For a few years now, I’ve been beating the drum about the need for artistic, beautiful portrayals of truth. We need to draw out the inherent beauty of truth whenever we proclaim it, whether it’s in our sermons, our non-fiction books, or blog posts.
Likewise, I’ve expressed concern about those of us in conservative Christian circles who tend to pick apart works of art without offering something better. We can write 50-page criticisms of The Shack, but we can’t come up with a better story. We grasp the issues, but others grasp the medium. The same is true of movies, music, spoken word videos, and other forms of art.
Late last year, a sense of dissatisfaction stirred up in me. I wondered if perhaps I was doing the very thing I despise: critiquing without creating. Only this time, I was critiquing the other critics.
So, I began to pray about writing a fictional story, something that would put forward traditional Christian theology within a compelling narrative.
Back to Fiction
I quickly discovered my story-telling skills were dormant. The last piece of fiction I had written was a Narnia-like drama for a student ministry in 2004. As a kid, I loved to write stories. But somewhere along the way, I switched to non-fiction, started blogging, and aside from a parable here and there, I stayed firmly in the non-fiction camp.
But my love for reading fiction never went away. Neither did my desire to create good fiction of my own.
In early 2012, I got to work on a fiction proposal. I developed a story centered on two characters who would dialogue about matters of life and faith. I wrote a third of the book during the winter months and then finished a full draft by late spring.
Looking for a Publisher
Next, it was time to see if there was any merit to the proposal. That meant looking for a publisher.
Shopping a fiction manuscript turned out to be the most nerve-wracking experience of my writing life so far. In the case of my other books, the publishers approached me. This time, I was knocking on the door with something outside the box, something I’d not tried or succeeded at before.
Never had I felt so vulnerable about work I was doing. An artist often goes back and forth between thinking his or her creation is beautiful or bad. I leaned to the “bad” side in my thinking, a lot. I didn’t have confidence that this was going to go anywhere. Maybe I’d just written a book that would sit on my digital shelf for the rest of my life.
Then again, I took comfort in knowing that, regardless of the outcome, I could one day look back and say, “At least I gave it a shot!” As Chesterton said, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” And surely Calvin Miller was right: “We should not wait until we are sure of our art, or we will never use it to praise God at all. ”
Thankfully, four publishers saw the potential of the book and offered to publish it. I was surprised (and relieved).
Where I Am Now
This month, the book is in the final stages of editing. I asked the publisher to put accomplished fiction and non-fiction editors on this work, to help me enhance the book’s appeal, its reasoning, and its narrative flow. It’s been neat to see the book get better at each stage in the process.
In the next few months, I’ll write more about this book and my hopes for it. I’ll also blog about some of the things I’ve learned along the way. In the meantime, I’d appreciate your prayers as I finish it up.