Bonnie S. Calhoun
the Founder and Publisher of Christian Fiction Online
Magazine . She is also the Owner and Director of the Christian
Fiction Blog Alliance which is the parent organization for
Writing in Tandem
I had moments as I wrote my new novel, The Guest Book, that I wanted to quit.
Like when my first reader (an editor I hired to do a preliminary read-through) said I had to completely restructure the book. And the manuscript was due in a month. I had to painfully remove 40,000 words . . . and write them all back in a very short amount of time.
Like when my macro letter came back and said that in that rapid restructuring I’d made some things totally unclear. My attempt to skillfully incorporate flashbacks hadn’t been so clever.
Like when the copyedits came back and I realized that, in spite of my best efforts, some of those things still weren’t clear. And the characters needed work. And the timeline was disjointed. Seems I had my characters spending ten days at the beach when they were supposed to be there only a week.
Like when I waded through yet another reading, scanning words on the page that were so familiar to me I could no longer see them. My eyes kept telling my brain, “No need to actually record this. You’ve seen it before.” I knew I was missing stuff and I grew frustrated and just plain tired of seeing this manuscript, of working with these characters.
Before I was an author I thought that the publishing contract would mean the end of all my worries and doubts, that an offer from a bona fide publisher would make me feel like a bona fide writer. But the truth is I still have misgivings and doubts and moments of uncertainty. Even as my third novel is launched, I waver and wonder. Will a novel ever come easily? Will I ever stop feeling like a fraud? Will I ever embrace and own this calling of mine with confidence?
The truth is I hope I always stay in this place. Because in this place I’m teachable. I’m open. I’m willing to make changes and consider that my way is not best. I’ve seen the collaborative efforts of working with a team of editors who each contribute a piece of the puzzle. Without each piece, the picture would not completely emerge as it was intended.
According to the Free Online Dictionary, the word tandem means “an arrangement of two or more persons or objects placed one behind the other.” That’s what the experience of writing The Guest Book was all about. I was able to write because I knew that an arrangement of other people was right behind me, supporting me, reaching for the manuscript when I passed it off. I wasn’t going it alone.
I look at The Guest Book and I see a group effort. I don’t think, “Look what I did.” Rather, I think, “Look what we did.” And I’m glad that instead of quitting I listened to those who could help me finish well.
Marybeth Whalen is the author of The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book. She blogs at www.marybethwhalen.com and www.southernbelleview.com and runs the site www.shereads.org, a site devoted to spotlighting the best in women’s fiction. She is the wife of Curt and mom of six children. The Whalen family lives in North Carolina.