Tuesday, September 28, 2010


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My blog has been fairly serious over the past few weeks.

My life has, too.

But I can’t be serious all the time and as my month long revision process winds down, I’ve been thinking of all the things I’ve given up in order to focus so totally on my manuscript.

Here are a few, in no particular order.

Watching TV. I don’t watch a lot of shows, but most of the ones I do watch have been on hiatus for the summer. And all had season premieres in the past week. I did not watch. I sat downstairs and typed away while my husband watched all of them, laughing so hard I could hear him through two closed doors.

(Exception – NCIS. I’m a girl with priorities. Plus, I write romantic suspense. I consider it “research” and watch guilt-free.)

Doing laundry. Not really much of a sacrifice. I’ll pay for it later, but for now . . .

Reading. This one is a sacrifice. I haven’t read any fiction in a month. That might be a record for me. The reason is simple self-preservation. As soon as I pick up Steven James’ The Bishop, I’m toast. It will be a planned “mommy outage” – nothing will get done. Possibly even less than is getting done now. When this revision is over, I’m going to curl up with that book and read it, probably within 48-hours. I’ll then spend the next several weeks jumping at the slightest sound in the middle of the night. But it will be worth it.

Knitting. I love to knit. It’s relaxing. Except for when you drop a stitch and have to spend several hours trying to salvage the week’s worth of work you’ve done. I realize it doesn’t sound all that appealing, but it is. At this point, I’d be happy to knit a dishcloth. But I won’t. I won’t. Not until I’m done.

Eating. Um. No. Not really. Which is a shame.

Tweeting. I haven’t gotten into Twitter yet, but I’ve been convinced I need to give it a go. But not yet.

Sleeping. In the past week, I’ve dreamed that James Scott Bell left a message on my Facebook wall telling me I hadn’t put enough tension in my plot. (No. We’ve never met.) Two nights later, as I struggled to come up with the perfect “climactic” scene, I dreamed one. It was horrible. And off-beat. And as my characters raced away from the scene of the carnage, there was none other than Steven James himself (who I have met), herding two small goats away from the flames. Side note: there are NO goats in my story.

When this is over, I’m thinking about sending my kids to my parents for the weekend. (They don't know this . . . well, I guess they do now).

I’ll be sleeping late, tweeting in my pajamas, napping, reading The Bishop, watching all the shows stored on my DVR and knitting a dishcloth. Or maybe a baby sweater.

The laundry can wait.

I’m a girl with priorities.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lesson Lived

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Several months ago, I wrote a piece about the importance of being prepared to put into practice whatever you blog about. Probably within twenty-four hours of your post.

It happened again.

I think I might be afraid of my own blog.

If you didn't read last Friday's post, you'll need to or this won't make much sense. Here's the condensed version: September hasn't gone according to my plan so I'm giving up on the plan and taking life a day a time and leaning on God's perfect plan for my life.

Um, yeah.

I woke up at 5AM on Saturday morning, spent the next 4 hours in the ER and the next 3 days on the couch.

Several people who had read the blog on Friday commented on the irony. Believe me. As I was sitting in the ER, it occurred to me that maybe I should have waited one more day before telling the world (OK, the 30 or so people who read my blog) that I was confident that God's storyline for my life was better than anything I could come up with.

'Cause let me tell you, at 5AM on Saturday morning, I wasn't buying it.

It hasn't come up on Out of the Boat before now, but I am 16-weeks pregnant.

And when I woke up Saturday morning, I didn't think I was pregnant anymore.

There's nothing quite like that kind of terror to make you question whether or not God's storyline is all that great. I can't tell you what this post would be like, or how long it would have been before I managed to post anything, if Baby #3 wasn't alive, kicking, growing and causing me tremendous heartburn and occasional nausea.

Needless to say, the events of the weekend have stopped me in my tracks.

I've been told to take it easy. No heavy lifting, no housework, nothing but the bare minimum - for the rest of the week.

Since I've been laying on the couch instead of hunched over my computer, I've had a lot of time on my hands to think about things.

I wouldn't say I've learned my lesson, but goodness knows I've lived it.

When the waves got rough this weekend, I can't say I stayed on top of the water.

But I can say that I was never alone and that when the waves threatened to drag me under, He was there.

So, once again, I'm here to tell you that I have no plan. I'm taking it a day at a time. I'm trying not to worry about the little life growing inside me. I'm not going to worry about contests I won't be able to enter, or books that may take an extra few months to complete.

I'm trying not to fight the change in my plans.

Trying to look at the bright side.

And trying to live out what I believe.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 - For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil,to give you a future and a hope.Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.(ESV)

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Best Laid Plans

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Proverbs 19:21 - Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. (ESV)

In Mid-August, as the school year got under way and life started to take on something that bore a resemblance to a routine, my little brain went to work.

In order to submit my novel to the Operation First Novel contest sponsored by the Christian Writers Guild, I needed to devote all my free time, and some of my already committed time, to my manuscript.

I’m one of those Type-A, overachiever types and there’s nothing quite like setting a goal to help me rise to the challenge.

But I’m also a wife and mother. I have responsibilities other than writing. And devoting a significant portion of time to my manuscript wasn’t something to undertake without serious consideration. Because, again, as the overachieving type, once I committed, I planned to see it through.

No matter what.

So, I prayed. When I felt like it was the right thing to do, I sent out an email to a handful of friends and family, asking them to pray.

And I went to work.

The next day (I am NOT making this up) my mother-in-law broke her leg. And came to live on my couch for the next two weeks.

This was not part of my plan. Obviously, this was not part of her plan either.

I love my mother-in-law. She’s a trooper. She didn’t complain. She was less whiny than some men I know (who will remain nameless) when they have a sinus infection. And, at one point, she was wheeling around in her wheelchair as she mopped my floors (can't make that up either). She did her very best to be as helpful as possible, because, after all, she was in on the plan.

(She might not have been aware of the part of "my plan" that had included her taking my son for some quality "grandma & me" time every so often during the month of September. Which, as she can't put any weight on her leg for at least a few more weeks, obviously won't be happening.)

And this wasn’t the only thing that went “wrong”. I won’t bore you with the details but, trust me when I say several things went "wrong" within a fairly short period of time.

I hit a wall.

Why was this happening? I had prayed about this. Other people were praying. This was the right thing to do.

My sweet husband tried to settle me down with the astute observation that I could just give up on my plan. (He’s a bit of a master at reverse psychology). I let him know that despite the fact that I was, at that moment, reduced to a sobbing puddle of misery, I had no intention of bailing on the plan.

Remember, overachiever here.

I sent an email to a friend and told her that God would either have to stop the sun—hey, He’s done it before—or give me supernatural strength because there was NO WAY I would be able to finish this revision in time unless He did it.

You can already see where I’m going with this, can’t you.

The next Sunday in church, one of our pastors made the comment that sometimes God lets us run out of gas so when we get where we’re going, we have no choice but to give Him the glory.

Now, you might be expecting me to tell you I finished the revision in record time—but I’m not done. I still have 102 pages to revise/edit/rewrite.

But, here’s what God’s been teaching me.

My plan for September was to finish the revision and submit the manuscript to the contest.

God’s plan for September was for me to lean on Him. All day. Every day.

Sadly, I’m a slow learner.

My mother-in-law went home on Saturday.

Sometime on Sunday, I might have started thinking about “my plan” again. Might have even written down a little schedule that would prove that it’s possible for me to finish in time.

The school called at 10:30 on Monday morning. Once again, my plan went down the drain as I rushed to the school, then the pediatrician and then brought both my munchkins home for the day.

Very little writing goes on when both the munchkins are at home.

We’ve been in the pediatrician’s office (or at his house – it’s very handy when your pediatrician is also a friend and you have his cell number) three out of five days this week.

I’m giving up on my plan.

I know. I should have done this three weeks ago.

The new plan?

I don’t have one.

I’m taking it a day at a time. I’m staying up late to write after the house is quiet. I’m being faithful to write when I have time during the day.

Mostly, I’m trying to remember that God’s storyline is always better than anything I can come up with.

And that no matter what I plan, His purposes will stand.

Psalm 138:8 – The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. (ESV)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Why am I doing this?

I’m currently in the midst of an intense revision of my manuscript.

It is NOT fun.

I have to force myself to do it. 

I keep finding excuses to do everything else.

Maybe I should whip up a blog post? Great!

Clean the bathrooms? Absolutely! (Um, not really, but sometimes the idea is appealing).

Revise? Blech.

Why? Well, revisions require concentration. They are somewhat devoid of the creative release that comes from writing the first draft. (Don't anyone yell at me. I didn't say they were devoid of creativity - just the easy flow of the creative process when it's all rushing out and you can't type fast enough. There's no "fast" typing in a revision.)

Plus, I'm a perfectionist, so the whole time I'm revising, I'm irked that I didn't do it "right" the first time. Never mind that I know I didn't know what I was doing the first time. Or that I know that no matter how  many times I look at this, I'll always find something to tweak.

Regardless, I stay perpetually annoyed with myself. Which is no fun for anyone.

There's no other way to put it.

Revisions are hard work.

One part of my revision process is to search out all the passive verbs in my manuscript and, in most cases, change them into active verbs.

I’ll give you an example (from the first paragraph of Chapter 11, in case you’re curious).

     His hands were shaking and his palms were sweaty.

(If grammar was a long time ago, or just not your thing, the passive verbs are “were shaking” and “were sweaty” - well, technically the passive verb is "were" and "shaking" and "sweaty" are adjectives, but you don't really care, do you?)

This sentence will now read (probably, unless I change it again):

     Todd's hand shook as he reached for a napkin to dry the sweat from his palms.

Now – honestly – did this change the sentence much?


Would I have noticed the passive verbs until I took Angela Hunt’s class at Blue Ridge, or until Edie Melson pointed out how many (57!) I had in Chapter 7 alone?

No. Not a chance.

So, what’s the big deal? Who cares?

Well, apparently, publishers care. Editors care. Agents care.

Passive verbs are just one of the hallmarks of amateurish writing. And eliminating them is a big step in moving your writing from “this person has no idea what they’re doing” status to “there might be hope for this author” status.

But there is another reason.

A far more important reason.

Because I do not write for an agent, an editor or a publisher.

I write for an audience of One.

And even if no one outside my closest circle of friends ever reads a word of this manuscript, it needs to be my best.

My very best.

He deserves nothing less.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got approximately 1500 passive verbs to eliminate.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Change? Me?

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I. Hate. Change.

Some weirdos people thrive on change.

I, however, am perfectly normal.

You can stop laughing.

OK. Now that you've got control of yourself, I’ll give you an example.

I recently changed from an mp3 player to an iTouch. This is a fabulous change.

But I’m still not used to it.

I’m trying to get all my music converted and my playlists onto my new toy. And despite the fact that I know I will love my iTouch (once I figure it all out), I’m wishing I could just snap my fingers and have everything on the iTouch the way it was on my old mp3 player.

Without having to change anything.

It doesn’t work that way.

It doesn’t work that way in the rest of my life either.

God asks me to change. Frequently.

Change opinions. Change dreams. Change direction.

While I don’t always see it this way, His changes are intended to lead me into something better. Something more. Something I wouldn’t have had without the change. And usually, something I’m going to love, once I figure it all out.

Thankfully, He rarely asks me to change instantaneously.

I’ve only recently come to realize this. But when I think back on the major changes in my life, I can see how God has allowed me to ease into them. They weren’t optional. But He did give me time to adjust to the new reality, time to figure out what my life would look like after the change. Before I had to dive into it.

I stumbled across a few verses in Psalms the other day. I’ve read them before but this time, they grabbed me.

And left me in awe.

Psalm 103: 13-14 – As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. (ESV)

He knows my frame. He knows how I was formed.

And He knows I hate change.

So while He loves me too much to leave me unchanged, He also loves me too much to torture me with changes I’m not prepared to accept.

Change may not be your issue, but I would guess that you have one (or two). There’s something you struggle with. And I know if you spend some time thinking about it, you’ll see how God treats you gently in that area. You'll notice that He doesn’t let you use it as an excuse, but He doesn’t ride roughshod over your emotions and fears.

I can't even get my mind around the idea that the God of the Universe takes the time to treat me with such compassion.

There are big things for Him to deal with in the world. Stars to keep burning. Entire galaxies to keep spinning. Not to mention the other several billion people on the planet who need Him.

But He has compassion on me.

I'm left humbled. Thankful. Amazed.

And you know what my favorite part of all of this is?

Even though these verses were written several thousand years ago, we know they are still true today.

Because our God never changes!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010