Thursday, October 01, 2009

Your Inner Weird Meets Your Book Proposal

I've got a guest post up today over at Rachelle Gardner's excellent blog, CBA Ramblings.  If you're a writer or want to be a writer, you should be reading Rachelle's blog regularly. My post over there is about how I learned to start writing what I love rather than what I thought other people wanted to see and how that, paradoxically, eventually got me an agent and got me published.  As a bonus feature for anybody stopping by the Burning Hearts Revolution today, I thought I'd give a concrete example of how "Embracing my Inner Weird" changed not only my book, but also my book proposal.

The difference is clearest when we look at the book's premise.  While many sections (the author bio, my platform, the audience) stayed mostly the same, the premise of the book changed pretty radically, despite having essentially the same theme.  Here's the premise as it appeared in my first proposal:

If I come across a bunch of people sitting outside my church selling doves and changing money, I know I should make a whip out of ropes and turn their tables over and yell at them.  But what is the most Christ-like action when buying my lunch at McDonald's?  Should I buy a Filet-O-Fish sandwich?  Should I turn a milkshake into wine?  I spend my life guessing what Jesus would do instead of living like him.  Is there a way I can get to know the real Jesus instead of inventing my own?  Imaginary Jesus will help identify places in our lives where we've adopted a false Jesus for our own convenience, and talk about real, practical ways to connect with the living, breathing Christ.

The man who eventually became my agent (Wes Yoder of Ambassador Literary), as I shared in my post on Rachelle's blog, told me to take another shot at it, but emphasizing the story-telling stuff and minimizing what he called the "Sunday School lessons."  That weekend I feverishly wrote about six chapters of "Imaginary Jesus Reimagined" and sent them off to Wes.  He got back to me right away, and here was the new and improved premise we used to describe the book once I finished writing it (now that it was fiction instead of non-fiction, I needed to finish the book, not just outline it):

Sitting in a coffee shop with Jesus, Matt Mikalatos realizes that the pleasant, robed man across the table is not the real Jesus at all.  During Matt’s attempt to destroy the imposter and find the real Jesus, Imaginary Jesus escapes.  Now the Lamb is on the lam and Matt is on a quest to find the living, breathing Christ.  With the help of the apostle Peter, a talking donkey and the mysterious Motorcycle Guy, he chases Jesus across the city of Portland, determined to exorcise his imaginary friend.  A fast-paced, hilarious novel, Imaginary Jesus explores what it means to be in relationship with a physically absent but relationally present Jesus. 

As you can see, that's a pretty drastically different book... although the title and "living, breathing Christ" made it into both.  I like that phrase pretty well.

Next Tuesday I'll post some thoughts about getting an agent.  For those of you who are in the process of looking for an agent now, I think you'll find it helpful... there are a lot of things I did that you can do just as easily.

I'd be glad to answer other questions you might have about writing, book proposals, finding an agent, Jesus, butterflies, the average speed of an African swallow or anything else that interests you.  You can leave a comment here or send me a note at matt.mikalatos (at)