Before you breathlessly peruse this post for information on plotting your novel, let me say up front this post is about a storyline–yours and mine–but not craft!
After I finished my first novel I assumed the writer’s journey would be like a straight line. Sure there would be some climbs and dips emotionally, but the pursuit of becoming a novelist would be straightforward, moving in a linear direction. I wrote a novel. I would re-work that book, go to critique group, write another, go to conferences and eventually sell a book. Then I would keep writing novels, rewriting them, and going to crit group and conferences. Only I’d get to have the word “author” on my name tag and once in a while I’d be the one signing the books instead of asking for a signature.
I have friends whose journey has been pretty much that. My crit group member Kathy Kovach and Donna Robinson started writing novels, keep writing novels, went to conferences, had their work critiqued, and they are now published. I’m not saying there were no tears or struggles, but their path made sense. Donna did have to stop for a few years to finish raising her children, but when she came back into the writing world, the journey continued. Straightforward.
My journey has been very different. I wrote my first novel in 2002. I attended a conference and began learning novel writing and rewrote that novel . . . and rewrote it. Over and over. In 2003 my husband became convinced I needed to create a website and begin a devotional ministry. After some coaxing from him and conviction from the Lord, we launched Soul Scents, a weekely devotional ministry, in January of 2004. I thought, “Okay. I’ll write a weekly devotional, but I’m a novelist. That will still be my focus. Besides, the conference speakers say I should develop an audience. This will still work toward my ultimate goal of becoming an author.”
Before 2004 was out, I was offered a montly column on Crosswalk.com’s homeschool channel. That was okay. The exposure made my devotional subscriptions grow, I got emails from homeschooling moms like myself who were encouraged, and added a few more publishing credits to my bio. But the goal was still novelist, right?
By summer of 2004 my husband had convinced me I had to have a blog–and I began throwing up my “extra” words on blogger before most of my friends even knew what a blog was. By the end of 2005 I was spending a lot of time answering emails from Soul Scents subscribers and Crosswalk readers. A couple of other channels on Crosswalk started picked up my work and I was able to promote several of my friends on Crosswalk’s book channel. I found I was good at interviews and used the skill to help my friends out when I could.
In 2005, my article, The Guilt of a Homeschool Mom, was named #1 article of the year for Crosswalk.com. In 2006 I had two articles on their top ten list. I answered tons of emails from bleeding moms who struggled with the issues I wrote about. Other homeschool venues contacted me and I ended up writing a chapter in a homeschooling book as well as writing consistently for other magazines.
But I was still a novelist, right? I mean, wasn’t I still headed in that direction?
I did eventually write another novel, this time about a mom, giving her a journey that I thought my Crosswalk readers could relate to. And then I wrote much of a non-fiction book, hitting those issues from a more straight-forward viewpoint. And I thought the Lord would sell those books, speaking His truth to readers from both venues. I would still get to be a novelist, but I’d have a few non-fiction books thrown in.
My writing journey was starting to look a lot different than my novelist friends.
After many rejection letters on my novels, my non-fiction book went to committee in two different houses. Okay–that was all right. I’d just publish first as a non-fiction writer, eventually I would sell those novels, too. But the book was shot down by marketers in both cases–they didn’t know how to sell to the audience my book focused upon.
2008 found me weary. But that’s all a part of the journey, right? The disappointments, the rejections, the ups and downs were just part of the process. I was still on the journey.
Then the Lord starting reminding me how much I loved my children and how my I loved being a mom. I should have know what was coming. My family hit several hard spots and God asked me to lay down my novels and focus on them.
I’d thought I was finally getting close to my dream of writing novels. I was beginning to learn the craft and once in a while I even tapped into some artistry in my stories. But after seven years of hard work, He told me to stop. The stories dried up within me and even my article writing, blogs, and devotional writing slowed down. I shed my tears, but dug into renewed focus on my precious family, who needed me now in new and demanding ways.
But God did make me a promise when He asked me to let it go. He told me He would send me writing that would fit with this season of my life.
Last fall I got my first job writing curriculum for David C. Cook. Today I’m working on my third assignment with them. It’s writing that fits well into both my schedule and the emotional season of my life. I LOVE the work, feel passionate about sharing Jesus with children, and am incredibly honored to get to do what I do.
But oh how I miss my stories. How I miss more poetic phrases, symbolism, and beautiful word choice.
Maybe someday the Lord will give me my stories back. I really believe He will, I just don’t know when.
Saturday’s mini-conference made me reflective. It was really hard to be immersed again in the novelist’s world, focusing on plotting, point of view, and writing good proposals. I did some crying–a fair amount actually. I can’t help but grieve the loss of my goal, my dream . . . the joy of writing stories.
But I suppose I’ve also realized that what I want more than selling a novel is to be putty in the Lord’s hand. I want to use the gift HE gave me as HE chooses. I am His, and I’ve given Him the right to move me around as He sees fit, to use me where He wants me when He wants me there.
This journey is very different than I’d planned. Instead of a linear path I’ ve gone in circles, taken crossroads I didn’t know existed–and maybe even jumped to a completely different line. But I believe today as I did back in 2002 that God will lead me down this path.
I cling today, as I did eight years ago, to the verse the Lord gave me the first time I asked Him if I would get to see the novel I’d written be published. He replied through a Psalm. “I will lead you on the best pathway for your life. I will guide you and watch over you.”
And really, that’s all a writer can ask for.
A homeschooling mother of four, Paula Moldenhauer is the President of HIS Writers, the Denver ACFW chapter. She is passionate about God’s grace and freedom in Christ. To sign up for her free weekly devotion, visit http://www.soulscents.us. You can also visit her blog at http://www.gracereign.blogspot.com