Please welcome this weeks guest Mary Hamilton for The Journey. She answers the question: How have you seen God work in your writing journey?
Early in my writing journey, the church I attended put on an annual dinner theater as an outreach to women. I’d only written a few articles for take home papers and magazines when they asked me to write the next play. The idea was scary (what if I failed?), but enticing (what if I succeeded!). With lots of prayer, I agreed to try. My hour-long play was performed to sell-out crowds two nights in a row. I’ll admit to feeling rather proud of myself…until I watched the performance. Oh, my! Suddenly, I saw the pitifulness of my work. I’d given them a black and white negative and they’d developed it in Technicolor. They took my lifeless story, put flesh on it and breathed life into it.
That’s exactly what God has done time and again in my writing journey. Every time I think something is dead and lifeless, God breathes life into it. This was especially true with my debut novel, Hear No Evil.
I knew the setting would be a youth camp, like the one where I lived as a kid. As I considered a plot, the devastating effects of divorce played out in the lives of my children’s friends. One day, God brought the two ideas together for me. I’d write novels about kids who bring their real life issues to camp and gain a different perspective, a godly way of handling their problems.
I wrote the rough draft and joined a critique group to edit and refine my story. My crit partners and I all entered ACFW’s Genesis contest, but I was the only who didn’t make the semi-finals. Adding insult to injury, one judge’s scoring totally discouraged me. I spent time crying and pouring my heart out to the Lord. At last, I sensed God telling me, “It’ll be okay. Relax, play with the dog, do normal stuff. It’ll come.”
I put my story aside and enjoyed the rest of what my life offered, forgetting that I’d entered the same story in a different contest. When those judges’ sheets came in the mail, I held them over the trashcan, poised to throw them away without so much as a peek inside. I didn’t want to hurt that deeply again. But before releasing my grip, I decided it couldn’t hurt any worse than the first time. Opening the envelope, I found scores nearly identical to the Genesis scores. But this time, the low scoring judge started by saying, “You’re a good writer.” The rest of the comments told me exactly why my story wasn’t believable as written. It made perfect sense, and with the encouragement of those first four words, I jumped back into rewriting my story.
Many times, I’ve doubted my abilities and grown discouraged, but God was there to breathe His life into my story, reminding me it’s His story, to do with as He pleased.
That included the possibility of never seeing it published, which seemed a distinct possibility after I’d snagged an agent and pitched to several editors. Was this story my “practice” novel? I had an idea for a totally different story and went to work on it. At the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers’ Conference last May, I sensed God leading me to move on, leave this book behind. I was ready and willing, even when it was awarded third place in the contest. “It just affirms I have some writing ability,” I told myself. This book is dead. I’m moving on.
The next morning, the last day of the conference, I met Lynellen Perry, editor of Hope Springs Books. We chatted through breakfast and by the time we finished eating, she expressed a strong interest in my book. Two weeks later, I received a contract, and a few days after that, I was offered contracts for the next two (as yet unwritten) books in the series. The book I’d thought was dead had been resurrected.
Once again, God breathed life into my lifeless work. And me? I’m continually learning what it means to yield myself, and my writing, to Him.
Mary L. Hamilton grew up at a Christian camp in Wisconsin, much like the setting for her Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series. Besides her play, Homespun Angel, her inspirational articles have appeared in take home papers and magazines. Hear No Evil, her debut novel, released November 5.
Besides writing, Mary enjoys the outdoors and nature. She and her husband live in Texas, within range of their three grown children.