From Pipe Dream To Published Part 1: The Journey To Now
There have been six substantive steps in my journey so far.
1. First draft of Rockhill
2. Querying an agent
3. Second draft of Rockhill
4. Finding an Editor
5. Third Draft of Rockhill
6. Manuscript submission
I’ll cover the first three steps in this installment.
Honestly, writing the first draft of the novel was the most fun step of the process. Developing the story, forming the characters, creating conflicts/resolutions, and trying to weave it all into something that captures one’s attention and never lets go.
The plot came to me pretty easily. I’ve been a pastor for many years and I’ve had the privilege of hearing many unique journeys into faith. Much of what I’ve witnessed in my time as pastor was used as inspiration in this book.
I’ve also chaired the new church development committee for two separate presbyteries (regional collections of presbyterian churches). In this role I’ve unfortunately seen many more churches close than open. I’ve gotten to talk to with members about why they thought their church was closing and what factors led to the decision.
In my research, I realized that churches all over the United States were struggling. I wondered what it would be like to explore this topic through a fictional account.
Enter Pastor Nathan, in his first call to the oldest church in Spokane; Rockhill Church.
Once I settled on the plot I began creating characters. I wanted the characters to represent many of the life stages I’d seen within the church. Church is so unique in society. A diversity of people worship together side by side. Young families and elderly, married and single and widowed, new Christians and lifelong believers. It was a joy to get to create the Rockhill community. You can get to know them more at https://www.davidbonnema.com/newsletter.
After about a year of writing, I’d finished with the first draft.
It was 77,000 words.
At that point I could self-publish, but I thought the story had legs and wanted to try traditional publishing. I quickly learned that traditional publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. They require the manuscript to be submitted by a literary agent. This process allows them to narrow the field.
To acquire an agent, you must find one that is interested in your genre (in my case, Christian fiction) and submit a query letter. This letter is a one page document of which there are many templates online. Agents usually want to see 2-3 chapters as well as a synopsis of the story.
I sent out many query letters and was very fortunate to receive several positive responses. After much discernment and prayer, I decided to go with Don Pape.
Don comes from the world of publishing. He spent more than thirty years publishing with Doubleday, Tyndale House, and NavPress. You can learn more about Don at www.papecommons.com. He’s worked with Madeline L’Engle, Eugene Peterson and Jan Karon. It was clear he intimately knew the field I was writing in.
Don read my initial manuscript and offered suggestions. One of the most helpful ones: “There are times you sound more like a seminarian and less like a story teller.” Oops. After re-reading, I realized he was exactly right. I refined my story in my second draft to blend the conversations about God more naturally with the characters of the story.
Content that I’d done all I could, it was time to find an editor. Little did I know how much the story of Rockhill would change…
Coming soon: From Pipe Dream to Published Part 2— Working with Natalie Hanemann