character saying "she is a damn (or darn) good wife." As long as G-d does not preeceed the "damn or darn!!"

I wish you luck on your book and hope you sell a million copies (and tithe the proceeds to your parish of course!!!).

Chip in Virginia

Mark said...

Thanks for the encouragement.

Yeah, "Christian swear words" would not have worked for this novel.

But the d-word does make the Christian bookstore market problematic at best, which I understand.