The summer of novel change

Change is coming…

As I recently shared on Twitter, my life, my routine, my job is all about to change at the end of the summer. After 18 years of serving as a youth/associate minister here in Michigan, I’ve been called to become the senior pastor of another church out in New York state. This is not a sudden decision or a sudden change, but something that has very much been in the works for two years now.

I’ve seen change coming, and while I didn’t struggle against it, I wasn’t exactly running to embrace it. Life with four kids, two jobs, and a wife with a career of her own is busy enough even when things are relatively stable. But God’s been slowly but persistently pushing me toward the senior pastorate, and after more job interviews and offers than I care to state, I finally found the one that I’m sure I’m supposed to go to. And so we’re going.

Change is terrifying to most people and especially to me. I like my constants, my routine, my security. Changing my job location, my job type, my house, my state, all in the span of a month and a half is so overwhelming that I think I just lapped all the way back to “calm, cool, and collected.” My wife and I have been firing in all directions, working on selling our house, buying another, figuring out what I need to do to get ready for my job, and making a list of the hundred or so things we’ll need to do to get settled into our new home. The kids are all scared too, because they’ve never moved before. We’re taking them away from their friends and school and church family. It’s going to be hard before it gets better, but as I tell them, we’ll do it together.

What keeps me from going crazy during all of this is just knowing that it’s the right thing. Staying wouldn’t be. It would be the easier thing, but I know I would regret it in the end. I have this peace in my heart that I can’t explain, but I know that it’s a much-needed gift from my Lord to help me prepare and make it through this transition.

This means change in another way, too: I’ll be stepping down as a senior reporter at Massively OP. I’ve been doing news for Massively and MOP since 2010, and again, it’s kind of sad that it’ll be the end of that. But I can’t do it with my new job and schedule, and I really do want a break from the pressure of the daily news cycle.

But I won’t be leaving MOP, which makes me happy. I’ll still be there doing the podcast and other columns (we’re still figuring that out), and I’ll still be writing here on Bio Break and doing Battle Bards as usual. Writing is my outlet and hobby and passion, and it’s a good thing for me overall. That won’t change.

Editing is like wrestling with a grammatical bear

The other “life news of Syp” that I wanted to share is an update on my novel. After finishing the first draft back in June, I took a week to rest and then started working on editing. Initially I thought I’d edit a chapter a day for 35 days, but very quickly I realized that wasn’t going to happen. Some of my chapters are much longer than others, and this editing thing is really a painstakingly slow process.

In my head while I wrote the book, I thought it was pretty great the first time around — at least the writing was solid. But now I see that it needs work, a LOT of work. That’s what writing is, really. Nobody gets it done perfect right out of the gate.

So what I’m doing is making a relatively sane daily goal of editing for 15 minutes. That’s usually a few paragraphs, but I can dig down deep into those. My editing style is to read the book out loud, so that I can hear how it sounds. That may seem silly, but it’s not. It’s a good editing technique, and one that I’ve used for years on my sermons as I refine them over the course of a week. You have to hear how a sentence and paragraph flows. You have to hear if you’re doing nothing but enormous sentences with no change in cadence and structure. And you definitely need to hear the dialogue. If it doesn’t sound right to me, I figure it’s REALLY not going to sound right to others.

I’m somewhere in the middle of chapter 9 right now. Making progress, but editing is very low on my list of priorities this month (obviously). I am a little worried that the emotional high of my excitement that I had while writing it is not there right now. I still like the book, but it’s been a lot of work for a good chunk of the year now and there’s a long way to go. So I’ll keep taking little steps forward and trust that it’ll get done one day.

12 thoughts on “The summer of novel change

  1. Dude, I’m excited for you. Praying for you and your family in the midst of this new season. Ya’ll can do this and ya’ll are not alone. And hey, if you need someone to help with editing… it’s something I enjoy.

  2. I’m really glad that you’ve found where God wants you to be. My dad was a pastor, and transitioned churches four times by the time I was 18. Each church was special, and in each place God had a unique thing to teach him and the congregation and the other staff. I’ll be praying for you and your family, as I know quite well the stresses and excitements that come with this season.
    On a purely selfish note, ever since I saw on Twitter that you were getting a new job, my first thought was “Aw man, he’s going to quit Massively, isn’t he?” Then Elliot was on the podcast last week and I thought for sure you were going to announce that he was going to take your place. I’m sad that you’ll be around less, but I’m really glad you’re going to stay on in at least some capacity. I’m also glad you’ll be continuing with BioBreak, as I always enjoy reading about your adventures.
    I have nothing to contribute to the novel writing piece, other than to say that I develop games as a hobby, and every time work gets stressful my projects tend to stall. I’m glad that you have the self discipline to keep working on your novel. Looking forward to reading it some day!

  3. I’m excited for you in your new position. It sounds like it’s the right time. Hope you like snow. I have it in my head that Buffalo gets some really exciting amounts.
    Glad you’re not giving up the podcast!
    Reading about your novel, I’m reminded that even the really big authors only publish one novel a year. Without a doubt, it’s the editing.

  4. Change is always a strange mix of fear and excitement, as it is so full of unknown that it’s both frightening and exhilarating, all at once.
    From my own experience, it’s always a good and positive thing, as it’s the beginning of new adventures. And as long as your close ones are with you, there’s nothing to be feared.
    I wish you and your family the best in your new life, Justin. I’m glad to know it will not result in too many changes on MOP (you’ve been my favorite columnist there for a long time, but don’t tell the others 😉 ) and on your blogging activity. Cheers! – Pierre

  5. I wish you well on this new adventure. It is best to admit up front that with that sort of change that routines will be broken. New ones will take a while to establish, but they will come.

  6. Good luck with all that changing. It’s a lot to handle all at once.

    You’re the only writer I still read at Massively:OP. I scan all the news stories but I often only read past the headlines if I see your byline. I can’t read any of the opinion pieces any more other than yours so I’m glad you’ll still be doing a few of those, at least.

    Reading out loud is crucial for editing, I think, or at least hearing the words in your head as though they were being read out loud. Musicality and cadence are vital. Good luck with that, too.

    .

  7. New job exciting times. I never get much sleep before starting a new job. God will provide, I am sure you and your family will find many new friends. Plus you always get to keep the online ones wherever you go.
    Gratz

  8. Congratulations on the new role and the new life!

    It’s good to hear you’ll still be finding some time to play and talk about MMOs, and that the novel continues to progress also.

  9. Congrats on your new calling! The mitten will miss you. I am pleased that you will still be doing the MOP podcast. I was a little worried when I started reading and may have actually sighed in relief. I’ve found editing my novel to be much harder and more time consuming and filled with so much more self-doubt than writing it. Which is why I put it aside. I hope yours goes much better!

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