Five for Fighting

Five years ago I was only beginning my writing journey. I had started writing a romantic suspense story, but it fizzled out half way through—right in the middle. I realized that though I loved these characters and much of the storyline, it wasn’t what I really loved to read or write. I just liked the idea of it. I was ready to try again.

Next I penned my middle grade fantasy novel, whose idea came to me on a lazy summer afternoon when I was a young girl. I had daydreamed about this idea for years before I ever thought I’d put pen to paper. When I finished it, it was my first whole manuscript, but it still wasn’t quite right. I did present this story to agents and editors at conferences, and they liked the idea, but said there was something missing. So, I kept trying.

My second book was a spiritual warfare novel which I still love to this day. There was so much about the story that was right, but there was much about it that was not quite there yet. I had a couple of nibbles from publishers, but nothing that panned out. I kept typing away.

The next story was one that you sit down to write and it just flows. Pages would fly by as I typed my merry heart away at this story that had to have been delivered to my brain directly by God above. There was no way I was coming up with this stuff, it was too good.

Half way through this novel my husband’s grandfather died. My muse shriveled up. When word came through that summer that the Missouri River was going to flood our area, my muse gave notice and moved to another universe. I struggled with this story so I began writing one another one. It worked until my brother had a massive heart attack. I was by his side in the hospital room for the month it took him to recover before tragedy happened, my mother collapsed and passed away. I was beside myself.

For the next year and a half nothing I wrote felt right. I had enough written to take to my critique group for some time, but eventually I ran out of stuff to bring. I began to wonder if this is really what I’m meant to do. What if my muse left me for good?

I found things to do that were creative. It kept my brain functioning and working its way through the emotional fog until one day I was able to sit down and make sense of what I was writing. I finished both of the above novels and while I got a few more nibbles, I received no concrete requests for them.

Last year while my husband was watching a fishing show an idea came to me. I worked on editing my other novels as I plotted this idea out in my mind. I outlined it during a writer’s retreat last spring and got the story started by writing a handful of chapters. I set it away while editing my two other manuscripts. Then during NANOWRIMO last November I took that ‘fishing’ story idea and wrote, wrote, wrote. Over fifty thousand words later and the novel was done except for the last chapter.

I finished that chapter last night. I’m on my first edit on that story and feel pretty confident in the content. During the process of getting this book written, which is quite a departure for me by the way, I figured out what I do best is write about small town life. This new story is an adult romance, but there’s still an element of fantasy in it with the main character making a wish. In the end the wish comes true, although my poor protagonist gets put through the wringer throughout the story. I can identify. My path to getting to this point in my writing career has not been a smooth or an easy one. I’ve had to hold tight to my dedication in making it this far. And I still have a few steps to go before I can say my wish has come true.

The last five years held highs and lows for me. I fought through it all and finished five manuscripts. I;ve learned a lot and I’m ready for the next five years.

One song I listened to during this process was Five for Fighting’s The Riddle. I think it’s appropriate to celebrate finishing my current novel by sharing their video. Here’s The Riddle.

Leave a comment today and the rest of the week and you’ll be entered in a drawing for an Inkspirational Messages mug and a surprise collection of books. The winning name will be drawn by The deadline to leave a comment is Friday, March 13.

Taking a Break

This summer, I planned to at least get half of my book with an Oct. 15th deadline written. At least 22,500 words. During the school year, that’s two weeks if I’m really on a roll. But summer is different. My twelve year old is home which means my husband is around more too. They want to go play and I want to go with them. My son and I love whiling away entire days in our above ground pool. But I didn’t want to wait until the middle of August and have an entire book to write by the middle of Oct.

So, I set up a schedule. Write Monday through Friday from 10:00 pm to 2:00 am and sleep until 10:00 am. The first week was VBS and I’m the craft lady. I was too exhausted to stay up late. After VBS, my schedule worked for a few weeks. My son even had three basketball camps scheduled which meant I got to write during the day. But on day three of the second camp, we got a phone call. He’d hurt his arm and the mom who called thought it was broken. We rushed to a town 30 minutes away knowing he was in pain and waiting for us.

Once we got there, we spent another 45 minutes on the road taking him to his doctor where we learned his wrist was indeed broken. In our rural town, the specialists come to town two days a week. We got an appointment the next day and after a sleepless night for all of us, we took him to have it set.

It could have been worse, but the broken bone rattled me. His summer came to screeching halt. He was home more, had friends over less, couldn’t play basketball, and couldn’t even swim in the pool. His bummer summer became our bummer summer. Life became about trying to occupy a twelve year old boy with a broken arm. My night owl schedule wasn’t working because no one went to bed before midnight and my office is in a corner of the living room.

But I kept plugging along anyway. Churning out words. Boring words with boring characters in a boring story. I didn’t like it, didn’t like them, didn’t like anything about it.

The third basketball camp came along and we talked to the coach about our son doing drills and shooting practice. The coach agreed and even recruited an older boy who’d broken his arm earlier in the year to work one on one with our son. A whole week of him getting to go to basketball camp and having fun. A whole week to try to save this book.

And then I got the revisions for my January release from my editor. Guess what I did during basketball camp?

I finished my edits and we went on vacation. Exactly a week after our return, company was scheduled to arrive. So of course, I spent that time furiously cleaning my house. The book was at a stand still. I hated the book and readers would hate it too. I decided not to worry about it. I had 15,000 words at this point. Bad words with boring characters, but still 15,000 words. I made plans to hit it hard once school started and turn this book around.

My unintentional three week break culminated with a nice visit with my cousins. Mid way through their stay, I was putting my makeup on for the day and it hit me. If this character was that character’s sibling–oh my– the complications that would arise. This character that I’ve been doing backflips to explain his presence in town would have a reason to come to town. His sibling connection would cause all kinds of conflict between the hero and heroine. No, my hero and heroine do not learn they are siblings. But characters’ close to them do forcing the hero and heroine to take sides and it swirls into an awesome conflict.

I’ve always plotted at my best during mindless, repetitive tasks. Driving the road I know so well, I could drive it with my eyes closed. Mowing the yard. Going for a walk. Taking a shower. Putting on makeup. When doing something I don’t have to think about, my best ideas come. And at one point, long ago and before I was published, I realized that a break can often get my creativity stirring. But since I’ve had deadlines, I haven’t felt I have time to take a break except between my first draft and editing phase.

My cousins left and our son got his cast off last week. We spent his final week before school started having fun. We swam, he had a friend over, he played basketball, and we did final shopping for school. My break morphed into a full month.

Yesterday, he went back to school. I started my story over, wrote 1700 words, and wove the new sibling connection into what I’d already written. I love this story. I love these characters. And I hope readers do too.

Lesson learned–when you hate the book–try taking a break. Even if you don’t think you have time for one.