Today we’re going to talk about writing with amazing author Maureen Lang. If you missed her interview on Living Inspired a few weeks ago, listen to it here. Maureen shared about her writing life and life as a mom to a special needs son. Super cool lady!
1. Maureen, tell me about your newest book. Where did you get the idea?
My new release is titled Whisper on the Wind, a story about a young woman who tries to prove herself not only grown up, but a patriotic Belgian during the German occupation of the First World War. She’s in love with someone who’s always seen her as too young, but when she forces her way into working alongside of him on a secret, illegal newspaper that refuses to submit to German censorship, she hopes he’ll notice her at last. He does, but if it costs her life, what good is it all?
The idea came to me when I was reading about the First World War (1914-1918) and kept coming across references to a Belgian newspaper that everyone called “noble” or “brave.” So what made it noble and why was it brave? When I found out everyday citizens produced it underground, wanting to fight the Germans in the only way they knew how—with words—I knew it was a story I wanted to write. The research was fun, and I fell in love with the characters while they were all falling in love with each other. Lots of fun!
2. What writing advice would you give yourself if you could send an email back five years?
I’d tell myself to enjoy the entire process of writing, just for the love of writing. It’s true that I’ve always loved certain aspects of writing. The research, the discovery of a real story acted out by memorable characters, fitting all the pieces of plot and research together. But there are some things I haven’t enjoyed about writing and it’s mainly because I didn’t trust the writing process and how deeply ingrained this whole writing thing is in me. The truth is, every time I start a book I wonder what in the world I was thinking to believe I could write a book.
But then I get going with it and somehow it gets written. Before that kicks in, though, I know I would enjoy gathering all the pieces of a solid plot—if I trusted the process will work. So I’d tell myself to forget the insecurities.
The book will write itself if I just keep researching and daydreaming about the characters.
3. Many people want to write a book. What three tips would you suggest for getting started?
First, I’d tell them to study the market. What kind of book do they want to write? Read everything that excites them, but especially the kind of book that inspires them to want to do the same with their own writing. Books that are successfully published are on store shelves for a reason, and we can all learn from what’s working. Second, I’d tell them to join a critique group, find a critique partner, or join an online writer’s group (such as American Christian Fiction Writers, if they’re interested in writing Christian fiction). Writing can be a lonely endeavor and it’s nice to get connected. Plus, writers are a very supportive bunch and it’s nice to share the journey with others who understand. And finally I’d tell them not only to pray about their hopes and dreams, putting them into the Lord’s hands, but also to ask others to pray for them in this regard. God really does want what’s best for us, so it’s nice to be reminded that handing over those goals is in our own best interest.
4. Which of your personality traits show up in the characters of your novel?
I’ll have to choose impatience over some of my other, perhaps more flattering personality traits. I try to cover up my character’s impatience with an endearing edge (because, after all, we can make them more attractive in a rewrite) but when you get down to it, I’m often impatient and that seems to show up in more than a few of my characters.
Do you suppose God’s trying to teach me something? Hmmm…
5. Tell us about the editing process. Some authors love it. Others hate it. How much editing gets done on your books? How do you approach the process?
When I sit down to write in the morning I go back to the last couple of chapters I wrote before that day, to see what’s just happened. This gives me a feeling of continuity so I can more easily pick up the story. As I’m re-reading those most-recently written pages, I take my first stab at revision. Some days I’m pleasantly surprised by what’s there, other days I end up spending much of my day rewriting what I wrote the day before, and continue on from there with very little new material.
The next day I do it again, going back, revising, continuing from there until eventually I reach THE END. (Precious words!) At that point I give myself a few days off. I pick up something else to read, watch a couple of good movies, visit with friends or family, which has often been far too neglected while I’m on deadline. Depending on how much time I have before the deadline (anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks), I go back to the very beginning with some semblance of a fresh eye and read the entire manuscript as a whole for the first time. This is usually a lot of fun, when I see how the pieces ended up fitting into a real, cohesive story.
Of course, I may find some serious fixing to do, but overall I love the revision process because I have something to work with. Starting a new book is a bit daunting, because there’s nothing there yet! I also have a critique partner, and sometimes a few first readers (people who don’t write, but love to read). Outside input is so important to me before submitting my work to my editor; it gives me a more realistic picture of what I have. But, inevitably, there are more revisions to come once my editor has a look at it. And again, I dive in from the beginning. Only the author’s name goes on the cover, but honestly by the time most books are in print, the story has been influenced by any number of others. Having other opinions, especially an expert’s like the editors I’ve worked with, makes revising at this point really valuable. I can honestly say each and every book I’ve written has been so much stronger for having so many eyes on it!
Anything else you’d like to add?
I always call the publishing industry a wonderful/terrible business. It’s wonderful because, as a reader, I’m grateful for all of the writers and editors and publishers out there who’ve provided me with countless hours of respite, escape, entertainment, education, hope and bolstered faith.
It’s also wonderful to have been blessed with seeing so many of my own stories given life and offered to the widest possible audience. But writing is not a job for the faint of heart. There’s little security in it, less money than almost everyone thinks (except other authors, who quickly learn the truth!), and since taste is and always will be subjective, it’s a business in which a tough skin is a must. From the rejections most if not all of us face in the beginning to those “rotten reviews” we get sooner or later, this is a business with an unpredictable future for most of us.
The key is to do what we do because we love it, never losing sight of the fact God wired us up in certain ways. In the Old Testament, when the Israelites were building the first temple, the Bible says God gave the workers the talent they needed to build the temple with excellence. So if we get to use and then share the talent He gave us, we are blessed indeed.
Thanks so much for sharing Maureen!
If you’d like to learn more about Maureen or her books please visit her website at www.maureenlang.com. You can also connect with her at her blog or on Facebook.
Julia M. Reffner says
Wow, great tips and encouragement for all of us. I love the idea behind Whisper on the Wind, fighting the Germans with words.
I’m just learning the writing process, but I need to follow your advice to enjoy the process. Sometimes I get so stressed out even about a single word wanting to get it exactly the way I want it. I love your idea that the book will write itself if you keep researching and daydreaming about the characters.
Great post, Maureen!