The Life of a Writer by Paul McCusker – Guest Post

The Life of a Writer by Paul McCusker – Guest Post

Paul McCusker

Paul McCusker is the creative content director for Focus on the Family. He has been a writer of fiction, nonfiction, and drama since 1979.

His work includes over forty published novels, full-length plays, dramatic sketch collections, and song lyrics. For the Adventures in Odyssey series alone, he has written over 200 half-hour radio episodes, eighteen novels, and two screenplays for the best-selling animated videos.

He has dramatized many classics for Focus on the Family Radio Theatre, including A Christmas Carol and Jan Karon’s At Home in Mitford. He also wrote and directed the Peabody Award–winning Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Freedom and created the highly acclaimed Father Gilbert Mysteries series.

Paul lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with his wife, Elizabeth, and their two children.

His latest book is ‘The Body Under the Bridge (A Father Gilbert Mystery’, released in November 2015 by Lion Fiction.

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The Life of a Writer

It’s not easy being a writer. You spend days and weeks and months crafting a novel – in the evenings, on the weekends, or while using up vacation time from your day-job – always alone after the rest of your family has gone to sleep, or gone off to do the kinds of things normal families do – and you pour your life’s blood into it until you have nothing left. It’s completed and, if you have a contract with a traditional publisher, you send it off to someone you’ve probably never met, to do with whatever that person wills.

And you wait.

It could be several weeks or several millennia and then you hear back: a “macro” edit is done, which means the big concerns about your plot, character, prose, and dialogue are laid out before you to rewrite, correct, and edit. There is neither sympathy nor derision from whoever asked for it all. You feel completely incompetent as a writer and wonder why you ever dared to write anything at all.

You write and rewrite some more and send it all back. And you wait.

Then comes the “micro” edit, where a very meticulous person gets down to the pain-staking details of what you’ve written – every plot-hole, every character-inconsistency, every passive sentence, every misplaced punctuation mark. You no longer feel incompetent as a writer, you feel inadequate as a human being. A ten year-old could have done a better job than you.

More rewrites. More edits. More corrections. Then back it goes. And you wait.

A few weeks after that, you get the pre-published version of the manuscript, which sometimes triggers yet more rewrites, edits and corrections – in some cases, making you restore something from the very first draft or having to defend a decision you’d made at the “macro” or “micro” stage, you don’t know any more, because you hardly recognize what you’d written or what your original intention was or why you started the blasted novel in the first place.

You know all the steps are valuable. You want to believe the novel is much better for all that effort. And maybe it means the publisher will feel invested in the work.

And you wait.

And then the book hits the marketplace.

For most of us, the marketing and public relations campaigns don’t happen. There are no appearances on national television to promote the book, no autograph signings at prestigious bookstores, no fans clamoring for the next one. The entire promotional strategy is whatever you can drum up on Facebook or Twitter. The publisher has already moved on to the next big project.

Meanwhile, you stupidly search for some evidence that people know the book exists and might actually buy it. You use different online search engines looking to see who’s selling it. You check the sales numbers on Amazon and nearly celebrate when you rise higher than #10,000 as if you’d just broken the top ten in Publisher’s Weekly chart.

You search for any and all reviews – glad to have one, even if it comes from “Agricultural Digest” or “Waste Management Weekly.” And, if you’re wildly delusional, you hope your book might get noticed enough for an award of some sort from some group somewhere – a discussion group or a teen writing class. And when it doesn’t and tons of other books by authors you’ve never heard of do, you seek consolation in your own artistic integrity and vision and figure it’s a matter of “pearls before swine.”

Then the sales reports come in and, by your own estimation, your own family hasn’t bought any copies. By another estimation, you realize it will take three-quarters of a century to recoup any advance you may have received.

Then you think: it isn’t worth it. It’s too much work. My wife and children suffered through months of neglect from me, all for what? You tell yourself there’s no point in writing anything else – not at that price – not for that sacrifice. And you quietly withdraw with a final whimpering realization that no one will notice that you’ve stopped writing anyway since, obviously, no one knew you had started in the first place.

You say it’s over. And it is.

Until you wake up in the middle of the night with some new idea and you think, hey, this is pretty good, let me just write that down.


The Body under the Bridge by Paul McCusker

The Body Under the Bridge
Author – Paul McCusker
Publisher – Lion Fiction
Pages – 320
Release Date – 20th November 2015
Format – ebook, paperback
Contains affiliate links.


A former Scotland Yard detective, Father Gilbert knows about death. But, now a priest of a modest Anglican church in the small town of Hailsham, he didn’t expect it to show up like this – in the suicide of a man who threw himself off the church tower, and in the discovery of a two-hundred-year-old body beneath an ancient bridge.

The deaths are linked. The mummified corpse under the bridge, a murder victim, reignites a centuries-old battle between two local families – the Todds and the aristocratic Hayshams. Then both David Todd and Lord Haysham begin to act strangely. They are fearful for reasons they won’t explain.

When Lord Haysham is murdered, David Todd is the prime suspect. But Todd is acting maniacal, claiming great forces of evil are at work. An entire history of violence and depravity begins to emerge – interweaving the history of several local families with a secret occult society that engages in Black Masses. Has the Society emerged again?
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