There are days when you’re down in the dumps, hanging on with your fingernails ready to split from the effort of holding on. You just want to let go. You just want to give up. You want to say you did everything you could.
But have you?
One of the most significant shortcomings we Christians fall prey to is lack of prayer. We remember God when things are crashing around us, but do we remember Him when things are going according to our plans? What about when we’ve had a major victory? Where is our thanksgiving prayer then?
It’s an easy slide from depending on God in a time of need to forgetting to pray in our daily activity.
As a writer, the need is so very great for us to stay hooked up to God. Our mission to write comes from above. God has a specific message he intends us to share, and a target audience He wants to influence through us, even if it’s only one person. How can we do that if we aren’t talking to Him and listening for His sweet voice?
Busyness is one of my best excuses for not praying enough. I hit the ground running as soon as I’m out of bed. I whiz a quick noncommittal prayer upwards as I careen through my morning regime, and then I’m off to my life. I forget that it’s not my life. It’s His. And, I need Him all the time. Not at my convenience: at His.
Sometimes I sit down to write and before I know it two hours have passed. I didn’t invite God into the room to show me what I was to work on for the day. So how can I trust my work is what He wants me to do? I may have wasted all the time I was trying to save.
If you’re rushing around today, and so many writers are on their way to the ACFW conference as we speak, stop and take time to come before the Savior. Talk to Him. Pray before you get too busy to remember. He’s waiting…
There are two kinds of writers. The planners and the fly by the seat of their pants writers. The one can’t quite understand the other. One must plot and plan. One can’t take time to scheme. They let the creativity flow and don’t worry about the behind the scenes work.
Well, I’m a planner. I spend countless hours fleshing out the characters. What is their story before the story? I have an outline for everything. One for places they live in or travel to. One for minute plot description. One for character sketches.
Being a plotter makes my life so much easier. Did I forget where my character stores her keys? Go to the ‘Places’ outline. Was one of my minor characters raised in a rural or urban environment? Go to the ‘Character’ outline. Did I forget to mention an important detail about the character’s past? Go to the ‘Plot’ outline.
For the ‘seat of your pants’ writers, your reading this with scorn. You’re wondering where my creativity even had a chance to breath with all these plans. Couldn’t I worry about all that later? And, some of you planners may be new at outlining and don’t quite know what the best set up is to make it an efficient tool for your work.
An outline benefits both kind of writers. With just a tiny bit of planning, you too can set up the dreaded outline to strengthen your writing. Here’s some quick and easy steps to help you do minimal organizing to keep the details in order:
- Set up a separate folder for each outline you’re making.
- If it’s beyond you to plot first, put it in the outline as you go.
- Make each chapter a new bullet and give it a page number to make for easy searching in the future.
- Put a timeline with each chapter and page number. This helps you map out time spans.
- Only type the most important details or things you know you’ll need to look back at later.
- Highlight sections in the outline where you know you need to go back and fill in blanks or give info that you haven’t had a chance to finish researching.
- Mark the day you started the manuscript and what the theme is. You’ll be wondering about it years later.
As much work as it seems to be, in the end you’ll be so glad you did it. It’ll minimize mistakes and help you find information faster when you’re editing or trying to remember exactly how a specific scene happened. And, once you get used to doing it, you’ll find you can’t live without it.
There are so many places that can inspire and evoke a story if we’re willing to step out of our comfort zones and do a little exploration. It’s amazing where ideas can spring up. Have you ever been at the grocery store and saw an old lady pushing her cart with slow deliberation, or at the park when a young couple were walking together, arms entwined? These little moments in life are the stuff novels spring from.
So you’re asking yourself where you should be looking. It seems obvious to check out the activity around you in public, but where else could you look? Here’s a great list to consider:
- Historical Locations– Could an old plantation have a secret passage or hiding place in the paneling? Ask the tour guide if you can get a sneak peak into off-limits areas.
- The Mall– Could your main character be shopping for an engagement ring? What does a person look like when they’re about to make such a big move?
- Parks– Are you writing a thriller about someone running from an enemy? Check out the walking trails to see how someone reacts when they’re exerting themselves.
- An Alley– Just standing in one even in the best part of town can get your pulse racing.
- The Local Pound– What does it feel and smell like to be surrounded by the chaos of thirty barking dogs? Could you imagine your character surrounded by a wild pack?
- An Old Crime Scene- Can you imagine how the assailant gained access into the location? Can you imagine the fear and adrenaline of the victim?
- An Open Field- Sit down and take in the feel of the air, the rough grass, the remoteness.
- A Rundown Barn- The smell of old hay and the dark recesses can stir unease or boost happy memories.
The list could go on forever if you had the time to read, but I think you get the gist. If you start asking friends and family, you’ll be amazed at the response you get, and the opportunities that’ll open up. A friend may know someone with a dilapidated barn or a farm with acres of fields. It’s amazing how people jump in to help if you’re willing to ask.
Think of it as an opportunity to use your five senses to improve your writing, not as a boundary issue. In the end, you gain more than two dimensional knowledge, you’ll get to live the scenes before you write them.