Sunday, June 22, 2014

My Writing Process Blog Hop

My very dear friend and critique partner, Diane Bohannon of Revision Warriors, tagged me in the My Writing Process blog hop. Woo hoo. Instant post topic!

1.)  What am I currently working on?

     I am steeling myself to submit my adult epic fantasy novel to two publishing houses that accept un-agented submissions. From Ashes is the first novel of a trilogy set in a theocratic nation bordered by deadly dragons and shape-shifting Interraphym. When the dragons offer heir-apparent, Rhalyn, the chance to undo his greatest regret in exchange for his help in their suit for peace, single mother Kahja will finally have to face the past, because she knows something besides her memory is missing, and she wants it back.
     I am also about 20,000 words into book two and can't wait to get all down on paper!

2.)  How does my work differ from others of its genre?

     I write fantasy from a Christian worldview. No dualism (good and evil in balance), no secular humanism (we can fix everything ourselves), and no glorifying immorality (I do strive for realism, but I think one of my strengths is making things that should make a person uncomfortable actually make a reader uncomfortable). Some of my very favorite books have all these things, and I feel like I can't recommend them without contributing to the delinquency of society. However, I am also drawn to examine the messier aspects of life, fallout from a fallen creation. I like asking hard questions. So...I kind of straddle the line between secular and Christian fantasy--which is hard to pitch to an agent!

3.)  Why do I write what I do?

     I wanted a fantasy where dragons are evil and good is good, even if difficult. Watching my characters struggle for the answers I want helps me clarify my questions. Also, it is so much fun to get to create a world that surprises me and can be both "pleasing" and "instructing." I love Tolkien and Lewis' thoughts on fairy stories and fantasy being able to show things that are truer than life.

4.)  How does my writing process work?

     My writing process starts with a protagonist in danger--a scene that pops into my head. Then I just follow her around until I know what she fears more than the dragon/ bounty hunter/ looming civil war. :-) By the time I had twenty pages of book one, the rest of the story played in my head like a movie.
     I have little time to actually write things down, so it helps me to start a computer folder for each project and a word document for each scene. I order the scenes by number and give them titles that jog my memory. For each of the unwritten scenes, I write a sentence or two about what needs to happen. If I have any other bits of dialogue or inspiration, I add those as well. I don't always feel like writing sequentially, so if a later scene is calling my name, I just open the file and work on that one. I've noticed that the middle seems to come easier after I write the climax. When I'm stuck, I leave the house and write by hand. Deadlines help. Writer meetings with my awesome critique partners help more.

I'm tagging my awesome critique partner Henry McLaughlin, author of Journey to Riverbend. Henry, an award winning author, writes to bring glory to God and give hope, encouragement and entertainment to his readers. He has honed his craft through courses, conferences, workshops and critique groups. Check out his writing process next week.

Monday, April 28, 2014

If Something is Worth Doing...

When my oldest kiddo was struggling (read: simultaneously wilting and raging) under the burden of second grade spelling homework, I scheduled a conference with his teacher.

Mrs. Roche and I sat in the tiny plastic chairs at the kidney-shaped laminate table, and I explained that homework was taking us three hours of tears every night. Was there anything I could do besides sitting with Josh and pressing his nose to the grindstone?

Mrs. Roche looked at me like I was crazy. "The assignments should take about twenty minutes. He should be able to do them without you standing over his shoulder."

Here, I simultaneously wilted and raged. "But he won't."

"Then let him fail. Maybe then he will care enough to try."

"But thinking he'll fail is what keeps him from trying now!" I wailed.

Her eyes softened. "Ahhh, is he a perfectionist?"

All of the air left the room. Realization and guilt and relief exploded through me. She understood. I understood. "Yes!" And he inherited it from me.

Then she said something that has changed our lives. "Let's try this: set a timer for twenty minutes, and what he gets done is what I'll grade."

Permission to do less than perfection? Space to do the best he could at the time and not worry about the rest? Was there even such a thing?

How I wish I had had a second grade teacher like Mrs. Roche! Oh the things I have not done because I feared I could not do them perfectly!

I grew up believing if a thing was worth doing, it was worth doing right. I almost gave up on my dream of writing because I am not a person naturally suited to the social interaction that seems to be required in this age of "platform" and "web presence."

However, I've learned, if something is worth doing...

...then, good grief, it is worth doing.

It is worth doing imperfectly,

with what time you can spare,

even if don't think you can do it right,


If something is worth doing,

it is worth doing until you can do it right.

I might never be a good blogger. Social media intimidates me. I cannot afford a professional website, and with seven kids under the age of eleven, time and energy are hard to come by, but...writing is my dream, my gift, and my obedience.

If writing means struggling through the social media/ querying/ marketing learning curves, I will. I worked hard to write until my manuscript was ready, and now I will work hard until my ability to market myself and my work is ready. I will not self-doubt myself into paralysis.

Today I sent my query to three agents I would be thrilled to have represent my manuscript. I stopped the two years of telling myself my timing was not perfect yet that I had been wallowing in since the first (and last) time I sent a query to an agent.

And my query was not perfect. I even caught a typo in the first letter I sent. (Ahhh! Regret. Regret. Regret.) However, I am so glad I sent three imperfect attempts instead of none. And a blog that is a work in progress is better than no blog.

I will get better. Josh did. He rocked his STAAR test and was recently commended for being a hard-working student who goes above and beyond. I trace his success back to that moment when he was first given the freedom to try without the yoke of needing to be perfect.