Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ideas, Testing and Adjustments

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A little over a year ago I decided it was time to stop dreaming about writing a book and actually do it!

For over ten years I had my first story, Forgiveness Falls, rolling around in my mind. I knew the characters, I knew the plot and I knew my setting.

But I continued to let life get in the way. I didn't adjust my schedule to make time for writing - I didn't even know that I could. I told myself, over and over, that I'd get to it one day.

Last year I picked up The Colonel's Lady, by Laura Frantz. As I read her work, my writer's heart responded to her breathtaking prose, and I thought: "Why am I not writing?" Laura's wonderful story was the proverbial "Straw that broke the camel's back."

I decided "one day" needed to be "today," and I've been on the journey to publication since then.

I sat down and wrote the first draft of Forgiveness Falls in just a couple of months. It poured out of me like water over a waterfall. I couldn't dam it up, even if I wanted to! I edited it, polished it and pitched it at the ACFW Conference in September.

Then I laid it to rest. I don't know what will happen with Forgiveness Falls, but I truly hope it will be published one day.

I took November and December off from writing, but used that time to read through craft books and plot my second story, Redemption Falls, set in 1862. I planned to start working on it after January 1st.

The trouble was, right before I started writing Redemption Falls, an editor suggested I work on a different story idea, one set in 1898.

Since I hadn't started Redemption Falls, I thought it wouldn't be a big deal to set it aside and plot the 1898 book. So that's what I did - I plotted it in three weeks. And, with giddy anticipation, I started writing Enticing Julia Morgan at the end of January.

The first chapter rolled off the tips of my fingers with ease, and then I started chapter two and ..., ..., ..., where was the rest of it?!?!

The fast draft was not going as fast as I'd anticipated, based on how quickly I wrote Forgiveness Falls.

I was so frustrated.

I plugged away at the story, adding three more chapters in about a month, but it was like pulling teeth.

I started to question everything about my dream to write. I found I had no desire to write this story, because I had no idea what to write next. I had the main plot outlined, I knew the beginning, the end, and a few key scenes in the middle. I also knew the characters really well, but other than that, I was clueless!

How was I going to write 100,000 words, when I only had 15,000 in me? And, on top of that, where did my drive go? Where was the excitement I felt when I wrote Forgiveness Falls? Where was the energy and passion? Was this it? Had I hit the end of my writing journey? So soon?

Now you may be smarter than me, and you probably already figured out what I couldn't see. It took my husband to finally point out the obvious.

One day, when I was lamenting all these things, he said: "You had Forgiveness Falls in your head for over ten years when you sat down to write it. You've only had Enticing Julia Morgan in your head for three weeks. It's going to be a whole different process."

*Palm to forehead* Why hadn't I realized that? There was only one Forgiveness Falls in me - one story I had percolating for ten years...from here on out, all my stories are going to be written like Enticing Julia Morgan, as brand new ideas! I had to learn how to approach writing in a whole different way.

Once I realized this, I turned a corner. This is a whole new challenge, one I'm excited to tackle. Just like learning about POV, RUE and Black Moments, I had to learn how to brainstorm and write from a fresh idea.

I also needed to make some adjustments to keep me focused and on task. The most important thing I've done is set a realistic goal. I have decided to write one scene a day, five days a week. That's about 1,500 words a day - or 7,500 a week. It's given me a new drive to finish this book (which I'm getting so excited about)!! At this rate, I will have my fast draft written in about three months. And at this stage in my life, with a busy household, that is a perfect amount of time.

On this road to publication, I'm learning something new every day. It's a constant ebb and flow of ideas, testing and adjustments. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

What about you? What have you learned about writing that second, third or fourth book?


  1. So happy for you!!

    I have a similar story. My first book took me 21yrs to complete and I knew nothing about writing. I just had to get the story out!

    Then I learned the craft and started a second book. Boy, what a whole new experience. Now that I teach writing, my fourth book is coming along at a faster rate, but I feel I am a better writer. Well, at least my MS comes back from my editor with fewer edits! Lol!

    Anyway, like you, I am writing each book in a different way.

    God bless!

  2. Yay for you, Gabrielle, on completing your first manuscript, moving on to your second, and being willing to set that idea aside to pursue yet another. Thanks to your husband's insights, you've made a great discovery, one that can be freeing. The ideas will continue to come. They just come differently on subsequent books than they do on the first. I wish you well as you work on your new story.

  3. Ruth - I'm constantly amazed at how much there is to learn, and I know I'll never stop learning. Each book will be a whole new experience. Good job with the less edits! I hope all is going well with your work, both at school and in writing. I think about you often and I love keeping up with you, and your running, on Facebook!

    Keli - thank you for your encouragement. You're right - the ideas are coming, but it's a much different experience than last time. The cool thing is that I know more about crafting a story, so in that respect, I feel much more confident as I complete this fast draft. I've been thinking about you and hoping all is well with your writing! I'm praying for that next contract for you. :)

  4. Gabrielle,

    Thanks for sharing about your journey, and the things you're learning along the way. One of the big hurdles I've been trying to overcome this year has been my audience. I tried to keep it really broad and general at first - like, ALL women, and some brave guys...... - but through the words of some wonderful authors who've gone before me came my wake-up call. I'm realizing that as I find my writing "voice" my audience is shrinking... and that's okay. Because my writing gets better as my voice gets stronger. Does any of that make sense? Ha!

    Blessings, sister. Know that I pray for you and your family on this delicious and terrible journey.

  5. It's wild but years later I'll go back and read a book I've written and say to myself that's what that was really about.

    I process a lot through my writing.

  6. Gabrielle, I completely understand! I'm feeling that way about my second story. My first one had over two years of my attention. The one I'm working on writing now has had two months. It's taking time for me to re-prioritize time for writing, er plotting it right now and getting to know the characters. Then, when I write, I think/hope the fast draft will go, well, fast.

    I love reading your insights on this journey. Have a great weekend.

  7. I love this encouragement. I have so much to learn... just so much. It's hard not to get discouraged. I completely took my story apart, now I am in that new territory too. We can do it!

  8. Awesome stuff, Gabe. So excited to hear about and in a small way, get to be a part of, your writing journey. :)

    I've been writing my second book for awhile now...and tearing it apart and writing it again. One of the things I'm learning is that I'm sooo not close to done learning. :)

  9. I actually felt more confident writing my second book since I had the MBT methods. My first one...well, I had no clue what I was doing!! Haha. I can't wait to read your next book. Yay!

  10. I've learned to think through a scene while I'm working around the house or in the shower or driving or... Then when I have time to sit at the computer, I know, mostly, where that scene is going.

    My goal is to write 1,000 words a day. I just finished the first draft of my WIP so now I'm onto edits. Have to figure out yet what my daily goal will be. (Taps chin.)


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