I rarely write about my writing life when I write blog posts. Too many mentions of the word “write,” right? That’s because I know the majority of y’all aren’t writers, so it wouldn’t necessarily be all that intriguing to read about my brainstorming processes and everything. Plus, let’s be honest, it’s slightly awkward.
But it does mean a whole lot to me when people ask me how my current writing projects are going. If you hang around me on Facebook or life outside the internet, you may know I finished editing my second novel this past spring. I’ve deeply appreciated all the times people ask me how it’s going, even if I stumble over summarizing what I’m working on.
So today I thought I’d talk about it a little bit. I found this post in my drafts folder. I wrote this back at the beginning of May, but because I didn’t have access to my files for the majority of the summer (see my my last post), it never went live. At the end of it, I’ll add some updates that’ve happened since I originally wrote the post nearly three months ago. Here we go…
Over the past couple months, I’ve mentioned this novel I was working on. Because I like to be all mysterious and covert (or because I ‘m just unskilled at summarizing stuff), I haven’t said much about it. Well, today’s the day! Even though I now have a nifty little plot summary, I don’t want to share specific story details and give away spoiler-y things.But I do have a list of a few frequently asked questions about my writing in general that I want to answer.
Note: By “frequently,” I mean at least two people have asked me each of these questions at some point over the past several months. Which may or may not qualify as “frequent,” but it makes me feel all writerly to say I have FAQs.
Q: How did you come up with that many words?
A: Honestly, I don’t know how ideas swirl around in my brain until they link up with others ideas and find a place to land. But I do know it takes time. I like to let stories marinate for a while. I’ll have an idea for a scene, but won’t know what to do with it. So I roll it around in my mind until another idea clicks with it, or I set it aside until an idea randomly hits. Sometimes full scenes hit me all at once and I have to quickly pull out my phone and jot them down. Or if I happen to be driving (which is where I do a lot of my plotting), I talk it out loud over and over so I can remember it until I have the chance to write it down.
Q: Where do you get your character names from?
A: They name themselves! I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. When I find someone to add to a story, he or she already comes with a name. Usually, the name reflects his or her personality, but sometimes I google the meaning of the name and it ends up helping me shape the character. It’s like meeting friends, really. When someone introduces herself to me for the first time, she tells me her name. I don’t pick it for her (I do have a thing for nicknames, but that’s another story).
Q: How long did it take you to write your novel?
A: The idea for the story came to me shortly after I finished writing my first novel, so I spent a couple months brainstorming and writing out little scenes to help me get to know my main character. I officially started writing it early last summer and finished it the day before school started back this past Fall. I used a couple of mini-scenes or descriptions from my brainstorming days, but it was mostly all-new material. That’s not including cutting scenes, adding scenes, and overhauling scenes, but the original story took a few months and came in between 75,000-80,000 words. Once I have an idea for where I want a story to go, I write quickly but messily. As far as revisions, one of my creative writing professors (who is absolutely amazing) worked with me throughout the Fall and Spring semesters.
Q: Can I read it? When can I buy it in stores?
A: This is probably the most frequently asked question of all. I really, really, really wish I had an answer, but I’m still gearing up to query agents. Then, if God decides to send this story places, it could potentially be out in the world one day!
Q: How do you feel now that it’s finished?
A: I feel all kinds of awesome. It’s exhilarating to be finished with the project and to have followed the story through so many rewrites. But I’m also kind of sad. I miss these characters I’ve spent a year getting to know. They’re like imaginary friends.
Q: So what’s next?
A: All along, I said I would finish this story then move on to a new character. But shortly after finishing the last round of edits on the novel, the main character started hinting that her story wasn’t finished. There are so many questions left unanswered and so many interesting things for her to find herself in the middle of. So I’m hanging out with her again, trying to figure out what’s next. I already have the basic bones of the plot, and the stakes are even higher than in the first one. It also requires some traveling and researching and other fun things, so I’m just enjoying the ride at the moment by building a playlist for inspiration and writing slowly.
So there you go! Since writing that post, I have officially sent out a round of query letters for the novel! What, exactly, does that mean? It means I eat lots of ice cream, take many deep breaths, and learn to trust the Lord even more. Good times.
Another update: I’ve taken a trip to the city in which the sequel is set, and I absorbed as many details as possible while I was there. I’ve also started drafting the sequel and cobbling together random scenes and quotes I’ve jotted down on everything from sticky notes to scraps of paper.
My approach to the story is to write it as though we’re meeting the characters and their world for the first time, even though I’ve known them for more than a year now. So yes, it’s a sequel, but I’m trying not to rely on the first novel. My goal is that the story will stay fresh and well-paced and that it will be a complete story on top of the first, not just a continuation.
To summarize all of this: I’m in the middle of chasing a dream. I’m wading through this process with open hands, knowing that it’s not up to me to make something happen, but also knowing there’s no turning back. I know God has great plans, whether or not they include this story ever getting onto shelves. Either way, I will keep writing. It’s such a big part of me, and I love writing stories that I hope share a glimpse of how indescribable the love of Christ really is.
It’s not an easy journey, and there’s certainly not a whole lot of glamor in the process. And yet, I’m loving it. And one day, if God wills, I’ll be able to hand you a novel and say, “Here’s a part of my heart.”
Until then, I’ll keep blogging. Because I like this process a whole lot, too.
In His love,