THE END

Those are the two sweetest words I’ve seen in a long time.

Yes, I wrote them. Last night around midnight. When I finished the first draft of the book!

I had to go back and check the date on my last post, and I could hardly believe it was only a month ago when I had hit the half way mark in my word count.

I have been working like a crazy person to get through the last half of the book. Once I hit 40,000, my desire to finish kicked into overdrive and to be honest, I’ve done little else but write for the past month.

I’m sure some of my family and friends think I’ve dropped off the face of the earth, but I had to say no to many things to keep my priorities straight.

The truth of the matter is that there is only one way to write a book – BICHOK (butt in chair, hands on keyboard). Ha, ha!

I’ve spent my lunch hours writing. I’ve stayed up late and wrote. I’ve sequestered myself in my house for long weekends and done nothing but wrote. And it paid off! I’ve made it through my first draft!

I didn’t quite hit the 80,000 mark I had set for myself. The final word count came in at 74,200. But I do have a few things I need to go back and add in that I just left as “-insert here-” as a marker. That will beef up the word count a bit.

So, what is the next step? Well, this first draft is rough. Very rough. I haven’t stopped to correct typos or re-write anything. That part comes now. I’ve printed off the entire book (all 212 pages of it) and now I get to go back and read it myself. I’ll be correcting typos as I see them and making notes to myself about things that need to be added or changed or deleted. I need to make sure that what I had in my head translated onto the paper.

Then, there will be re-writes. A lot of re-writes. The first of many to come. One rule of writing is that “writing is re-writing.”

Many writing blogs and websites refer to your current project as your “WIP” (work in progress), and that’s a very true statement. Any book or writing project is a work in progress. There’s always some word that can be replaced with a better, stronger word. There’s always a tighter way to word dialogue. Characters need to be developed and prose needs to be polished.

But at some point, it will be ready to show the world. Or at least your close friends and family. ūüėČ

I will be looking for some beta readers, so stay tuned. I might be calling on you!

I want to have a decent draft ready when I attend the writer’s conference again this August. I’m hoping to talk to a couple of editors and see if anyone is willing to work with me on this book. I want to have it professionally edited before I try to pitch it to an agent or publishing company.

I also want to add more to this blog site. Things like pictures of places I’m using for inspiration, pictures of what the characters look like in my head, to help you get to know the characters and the story a bit more.

Editors and agents look at your online presence as much as the actual book you’ve written. It’s helpful to have Facebook and Twitter accounts and a website that gets traffic. I have those all things, but I’ll be¬†stepping it up a notch in the coming months.

Thank you all so much for all the prayers, encouragement, and support over the past year. It’s not over yet, so keep praying!

The best is yet to come!

A thousand a day

Well, I did it! I finally hit 40,000 words!!!

I’m halfway there!

And that is a great feeling.

Do I feel like I’m over the hump and it’s all down hill from here? Not hardly. I still have to get through Act 2 (the middle of the book) and then Act 3 (the ending). There are still a lot of words to write and ideas to get down on paper. There are characters to¬†develop and dialogue to craft and suspense to create.¬†But it does feel like it’s getting a bit easier.

Writing is a lot like exercise. When you first start out, it’s hard. You can only run a quarter of a mile or do 10 push ups. Your muscles protest. You tire quickly. You do it, not because you love it, but because you know you have to. But if you keep at it, a little at a time, eventually you will find that it gets a bit easier. You can run longer, maybe a half a mile, and then one day, a full mile. You gradually add push ups until you’re doing fifty. And you do it because it makes you feel good. You have more energy. You see the rewards of your hard work paying off when the number on the scale goes down and your clothes fit better.

When I first started writing this book, it was hard. I floundered. I wrote only a little at a time, a few hundred words here and there. I felt very overwhelmed and a bit lost. But the more I kept at it, the easier it started to get. I feel like I know my story better now. I definitely know my characters better. And once I got in the groove, the words started flowing faster. Now I can easily write a couple thousand words in a session. I write longer and faster. Leaner and meaner. (haha)

And it makes me happy. I look forward to my writing time. Sometimes I can’t wait to get back to it and finish a scene or start a new chapter. And even when I’m not writing, I’m thinking about the story, the characters. A better way to say something or a different way to lead into the next scene.

So, here I am, at the halfway mark. I’ve set goals for myself to get me through this next half of the game. If I can write 1,000 words each time I sit down to write, then in 40 days, I’ll be finished with my first draft. Just 40 days of writing!

Now, I don’t get to write every day. But if I can do a thousand a day, I’ll reach my goal. That’s my new game plan. So far it seems to be working pretty well.

Next stop: 60,000 words!

First and Twenty

In football, when a team is in control of the ball, they have 4 tries to get a “down,” which means moving the ball at least ten yards. When they reach the first down, the call is “first and ten,” meaning that they have reached the first down and have ten yards to go to make the next down.

For my book, I have set for myself certain goals, “downs” if you will, based on word count. It’s a good way for me to keep up with how far along I am and how far I have to go.

An average novel in my genre is around 80,000 words. If you break this up into quarters, it means 20,000 words is a quarter of the way through, 40,000 words is halfway, and so on.

I have reached my first down. A couple of nights ago, I hit 20,216 words!

My next goal is another 20,000 words, so I’m calling, “First and twenty.” First down and 20,000 words to go.

If you look at an average novel, I’ve written close to 100 pages.

I think this calls for some sort of celebration but I’m not sure what that should be yet, other than the little “happy dance” I did at my desk when I checked my word count.

I’ll let you know when I come up with something. And, I’m open to suggestions.

That’s it for now. Back to writing…

Catching Up

I can’t believe my last post was in November.

In case anyone has been worried, yes, I’m still here, and yes, I’m still working on the book.

I was talking to my mother tonight, and she mentioned she would like to see a new blog post. I told her that at some point, I ran out of anything to say other than, “Still working on the book.”

Writing a book is many things, but glamorous isn’t one of them. It’s mostly just me, sitting at my computer, alone, usually late at night, writing, writing, and writing some more.

To the outside observer, it can be a little like watching grass grow. You don’t notice much from day to day, but progress is being made.

There are weeks when I can write a number of evenings in a row. And then days or even a whole week can go by when I don’t have time to write at all.

But as my friend Cliff says, the story is always there when you come back to it. In fact, it’s on my mind even on days when I don’t write. I can be folding laundry or driving down the road, and something about the book will pop into my mind. Maybe some dialogue between characters or a plot point working itself out.

This happened over the weekend, when I realized that something I had put in a chapter was going to come to play in a later chapter. And I didn’t even do that on purpose, but I love it when things work out like that.

I wish there was a short cut, a simpler way to get what’s in my mind onto the page. But there is no secret to writing. You just have to show up and do it. Little by little.

Cliff was right when he said that writing is a battle won by inches, not miles. Tonight I spent a little over an hour writing and had around 850 words to show for it. That was only 3 pages of 8.5 x 11 paper.

This brings my grand total so far to 13,848 words and 38 pages. Most novels run around 80,000 – 90,000 words. So, I still have a ways to go. But thanks to my outline, I have an idea of where I am going, and that makes getting there a little easier, more attainable.

I’ll try to think of something to update you guys on again soon. Thank you for your prayers, encouragement, and support!

NaNoWriMo

It’s November! I can hardly believe it. This year has flown by. Soon it will be Thanksgiving, then Christmas, and then a new year will start.

November is an important month for writers. Yesterday (November 1st) was National Author’s Day. I celebrated by… writing nothing at all. (Ha, ha) It has been a very busy week, so I’m hoping that things calm down next week.

November is also National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWritMo. In theory, writers can set aside the month of November to concentrate on writing a novel or finishing one they’ve already started. If your goal is a 50,000 word novel, then you commit to writing 1,667 words a day. For a 75,000 word novel, that’s 2,500 words a day. And so on.

The idea is to commit to a goal and keep at it for 30 days. Plus, you can be encouraged knowing that many of your fellow writers are holed up somewhere, pounding away at the keyboard, foregoing sleep, nutrition, and social interaction, too.

I won’t be participating in NaNoWriMo on that level this year, but I will continue working on my book and taking my online class. I have about 3 more weeks of class to go, so I should be done right before Thanksgiving. My next goal will be to have at least a rough draft done by the end of the year.

Much of writing is about setting goals and then doing everything in your power to reach them. Some writers aim for a certain amount of time that they write each day – 1 hour, 2 hours, 30 minutes, etc. Some aim for a word count – 1,000 words per day, for example. Whatever the goal, you must have a plan. You have to look at your day (or week) and see where you can fit writing in, make an appointment with yourself, and keep it.

I think that’s the general idea behind NaNoWriMo, too. Set the goal, make a plan, then try like crazy to get there.

This is actually a Biblical principle. In Philippians 3:13-14, Paul writes that he is “forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,¬†I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” He had set his goal, made his plan, and was working toward attaining that goal.

Then, in 2 Timothy 4:7, as he knew his time on earth was almost through, he said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” Goal = accomplished.

Not all of us are called to write a novel, but each of us are called to do something. God has a purpose and a plan for every life. Do you know what you are called to do? It may be a lifetime calling or simply something you are called to do at this time in your life. Whatever it is, pray for guidance to set a goal, make a plan, and God will give you the strength to attain it.

Where have I been?

It’s been far too long since I posted here. I apologize, and I appreciate all of you who have asked me how my book is going.

Things are going well, albeit very slowly.

After I went to the conference, I sort of lost my momentum. Even though I had a great time, learned a lot, and got good feedback, I had a hard time continuing with the book. It still burned in my heart to write this story, but I went through a time when I felt almost paralyzed by fear.

I was afraid of three things.

  1. I felt that the expectations on me were really high, higher than maybe I could live up to.
  2. I felt a lot of pressure to hurry up and finish the book because people were waiting on me.
  3. I realized how much I don’t know about writing a book, and I wasn’t sure I could ever learn it all.

These were all very good reasons to be afraid, but not reasons to quit altogether. I had to work through them and give them to God. And He has used these fears to help me grow. First, I don’t have to worry about living up to anyone’s expectations. God called me to write and He will equip me to do what He has called me to do. (Philippians 4:13)

Secondly, writing a book takes a long time, and I have a limited amount of time in which to work on it. This is my reality. God’s timing is always perfect, and when the book is ready, the opportunities will be there.

And finally, knowing how much I don’t know led me to delve into learning more about the craft of writing. I bought a couple of great books and signed up for a class on outlining. This class has been so helpful! I’ve been able to get further along with the book than I had before.

I’ll write more in the next few days about my class and what I’ve learned.

Thank you for continuing with me on this journey. It’s quite an adventure!

 

Day 41 update

My 40 days officially ended yesterday. What started out with a bang sadly seemed to end with a whimper. Since my last post, life has been incredibly busy and slightly crazy.

If idle hands are the devil’s workshop, as the old saying goes, then I think busy hands are his playground. Busyness and distraction are two of his greatest tools in keeping us away from the work we are called to do.

It was a good lesson, though, because as great as this time has been, I can’t always hide away from the world. Life has a way of getting in the way. The best laid plans easily go awry, and it’s not always possible to spend our time the way we want. Things happen that are out of our control, and sometimes there’s just nothing else to do but roll with the punches.

But having a crazy week has taught me that I have to fight for my writing time. It’s not always going to come easy. I have to fight to make the most important thing, well, the most important thing.

We are in a war. No matter what your calling is, you are called to battle. Like any great story, our lives weave a tale of good versus evil. Even if your evil is just a busy and distracted life, you must fight against it so that the good life you dream of can prevail.

Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that our battle is very real: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” And our¬†adversary has a very real battle plan. 1 Peter¬†5:8 tells us, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil,¬†as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”

But take heart, fellow soldiers. We are not in this battle by ourselves. Check out Exodus 14:14, Joshua 1:9, John 16:33, and 1 John 4:4¬†just as a few of my favorite reminders that we do not fight alone. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

So maybe you didn’t win the battle today. That doesn’t mean you’ve lost the war. To quote a line from my beloved Anne of Green Gables, “Tomorrow is fresh, with no mistakes in it.” Start again. His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-24). Put on your armor (Ephesians 6:10-17) and fight on!

Day 33 Update

It’s hard to believe that this is my last week in my 40-day fast. I want to make this last week a great one! And even though the 40-day fast will be over, I will continue to make my writing a priority in my life.

I read a great article the other day about the “2 hour rule.” It said that people who are working on creative endeavors often think that they need large chunks of time to accomplish anything. But the reality is that most people can not sustain their creativity longer than a few hours.

Because it takes 15-20 minutes to really get “in the zone” for most creative people, a smaller chunk such as 30 minutes isn’t enough time.

Through various research, this writer found that a block of 2 hours seemed to be the ideal amount of time to work on something creative. He said that most people can arrange their lives to allow for 2 hours of uninterrupted time to work on their craft. It’s not so much time as to be daunting, but enough time to actually get something done.

I think this sounds logical, and I plan to implement the “2 hour rule” in my days going forward. Even once I start teaching piano again, I think I can manage a couple of hours at the end of the night to get some work done on my book. My friend Cliff says that writing is a battle won in inches, not miles. I need to think in sprints, not marathons.

All good advice to follow. I’m so thankful for those who can speak such wisdom into my life. I’m looking forward to this last week, and many weeks to come!

Day 26 update

The writer’s conference was Thursday through Saturday. It was fabulous! I’m still trying to process all that I learned and all that happened. Here are a few highlights.

First of all, I feel very encouraged. It’s one thing for people who know and love you to tell you that your writing is good. It’s a whole other thing to put your writing out there to complete strangers and let them critique it. I got good remarks from both the peer critique group and the professional critique. That was so encouraging!

I also gained a lot of good information. Writing is hard work. Really hard. If you think that a writer just sits down at the computer and it flows out, perfect the first time around, well…nothing could be further from the truth. It is a learning process, and even writers who have been at this for a while still need to continue learning and honing their craft.¬†I know that I still have a long way to go, but at least I have some ideas on where to learn more and get the information I need to continue to improve. I feel better equipped after this weekend.

And lastly, I received a lot of confirmation that I’m doing what I should be doing. God places dreams in our hearts, a burning desire to do what He’s called us to do. And there’s a lot of joy in obeying that call. It’s not easy, but there’s plenty of grace for the journey.

I’m very thankful that God led me to this conference. It was just what I needed, right when I needed it. I’ll share more later!

Day 20 Update

It is Day 20 of my 40-day writing journey. Instead of thinking, “I’m halfway through,” I find myself thinking, “It’s half over!” The time has flown by, and I wish I had more to show for it.

But I’m learning about an important concept in the writing life. It’s called BICHOK. That stands for “Butt in chair, hands on keyboard.”¬†ūüôā To call yourself a writer is one thing. To yearn to be a writer, to want to have written, is another. But to actually write is the most important thing, and the only way to do that is to show up every day and… WRITE!

It may not be good writing at first. But the more you do it, the better it will get. Note that I didn’t say “the easier it will get.” Some days it will be easy. Some days, inspiration is high and words flow faster than your fingers can fly over the keyboard. Other days, you may have to fight off discouragement or distractions, or feel uninspired, confused, or completely lost.

But if you just show up, every day, sit down, and put your fingers on the keys, eventually something will come out.

My mother and I both play the piano. She tells about a time when she was visiting at a church and someone asked her to play. She sat down at the piano, looked at the music, then at the keys, and nothing made sense. In her moment of panic, it felt like everything she had ever learned just flew right out of her mind. She could feel everyone looking at her and thought, “I’ve got to do something! I can’t just sit here. Maybe if I just put my hands on the keys, something will come to me.” So, she did, and at first, it was just noise. But soon, it did all come back to her and she was able to make it through the song.

Writing can be like that. Sometimes you think you don’t know how. Maybe everything you ever learned has flown right out of your mind. But if you’ll just put your hands on the keyboard and start, it will all come back to you. It may not be melodic at first, but eventually it will become beautiful music.

The past few days, I’ve worked a lot on the critiques I have to do for the writer’s conference, which starts in 2 days! I feel like I haven’t been able to work on my own stuff as much. But I know that as soon as get back to it, the words will start flowing again.

My friend Cliff says that writing is like exercise. You have to work at it, starting slowly, and build up your writing “muscles” a little at a time. Eventually you’ll be ready for a marathon, but just give yourself time to get there.

So whether it’s “halfway there” or “half over,” here’s to 20 more days of BICHOK!