Reflecting on Writing a Novel
Dancing Priest, my first novel and the first in the Dancing Priest series, is free on Amazon Kindle this week.
It was published seven years ago, and it was almost a decade in the making. From an image inspired by a song, the story spent three years inside my head. In idle moments, or at night after I’d gone to bed, I slowly worked my way through the story of Michael Kent and Sarah Hughes. Over those three years, the story changed, incorporated new ideas and characters, shifted in its narrative arc, and shifted its location from Italy to Scotland.
When I finally began to transfer the story from head to computer screen, in the early fall of 2005, it came as a torrent. It took about three months, but when I stopped, I had a torrent of 250,000 words, sufficient for three novels. Then began the cutting, splicing, and saving chunks for later. At a writer’s conference or two, I showed excerpts to editors and agents. Editors liked it; agents didn’t. One agent told me that if it didn’t have a vampire or a werewolf, it couldn’t be marketed to publishers (this was at the height of the mania for the Twilight novels).
Dancing Priest eventually found its way into print. From that first behemoth manuscript in 2005, it was likely rewritten 20 times before it saw the public light of day. Writing is hard work. Editing is hard work. Marketing is hard work. Trying to market one book, write another, and hold down a full-time job is impossible work.
I’ve reread the book several times, and while there are a few things I’d like to change or edit, I find myself content with it. I’ve always considered it a love story for men, and the reactions of male readers have supported that. While a few (male and female) readers have thought Michael Kent a bit too perfect, male readers have generally seen the character as to what men aspire to. One reader said it should be required reading for teenage boys, because it offered a sense of “the nobility of doing right.”
The character I still feel the closest to in the story is Sarah Hughes. Her attitude to faith mirrored my own in college, as in, “You’re serious about this stuff?” How she comes to faith is a direct lift from my own experience when I was a senior in college. What happens to her when she begins to talk with the wife of the director of “College Campus Ministry” is an almost verbatim description of what happened to me when I began to talk with the director of Campus Crusade for Christ at my university.
If there is a single theme in Dancing Priest, it is the same theme that you’ll find in the three novels that have followed it: No matter how dark things look, there is always hope.
This week, you can access the free copy on Amazon Kindle here.