I am sure that God Who began the good work in you will keep on working in you until the day Jesus Christ comes again. – Philippians 1:6 (NLV)
I’ve written and rewritten the first few chapters of my current work-in-progress so many times, I’ve lost count. I do save what I’ve deleted from the working manuscript, just in case there’s something I want to put back in the story. There are probably as many words in the deleted files that are in the “keep” files.
When I wrote the blurb for Ghost Mountain, the second book in the PennWoods Mystery series, I had a clear idea of what the plot would be. However, as I wrote, the story took on a life and direction of its own, and, seven chapters into it, I have yet to introduce the antagonist (the bad guy) and get to the events mentioned in the description.
Since I published the blurb in the back of the first book and readers are expecting that storyline, I can’t change it. But tell that to this stubborn story. So it’s back to revising the first chapters so I can weave in the villain and set up the main conflict of the story, which I already described.
The other problem I’m dealing with is my own perfectionism. When writing the first draft, I’m supposed to let it flow and lock up the editor in me. But she wiggles out and takes charge, interrupting the flow of the action and calling attention to things that are supposed to be addressed in the revision phase. She wants it to be perfect now and doesn’t want to wait. I don’t know why I don’t bind her with imaginary duct tape, lock her up in one of the closets of my mind, and throw away the key.
But I want this book to be better than the last one—writing-wise and story-wise. I want to grow as a fiction writer and become a better writer with each novel I produce. Hence the editor trumps the muse.
Nothing wrong with improving yourself, right?
But I’m splitting the proverbial hair, and my focus on perfectionism only stymies me.
I need to follow the advice of countless published novelists: write first, revise next, polish last. I need to let the muse dance. It’s her time to shine.
This manuscript and me have a lot in common—we’re both works in progress.
But often I’m like my stubborn manuscript—wanting to go my own way instead of following my Creator’s planned storyline for me. My manuscript, however, doesn’t give me permission to change it. I just take charge and do what I know is best. God, however, waits for us, His manuscripts, to give Him permission before He begins to revise.
Another way I liken my growth as a Christian to writing is my tendency to perfectionism. I want to be perfect now. I don’t want to have to go through the things that will transform me into the masterpiece my Creator has planned.
E.B White, the author of the children’s classic Charlotte’s Web and a much-acclaimed stylebook on writing, once said, “The best writing is rewriting.”
God is the Master Wordsmith.
He’s the One who’s writing and revising me, one chapter at a time.
When I become impatient with myself, remind me, Father, that I’m still a work-in-progress. Amen.
Ghost Mountain, Book 2 in the Pennwoods Mystery series, will be released this fall.