Magazine article The Christian Century

Dear John: Your Gospel Does Not Meet Our Current Needs

Magazine article The Christian Century

Dear John: Your Gospel Does Not Meet Our Current Needs

Article excerpt

To: John

From: Harold Sniveling, Acquisitions Editor

Re: Your submission

Our editorial team has had the opportunity to work through your manuscript. Your "Gospel" does not fit our publishing needs at this time. While undeniably sincere, the work is marred by undeveloped characters, uneven plot, choppy style and numerous digressions. To be more specific, I include below our reader's report.

Chapter 1: A nice opening--vaguely uplifting without being preachy. But then you abruptly sail into "a man sent from God named John." I couldn't figure out how this "Baptist" contributes to the story. Indeed, except for a couple of unexpected appearances in the rest of the manuscript, you seem to forget him. Your introduction of the central character is disappointingly underdeveloped: what of his youth and his early influences? Did he suffer some early trauma that explains his bizarre self-image? What of his inner aspirations? Relationships with women?

Chapter 2: Your central character seems to float above the whole story. Better to have less monologue and more dialogue. The wedding at Cana story is interesting but makes no apparent contribution to the plot. Suggest a reworking of the whole episode to make it the center of the chapter. Whose wedding was this? Was Jesus a relative or ex-husband of the bride? What was the source of his conflict with his mother? I expected some sort of problem with alcohol. Again, you introduce grand possibilities only to drop them. The scene in the temple not only feels out of place (your chronological sequencing needs work) but also makes Jesus seem unappealingly arrogant. Move it to the end, if you use it at all.

Chapters 3-7: This section definitely needs more focus. You would also do well to kick up the pace a bit.

Chapters 8-10: Some of these stories suggest that your central character is seriously unbalanced. Do you really want him saying, "I am the light of the world"? Your readers are going to expect some help in understanding his overblown ego. Is he overcompensating for some inner insecurity? Has he fallen victim to the adulation of his followers? Show rather than tell. It's hard know if readers are supposed to like Jesus or be put off by him. Readers who are into spirituality (and some of your stuff definitely seems pitched to them) are going to find Jesus frequently abrasive. …

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