25 February 2013

forward

Slowly a bit more feedback has trickled in; enjoyment and constructive suggestions. Good, useful feedback. I am thrilled by this. There is work I need to do on that first manuscript for sure, but it turned out better than I'd ever dreamed it might.

While I wait for a one or two specific people to get back to me, I've found I can't stop writing like I can't stop breathing. So while the first story simmers on a back burner waiting for another level of work, a second story was waiting to be written. The only delimma was that a third cropped up and took over in my mind.

I see these stories like I'm watching a movie, slowly and deliberately playing out, full of details and conversations and heart. I'd already named the important people in book two and had a good idea what it was all about. But every time I sat to write, these other mystery people were living their life in my head instead. Since that third story wasn't letting go so I finally had to name the characters and start putting it on paper.

There were details I wanted to solve in my head before starting but I eventually just sat down and formatted my document. Then I began. And in less than a dozen sentences I understood better why she was doing that and who was affecting her and how it had come to be. It just unfolded in front of me, beneath my fingertips.

And now that I've been through this once, it's a bit more familiar, and I can see where I'm heading more clearly.

I love creating with words. And I can't wait to see how this one ends....

21 February 2013

feedback

I talked about sharing my finished manuscript a couple weeks ago and the impatience that bites at you as you wait for some kind of response.

Gradually, I heard one comment or two from friends who'd begun reading my book. One was taking her time, making notes about things, and rumor from her sister was that she was glad it was good. Whew. Even if it wasn't, I'm grateful to the core that she was taking the time to dig into it for me. But the very breath of it being good on any level made me soar. It gave me confidence that no matter how red-lined it might be at the end of a critiquing, I had something to work with.

Another friend finally had life settle down enough to open the pages she'd printed. Though she said the beginning was the roughest and we both agreed it needed some work, she hung the moon for me when she said she couldn't put it down.

This particular friend was my staunchest supporter, the one who pushed me to keep going, asked me "why" my characters did what they did, and lovingly took my millions of texts as I processed what I was writing and she read the tiniest snippets as I went along.

I quote the beloved text of her initial response here, (for my own record keeping, of course):

"I almost cried, I giggled, I tensed, was relieved, grinned like a fool. Yea. I'd say it has a breath and then some."

And then she said, 
"There were so many things I loved about it....it was incredible to see how it fit together. I had no idea. It was awesome."


Yes, I'm tooting my own horn; yes, I also know it needs work. And above all, I know these are not words from an editor. But friends, these words gave me so much to fuel my love of my craft. I had not bored her to tears. My story had not been merely tolerated. It was enjoyed.

I have several others who have not read it or not finished it. I know a couple of them are truly planning to critique it, perhaps line by line. One of those is a college professor. I may be a crumpled heap before it's over, but for now I will float along and enjoy the boost that tells me I am meant to be writing.

For whatever reason, it's in my heart.

19 February 2013

mercies

This month has been intense for me and for my family. Winter always is, and February in particular. It's just the rhythm of our life and you'd think I'd grow accustomed to it over the years. Apparently I never do.

About a week ago, I made myself get dressed earlier than usual, put on happy earrings, open the curtains, breathe in the day....I heard myself say that His mercies are fresh every morning. And I claimed them, determined to stay on top of the day. The days have been even tougher than usual recently.

By evening I was sitting in my van, no longer fighting tears, and accusing the Lord - "Where are your mercies, now? Huh?!" I felt He was snatching them away one at a time as the day progressed until none were left. Waking up ready to face the day was the easy part. Surviving it was the hard part.

I should never be surprised when He answers me. But I was. "They are still here..."

His words slowly soaked into my hurting heart as I drove to my monthly homeschool meeting. I put in an ancient cassette tape and listened to songs of praise I'd sung many years ago, songs I had not heard in a while. Then I sang along (very glad He only needs a joyful noise because singing is not my strength!), and found that He was pouring mercy over me in ways I could not have imagined. In the innermost part of my being He met me and cared for me and filled me up.

The next day was much the same. And the next. I didn't have a meeting to go to, I didn't have the same song replaying....but I was hurting as each day ended and He was meeting me in sweet, unexpected ways. He was sustaining me, upholding me, loving me.

And He still is.


How have you experienced His mercy, His refreshing?
How do you keep going when it feels impossible?
I'd love to hear your experience...

18 February 2013

meeting

Remember that I said I don't do so well meeting new people? One on one is fine, but I am talking about going to a group setting where I don't know a soul.

In the midst of that waiting and toying with my next story, I began to pay more attention to the email groups on ACFW. One author was coming to Atlanta, not far from me, to speak and do a book signing. She asked to meet any of the locals here. Most of the people on the group were obviously familiar with each other already - and most are published or have been in the writing field for some time in various ways.

I hedged around, pondering, feeling an un-like-me urge to go to this dinner. I said I'd go, got excited, wished for a reason to back out, and was upset when it almost didn't happen. Inside, there was a prodding in my spirit to be there. God was pushing me forward gently. And so I went.

It was a small gathering, perhaps 10-12 people, mostly women, two with a husand along. Some were published authors and some were book club members. And they were warm and welcoming and friendly and Godly. A few whose names escape me; I believe they were with the book club but I am honestly terrible at remembering names.

I sat beside the lovely children's author Betsy Duffey who was gracious and kind and spent time chatting with me. I can't wait for my daughter to be ready to read her books!

I met Alice Wisler, the author who was in town to speak about her new book on grief, Getting Out of Bed in the Morning. I am ready to get my own copy and already found some of her fiction books that look enticing!

And I chatted with the vivacious and welcoming Ane Mulligan who made sure I knew where to find the local group that meets once a week. It was then I wished my kids weren't in karate that night. I would absolutely love to go! Who knows, something might work out. Our God knows how to arrange anything on His heart. I'll leave it to Him.

I enjoyed every moment of my dinner.

(Except maybe the burger I ordered; someone else's meal looked better!)

13 February 2013

sharing

In the midst of that rush of viruses a mere two months ago, I discovered that if I treated the flu's feverish ways with a bit of medicine and everyone dozed back off, I suddenly had a space of writing time. (Note: I did not get the flu, but 3 of our kids and my husband did! Rather I got the stomach thing along with 3 kids...and we had one child that only got a cold.)

Granted it might have been 15 minutes at a time but with a house of sickies we weren't homeschooling and we weren't doing much of anything productive. Except for me. I wrote fast and furious for weeks. It wasn't enough to appease me, though, as I'd set a deadline of Dec 31st to finish my first draft. I suddenly had far more that needed to be said and done to reach the end than I realized. I exceeded my word count goal by a fair stretch after cutting a whole lot of back story out.

My self imposed deadline came and went. I was mildly disheartened but as much as I was getting to write with sick kids around, I realized I was cosntantly interrupted to care for them. So it wasn't all peaches and cream. I bucked up and set a new deadline: my birthday (Jan 10). I beat that one!

On the evening of Jan 4 I finished. I took a few days off and then revised it for typos, inconsistencies and obvious weaknesses. I felt immensely wonderful. And nervous. I needed to share it because I needed feedback to take it further. And that meant growing some thicker skin.

The whole whopping 12-15 people who knew what I was doing (my family doesn't count here) had asked to read it. And they got their chance when I shot off copies to them the next day. With trembling and trepidation.

And immediately I had to wait. And wait. And wait. Because they hated it? Were afraid to say anything? Because I didn't follow up? Why? Oh wait, do they have a life outside of reading my epic book? Sigh....

This sharing thing lost it's oomph for several weeks as I sat and hoped someone would open their email and have a bit of time. I did learn that sharing = waiting.

But, rather than twiddle my thumbs, I decided it was time to push forward. I set a new goal for myself: Finish the next rough draft before the conference I hope to attend. Then, if I have a chance to pitch my work to an agent I can tell them that not only have I finished a complete manuscript, I have finished two.

And while I waited, I began the next story budding from the first.

11 February 2013

joining

As I read and learned from the various blogs I've come to love and frequent, I was encouraged to join the American Christian Fiction Writer's (ACFW). So for a few weeks as I worked on my novel, I pondered this. There were plenty of perks with joining for the writer-geek in me, and a discount to the coveted writer's conference was the cherry on top.

I finally did it and then sat back to let my nerves settle. It seemed so...official...to join a group of writers. I was admitting that I wanted more than to simply write as an outlet for myself and that was a huge step for me.

Immediately, my family became horribly sick. I was so taken up by the care of a sick husband and four sick kids that my emails were barely scanned. I kept seeing some pop up from ACFW but truly could not even process what they were all about for several weeks as one virus and then another and yet another made their rounds through the house.

Health very slowly returned (though the Pukes have come to visit again this week, and quite frankly they are unwelcome guests) and with it came glimpses into the world of e-loops on ACFW. One thing that stood out in particular was the comaraderie, warmth and welcome among the various writers. I am automatically part of a regional group. There are also state groups and class groups and a critique group among others that I can join. And there are local groups who actually meet face-to-face once a month.

I have kids in karate the night the local group meets, much to my dismay. Actually, that wasn't entirely true. At first, I was relieved because I am not fond of large groups or being the center of attention ("introduce yourself..." - oh my!) even for a brief moment. And while I coveted the courage to show up, deep down I was secretly relieved to have an excuse not to.

But this is all part of the journey for me. I joined. That was just one step in the right direction.

07 February 2013

unjoy

It's raining. Not the pretty rain, but the chilled, dark rain that encompasses your soul and makes you wish you could curl up alone to work through the myriad of emotions running at high speed through your being. There are days when I struggle to see the joy I know is there. That joy seems to leak away with the rainwater down the storm drain.

Today is one of those days.

It's full of the constant battle that winter brings for at least one member of our family - days like this make the battle ten times harder and it spreads to the rest of us. It's a day of small anxieties creeping up from Satan about all the little things - the spilled dry cereal in at least two different rooms beside the dry bagel and soon-to-sour-sippy that is hiding nearby; the pile of pots and pans left in the sink now that I caught up the normal dishes; the pile of laundry on my bathroom floor; the story that I simply want time to work on in the midst of texts and emails from two sources to address varying issues with my daughter's many food allergies.....and so much more.

Anxiety is nibbling on my heart today.

I wish I could blast loud music and work through this on my own, but that isn't an option right now. Instead, I  am trying to take a somewhat Pollyanna approach, remembering the reasons it's not as bad as it could be:
  • It's just raining, not storming and tornado-ing
  • I snuck a yummy cookie at breakfast
  • My daughter's food allergies are under control
  • I got a random call from one of my oldest and bestest friends today
  • The struggles of winter-time could be much worse...and have been in years gone by
  • The stomach but that attacked the house this week appears to have bid adieu at last
  • Tomorrow is payday
  • The Lord has His merciful hand on every single bit of it - the good, the bad, the indifferent

And more than that, I think I need to sing a song of praise. No matter how hard that seems right now. So if you'll excuse me, I need to go for now...

Tell me, how do you find joy on days like this?

06 February 2013

blooming hopes

As I was wooed into the world of writing again, more deeply than ever before, I found myself perusing the blogs of other writers, particularly their blogs about writing. The published kind of writers. They're typically authors of the books I enjoy reading (mainly Christian Fiction). And I found these women approachable, open, willing to share their experiences.

Gradually, my fears of writing and rejection began to shed like a snake skin, knowing that many others have traveled this path I see before me. My confidence grew. I have conversations with myself about growing thick skin (shhh....don't tell anyone I talk to myself!). I won't say I'm as confident and bold as I'd like to be - but at least I'm working on it!

On these blogs I found tidbits about the tools of the trade, the things I need to strive for, look for, work on. And I applied them as I wrote at every opportunity. Then I discovered writer's conferences and suddenly my need to simply write for myself as an outlet of "me time" leaped into a longing to attend one. I have high hopes of finding my way to a particular conference later this year.

And so my little writing world that began on my laptop began expanding its horizons, growing deeper roots within me....

04 February 2013

the beginning


Welcome!

This past year I began to follow a dream I've had for so very long....

I started writing.

A novel.

Let me start at the beginning:
Before having children, I was dabbling with a story and one day the Lord clearly told me to put it down. "Not now."  I felt that there would be a someday for me to return to writing and let it go as He asked. God had reasons for saying that I realize and, looking back, I understand them more clearly. But about twelve years later the need to put words on paper again stirred restlessly within and I heard, "Now. It's time."

That was all it took - and the need to write returned with a passion. Last spring I began pouring words into my little laptop and a story unfolded with the prodding of a few friends who cheered me on. That encouragement took me far and in 9 months time I had a rough draft I was happy to call my own. My manuscript needs work - I have no doubt. But I'm willing to put that blood, sweat and tears into it.

I have found so much joy in my writing, so much peace. It's carved out a space for me that I desperately needed while I care for my four children and homeschool them. It's a haven of its own making.

So now what?
I've met that simple goal of writing a novel. Which is truly all I set out to accomplish. But as I approached the end of the story I had grown to love so much, I discovered my confidence building and a desire to see how far I could take my writing was pushing me onward. And I have another story stirring itself into being right now.

I don't know what that means, nor do I know what God's plans are for my writing. I'm going to keep following this path to find out, though.

Won't you join me? I'd love to have you along!