Remembering The Why Part 4: Writing In Circles

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I started writing this post, and just like my “Why Don’t You Just” series, I got so lost in it that it ended up being way too long. So stick around for the next few weeks to learn why my lifelong amateur writing career culminated in a life-changing breakthrough last week about learning to love myself and the projects I take on with God. This has helped me in the process of writing “A Saviour’s Path,” and solidifying why I really believe in these books, and why I think you or someone you know will believe in them too.

If you’re reading these out of order, I encourage you to read the other posts, as well!

Though my motivations have been skewed on and off, deep down I want this book to be a reflection that people can use to examine their own hearts, their beliefs about God, and their relationship with him. It’s supposed to be raw, gritty, and dark, and not be the typical neat and tidy evangelical romance that I’ve read so many of. Francine Rivers and Terri Blackstock are my closest role models, but I’m taking it farther than them, and adding a touch of Jodi Picoult in there as well. I hope it makes some people uncomfortable. I hope it makes them laugh and cry. I hope I’m able to get out the emotions I have in my head when I picture a scene and put it on paper in a way that others will get. But the beta process has taught me that with a lot of art, a roomful of people will each see my work in very different ways. Even though I’ve been getting some feedback that is very similar with each person (telling me that it’s really, really something I should change) some people are seeing things that I didn’t even see! And that’s what I love.

Another example is Fifty Shades of Grey. So many reviews that I read or watch about the books and movies are negative, and yet it was popular enough that it became a famous hit too. So many people love to hate it, and it’s become a phenomenon. I really hope that I don’t fall into this category, but the thing is, enough people will like my work enough to recommend it to others, and that will grow it into something that gets TV show producers’ attention. So obviously Fifty Shades made a connection with someone.

And then there’s the OG – Twilight. I think Twilight, the Hunger Games, and Harry Potter all sparked most of the blockbuster books and TV shows of the 2010’s. Twilight is probably the worst reviewed franchise of the three, but really, I think it’s not that bad. I loved it when I was a kid, and I’ve been tainted by negative reviews since then. Yes, a lot of the messages are problematic, but I think Stephanie Myers falls into the category of writers who was just creating a world she liked for fun. She wrote based on what she knew, and most of the media back then and now portrays very problematic romantic relationship dynamics. It’s good to be cautious and have those discussions with our kids, but I don’t think Meyers is as arrogant as EL James. She was just having a good time, and the books were pretty good, based on my opinion back when I was part of the target demographic.

Actually, I LIVED for Twilight back then. I was stalled on one of them, I think it was Eclipse, and when my mom got it for me, I never put it down, and I was chomping at the bit for the next one. There are so many book series I’ve read that are like that. I just need more and more. I need to be in that world. I HAVE to know what’s going to happen next. I can’t put it down, and I’ll finish it in a few days. So even though Twilight gets a lot of haters, especially for spawning things like Fifty Shades and 365 days, the book has enough people who “get it” and like it for it to be successful.

All of this to say that a book or story can be popular without being universally loved. And even those that may seem universally loved, like Avatar: The Last Airbender still will have loving negative critiquers or even haters, and I’m trying to remember that. Plus, as painful and devastating as it is to receive those negative comments (always given in love and respect; thank you, my betas), especially when it involves long and involved rewrites that impact SIX BOOKS, I do eventually get over my hurt feelings and paralyzing fear and realize that it’s the only way to get better. I’m in the category of book crafting because of how much I love the art of novel writing. It’s something I’ve studied and loved for as long as I can remember. It’s why I love books. It’s why I love helping other authors with their work, why I love reviewing, and why I love writing. It’s in my blood. It’s in my bones. It’s something that I deeply respect and am honored to be a part of, even if it’s only as an amateur.

There’s always that fear when I don’t get those high praises that I’m not good enough to join the ranks of esteemed and revered authors. It’s possible. This is my first concerted attempt to really get something published, and even though I’ve been writing unfinished novels since I knew how to write, A Saviour’s Path is still technically a first. I’ve always been praised for my writing in school and by my writing circles and mentors when I was younger, but now that I’m older looking back, I find it so hard not to see my younger self as a better writer than I am now. Even though I didn’t finish anything, those are the stories I love to read over and over. They are simpler, and I think my descriptions and language are off the charts. Sometimes I feel that way about my current writing, but it’s rare, especially when it doesn’t get recognized by any of my betas. That’s really discouraging, because I’ll write something and think it’s beautiful, and then be hit with a bucket of ice water when I don’t get the response I was hoping for.

But there are differences between when I was writing back then and when I was writing now. Number one: I had one writing partner who LOVED my work and was always encouraging me and wanting me to write more, and I got mostly positive reviews from her. She told me it made her laugh and cry and she had the same attraction to my characters that I did. I also loved reviewing her work, and we did worldbuilding exercises together, and our characters wrote letters to each other, and we lived in each other’s worlds. In a sense, I was writing just for her, and it really boosted my confidence and encouraged me to keep going. These were “The Kings of Despartus” and “The Language of the Arts,” stories I worked on in 7th grade. Take a look at them, I think they’re really good and they are 95% the same as when I first wrote them as a kid. Then came “Rubble,” which I wrote in twelfth grade, and once again, she was the one who loved and understood my work. I wrote a lot of the Rubble chapters as assignments in my Language Arts class, and my teacher also loved my work, so that was easy too. Art is easy when you’re surrounded by fans, isn’t it?

Another difference when I was writing as a kid was that I would have times when I would just sit down and write. That’s how I wrote over 100,000 words of “The Language of the Arts” on my iPad in sixth grade. Most nights I would sit in my room and just write 1,500 words, without going back to edit or worry about anything more than the pull of the story. Later, when I felt up to it, I would go back and edit, but my main goal was just to write. That has to be the book I came the closest to finishing, but then the IPAD CRASHED and I lost 2/3 of my work, and was gun shy about writing much for a long time. I’m really scared about this 398,000 word series on my OneDrive that I’ve been working on for a little over a year now that takes so much of my computer’s processing power. If something happens to it, I’m not sure what I’ll do.

Of course, even when I was a kid I had dreams of being a famous writer, of finishing my books one day and being discovered and being one of those teen authors whom everyone is so astounded by. But then I started writing for more than one or two adoring fans, and going much, much darker and experimenting with different styles and elements, and things got hairy. Even though I was still proud of what I wrote, I think it was beyond my target audience, and it was a blow to my confidence. I tried giving my childhood writing friends “Waxflowers” and the reviews were not stellar. Soon after, I started writing “A Saviour’s Path,” and getting beta readers off the internet that I mostly haven’t even met, yet (love you ALL!) and getting some of my adulthood friends to try and read it. Again, mixed results, but the whole process, as well as reflecting on where I’ve come, where I am now, and talking to people that have experienced some of the things I write about, has really brought me to the conclusion that if I love my writing, that’s the only thing that matters. If God loves it, then I’ve done my job well, and He’ll take it from there. If I’m sitting here writing away for ONE person who might have a changed life because of it, that will be enough. Even if that person is me.

Because writing this book is changing me. I’m exploring some of my own traumas in my past, even though not all of them will be in the book. I’m exploring the traumas of others and learning to be more compassionate and empathetic toward the people who’ve hurt me. I really look forward to having more conversations with people like Marc and Michelle, who’s love and perseverance simply amazes me and inspires me to be more open in my own life. Even if they never read the book, the conversations that we opened up were so positive for all three of us, even if no one ever reads the blog posts I’m going to make about them. I hope to reach out to others to have more conversations like these. Even now that I’m taking up every ounce of my courage and letting people I know in on the secret that I’m writing a book, and they ask me what it’s about, and I say it’s about generational trauma, those brief chats where they share a bit of their story really encourages me. Even if they NEVER read it. Just like I could probably have a pretty decent chat with Rowling about Harry Potter, even though I’ve never read it, and I’m not sure I ever will. That connection is still there.

So. I LOVE “A Saviour’s Path.” I’m not afraid to say it, and I’m not afraid that I’m bragging, because it’s true. I love my writing, and others do too, even when I’m not feeling it. I love the way I weave words together and make characters and stories that excite and interest me. I feel like I’m living in their world, and just telling others what’s happening it it. I sometimes catch myself praying for my characters and forgetting that they’re not real, and I’m the one who’s in control. I find myself deeply disturbed by the fact that they’re not real, if I let myself think about it too much. And I’m not saying that I love my writing all the time. I get frustrated when something just isn’t coming out write, or when someone points out something to me that should be obvious. It’s hard, and embarrassing, but the fact is, even though I’m writing for God and myself primarily, my goals is that it won’t be a fan club of only two. I want others to connect with what I feel when I read it, because I do want to make a living out of this craft that I love so much. Maybe no one will love it until a hundred years from now. I don’t know. But I’m hoping it will reach someone, in some way. Just to let them know that I see them. I know how they feel. I can identify with them, and they are heard. Maybe they’ll have just a bit of courage to speak up and speak out about their own pain, or recognize and be brave to change the pain they are causing others. In this private little world between the pages, maybe they’ll feel safe enough and curious enough to reach out to God in the private little world of a prayer – just to see what happens.

That’s why I love books, including my own. Recently, I reread one of my journals from last year and was astounded at some of the things that I went through and thought. It made me laugh and cry and groan and shake my head. But at the time, those feelings were real to me. When I read books, what draws me in and makes it “interesting” is when I can identify with what the characters are going through. I’ll be just as hooked on books that are bad in technique (read some of my reviews to know what I mean) just because of how intrigued I am by the characters and how they are going to solve their problems. I also love learning new things (that may or may not be well-researched and true), but only if it’s told in a way that pulls me along. Whether the stories are idealized or more gritty and realistic, they make me feel like I’m somewhere else for a time, and I love it.

The first book that ever made me cry, “The Sweet Far Thing” by Libba Bray, had a character death that shook me by how beautiful and bittersweet it was. That’s why (spoiler alert but not really if you read my blog) I’ve included one in my series. And as a tongue-in-cheek homage to Twilight (because basing a book on Twilight is the only way to sell a book nowadays), I’ve modeled Ben and Lanie’s relationship after Bella and Edward – except going a little farther with what the implications of that admittedly toxic relationship, and following it to what I think is the logical conclusion. Reading “Midnight Sun,” which was admittedly quite painful, gave me a lot of ideas for how I’m crafting these characters as well. Every time I read something or watch something I like, or hear a sermon or a small group discussion or watch a family play or watch a couple in love or so many other things, I think about how I can capture that feeling in my own story. I could go on and on about the little threads I’ve pulled from other stories to weave this one, and the process is painstaking but miraculous during those times I take a break from the detailed work and take a look at the big picture I’m writing. It makes the slog worth it. It makes it worth it when I get that nudge from my brain or the Holy Spirit that something isn’t quite right, and I need to figure out a way to tear out the thread that I’ve spent so much time weaving into the others and supplant it with something else. I recently got so caught up in the drama of the story that I forgot it was supposed to be a Christian book. It takes so long for my characters to find God that I sometimes forget that’s where their path is supposed to go, even if it isn’t until the last few books. Right now there’s too much of the cloak and daggers spy/assassin stuff that is taking away from the relationship building and trauma exploration that it’s really supposed to be about.

I wrote a lot of “A Saviour’s Path” that way – during one of the darkest times of my life. When my rage and bitterness and sorrow or fear were too much, I would sit, and I would write, and I’d put all that anger into either a similar scene or a scene that involved those emotions. Sometimes I’d write for two or three days without stopping to sleep. Reading back through those scenes now, a year later, gives me the same feelings as reading through my journals. As I grow, my characters grow. And though the process with me will never really be over, it will be for my characters, hopefully this year. Even though I more or less know the end results of their lives, the process of how they are going to get there changes at least a little every time I sit down to write.

I love those moments when something just clicks. I’ll write something for no reason other than to have something to say, and later I’ll get an amazing idea of how to connect it all together. Again, just walking through the world and seeing what I find that I want to show to others. It’s like I’ve got these dolls that I’m playing with, except that they talk to me and move on their own. Sometimes I give them a nudge or a drop them in a new setting, and then I record the simulation because of how fascinating I find it.

Whoever’s out there reading this, if you’re working on your own masterpiece, I hope this has helped you see that when it feels like no one understands or appreciates your work, it might be because you haven’t found your superfans yet. So there’s one way to make that happen: turn yourself and God into them! The rest will come as it’s meant to. I’m SURE that there’s someone out there who will be wowed and changed by your work, even if you never meet them and they never speak up. But just make something that you love looking at or reading or wearing or watching or eating or touching over and over again, and learn to fall in love with yourself and with working on a project with God, and let that be enough. If you open yourself up to critiquing (or if you get some of it unsolicited and unwanted!) be prepared to look at what it is that YOU think could make your work better. Pray to be shown the way, and you’ll be amazed at what God will show you how to do. He loves to get down in the details – take a look at the book of Exodus for those chapters (most people find them boring) that are nothing more than instructions for how to build and make things. God loves theatrics, and drama, and plot twists, and Chekov’s guns that at first don’t seem to mean anything, and then BAM! Everything falls into place. Whatever you’re doing, do it for God, not just for humans, and you’ll have the time of your life.

Thanks for Stopping by!

I hope you liked what you saw. What did you think of the topic? Leave a comment and start a discussion with your thoughts! Don’t forget to like and share with your best friends, mortal enemies, and everyone in between. Come back later to see if your icon appears in my subscriber cloud! Even better, validate my work by leaving a tip to support this (not actually) starving author. You can also support my company, Planet Hope Christian Enterprising, by donating to our crowdfunds on at GoFundMe and FundRazr down below. We are a non-profit providing pay-what-you-can creative and communication services to individuals and organizations – including you! By donating, you can help us reach our goal to provide top-rate creative and support services to charities and others who would like our help. But we can’t do it without your support, so even if you can’t give financially, please like, share, subscribe, and comment. Many blessings to you today and every day.

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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.”
~ Romans 15:13

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