Friday, March 25, 2005

How I Got Here, Part 21

It took six weeks to rewrite my suspense novel.

Plot-wise, the story was all there. Interesting to go back and look at it after a few years. There were some things to clean up. I had learned more about writing since I’d last worked on it. By the way, this is a very good thing—looking back at past work and seeing how you’d now write it differently. I’ve heard authors say they despair to look back at their former published books and see errors they wouldn’t make now. I say, hey, don’t despair; be glad! Imagine looking back on work from years ago and not seeing anything you’d do differently. That would mean you’d stopped learning. And in this craft, we can never stop.

Anyway, plot-wise, the story was fine. But I had to give the characters new motivations and therefore new inner conflicts, especially my main character and the Christian detective. Some of the other characters needed conflicts against the thought of Christianity. This is what took the time. Now I’m kinda amazed that it only took six weeks. But I did jump in and work very hard.

I’ve mentioned that turning the two Bradleyville books (Road and Sidewalk) into Christian novels really improved them. Gave these stories a raison d’etre that they lacked before. This happened again with my suspense novel—but ten times more. Because of the twists in that story, when it was a secular story about a psychic, it lacked a character arc. It lacked a “So what and who cares?” once the story was finished. With the Christian element added, the story soared. Everything made sense. The motivations, the conflicts. The protagonist gained a character arc. The book had meaning. Again, I could see God’s hand at work. He’d not only given this story back to me, He’d made it so much better.

Now, I needed a new title. And I wanted a Bible verse to tie to the story, placed right up front in the book. I remembered the story of Elisha in II Kings, chapter 6—in which the enemy king of Aram was trying to kill the Israelite king. Time after time they laid traps for the Israelite king, but every time God told Elisha where they were, so the prophet could tell the king, “Don’t go over there; go this different route.” Until the king of Aram got so mad, he called all his men together and basically said (in BV—Brandilyn’s Version), “Which one of y’all is rattin’ me out every time?” And one of the men, fearing they’d all be killed, said, “Hey, King, it ain’t us. It’s that prophet Elisha over there in the Israelite camp. That guy knows what you do in your bedroom.” No, the bedroom part is not my version—it’s really in the Bible.

Eyes of Elisha. Hm. Eyes of Elisha. It had a nice ring to it. Rhythm and alliteration goin’ on. And it said what the book was about—my main character, Chelsea, would have the eyes of Elisha. This satisfied all my requirements in a title. (Some day, if I ever finish this story, we’ll talk about titles.) In the book, I slipped the phrase "eyes of Elisha" into a conversation. Now it was solidified.

If you’ve been keeping track, you’ll know that Cast a Road Before Me and Color the Sidewalk for Me were already rewritten as Christian novels. Now, this suspense—the first novel I’d ever written—became my third Christian novel.

Well. Hm. Time to do what I loved best—Not. Send off a manuscript to an agent and wait. I’d told Jane I was rewriting this story that she never knew I had, based upon my conversation with Editor A. So off went the manuscript.

We’re now up to the summer of 1999. Recap: One Christian novel (Cast a Road) on three editors’ desks. A second Christian novel (Color the Sidewalk) ready to sell to whatever editor was smart enough to buy Cast a Road, the first in that two-part series. (At that time, there were only those two books in the Bradleyville series. I did not plan to write a third.) And a third, totally different, suspense novel now sitting on my agent’s desk. Resurrected from the dead, it was. Nine and a half years after I’d started writing it.

God, this books are Yours. Have Your will in where they sell, when they sell. Open and close the right doors. I will trust You. I will, even if I get a lot of closed doors. But, um, God? It’s been a long, long time. I’d really appreciate a break soon . . .

By now you know the drill. What did I do?

I waited.

Read Part 22


C.J. Darlington said...

I'm very encouraged by the first paragraph of today's blog. I recently have been editing my first novel again and I know I could do better now. I need to be glad for that, like you said. Otherwise I'm not improving.

I'm also drawing encouragement from how long it took you to break into the market. I need to be prepared for "my" story to take many more years as well. It's just the way it works. Plus I need to trust in God's perfect timing. I sometimes think that maybe the person who is going to be most ministered to by something I've written isn't in the place they need to be yet to receive. I had a story that got accepted for publication and 5 YEARS later was published in the magazine. Yep. All in God's timing.

Anonymous said...

You know, He is kind of like that. Dangling the carrot in front of us, we stretch, reach, give up, groan in despair, stretch and reach again, no matter how sore the muscles are.
Bang! He blesses us beyond anything we could ever even imagine to ask for.
Thanks for sharing....good stuff.

Anonymous said...

So glad you "broke" the barrier! Wow. Eileen

Lynette Sowell said...

Brandilyn, again, thank you for sharing. The revision process (or even rewriting) can be so painful. You make it sound hopeful! Of course, looking forward to hearing more.~~Lynette