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.
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…
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?
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?
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