What Do You Do if Your Novel is Hopeless?

As many of you know, I recently entered a major editing stage (aka. torture by red pen) for my book, A Time to Die, in preparation for publication this fall. Last week, a commenter said, “…it’s really powerful for contracted authors…to share truth like this.” (Hi Clint! *waves*) So I’ve put my other planned posts on hold to continue sharing my own editing process.

Almost two weeks have passed since I received the completed edit and it’s felt like a month. My desk has gone from clean with fresh pens and ideas to cluttered with lost pens and too many ideas.

Overall, it’s going well.

Blog - Editing Process Week 2

I spent all of last week brainstorming remedies for my plot holes. This week I actually dug into the manuscript and it’s so exciting that every night when going to sleep I find myself thinking, “I wish I didn’t have to sleep to survive and have a functioning brain. I want to go write!”

That doesn’t mean it’s come easy.

I’ve had to learn a tough lesson: my novel is hopeless. 

God’s plastered the message all over the place — in my journal, my devotions, my writing, other books I’m reading. Now, when I say hopeless, I mean that the message of hope existed more in my mind than in my novel.

Let me explain.

One of my largest struggles when writing is bridging the gap between what I think is conveyed in my novel and what is actually conveyed in my novel. Hope was one of those messages that I felt, but didn’t write well. I’ve had consistent conflict in feedback from beta readers over the past year. Some reported that the ending of my book was…depressing. (Fear not, there no spoilers.) That was the last thing I wanted in my book. I wanted to leave my readers better off than before they read it. I thought I’d penned a message of victory, of action, of excitement and surprises. The other group of beta readers said they loved the ending and they preferred it the way it was. So I told myself that, “Some people just aren’t going to like it. That’s how this writing thing goes.” And I didn’t change anything…

Until now.

My editor not only addressed the issue of hope, but she delved into the whys behind its importance.

I love reading…a sweeping epic with characters we love facing peril, characters who have to overcome great odds and succeed in a quest that will change the world. Powerful, exciting, invigorating! But the greatest power in these kinds of stories, especially when they’re written from a Christian world view, is that they give us a sense of hope, of promised victory. A sense that some day, even if not today, God’s promises will come true, every tear will be wiped away, and we will live a life steeped in His presence and love. When we reach the end of these kinds of stories, the overwhelming sense is that of VICTORY. Or, in the first book of a trilogy, the strong promise of a one-day victory.         .                                                       Karen Ball

 

This statement has utterly revolutionized the mindset behind my character’s arc. I finally sucked it up and decided a major re-write was in order. As my brainstorming tackled the topic of hope, my thrill grew and grew. With it came my realization of how hopeless my novel has been all this time. The initial news felt a bit like a knife to the heart (that phrase is cliche for a reason…so accurate), but I now feel as if I’ve been given a second chance to make this novel what it needs to be. How often does an author get the chance to rewind what she didn’t realize was broken?

Blog - The Importance of Hope

If I could, I’d erase what I now think of as the “depressing version” of my book from the minds of every beta reader and then hand them the new version. But I can’t. It’s a sacrifice that ultimately led to much-needed change. So thank you, beta readers.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.          (2 Thes. 2:16-17)

 

As I tackle this topic, I can’t help but wonder if other authors have ever had this problem. Do you ever find yourself wondering what you’ve written versus what you’ve thought you’ve written? How important is the theme of hope and victory in your story?

 

Images to Pin:  Pinterest - The Importance of Hope  Blog - Editing Process Week 2

 

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About Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She never received her Hogwarts letter, but rest assured she’s no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. She writes about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged her to pursue shalom, which is now her favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she and her knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.
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12 Comments

  1. Hi Nadine!

    Awesome. That’s all I have to say. Awesome Awesome Awesome.

  2. This sounds similar to what Veronica Roth’s editor told her about Divergent–that she hadn’t focused on the good of the faction Beatrice chose and given the reader a reason to want to join it as well. Her fixes became some of the best scenes in the book, and I can’t wait to see them in the movie.
    Very much looking forward to how yours comes together!!

    • That’s awesome! (And very encouraging.) I had no idea Veronica Roth went through something so similar. I’m looking forward to the movie, too. Thank you for your comment, Jenni!

  3. I’ve learned the hard way that the written word is heard differently in something as simple as a text (that was supposed to be kind yet brief but was taken as cold and abrupt). I think as authors we must welcome the input of the editors and not dread it, because they can only serve to make it better and show us where we assumed upon the reader. Sounds like you are going to love your story more than ever once you get through this process. Victory!

  4. That has often happened with me. That is the reason we all need beta readers and editors. We are just too close to the story! The cool thing is that God guides us through the process to the VERY book through which He will channel His message to the world. THAT is exciting!

    btw, I’m with you in your sentiment: “I wish I didn’t have to sleep to survive and have a functioning brain. I want to go write!”

  5. I’ll keep all this in mind when I get my manuscript back from you 😉 Thanks for being my editor! (Your photos are amazing … you’re SOOO organized.)

    • You’re welcome! It’s my pleasure! 🙂

      And as for being organized, as much as I’d love for you (and everyone else) to think that’s just how I am all the time, it really only applies to that tiny bit of desk space. The rest of my writing room (and house in general) looks a bit like a paper scrap store. 😉

  6. Loved this article! That is what I am struggling with right now. I know the emotion and tone I want for this last book, but I’m not sure if I am conveying it (in fact, I know I’m not in some scenes and will definitely need to go back and work on them some more). I can’t wait for the rewrites, then the beta readers, then the editor. Each step makes the story better 🙂

    • Yes they do!

      One of the hardest parts for me is understanding that I can go back and enter things in later — like hope. I often times try too hard to make everything come out well-rounded and developed the first time I write it. My brain’s not made for that.

      I’m looking forward to reading Heir of Hope and keeping your writing/editing process in my prayers!

I love hearing from you!