My Journey as a Writer
"The Spirit of truth will testify to me, says the Lord, and you also will testify."
- John 15:26b, 27a -
- John 15:26b, 27a -
“Why is the groove on your forehead as deep as the Grand Canyon?”
“Forgive me, my lord. I know you’ve done so much to keep me writing, but I feel like Sisyphus.”
I sketched an image of this character in Greek mythology and sensed my angel peering behind me. ”Each time I write a sentence or two, I end up erasing the whole paragraph. Then I start editing chapter five and end up going back to chapter one, for the nth time. What is wrong with me?”
"You're a snowflaker."
“Huh? I fear I’m imagining your guidance. How do I know I’m doing what I’m supposed to do? What if I’m like Balaam (Numbers 22:21-24:25), who heard God’s command the first time, then, later on, thought God changed his course and was directing him to go the opposite direction?”
“Then he’ll send someone to correct you, as long as you remain true to your conviction to follow His will.”
That was nice to know. I guess God puts room for a lot of errors for a child like me.
“Remain as a child before Him, and He will overlook many of your mistakes. It’s easy to be sidetracked, like Balaam, when more distinguished people talk or present more enticing offerings. You get swayed and think perhaps you’ve misinterpreted God’s commands. So you go back to Him and reason with Him.
That had occurred to me many times in the past. Because of my vanity and ego, I thought God was directing me to do something else only to realize that I had been deceiving myself. My bias and judgment made me blind.
“But if you remain true to your intention of doing the Lord’s will," he said, "He will correct you, even resort to a talking donkey to catch your attention.”
I laughed because many times He had used the most unlikely people and circumstances to guide and direct me, to remove the boulder from my eyes, and keep me away from harm.
“Okay, what’s a snowflaker?”
“Remember the pantsers and the plotters? Which one are you based on how you’ve completed your first draft?”
“Neither. Plotters write with structured direction for their story, even chapter by chapter scenes. I didn’t. I began with a goal, i.e., to inspire people to embark on a spiritual journey. Then I envisioned this setting to be the desert.”
“I wrote the lessons I learned from my journey, my forty days in the desert of discipline.”
“And you built from these spiritual foundations. You had a spirit seeking for a body.”
“I guess. That’s why I created my characters and shoved the lessons in their mouths. At first, they swallowed it hook line and sinker, but later, in the middle of the story, they started creating their lessons, even dared to teach me!”
“They'd come alive.”
“Yes, until I had great desire to learn from them that writing became a joyful and spiritual experience. I listened to my characters and watched them conquer their challenges. I finished writing the novel in three months.”
“But that was in December of 2015. Why are you still working on chapter one?”
“Because my first few chapters were contrived and stilted. They were not my characters talking. They were me telling them what to do and where to go."
“There’s a craft to telling their stories. A learning curve for you. But don’t worry. More help is coming your way.”
Randy Ingermanson's book, How To Write A Novel Using The Snowflakes Method kept propping up in webinars, so I bought it.
The moment I read the first sentence, I could not put it down. Brilliantly written. And just what my simple mind needed, a fictionalized non-fiction. And the icing on the cake, written as a fairy tale. How cool is that for a fantasy writer like me?
Just by reading the first few pages, I discovered what kind of writer I am. Finally, a book written for the likes of me.
“I am truly a snowflaker," I told my angel while biking indoor and reading the book. "The backstories of my characters fell like snowflakes. No wonder I could not write a proper blurb or summary. Pieces were missing in my giant puzzle."
"So how did their backstories came about?"
"Like they answered my question, 'Why were you there on that scene? What happened to you? What’s your motive for doing what you did?' And they just talked to me. It was amazing! The backstories were more important than the color of their eyes or their built or where they live. Once they spilled, I began to understand their world and how it works and how they respond to it. It’s like an epiphany. When I looked back at the chapters I have written, I said, “Aha, so that’s why you said this and you acted this way." I was able to deepen their character with the use of interior monologue, knowing now their motives and their backstories. Oh, I love being a snowflaker!”
I wrote a new blurb on the margins while reading the book and identified my target audience (a very narrow, hard-to-reach market which I’ve been in denial for so long—oh dear, what have I gotten myself into?) In chapter 4, I learned how to create my own snowflake. The author did not just tell me how, but showed me. By chapter 5, my one-sentence summary gave birth to my one-paragraph summary. And at chapter 6, started with my character summary.
“I’m glad I didn’t discard my previous versions. Now I’m finding the spots in my jigsaw puzzle for those pieces."
“Just like a snowflake landing where it must land. Now you know how a snowflaker builds a story. Snippets and scenes come like pieces of a puzzle.”
"A matter of putting the pieces together. And those that do not belong to this puzzle may belong to the next, book 2 or 3—“
“Or 4, 5, 6 or 7.”
“You never know the grand designs of the Almighty. You must always come prepared for whatever He hands, big or small. Do you think Peter would have been able to handle the thought of building a church with the seat in the Vatican City?”
Peter, the small fisherman in the town of Nazareth? Our first pope. No, he would have sunk the way he did in the water when he saw the waves.
“Now you know why Jesus said, ‘I have much more to tell you, but you cannot handle it now.’ Be satisfied with your daily bread. That’s all you need. Seeking more than the concerns of today would be spiritual gluttony and avarice and may only lead to useless worries and anxieties. Or worse pride and presumption. Go back to work. You know the scenes. You’ve seen it in your mind.
"How to write it as I see it is the hardest part. It’s like trying to spit out something that’s stuck in my throat," I said.
"If you rely on your abilities alone, yes. Allow the spirit to transport you to a realm where you experience what you see and write it as though you’ve possessed the body of your character."
The alpha, theta, and delta states.
"That where meditation and contemplation come in handy. You drift from one realm to another, from the conscious, subconscious and unconscious. The empty vessel filled with abundance. A brimming noisy bowl will not have room for divine inspiration."
"I have another question. A snowflake just dropped on me, and it looked like the perfect prologue, but you know how some gatekeepers (meaning agents and editors) get turned off by it. Should I write a prologue or not?"
"Rules are there to guide. Don’t fall into the trap of the Pharisees. You learned that in the Realm Makers webinar."
"Ending a sentence with a preposition, using an adverb, etc. These are guides, not strict rules. Kristen Stieffel urged to use it judiciously."
Now I'm reading another book she had recommended, The Irresistible Novel by Jeff Gerke. It was an eye-opener.
"The Sabbath is made for man not man for the sabbath," my angel said. "Just finish your work. You can’t please everyone. Apply the rules of the trade just to break in. Then you can break the rules if needed."
I admit I wrote prologues in the past because I got lazy. I had dumped all the information in that poor opening pages and abused my readers (a crime that some writers commit against their readers, according to one author). But now, after all the feedback, I may need a prologue after all. This is the fourth prologue I have written. I wonder if this will end up in the trash again.
"Should that matter?" my angel said.
"No, because each version is better than the last. And I'm getting more and more detached from my work. It's easier to discard unnecessary scenes, sentences, or words. But when will this endless revision ever stop?"
"There is an editing curve. When you hit the peak, it starts to go downhill. Stop and backtrack. Identify the sweet spot, the peak. And for the deleted scenes, put it in a folder titled Unused Scenes. These are part of the story that may or never be inked on the page."
"So this is the technique of a snowflaker. Organized randomness."
"Mindful execution. From a simple solid foundation, a snowflaker builds complex structures and able to foreshadow."
Now I know why the OneNote App works excellent for me. I can put snippets in many folders and grab the scenes as I move along the chapters.
Just like that, the groove from my forehead disappeared. Now I am back on track.
"Have you heard about Scrivener?" my angel said.
"The what now?"
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