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Mystory: Lessons Thereof

(Someone once told me that “history” is called “history” because it’s HIS story, meaning God’s. Dunno if that’s true. But if it is, then my own personal story can be called “mystory.” In this case, I’m writing about the story […]
| Dec 15, 2010 | No comments |

(Someone once told me that “history” is called “history” because it’s HIS story, meaning God’s. Dunno if that’s true. But if it is, then my own personal story can be called “mystory.” In this case, I’m writing about the story of my stories, so that’s … “mystories”? But I digress. Ridiculously.)

I am a writer; in fact, I am a novelist. I get to call myself that, even though I do not have a single book published by a trade publisher, because I have been writing novels since I was 13ish. I’ve self-published five in various forms, and people read them, review them, and otherwise interact with them, so I figure that I’m doing what novelists do, and that’s good enough to claim the title.

In fact, this past week I finally finished a trilogy I have been working on for nearly ten years. In 2001 or thereabouts, I wrote a book called Worlds Unseen, which told the story of a handful of people who were curious enough — and gripped by longing enough — to explore beyond the boundaries of the world-as-they-knew-it and discover the truth about their history and future. As in our world, the truth is obscured by the machinations of evil. If discovered, it will set people free — but only if they’re willing to side with the ancient King and cast off the “safe” life they’ve always known.

Worlds Unseen helped me break through a few personal blocks as a writer, and I followed it right away with a sequel, Burning Light. I knew the story was supposed to be a trilogy. But back then I didn’t do outlines, and the third story wasn’t readily to hand like the first two had been. I was out of steam and content to let it rest.

So I did. Someday I would write a book called The Advent and finish the trilogy. Maybe.

In the meantime, I wrote a bunch of other books and became published as a freelance writer for various online and print magazines. In 2006 I entered the exciting waters of POD-enabled self-publishing, and in 2007 I looked fondly at Worlds Unseen and Burning Light and thought, why not? I have moved on to pursuing publication for other books. I could get these out into the world and start building readership. To the printing press!

This will have applicability to you shortly; keep reading . . .

Well, I did publish Worlds Unseen and Burning Light, and they began to accrue fans. They opened doors for me to get into all sorts of discussions with people about books and writing and my faith. They collected some good reviews. Worlds Unseen in its Smashwords-ebook form has been downloaded over 13,000 times.

But there was trouble. You cannot publish the first two books in a trilogy without eventually, someday, somehow, finishing the series. Readers made that clear. The third book needed to come out. And it didn’t want to.

The Advent turned into my life’s worst case of writer’s block. Dogged and determined, I wrote it. Hated and scrapped it. Wrote a different story with the same title. Scrapped most of it. Changed its name to Coming Day and kept going. Seven or so almost-complete rewrites later, I finally, finally wrote the book that finished the trilogy appropriately and in a way I could be proud of. It was like pulling teeth the entire way.

But now it’s done. I’ll be making it available to the world just as soon as the cover art is finished. And I can move on to new adventures, new worlds, new stories, and of course, marketing.

I share this bit of mystory with you because it highlighted two lessons for me.

1. Even when you think you know the cost ahead of time, anything you do will require commitment. Writing stories, like pulling a tooth or doing ministry or navigating a tricky relationship, requires a commitment that transcends how we feel at the moment. The upside of this is that commitment eventually yields fruit, and the fruit likewise transcends how we may have felt during the process.

2. Publishing, in any form, creates relationship and responsibility to readers. Don’t take that lightly. Like any relationship, it will cost something. It will require work and follow-through. And it will also create its own rewards. We are all, writers and readers both, engaged in one great conversation that truly impacts lives. And that is the best reason to pursue publishing in the first place.

I’d love to hear more about yourstories. Anybody?

P.S. If you’d like to read more about my trilogy, the website is www.worldsunseen.com.

E. Stephen Burnett is coauthor (with Ted Turnau and Jared Moore) of The Pop Culture Parent: Helping Kids Engage Their World for Christ, which will release in spring 2020 from New Growth Press. He also explores biblical truth and fantastic stories as editor in chief of Lorehaven Magazine and writer at Speculative Faith. He has also written for Christianity Today and Christ and Pop Culture. He and his wife, Lacy, live in the Austin area and serve as members of Southern Hills Baptist Church.

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The lessons you shared shall be engraved upon my heart and my wall and my pillow and my computer screen and anywhere else I can see them repeatedly…thanks for sharing! πŸ™‚
As yet, my novel is still in the draft stage. My biggest trouble in writing it was finding a full, complex plot. I’d created characters and a few plot lines that leapt with life, but I couldn’t find the rest of the pieces to the puzzle. I fretted and worried and came up with ridiculous ideas in my attempts to construct a plot. I was in love with the bits and pieces I had; there simply wasn’t a connector for them.
After some months, my ideas slowly began to take a better shape. Others joined the throng. I added a few more. Only then did I have my plot–and the general structure hasn’t changed much, even after a few mental revisions.
The lesson? Be patient with your ideas. Work hard to shape them, but don’t stress–give them time to ripen a little. Wine takes years to achieve its rich flavor; stories often follow the same course. Hopefully, I will keep that experience in mind as I contruct other works of fiction!
Blessings to you all

Bethany J.
Bethany J.

Wow, working on a trilogy for 10 years – kudos to you for sticking with it! I’m writing a trilogy myself, and reading your story simultaneously terrifies me and comforts me. Comforts me, because it reminds me that it’s okay that I’m still working on my trilogy after 5 and 1/2 years. Terrifies me, because I really hope it doesn’t take me 5 more years!! But if that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes. πŸ™‚ I am still in love with the characters and the world.

Congratulations on finally finishing your trilogy!! I know from experience how excited and happy you must be. I’ll definitely check out your website and book. πŸ™‚

God bless,
Bethany J.


Well, I’m not writing a trilogy. But the book I’m working on is giving me fits. Thankfully I’m not yet published or have a fan base eagerly awaiting the book, and I have other projects I an give my attention too, so hopefully if I just take a Christmas break, I’ll come back to it with renewed energy. Your story is definitely encouraging in this!