A. L. Buehrer What I Write and Why

Friday, February 28, 2020

The #1 Mistake Christian Authors Make

Set aside your author identity and think about your reading life for a minute. I have a question for you. How many times have you been frustrated, unsatisfied, or downright bored by Christian fiction?

Let me say something right now: Christians do not have an inherent disability when it comes to creative pursuits. There isn’t something wrong with us spiritually that should hinder our ability to create, neither is there something wrong with our worldview that makes it destroy art whenever it is at its foundation. In fact, God gave Christian artists the opportunity to create things of eternal beauty and value. So, why is it that so much Christian fiction is glaringly sub-par?

I see one mistake at the root of the problem. One. That should be good news. The solution is a simple shift in mindset and a re-evaluation of your mission. So, here’s what I think it is. It might sound a little off at first, but hear me out.

You’re over-spiritualizing your work.

I’ll be the first to acknowledge that I definitely view my art as a mission and a ministry. I try to involve God in everything I do, and I want what I do to make an eternal difference. But what am I doing exactly? I’m writing stories. Making things up. Playing with imaginary friends and dreaming up imaginary worlds for them to interact with. When it’s time to write, it’s time to throw my agenda out the window, forget who’s going to read it and how it might change their lives, and focus on some serious goofing off.

As a Christian fiction writer, you can be a lot of things. You may be a healer, a teacher, a prophet, or a warrior poet. But first and foremost, there’s one thing you’ve got to be to write great fiction. Are you ready? This is going to be hard to swallow.

You need to be an entertainer.

That sounds really profane. To Christian ears “entertainment” can have negative connotations. This culture worships entertainment. Entertainment is an idol, a drug, a distraction. It leads us away from what’s important in the pursuit of mindless or even godless pleasure. Here’s one of the lies that builds the foundation of Christian fiction’s problem.

Entertainment is not always evil. It can actually be good. It would be, more often, if Christian authors could realize this. Entertainment is a powerful and beautiful medium for truth. Through entertainment, truth can penetrate and blossom in ways it never could in a cold dry textbook. Entertainment captures the reader’s imagination and immerses them in a new world. If you’re a Christian, and a writer, that world will naturally and organically be permeated and undergirded by the ultimate truth and love of God. 

I have a practical step for you, if you think you could improve your writing with this kind of mindset-shift. Think about how you decide to write a story. What’s your process? Do you sit down to plot and say to yourself, “I’m going to write a story about (insert moral, value, or message)?” Please don’t do that! Do everyone a favor. Don’t start with your moral or theme. Start with your character, your setting, your situation, maybe even just your atmosphere. Don’t even think about what you want to teach your audience until you’re halfway into the story. I’m serious.

Christian authors, by and large, need to lighten up and allow God to work through them in his own good time, in his own way. There’s a very good chance, if you put your story first, the message is going to change a few times. That’s not a bad thing. That’s proof that your story is alive, not just a machine that does one thing stiffly and mechanically. A person picking up a novel, no matter how spiritual their interest in it is, really hopes it’s going to entertain them. They want to enjoy watching your characters, explore a fascinating setting, freak out over your plot-twists—they might even want to laugh now and then.

If this doesn’t really sound like what you want to do with your writing, I have some advice for you: don’t write fiction. You could write sermons, devotionals, bible-studies, Christian lifestyle blog-posts…but if you don’t think entertainment is a worthy occupation, you shouldn’t be writing fiction. Fiction can be instructive, thought-provoking, and awareness-raising, but it won’t get a snowball’s chance if it isn’t entertaining.

So, Christian fiction-writers, and Christians who want to be fiction-writers, dive in and write a fun story, or a thrilling story, or a humorous story, or a story that stirs emotions and makes you fall in love with your own characters. Trust God to write a deep meaningful story that springs from your love for him. He will. 

Friday, February 21, 2020

The Great Audience Question

Over the weekend I read a book by another Christian dystopian author named Angela R.Watts. The book is called The Divided Nation and is the first of a series called The Infidel Books. I’d been watching this book for a while as it made its way around Goodreads, reading review, visiting the author’s blog and website and learning about her mission. All authors should have a mission. There needs to be something bigger under the stories you tell that you want to reach the world with. Watts has a well-defined mission, and that’s what attracted me to her book. 

Having a mission can help you overcome what might be the biggest hurdle of being a writer. That’s the question of who you’re speaking to—The Great Audience Question.

A lot of times, authors go in thinking finding an audience is simple. I did this, for sure. There’s a market for dystopia, right? Christian dystopia is a growing thing, isn’t it? What young Christian reader isn’t tired of the same-old same-old in Christian fiction. People will flock to my work.

Yeah. No. Finding your audience is complicated, and it’s complicated for everyone. There are way too many kinds of people in the world who are interested in way too many kinds of books for way too many different reasons. I discovered, pretty quickly that—though Christian dystopia is a growing thing, it’s still pretty fringe among readers. You get out on the street and start talking to Christian readers, and half of them (mostly the older half) don’t even know what dystopia is. 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been standing in a Church lobby with a table of books and the conversation goes: “So, you write science-fiction, huh?”

“Yeah, kinda.”

*chuckles, walks away*

Slightly discouraging.

Then there’s the younger set. Dystopia is kind of a YA genre anyway. But is Dronefall really YA? Guys, I actually still don’t know for certain. In a lot of ways, it breaks too many norms. It certainly doesn’t involve much in the way of coming-of-age, romance, or any of the more recognizable “teen issues” most YA is expected to include. How off the beaten track is too far?

I started this post out by mentioning Angela R. Watts’ Divided Nation on purpose, because I believe it is another case of a slight conflict between what audiences might expect and what they get. If you’ve heard anything about The Infidel Books, you probably know the series is described as “gritty.” It includes some mild swearing and a lot of content a good percentage of the Christian readership prefers not to deal with in fiction. Because of this, the author seems to be trying to market the books as secular fiction, not intended for a Christian audience.

There’s a problem with this, though. Divided Nation is definitely Christian. I can’t imagine a non-Christian reading through it comfortably. So, we have another case where a book seems to be sitting in an uncomfortable place between potential audiences. So, who is the book for?

This will likely be a problem for any artist who steps outside of what’s expected and does something unique. The moment you step outside of expectations, you take a risk. You have to ask yourself “is this risk really worth taking? Do I really love this elements enough to possibly throw my readers for a loop by including them?” For me, the answer is yes. I love my genre and the way I’ve decided to subvert expectations with my plot and characters. I think, if people will give my work a chance, they might find they enjoy it too.

I think that’s how you have to approach audience expectations. Figure out what they are. Evaluate them. Decide what you can get away with and then go forward in faith. In the end, if you have a mission, it’s your call to follow it. Even if no one comes with you.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Dronefall Halftime Tour Wrap-Up

This post is a bit late but there you have it: my first-ever attempt at running a blog-tour for my books. Once again, many thanks to the wonderful bloggers who volunteered to collaborate with me for this event. If you missed it, here's the roundup:

I also want to take the opportunity to thank my readers and friends and followers who have supported me up until this point in the adventure of writing and publishing the Dronefall Series. I hope you had some fun learning a bit more about me, and about Dronefall and the story behind it. 

I’m really excited to move on to the second half of the series. I promise, if you’ve gotten this far, it only gets better. All those crazy clues I’ve been scattering all over the first three books are about to start exploding, and all those odd little hints at subplots are going to start expanding and weaving into the main narrative. Your patience will be rewarded.

I thought now would be a good time to give you some updates on my progress on book four, Nightstare. 

My current word-count for Nightstare is 93,118. (My anticipated final word-count is ~120,000, making it the longest Dronefall book yet, and bypassing End of the Saros as the second-longest novel I’ve ever written.

I’m a couple of pages into chapter nineteen, which is tentatively titled “Clearing the Sky.” Nightstare will ultimately be twenty-two chapters long, if I don’t cut or add anything too drastic.

After finishing the first draft, I’ve got a few edits I know I have to make before going on to my alpha and beta readers. I’ll be seeking a small army of beta readers when the time comes, so stay tuned. I might call on you. 

Oh, and two more quick announcements: I have an Instagram now. @albuehrerauthor. And the Dronefall series is now on Kindle Unlimited! You’re welcome. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Introducing...The Dronefall Halftime Tour!

This is going to be my first-ever blog tour for anything I’ve written. I have to say, organization, particularly when it involves other people, is definitely not my strong point. (Note that this opening post is a couple of days late.) Neither is self-promotion. I think a lot of authors can relate.

I decided that 2020 was going to be different, and I was going to go ahead and attempt some promotional activity, weather it actually went that well or not. So, here’s my first try. I’m putting on a blog tour celebrating the release of book three of six in the Dronefall series.

Many thanks to the amazing bloggers that volunteered and put up with my panic-inducingly last-minute scrambling to get this thing scheduled. Your time and energy are greatly appreciated. A round of applause, please.

Dronefall has been a major endeavor so far. I think about it every day, and there have been loads of unforeseen roadblocks and hurdles. But check it out, I’m three books in—halfway through. And I’ve overall had a lot more fun than frustration, I think. 

So, my awesome readers, or would-be readers, may I introduce The Dronefall Halftime Tour. Seven days of spotlights, interviews and reviews from bloggers you may or may not know, but soon will. Here’s the all-star lineup: 

Feb 3rd: Nicki Chapelway at Myths, Magic, and Madness (spotlight)
Feb 4th: SHINE at hauntingghosttown (interview)
Feb 5th: Bree Dawn at The Long Voyage (interview)
Feb 7th: Oceane McAllister at Oceane's Writing Rambles (interview)
Feb 8th: Elizabeth at Elizabeth's Corner (interview)
Feb 9th: Nicole Dust at Legend of a Writer (interview)

Be sure to stop by all these blogs and give them a read. They do good work.

And, should the urge strike you, skip over to Amazon and pick up any of the three Dronefall books. They’re currently just 99c each. You’re welcome.