The Purgatory of Novel Writing

Up until about six years ago, I don’t think I’d ever heard the word ‘purgatory‘. I simply thought you died, your soul rose to heaven and you lived there forever. The end. Hallelujah and thanks be to God.

When I started researching the teachings of the Catholic Church, however, I discovered another stage in the afterlife experience. A refining process. A…purgatory.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines purgatory as a “purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” Purification, it says, is necessary since nothing unclean can enter the presence of God in heaven. Including our sin-stained souls. So even though our sins may be forgiven, we still have sins. We still have imperfections. Even after we die.

“What?” I asked, appalled. “You mean that I can spend an entire lifetime trying to be good and holy, and then there’s MORE work AFTER I die?”

The idea was overwhelming—exhausting, even—and I wasn’t sure if I had the courage or stamina for such an endeavor.

And then I started my writing career.

For years I worked as a journalist before branching out to begin my own projects. First on the list was this dystopian trilogy that had been burning in my heart.

I started writing it in a hotel lobby in San Francisco during a family vacation when my oldest daughter was 13 months old. Now, as she approaches her fourth birthday, I have witnessed my Capacity series grow from a stand-alone novel into a trilogy.

In doing so, I have slaved to improve my writing. I have studied the techniques of good writers, and hungrily consumed articles and books about writing. I have devoted hard-to-come-by spare time to bettering myself in this industry.

Years. I’ve spent years working hard to be skillful, and now I’ve reached revisions.

From a distance, revisions sound pleasant. Fun, even. Like frolicking through a bug-free meadow, scooping wild daisies in each hand, as my manuscript grows stronger with each step. The sun warms my skin from a cloudless, cerulean sky, and my novel—once a victim of incongruity and grammatical errors—is now fully whole. Complete.

In my hands, it radiates with newfound perfection.

Which is not only neat, it is necessary.

After all, no imperfect manuscript can enter the publishing world.

The problem is that revisions themselves are not fun. There are no meadows, no daisies, and certainly no sun-filled cerulean skies.

The result of revisions is heavenly, no doubt.

But revisions themselves are tedious and tough. They require vulnerability and thick skin. They demand you to scour your work for each imperfection—every tiny mistake—and eliminate it.

Then you must invite others to help you do that.

It’s not easy to give other people a magnifying glass and ask them to find all your blemishes. It’s uncomfortable, awkward, and sometimes downright humiliating. Some writers may not think they have the courage or stamina for such a purgatorial endeavor.

But, if anyone wants to enter the pearly gates of publishing, it is absolutely necessary.

1 Comments on “The Purgatory of Novel Writing”

  1. Dear Kelsey:As usual, your article is a very good one. Of course, no one is perfect but our Lord. Therefore, even due to my ignorance of your field, there have to be areas for your improvement. Take one step at a time and beat such challenge. As you consider the “revisions” as a purgatorial endeavor, your story reminded me of a friend of my father who as my father, he was a Mason and an enemy of Catholicism. I was about 10 yrs old and Sergio, my father’s friend, talked to him about purgatory. Sergio told him in front of me: “Catholics believe on a place where you get purified before you can enter to Heaven. I think they are wrong; In my opinion, purgatory is old age. All the problems that surface when you are old, purgatory allows you to pay for your wrong doings of your earlier live” Although I firmly believe the Catholic doctrine and how purgatory is defined in our religion, it looks as when you get to my age (77), there has to be a reason to have all the health problems I am facing. Hopefully such will accelerate my path to face and hug my Lord. Therefore, accept the challenge of the “revisions” and offer such pain to our Lord as He wants you continue your path to be an unique writer; EVEN BETTER THAT WHAT YOU ARE TODAY.Love,YBIC & AMDGMartin 

    Liked by 1 person

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