Treat your story as a gift
The contract was signed and now we had to complete the final draft. Lion Fiction had kindly provided me with an experienced editor to work with to tighten the manuscript. In addition, I had to lose an additional 20% of it, that being 30,000 words or 60 pages.
It was now 8 years since the first 700-page draft. It’s incredible how many scenes and characters I’ve deleted including entire sub-plots. I hope one day some of those characters may make a re-appearance. In particular, there were a number of angels and demons that I let go. I think of like the casting call for a movie or TV show. Some actors get the nod, many don’t. Those that missed out were just not right for this publication but may well be in a future one.
My experience of working with editors has been exceptionally rewarding. Both Claire, who worked on the original draft, and Jan, on the latest one, took the opportunity to teach me how to write. They re-wrote a small sample of the manuscript, say a few pages, explaining why they made each change. I was then able to incorporate those methods in the rest of the manuscript.
Over the years the manuscript had passed through many “readers” of the various publishing houses who reviewed it, rarely was any comment made about needing to change plot or story elements. Typically all the queries related to the language and writing style. Accordingly, it came as somewhat of a surprise when I received Jan’s first five pages of review notes as they addressed the story, and the story alone.
Some very key elements of the story weren’t good enough.
I must have re-read those five pages and, the key scenes Jan was referencing, a hundred times that day. After swallowing my pride it soon dawned on me I had a lot of work to do. This wasn’t an edit. This was a re-write.
I was back at the beginning having to re-create scenes from scratch. So besides losing 20% of the manuscript I estimated I had to significantly amend 50% of the rest.
The final manuscript was due in Oxford by New Year’s Eve. Three months and counting.
I seriously questioned whether I could do it.
Let go of your story
One morning as I prayed prior to starting work on a particularly challenging scene that required major modification, I sensed this quiet nudge from the Lord: “Angelguard isn’t yours, Ian, it’s mine. I’ve invited you to write it. Do you think I’d abandon you now, this close to publication?”
Peace settled in my heart.
I can do this. Or more to the point He can do it. My executive editor is the Creator of the universe.
As the day passed and the new scene came together, I was able to reflect on the following:
“Our stories are His and He invites us to write them.”
This was incredible encouragement for me as I motored along each day. I was amazed how I was able to rapidly engineer new scenes, perform major surgeries on others plus modify characters with this fresh perspective.
I had set myself a target of mid-December so I could put the novel down for a few days before Christmas. Then give it a final read after Boxing Day before sending it off on 31 December.
It was a great feeling to reach that target.
If you’re struggling with your story may I encourage you to let it go. Thank God for the story by handing it back to Him. He might give back. Maybe He won’t, because He has other stories in mind. As challenging that may be, press into Him and believe He will guide you.
Thanks for sharing this, Ian. I honestly think I’ll print it out and put it in the notebook that has my copy of Autumn’s Grace. When I go back to revise again, your words will be a great reminder of the truth. Hand it back to Him. He may give it back. Maybe He won’t, because He has other stories in mind. Thank you!
Thanks for popping by Sara. I’m convinced for we writers letting go of our stories can be as challenging as any of the other ‘majors’ in our life. Most of all He wants our hearts.
I always appreciate your feedback, Sara. I’m praying God continues to guide your fertile “character & story-filled” imagination.
Hi Ian, I only found out about you through the NSW Writers Newsletter, and what a providence that was! It was so encouraging to read your bio and the way you approach writing -from a Jesus-centred perspective. I’ve been a Christian for nearly thirty years, but only recently have I started writing. My first book is in the hands of publishers in the UK at the moment, and like you, they sent me two pages of revisions and suggestions on how to improve my work, then resubmit.
I write paranormal romance, and even though it’s aimed at a wider audience (rather than be exclusively christian), I’ve tried to incorporate those elements into the story which glorify the Lord.
Reading your blog has also convicted me to be more Christ-centered in my writing and use that as an opportunity to witness for Him. And it’s so true what it says in 1 Samual: ‘Those who honour me, I will honour.’
Hi Tima, don’t you love how God brings people together. Congratulations on completing your manuscript. A fabulous achievement. I wish you well in completing those revisions. Remember, most quality editors know what they’re talking about so do trust their suggestions.
I’ll check out your blog.