During the summer of 2018, I submitted query letters to thirty agents and received rejections from twelve of them. The rejections were politely and professionally written. One wasn’t a standard rejection, however; the agent gave subtle feedback. “Unfortunately,” she wrote, “your beginning just isn’t pulling us in the way we had hoped.” Only later did I learn that the Cornerstone story had flaws in its point of view.
Robyn said I should feel good about this rejection and recommended I fix the beginning of the story. Though I kept the same hours at this part-time job, I wrote with a focused determination to improve the manuscript. I saw how to better apply each writing lesson and was excited about the future drafts.
The main plot was the easiest to write. As the telling of the love story flowed from the male protagonist’s point of view, Jameela appeared. Like Rachel, the queen, I wasn’t expecting Jameela. Once I had birthed Jameela and Rachel, both characters took on lives of their own as the story unfolded. This writing was fun, and I made sure to ask for Courtney’s perspective about writing from a woman’s point of view.
Writing the subplot was much harder. It’s a murder mystery, filled with intrigue. The required level of thinking reminded me of the attention to detail needed when composing intelligence scenarios for military exercises. Each clue, each person’s reaction to the clue, and each bit of foreshadowing was carefully planned.
I should have chosen one character’s point of view to tell the story, but I couldn’t decide which one. As a result, I became the narrator and wrote Cornerstone from an omniscient point of view. The writing read like I was telling the story rather than showing it. Thinking through each character’s motives and trying to write what became a grand detailed conspiracy that connected with the love story proved to be a much more difficult task compared to writing the main plot. I thought I knew the subplot, but I only had a vague idea.
The task became more burdensome when I began to lose my mind and fall into madness. In October 2018, I had a nightmare—not a normal nightmare where one may be scared and easily moves on. This nightmare triggered something within me, and it lit a fuse. At the time, I didn’t know the length of the cord or what would happen when the cord burned out. I immediately felt the effects though—see my health journey blog posts for that story.
The book didn’t change much from the date of the nightmare until the middle of December when I received feedback from an agent as part of a Writer’s Digest coaching session. When the agent recommended changing the point of view to third-person limited, I saw the story more clearly. It was like a gear had turned inside my head to the correct setting. Throughout the trilogy, the reader would see what William, the detective, saw—his successes, mistakes, and biases as he investigated the murderers, the possible motives, and the stakes for the Church and kingdom. I kept the same writing hours and wrote the story in two months.
After my first fall in late February 2019, the book remained unchanged until I reviewed the manuscript with Robyn at her house in the mountains of North Carolina during Memorial Day weekend. She gifted me a book on how to write deep scenes and suggested minor changes to the manuscript over coffee at her kitchen table. However, most of the time together was spent hanging out with her family, her animals, or going on hikes. During these hikes, she primarily discussed the life of an author and how to pursue traditional publishing. With the minor changes we discussed, the manuscript would be ready for submission to agents. I returned to Raleigh excited for the next steps in the journey. But then I fell again a week later, and the book stalled for the remainder of 2019.