Friday, August 11, 2006

The Agony and the Ecstasy...Of Writing

Those of us who classify ourselves as Christian writers have a common characteristic--we have felt God's hand upon us, guiding us to put pen to paper (well, fingers to keyboard, but you get my meaning). The end result may be a non-fiction book, a novel, a magazine article. Whatever the means by which we communicate a message, we want our words to reach out. That's the only way we can fulfil the commission we have received. Thus, our second commonality--we long to be published.

As I've pointed out already, rejection is a way of life for all writers, even those whom most of us consider to be successful. Everyone gets turned down, and for many of us it happens multiple times. Then, one day, you get that call, receive that email, open that letter. A publisher is tapping you, choosing your work, tendering a contract. We all look forward to that day.

But there's another scenario, between rejection and outright acceptance. A publisher reads your proposal, and says, "send the manuscript." You sweat bullets, not daring to hope that this might be your big chance. Eventually, you get the word. Your work isn't ready for publication right now, but you have talent. They want you to revise it. And not just a quick tune-up, hunting down and killing the adjectives, correcting point-of-view shifts, doing all the stuff you've learned from class after class and book after book. They want you to tune it up to the next level. You need to move from the high minor leagues to the big leagues. The product needs to be rock solid. That's the agony. Seeing your work torn to shreds by the red pencil of an editor. Seething when the points that seemed so obvious to you are unclear to the reviewer.

Eventually you recognize that everyone probably goes through this. You talk with some other authors, and find that their "big break" often came after the same kind of hard work you're now about to undertake. You seek out an independent editor, a consultant, someone to help you over that last big hump. And if you get over being peeved because what you thought was a fantastic work has to be redone, if you work hard, pray harder, and keep at it--you may yet get to enjoy the ecstasy that comes when you receive the message, "I need to talk with you about a contract."

Although we all want the easy path of immediate success, I recognize that for most of us, any success we achieve will come at the price of the hard work I've just described. I'm about to set out on that journey myself, and having endured the agony of seeing my manuscript critiqued in brutal frankness, I'm now willing to apply myself, hoping to achieve the ultimate ecstasy of having my novel published. Not for my glory, though. For my Creator, who's the driving force behind my writing in the first place.

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