Posted in Life, Writing

Grace Unplugged and the Act of Novel Writing

I recently read the book Grace Unplugged, by Melody Carlson. It’s not typically a book I would read. But I had heard there were some similarities to my own novel, so I thought I’d see how close it was. It turns out, I am fine. It’s not close at all.

The story is about a church girl whose father had been a rock star once upon a time. He had gotten saved, and was now a worship leader. His eighteen year old daughter, however, is exploring her own musical identity. She is not at all satisfied with the confines of the worship team in their small church.

She dreams of something bigger…grander. Something that her father, having been there, done that, wants no part of for himself, and certainly not his impressionable young daughter. In a rebellion fueled rage, Grace steals contact information on one of her father’s old music contacts, and then runs away to Los Angeles to pursue her own deal with him.

Her father’s old manager is delighted to have her, and shows her what could be hers. Grace becomes increasingly uncomfortable with the compromises she is expected to make, and is hurt by the lies and manipulation she naively falls for. And of course, what do you think happens? You’ve got it. By the end of the book, she walks away from the music scene, all the wiser. (Would you like some wine with that cheese?)

Sufficiently unimpressed. The plot is as predictable as any, and the writing is bland. I found Grace’s naivete unrealistic. She is dating a big movie star at one point, and an assistant gave her some sexy lingerie to wear with him. Grace is embarrassed by the garment, and comments, “I don’t know if he’s that kind of guy.” Her assistant looks at her dumbfounded. “Every guy is that kind of guy.” Really? At 18, would she really be that dumb? Whatever.

By the end, I was skimming pages just to get the gist. Why can’t Christian books be densely written with intricacies for the discerning reader? Why do we have to have characters go on long spiritual soliloquies? It just annoyed me.  It seemed set up for study group discussion topics. Why can’t it just be art? Expression?

But, on the other hand,  writing a novel is not easy. It’s hard, mind-sweating work. Sometimes at the end of the day, your brain is so dead, you are literally walking into walls.

You’ve birthed these characters, and they live inside you. Breathing, talking, thinking creatures of their own desire. You write essentially a mini-biography of every major character and define them down to what car they drive, any significant childhood events, and the floorplans of their home and the very neighborhood they live in. And that’s all before you’ve written a word.

Then there’s the notes with the outlines, and the pre-outlines, and location research…Then that’s not counting finding an agent, let alone a publisher. …So, I’m not as inclined to be as  hard on the mediocre writing. At least they did it. Which is more than most can say. And at least they got it published. Which is more than I could say. One day, one day….

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