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Posts Tagged ‘writing a book’

Jo 12This past week, I actually managed to finish the first draft of my seventh novel—over ninety-eight thousand words. Woohoo! It still feels a little surreal—I have lived with my characters for so long that they feel part of me. At times, I have even found myself thinking in real life settings, ‘Oh, how would Meg (my heroine) have responded here?’ Or ‘This is what happened to Stephen.’ Or ‘Meg has just done that!’ It has been quite a journey.

I can’t remember exactly, but I think I began this novel around three and a half years ago, not long after my second non-fiction book, Becoming Me, was published. I love writing non-fiction, but felt drawn to write yet one more novel, this time inspired, a little at least, by the lives of my maternal grandparents. Yet I cringed at the thought. Only one of my past novels could truly be classed as historical (ie set prior to and during World War Two) but, after writing it, I vowed and declared I would never write an historical novel again. You see, doing so brings with it a second huge task, on top of actually writing. Everything needs to be checked to see if the characters could truly do such things in that time and place—and if they could, how long it would take them. Certain things could not be mentioned either, since they were not around then. And certain words could not be used. Yet in my heart, I still wanted to write this novel, set in Queensland in the period 1909 to 1926.

Now I am supposed to be ‘retired’ (!), but somehow I have still not quite discovered the meaning of that word. As a result, writing this current novel has been punctuated by speaking at a variety of places, supporting the pastoral team at our church for four months while our senior pastors were on sabbatical, minding grandchildren on a regular basis, accompanying the village choir, meeting with others—and so many other good and right things. I do not regret any of them. But it makes completing a full-length historical novel just that little bit more challenging.

Can you see why I still feel a little numb at this point? Yet I also feel so grateful to God and thankful for this amazing opportunity to write a story that has been in my heart and mind for many years, long before I sat down to write the novel. I am well aware it may or may not be published—that will be my next challenge, along with many edits! But whatever the outcome, I am so glad God enabled me to persevere. Yes, I chose to sit down and write—but God inspired me to keep going and gave me the strength and ability to do so. And that can be true for each of us, however we are gifted and whatever God puts on our heart to undertake.

I have long been encouraged by the words the Lord spoke to Zerubbabel, who had undertaken the task of rebuilding God’s house in Jerusalem:

Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord. Zechariah 4:6

May these words also encourage you today to keep persevering in doing what God has given you to do.

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For years I drove my family crazy. At regular intervals, I would come out with statements such as the following:

‘I’d like to write a book one day.’

‘Oh, I could write my Great Australian Novel in that beautiful spot!’

‘You’ll see. One day I’ll write my own novel.’

Eventually, our older daughter got tired of hearing me talk like this. For my birthday, she gave me a pile of books on how to write, plus a bookmark she had made herself, with a picture of a steaming cup of tea on it and a little sticker that said ‘Write your own!’

So I did—although it took me over twenty years to get around to it! I still have that little, handmade bookmark and often take it with me when I speak somewhere. I use it to encourage others not to ignore the dreams God has put in their hearts and to step out with courage and do whatever it is they have longed to do.

Recently, I met someone who wants to write and has even planned out her first novel. But as for actually starting on the writing itself—well, that’s another matter. Somehow it’s all just too scary for her. What if she finds she can’t do it? What if she discovers, after months of effort, that she has been wasting her time?

I understand how she feels—as would many writers, I believe. Even now, with seven books published, I find myself a little reluctant to launch into writing that eight book. I want to write it, with all my heart. I believe I have something worthwhile to say in this book. I fully intend to write it and have even begun, but it’s amazing how many other tasks I decide I have to do first! Yet I know from past experience how wonderfully fulfilling it is to give myself over to writing and allow those words to flow out onto that screen, to see those characters and storyline develop or to be carried along as a non-fiction book takes shape.

So what’s to be done?  You may not intend to write a book in 2014. Perhaps it’s the last thing you could imagine yourself doing! But we all have things in our minds that we would like to do—some day.  Sometimes we even know in our hearts it is what God wants us to do, yet still we are reluctant to rise to the challenge and respond to that call on our lives. Maybe we all need to take to heart more Paul’s words in Colossians 3:23-24 during the coming year:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Will 2014 be the year for you, like Peter in Matthew 14, to step out of that boat that represents safety and familiarity and instead walk on the water towards Jesus? Will you listen when Jesus looks straight at you with such love and speaks that one strong, encouraging word, as he did to Peter—‘Come!’?

I hope you do. I hope I do. God is faithful. May we be equally so.

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I watched the man’s earnest face as he talked—and my heart went out to him. At the last minute, just as he and his wife left the bookstore where I was promoting my books, he had rushed back inside to talk with me about his own writing. I had noticed him earlier, quietly standing to one side while his wife bustled about from shelf to shelf, choosing books and dropping them into an almost overflowing basket. It seemed to me he had had plenty of opportunity to chat with me then, but had he been a little embarrassed to put his dream of writing into words? Did he perhaps feel others would laugh?

Whatever his reason, I was determined to answer him as best I could. You see, I remember how hard it was for me to display my ignorance and ask those tentative questions about writing my own first novel. I remember how impossible the whole dream felt. I remember how even I myself had trouble imagining I could create a story others might want to read. Yet I desired to do it—with all my heart.

‘What do you think is the most important thing above all to know in order to write a book?’ he barked at me, staring me straight in the eye.

This gentleman wanted a quick, honest response, I could see. My mind darted this way and that—there were so many things he should know, so many pitfalls he needed to be warned about.

In the end, I told him I have to know it was what God wants me to do. No, that doesn’t mean I announce to one and all that God told me to write this book—which does make it awkward if no one thinks it’s very good! For me, however, I need to be able to sense God’s delight in what I am creating and to be strengthened by the Spirit as I put in the hard yards required to write the best book I can. I don’t want to pour a year of my life into a project that isn’t going to bear fruit for the Kingdom. And I sensed this was where this gentleman was coming from, too.

We talked for a few more minutes before I gave him my card and told him I could supply him with some notes about getting started in writing if he emailed me. Then he was gone.

Will his book ever materialise? I don’t know—but I suspect it will. At least, I think his has much more chance of doing so than those of the two or three other would-be authors who had approached me earlier in the day. I tried to be gentle and encouraging with them all, although I did stifle a sigh at the young woman who seemed rather overconfident about it all and a little unwilling to listen.

But what is the dream or challenge God has put on your heart lately? Whatever it is, whether writing a book or doing something quite different, I hope you can move ahead with your hand in the Lord’s, listening to his voice and looking for his guidance in whatever shape that might come.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.‘ Prov 3:5-6

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