Seekerville’s seventh year is slipping from the calendar, but I have just enough time to add my confessional list before 2015 pushes in with a clean slate.
Confession 1: I’ve been known to self-medicate with words.
Do you ever write fiction simply because you want to? Because you enjoy getting into a setting and meeting the characters, “watching” things unfold as if you were in a movie theatre?
As a quasi seat-of-the-pantser, I do. There is a certain freedom in writing with no deadline lurking, no publication dreams pulsing—just creating for the love of creating. In fact, it’s an almost decadent luxury, spending time immersed in a work-for-pleasure endeavor that won’t pay even the smallest of bills.
Last year after submitting the final historical installment in a three-book contract with Love Inspired | Heartsong Presents, I wanted to write a contemporary Christmas story. Just because.
One afternoon on my way home from the college where I teach, I detoured at the local diner/mini-market for a Gummy Bear fix and eased my Subaru into a parking spot. A woman in the car parked facing me sat behind the wheel ranting into her cell-phone. Assuming my best non-stalker pose, I watched while my mind hopped on the Imagination Pony.
Bam. A story. That fast. Not the whole thing, but enough of a start to get me going on the Christmas tale of a young woman running for her life.
Confession 2: Moments like that are way better than teddy-shaped confections.
At home I charged across the white wasteland of a new Word document. Characters sprang up, the story unfolded, and I knew a Christmas romance lay just around the bend of a mountainous Colorado road. Yes, this was exactly the brain break I needed, my reward for making deadline early on the other books. I was having fun.
A few days later my agent called with a request from a publisher looking for historical Christmas-themed novellas. Did I have anything?
Well, no, not really. I was in the middle of revamping a 90,000-word romance burning a hole in my virtual file cabinet. And, of course, mentally eloping with a contemporary Christmas story that was “just for me.”
I couldn’t do it all, I told myself. Stick with the plan, I told myself. One thing at a time. Okay, maybe two.
Confession 3: I didn’t want to share.
I finished the revamp, sent it off, and jumped back into my latest escape. And that’s when I heard the nudge. (Yes, you can hear a nudge.) It said:
“Take that contemporary Christmas story you started and knock it back 150 years.”
Not clever enough to think that up on my own, I pretty much knew where it came from.
Confession 4: Sometimes I forget what I’ve asked for.
One of my long-time prayers has been, “Teach me to write what You will bless.” I want to hear from Him, the master of creative expression. My personal news flash for that day: God doesn’t forget my prayers.
The knock-it-back idea was crazy enough to be fun, so I pulled up my Christmas story, opened a new document, and placed them side-by-side on the computer screen. Then I bumped the story back 150 years as I dropped it into the new document a piece at a time.
Automobiles became horses. The diner/mini-market became the train depot. The back-seat floor of an extended-cab pickup became a dusty tarp in a buckboard. And the chilling blizzard? Well that didn’t change much. Cold is cold.
My typical approach for a new manuscript is to write until I have a good feel for the story, then go back and edit, strengthen chapter hooks and hangers (beginnings and endings) and start a binder.
Confession 5: I am a binder addict.
Binders are right up there with Gummy Bears. They’ve organized my life at every level from teaching to planning my daughter’s wedding (after freaking out when she asked me) to writing fiction. Every manuscript has its own binder with character sketches, notes, a story calendar, and old-school lined paper on which I enter the chapter and page numbers for each point-of-view character and brief notes on what’s happening in that scene. I like the whole pen-on-paper aspect, though I also have a computer file for each book with sub files for historical research, photos, deleted scenes, proposals, promotional ideas, etc. But I don’t start a binder until I’m into the story and the characters have had a chance to develop organically. By the time my Christmas story stow-away had stowed away, I was binder ready.
Confession 6: I print a fanciful book cover with a “working” title and slip it into the clear plastic sheath on front of the binder.
Mindful of the novella’s designated 15,000 words, I shortened and polished three chapters and then wrote a detailed synopsis—which I really can’t do until I’ve written something. But I must admit, I like synopses much more than I used to. Author Rachel Hauck was right when she said writing a synopsis is simply telling yourself the story, start to finish. This time, it helped me see what I needed to accomplish in a limited amount of space and time.
The following week, I shot the proposal to my agent who submitted it to the publisher … and they bought it.
Honestly, I was more astounded than when I landed the three-book deal because the whole concept was the result of obedience to a directive I found a bit strange.
Confession 7: God’s provision continues to take my breath away.
I’m convinced the Master Creator enjoys surprising us with plot twists in our everyday lives as much as authors enjoy surprising their fictional characters. The big difference in God’s manuscript—surprises are always for our benefit. And that might not mean publication. Maybe the benefit is personal growth, new perspective, strengthened faith, or simply being in His presence.
Former Thomas Nelson fiction publisher Allen Arnold led a workshop at the 2014 Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference on The Heart of the Storyteller. His bottom line? Intimacy with God. Write with Him. Create with Him, enjoy being with Him.
When I trust God enough to enjoy His presence, I realize that the author of my faith knows what He’s doing. Even if it doesn’t make sense to me at the moment.
That one bump-it-back step of faith became The Snowbound Bride and led to a June 2015 sequel, The Columbine Bride. I love surprises.
Confession 7.1: Writing for the love of it has given me some of my best stories.
For me, writing because I love it offers a no-holds-barred bliss, an emotional reprieve that reminds me why I write in the first place.
What do you do simply for the love of it?
Davalynn Spencer writes cowboy romance, a skill she’s honed since marrying a professional rodeo bullfighter and raising another. Her most recent title is “The Snowbound Bride,” one of twelve historical novellas in Barbour’s collection, The 12 Brides of Christmas. She is represented by Linda S. Glaz of Hartline Literary Agency and makes her home on Colorado’s Front Range with her handsome cowboy and their Queensland heeler named Blue. Connect with Davalynn on her website, Facebook page, Goodreads, and Twitter.
Today, Davalynn is giving away an e-copy of her novella, The Snowbound Bride to one commenter. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition!
On the run from a heartless uncle, Arabella Taube hides in Nate Horne’s buckboard just as a blizzard sweeps into Colorado. Can she find her way out of the storm—physically and emotionally—or will the handsome mountain horseman steal her heart?