Unfortunately, due to personal circumstances right now, I have not been able to update this blog or work on my novel. My hope is to resume regular posts in January. Thank you for your patience.
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) takes place every November around the world. According to the web site, it is "a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30."
Armed with only a vague outline in my mind, I set out to write a first draft of On the Bridge. It turned out I could write much more than I expected, even though I had to fight with my inner editor on a daily basis. With 30 days, a full-time job, family, Thanksgiving, report cards to write, and other assorted tasks, I managed to carve out time to research and cobble together a skeleton of a first draft. By November 30, I had written around 45,000 words.
One important thing I learned from NaNo is the importance of community and having others around to provide encouragement. A motivating e-mail or a glance at others' word count widgets helped to propel me toward the goal of 50k. While I didn't "win" NaNo '08, I am significantly closer to my goal of writing a novel than I was when took the challenge.
Whatever task you may be struggling to complete (or even begin), know that when we bring others alongside us to spur us on, we are motiviated to finish and finish well. Encouragement and accountability create the foundation for success.
Seven months after writing the sad challenge entry, I sensed there was more to Mary Elizabeth's story than what I had already written. The topic for the week was "Actions speak louder than words." I imagined what Mary Elizabeth would be doing months later, and developed the story around her having to face a decision. I titled the story Letters and Promises and submitted it. Here is the link to the entry. The piece placed 13th in the advanced level and 36th overall.
As others read the story, the general theme of the comments centered on this piece being part of a novel. This seemed to be a daunting task. I'm used to writing short stories and articles. Novels are much, much longer. Yet, even with other writing assignments to pursue, I kept coming back to Mary Elizabeth's life. Other characters, such as her brother-in-law, William, her brother, Edward, and his wife, Margaret, began to become real people. I thought maybe I could link the two stories into a short story and submit it somewhere. God had other plans, though.
In April, 2008 I attended a local Christian writers' conference. While there, two important things happened. One, I attended a workshop on novel writing taught by Alison Stobel. She discussed a way of creating a novel known as the "Snowflake Method". More on that in the next post. The second thing was I met Cathy Marie Hake, who writes historical romance novels. I showed her a copy of On the Bridge and asked her opinion of it. She said, "There's a novel here." That was enough motivation for me to explore writing a book.
Over the past two years I've learned that if God has a job for one of us to do, then He will make sure we find a way to accomplish the task. Also, His plans for us are often larger than the dreams we have for ourselves.
On the Bridge began as an entry for the FaithWriters weekly writing challenge. The topic for the week was the word sad. As I prayed for an idea, a picture appeared in my mind. It was a woman kneeling in the dirt on the bank of a river and crying. In that moment, I knew she had a story to tell and I began wondering why she was sobbing. Then, I had to decide what would happen next to her. Over the next few days, I wrote an entry and submitted it the night before it was due.
A week later I found out the results of the challenge. On the Bridge received a first place in the intermediate division. Even more exciting, it received first place in the Editor's choice. This means two things. One, I wrote the saddest story of the week. Two, the entry will be published in an upcoming FaithWriters anthology. Here is the link to the entry.
The win came during a difficult time for me. I was facing a big decision and experiencing doubts about what I was supposed to do. After learning the results, I could clearly see God telling me to focus on writing. I have learned that when I earnestly seek God, He will guide me.
Heavenly Father, give me strength to bear the sorrows and blessings You have given me.
This prayer is spoken by Mary Elizabeth Wilson in the opening chapter of On the Bridge. Still in mourning over the accidental death of her husband and daughter, she has just learned of the death of her sister-in-law during childbirth. Mary Elizabeth's grief overshadows the birth of her nephew. It will take her time to feel joy again.On the other hand, I am feeling joyous today. It's the 17th anniversary of my accepting Christ as my savior.
Over the years, I have prayed this same prayer for strength, and God has been faithful to provide it. I hope that you, too, will be able to ask for and receive the same strength.