Writing a Novel

Like so many others who have been sheltered in place for the past year, I’ve had plenty of time on my hands.  I put it into writing.  And writing and writing.  I’ve wanted to revisit an old book and do a “before and after” rendition.  The basic storyline and location remained, but the characters all changed.  I had a blast writing it, too much of a blast.  I’m already wordy, and this manuscript ended up being 194,000 words.  Yikes!!  Hence, a request from the powers-that-be to cut 50,000 words before it entered the editing phase.  Cutting turned out to be as much fun as writing.  Who knew?

I’m showing you the pile of drafts so that you have an idea of the work involved.  It takes a long time to write a book.  At least a year – sometimes two to three years.  I’ve come to the end of a  manuscript and discovered I didn’t like the main characters.  If I don’t like them, why would readers?  Into the shredder it goes. Another example: I wrote an entire novella before I realized I had made the wrong conclusions by swallowing what so many western biblical commentators had to say about an important story about a Middle Eastern woman in Jesus’ lineage.  Time to toss the manuscript and start over.  Another project turned out to be so long, it ended up being two books:  Her Mother’s Hope and Her Daughter’s Dream.

Each project has been a spiritual quest to find God’s perspective about an issue or question in my own life.  I’m learning as I go.  This applies to the craft of writing, too.  I will always be an apprentice.  I can get so close to the story that I don’t see the gaps or meanderings or monologues on issues I hold dear.  That’s where a good agent with a good editor’s eye and an editor at the publishing level are worth their weight in gold.  And I have two terrific ladies working with me:  Danielle Egan-Miller and Kathy Olson.

In truth, by the time I “finish” a manuscript and send it in, I’m relieved to be at the end of it.  In some cases, I’m ready to shred it with my own teeth!  Thankfully, it takes weeks, sometimes months before the editing crew can dive in and put together an editorial letter on how to tighten, strengthen, and/or broaden the work.  By that time, I’ve been away from it long enough to be able to go back in with fresh eyes.  Those editorial letters with questions get my creative juices flowing.  What did you mean by…?  What motivates this character…?   How about expanding on this character…?

But I will tell you – or warn you, if you’re an aspiring writer that every time I start a new project, I hit the same wall.  That blank page or computer screen.  And the doubt creeps in.  What on earth made me think I could be a writer?  There is no way I can write a book.  The whole idea is preposterous, impossible!  And then I remember what Rick said years ago.  “Look at it like the mouse who ate the elephant.  Take it one bite at a time.”

And so, I begin again.  A nibble in the beginning, then one word, one sentence, one paragraph at a time, one page at a time.