A Debut Novel 25 Years in the Making
It took nearly 25 years for me to publish my debut novel, "Faith, Hope, and Baseball".
I've been a professional writer for most of my life. I wrote for my high school newspaper. I was an editor of my college paper. I edited a weekly paper and wrote for daily ones. I worked in radio and public relations. I’ve written news releases, displays, menus, brochures, blogs, non-fiction autobiographies and radio, television and print advertising.
For years, I didn’t write fiction because I had in my mind the belief that I couldn’t write dialog.
I overcame that mindset simply by deciding I could write dialog. I started with very short fiction and several screenplays. Then more scripts. Eventually, I wrote a feature-length script about an Amish teenager who played baseball.
And then I rewrote it. And rewrote it.
Once I turned the “Amish Baseball” screenplay into a novel, I rewrote it easily a dozen times. To ensure that the dialog was realistic, I read nearly the entire novel out loud.
“Good writing is rewriting,” novelist Walter Mosley told me. I took it to heart.
An agent suggested an additional character. A year or two later, the father became the uncle, and the protagonist’s relationship with his father became a significant plot point.
Some readers complained that the main character was too good a baseball player and that he wasn’t realistic. I made changes accordingly, but I also maintained my belief that he is a larger than life character and his superhuman baseball prowess was intentional.
Mosley told me his process is rewriting and rewriting until he can’t improve it anymore and then it’s done. I tried to do the same thing, rewriting and revising every section until I couldn’t improve it any more.
In "The Salmon of Doubt", Douglas Adams writes about the rewriting process of British author P.G. Wodehouse: “It is the next stage of writing—the relentless revising, refining, and polishing—that turned his works into the marvels of language we know and love. When he was writing a book, he used to pin the pages in undulating waves around the wall of his workroom. Pages he felt were working well would be pinned up high, and those that still needed work would be lower down the wall. His aim was to get the entire manuscript up to the picture rail before he handed it in.”
Another agent gave me a page of notes. I spent more than a year making all of his changes.
I pitched my novel on Twitter’s #pitmad online pitching party. An Immortal Works representative liked it, liked my manuscript, and almost a year later, my novel is now published. This book is the completion of a work that began nearly 24 years ago with a postcard of Amish kids playing baseball.
When I was in high school, I read all of John Irving’s novels and an essay he wrote where he explained how his d makes spelling very difficult. I have a learning disability that makes spelling difficult for me, too. A dozen years later, I had the opportunity to thank Irving for inspiring me with that article. I told him that he was part of the reason I became a writer.
“What do you write?” Irving asked.
“I’m a newspaper editor,” I said.
His expression demonstrated that he didn’t hold newspaper editors in high regard.
Finally, 23 years later, John Irving, I’m a novelist.
Meet the Author:
Jim is the co-author of American Revolutionaries and Founders of the Nation, a children’s history collective biography published in 1999. He’s also written a book about the Wright Brothers, Soar to Success the Wright Way.
A former pastor, Jim holds a Master of Divinity degree and writes about faith here: www.patheos.com/blogs/faithonthefringe.
"Faith, Hope, and Baseball" is his first novel. He’s writing a post-apocalyptic trilogy about a family questioning their faith and morality in a collapsing society. To contact Jim, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you have any writing rituals?
Everything is outlined. Each chapter is its own document. I move from document to document, revising and writing each document simultaneously. It’s only late in the revision process that the chapters all come together into one document. Maybe everyone writes this way. I have no idea.
What do you think about writing groups?
I spent nearly 30 years being edited by professionals. I listen to critiques from fellow writers and readers I admire. I have thick skin, but little patience for being edited by amateurs, therefore I’m not wild about writing groups. Different tools help different people in different ways. So, if writing groups help you, my hat’s off to you. What helped me become a better writer was getting paid to write.
What is something odd you researched for your book?
The field dimensions of Sloan Park, where the Chicago Cubs hold spring training games, and Wrigley Field, the home ballpark for the Cubs. Wrigley is smaller.
About the Book:
"One of the best baseball books I've ever read. This is a winner!" - 1984 World Series Champion Johnny Grubb
Jason Yoder's Amish life is in turmoil. His girlfriend Faith is ready for them to get married. His widowed mother struggles to pay the bills.
But Jason is a 17-year-old baseball phenomenon leading his team to the state championship.
An offer from the Chicago Cubs promises the money he needs to save the farm and provide the family financial security. But Jason knows if he leaves, the temptations of the outside world could be too great and he may never return to the life he loves--the only life he knows.