Part 4 … I know … I know … Part 4
I wasn’t a writer when I started this series over ten years ago. It was just an idea based on the concept of a ‘person’ (more later on that) like Jeff. I started typing and a story fell out of my fingertips. The story logically divided into four parts: 1) The road trip to Bethlehem 2) The job at Bethlehem 3) The road trip back to Bakersfield 4) Stanley’s time at home processing what happened.
So, I worked with my sister, an amazing writer and editor, to get part one written and released. We both work full-time, have families, lives, and other adult things. It took about two years of fitting that into the cracks of time in our lives. Then I released it for what I call the “you suck” factor. I was just this guy who wasn’t a bad typist with an interesting story idea. I put part 1 out into the world to see what the reaction was. If the reviews came back, “you suck” I was going to be done. There was no point in putting in the massive amount of effort it would take to get the second part out into the world if people hated the first part.
The reaction I got wasn’t what I expected. At best, I expected a mediocre response. After all, I wasn’t a writer. I was just some guy with an interesting idea. The first review of part 1 compared me to Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti, two huge authors. The reviews that followed were in the same vein. Readers loved part one. 4.8 stars on Amazon with 88 ratings.
This gave me the feedback I needed to work on part 2. Two more years of rewriting the draft and editing. Release. Wait for the “you suck” factor. Readers loved it. 4.8 stars on Amazon with 32 ratings
Two more years of rewriting and editing the draft of part three. Release. Wait for the “you suck” factor. Part 3 is still 5 stars on Amazon with 33 ratings. Readers loved it.
Three parts. Six years? Seven years? I’m not really sure. All of that while raising a family, working full-time, maintaining a house, writing four plays, recording music, and trying to adult. On top of that … a lifelong beast … depression.
But something happened during all of that time and experience. It took a lot of time and validation, but I allowed myself to call myself a writer. In all honesty, I think a storyteller is a better description but ‘writer’ doesn’t take as much clarification. I’ll never be a literary writer. My writing is decent but it is difficult for me. Storytelling is the easiest thing I’ve ever done. People love my stories, my writing gets better as I write, so that is a good direction.
Now … Part 4. I have been working on the series for over ten years now. It’s been received far past my wildest dreams. “Life changing” comes up often in the reviews. This “not a writer” guy started a journey over ten years ago with no idea where it would go and he became a bestselling author and award-winning playwright. Yet … part 4 scares me. I wrote an article, The Lost Effect in Writing, about why it scares me. Basically, if I screw up part 4, if the “you suck” factor is high, I screwed up the whole series.
Between that and battling depression, it was enough to zap my will to write. Something interesting happened lately and it has been eye-opening. What happened is, I had to write. It isn’t that I got the will to write. The story started becoming alive in my head and at 5am, with the story consuming my thoughts, the only solution is to write. When I’m in the flow, it is midnight and I have to work in the morning, the only option is to write or I won’t sleep that night.
What I realized is that this is how it has always been. I don’t write because I want to. I write because I need to. For the first time in years, I need to write.
I feel like part 4 is on the downhill slope. All the major parts are falling in place and it is close to the time to start tying the bow.
Most importantly, I’m writing the book that needs to be written instead of writing a book to have it written. The book I would have written years ago because I wanted it out of my life, would not have been the book that needed to be written. Even after I finish this draft I have to go through editing and proofreading. Then I need to go through beta readers. All of that is to mitigate the “you suck” factor and to prevent the “Lost Effect in Writing”. Part 4 has to be right and right now, for the first time in years, it feels right.
Now back to the concept of Jeff. What is Jeff? In my article, “Lost Effect in Writing”, I talk about questions. Writing is about creating questions in the reader’s mind. You hear readers say “I couldn’t put it down”. That is because the author is doing a great job creating questions in the reader’s mind and the reader has to keep reading to get answers.
I’ve created a question in the reader’s mind about what Jeff is. Readers ask me all the time what Jeff is. As the story moves along, as the reader builds a personal relationship with Jeff, they started deciding what Jeff is. Well, that is what Jeff is. If I end the story and say Jeff is <insert my concept of Jeff> and it doesn’t fit their personal relationship with Jeff, the story is ruined. Jeff is how you define him. No one gets to define Jeff for you. And … take that to church with you.