Simple words can become clever phrases
And chapters can turn into books
Yes if I could just get it on paper
But it’s harder than it ever looks
Sitting here on the table beside me is a two-inch-thick stack of paper that comprises all 53,647 words of my novel. My editor at FaithWords, Holly Halverson, emailed the final edits late last week with this warning—this would be my last chance to make any substantive changes. After that the manuscript would be sent to typesetting, and I would only be able to correct typos.
I printed the book out and spent the weekend going over the usual suspects of flow and plot and voice. I smiled and pondered and swallowed a lump or two that developed in my throat, and then I turned the last page facedown.
I’ve read that manuscript countless times in the past year, but that occasion seemed to possess an air of finality. There had been many times when I felt my book to be done, though it was a done with an ellipsis following—done…for now. But at that moment things seemed to change. Then my book seemed more like Done with a period.
I turned the pages over and began reading again, this time forgoing attention to all the technicalities of what makes a book and instead concentrating on this one point—did I say what I meant to say? Because in the end, that’s what mattered.
A writer’s true passion isn’t selling books or reaching an audience, though both are certainly in the top three. No, it’s the pursuit of that perfect sentence. It’s saying something new in a way that has never been said before.
It’s saying what you mean to say.
That notion seems so uncomplicated and effortless, but in fact it’s just the opposite.
The difference between the right word and almost the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning and the lightning bug.
Reading the book with that in mind didn’t change its quality or appeal, at least not to me. It’s a great story that offers what people need most in these times. It will make you laugh and cry and believe and—most of all—open your eyes to a world that exists just below what your eyes and ears cannot perceive but what your heart most certainly can.
Did I say what I meant to say?
Yes. No, too.
A book is never as good as it’s author thinks it could be. Should be. We’ll never quite get them just right. There will always be a clearer way to say something or a better story to tell. A writer will fail at that endeavor just as he or she will fail at anything else. We are strange creatures, knowing that perfection is impossible and yet aiming for it anyway.
When we take pen to paper we embark on a journey for only the stoutest heart. Our existence is a constant state of wandering. Like knights of old, we are questing for our own grail, battling the dragons within us. Always searching, never quite finding.
And in our deepest hearts, hoping we never will.
A writer’s problem does not change. He himself changes and the world he lives in changes but this problem remains the same. It is how to write truly and having found what is true, to project it in such a way that it becomes a part of the experience of the person who reads it.