Entering into the darkness

For a year, I’ve been avoiding rewriting the end of my novel. I just haven’t been ready to go deeper into the pain of what Carrie goes through, the victim in the story. She is molested by a family member, and because of her mother’s denial and avoidance, her victimization culminates into rape.

Over a year ago, in On Writing: Skipping Stones vs. Going Deeper, I shared input I received from the very first reader of my manuscript:

You introduce me to these likable characters and get me to care about them, then bad things happen, and you skip most of the pain and sorrow they experience and jump too quickly to the end of their healing process. It’s like you’re skimming along the surface and not going deeper into the dark ugliness of their situation. You want the hurt to go away too quickly so everyone can hurry up and heal and be happy. Hey! That’s just like you!”

As I drove home from a 14-hour day at the OC Christian Writers Conference a couple of weeks ago, I glowed with inspiration and hope. I’d just received two writing awards for this novel, validating my calling to write. The awards—an honorable mention in one, second place in another—were humble. I didn’t win. But my story got noticed. The awards were a clear message to me that I need to finish this story no matter how hard it’s going to be.

But I was terrified. “God, I’m going to need your help. I need to go into the darkness to tell this story well. I don’t know if I can do it.” I was thinking about those verses about putting on the full armor of God and that I need to look them up when I get home.

Then I heard that still small voice deep inside.

The voice said, “I’ll protect you.”

I knew Who it was. I was positive. I felt a thrill run from my shoulders to my tailbone—a warmth, an electricity. Right then, I drove past a lighted cross, high up on the hillside alongside the freeway. It was there just to make sure I knew Who was speaking.

I laughed and shook my head in amazement. “That’s why I keep hanging out with you, Lord. You keep surprising me,” I said out loud.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had the sense that I’ve been dangling on a swing but someone just gave me a huge push… there’s that feeling of velocity and force in an upward direction.

I have 4 big pushes going right now:

  1. The Editorial Department, sponsors of the conference’s Fiction Writing Contest, is reviewing the first 2,500 words of my novel. I’m eager to hear their feedback this week and hopefully apply what I learn to the rest of my story.  The service I’m receiving from The Editorial Department is the second place prize I won for the Fiction Writing Contest.
  2. I have an appointment this week to interview a detective who works in the Juvenile Division-Abused Child Section of the Los Angeles Police Department. I sent him my questions ahead of time—all three pages! He said they were great questions and he’s eager to help me out.
  3. Through Jack E. Rausch, a fellow writer I met at the conference, I learned about Camp Alandale: “Where Children who have been Abused and Neglected find the love of Jesus Christ.” All of the campers are wards of the court and are living in group or foster homes. One boy’s story on the website included this bit: “The people in Orange County Social Services were amazed by the recovery they saw in Steve upon his return to his group home… What two years in therapy had not done was accomplished by God in a three-day camp.” Wow. In the next few weeks, I hope to see if I can visit the camp and possibly set up an interview with one of the directors.
  4. I’m reading The Power of the Dark Side: Creating Great Villains, Dangerous Situations, and Dramatic Conflict, by Pamela Jaye Smith, a textbook I purchased at the conference. “It is fatally naïve to believe there is no real danger, no Dark Side, no evil in humanity and the world.”

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

As I walk into the darkness.