Guest Blogger: Dennis Brooke
God’s timing is perfect and it’s always later than ours.
—Mrs. Maria Ann Hirschmann
Ten years ago I pitched an idea for a television show to a Hollywood screen writer. He was sold and shopped the idea to several studios, hoping they would snap up my faith-based series.
The concept was based on the idea that John, the last living apostle of Jesus Christ, was still alive and lived in Seattle. It was inspired by John 21:22 where Jesus tells Peter, “If I want [John] to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” The gospel explains that this started rumors that John would not die, but also says that Jesus never meant that John would remain alive until His return.
But I had wondered, what if that’s what Jesus did mean, that John would remain alive until his return? How would John have hidden his identity? How would he influence history? And why would he hide his identity?
Unfortunately, the studios rejected my idea. Not “edgy” enough. Then my new screenwriter friend made a suggestion that changed my life: Write it as a novel.
In under a year I turned out what I thought was a ready-to-publish manuscript and started sending proposals and query letters to agents and editors. Friends and family members loved it. But the publishing industry was, let’s say, non-responsive.
So I hired Jeff Gerke of Marcher Lord Press to review the first 50 pages. He pointed out my rookie mistakes, gave me some great resources, and provided some important encouragement. I dove into the rewrite.
Then in the fall of 2009 Jeff set up an innovative on-line contest for Christian Spec Fiction that took me, and The Last Apostle, on a wild ride. He accepted 36 manuscripts and posted the premise and synopsis of each—but the author of each work was kept secret. The winner of the Marcher Lord Select contest would be published. The audience debated the merits of each entry for several weeks and then voted. Eighteen advanced and I was floored to find that mine was numero uno!
In round two the first 500 words of each contestant were posted and a spirited discourse ensued. When the votes were counted eight advanced and The Last Apostle still stood on top.
In round three the audience read the first thirty pages. The Last Apostle advanced—again in first place. And the competitor that I thought was best, failed to move up. I was sure I was going to be published!
Voters then read the first sixty pages of each manuscript. Many openly advocated for my entry. But when the final votes were counted, I had lost.
I was crushed.
If I had won and been published, it would have been a dream come true, but in retrospect, it was a good thing.
I wrote and rewrote the manuscript for five years after that near miss. I was encouraged by award-winning and multi-published authors who liked both the concept and the writing. They told me I was “close.” I worked with critique partners and hired Mick Silva, a former WaterBrook Multnomah editor, to give me feedback on the manuscript. I worked with James Rubart on branding and marketing of the manuscript.
I adopted the motto of “Prayer, persistence, and patience equals published” and kept at it. I also learned enough to teach elements of the craft and technology of writing at regional conferences. And I met with a number of editors who were enthusiastic about the manuscript—but couldn’t get it approved by their pub boards.
Finally, last Spring I received an offer from a great quality small press that I met at an American Christian Fiction Writers conference. A counter offer from a Seattle area publisher offered better distribution and culminated in the release of my book on February 1, including an audio version that I narrated.
If I had been published by Marcher Lord Press in 2010 it would not have been nearly as good a book as it is now. I added a strong romantic storyline, serious stakes related to John’s hidden identity, and elements of conflict that were not in the original manuscript. Those improvements came about because of people I met on the journey, people who have in some cases become friends and trusted advisors.
The timing is also better. My intention was always to make this a series. Earlier this year my wife and I managed to retire early and we plan to rove the world for the next three to five years. Now I can live in places like Spain and Ireland to do on-site research—and turn out a better story.
Like the quote at the beginning of this post says, “God’s timing is perfect and it’s always later than ours.” My advice: prayer, persistence, and patience, and trust in His timing.
Ask Dennis a question or post a comment below. Everyone who does will be entered in a drawing for an autographed hard copy of The Last Apostle or a downloadable copy of the audio version. Contest ends midnight, March 7, Pacific Time. Shipping of the hard copy limited to US addresses.
Dennis Brooke served seven years as an Air Force officer in duties that took him to Berlin when the wall was coming down. He spent a day in the skies as a “spy,” and spent many alerts 60 feet under the prairies of Montana as a missile officer. Later he stumbled into a career as a project manager, specializing in bringing order from chaos. Until someone proves him wrong, he lays claim to being the only person to have been published in both Combat Crew and Focus on the Family magazines. Not with the same article. Dennis and his wife are globetrotters whose home base is Seattle. He speaks on topics including Wooing Your Wife, Why We Serve, and Web 2.0 and Project Management.