You’ve probably seen me mention “my edits” several times on Facebook and in prayer requests recently. Editing is as much a part of an author’s life as the words themselves. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve changed the Miriam manuscript at this point, and there are at least two more “official” edits left before it goes to final printing.
As an author, I could get all bent out of shape about changing my precious words, or I can listen to the wisdom of experienced editors and the gentle whisper of God’s Holy Spirit as I make changes. Guess which one I try to choose—notice I said try to choose. Sometimes I get a little snarky about changes, but overall, I try to remember that it’s the Lord who has given me this opportunity to write, and it’s He whose message needs to be written, not mine.
The First Major Change to Miriam
Stories must open by powerfully depicting the main character’s normal life so that when the “inciting incident” happens, the reader understands what has been lost. In Miriam‘s story, the “inciting incident” (the thing that rocks Miriam’s world) is when Moses returns with news of El Shaddai’s new name—Yahweh—and displaces her as Israel’s prophetess. My job then, in the first few chapters, was to clearly define what Miriam’s “normal” life was like and how she related to El Shaddai before Moses returned.
When the first edit came back from my senior editor, Shannon, in mid-August, she wasn’t feeling Miriam’s loss when Moses came back. Without a significant “pow!” with that inciting incident, the whole book lags. When Miriam loses touch with El Shaddai and her standing with the people, we should feel more of a jolt. Here’s how she described what was missing:
It would be like sight or scent leaving her.
Shannon wanted me to show through Miriam’s daily life how she was in constant conversation with El Shaddai—so much so that when His presence changed in its manifestation (dreams stopped and visions became abbreviated), she felt as if a part of herself was missing.
Simple, right? Seems elementary, doesn’t it? Why hadn’t I thought of that when I wrote the rough draft?
I Can’t Write What I Don’t Live
I didn’t write it because I wasn’t living it. My communion with the Holy Spirit had become stilted and scheduled into compartments of my day. As I said before, I described Miriam’s “job” as a prophetess, but I now realized I couldn’t write her relationship with God because mine had become handicapped by busy-ness and stress.
Only after the soul-awakening that occurred at my beach retreat in April (after the rough draft was written) was I able to diagnose the issues with Miriam’s character description.
So, it was back to the drawing board on Miriam and her relationship with her God. El-Shaddai was her constant Companion in the Prologue and first few pages…until He affected a change in their relationship that would stretch and challenge her throughout the book. Miriam aches for restored communion with Yahweh, the familiar God with the new name, and He teaches her to seek Him in new ways that are even more glorious than she could have imagined.
Learning the Hard Way
Like Miriam, I seem to learn the hard way. Why can’t I write the rough draft right the first time? Because then it wouldn’t be a rough draft. 😉
God reminds me time-after-time that He’s far more interested in the process than in the product. He likes editing, so I might as well get comfortable with it too!
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…” Isaiah 43:1-3
How About You?
Is there a process in your life that you’re chaffing at? Something you wish you could get to the end of without going through the progressions? Ask Him to give you joy in the journey—or at least an appreciation for His presence during the editing!