Tactical Tuesday: Advice for Self Editing

I’m not a fan of the word edgy when it refers to Christian fiction.

Why does the term bother me?

Edgy is a subjective word. What is edgy for some writers is over the edge for some. I find that for some authors edgy means they should push the limit. Well, yes and no. How far can a writer push the limits before she falls off the ledge into what would, under no circumstances, be considered material in a Christian market?

That is a question I pondered as I worked on a workshop I taught last summer. Today, I thought I’d provide you with the two lists that explains what edgy fiction does and does not contain.

Let’s start with the negative first. What is it that a Christian should preclude from her manuscript, even if she is working toward an edgy feel:

An edgy Christian novel should not include:
  1. Gratuitous anything;
  2. Scenes and actions that overshadow the story’s message;
  3. Offensive words or phrases, even substitute words that leave the real words or act in the minds of the reader.
  4. Offensive language toward any group, people, or individual (a disclaimer on this one is a bigoted villain. However, this villain should clearly be defined as a villain and very much in opposition of the truth); and
  5. A story that provides incorrect theology.

On the other hand, in order to make a novel edgy, an author may want to try to write:
  1. Thought-provoking stories that do not leave readers’ minds in the gutter;
  2. Dialogue and action loaded with conflict that does not leave readers’ minds in the gutter;
  3. A plot line that shows the state of fallen men and women but does not leave readers’ minds in the gutter.
  4. A story that contradicts the world’s theology and pulls readers’ minds from the gutter.

Think about it. How can an author change the world if her book uses the world’s methods to tell her story? 

Happy editing.


  1. I hear lots of writers say they write "edgy", and I have wondered what that actually meant. Thanks.

  2. Can someone define their work as 'edgy', if they're trying to write a CROSSOVER story perhaps? ~Susie

  3. Good post! I struggled with this in my writing... i think you sum it up well by saying we are to "pull our reader from the gutter", not invite him/her to live there.

  4. Susie: As a Christian in either marketplace, I believe that the standard is the same. A crossover is simply a book that resonates with the populace in both the CBA and ABA. I spoke with author Debbie Macomber recently, and her comment to me was basically that she happened to find a "home" in the secular market. Yet, she writes warm, entertaining, clean books. Her books are bought by Christian and non-Christians, and Hallmark has even made some of her novels into movies. And she told me that Hallmark's first-ever series is based upon one of her series. Now, that's cross-over...

  5. Thank you for this. I've heard the word edgy bantered around in the Christian writer's circles, but it always seemed a little on the foggy gray side. Undefined, even. This helps immensely. I like how you reiterated that it should not leave nor lead reader's minds to/in the gutter.

  6. My take on "gratuitous" is that it means doing something for the sake of "doing something" again and again to shock your audience. Gratuitous is a poor substitute for "good story and strong characters". Having said that, how can anyone represent the honesty and power of Grace, save in the light of honest representations of sin. If the Grace of God is what you want to write about, sanitizing sin will only soften the true efficacy of the application of that Grace. The end result is to weaken the representations of the message. That is a tremendous loss for the sake of a few "Tender Tessies" who would rather hide behind their church walls than shine their light in a dark place.