Friday, February 4, 2011

Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned Writing a Novel

I’ve marked something off my bucket list: “Submit a complete novel to an agent for their consideration.”

Woo Hoo!

No matter the outcome, the journey I’ve taken to get to this place has been amazing. In fact, everything I ever needed to know, I learned writing a novel.
  1. I learned to take criticism. My crit partners are amazing and I’m in awe that God brought them into my life.  My writing improved a gazillion percent (really!) from their guidance. How good is God that He would send me such talented writers as my critters? And how good is God when he sends people into our lives that make us better people? 
  2. I learned to be consistent. Novels don’t get written by wishing them into existence. Yes, I’m a busy Mom of twins with autism, another son with mental illness and a pastor’s wife. But unless I make my writing time happen, novels can't be born. With determined effort, I now own a spot in the house and a scheduled time each day where I do nothing but write. Applying this to other areas of my life, I get more done.
  3. I learned to make a plan. Not only for my days, but also for my novel. I didn’t know what kind of novelist I was at first when I began years ago. A seat-of-the-pants writer or a planner? I’ve discovered I’m both.  I learned to map out a story. Even if the story ended up going a different direction, the plan gave me at least a guideline to follow when I’d get stuck. I never experienced writer’s block because of the general plan. I believe God makes plans for us and our novels.  When we think of it this way, it’s easier to depend on Him. I want to be in the center of that plan.
  4. I learned to be flexible. I must be willing to slash and dash, slice and dice what isn’t working in my novel. At first the edits hurt. Now, I find them fun. How can I make this sentence stronger? That emotion clearer? It’s like a captivating treasure hunt. Life’s like that, too. So things aren’t going my way today – what is God showing me? Where’s that nugget of truth I need to find?
  5. I learned to let things go. I learned to cut the things that didn’t work in my story and let them go. Letting them go liberated my story. In life, letting go of the things that “so easily entangle us” is true freedom.
  6. I learned to never, never quit. If God gives you a job to do, He will equip you to do it. By the time I’d readied my novel for submission I was sick of it and full of doubt regarding whether or not the work was good enough, I wanted to give up and walk away. But God gave me the grace to face the pages each day and make them come alive. It’s that way with Him in my day to day life, too. I’m often overwhelmed at the prospect of facing my responsibilities, and yet, He always gives me the grace to get through to the other side. I truly believe that people who succeed aren’t necessarily the most talented ones, but the ones who don’t quit. Talent is nothing without perseverance.
  7. I learned to enjoy the journey. Writing novels is a blast. I’m determined to enjoy each moment. Sometimes when I’m driving in my car I think, “Wow, I have an awesome life. I get to write. I get to do what I was born to do! Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you, God!”   
  8. I learned to remain teachable. I love to teach but what I love more is to learn. There’s always more to learn. I believe that novels aren’t static. I think there’s a way to make them better even after they’re published. I’m actually hoping my novel is accepted simply because of all the things I want to learn to get to the next level of being a better writer. I think being teachable in life is one of the best gifts you can give yourself.
  9. I learned to think outside the box. Donald Maas taught me this truth in his wonderful books on writing. There are tons of great books out there that will teach you how to create awesome stories. Reading good fiction books also teaches me. Sometimes I outline a good book so I can see the rhythm of it. The “what ifs” of creating a story never end. Nothing’s too crazy. Life is the same. I’m convinced there are always creative solutions out there if only we’ll jump out of our little box and go looking for them.
  10. I learned it takes a village to write a novel. I can’t list all the amazing people I’ve learned from through the years. They’re innumerable. Some of them include Dr. Dennis Hensley, Randy Ingermanson, Colleen Coble, Cara Putman, and many, many more. ACFW is a huge blessing to me. My family’s willingness to do without a Mom for several hours a day and their support is something I never take for granted. Likewise, no one can do this thing called life alone. We all need help. Learning to accept that help is a huge lesson in humility.
  11. I learned to take risks. Going to conference scared me. Meeting with a publisher and an agent was even scarier. Submitting my manuscript for criticism to a published author frightened me more. If I’d stayed hidden at home in my safe little corner, terrified and pitiful, my novel would still be sitting inside my computer, useless. Sometimes when I take risks there’s a voice that says, “Who do you think you are?”  One obstacle after another tries to block my progress, but I manage with God’s grace to smash through the barriers and carry on. Often in my life, that voice (we know where such snarkiness comes from don’t we?) reminds me of my past, of my mistakes and mocks me still – “Who do you think you are?” I’ll tell you who I think I am. I’m a writer on a mission from God. I’m a saved, redeemed, blood-bought, whiter-than-snow, bold woman of the Most High God. Watch out devil, here I come.
  12. I learned to pray, pray, pray. I learned I became a better writer when I spent time praying and asking for God’s help. Not only in my quiet time, but during the process. “What do you want me to write here, Lord? I need a good idea. Lord, what now? Oh God, please anoint me to write this, give me Your Words.” Christian writers are blessed for the Author Himself whispers in their ear. Christians are blessed to have the Shepherd guiding them day to day. All we need do is ask.
There are countless other things I’ve learned on this journey of becoming being a writer. What about you? What have you learned? Where do you write? When? I’m curious and want to know!


  1. Karla, awesome post, want me to critique it???
    Seriously, you just gave the best piece of advice for new writers. NEVER give up:
    persevere, persevere, persevere!!!

  2. I didn't realize how much I learned about life whilst writing my books. This was such a great post.
    Edge of Your Seat Romance

  3. Great post as always, Karla. And I apologize, Linda and Karla, if my last post on Rick's blog was, um, misunderstood. It was early when I wrote that and maybe I should have reflected a little more on how it came across. Sorry if I offended. Truly. Karla, I might be published, but I'm always learning, and YOU inspire me. Praying you on the journey to publication! Blessings.

  4. JoAnn! I didn't take offense at all with your post. I hope you didn't with mine. (I just read mine and now see how it could be misinterpreted.) I meant it as a compliment not a criticism that people are published and it wasn't directed at you but at all authors.

    We won't let the devil twist our words! They're not his to twist.

    Hugs, and congrats on achieving the dream, dear author friend!! May God bless all our words!

  5. Karla,

    You don't know me, but I know Linda Glaz (sweet lady that she is!) and she passed along your post. Now I feel as though I know YOU. What a wonderful, inspirational, full-of-hope post. Thank you for reminding me that writing is all about depending on God!

    Deb Harper

  6. Hi, Deb! How nice to "meet" you! Linda is a peach. She's taught me so much. Thanks for reading and blessings as you write and become the messenger God created you to be! Write on!

  7. Such great advice, Karla!! You have it down. I'm even going to print this up so I can refer to it when I'm at a low point.

    You are going to be a published writer before you know it. And thank you, sweet, amazing, talented friend and co-writer for all you do to encourage me!!

  8. Thanks for being an awesome Crit Partner, Cheryl! I've learned tons from you! Can't wait to see Macks in print! :-)

  9. I learned to live in the now, that this is it, I'm not working towards something, I'm working for the love of working.

  10. WOW -- what a great review of the "novel journey" -- and written in such a WONDERFUL, captivating way! I'm guessing Lin Johnson would be interested in considering this as an article for Christian Communicator. BTW, where is the line for your novel?? :-)