Thoughts on my Writing Journey

This is a post I wrote for the blog, "Operation: Just Write" yesterday... with a bit of moderation to it. Hope you enjoy it :).

Before this post gets underway, I'd like to say that the way I've structured this post isn't very organized or professional. I hope I will get better in this area of writing as I progress in high school English. Anyhow... the other thing I'd like to say is that everyone's way of writing is different than the other and so what I have outlined here is all in my words what I've learnt and heard from the little time I've been writing (since 2008) and is by no way any official guideline. With that said, I can also mention that the way I write is rather irregular by itself. Though I will be mentioning later on how I am quite meticulous with my writing, I am also rather lazy when it comes to a lot of things, and I find it hard at times to apply myself to do the rigorous side that comes with writing. Right now, I am working to finish my novel, The Crown of Life, whilst at the same time honing my writing skills.

Hmmm... so the question is: do I just write? Or is my manner, as a friend of mine commented, "like a snowflake"-organized and with full plots and outlines? I definitely struggle with the whole plot/planning vs. the freedom of 'just writing'! My natural tendency is to be quite meticulous with words, having notebooks worn and old, jotted with my story ideas in plans, plots and outlines etc. I also have, what I think to be a terribly annoying habit; it is that I keep editing a page for days, sometimes weeks on end before I'm fully satisfied with it! But I also enjoy the freedom of just writing and coming out with what I've written and say, "Wow!... I didn't think I'd come up with that or know that I'd do that."

To be practical, this is how I really write most of the time: usually I've got my story plot in my head and every now and then I get some ideas; I share it with my family and friends to see how they like it, and after that I try to arrange it into the plot line (my plot or synopsis, really loose and crazy in its style, is around 9 pages long!) I  either store those ideas in my brain or jot them down on to one of my two spiral bound notebooks (one is used for really random thoughts, the other is a very rough draft of the actual story). Then I try on almost every night (except the weekends and Monday and Thursdays) to sit up on the computer and work away (or headache away!) on the ideas that have been brewing in my head. At times, I write directly unto the Word Document, but that is not always the case. Some people find it easier to write with paper and pen, while some get more inspiration on the computer. I do not know exactly which I prefer. It really depends on the circumstances.

Well, this leads me to something else. Mental Blocks. Somewhere out there, I read a really funny title for it, "Blank Page Syndrome"... have you ever experienced that? Maybe not necessarily in writing a novel, but maybe in a school essay? Often I just got those mental blanks in which just NOTHING whatsoever works... and I would do anything but open up my Word Document for days... in those days, I usually keep going over what I've written, disgusted at how disastrous my writing is and just shrink into myself. I have often found that when I purposefully say to myself, "Joy, you're going to write now! You have to write something..." a sudden panic seizes me and I forget everything that I intended to write and my head just feels foggy... I think to myself... "ugh... what did I want to say? How do I say it, or explain it? How do I fill this big empty page with great novel material that will keep my readers (if I ever have any) spellbound? Oh!!!! I simply can't do this!" *Sob*! That is when I know that I need to look to the Lord Jesus for help so that I may not rely on my own cleverness or strength, but on Him! It is the then that I realize that I need Him to give me the words to write, otherwise I can never write anything. For without Him we can literally do nothing. Getting back to what I was saying about inspiration, I have often found that I get the best inspiration (ah, and don't laugh at me now!) when I should be doing things beside writing... e.i. doing a Maths problem for instance. In fact that's how I started writing. One day I was tired and bored and so I started scribbling out a rough draft of a story when I should have been doing my Maths! It is something that really bothers me, and I am praying for God's grace and help in this area of my life... to set priorities right, redeeming the time. 


Anyhow... what I was speaking about the "Blank Page Syndrome" thing is that a lot of this panic is our fear. Fear that we will write something wrong, fear that it will not turn out like those amazing novels neatly tucked away in our shelves, which is of course is often our own pride playing up. We want to have our stuff just as good as those great classics out there... but wait a minute! Their great works didn't sprout up in a day! We have to work our way slowly and persevere. This a bit premature... but there is one question we have to ask ourselves... why are we writing? For fame... money? True, in a lot of us (and me, most of all!) there is the feeling inside of us of wanting to do something of accomplishment, worth to the world. But is that what we really want? To have our whole work built on the pride of our achievements? Oh, how we need the Lord to cleanse us from all illusions of ourselves and may we, by His grace, humble ourselves from the pride that so easily creeps into our hearts! I know I am not articulating all these issues very well so please bare (bear?) with me! But it is some thing to think about and I will talk about it later in this post. The other problem, coming up with the whole panic of what to write, is fear. We all know about this verse...."perfect love casteth out fear". But do we really believe it? One way I believe that we can overcome or conquer our fear and panic when we are in that state is prayer. I know it may sound a cliche but it truly helps you know! The next thing to do is, just write. WRITE. WRITE. WRITE... until your fingers ache... until your head throbs... then the release will come, hopefully. It is certainly a blissful feeling to have a flow of words on in your head, your fingers catching up with your thoughts!


One more thought. First let me say that I don't think it is wrong to be working on more than one story at a time, though personally I have found that to be quite distracting... BUT! Going as far as my limited writing experience, I have learnt (or more accurately I am learning) something quite important that my parents and sisters keep reminding me of ... If you start getting bored or tired with your story (you'll come to feel like this when you've been working on your story for more than 2 years)... DON'T GIVE UP YOUR STORY AND START WRITING ANOTHER! You will end getting bored out with that one too, shelve it somewhere and starting another, and yet another a few months later. I tried it once. My first story, "Escape from Vanity" hasn't been finished because I got bored and wished to try something else out... I do NOT intend to do this with "The Crown of Life"! You may put your story aside and do something else... write poetry, play the fiddle (if you can)... jump rope, scrub toilets :S, make a tumble-turn, clear up your cluttered e-mail inbox, or even curl up in bed and sleep for 48 hours! Just don't give the story up... it might turn out to be a blockbuster novel! (I am speaking as much to myself, by the way, as to any reader/author here!) Well, even if your/my story never publishes, you and I can say that we've finished a whole book... that's something, isn't it? I am learning that the most important thing is to glorify God in absolutely whatever we do. Who cares if it gets published (well maybe, we, authors, care a bit, don't we?) the important thing is do our best, entrust the whole thing to God, and leave the rest for those big agents and publishers to decide. In a world where there is so much immorality, violence and lawlessness there are many books, most of them trash, but little truth. Are we prepared to fill in the gap? However small it will be, to bless those around us with godly, inspirational books/stories that will encourage those who read it? And even if no one outside our family get to read it, we can bless them... our brothers and sisters... our parents. In the future our children. Surely that should be an encouragement for us in our journey of writing! "Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." I Corinthians 4:10

In conclusion to this lengthy post... 
Personally I am trying to regulate my own writing so that it is methodical and not so haphazard and idiotic in its manner. I also want to learn to pass the initial barrier of whether I get 'inspiration' or not and simply write it out... write the whole thing, get done with it, the whole time praying for God's guidance and help. Then edit. Then read it for myself. Then let other family and friends read it. Then PRAY! Then try and publish... eventually! All the time trusting God that He has a plan for my life, infinite and lovely in its design, knowing that if He wants this to work out, then He will open the doors and lead me. And He will lead you too. He will lead all His children, "for all things work together for good to those who love God"! I believe our Father in Heaven is interested in even the smallest things in our lives. Nothing is too great or too small for Him, even our little stories and problems. Let me tell you something... I really, really want to publish my story! But it is not what I want, but what He wants, that I truly desire in the depths of my heart. It is all in His hands, we are in His hands and that thought, is so wonderful! May we give Him, not only our lives but also our dreams, ambitions, our work... and say, "I am Yours, save me!" (Psalm 119)

I'd love to hear the different writing methods you (viewers/readers) use. It will certainly be very interesting!
God bless you and keep you in His love, joy and peace today and always.
Have a great weekend, and thank you for listening to my ramblings... :)
Love in Him
~Joy!

Comments

  1. Dear Joy,

    It was certainly a pleasure to 'listen to your ramblings' - thanks for sharing your writing journey! I loved reading about it, and you know what? You gave me some ideas, too! I heard my struggles in yours, and some of the things you suggested or have worked through have given me some 'inspiration', thanks :).

    About the 'do I just write?' question, I agree that a combination of 'snowflake planning' and 'just writing' is best. What I find is, that first I tend to make a very basic structure (even just a hazy idea of introduction, crisis, and end, which is very basic indeed :). Perhaps I should plan even more than I do - but personally, I find that a bit off-putting to the 'creative flow'. Then, with that basic plan in mind, I just try to write.

    My particular problem with 'just writing' is perfectionism, not exactly with the plot, but with how readable it is. I instantly want my rough draft to be captivating, interesting and fascinating. But this just doesn't happen... the important thing is to let the thoughts all flow out and fill the pages. Editing/sculpturing/cutting and pasting - in short, making a masterpiece :) - comes later.

    I love your solution to a mental blank: PRAY. As with everything, if you have sought the Lord about whether you should write (and I know you have!), then I trust that He will show you what to write and help you over the un-bridged chasms of mental blanks! May He show you the way with 'The Crown of Life'.

    Amen. If the Lord is calling you to fill that 'gap' with truth-filled, God-honouring literature, embrace His calling! Lord willing, you'll have a supporter in me... and I'm sure Harry and Guy, as well!

    About those dreadful school research projects... that's just PAINFUL full-stop. Analysing, synthesising all that knowledge is truly a challenge. But even there, the Lord truly helped me when I sought Him, during years 10-12. Even if it was by teaching me a lesson in patience, or having a teachable spirit - listening and learning from my teacher, Mum!

    Oh, writing is such a journey. And with the Lord, what a rewarding journey it can be. Thanks for sharing this, sister; I'm encouraged!

    Love in Him,

    Maddy

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  2. PS, Joy :) - Even though you invited me to Operation Just Write when it first started (and I became a follower), I can't seem to access it - haven't been able to almost from the start. I'm not sure why this is, and wonder if you could shed some light on it? If not, no worries! :)

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  3. Dear Maddy,

    I am so sorry not to have replied earlier to this comment... as you probably know... I've been really busy!

    Thank you so much for 'listening to my ramblings' so attentively and not getting bored out and for also sharing your thoughts! It has certainly relieved and encouraged me to know that my sharing wasn't in vain :) in the Lord. I believe what I shared here is not only what I feel, but what all writers feel!!!! A friend of mine was telling me that according to “Writing Fiction for Dummies” there are the type of authors who is an “Outliner”, or an author can be a “Snowflaker” (plan a little; write a little)and there are also “Seat of the Pants” writers (“just-write-ers”). I think I am the "Snowflaker" type of writer and you look the same! What have you been writing lately?

    I had to smile when I read your comment, "I instantly want my rough draft to be captivating, interesting and fascinating." I just thought... wow! I I always have that problem too! I read somewhere that you cannot get your first draft to be a perfect masterpiece from the very start, there is redrafting, editing, proofreading, copy-editing etc... before making it into the masterpiece that you hope!

    I somehow feel like "a pencil" and am amazed that I could write anything from the first place, it is truly the Lord who helps in everything! Mental blanks are HORRIBLE!!! So I've just found out that prayer is really the key. Sometimes I forget that fact and I need reminding, like we all do. But He is faithful!

    Thank you, Maddy, I don't know for sure if that's the Lord's calling for me, but I do feel His leading strongly. What I want is His will, and not mine. Well, that is certainly encouraging to know that I have supporters in you and Harry and Guy! That's great :)

    Well, I have to admit that I haven't done lots of school research projects yet... though I know that I will start soon :S.
    Thanks for commenting, Maddy, and encouraging me so much in my 'writing journey'! It is indeed such a journey and there is so much to learn, not only academically but spiritually. May we learn with eagerness and submission from our Great Teacher!

    Uhm... Maddy, I've checked out Operation Just Write and resent you an invitation to view it. Hopefully it will work now!
    Thanks again for commenting, Maddy. You are a dear sister and friend in the Lord too. Be blessed in Him,
    Love your sister in Christ,
    Joy

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  4. Dear Joy,
    I am truly so blessed to be able to comment on your blog now! :) So it was a problem with blogger after all.

    I had trouble with my blog until I switched to pop-out comments.

    It's really interesting that you write. I used to write a lot... I don't quite as much now... but the Lord gave me a story in late Dec. or early Jan. I haven't gotten to write it much for a few months now. but I really did enjoy it.

    The hardest thing with me about writing is getting discouraged. I know April is a wonderful writer (to me anyway) and when I look at my story, I just can't seem to get enough life into it sometimes. The thoughts come out, but I can't polish... I guess what I need to do is write as the Lord leads me, and then fix it up somehow later, if that is in His will. I just get discouraged, and quit writing... :( It's terrible to think of a girl sick in bed, and she never can get up because I never write the next chapter! ;)

    Anyway. I'm blessed by the fact that you want to write for the Lord. Your post spoke of all the things I've gone through so much, in my attempts to write, since 2003. I have finished a couple of stories, and started many others. And I agree, it can be quite a mistake to start more than one at a time! :)

    I really like the way you want to please the Lord is what you do Joy. It isn't very often that you find young women that want to please Him. The Lord Jesus is my everything. I want to please Him with all that I am.

    May He bless you, dear one.
    With love, Carra

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  5. Dearest Carra,
    I really apologize for not answering your comment before now! It was lovely though to get your sweet response to this post. I always love to read your comments! :). Yes, I certainly know what you mean. I too often get discouraged and feel like quitting and feel like my writing is just "TRASH!" in regards to the literary side of things like plot, character presentation and the way of writing.

    Thankfully I have a great supporting team, my family, who always encourage me to keep up with my work! But most of all, it is the Lord who helps me persevere when I feel I am wasting my time and not any good at writing.

    You know I kind of get what you mean. Though Sarah, my eldest sister, hasn't undertaken writing a novel she is so good at putting thoughts into words and writing so neatly and orderly. Mine is rather loose and untidy. But He helps, that's for sure, and we each have our writing style. True, it can be hard to breath life into a story, but it is always so helpful to imagine everything in your head and truly believe in your characters, places and events as though they were really real. Because chances are that if you don't really Feel it, your readers won't either. What are your stories about? Are they historical, romance, science, adventure, western, or just plain Christian fiction? It is always good to have a specific genre to write in and know what it is, particularly if you intend to publish. At least, that's what I've read :). Mine would definitely be a Historical Biblical Fiction. Some would say romance, but I wouldn't put it under that genre if left to myself.

    It is always good to get back to the main theme of your story and try to build on that. I don't know... but usually I find keeping a rough plot draft in my head helps me know what I should write next and not just quit when I have no ideas...

    Sometimes, I find that I am living for myself, Carra, and not for Christ which grieves my heart so much, but must grieve HIS heart ever sooo much more. I truly desire with all my heart to please the Lord and live for Him, and serve Him. He is my life and all. I thank Him for His amazing grace that has been shown to me, a sinner. I also thank Him for the grace evident in your life, which is so wonderful!
    Love,
    Joy

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