The Holy Spirit has been urging me to talk about my first book. Not The Snow Fence (my first published book) but To My Beloved Richie (the first book I wrote). This urge has haunted me enough to start a blog again after a hiatus of several years. So let me tell you about To My Beloved Richie. Even if you hated it, please keep reading.
I have often used writing to make sense of things in my life. So when I was going through a particularly painful and confusing time, that kind of writing was somehow filtered through fiction and became a novel.
I did not know how to write a book when I started To My Beloved Richie. I didn’t even know that I was writing a book. It took me years to even tell my husband (with whom I share everything) that I thought I might be writing a book. It took even more years of revising and rewriting, and reworking to share it with someone else. By that time, I was too invested to see if I’d done it well, or correctly, or if it was even worth publishing.
But even after publishing other books, To My Beloved Richie still haunted me. Unfortunately (or maybe not), the book launch happened during a strange season in FB’s algorithm and a busy season in my life. To this day, many people don’t even know about it.
Now I am a freelance editor who helps authors apply the art and science of storytelling. So when I went through To My Beloved Richie to correct minor errors before uploading a cleaner file, I was appalled.
My husband heard versions of the following from my side of the office: “Did I publish that? Oh my gosh, this woman needs a serious developmental edit! Bekah. No. Stop. This is bad. How is that even a sentence? Why is this book so long? How many words is that?”
I was thinking that maybe a young woman in her early twenties who uses writing as worship should never publish the product. Because the mid-thirties editor version of herself will hate her. I considered unpublishing it and revamping everything.
But as I kept reading and applying bandages to what should have been amputations and even an autopsy, my heart changed.
The young woman in pain who wrote that train-wreck is me. And without the train-wreck I was then, I wouldn’t be the older, slightly more refined train-wreck I am now. And that is exactly Paige (the protagonist)’s story.
The painting I’m sharing with you was given to me by a talented artist named Niki. It is featured on the cover of To My Beloved Richie, hidden in Paige’s troubled eye. The first iteration (an artistic depiction of my very bad conglomeration of stock photos) had the young red-haired woman in a stark white dress. I told Niki no, the dress was too pure and perfect. Paige’s dress should be messy. It was clean and pretty before. But now that dress tells a story.
So, if you’re a writer, hire an editor. But don’t edit your life to omit the messy parts you’ve already published. Don’t use perspective and personal growth as excuses to negate the lessons God taught you and the way He taught them. The God of the Universe once stepped down into this mess of a world and was born the usual, slimy way into a disgusting barn. He is not afraid of our messes. He died for our messes.
So if we tell all of our stories with all the perspective of a mountaintop, what can we say to someone in the miry clay?
God met me where I was and gave me To My Beloved Richie. So besides a few typos and technical errors, I’m leaving it like it is. I’m not even sorry. There are things I can’t stand about it. But it remains one of the most beautiful stories God has ever haunted me with. I’m humbled all these years later to see the insight and eerily prophetic concepts that made it into those (far too many) pages. I was just a flawed typist. All the good is all His, all the time. God can, has, and continues to use any mess to His glory.
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