Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What I've learned about writing

In high school, I received high marks in writing. One of my teachers even told me that I should write a book. Over the years other people have jokingly told me that if I ever wrote a book, that they would buy it. It's always been sort of a pipe dream, living in the back of my mind, like one of those catchy songs from a McDonald's commercial--sifting to the top, and becoming unshakable. I have several attempts at "the book," but I never made myself take the time to actually write the whole thing. Once, I had thirteen chapters. I was proud. I mean, my high school teacher told me I could write, so why shouldn't I believe it? Mank. Wrong.
I met a published author, and she told me about ACFW. God intervened and made it possible for me to go to their annual conference in 2009. Boy was that a wake up call! Everything I "thought" I knew about writing was a sham! I realized that I knew nothing, but I became determined to learn the craft.
I had entered the Genesis contest with high hopes, only to have them shattered by judges comments that crushed my ego, but not my spirit. Two out of three judges told me that they liked my voice. Ok, that was good. Another told me that my writing was outdated, good, but outdated. What? How can writing be outdated? Well, I was about to find out. The two that liked my voice told me that I ripped the characters in and out of POV and that I was head hopping. Hmmm. A new foreign language. Something else to learn. Something I quickly "googled." (very helpful.) Ok. So I head hopped. Why couldn't I do that? Well, because it's confusing to the reader. Oh yeah. The reader. Isn't that the person I'm trying to please? Right. I'm taking notes. "Cannot confuse the reader." There are "rules." I have to learn the rules and use them when I'm writing. "No head hopping. Stay in one person's head at a time, one scene at a time."
So now, I'm still trying to figure out outdated. So I asked. (Never hurts.) I found out that I incorporated too much narration, and not enough dialogue. Everyone knows that there should be dialogue on the first page. Everyone? Everyone but me. Who told me that? My high school teacher? No, but I know now.
I did a very good job with setting. Too good. I needed to back off and let go of some of my descriptions. I would be ok. Letting go of the info dump would not be as great of an emotional detachment as I was thinking. I would not be scarred for life or anything like that. This was a learning process. It would be "good" for me.
While I was waiting for the good vibrations to kick in, I had an editor appointment to attend. Just outside THE door, I saw other hopefuls crying, wiping tears, or clutching portfolio folders, waiting for their turns. The tears made my tummy feel really fluttery, and a question crossed my mind. "Just who do I think I am, coming in here like this, thinking I can talk to an editor?" That's when I heard my name being called.
I walked into "the room" with the confidence of a chicken crossing the road. I sat down and began blabbering about my story. "I like your story idea. Send me a synopsis," the editor said.
What? Send me something? A synopsis? What on earth was that? More foreign words. There I was sitting across from an editor, (a smiling editor mind you,) and she wants me to send her....something. I don't know what it is, but I'm going to get one and send it to her. I know that. I didn't ask her what it was. I knew I could "google" that too.
That first experience with a conference and an editor will forever live in my memory. But what I will remember most is the plane ride home, thinking of my thirteen chapters at home that were trash now. And I thought that I was a writer! Whew. What a crock. I ripped out one of the craft books that I had purchased at the conference and began pouring over the contents. I read an author's story about her first experience with writing. Hmm. There were other people just like me! And now they were published authors. If they could make it, I could too. Even if it takes a few years.
When I got home, I began to write diligently. I signed up for a critique group. I wrote and rewrote. I joined a not-so-local writing group, but it was worth the drive. I asked questions. I learned. When I entered the Genesis contest in 2010, I got better feedback. They still liked my voice. They could tell that I had studied the craft. Hey! I liked that. But I still didn't get enough to be a finalist. But hey, they knew I had studied! I was getting better.
I submitted a story to Guideposts. They accepted it! They published it! I signed a contract! I SIGNED A CONTRACT! And--I got paid for my story. Wow. So I really was getting better, (or they felt sorry for me. Nah. I was getting better.)
So, at the conference this past year, I met up with the same editor. I asked her if she would still be interested in my synopsis. The answer was, "Yes, absolutely!"
I'm currently working to finish the story that she really liked. I'm hoping to have it finished by the end of January. When will it be published? I don't know. I have no idea. I can only pray that it WILL be published.
I learned that I am a peon at the bottom of the totem pole. But I also learned that if I really want to be a writer, I will always be a learner, even if I have 80 published books. Sigh..... I learned that there are people who are willing to help me if I ask. I learned that God can perform the same miracle-twice. I learned that I write better when I pray--every time. I learned that writing can present all kinds of challenges, and that a six and one-half hour drive alone can make you Really tired. And I learned that a child's spilled tea will not wash off of a laptop keyboard.
My writing journey has taken its share of twists and turns, but through all of it, I have learned to trust in God with everything on my plate. He is in control of every situation in my life. And if He wants me to be published I will be. He is the author of my story................


  1. Yes, darling friend, He is in control! I've been contemplating this week that "when the time was right, God sent His son."
    And when the time is right, He will make the way for us too!!
    Your Aussie Sister
    Dottie :)

  2. You are on the right path, especially when you realize the Lord is in control and it is His timing, not ours. I loved reading about your journey.
    Keep writing, Margaret