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Today I offer words of encouragement, but let me begin with a story. I started my first real novel in 1988, abandoned it quickly, and picked it back up to finish in 2009. That’s a long time to let a novel languish!
I chose to stop work, because my life’s focus turned toward a task I found more important, more pressing, and completely in line with my heart’s desire. I couldn’t write fiction and educate a houseful of rambunctious children simultaneously. Maybe you can, but I couldn’t. I set the manuscript and fiction writing aside for another season.
About twenty years later, I began writing fiction again. Four other manuscripts had crowded their way in front of the first. Because I had pent-up creativity, these novels burst forth like a geyser. Each draft took about a month to complete, and I had a series in the making. After extensive editing, the first made it into the hands of a couple of Christian publishers. Then the publishing world collapsed, and the market changed.
So, I pulled out my original idea from 1988, and I spent six weeks hammering out a complete draft. Finally, the story had a home someplace other than in my head. That was more than twenty years after my original attempt.
I polished and honed. It ended up in the hands of an agent. But the publishing world was still mid-collapse. Christian publishing houses closed one after another, and the market veered again, bringing those first-drafted manuscripts back into play.
As the first was in production with a publisher, I became chronically ill. Number one and number two were published in 2014 and 2015 – I worked from bed. The novels did well. Then the careening market brought the original story back onto the editing table. By then, I had gone indie.
Notice how long each project took to write, to edit, and to move through production to publication. The first two published novels took six years to polish and ready for the marketplace. The third required twenty-two years to finally exist in draft form and then six years more to publish. I’m drafting its sequel now. Because I have a chronic illness, and I also relocated across the country this year, the draft of this sequel has been in the works for an entire year. I have about fifty pages left, and I hope to finish soon.
Why all this manuscript history? Because I want you to know that this writing journey may not go as you suppose. My story is pretty typical.
This writing life will probably break your heart countless times. It will be harder than you ever dreamed. It will take you places you didn’t intend to go. The path will have curves and meanderings that you never saw coming.
That’s because you are not in control. God is.
If the Lord gives you stories to tell, waking you in the night, laying scenes and heroes and villains on your mind and bringing them into your very dreams, he will guide the journey. If he is using you to tell stories to people who need to see the redemptive love of God illustrated, then he knows exactly when they need your story.
He will work your journey together for good to accomplish those purposes and for the good of your life as his child. “We boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:2-5 NIV).
This is what God will do for you as you write. Not only will your readers grow, but so will you, in perseverance, character, and hope. So, follow the Spirit’s leading wherever it takes you. Have hope. Trust him.