Finding the Story

Finding my next novel to sink my mind into has been a long journey. Since finishing Polarity, I have had been through countless ideas, but none of them hooked me enough to get them off the ground floor. Polarity was a suspense novel but a bit of whimsy in the world, and I was desperate to be capture by another idea in the same way.

I thought that maybe I should write what I enjoy reading the most: domestic thrillers. I had several very intriguing ideas, but none of them found focus, and I struggled to flesh them out beyond the initial “what if” question. I invested a lot of time into these ideas, exploring location and characters and plots, and one day, maybe I’ll be fortunate enough to repurpose the best pieces for another story.

Then, I thought that maybe I should watch what I enjoy watching: spooky ghost stories. I am obsessed with Harpers Ferry, WV, having tried to write several stories in this location in the past. My husband took me on a mini vacation to finally see and explore Harpers Ferry in person at the end of 2019, and I was even more obsessed afterwards. I set my mind on a ghost story, hoping to get sucked in completely to the idea.

Discipline and determination can only get you so far.

Just in the same way that a good book can hook you on the first page and then you can’t stop reading until it’s finished, I have to get hooked by my story. It has to pull me in and make me believe that there are endless possibilities and a strong throughline. And none of the ideas I had were capturing me.

On the side, of course, I am writing musicals with my husband, and there was one idea that we kept discussing but Jeremy (by hubster) was firm that the story was overdone, even if done in an inauthentic way every time we had seen it turned into a movie, play, or musical. Plus, he argued, we had so many other great, unique ideas that were fresh.

But that story idea kept coming back to me with a passion, because it was a story that I wanted to have told without the whitewashing and rose-colored glasses. When you strip away the beauty montages, the love story, the perfect faith, there is a much more relatable and inspiring story. That was the story I wanted to be told by someone but every time I felt let down.

So, after years of casually studying the story, the history, the context, I knew I wanted to tell this story. That was over a year ago. And I kept putting it off for one reason: I didn’t want to write a Bible story. And I didn’t want people to be shook because all the things they imposed on the story had disappeared, or at least shifted in a darker direction. This story wasn’t VeggieTales, after all, so I set out to figure out a way to take away those reconceptions and present this story as something fresh. Something people would find themselves sinking into and forgetting, even for a moment, the story they grew up hearing.

And then the pieces began to fall into place this past summer. I had that burst of inspiration that helped me to finally find the lens through which I wanted to tell this story.

It has been so refreshing to be hooked, to be pulled in, to sink deeper and deeper in understanding of the world, the characters, and the story. My hope is that this story will refresh you as it has refreshed me; that these simple words would be a call to courage, to faith, to righteousness for you as they have become for me:

“Perhaps you have been chosen for such a time as this.”

Learning and Growing

For my birthday back in November, I received two new non-ficiton books. I have been steadily working my way through them, not wanting to rush through the treasure trove of information. Thinking back, taking my time and pacing myself in learning is something that I’ve always done.

Gail Carson Levine was my favorite author growing up, and a huge inspiration for me even to this day. Her two non-fiction books on writing, Writing Magic and Writer to Writer, are well-used and worn on my bookshelf from my days as a young writer. Each chapter ends with writing exercises, so it forces you to stop reading and do some writing. I usually didn’t go back and zoom through the book right away because after doing the little writing exercise, I just wanted to write more! The next day or later than week, I would go back and read some more, which would grow me and spur me on towards more writing.

Fast-forward to last year, when I found Brandon Sanderson’s 318R class lectures. After the first video, I was hooked. My desire to learn and grow as a writer had been revived. I probably could have watch all of them in one day if I hadn’t restrained myself. Instead, I watched one class a day, pausing to take meticulous notes, and often going over my notes a few times that day and trying to apply it to my story ideas. Rather than rushing through it in a couple days, it took me a couple weeks, but the time to soak in each lesson really helped his methods and tips to stick with me.

After the class ended, I began to seek out more materials on fiction writing. I knew I had a lot of room to grow as an author, and I knew the #1 way to grow was by writing and finishing novels, but I had been neglating the learning side of things. My hunger to learn had been realized. Sanderson mentions Orson Scott Card a lot in the class, and, Card being one of my favorite authors, that gave me some direction on where to start.Read More »