Please welcome this weeks guest Yvonne Anderson for The Journey. She answers the question: How have you seen God work in your writing journey?
My mom had a lifelong desire to write. So much so, in fact, that when I, her third born, came into the world, she inserted announcements in that year’s Christmas cards informing family and friends of “the publication of our third edition.”
On his part, my dad was an avid reader, and I’ve loved books ever since I can remember. Oddly, though, if I ever had a thought of becoming an author, I drowned that puppy before it grew big enough to bite me. Seriously, writing just wasn’t on my radar.
Perhaps I was too practical for that sort of head-in-the-clouds nonsense. I married young and kept plenty busy being a wife, mother of four, part-time legal assistant, small-time farmer, big-time gardener, and musician at church, among other things. I hardly had time to read a book, let alone write one.
Until, with no premeditation or malice aforethought, I did it. Just like that.
It was in the mid-nineties. The kids no longer little, and I thought it might be fun to write a novel. Where’d that come from? I haven’t a clue. I just got out my old Smith Corona and started typing. It was fun, but it took me from my family (who all thought I’d flipped my lid) and was a big waste of time. So I…
Wrote another one. Yeah. By the time I’d finished my second horrible novel that no one will ever read because some years later I tossed it, page by page, into the burn barrel, that foolish writing bug was out of my system.
You know what disgusted me the most? I’d been a Christ-follower since 1972, but whenever I tried to read Christian fiction, it disappointed me. Badly. (Gimme a break; I never cared for romances, and that’s what Christian fiction was in those days.) Problem was, when I started to write, I realized I could think of no story worth telling other than “the old, old story of Jesus and His love.” Therefore, novels I wrote had strongly Christian themes. And it embarrassed me no end to be writing (cringe…) CHRISTIAN FICTION (there! I said it!), because that was the sort of thing I never, ever, ever read, perish the thought!
But then came the autumn of 1999, when I ran across an article in the USA Today listing the Modern Library’s pick for the best 100 novels of the twentieth century. Just for grins, I started reading through the ones I hadn’t already read (as many as I could find in our small local library, anyway). Some of them worthy, but others left me wondering what’s good about this? And before reading even a quarter of those esteemed novels, I felt let down. These were great works of literature, written by people who the world looked up to as wise and discerning. But their stories were almost entirely void of truth. That bit about the only story worth telling? All these wonderfully gifted writers seemed to be missing the point. Why, I wondered, can’t someone write a good book that’s truly good?
But, y’know, that wasn’t my job. So I kinda forgot about it for a while. Until…
February, 2002. My two older kids were grown and out of the house, the younger two were in high school, and my work schedule had been cut to twelve hours a week. How freeing! I could do whatever I wanted! Until…
One morning after the kids left for school and I was cleaning up after breakfast, I felt that dread nudge by the Spirit: You need to write a book.
No, I don’t. I did that once, remember? Twice, in fact. And it was a waste of time.
You have the time. And the family just acquired a computer. No excuses. You need to write a book.
I’m not talking audible voices here, just an awareness deep within that I couldn’t shake. Finally, after it wouldn’t go away, I prayed about it. I don’t want to refuse to do anything You want me to do, but surely You can’t mean what I think You mean! Writing takes so much time, and it’s all for nothing.
But the feeling persisted. Okay, so what should I write about? Whatever’s in your heart.
Ummm… okay. I could come up with something. But how can I know this is really what You want?
No response. (Don’t you hate that?)
Well, okay. I’ll get started. But if this isn’t what You want me, please stop me.
No, really, I mean that. Please! Stop me!
But despite my begging, every time I checked, the light was still green for Go. And so I went. Until… nine months and 200,000 bloated words later, I typed The End.
So now what?
Here’s what: over the next couple of years I became involved with online critique groups and learned A LOT! Mostly, I learned I’d been doing everything wrong. Taking the criticism to heart, I sliced, diced, spliced and reassembled that monstrous child more times than I care to count, and embarked on the road to publication. This quixotic quest took me to a Christian bookstore to peruse titles looking for something to compare mine with, as submission guidelines often require that.
And it hit me anew: I don’t like Christian fiction. I never did before, and I didn’t now. So what am I doing here? I wouldn’t spend my money on any novel on these shelves, so where did I get off thinking other people should throw away their hard-to-come-by cash on mine?
I left the store, determined to hang up my writer’s hat forever. Three strikes, I was out. I’d never write fiction again. Until…
Several months later, God moved me in another unexpected direction. Through a process I’ve explained elsewhere (on my website, among other places) so I won’t bore you with it here, I found myself writing in yet another genre that had never interested me: science fiction.
Say what? Yeah, you heard me. I never like sci-fi and I shunned Christian fiction, but God put me to work writing a Christian sci-fi story. And it was the most writing fun I’d ever had. What was I thought was a short story turned into a novel, which grew into a series, and has taken over almost a decade of my life. (I believe I started it in 2005.)
Do I still sometimes feel like quitting? Of course. All the time! But whenever the thought crosses my mind, I laugh and keep writing. This was never my idea to begin with, and if I ever give it up for real, it will be because God finally says, Okay, you can stop now. You’ve done all I’ve asked, and it’s time to come on home.
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Risen Books published her debut novel, The Story in the Stars, in 2011. The first in the science fiction series, “Gateway to Gannah,” it was a Carol Award finalist for Speculative Fiction. Risen Books subsequently published Book 2, Words in the Wind, in 2012. Both are available in print and ebook from Amazon.
In 2014, Anderson plans to self-publish the remaining two titles in the series: Ransom in the Rock in the spring, and The Promise in the Prism in the fall. Keep up with developments by following her blog, or follow her on Twitter or Goodreads.
Yvonne Anderson writes fiction that takes you out of this world.
She’s also the contest administrator for the Launch Pad Contest: Launching You Out of the Slush Pile, a contest for unpublished writers sponsored by Novel Rocket (a blog named four times to Writer’s Digest list of the 101 Best Websites for Writers). She helps authors promote their novels weekly on another blog, The Borrowed Book. And she shares the occasional wise word on her personal site, YsWords. Oh yeah: she also tweets as @YAnderson101.