We continue Part 2 of Ace's "Taking the Leap."
For me the actual writing process was not that much different than nonfiction. I wrote each chapter, then rewrote it four or five more times to assure the transitional flow between paragraphs was strong. When I finally finished Farraday Road I went back through it another time, repeating the rewriting before sending it to Zondervan. In the editing process the storyline did not change much at all, but what they demanded was for me to focus more on point of view. The editor wanted a single point of view per chapter. This was where the learning curve ready hit me. Once I grasped the process, going back through the book was relatively easy.
Then, just when I thought I was finished, came the painful part. The editors cut 22,000 of my 130,000 words. They had a specific length they needed so I lost some things I really loved in my story. That hurt. They also changed my ending to set up the next book in the series. I hated to see that happen as well. Finally, the title, Innocence of Trial was tossed and Farraday Road was placed on the cover. That was one change I didn’t mind at all.
Then came the hardest part — waiting a year for the book to hit the presses.
When I received the first copy of Farraday Road, I was shocked by my reaction. I am used to having three to four nonfiction books released a year. When the preview copies of these projects are delivered, I usually just set the packages on my desk and open them when I have a break. Yet in this case I can’t begin to describe my reaction. I had dreamed of having a novel since third grade. It had long been one of my goals. So my heart was pounding as I pulled the book out of the envelope. I could not believe I was holding a dream in my hand. I actually stared at it for several minutes as if it was a work of art.
My reaction to the first copy was not the only surprise I had when landing in this new genre. If you are a nonfiction writer, which is what I have done for years, you rarely get emails or letters from those who read your books. I have had books sell more than 300,000 copies that have only generated a dozen fan responses. Yet immediately upon release, scores of those who read Farraday Road took the time to find my website and send me their thoughts. I could not believe how real the characters were to these readers. The dialogue I had with these folks via email literally lit up my days. In a sense, thanks to this novel, I made new friends who cared as deeply about Lije, Janie and the rest of this gang as I did.
Farraday Road has gotten great reviews, even from the usually tough Publisher’s Weekly, and now it's fighting to find a place on bookstore shelves. It is a first step in a new direction and an incredible learning experience. It forced me to grow and no doubt improved the writing I am still doing in nonfiction. What I learned in Farraday Road made the process of creating Swope's Ridge, the sequel, much easier. In fact, rather than fight my characters when they tried to take the story in a new direction, I jumped on and enjoyed the ride.
It took thirty years for an outline to become a published book, but having to wait made the experience one of the most rewarding of my life. The bottom line in this whole adventure — never give up on your dreams. If you keep plugging you may someday hold a dream in your hands. I have and it feels great!
Thanks for writing about your fiction journey for F&F, Ace.
Swope's Ridge releases in October.