Thursday, September 29, 2011

WHAT I’VE LEARNED ABOUT WRITING…..SO FAR…….


I have tried to distill what I have learnt into five areas. I’ll be interested to see if it is the same for you?

1. PASSIONATE IDEA; Whatever you write about it must grip you. In writing “Broken Pottery – the life of an African girl” it was something I felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to do as I watched these beautiful girls and women suffer physically and emotionally. How could one not be moved to hope with them as they sought a cure for their fistulas created by a difficult childbirth and then enter into their joy when they found healing. My hope and prayer is that through reading my fictional account it may bring some help to these women. See my website for more information. www.JenniferAnn.info

2. START; Even though you can be convinced you should write it can be difficult to start. It may take months or even years to think about a storyline but at some point one has to brush aside interruptions and determinedly put pen to paper. My litmus test for this stage was to ask myself,

“At the age of 90 will I look back at my life and totally regret the fact that I did not “have a go” and see what God may have wanted to do with not just the book but with my being obedient to Him?” The answer was always a resounding “yes”.

3. TRUST; The problem with writing a book, even one you know God wants you to write, you can still feel unsure if it is any good. Most authors are perfectionists when it comes to their writing and could alter a sentence over a dozen times and still not feel that it is exactly right. My rule of thumb is to ask the question, “Does my writing evoke an image, emotion or response from the reader?” In writing a fictional book set on a real continent involving real issues my concern was that many people have not visited Africa but I wanted to write in a way that the reader felt, they had not only visited but they had lived there. Could they visualize the blood orange sunsets, appreciate the nuances of culture, feel their senses reel in the exuberant chaos of life which is an African market and most importantly walk in the bare feet of Aisha (the central character)?

Having done our best, we then need to TRUST that God would do all that He intends to do with our work. (I’m sure you will agree, simple to say, hard to live out)!

4. REALLY GOOD EDITOR; It’s a bit heart breaking if you then turn your work over to someone who “doesn’t get it.” A good editor knows about spelling and grammar. A REALLY good editor reads your work carefully and is respectful of the creative process and realises that your writing is an extension of yourself. They recognize your unique style and storylines and set about polishing your work till the beauty of the story glimmers from each page.

5. JOY; I am wondering if you think I will say that being published brings joy and yes that is a wonderful moment and of course if the book sells that is also great. But I think for writers the real joy comes as we create because we are using the gifts that God has given us for His purposes, (no matter how outwardly successful our books may or may not be).

SO TO MY FELLOW WRITERS, MAY JOYFUL WRITING BE YOURS.

Jennifer Ann

26 comments:

  1. Hi Jennifer Ann
    Thanks for sharing your learning journey. Do you find procrastination a hurdle to jump? I do. Not being a perfectionist I need an editor who is. fortunately I do have a couple in that trait. I hope this one comes up.
    Ray Hawkins

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  2. Interesting post, Jennifer Ann. I believe far too many people will look back on their lives with regret. Here's to having real joy as we all create our own masterpieces, no matter who reads them.

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  3. I agree completely with those 5 points, Jennifer Ann. I'm thankful that the joy you mentioned last of all is always enough to cancel out the uncertainty you mentioned in point 3 and give us that sense of trust.
    Blessings,
    Paula

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  4. Interestingly, the 'joy' topic piqued my interest most of all too. Certainly I derive a sense of joy from the act of creation (which is an interesting analogy in itself), but I do struggle with the question of whether it is sufficient for me to be satisfied with writing for self-gratification or whether it is 'intended' for some broader purpose.

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  5. I certainly identify with having the passionate idea and the journey to getting started. I think it's trust that keeps me going though - believing that God has a greater purpose in our writing and being faithful to that even when it all feels too hard.

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  6. Passion and joy are lessons I've learned in my writing journey. Without them my writing time is wasted. I also trust God and obey his calling on my life for whatever that purpose may be.

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  7. Hi Jennifer,
    If I was to say 5 things I've learnt they'd be similar to yours, but also different.
    1 - passionate idea - if I can't be bothered writing it, no one will be bothered reading it!
    2 - finish - I am fine at starting, it's the finishing that faces lots of excuses!
    3 - integrity - I think I need to be honest about my goals and let God be in charge of them. He has the right to say a book of mine may never get published - that doesn't mean he never wanted me to write it.
    4 - perseverance - a writing life for me is hard work. I just have to keep going and going and going...
    5 - Joy - Yep! There is something special about being lost in a story and feeling something of the heart and mystery of God.
    I wonder if the 5 things we learn change as we progress along our writing journeys. Like the three women in Jennifer's picture, some are carrying things on their heads, one isn't, but they are walking the same path.
    Penny.

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  8. Yes Penny I was going to mention your number two. As an author once said "Finish what you start"
    I have kept that in my mind and told myself, prompts and writer's group things I could do, but no new novel ideas. Unless I get a good idea for Nanowrimo, but not planning to this year.

    MEL

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  9. So true! It feels good to see others go through much the same processes as I do. I'm with Penny though - it's the finishing that's hard for me. I have a lot of work that's finished pers se, but I procrastinate when it comes to the final overhaul stage. And as for joy...I get really excited and (and sometimes feel like jumping for joy) when I've finished a new workshop package with an artistic slide presentation :)

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  10. Hi there Jennifer,
    I agree that we have to be passionate about our chosen topic and characters, and about every page we write if possible. One of the best tips I have heard is, if we are bored writing something, the reader will be bored too. I recently spent about twelve months on an idea, but it felt 'heavy' and uninspired so I eventually gave it away. I agree with all the other things you said too. How great to find the sort of editor you mentioned!

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  11. Hi Ray,
    Yes, I do procrastinate if I am not really sure of what message I am trying to get across. Sometimes making myself write something, helps to sort that out.I also needed an editor for my blog as I only saw my spelling mistake after I had pressed the post button. Thanks for your post.
    Jennifer Ann

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  12. Hi Lee and Paula,
    Thanks for your comments. Yes, I think part of the joy is being faithful to what we feel God wants us to do and be.
    Jennifer Ann

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  13. Hi Peter,
    You have brought up an interesting question. I can only speak from my own perspective in that my joy in creating a story is inseparable from knowing "this is what God wants me to do at this time"
    I would love to hear what others think.
    Thanks Jennifer Ann

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  14. Thanks Carol and Laura,
    Being new to all these book things, I think I am understanding that writing in a way is no different from any other part of my life, in that God calls me to be faithful to Him.
    thanks Jennifer Ann

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  15. Hey Penny,
    I completely agree with you and as I am only at the beginning of the writing journey I'm sure I will learn different things along the way. I wish I'd thought of how to include the African picture in the blog but I couldn't think of a thing. But what you said about us all walking the same path etc was really beautiful.
    Thanks Jennifer Ann

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  16. Hi Melanie, Margaret and Debbie,
    Thanks for your posts I enjoyed hearing of your insights into writing. Amazingly, as I was writing my book, my sister separately to what I was doing, became a qualified editor. I was a bit worried that being family that she would either be too hard or too soft on my work instead she was very encouraging. Out of interest she told me that she reads every manuscript twice before marking it so she can appreciate the style of the writer and the story they are trying to create and then makes "suggestions only" as to what she thinks could be improved upon.She always gives reasons for her suggestions so authors can understand why and how or if they wish to make any changes.
    Thanks Jennifer Ann

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  17. Great post Jennifer Ann - I had to laugh at Penny's comment ... I too find starting very easy.. must focus on finishing. ;)

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  18. Thanks Michelle,
    Penny has a good point.
    Jennifer Ann

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  19. Hi Jennifer, thanks for your insightful post :) I agree with your five points and also with others regarding perseverance and finishing our books. Editing is very important, and can lift a book from mediocre to excellent. We often can't see the flaws in our mss until someone else points them out.

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  20. Hi Narelle,
    I'm with you, a good editor is an absolute necessity.
    Thanks Jennifer Ann

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  21. Hi Jennifer Ann... Thank you so much for sharing your heart in such a practical way. I'm inspired!

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  22. Hi Jackie,
    Thanks for the encouragement.
    Jennifer Ann

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  23. It is so good to find out I am not the only person who can find it hard to finish. At the moment I am finding it hard to write with a sprained wrist.

    MEL

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  24. Hi Mel,
    I'm sorry you have sprained your wrist. Not from too much writing I hope. You'll have to get one of those dictaphones and record your thoughts but then you'll need a secretary to type it all up???
    Thanks JenniferAnn

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  25. I really struggled with acknowledging that what I had written was half decent. I spent months hiding my manuscript away in fear that it was nothing but personally satisfying waffle. It was a great relief when someone told me that I did actually have something worthwhile, and to continue on and improve it. So is it okay that I add encouragement to the mix? It occurred to me that when the Lord directs you to do something he surrounds you with people who encourage and help you along the way. To me that was a really important factor.

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  26. Hi Rose,
    Well said.You are so right on both counts. I still struggle with wondering if what I've written is of a good standard and I find it hard to show people my work so for me it was a tremendous blessing that my sister was an editor. And I agree God is so timely with His encouragement and does so in ways that uniquely speak to us and gives us people who help us follow His calling on our lives.
    Thanks Jennifer Ann

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