I was talking to my friend, Mike Yorkey, on the phone the other day, and he asked how I was handling writing triage. I chuckled out loud at his aptly chosen phrase, and I realized the life of a novelist is indeed similar to triage. My books are in need of care. Without my attention they will die for sure, but I must consider the most urgent and focus on that first. This week the “most urgent” has been editing my novel.
Not that A Valley of Betrayal has needed major edits, mind you. In fact, my editor commented she feels this has been the easiest edit yet. (Which is due, in part, to my wonderful writer-friends who read and edit for me as I write!)
Understand writing triage is knowing I can’t do it all at once. No one can. So while there are my many books in various degrees of completion which call for my attention, I pray every moment that God will show me “one thing” I need to do. When that is finished, I look to the next “one thing.”
Maybe this is a rabbit trail, maybe not, but let me give you an inside look at a glimpse of a writer’s life. At any given moment we have four unique focuses:
1) Our most recent novel released–which we must promote.
2) The novel in some stage of completion–which recently included edits for me.
3) The novel we are writing–which will get more attention the closer the deadline nears. And …
4) My proposed future novels–which, for me, includes a nearly-complete proposal I’m co-writing with a friend.
Quite a daunting task, don’t you think? (I’m not even going to mention life outside of writing!)
Yet, amazingly for me, God is right smack dab in the middle of all this. And somehow, when I’m working with a crunched timetable, limited knowledge of my subject (I always feel as if I don’t know “enough” before I write), and numerous doubts, God shines through.
A Valley of Betrayal is a perfect example. Though I had what I felt to be plenty of time to write the novel, my grandmother’s hospitalization (I’m her caregiver), my husband’s surgery, two surprise week-long trips, and numerous small, unexpected challenges arose. So many distractions were thrown my way, it became humorous. The only thing I could do was grin, bear it, and trust 100% in God–knowing that none of these things caught Him by surprise.
My manuscript was turned in 3 weeks late. (Thank you, Lord, for busy editors who offer grace, and for their summer vacations that granted me more time.) My manuscript was also turned in with many prayers, as I hoped that my work was sufficient.
Amazingly, both my editors came back and told me they feel it’s my best manuscript yet. Huh? With my life, my schedule, my insecurities, how was that possible?
Instead, of answering that question directly, I’m going to share a little story I read this morning in my morning devotions. It’s from the devotional book, Streams in the Desert.
Paganini, the great Italian violinist, once stepped onstage only to discover there was something wrong with his violin, just as the audience was ending their applause. He looked at the instrument for a moment and suddenly realized it was not his best and most valuable one. In fact, the violin was not his at all. Momentarily he felt paralyzed, but he quickly turned to his audience, telling them there had been some mistake and he did not have his own violin. He stepped back behind the curtain, thinking he must have left it backstage, but discovered that someone had stolen his and left the inferior one in its place.
After remaining behind the curtain for a moment, Paganini stepped onstage again to speak to the audience. He said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, I will now demonstrate to you that the music is not in the instrument but in the soul.” Then he played as never before, and beautiful music flowed from that inferior instrument until the audience was so enraptured that their enthusiastic applause nearly lifted the ceiling of the concert hall. He had indeed revealed to them that the music was not in his instrument but in his own soul!”
So too this truth applies to novel writing. As a novelist I have no formal training. As a career-minded writer I have too little time to focus on the career part. These “tools” aren’t that great, but you know what . . . my soul sings. When I’m overwhelmed, when I’m uncertain if I can pull off the story in my mind, I turn to God. It’s all I can do. I pray and plead. I ask others to pray for me. (Okay, the truth is, I beg them.)
When I’m confused about research, I pray for understanding. I pray to a God who was there during those moments in history. And when I’m worried about the storyline, characters, theme, dialogue, etc . . . I pray to a God who can see the novel complete and on the shelf.
And in the midst of it all God proves that “a novel that sings” is not in the minutes we can put into a manuscript, but the moments we turn to our Maker. Because only then does He get the glory.
All that to say, I haven’t had must time lately to work on my novel-in-progress . . . and I could really use your prayers. (smile)