Monday, August 2, 2010

Guest Blogger, Jonathan Williams

Today I would like to welcome author Jonathan Williams as the special guest blogger here at Thoughts in Progress as he makes a stop on his virtual blog tour.

Jonathan served as a missionary with the International Mission Board’s Xtreme Team in the jungles of Peru for two years. It was there, lying under a mosquito net in a hut in the middle of the Amazon Jungle, that Jonathan began to write his first novel, JUNGLE  SUNRISE.

Jonathan stopped by to talk about “the red pen and purposeful writing.”

I remember the first round of edits of my first novel. Painful.
I had finished the first draft just months before, entrusting the initial edits to my dad, a brilliant and unremitting editor. Many more edits would follow once my publisher and his team had their hands on the book, but I remember that first round most vividly. I sat across the table from my dad as he slid the rough manuscript of Jungle Sunrise back to the author.

It looked like a 2-year-old’s coloring book; the pages violently besieged by the ever-obtrusive red pen. Oh, the red pen. Some authors hate it. Some love it. Others fear it. As for me, well, I guess I was just surprised by it. I was surprised by the amount of changes that I agreed needed to be made to my book.

By the time we were finished, Jungle Sunrise had been rearranged, transformed, improved, and molded into the story it was originally meant to be. It was like driving an old truck through the car wash and flying a jet out the other end.  Most people, when they think of the dreaded red pen and editing, imagine a tedious task of correcting misspelled words and coma splices. This is not the case. The red pen allows the author to reexamine the drive of the characters, the believability of the dialogue, and even the purpose of the story. These big picture aspects of writing are what make editing such an invaluable part of the process.
Too often, books are written and even published with but a thin trace of purpose. With more than 100,000 books published each year and the average reader making it through only 8 books a year, an author must use the red pen time and time again to make sure that they communicate the purpose of the book in the most inspiring, intriguing, and creative way possible.

You only get one chance to capture the heart of a reader. 

Whether the aim is to make someone laugh, teach a set of truths, enthrall with adventure, or move with emotion, writers must invest the time in writing, editing, rewriting, editing again, and going through more than a few red pens so that the book set on the shelves is, not perfect, but, ready. It is ready to engage new readers, ready to paint the right picture, and stir imaginations without the hiccups that didn’t survive the initial edits.

Jonathan, thanks so much for guest blogging here. I can see where red pens could cause dread for writers.

For a little more background on Jonathan: living with a previously unreached indigenous tribe, the Amarakaeri, he experienced first-hand the beauty and danger of native life as he had the opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, hunt with bows and arrows, fish with spears, navigate the rivers, and encounter every aspect of the tribe’s culture. This breathtaking scene of the Amazon serves as the backdrop for JUNGLE SUNRISE.

Jonathan, 30, writes and lives in North Texas with his beautiful wife, Jessica, where he pastors Body Life church and serves as the Campus Pastor for Trinity Christian Academy as he pursues a Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His passion and desire is to inspire readers with creativity and truth. Find out more by visiting


  1. Mason - Thanks for hosting Jonathan.

    Jonathan - I know exactly what you mean about that red pen. It can be so daunting at first. I'm happy for you that you persevered.

  2. Jonathan, This sounds like a wonderful book. I love how you took your experience and used it in a book. Red ink is painful, but necessary.

    Mason, you're a great host!

  3. He's right about only one shot, which is why I am so nervous about October. Hope he gets many more opportunities to wow readers.

  4. What an interesting background Jonathan has had!

    Red pens take a while to get used to, for sure. I'm glad you kept on going. :)

  5. I think the red pen would hurt my feelings! LOL Great guest post.

  6. Jonathan, thanks again for stopping by and talking about the dreaded 'red pen.'

    Margot and Teresa, thanks for stopping by.

    Alex, no need to be nervous - you'll do great.

    Elizabeth and Kathy, I think I'll look at red pens different from now on. LOL

  7. What an interesting background for a writer. I can think of several people for whom this book would make a great gift.

    As to the red pen--I am constanly amazed by what better work can come from different perspectives on one's work. I might write something with one intention, but it is read with a completely different result by another reader. Those perspectives are extremely importnat, and for that I say--bring on the red pen!

    Gothic Lit today at SouthernCityMysteries

  8. YEah, it's true. And some readers don't make it through eight novels. It's a very good post. Shows me I have to be more diligent with my edits.


  9. I stopped and reread the comment about most people only reading eight books a year. Wow, that’s less than a book a month.

    Nice interview.

  10. Thanks for hosting Jonathan today. I'm glad so many people can relate to his post.


  11. Truly enjoying reading these comments from readers & writers alike. Thanks for the encouragement & support! I hope you get a chance to check out Jungle Sunrise and send me your thoughts on my first novel.
    -Jonathan Williams

  12. Edits are always such a shocker. But always worth it. Good luck with Jungle Sunrise!

  13. Mason - thanks for hosting such an interesting young man! I wish I had an editing dad. Oh wait a minute, I do but I couldn't give him my book to edit - I'll give it to him published and I'm sure he'll still edit it! And you are so right about what revising is, Jonathan.
    Jan Morrison

  14. I'm a big fan of thrillers (and a book addict), so anything with a new slant grabs me immediately. Thanks for featuring Jonathan today, Mason.

    And Jonathon, I am very familiar with that shocking first round of edits -- mine came in the form of my editor's Word copy with Track Changes. I also found that first look painful, but I learned so much.

  15. I agree. After going through my own work many times, I had a critique partner edit my manuscript and then it was professionally edited. I asked early readers to point out mistakes and still when the publisher’s editor got finished, I had some pages with more red than black on them! But, I liked the finished product so much better. You are right – those red pens are great!


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.