by Rick Barry
The Methuselah Project, I was sick of my own words.
Understand that I did not dislike my story. It's just that I was past the point of tired when it came to reading and revising my own pages. How can an author love his story, yet be sick of looking at it? I wrote the original draft in 2009. Then I sent copies to a number of friends for their input. Using their remarks, I changed paragraphs here and there. The timeline needed adjusting too, as did some chapter headings. "Yay!" I thought. "That took some work, but the story is better."
Next I asked a few more friends to look over the edited version. Once again their objective eyes caught details that needed fixing. A missionary friend in Germany (a former editing colleague) pointed out inaccuracies about the Autobahn. She also suggested I change the name and hair color of a German character to match better people living in modern Germany. I made the changes. "That took time, but it's even better."
Finally I began pitching the story to editors at writing conferences. Several liked the concept, but declined when they saw sample chapters. The beginning was too long. I needed to begin the story further in, close to the real action. The ending didn't grab another. That epilogue was dead wood. Back to the drawing board I went. I chopped, sliced, diced, and rearranged scenes. I toyed with multiple titles, eventually brainstorming 40+ variations. The story became better, but I was already longing to move on to another project.
Next conference, instead of seeking out editors, I pursued agents. When I told one I intended my suspense story to appeal to both men and women, he shook his head slightly, read a page, then declined. No smile or business card from that chat! Later, as I pitched it to another agent, I glanced up in time to catch her rolling her eyes. "Sounds like a big coincidence," she said. And so it went.
Discouragement accompanied each decline. But in my heart I believed in my story. I resolved to tighten the pace, to polish my prose, and to perfect my pitch. Yet, in the meantime, I also began writing another novel just in case my special baby never sold.
Enter literary agent Linda Glaz. Because I assumed she represented only romance, I had never considered pitching The Methuselah Project to her. Spotting her in a corridor between workshops, I struck up a conversation just for fun. When I mentioned my story, she perked up. "You've got a suspense story? What's it about?" I gave her a brief description, and she handed me her business card. "Send that to me."
Once again, multiple publishers turned down the proposal for various reasons. At last, though, an editor at Kregel Publications read the whole story and immediately loved it. So did the pub committee. They sent me a contract! But I wasn't off the hook. Working with Kregel, I went through three more rounds of edits, with different editors suggesting various ways to enhance the plot, to flesh out the characters, etc. Even the excitement of an actual publication date couldn't keep me from growing weary of reading my own novel over and over. And over. And over again....
But now that the book is out, were all those re-readings and edits worth it? You bet they were. The published story shines much brighter than the one that caught my agent's eye. Judging by the exuberant reviews on Amazon, the story's blend of WW2 history, suspense, a touch of romance, and a sprinkle of sci-fi truly has appealed to both male and female readers. I had prayed over every chapter, and God has blessed, despite the way I'd grown weary of my words. May He be praised!
Do you grow sick of your own words? Are you tempted to take shortcuts just to get that thing off your desk and into the mail? ("Ready or not, here I come!") If so, be careful. Yielding to the shortcuts might sabotage your chances of success.
Rick Barry speaks Russian, has visited Eastern Europe 50+ times for mission trips, and has even prowled deserted buildings in the evacuated zone of Chernobyl, Ukraine. He has freelanced hundreds of articles and short stories. In September 2015 Kegel Books released his suspense novel The Methuselah Project. His author site is rickcbarry.com.