Hard to Start, Harder to Finish, Unlikely to Publish

“In the Grip of God” A Novel of the Apostle Paul by George Cargill

Every work of fiction by a new author begins with someone thinking, “I ought to write a book about what I am thinking.” A story has been cooking in their brain, and they have a mind to write it down.  Or after reading a novel, saying, “I could tell the story better than that.”  It has crossed the minds of myriads of people to write “something.”  There are a few who actually start writing; fewer still who finish a work; and only a select few who get a novel published.  Those who start, soon realize the difficulty of finishing a polished manuscript of 85,000 to 100,000 words.  The storyline must contain certain elements that make it an engaging and readable story.  The story must be good enough for people to pay money to read it.  It also must be worth the time to read.  Sometimes, a writer can attract the attention of a publisher at a writer’s conference.  But a first-time author must acquire a literary agent unless they want to invest their own money in self-publishing.  A traditional book publisher must be sold on the story enough to invest money for profit.  It is a trying process.

Writing “In the Grip of God” was a blessed agony for me.  I have heard of authors who could produce 30,000 words in a weekend.  Not me.  Sometimes, I would write a paragraph and stare at it for an hour, trying to discern what direction it was taking me.  Days that I managed to produce 1,000 words were sterling.  Re-reading chapters was necessary for me to keep consistency in the story.    I wrote the first chapter and a loose outline, then put it down for a year.  I have to confess, when I began to see the enormity of the challenge, I was not ready to pay the price.  But the Lord is faithful to make idleness in a mission difficult to endure.  Every morning, words came to my waking mind, “Write the book, write the book, write the book.”  The novel was not only a labor of love, but a commission from the Lord.  I met with an author friend of mine and asked him to read the first chapter.  I wanted him to tell me if I was wasting my time.  He encouraged me to pick up the challenge and continue writing the novel.  New energy seemed to come from that meeting.  I began working on the novel every day.  I had a couple of godly friends who read each chapter as the first draft was produced.  They looked for problems and inconsistencies, honestly giving me their opinion of the readability and quality of the story.  Eight months later, I had a finished manuscript.  In the end, it was a joyful experience!

Would my manuscript end up being a dusty, unread family heirloom?  That seemed to be the case.  I could get no one to give the manuscript a fair look.  Query letters and proposals were either ignored or answered with a form email, “Don’t contact us, we will contact you if we are interested.”  I visited some websites that will publish a book for a substantial fee.  Self-publishing appeared to me to be a minefield filled with flimflams and corkscrew artists.  I am sure there are reputable self-publishing houses out there.  But I felt I would need to pay for guidance so that I could find the right publishing house and safely pay for the expenses of publishing.  Then there would be the task of marketing a self-published novel.   I knew that I had a good product.  I believed that I was doing the will of God.  The work had been wrought with prayer and faith in the gospel story it contained.  Frustration was mounting.

The breakthrough came in the midst of a low point like the dark place in a novel storyline where there is little hope.  I had been rejected by a yet another literary agency.  I was at their website, looking again at the requirements for submission of manuscripts, trying to find a better way to submit.  I saw an advertisement for a Christian writer’s conference.  On an impulse, I signed up for the conference and paid the fee.  I had to find out what could be done to make the book more attractive.  The conference package included two fifteen-minute interviews with agents or publishers.  There were also many helpful seminars on writing and submission of manuscripts.  My interviews did not start out well.  I had no idea how to pitch the book in fifteen minutes.  Better progress was made in the critique groups where excerpts of the manuscript were read and critiqued.  At last, I got an extra opportunity to interview with a publisher, Rowena Kuo at Brimstone Fiction.  For the pitch, I briefly explained the story and idea of the book.  Then I asked her to read the first page of the first chapter.  I heard some hopeful words, “Do you have a proposal?”  I sent her the proposal and prayed.  The next day, I heard the magic words, “Do you have a manuscript?”  More prayer.  The next day, I met with her again and she recommended a literary agent for me, Cyle Young.  On the last day of the conference, I signed with Hartline Literary Agency.  Two days later I was offered a traditional book contract from Brimstone, which I signed several weeks later.  Since then, I have been busy promoting the book with a new website, a blog, Facebook and Twitter campaigns.  I continue to pray that the book will be successful.  I am happy for the anticipated royalties, but I am enthused about the gospel being presented in a winsome way.

All glory needs to go to God!  Throughout my life, the only success I have had is when I am doing what I believe is His will for me.  I have become convinced that, if I am truly doing God’s will in building His kingdom, He will resource me and insure the success of my efforts.  The Lord connected me with many people who helped facilitate the accomplishment of the project.  Having passed the 70th year of life, and having never published, I am thankful to God and to Christian friends for everything that made “In the Grip of God” possible.  Praise the Lord!

George Cargill