by Christine Sunderland
Last month I finished an early draft of my novel-in-progress, Angel Mountain, 73,000 words. I breathed a sigh of relief as I sent it to a group of selected readers.
These readers are hardy and sacrificial (and hopefully charitable) friends who have some connection with the themes in the novel. They will view the manuscript with fresh eyes in terms of pace, logic, character, and plot: More here, less there? How did we get from A to B? You said this already. More needs to be said about this. What happened here? This doesn’t make sense. Unbelievable characters, illogical plot.
A kind of focus group, these readers become my eyes, so that I can see anew. For I am blinded by my immersion in the story and themes. I have lived with the characters in my head for so long, I assume things are in the manuscript that aren’t there.
I cannot recommend this process enough—having a few readers, kind friends, who will point out ways to make the book better. I may not use all of their suggestions, but I will know that each one of them represents many others who might respond in the same way when they read Angel Mountain.
Angel Mountain is about Heaven and Earth. It is about evolution and genetics, faith and science. I ask the questions: Who are we? What kind of creature is man? What is the mystery of his consciousness, his sense of right and wrong, of justice? Along the way, I examine issues of liberty and law, history and human rights, persecution and genocide.
The Heavens and the Earth. What is the Kingdom of Heaven? How do we know the way? Where is the border between time and eternity? What are we promised when we are washed in the waters of Baptism?
I often think Christian writers, having been given the Holy Spirit—and the promise of
Heaven—through the waters of Baptism, are called to now walk on those waters. We, like St. Peter, see Our Lord walking toward us, as the seas rage. Because we are child-like and impetuous, and full of life (and love), we hurry to meet Christ. We try to walk on the water, to reach to touch him, to be touched by him, to be filled with his Spirit, the breath of his inspiration, to describe with words the mystery and miracle of life that Christians know, breathe, and live. We reach to touch Heaven with Earth with words. And Our Lord reaches out with his hand to save us from ourselves.
Only Christ can give us those words. Only Christ can touch our hearts and minds to create as he has created. We desire to touch and to have the mind of our Maker, the Creator of the Universe, as Dorothy Sayers once wrote.
Lands and seas wrap the surface of our planet. Gravity holds these lands and seas in place, keeping them firm, preventing them from flying into the cosmos. Gravity holds us too, keeping us from floating toward the stars. As Eric Metaxas says, many elements of astrophysics are extremely fine-tuned to support life on this planet. The odds of these prerequisites occurring in the way they do, are astronomically against our very existence. Mystery and miracle abound.
We walk on water, the waters of creation, the waters of Baptism, the waters of life itself. As writers, we reach out to the supreme Creator, who walks towards us, arms open.
But like St. Peter, we sometimes take our eyes away from Our Lord. We look around and see the storms of the world, sirens calling us away from our true calling. We doubt. We hesitate. We sink.
My first draft involved a good deal of trusting and obeying (see previous post, “Trusting the Truth”). This next draft will too. For, the result of trusting and obeying is walking on water, with Our Lord at our side, holding us up. The Creator of of the universe holds his own creation, and we step together, over the waters he formed so long ago.
I’m looking forward to my first readers’ responses to Angel Mountain. Their perceptions will make the novel better. Their reactions will give me the courage to rise to the surface of the sea, breathe the air once again, and grasp the hand of Christ.
One day, Heaven and Earth will be one. One day the last trumpet shall sound and we shall be changed. One day our words will come true. They will dance in all time, in eternity. One day the Heavens and the Earth will declare the glory of God.How the miracle of words united the Heavens and the Earth in the editing of my novel. @Chrisunderland #ACFWBlogs #writing Click To Tweet
Christine Sunderland has authored six award-winning novels: Pilgrimage, set in Italy, Offerings, set in France, Inheritance, set in England, Hana-lani, set in Hawaii, The Magdalene Mystery, set in Rome and Provence (all Oaktara), and The Fire Trail (eLectio), set at UC Berkeley. She serves as Managing Editor for the American Church Union (www.AmericanChurchUnion.com). Visit Christine at www.ChristineSunderland.com (website and blog).