Paul Highcroft, a disillusioned Christian teenager, has reached the point where he needs some clarity. Why is he still going to church when it's just boring and pointless? Why does life seem so unfulfilling? Why is he the biggest female deterrent in the Southwest of England? So, he challenges God. Show me that all this 'Christian stuff' is real, or I don't think I can carry on. Put it right in front of my eyes, or I don't think I can believe anymore...
Paul gets a lot more than he bargained for when his prayer is answered. God opens his eyes to spiritual battles he and all Christians face day by day, as a part of the struggle to live out the victory that Christ won on the cross. He must enter the spiritual arena and face Satan's onslaught, taking up his armour and slaying his enemies though the power of God's word. Anger, doubt, pride - all these opponents must be faced. And when the fight is done, there's still dull homework, annoying siblings, bullies and young-love's cruel sting to be dealt with.
Phew! There's my pitch out of the way. I really want to get people on board with the concept, because I think if people can be seen to get behind that, you know you're on a good foundation. As I said before, I want this story to be a really exciting look at spiritual warfare, that will encourage Christian teenagers to take hold of their beliefs and help them tackle the issues they face as they grow up. I also aim to make this a book that will generate an interest in Christianity from non-Christian youths, who will want to know more after reading the story.
There have been a few major developments since I last wrote on this topic. I had emailed the author of the article that was the catalyst for this project, stating my purpose to undertake the task of writing a fantasy novel for Christian teenagers, and asking if the publisher they worked for would be interested in seeing the finished product. To my surprise and elation I received a message back saying they would like to see the first three chapters in their initial draft stage! This was a massive confidence boost, and a real encouragement that I was on the right path with my idea.
I sent off a submission to the publisher, and continued to write, reaching 26,000 words before received a reply from them. I also let one of my friends from church, who is an English teacher and avid literature fan, have a look a section of the draft. She really enjoyed it, in terms of the concept, plot and writing style, and has been pestering me to write more every time I see her!
The week after our church youth camp, I opened my emails to find a response from the publisher. It wasn't good. They liked my writing style and thought some of the sections were very vivid and imaginative, but had found huge doctrinal issues with the fantasy aspect of my story. I was initially very disappointed and frustrated, because I think I had elevated this situation to being 'my shot at the big time'. This taught me to be realistic however, and not to peg all my hopes on one opportunity.
After studying the criticisms and issues raised, I determined that while the publisher was completely within their rights to make these statements against my novel, my early draft have not shown that I agreed with them on all the points raised. I emailed them back, arguing my case but without being rude or big-headed, because let's face it, they know a lot more than I do about publishing. I asked if they would be interested in a finished draft that covered the issues raised, and thought I'd leave it at that.
Once again, God really reaffirmed that I am on the right path with my story, because the publisher sent me another message, saying they were pleased I had taken the issues raised into account, and would definitely want to see a finished draft in due course. They also gave me a couple of really useful tips and recommendations, that have helped me reshape my plan and my story. As a young author, this experience has been invaluable to me, because I may have already avoided one wave of rejections through having this dialogue with the publisher.
I went back to drawing board, because I wanted to sort out the Biblical issues that the publisher had raised. The last thing I want to do is lead young people astray with dodgy doctrine and fictional ideas that don't mesh with the truth of God's word. So I've shelved my original fantasy concept, but I'm keeping it in reserve because I think it could work really well in another form. My new concept involves Paul being transported into an arena, where he faces his spiritual battles in gladiatorial combat. Without going into too much detail, the elements that make up this new concept fit with the Bible's teaching, and work really well as a fictional concept, so the fantasy nature has not been compromised to crow-bar the correct doctrine into the story.
I received another encouragement, and I believe this was all God's doing as well, when I met an employee of a large secular publisher at my cousin's wedding a few weeks ago. He was also a youth leader, and was very interested in my story and my progress so far. We chatted for an hour or so, and he gave me loads of advice on the publishing world and suggested a few avenues for me to pursue. I don't think all these events have come about by chance. I really feel God's anointing upon this venture, and want Him to be glorified as a result of this process.
So all that's left is to actually write the book! I had to go back and take out a lot of the content from my first draft, but I still have about 10,000 words that I can cannibalize and add into the new version of the story. One of the recommendations the publisher gave me was to make the story more concise and cut down my target word count, which I've decided to do. Now I'm aiming for the novel to be 50,000 words in length, and have set myself the target of finishing my first draft by my birthday, December 14th. I will keep you posted on my progress (13,000 words at the mo), and hopefully we'll be seeing 'This Dark World' in a bookshop near you very soon!