I was contemplating today about some of the things I’ve learned through my years writing. After the holidays I will begin a new YA trilogy, and my brain has finally started to step into brainstorming mode. Since these books will be #24, #25, and #26 in my list of manuscripts I think that in writing this blog I may have been around this mountain a few times. I hope my random lessons can help some of you write the visions that God has put in your head.
1) Write! My dear late spiritual mentor used to always say, “It’s harder for God to move a parked car than it is for Him to move a moving one.” Was he belittling the power of God by saying this? No. What his point was, is that often you have to just move forward in what you sense God is leading you, and allow God to steer things the way He is guiding you. People ask me all the time how one writes books. You do it by WRITING them! It’s just like how you eat an elephant. You eat it one bite at a time. You write a book by writing one page, one paragraph, and one word at a time. So many people sit on the rear ends with regrets. They know that God has called them to write but they never do it. They see it as such an enormous issue, they never make the first step. Don’t worry about the publishing side at first, but just take the steps to move forward! Put yourself on a schedule and unless there is some earth shattering event, that time is your time. I wrote MANY books from the hours of 10pm-midnight, and between nap times because that was the time I had. Just start WRITING!
2) I have never written a book either fiction or nonfiction that I knew ALL the twists and turns the project was going to take. For me, books come to me often like a prophetic word or a dream. I might be able to see a few things and ultimately where the story will go, but the full picture isn’t in front of me. The typical school system teaches writers that they MUST have an outline before writing. This just isn’t the way I write. I know that some writers do, but I don’t. I will start working on the project and THEN slowly, bit by bit the rest of the story becomes clear. I’ve often thought about this, and thought how similar this is for most things in life. You may not have the full picture at first, but one faith step at a time, and then you can look back and see how God led you in that place. TOO many people think they need to wait until they get a FULL picture on a book or project before they begin it. When God is putting a project on your heart, take that step out on the water, he WILL meet you there!
3) Get it out on the page, you can always edit later! You have to have something to work with. Too many writers stop writing trying to get each think perfect at first. You can always fix a project later, but if you have nothing to fix and it’s still in your head you have nothing to work with!
4) Do your best to silent the inner dialogue. With every book I’ve ever written, I’ve had MANY moments that I’ve had all sorts of inner dialogue that if I would have listened too I would have never finished the project. Oh yes, I’ve heard, “No one will ever read this”, “This is the worst thing you’ve ever written”, “I’m not sure that is even a sentence”, “This is too preachy”, or “This isn’t preachy enough.” Various inner monologues have played in my head as I’ve worked. But you have to push past all of that and stay true to the project. Write what God has shown you, and what you see.
5) Sometimes you need to make yourself write. I know that doesn’t sound too artsy fartsy, but it’s true. I have some scenes I’ve written that I thought were moments of genius and some I wasn’t a huge fan of, but you have to write some of those ok scenes to get to the moments of genius.
6) Be true to the project you know God is giving you. Sometimes people get so caught up in what is marketable and what are the current trends that they mold their stories around this. Pioneers must learn to blaze a trail. In my “In Time” series, (An Ember In Time the first book in this series releases April 2016) I was so worried as I wrote it because it is very much outside of the typical Christian Fiction mold. I knew it was an awesome idea, but I kept thinking how I was ever going to get it published. Currently Book 1 and 2 in this series are set to be published. You have to trust the visions God is giving you. He will show you how to go about the publishing world, but you have to stop trying to be a copy of another writer. Be the best you God created you to be.
7) Be flexible enough to change things that need to be changed. There are some things that aren’t critical to the vision God gave you, and you can’t be so hung up on what you think you see. Sometimes things made sense in your head, that won’t make sense in anyone else’s. I wrote a short story once about a person contemplating taking a gun into a heated argument. This person sat at the steering wheel and the small holes in the wheel came to life and were arguing with my character whether they should bring a gun into the argument. I had thought at the time the scene was a moment of genius. HOWEVER, no one else understood it. Ultimately I had to let the scene go. It’s important for writers to stay true to who they are, but also be willing let go when they need to let go. Writers have to learn to take criticism. They have to learn to take in the comments that may have a point, and let go of the ones that don’t.
8) I do not believe in Writers Block! I think it’s often an excuse for laziness. Do NOT profess this over your work. There is power in your words. I could preach on this and have! In Genesis 1, God spoke and the earth was formed. There is power to shape your world in your words. I have told the following story so many times and I will continue to tell it because it changed my life. When God called me to write my first book, I thought that idea was super crazy. I was never one of those kiddos in school that was known for writing. The idea was so far outside what I had planned. I spent years being frustrated. I knew God called me to do this but I kept saying, “God, I know this is what you’re saying but I can’t do this.” Until I heard a woman preach on the power of your words. I still remember her saying prophetically that “some people in the church were cursing their very destinies because God was telling them to do something and they were saying they couldn’t.” That hit me hard. I repented that night. I said to the Lord, “I don’t see how I can do this, but if you think I can, then I can.” That night God showed me how to start my first book, and I guess you can say the rest is history. Stop saying you can’t do the things you know you called to do.
9) Often I will write with my favorite Pandora stations playing and I just sit down and focus on what I’m doing. I know that for me my rhythm is 10 pages for fiction in one setting or a chapter for nonfiction. Sometimes I get more done and sometimes less, but for me after that is when I hit my “I’m done point”. If I’ve hit my mark for the day, I don’t usually push myself harder. You have to learn to listen to your own creative juices, and know when to push something and know when to get up and have a break.
10) Take a step back when you’re stumped. I have gotten fresh revelation for stories so many times while I was jogging or speed walking. God has shown me things in prayer. I have even had prophetic dreams and visions about projects. I believe in working and writing, but sometimes you need to get alone with the Lord.
11) You have to remember that you are God’s mouthpiece. It’s an honor and a privilege to get to put your name on a manuscript, but ultimately you have to remember that it’s all about God. It’s not about you. You are writing projects that are helping people point to God. It is always my prayer when I work on a project that through my writing, whether its fiction or nonfiction, people are ministered too and draw closer to God. I am just a vessel. Some years ago I used to get the opportunity to go into classrooms and talk to secular kids about writing and vision for their lives. I remember a girl asked me once about how cool it was I had the honor to have newspaper articles written about me, or be on TV or radio. She was like wow that is so cool, and my response to her surprised me. I told her that as a writer you do have those days and their great. But you also have the days where no one will pay attention to you, everyone seems against you, and you have to remember why it is you do what you’re doing. I told her that one has to learn to live in the middle or their emotions would be like a roller coaster. One has to learn to stay stable through all situations. My dear writers, you have to learn to remember you are God’s vessel. You can’t let the good days or bad days get to your head. You have to trust God, and know that He is the one that set this whole thing in motion and He opens the doors He wants opened.
‘I pray for all of you that read my random thoughts on writing. If you have projects in your mind that you know God has called you to write, may you be so bold to walk out the process and begin by telling your story. Do not get discouraged. I believe God is birthing some fresh things in the publishing and entertainment world that will rattle the way things have been done in the past. May you run the race God has sit before you and blaze your trail. God has awesome plans for your life. Get excited!