Hi, Dave Fessenden here, with something for you Christian writers out there to ponder. Have you ever thought about the roots of your writing? No, don’t go out in the back yard with a shovel (unless maybe you buried a manuscript out there!). I’m talking about the chronological roots of the material you write.
I’ve been thinking about this because I’ve been working on a new book at the request of my publisher—a sequel to Writing the Christian Nonfiction Book: Concept to Contract, released in 2011. When you start into a sequel, I suppose it’s natural to delve into the sources of your original book, because you need to have the second book relate to the first, while also having fresh, new information.
That’s why I’ve been on something of a sentimental journey. I wrote Concept to Contract based on a regular column I had for ten years in the old Cross & Quill newsletter. So the roots of that book are deep, and going back to those old columns and remembering what sparked them (mostly it was questions I received from authors when I was an editor) has helped me find out where to dig up some new material.
My recently released novel, The Case of the Exploding Speakeasy, has even deeper roots, going back to when I first started reading the Sherlock Holmes stories of Arthur Conan-Doyle in college. After devouring every Sherlock short story and novel that Conan-Doyle ever wrote, I was so enamored with the character that I read some pastiches (stories by other authors, but using the Conan-Doyle characters), and decided I could write one as well.
I especially enjoyed Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft, a mysterious character who only appears in two of the short stories and is alluded to in a couple of others. This grumpy old genius needed his own stage to perform on, so I began working on a story which would do just that. It was 25 years later that I finally finished it and got it published! Now I’m working on a sequel to Exploding Speakasy, and so naturally I’m rifling through old notes and re-reading the stories with Mycroft in them, to make sure I catch the original flavor of the first story.
And it’s not just an exercise for writing sequels, either. As I look for new subjects to write about, I’m also rooting through my computer and my file cabinet for material that has lain dormant for lo, these many years. Sure there’s a lot of chaff in there, but there’s also some wheat—I just have to find it!
While you may not have been at this writing thing as long as I have, I’m sure you have old files (paper and electronic) which deserve a second look. Take some time for a sentimental journey — you may uncover an idea among your old notes that just needed to ripen a while!