The Evolution of a Story

Four and a half years ago, I finished writing a book called A Broken Kind of Beautiful and wasn’t sure what to write next.

I’m not one of those writers who has a constant overflow of story ideas. A disconcerting thing, especially when I’m around those writers who have a constant overflow of story ideas and like to say things like:

I just started this story, but five other ideas are calling my name!

All the while, I twiddle my thumbs and whistle off in the corner, trying not to panic that I’ve used mine all up.

Anyway, I finished the story about Ivy, a fashion model at the end of a career that has always defined her, and came across this random news article.

It was about this boy who survived a plane crash.

A total miraculous survival, as the plane was completely decimated, along with every other passenger with it.

Enter The Spark!

What a relief this brings, when an idea does strike. I start petting it, cooing to it, like Gollum and the ring.

After I read that article, the wheels in my mind started spinning. I began asking the question every novelist asks, “What if …?”

What if instead of a plane, it’s a train?

What if it’s a big national tragedy?

What if the entire country becomes obsessed with this woman because of her miraculous survival?

What if, in turn, this woman becomes obsessed with the people who didn’t survive? What if this woman becomes obsessed with the dead?

At the time, I considered myself a contemporary romance author, which meant that I needed a hero to go with my heroine.

What if the hero was a man who lost his wife in that same tragedy? A man who wants to forget. Paired with a woman desperate to remember. Ooo. Every novelist loves a bit of irony.

Dredging up the Courage

I have a secret:

I’m a dreadful writer.

My first drafts are never good. Combine that with the fact that I find the blank page terribly intimidating, and well … getting the story down is never easy.

And so, I have to work up the courage to write ugly. To trust the process.

I repeat things to myself like:

You can’t edit what’s not there!

And, don’t get it right, just get it written!

Like Dory, I keep swimming. I write through all the insecurity. There are moments – encouraging bursts of, “There is something here!” – but for the most part, it’s not pretty.

I wrote the rough draft of this particular story all the way back in 2012. A good chunk of it I wrote in Galena, Illinois with my pal Erica Vetsch. We spent the weekend holed up in a hotel, drinking copious amounts of Diet Coke, our fingers flying across the keyboards.

And then I finished and I went through the many, many, MANY stages of editing. The story became functional, something I would actually show another person. Like my agent and my editor.

At the time, it was a romance. Tentatively titled Falling for Autumn, even though I always referred to it as the train story.

Waiting Its Turn

Remember, this was 2012.

Fun fact: When I signed my second 2-book contract with Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing House, they wanted the train story. They planned to publish that one first, The Art of Losing Yourself (which was only a spark of an idea at the time) second.

A Broken Kind of Beautiful was not on the docket at all, even though it was complete and one of my personal favorites.

I sent the synopsis of the train story off to my editor.

She read it, and … we needed to talk.

There were problems. BIG problems. It would require a massive rewrite.

My heart, my friends, just wasn’t in it. My heart was beating for Ivy the model and her journey down in Greenbrier, South Carolina.

So I suggested that we look at A Broken Kind of Beautiful instead. I believed in this book. Believed, believed, believed. I was still wishy-washy about the train story.

And so, we moved forward with Ivy. She was published first. In 2014, she met the world. I got busy bringing Carmen and Gracie to life, the two leads in The Art of Losing Yourself.

All the while, the train story languished in a file on my computer’s hard drive.

Dusting It Off

This brings us into 2015.

I signed my third 2-book contract with Waterbrook, this time, for two books not yet written. These were just little sparks.

I started writing the first. And boy, was it a painful, painful process. This story was not cooperating. The whole thing filled me with angst. No magical moments at all. But I persisted (stubbornly, and foolishly). I pushed through. I finished the worst rough draft ever to exist in the world, and I sent the summary off to my editor.

There were two components of the story she wasn’t a fan of. Slight problem. Those two things WERE the story. I mean, that was it. Take those two things out, and I had nothing. Not to get dramatic or anything, but the thought of going back to the drawing board for this particular book made me want to shrivel into a ball and die.

So I said, in a squeaky, discouraged sort of voice, “Hey, what about the train story?”

While this, too, needed a massive re-write, my heart was drawn to what it once wasn’t. The premise of the story grabbed me, even all these years later.

It was better for my health to work on something that grabbed me, instead of working on something that made me want to curl into a ball and die.

So the rough draft that I had just finished went into hiding. Maybe someday, it, too, will get pulled out and dusted off.

Right then, though, it was the train story’s turn.

Becoming Something New

My editor and I talked about all the various problems. We came up with solutions.

And you guys?

I rewrote this thing from the ground up.

The premise remained. The name of my main character remained. The hero remained. Almost everything else changed.

Along with the title.

Life After by Katie Ganshert

While I was furiously re-writing, my publishing house was creating the perfect face. My editor sent it to me via a private message on Facebook and I loved it so much I told her to, “Shut up!”

It spurred me onward.

Finally, I finished. Y’all, I was in love. The whole process of rewriting, especially in light of how awful the previous failed project had been, felt magical. I was in my element. And so, I emailed it off to my editor with confidence.

And then I waited.

Next Level, Please

The first round of edits with a publishing house has many different names:

Content edits, macro edits, substantive edits.

They all mean the same thing.

Basically, BIG edits. I don’t know a single author whose stomach doesn’t shrink into the size of a raisin at the thought of them.

My big edits have always been extra, extra big. And I was extra, extra afraid this time around. Because I loved this story and I didn’t want to change it.

Enter: the phone call.

My editor had read the manuscript and was ready to talk.

She liked it. Of course, there were some issues. She saw ways to bring it to the next level that would require a substantial overhaul, but if I really liked it the way it was, that overhaul wasn’t necessary.

Whew! This was looking to be my lightest big edit yet.

It had been a good chunk of time since I submitted the manuscript. I needed to re-acclimate myself with the characters. I printed it out at Staples and started reading.

A funny thing happened. I was thoroughly NOT impressed. Which is thoroughly NOT a good feeling.

Afterward, I had a two hour Skype session with my editor, I rolled up my sleeves, and I got to work. Revising and rewriting once again, this poor story that had already taken on so many different shapes and versions.

An Accomplishment

My friends, I can tell you that last night, I emailed this newly revised version off to my editor, once again.

Big edits. Check!

The hardest work behind me. Check!

Sure, there are still line edits, and copy edits. Probably still some biggish issues to iron out. But the hard, hard work is through.

And while I’d love to say that it’s awesome and I can’t wait for you to read it, my eyes are too crossed and my heart too close to have any objectivity at all.

I’ll have to rely on my editors for that.

For now, it is time to start a new adventure, with a new setting and new characters. An entirely different, “What if …”

Let the brainstorming begin!

A Warm Reminder Giveaway


I need a happy place.

Does anybody else need a happy place?

I mean, I have my new cover with which I’m a wee bit obsessed. When the world looks dark and gray, this has become a sort of happy place.

Life After

But even that can’t shoo away all the divisiveness that seems to be lurking around every social media corner these days.

We’re all so busy feeling offended or slighted or defensive or indignant that we’re forgetting about Romans 12:10.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Man, what would our life, our churches, our world look like if we could tattoo that verse on our hearts?

It’s a hard one to live, though, right? (Please tell me I’m not alone.)

There’s this song I love by Hillsong United. It’s called From the Inside Out. In fact, this is the song that inspired the title of my novel, The Art of Losing Yourself.

Your will above all else
My purpose remains
The art of losing myself in bringing you praise
Here’s what I’ve experienced:
True joy, true peace, true contentment and courage comes when we lose ourselves in Him.
That’s my ultimate happy place.
And when I do that–when I lose myself in Him–I’m no longer so darned concerned about my rights or my opinions or my feelings or my fears. It’s about Him and His Kingdom, which is made up of real-life hurting people living real-life complex stories. And when He and His Kingdom become our heart’s cry, Romans 12:10 becomes as natural as breathing.

So in that vein, I’m giving away some gifts.

I hope that for anybody reading, and especially for the five people who win, this will be a warm reminder that our happy place is never more than a prayer away. I hope it will be a warm reminder that we will never regret kindness or grace, and sometimes, the very best way to honor anyone is by listening. While I probably shouldn’t attempt to tattoo anything on anybody’s heart, I can give you something that will allow you to wear it close by.

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To enter to win this necklace and an autographed copy of The Art of Losing Yourself, fill out the form below. I will use to select five winners!
Please note, you do not have to subscribe to my email list to enter. It is, however, the best way to stay up to date on my latest book news, such as new releases, bargains, giveaways, etc. I detest spam, so you never have to worry about that with me!

Much love, reader friends!

Lean Close and Listen: A Mashup

I’m disturbed. To my very core.

I’m disturbed by the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. I’m disturbed by the deaths of five police officers in Dallas. And now, more death in Baton Rouge.


Life is life. Valuable. No matter what.

Death is death. Tragic. No matter what.

And I’m disturbed.

I’m also afraid.

But not in the way you might think.

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Right now, it is unclear what motivated the shooter in Baton Rouge to open fire on police officers. But as soon as news broke, the narrative was set in motion. Social media became abuzz with assumption: the shooter associated himself with Black Lives Matter.


Maybe not.

Right now, that’s unclear.

And I’m afraid.

I’m afraid my white friends, whether they admit it or not, see things like the Dallas shooting (and potentially, Baton Rouge) as justification to dismiss the outcry from the black community.

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I’m afraid my white friends will see the anger and sometimes, the violence and aggression displayed by protestors, and thus, discredit the entire reason the #blacklivesmatter movement exists.

I’m afraid my white friends won’t ask WHY.

Why is there a movement? Why are people so angry? What is going on?

I’m afraid of a particular line of thinking that goes something like this:

If #blacklivesmatter weren’t a thing, then police officers wouldn’t be getting shot.

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Or, not quite as overt, but just as pernicious, I’m afraid that my white, Christ-professing friends won’t want to hear it anymore. I’m afraid they’ll see the hashtag and roll their eyes.

I’m afraid they will refuse to listen to the black community, which is overwhelmingly saying, “There is a problem here!”

Yesterday, my son said, “Mom, I wish you wouldn’t keep telling me to clean my room.”

To which I said, “Guess what, buddy? If you don’t want me to keep telling you to clean your room, then CLEAN YOUR ROOM.”

I’m pretty sure the same principle applies here.

Until things change. Until we stop ignoring and de-valuing the feelings and experiences of an entire people group, the sharing needs to continue.

And we all need to get honest with ourselves.

Have you felt annoyed when another #blacklivesmatter tweet pops up in your feed? Now in the same breath. Have you done any investigating as to why this is a hashtag? Or do you avoid the articles because you’re already convinced you disagree with them?

Or what about this:

Did you get upset over the deaths of the police officers in Dallas without first getting upset over the deaths of Alton and Philando? In your heart of hearts, the place only you and Jesus can see, do you believe one of those lives is more or less valuable than another?

This is where it starts. A good, hard, honest look at ourselves.

Maybe for you, annoyance isn’t a thing.

Maybe you’re just afraid to speak out.

Because if you speak out, you might align yourself with the wrong group. I see this from my conservative friends all. the. time.

To which I say:

Social injustice–any injustice–is not a political party thing. It is an Imago Dei thing. A Jesus thing. If we profess Him, then we need to care about the things He cares about. As far as I can tell, justice and mercy and human life is pretty high on His list.

If you’re sitting there worried that standing with the black community means standing against police officers, please just stop. No matter what either/or rhetoric is making the rounds, this is and will always be a both/and issue.

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Maybe these aren’t your fears.

Maybe your fear stems from a lack of understanding. 

Maybe you avoid the issue because you don’t feel qualified. You aren’t educated on such matters.

If that’s you, I have GREAT news!

You can get educated.

Might we begin here?

Follow these people

I’ve asked it before and I will ask it again. Who are you listening to? Who are you letting be the authority on topics of race and racial injustice? Other white people?

If so, might I call attention to the inherent problem this poses? Would you go to a conference on parenting if the keynote speaker wasn’t a parent?

We have to start listening well to voices in the black community.

For me, I look to Christian voices in the black community, because at the end of the day, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. The people I list below love Jesus and they are part of the black community. Follow them and see what they have to say.

Of course, this is just the tippity-top of the iceberg. There are so many others. Find them. Listen. Hear what they are saying. Not the media. Not politicians. Not your grandmother. Them.

Stop saying All Lives Matter

It sounds good, but it’s counterproductive.


Read this:

The Next Time Someone Says All Lives Matter, Show Them These Five Paragraphs

Watch this quick, informative video

Have you, perhaps, used one of these arguments in the face of #blacklivesmatter? This video is yours.

4 Responses You’ll Probably Hear When Talking About Black Lives Matter

Read these four articles

They are utterly eye-opening and I hope everybody who is reading this blog will click and read them in their entirety. I’ve included the link, followed by a couple snippets taken directly from the articles.

I’m a Black Ex-Cop and This is the Real Truth About Race and Policing

“On any given day, in any police department in the nation, 15 percent of officers will do the right thing no matter what is happening. Fifteen percent of officers will abuse their authority at every opportunity. The remaining 70 percent could go either way depending on whom they are working with.

That’s a theory from my friend K.L. Williams, who has trained thousands of officers around the country in use of force. Based on what I experienced as a black man serving in the St. Louis Police Department for five years, I agree with him. I worked with men and women who became cops for all the right reasons — they really wanted to help make their communities better. And I worked with people like the president of my police academy class, who sent out an email after President Obama won the 2008 election that included the statement, “I can’t believe I live in a country full of ni**er lovers!!!!!!!!” He patrolled the streets in St. Louis in a number of black communities with the authority to act under the color of law.”

And this …

“The reality of police abuse is not limited to a number of ‘very small incidents’ that have impacted black people nationwide, but generations of experienced and witnessed abuse.”

I Won’t Keep Your Secrets Anymore

“Why can’t people admit that their experience is not the only one? We all walk very different paths across this earth. When black people speak of the experiences they’ve had, why can’t white people just acknowledge? Why do so many feel compelled to argue and bristle and fight back?”

And also …

I can’t be the only white person who’s been privy to this kind of closet, subversive racism. I know there are a lot of white people standing up and speaking out and supporting the black community in saying, “This isn’t right. There needs to be change. We still have work to do.”

But not enough of them.

I’m telling you, as a member of the white community, not enough of you are speaking up. Not enough of you are being truthful about the racism you grew up with. The racism your friends spew. I hear it. I’ve been to your parties and your barbecues.

I know you hear it, too.

I won’t stand by and keep your secrets any longer.”

Dear White Christian Woman

“I know it’s my privilege to serve a savior that is near to the broken hearted. But I want to walk alongside a community of believers that are near to me as well.  Sadly…that’s just not the case. For every #AltonSterling and #TamirRice, I notice an overwhelming silence from my white Christian sisters. It’s deafening. I support every missional cause that my white Christian sisters push on social media for every impoverished country. But where is my community of believers when injustice is happening right in our own backyard? Is it less of a cause because there are no artisanal crafts to sell in honor of the slain? 

I’m hurting here. Really hurting. Like the kind of hurt that leaves you with no eloquent words…just sobbing. This. Should. Not. Happen. Whether you believe the victims are criminals or not, they deserve to make it to the police station, just like the police officer deserves to make it home.”

If You Don’t See the Tragedy in Black Neighborhoods, You’re Not Looking

“I do not think white Americans are guilty, as more militant people believe, of wanting black people dead or repressed. I also believe the answer lies in conservative principles and rule of law as opposed to socialism. But I do think white Americans are guilty of willful blindness, of thinking a problem has been solved when it hasn’t, of living in a bubble and not seeing the struggle of their fellow Americans.”

Read this book

Time for another honesty moment.

Have you ever thought something like, “Slavery ended forever ago. The Civil Rights Movement happened already. Jim Crow is a thing of the past. Can’t we all just move on?”

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How can something as devastatingly horrendous (and also, disturbingly deliberate and pre-meditated) as black slavery and Jim Crow not have long-lasting and far-reaching impact?

What book addresses this, you ask?

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

Alexander lays it out. The full scope of American history (the rise and fall of slavery, the rise and fall of Jim Crow, and the after effects) as it pertains to black oppression. And that’s just in chapter one. I’m only on p. 48 and I’m already wrecked. I’m only on page 48 and I already know I can’t stay quiet or sit on the sidelines anymore.


I hope you start this journey with me.

I hope you read the articles and follow the people on Twitter and watch the video. If you’re feeling ambitious, I hope you order the book and give it a read.

I hope you don’t shoo this post away in annoyance, or scratch your head in confusion, and move on.

I also hope you don’t read this, feel a moment of understanding and passion and conviction, and move on.

You could if you wanted. Doing so is your privilege as a white person.

For our black brothers and sisters, though? It’s not a privilege they have. These aren’t issues they can turn off because they’re sick of the drama. This is what’s happening to their sons and their fathers and their cousins and their neighbors.

For the sake of justice and freedom and healing, this privilege needs to be set down. We need to roll up our sleeves, lean in, and start listening.

Who’s ready to take this journey with me?

Please feel free to ask questions or share your thoughts in the comments below. You by no means have to agree with me. I encourage dialogue, so long as it is kind and respectful!


I’m adding some stuff, because I’m at this beginning of this journey and my knowledge is so incomplete. Here are some more recent resources that are really helping me to understand this from a more complete, Christ-centered point of view:

Blog Series: FAQ about Racial Reconciliation from Trillia Newbell (there are two blog posts as of right now, with at least one more to come)

Podcast: Real Hurt, Real Hope: Racial Tension and Perseverance (if you have time to listen to ANYTHING, please let it be this)

Blog Post: It’s Not Either Or by Courtney Miller