"To me the story lacks drama. I think it needs more conflict, more suspense, more changes in pace and more growth in Bezalel himself."
These were the words I read about a quarter of the way through a one-page document titled "Critique of Destiny's Hands" on January 3, 2012. They were the considered opinion of a wise and astute writer friend whom I had contacted, just before Christmas, to give me feedback on my book-length story.
My first reaction on reading her whole critique was panic. What have I done? I asked myself, as I thought of my signature, newly dry on the publishing contract I had already signed, and the people at the publishing house, eager to get on with the job. My friend's words conjured up a hefty rewrite that could take weeks, maybe months to complete. Could I even make this story work?
There was another problem. Hubby and I were one week away from a much anticipated vacation to Hawaii. So I wouldn't be able to tackle this for at least three weeks as I wasn't about to wreck our dream holiday with writing work.
You know the command, "Pray without ceasing"? Right about then, that's what I began to do.
Also about then, I kept bumping into advertisements of James Scott Bell's Elements of Fiction Writing - Conflict and Suspense. Ping! Wasn't that the very thing my critiquer said my story lacked? And so the night before leaving on our trip, I downloaded it onto my Kindle, along with his Revision and Self-Editing. I might not be able to work on my story, but at least I could read about how to salvage it.
In hindsight the timing couldn't have been better. The break gave me distance and an objectivity that I needed. I started playing with the ideas my friend had thrown out and getting new ones—all executed, in my imagination, with the techniques and finesse that JSB explained and demonstrated so well. By the time I returned from our warm January break, I was eager to get on with the job.
Of course, working out those things in real time was another matter entirely. It took six gruelling weeks of concentrated effort with many ups and downs and sleepless nights before I emailed my publisher the revised document, hoping that I had hit the mark. The words of my editor at Word Alive Press: "...let me tell you how much I enjoyed your manuscript. I found this to be utterly captivating and well-written. Well done!" brought a huge sigh of relief.
Looking back on this whole experience, I'm quite sure of one thing: the way this happened was no accident. For if I had known the amount of work still needed on the book, I would not have contracted to publish it, and it would not be around today.
All that to say, when you find yourself walking on water, push aside the panic with prayer. Get help. Work really hard. Keep looking at Jesus' face instead of the waves. And one of these days you'll be scrambling back into the boat with a stronger faith, and maybe you'll be a better writer too.
- Violet Nesdoly
Need a break from the 21st century rat-race? Travel to a different time and place via Destiny's Hands, a new novel recently released by Word Alive Press.
Experience Egyptian slavery, the exodus, crossing the Red Sea. Meet Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Hur, and Bezalel. Eat quail and manna. Drink water from rocks. Live the temptations and questions of wilderness wandering.
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