I wrote this little article last year, so the year referred to herein is actually 2007, when I wrote The Circle of Seasons.
I wrote a book last year. Really. A whole book. In about an hour a day. I’m still not sure how I did it. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I know that God had a lot to do with it. From getting the contract to creating a writing plan to actually writing and revising, God’s grace was present throughout this process.
After my initial dance of euphoria upon getting my book contract, reality set in, and with it, fear: how on earth was I going to write a book? When the contract came in the mail I had a three-year-old son and a three-month-old daughter—and eight hours of childcare each week.
Add to this the fact that I’m a lousy writer. Now, I’m a really good re-writer, but this means my writing process is highly time-consuming. I have to write a whole bunch of nothing, spewing all my random thoughts onto the page before I realize what I’m trying to say, or what is trying to be said through me (I’m never entirely sure which it is; it’s probably both).
Given the time-eating nature of writing garbage and then sifting through the garbage to find the one gem of a paragraph or sentence or even phrase that’s present in it, I wondered how I was ever going to finish a 35,000-word book in nine months.
Lynne Baab, author of eight books and my patron saint of writing, helped me map out a plan for finishing my book that took into account the fact that I spend about a quarter of my writing time actually writing, and the rest of it rewriting and revising.
It was a very aggressive schedule: two weeks (about 16 hours) to initially write/rewrite each of the eight chapters of my book, then one week (eight hours) to further revise each chapter. Then I sent my still very rough book out to five readers for feedback, after which I had another month (40 hours) to incorporate their comments into another round of revisions.
Amazingly, I was able to keep to this schedule, even managed to stay a little ahead of it.
Each day, I faithfully showed up at my computer, prayed that God would make it possible for me to do more than I knew I could do, and started typing. Some days, it felt obvious that God was working, and I wrote or revised way more than I expected to be able to.
Other days, it felt like I was pulling teeth to even get words on the page, like there was no gem to be found in the pile of garbage I’d written—and I’m usually really good at finding the gem in a pile of brain barf on the page, able to rework the entire piece around that one sentence or phrase. (Oddly, the gem as often as not doesn’t make it into the final draft, but it was necessary to move me in the direction the work wanted to move.)
But even on those days when I felt like my muse, the Holy Spirit, was silent, I see now, in retrospect, that He was still breathing inspiration into me. His words just needed time to gestate, germinate before they were ready to be birthed, to blossom. Invariably, though, those words eventually did blossom, and they were always better and more beautiful than I am capable of.
to be continued…