Just as every journey begins with the first step, every novel starts with the first word. Ideally, both lead to desired goals. Most don’t begin to travel a road aimlessly; they have a destination in mind. Perhaps it’s the same for authors beginning novels. I can say each of the four I’ve written started with some goal, and with each my reasons and desires for writing have evolved.
My first novel sits in my basement, a collection of wrinkled, dog-eared notepad paper. I have not published it, nor am I sure I ever will, unless my popularity as an author skyrockets to the point of fans demanding early material. One can dream. My reason for writing “The Balance of Power” in high school was to see if I could. Like all budding novelists, I had (have) dreams of breaking through, but back then I think I knew those words would not likely be seen by many. Thus it sits, unread, a heavy tale of a mid 1980s Soviet takeover of the United States, a topic well out of my league then, and perhaps now.
My second novel took twenty years to finish, and my reason for beginning it was vastly different. Going through a divorce, I wrote as therapy. I liked the basis of the story, a time-travel tale to erase mistakes made that led to a heartbreaking split (art imitating life), but no one else did, at least no literary agents. One offensive rejection letter stated the protagonist should have been a woman. Sorry, my life, my story. But it really was not my story, and, truth be told, the first version was sappy, for lack of a better word. Even the original title, “Second Chance,” brought images of cheesy romance paperbacks. Thus, that manuscript sat in a drawer of a filing cabinet for about eighteen years until the self-publishing niche exploded. As a bucket list item, I decided to revamp and self-publish, removing the sap. The work became “Forgiveness,” with the goal of teaching a lesson or two on, wait for it, forgiveness.
Having figured out all of the nuances of self-publishing (writing is the easy part), I dove into creating the third novel, “Temptations of the Innocent.” My goal was to create a trilogy around “Forgiveness,” with “Temptation” as the prequel. I wrote, and rewrote, and discard, and cursed, and wrote some more, and eventually produced a product that was extraordinarily complex, too much so in hindsight. I met my goal, but learned a lesson, and opted to put the final chapter of the trilogy on hold. I needed a lighter project. I wanted to write about something meaningful.
“Leaving Darkness” draws on my experiences as a volunteer for a Christian-based small group therapy organization and my walk of faith as a Christ-follower, but is in no way autobiographical. I hope to show how both can lead someone lost in the darkness out of depression to experience a full life. My aim is not to be preachy, just to take a simple character that perhaps some in the clutches of darkness can relate to and show how this person, through the small group experience and letting God work in his life, finds peace and fulfillment and discards weighty anchors of guilt and regret. This project has been, without a doubt, the most satisfying to date. My goal? That this light work of fiction helps others.
As authors and as humans, we grow and evolve, and so should our writing goals. As for me, perhaps once I have completed “Leaving Darkness” I will journey to the darkness of my basement and dig out an old manuscript . . .