Saturday, July 30, 2011

An Insider's Look

It’s confession time.

For quite a while I didn’t talk about being a writer, and not just because in many regards it’s a solitary pursuit. First, I’m not published, and there are some who’d dismiss me as a poser at that point. Second, it takes a long time to create a novel from start to finish. And once you do, the process has only begun. It goes something like this:

1) Write the Masterpiece. It takes a long time. For most people at least a year if they’re good at it. For many, up to ten years.

2) Have the Masterpiece critiqued. I call this “unleashing the hounds.” This is where you straighten your spine and let several trusted critique partners have at your ‘baby’ because they’ll tell you the truth. They’ll go to work pointing out all the plot holes and narrative slumps, and scene/sequel issues, and character arcs, and—my personal weak area—goals, motivations and conflicts. Now the story is so much tighter and is starting to look more like a real story.

3) Rewrite the Masterpiece. Now you have to go back and rewrite most of the book at least once. Most likely several times, at least some sections of it. My first book was gutted and rewritten 7,359 times. I counted. But it’s so much better for it and I don’t regret the blood, sweat and tears.

4) Pitch the finished Masterpiece. Hopefully you’ve been scouting the industry for a while now and have a good feel for who would be a good fit for your project. You take courses and read writing blogs and learn about different agents. You write a synopsis (one page summary of your entire book). That alone can take several weeks. You poke and prod and tweak those first three chapters of your book until they SING, because they’re your one shot. That’s all an agent is going to look at to make his/her decision. If you’re blessed, the agent will love it and request the full manuscript.

5) Wait. Wait for so long you wonder if you really did hit ‘send’ on that email query. While you wait you start working on your next Masterpiece. Eventually the rejections come. You soldier on with book 2, trying not to let the rejections of your Masterpiece rattle you. Eventually you land an agent. Maybe the agent wants substantial edits. Now you have to rewrite some more. (see point 3) and resubmit.

6) Agent starts shopping the Masterpiece. This takes even longer. Months and months as the agent tries to prove to a publishing house editor that your project is just perfect for them.

7) Wait some more. And work harder to learn everything you can about the craft of writing. You continue to go to conferences to make connections with industry professionals and talk to editors about your writing projects. You continue to write, you read everything you can in your genre (and outside your genre), and you wait.

And that’s where I am right now.

It requires more patience than I ever imagined. It requires being okay with the process not the end point, something I’m not very good at.

Here's an interesting thing I learned not too long ago: when the Israelites escaped Egypt and headed to the Red Sea they walked right up to it and then had to WAIT until God moved. I had never picked up on that part before. God didn’t part the waters as the people headed that way. They got to the edge of the Red Sea first, and took a good long gander at that vast expanse of oceanfront. With the Egyptians (interestingly enough a symbol of the world and our struggles against the flesh) coming right up behind the Israelites in a less-than-friendly manner, God made them wait right there on the brink. They couldn’t go forward and they couldn’t go back.

One might say, stuck.

God drove them to the threshold and made them wait. They had to exist in liminal space, the place between what was and what will be.

Like taking a step of faith . . . except without the step-taking part.

Waiting. Being. Resting in the knowledge that He’s got you right where He wants you.

“I’m going to show the courage not to retreat back to what was and I’m going to be patient not to jump into what I think ought to be, but I'm going to stand in liminal space. I am going to trust that as I stand on the threshold it is pregnant with the possibilities of God.” –David Jensen

It’s hard, standing on the edge and looking out over the possibilities, trying to be OK with the “spaces in between” that sometimes feel heavy enough to crush you. I’m trying to be at peace on the threshold, trying to stay at peace as I wait on the cusp of this writing adventure. Because I don’t have a clue about this wild ride God is taking me on.


  1. OH, please dear Lord, don't make Emily wait 40 years! LOL Her storie's too good for that...

  2. Ha!!! You crack me up.
    And I should qualify that my critique partners (Linda being one of them) are incredibly wonderful to help me hash out my writing until it's decent. "Unleashing the hounds" was highly metaphorical and in no way representative of my dear critters in real life. :D

  3. Em, I LOVE the waiting lesson you shared! Thank you. I am still waiting for direction in my life after surviving the last 2 years of turmoil. It requires tremendous patience & endurance. I too, don't know where this wild ride is taking me. But I love how God rescues us out of seemingly impossible situations - it may not be as magnificently obvious as the Red Sea situation, but His miracles are still occuring. And so we wait... with pregnant expectation.

  4. Yes, exactly, Sarah! We have to allow God to use that time to prepare and mold us, right where we are, even if we're not happy about it. He's sanctifying us, getting us ready to move from *here* to *there.* Sometimes it takes time.

  5. Linda is hilarious!! LOL Great insider look, Emily. Your blog is gorgeous, btw! Wow! Lovely job!