Old Manuscripts and New Beginnings

Hello, dear readers! Today I’d like to share a little about where I’m at in my writing career, and what you can expect from me in the near future. Some new paths are being explored and new doors are opening!

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First things first: my feature film screenplay, To Kill a Secret, was recently chosen as one of the Quarterfinalists in the international BlueCat Screenplay Competition! I am beyond thrilled. A few years ago, I never would have guessed that I’d become a screenwriter, but when I started learning the craft in 2016, I became hooked almost immediately. Screenwriting is now very dear to my heart and I can’t wait to see if my screenplay advances any further in this competition, or in any of the other contests I entered that have yet to announce winners. Stay tuned!

Now that the writing part of my screenplay is done and I’m moving forward with marketing it, I’ve sensed that it’s time to shift focus and work on one of my novels for a while. Although becoming a screenwriter was a surprise to me, I’ve known since I was a kid that I wanted to be a novelist. But there’s one very important step to becoming a novelist: you have to actually finish a novel.

When I was about 13, I finished an endearingly immature novel that I called Valiant. Thankfully, that story was never published, though it remains special to me in spite of all its flaws (some of which I discussed in the Writing Mistakes of My Younger Self blog posts).

In the years following Valiant, I jotted down more book concepts, composed more short stories, and began writing more novels than I can remember. I did plenty of writing during that time, but because I was a kid/teen, my attention flip-flopped repeatedly and I never stayed focused on one book long enough to finish it. As it turns out, that was probably a good thing, because I didn’t have the maturity or the writing experience to create a really good novel yet. But those years were important for cementing my love of writing and my obsession with telling stories.

As I entered adulthood, I decided to make another go at writing a complete novel. Although I had dozens of story concepts to choose from, I ended up creating an intensely-remodeled version of my Valiant story, this time under the working title Believe. I got quite far with it, racking up over 77,000 words and taking the story to its climax. Then life happened, and I had to put the unfinished manuscript aside because I was just too busy. Thankfully, I was busy partly because I was learning a lot more about writing!

As I grew as a writer, new story concepts entered my head (actually, new story concepts enter my head almost constantly; I have never understood how writers could run out of things to write about!). These concepts were typically much better than any I’d had as a kid. (One of them was Dr. Flynn’s Shelter for Peculiar Animals.)

As I collected more of these concepts, I experimented by planning and writing pieces of some of them. I mostly forgot about Believe. The more I learned about writing, the more I realized how much work my old manuscript would need. Although Believe was still special to me, I shelved the idea and assumed it was something I’d return to in about ten years, after I’d published a few novels based on my newer concepts.

That brings me to the present day. Some changes are happening in my life again (good changes, never fear!) and it’s time for me to really and truly embark on this adventure of being a professional author—not a hobbyist writer, but a focused professional. To Kill a Secret is a big part of this venture. But the other part is that I need to finally devote myself to one novel and refuse to budge from it until it’s finished and ready to market to agents and publishers.

As this awareness has grown in me, I’ve been exploring it with a lot of thought and prayer. Mainly, I’ve been praying about which novel God wants me to focus on, because I’m determined not to start-and-stop anymore. I thought Dr. Flynn’s Shelter for Peculiar Animals would probably be “the one.” It’s a concept that I love, I’ve gotten good feedback on, and that I’ve done a lot of planning for.

But a couple of weeks ago, I felt led to dig through all my binders, notebooks, and folders and get my story concepts organized so that, whenever the time comes to work on them, I have everything for each story in one place. In the course of this organization, I found the print-out of my old Believe manuscript, which I hadn’t touched in years. I also found my old notes and scribblings for Valiant and its series, the precursors to Believe. Intrigued and more than a little nostalgic, I read over my Believe manuscript.

If you had told me that this old story of mine, which has been with me for half my life and needs tons of work, would be the novel God told me to focus on, I would not have believed you (pun intended). But as I read over it, I realized that in spite of the work that needs to be done, there’s actually a lot of good stuff in Believe. It’s not great. But it’s rewritable, and as many authors will tell you, the novel usually takes shape during rewriting. And, no small bonus, there’s already 77,000 words written of the first draft.

But don’t get me wrong; it wasn’t only reasoning that drew me to Believe. God just gradually made it clear that this is the novel I should work on. Once I finally settled on Believe as “the one,” I prayed for God to give me the right title because, let’s face it, the first thing that needed to change was the vague and uninteresting title.

And then I hit a wall. I expected God to tell me the title with hardly any effort or waiting. Instead, He took me on a mini-journey. I studied titles for popular books to see how they were structured and how they related to their plots. I jotted down tons of title options as I prayed and thought, but none of them seemed right.

You see, part of the problem was that this story has been with me for so long. It began when I was a kid, when I didn’t know anything about crafting a novel, and went through plenty of metamorphosis after that. This wasn’t just about God giving me a title; I needed Him to tell me what the story, at its core, actually was. That’s why I couldn’t just settle on a working title and move on.

Last night, the title finally came to me. I had been looking through some of my favorite Bible verses and jotted the phrase down without much thought. Then as I looked back over my list of title ideas, it stood out to me. I looked up some other verses with the phrase, and suddenly it just seemed to embody everything that this novel is about.

I won’t share all the details now, because I think that would spoil the novel. But for the foreseeable future, I plan to be working on this novel that has been retitled…The Edge of the Sword. My first order of business is to finish up the first draft. Then, I have lots of worldbuilding and planning to do, then rewriting, then sharing the manuscript with beta-readers, editing again, and eventually, sending it to agents and publishers.

I appreciate prayers as I embark on this new undertaking! I am excited and humbled by everything God has already done in my life through this story. I can’t wait for the day I get to share it with all of you.

Check back on the blog and my Facebook page for writing updates!

One thought on “Old Manuscripts and New Beginnings

  1. This is tremendous news, Caitlin! I’m glad God brought you back to your first novel as He obviously planted a seed in your heart and mind about it early on. As an acquisitions editor, I always encourage potential authors of faith-based books to consider what topic they are most passionate about teaching; in fact, I ask them the question: If you were to die tomorrow after having ministered for the last time, what would you want the topic of your final message to have been? Put another way: What do you consider to be your life message? Though a novel is certainly different from an overtly spiritual teaching book, I believe the fact that the concept of “Valiant,” aka “Believe,” aka “The Edge of the Sword” has stuck with you for so long indicates that it will turn into a story that is truly a part of you and has a great impact on your readers.

    Like

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