How to Horribly, Epically Lose a Battle

I happen to really love history, especially military history. When on vacation, I drag my less-than-enthusiastic friends to obscure Civil War battle sites and get WAY too thrilled by accidentally stumbling across a house that was once used as a Civil War hospital.

Recently, I got my hands on a series of lectures about great military disasters. I’m talking about battles that went so horribly wrong that entire armies were wiped out and empires fell because of it. The losing side in some of the battles in the lectures had something like 80-100% casualties.

Interestingly enough, the SAME problems kept popping up in almost every battle that went horribly wrong. And, as a writer, I started paying attention. If I wanted to write a battle scene where the villain lost a battle in a horrific, defining way (or the hero, though this is more rare because battles that are lost this spectacularly are hard to recover from) , history gives LOTS of examples on exactly how that should be done.


Here it goes. A set of instructions on how to Horribly, Epically Lose a Battle.

Military disasters

  1. Be as Overconfident as possible. 

If you want to lose a battle as disastrously as possible, this is the number one thing to keep in mind. Almost every horrible, tragic defeat stems from this.

Overconfidence leads to a host of other errors such as underestimating the enemy’s intelligence and numbers (preferably coupled with a healthy dose of prejudice that the other side can NEVER be as awesome as your own men), ignoring basic military tenants (such as scouting the land and the enemy’s position before engaging in battle), not knowing when to retreat, pouring more resources into an already lost battle and thereby making the loss even worse than it would’ve been, and even ignoring your own orders (such as ignoring your own order to fortify your position when encamped in enemy territory and instead letting your camp sprawl out in all disorganized directions).

This number one error will ultimately cause a compounding of several errors and lead to an epically horrible defeat that will probably end your life or at the very least bring down whatever empire you were hoping to build.

2. Put People in Leadership Positions who Hate Each Other. 

If your commanders, especially your top commanders, cannot work together, you will be well on your way to a massive military disaster, especially if you’ve stuck to advice #1 and cling to overconfidence.

If your commanders hate each other, they won’t communicate on the battlefield, leading to mismanaged charges, missed opportunities, and strife within the ranks. They might even get so caught up in verbally fighting each other that they forget about actually fighting the enemy, or they will actually hinder each others ability to fight the enemy.

Better yet, make sure one or both of these commanders are incompetent as well as argumentative. Epic military disaster will ensue.

3. Make as Many Tactical Errors as Possible

Usually, these tactical errors will automatically arise from overconfidence, and that overconfidence will also prevent you from correcting them when they do occur.

Best blunders to make:

  • Not scouting the land or enemy position. This sets you up for getting your entire army trapped in an ambush and wiped out.
  • Fighting the current war with the tactics of the last war. This always has horrible consequences, especially when advances in technology have occurred. Even if no technological advances have happened, always using the EXACT SAME tactics in every battle usually gives the enemy a chance to figure out a way to counter them.
  • Having advances in technology, but not using it to its best effect.
  • Not sending in enough men to turn the tide of battle at the crucial moment.
  • Not retreating when the battle has already been lost. Even better, keep sending in men into a losing battle. This maximizes casualties and guarantees the worst possible outcome.
  • Sending out unclear orders to your commanders. This will send them into chaos and confusion, especially if they are arguing with each other.
  • Having unclear reasons for even engaging in that battle in the first place so that the cost of the battle, even if you won, would outweigh the benefit (such as using a whole army to capture an outpost that a small group of commandos could capture just as easily).

If you follow these three instructions and compound all of these errors one on top of another, you will lead you, your men, and your empire into a disastrous military defeat that will probably lead to your death.


 

All joking aside, while this list seems like a rather hyperbolic list, in the lectures I listened to on military disasters, this is exactly what happened through 23 major military disasters across thousands of years of history all over the world. Some of the mistakes that were made were so foolish, a writer would hardly dare have a villain make that mistake because they would appear too foolish to live (and that is usually exactly what happened in history). Some of the battles were hard to listen to knowing that much of the bloodshed was unnecessary.

Anything else you would add to this list?

I walked the Mighty Mac – Again

I walked the Mighty Mac

Every Labor Day for my entire life (except for the year my youngest brother was born), I’ve walked the Mackinac Bridge (pronounced MACK-ih-naw).

For those who don’t know, the Mackinac Bridge is the suspension bridge that connects the lower peninsula of Michigan with the upper peninsula. It is the fifth largest suspension bridge in the world. Each year, tens of thousands of people gather for the annual Labor Day bridge walk, including Michigan’s governor.

I love the tradition. I love the feel of walking five miles high above the water, Lake Michigan on one side, Lake Huron on the other.

It’s a tradition that’s bigger than just my family. It is a tradition that connects generations. My dad did it. My grandparents did it. Years from now (if I ever get married and have kids) my kids will do it. Even if I don’t get married, I’ll keep walking the Mighty Mac each year until I no longer can walk.

There’s something special about walking in the footsteps of your grandparents. The bridge connects Michigan, but it also connects generations in Michigan. I remember walking across the bridge holding my grandma’s hand. My brothers spent several years walking across with our grandpa.

It’s a part of a culture. A culture that walks the bridge rain or shine, wind or sun. Fall isn’t allowed to start until that bridge is crossed. It’s a culture that’s tough enough to get up early in the morning to gather for a five mile walk.

It connects those who do it. When I meet someone who has walked the Mighty Mac for a number of years, we share stories. We both remember the year the wind was so strong that the whole bridge swayed, causing everyone to stagger. We remember the years it was so cold we walked in our winter coats and scarves. And we’ll remember this year, the year it was spitting a warm rain and all the early walkers got covered with a sheen of rain.

There’s a power in that. It isn’t a religious holiday or tradition. It’s a cultural one. Something that is specific to just a small number of people.

For someone who loves traditions as much as I do, it’s strange, when I think about it, how little I remember to add them to my fantasy worlds when I’m writing. But I should make more of an effort. Traditions hold a lot of value and power. They will shape our characters and hold our fantasy worlds and cultures together.

What about you? Do you have any traditions that your family has? If you’re a writer, do you have any traditions for your characters?

Pantsing and Chapters

open_book_green_background_1157228291
Image found at http://becuo.com/open-book-background

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of advice on writing chapters. Go Teen Writers had a post on Monday on writing chapters 2 & 3. And today I stumbled across this blog post on how long chapters should be. Jody Hedlund’s blog post today also talks about jotting notes about each chapter when doing pre-writing plotting.

It made me realize that my method for chapters is strange.

I don’t have chapters in my first draft.

Weird, huh?

When I write the first draft, I just write. I put in asterisks for the scene breaks, but other than that the writing is in one big chunk. Sort of. I actually write in 25,000 word chunks. I focus on reaching 25,000 words, which seems a whole lot less daunting than 75,000 or 100,000. When I finish a draft, I then put all of the chunks together into one file.

It is only then that I go back and decide where the chapters fall.

My chapters might change even then. For Dare, my first pass resulted in 27 chapters. Once I started revising, I did a lot of cutting, revising of scenes, and even combining of scenes. I also realized that many of my chapters were too long with too many scenes per chapter.

By the time I finished revising my chapters, I’d come up with 45.

In the final revisions as I formatted Dare, I made a few more changes that resulted in 47 chapters in the final version.

This system works for me. It prevents me from being stuck on chapters while I’m writing. I write each scene to where it needs to be and put in chapters later.

But this wouldn’t work for everyone. One reason I think this works for me is that I’m something of a “pantser” when I write (someone who writes by the seat of their pants instead of plotting it out first).

I’m not what you’d call a pure pantser. I don’t sit down at the computer with no plan and just write and see where it leads. I think that is the stereotype of pantsers, but that makes it sound like we have no plan and no ideas in our head.

I have lots of ideas. I usually have whole scenes plotted out (complete with dialogue, body language, and scenery), arranged in a structure, and usually a beginning to get me started and an ending I’m working towards. I know what I need to foreshadow and when I need to add certain items into the story to set up later events. It’s just all in my head instead of on paper. I’ve tried plotting out before hand, but the only way to get what’s in my head onto paper is through writing the first draft.

Yes, I do have a lot of revision to do when I finish that first draft, but I speed through that first draft since I’m following the rough outline I have in my head.

But since it is a rough outline, I don’t have it laid out in chapters. I don’t have pages of notes that tell me that in chapter 1 this will happen. This happens in chapter 2, etc.

How do you guys handle chapters? Do you write with chapters or without? Does it play a role in how you plan? Do your chapters change during revision?

The Grip of Cliff Hanger Endings

cliff-hanger

I’ve been told the ending of Dare is a cliff hanger. When I was writing it, I actually didn’t intend for it to be a cliff hanger. I saw cliff hangers in the traditional sense where in the last couple paragraphs or line someone runs up and reports “so and so has been kidnapped/captured by pirates/about to be executed” etc. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that cliff hangers are more than that.

So here’s my thoughts on cliff hangers from what I’ve observed. This is not meant to be a how to on cliff hangers or a set of writing rules. Just something to think about.

A cliff hanger is a promise.

It’s as simple as that.

There is a slight difference between the cliff hanger at the end of a chapter and the cliff hanger at the end of the book. With chapter endings, the promise to the reader is vague. The cliff hanger promises that this action or question or emotion will be resolved somewhere in the book, but the author isn’t going to say when. The reader keeps reading to find out.

The cliff hanger at the ending of a book almost always is a promise about the next book.

What do I mean by that? It means the cliff hanger more or less spells out the plot of the next book. While a reader is left really wanting the next book, they still feel satisfied with the current book. They know the cliff hanger will be dealt with once the next book comes out.

This can be very literal (warning, minor spoilers). For example, in Mary Lu Tyndall’s Charles Towne Belle series, the first book ends with the main character finding out that her sister has run away. Guess what? In the second book, the sister is the main character and the whole book is her adventures after she ran away. That book ends with her being reunited with the sister from the first book, only to find out that the third sister has been kidnapped by pirates. Can you guess what the plot of book 3 is going to be?

in another example, the cliff hanger can be more of an determined resolve on the part of the characters rather than a literal action. In the Lord of the Rings movies (sorry, switching to movies), The Fellowship of the Rings ends with Aragorn’s determination to rescue Merry and Pippin and Frodo’s determination to keep going into Mordor. The plot of The Two Towers is thus the battles Aragorn and friends end up joining as part of trying to get Merry and Pippin back and Frodo’s quest to find a way into Mordor. That movie ends with Aragorn realizing the main battle is yet to come and Frodo and Sam finally thinking they have a way into Mordor. The plot of The Return of the King is Aragorn fighting the final, big battles and Frodo finally making it into Mordor.

Sometimes the cliff hanger promise at the end of a book is simply a question or a concern. The plot of the next book is usually that question or concern playing out.

But no matter how a book cliff hanger is done, it is always a promise for the next book. It is not a lack of resolution in the current book. The cliff hanger ending usually happens after the main plot of the book or movie has been resolved. If the plot hasn’t been resolved, then the cliff hanger should be a chapter ending cliff hanger, not a book ending cliff hanger.

This is why the ending of the movie The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug bugs me (Sorry Hobbit fans. Also, spoiler alert for those who haven’t watched the movies). Don’t get me wrong. I like the movies and I’m not one of those people who is going to rant about the changes they made or that kind of stuff because (for the most part) they made them into good movies and stuck to the book fairly closely.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ends with a more traditional cliff hanger. It shows the bird banging on the rock and Smaug’s eye opening. There. The promise of the plot for the next movie. We know that Smaug is awake and defeating him will be the plot for the next movie.

Only, it wasn’t. Not entirely, anyway. The dwarves get to the Lonely Mountain and fight Smaug, then he flies away and makes his “I am Death” speech and Bam! The movie ends.

This bugs me for two reasons: 1. It promises to the viewer that the plot of the next movie will be Smaug carrying through with his promise and 2. The plot of The Desolation of Smaug is not resolved since Smaug is not defeated.

#2 would be all right if #1 were the case. But, Smaug is knocked off before the opening credits of the next movie.

And it cheapens his death. Instead of building up from the tension of the whole movie, Smaug becomes a minor bad guy to knock off quickly in the beginning of the movie so the real fight can begin. We no longer fully care about Smaug’s desolation because we happen to know this movie isn’t about that. It’s about the Battle of the Five Armies that is coming up.

The tension is killed. The cliff hanger is a waste of a cliff hanger.

That “I am Death” scene was a chapter ending, not a book/movie ending. And before you argue that it is one book and couldn’t be broken up easily, I’ll counter that Lord of the Rings is technically one book and that one was broken up just fine. Plus, they managed to get a good plot arc for An Unexpected Journey. They could’ve done the same thing for The Desolation of Smaug.

Really easily, actually. The Desolation of Smaug should’ve included the final battle against Smaug in Lake Town, using the tension that had been building throughout the whole movie so that when that arrow is shot, everyone is curled in their chairs biting their fingernails hoping it will strike true. Then, the movie could’ve ended with the scene of the dwarves watching Smaug fall from the sky when Bilbo turns around and sees that Thorin is starting not to act like himself.

There it is. The promise for the next movie’s plot. Because this time, it actually is the plot of the next movie. The Battle of the Five Armies is about the big battle, but it is also Thorin’s struggle with dragon sickness, his fall, and his redemption in his heroic death.

I know it would’ve thrown off some of the movie lengths and some of that kind of stuff, and I know a lot of people really like where The Desolation of Smaug ends. But from a purely story-writing look, it wasn’t the place it should’ve ended. If a writer ended a book that way, their fans would be all kinds of mad because the story wasn’t truly over. Nothing was resolved.

It is a little better now that all the movies are out and I can watch them pretty much in a row because that way I can pretend the ending of The Desolation of Smaug is simply a chapter ending. In a way, that’s what The Hobbit movies are. They are extended chapters of one story. Still, if you make three movies you are still essentially making three stories and thus each should have their own arc and resolution.

Okay, I’ll stop my mini rant now.

What do you think? Any thoughts on cliff hangers?

Realistic Fight Scenes (Part Two): Choreographing Fight Scenes

Sword fight

So you’ve decided you need a fight scene in your book. You’ve researched fighting techniques and weapons. You’ve done your homework on war wounds. And you’ve come to the conclusion that a) the scene has to be told from the POV of an experienced fighter and b) it needs to be detailed.

This is where fight scenes can get tricky. A one-on-one fight scene between two skilled characters needs to balance your level of research and your readers’ expectations. Your research tells you a fight scenes should be short. But it falls as the climax of your book and your readers expect some sort of payoff for waiting for 200+ pages for this fight. Too short and they’ll walk away disappointed. Your research tells you all the moves that a fighter can or cannot do, but your readers’ expect to be able to follow the fight without a lot of jargon. Yet they want it detailed.

Are you thumping your forehead on the table yet?

This is where you take a page out of Hollywood’s fight scene textbook and choreograph your scene.

Every fight scene in a movie is choreographed to give the illusion of reality (though the level of success can be debatable). The illusion of reality is what you’re striving for. Perhaps the fight extends longer than it would in real life. Perhaps the movements are played as if in slow motion so the reader can follow along. But, the reader will be so caught up in reading the scene that those things won’t matter. The fight scene will still feel real.

So how do you set about choreographing a fight scene in a book?

1. Work Backwards. I’ve heard this tip given for everything from editing to outlining, and it works really well for fight scenes. Figure out how you want the fight to end first. How is the opponent disarmed? Are they killed? Wounded? Do they get away? Or perhaps win? Once you know how the fight has to end, you can work backwards to bring the fight to that point.

2. Whole Body Motion. In a fight scene, your character isn’t just moving their hands. They are moving their feet, twisting their bodies, setting themselves up for the next move. For each move your character makes, you need to figure out where it puts their body. If they just did a wide swing to their left, they will have to move differently depending on if they want to follow up with a back stroke, downward stroke, or upward stroke.

3. The opponent wants to win too. The opponent wants to win just as much as your POV character. He/she won’t simply react to what your POV character does. Your POV character will be just fighting a statue if that were the case. Have the opponent throw your POV character off balance and do things your POV character did not expect.

4. Picture the fight. This can be tricky to do depending on how your imagination works. What works best for me is closing my eyes and running the fight scene through my head like a movie in slow motion. I tweak the positions of the characters’ hands and feet. Sometimes (when I’m by myself in my room), I’ll close my eyes and pretend I’m one of the characters. I’ve heard some people like drawing stick figures. Whatever method you use, it should be something that lets you test your choreographing until it flows smoothly.

5. Write it. Once you have a clear picture in your mind, write out the fight scene. Once it is written, you can go back in editing and decide what movements are necessary for the readers’ understanding and what are implied. When you have the movement pared down to the essentials, the fight scene will flow quickly, even if it takes a page or more to tell.

These are things that work for me. Any fight scene tips that work for you?

Realistic Fight Scenes (Part One)

I ran across this blog post today, and it made me think about the fight scenes in my own book. In the post, Lisa Voisin addresses 8 things that writers forget about when writing fight scenes.

Fight Scene

I’m not going to claim to be an expert, but here’s some things I’ve discovered that help you remember to put in the 8 things she lists:

1. Think about your POV character. Someone who knows nothing about fighting will describe the fight with vague details. This can  be a good thing for you as the writer. I had a fight scene in a book that I was worried about. It involved several characters in different places in a room all fighting different people. It seemed like a lot to fit into a small space on the page, until I realized that my POV character was watching the fight and would only focus on the parts of it at a time.

If your POV character is knowledgeable about fighting, lack of details or technical fight language isn’t a bad thing either. You are in the character’s head. They’re too busy fighting to be worried about what type of punch was thrown or the fancy name for that maneuver.

2. It is a good idea to get some knowledge about bodily injuries. In a fight, the odds are high that one of your characters is going to get injured in some way. I have the advantage of having a mom with a medical degree. It saves a lot of awkward Google searches when I can ask her, “Where can I stab someone here without killing them?” or “What happens if you grab a sword and it slices your hand to the bone?” If you don’t have someone you can ask in person, Google with caution. The pictures you’ll pull up can be a little graphic (talking from experience here).

3. Show some detail, but not too much. I’m not a guts spilling on the ground type of person. I’m okay with blood gushing in a few places, but I’ve put books down before when they start describing entrails flopping around. I don’t like gore for the purpose of gore, and I usually hold back on making my fight and battle scenes as gory as they’d be in real life. In this case, I think a little can go a long way. I usually show some blood, a touch of gruesomeness, then pull back into how the character feels about seeing it. Trust your readers’ imaginations with this one. Give them a small glimpse and their imaginations will fill in the rest of the description without you needing to go into detail.

4. Don’t chatter in battle. Let’s try an experiment here. Go outside and grab stick. Start swinging it around for several minutes. Pretend you’re sword fighting. Now try to talk. Notice how it is suddenly a lot harder to breathe? And your movements become jerkier because you are trying to focus on swinging your stick AND talking?

That’s why your characters shouldn’t talk and fight at the same time either. If you have some witty banter to be exchanged, have them do it before. Get the talking out of the way, then fight.

5. Keep skill levels realistic. It’s hard to pick up a sword and even swing it right, much less fight with it. Give your characters time to train before you ask them to save the world.

6. Battles are ugly affairs. Remember that your characters will have to react to the things they are seeing. Maybe not in the moment, but it will have an effect. If this is your character’s first fight, it will hit them differently than if it is their seventh or eighth. Show your character dealing with it.

7. Keep it short. Most battles don’t last long. A minute is a long time for a one on one battle. It should last only seconds. So how do you balance a short battle with the need to make it tense and climatic? Too short and it will feel anticlimactic. I usually err on the side of short sentences and short words to create quick actions. To make a longer scene, break up the fighting with something else, like one character trying to get away or some other kind of interruption.

8. Train yourself. While I have never taken a martial arts class, I have researched sword-fighting. There are a lot of sword fighting manuals out there. Look for one written by a medieval martial arts teacher. Same thing if you need to know about archery or fist fighting. You should know more about your type of fighting than ever makes it into your book.

So how do you make your fight scenes realistic? What bothers you when you read fight scenes in books?

Why Should Christians Write Fiction (Part Two)

blank-book-300x202

The fifth word in the Bible is created. 

We don’t talk about that a lot. We talk about the importance of the first 4 words: In the beginning God. But in that focus, we miss that God’s first action recorded in the Bible is the act of creation. The world we live in is the ultimate act of art, of imagination. God created the entire world as a beautiful piece of art for His own pleasure. The stars in the farthest reaches of space out of the sight, the sparkling fresh snow on a mountain top where no one but God will see it, the delicate flower that blooms and dies before any human comes across it…all of these beauties are enjoyed by God alone for His glory alone.

As humans, we have imagination. It is one of the things that separates us from the animals. When we create any art, we are mirroring God’s action of creation. We are projecting God’s glory back to Him. Art isn’t a waste of time. It is another way to give glory to God and show that glory to others.

As writers, we have a special kind of art. Words are a special part of God’s creating act since He created using speech, using words. He communicates to His people through the Bible, His Word. Jesus Himself is called the Word.

Few other types of art come as close to creating something out of nothing as writing. Writers take something as wispy as ideas and as intangible as words and uses them to build stories and worlds and characters (For more thoughts on this, check out this blog post).

When we write fiction, we are mirroring God’s work of creation. We are displaying the glory of God’s creation in our small and human work of creating. I think this is especially seen in writing speculative fiction stories. I could write more about this, but while I was brainstorming this post, Nadine Brandes wrote this beautiful post on this topic that sums it up much better than I can.

How do you mirror God’s act of creation in your writing?

Why Should Christians Write Fiction? (Part One)

The Power of Story

Sometimes when I tell people in Christian circles that I’m a writer, they smile at me and reply, “That’s good. We need more good articles.” Their faces go from interested to shocked when I calmly explain that I write books. Not doctrinal, nonfiction books, but fiction books. They don’t know how to react.

It is ironic how the same people that decry the lack of good literature for their children don’t do anything about it. Nor do they understand when anyone else does something about it. Writing fiction is somehow…lower. It isn’t the worthy calling that writing nonfiction is.

Except that this idea isn’t true. Fiction writers are just as necessary as nonfiction writers. Because the Story format is important to convey empathy and characters in a way nonfiction articles struggle to do.

Look at the Bible for example. We talk about Bible stories. Most of the Bible is written in a story format. Even books like the Psalms or Ephesians, or any of Paul’s letters have the back story contained in the rest of the Bible. Would Psalm 51 have as much power if we didn’t know the story of David’s sin with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah?

Think of some of the phrases we learn as children. Dare to be a Daniel. Have faith like Father Abraham. Would these phrases even have meaning if we’d been told about Daniel in a factual lecture instead of as a story? As children, we learn about courage from the stories about Daniel or Joshua. We see the self-sacrifice that faith demands from the story of Abraham. We see the consequences of sin in the lives of many of the saints.

We learn through stories, through stepping into someone else’s shoes and walking with them for a while. We learn by the examples we see in stories better than we do through simply being told this is how you should live.

All those Bible stories are true, and perhaps the argument could then be made that Christians should only write nonfiction stories about real people and places. Except that Jesus himself told fiction stories. Jesus’ parables weren’t stories based on people that actually lived. They were fiction.

Fiction can be just as powerful as true stories at digging at a deeper meaning. In fiction, an author puts the reader inside another person’s head. The reader becomes that person, feeling their emotions, understanding their fears, desires, and dreams. Through reading, we learn empathy for others. We learn to see the pain that others who aren’t like us carry.

Stories can also shine the light on ourselves. In the Bible, Nathan the prophet didn’t get in David’s face when he confronted David about his sin. Nathan told a fictional story. David sympathized with the wronged man in the story, only to realize at the end that the bad guy in the story was him. It shook him in a way that nothing else could. That story had power.

What Bible stories hold the most power for you? Why does that story strike you?

Push Your Boulder Up that Hill

In Greek mythology, the king Sisyphus was punished by having to eternally push a boulder up a hill. When he reached the top, the boulder rolled to the bottom and he had to push it up once again. Over and over and over again.

227521_535019199845794_985211964_n

Sometimes writing feels like that. We start our book rolling, struggling through those first couple of chapters to overcome inertia, the forces (whether they are doubt or our struggles with beginnings) that hold us back. We build momentum, rolling along at a good clip, until we get stuck. We’ve pushed our boulder into a dead end. We have to let it roll partway back down the hill in order to pick a new path.

Still we push on. We grind out that word count, plugging away at whatever goal we set for our self that day. Finally, after months or years or decades, we push that boulder the last step. We cheer. We collapse on the ground. We actually visit our friends and family and smile because we have time, glorious time.

Only to realize that sometime during our celebrating, our boulder rolled back down the hill. We need to start the process all over again, whether it is editing or starting the next book.

Somehow it isn’t any easier pushing that boulder up the hill than it was the first time. The beautiful momentum we’d built those last few yards to the top is all gone. Inertia is just as terrible. We moan in despair. We can’t believe we are putting ourselves through this again.

That’s us writers. We are a little bit insane. We’ve gone crazy a few times.

But this isn’t our punishment. It is our blessing. We have a gift not everyone has. Few people have the muscles or the perseverance to push the boulder of a book all the way to the finish. Even less do it again and again.

Today I started book three of my Blades of Acktar series today. It is overwhelming starting at the bottom once again, staring at the mountain of words I need to type. But I’ll get there. I’ve done this twice before. I can do it again.

What project are you working on? Where are you at in your book?

Also, I am giving away a copy of Nadine Brandes’ new release A Time to Die. Enter the giveaway here.

The Agony of Waiting

I think every writer struggles with patience in some form. It takes months to get that burning idea onto paper. It takes more months to edit and polish the manuscript. More months, possibly years, pass as the author queries agents and eventually editors. Even after the book is accepted by a publisher, the rounds of editing and printing of the book take another year or more. To add to this frustration is the question of well-meaning friends and family who ask when the book you are still writing is going to be published.

I’ve been struggling with gaining the necessary patience. Since graduating college, I’ve felt so ready to be a published author. I’m finishing manuscripts. I’ve developed a writing schedule. I started this blog. Frustration built inside my chest until I wanted to scream at the pressure.

Perhaps I’m struggling with patience, but I have realized something very important along the way.

Sometimes the waiting makes us ready to hear the answer.

girl-looking-out-the-window-jpg

If I were to be published right now, it might feel good to me, but God knows I wouldn’t be ready for it. I wouldn’t appreciate it the way I would after a long time of waiting. I might even be filled with pride believing that I accomplished it all by myself.

The waiting keeps me humble. It makes me rely on God. I have to trust that publication will come in God’s time, not mine.

I’m also learning the kind of author I want to be someday. When I’m a published author someday, I want to remember the thrill of opening my email inbox and realizing my favorite author personally emailed me back. I don’t want to forget the giddiness of commenting back and forth with an author on her blog. I need the feeling of being a person not just a faceless fan ingrained in my memory so I can treat my readers that way.

I don’t like the waiting, If God’s answer is no, then I won’t like that either. But if that time comes, then this time of waiting will have made me ready for that answer. If His answer is yes, then I’ll be ready for that too.

What about you? What are you waiting for? How is your waiting making you ready to hear the answer?