This morning I began to read my printed manuscript aloud. I always read my blog posts aloud; it really helps to clarify my point and is a final check for typos, hidden spelling mistakes and homonyms. One thing I did not expect was to realise I wanted to re-write the entire first and second chapters.

A few days ago, I reworked the final chapter (it’s really an epilogue) and I removed a few sentences about the locks on bridges in Paris. Now for the record, I hate those damn locks and everything they stand for. And no, they don’t stand for love. They stand for the ugly side of mass tourism, and the unthinking uptake of damaging fads by millions of people who don’t stop long enough to think about the ramifications of their actions. (**Steps down from soap-box)

Anyway…there is a whole chapter that deals with the locks and my…er, my character’s opinions of said locks. I’ve been thinking I should remove it. I don’t want to offend potential readers. What is the line we draw in fiction? By leaving that section out I’m not adding to the mess, but I am missing an opportunity to educate people. Is it even my job to educate people? As a fiction writer, I don’t think it is. At least it’s not something for which I want to aim. I want to entertain people, to tell beautiful stories that make people feel… And I want to sell books!

Which brings me to this morning’s epiphany. I am re-writing the entire first 16 pages because while I love the storyline, I have realised that the subject matter may cause offence to some people and may upset others. It’s not about trigger warnings and call-out culture. My goal as a writer is to entertain people, not push an agenda. So while my personal opinions will always inform my subject matter, I feel the re-written passages will allow my work to be read by a wider audience, aka sell more books.

Perhaps I am ‘selling out’?

It’s funny, no one ever accuses a dentist of selling out, but we also don’t expect our dentists to give detailed opinions on society’s more controversial issues while fixing our teeth.

I would never write something that is not aligned with my values, but I think it serves us to look at our goals regularly. I am unashamedly working on my career as a fiction writer and that usually involves writing stories that people enjoy reading. This blog is for the deeper issues and I am more than happy to discuss any topic a reader would care to. I feel one of the major stumbling blocks to effective communication is that we have been dissuaded from having the big discussions. So few people know how to disagree without the conversation becoming heated especially on social media. This is a skill we all have to cultivate.


A bit later on…

And then I listen to the latest episode of one of my new fave podcasts and it’s called How to Show Up when the World is on Fire.



  1. Janet Mary Cobb

    Perhaps you might consider not that you are selling out but that what you have to say needs the appropriate venue and audience. We don’t need to say everything we believe/think/feel all the time. Just a thought.

    1. Christine Betts

      I totally agree Janet. The original chapters saw one of the characters in wartime Paris fighting for women’s rights to education and having a termination. There were historical elements like mentioning the last woman guillotined in France. She was executed for performing terminations. It’s a very politically charged storyline that then sort of goes no where later in the book. Controversy aside, it is unresolved storytelling, as Gertrude Stein would have said.

  2. melcat76

    I felt great sadness when I read this post. The need for resolving the threads of the story aside, I understand what you’re saying about needing an audience but I still think that any opinion that is reasoned and delivered respectfully to those who may disagree is one I can honour, even if I don’t agree myself. You, living the examined life you do, will have good reasons for where you’ve landed on any particular issue, including those that are most emotionally charged. Can you weave that into your story? If there are particular reasons that you believe would ultimately justify an action of a person, or even explain that action more fully, why not make those more explicit for the character? I’m sad because it seems that you are going further than just to iron out needless provocation, but actually censoring your narrative. That’s an awful thought. I certainly (think I) understand why you’d be compelled to do so, and you have explained much in your post, I guess I just ultimately disagree with the idea that art is not there to educate. No, to educate is not the author’s ‘job’ as such, but consider: even if to influence is not the stated aim of the art, it’s the result anyway! Wasn’t it (misguided) art that lead to the so-called love locks phenomenon in the first place? Entertaining art that also truly educates and/or facilitates empathy is really valuable. I’m aware of commercial considerations, but I urge you not to take too many things out because others may disagree. If you do, you’ll never know the audience your art may find if it more fully reflects your heart. Just my two cents. Whatever you do, I support you fully 🙂

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