Friday, March 4, 2011

March Forth! (And win a prize)

The way we see it at Novel Matters, any day with a name like this deserves commemoration. It should be announced with shoulders pressed back, heads high, and fists thrust in the direction to which we intend to--

You do intend to march forth, don't you?

Oh, I know. There are days when you crawl, creep, cringe and grovel. (I have a thesaurus and I'm not afraid to use it.)

If you're a writer, times are... well, publishing houses are corporations, and most corporations are dog-paddling, trying to stay afloat, laying aside every encumbrance. Authors rightly fear that they personally may be seen as encumbrances, laid aside, or never taken up in the first place.

You yourself may have been forced to view things once cherished or taken-for-granted as encumbrances. Things like spending money, free time, time to write. Do you stand with your knife over the altar, ready to make the sacrifice, or have you done the deed already?

We ladies at Novel Matters get it. We've been there. We are there. Things just don't work the way they used to, and perhaps they never will.

And yet:

Any writer who has ever written a sonnet or a cinquain or blank verse has a certain advantage at times like these.

Poetry can drive you nuts. All those limits. It has to have this many lines with this many syllables. Certain syllables have to rhyme. The stresses have to go here and here and here, but not there or there. You know what you want to say, but everywhere you turn you hit a wall.

You know about hitting walls. Fight them or give in too easily, just write the words that fit but not necessarily the words that work, and the poem fails. But if you submit to the limits, if you relax into them, then your mind begins to work in creative new ways that surprise and delight even you.

Isn't this a fine time to think in creative new ways?

Dr. Seuss knew something about this. in 1955, he was asked to create a book that a first-grader could read by himself, a book with a vocabulary of only 300 simple words. He accepted those limits and wrote The Cat in the Hat. Later, his publisher challenged him to write a book using a vocabulary of 50 words. He wrote Green Eggs and Ham. (Striped top-hat-tip to Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac.)

Creativity can go a long way, but we Christian authors have another advantage. We know there is a plan. It may resemble our plan, but - contrary God that we serve - it often doesn't. Nevertheless, we know that it is a good plan, and - let this sink in - we know it will not fail. As Timothy Keller said in a recent podcast titled "Does God Control Everything?," nothing we do or anyone else does can mess up God's plan. Nothing.

Doesn't that free us to be adventurers? To play like artists, to sleep like babies and wake up praying, "What's next, Papa?" And then to march forth? Things may work the way we hope or they may not, but either way, there's a plan and it will not fail. Whatever happens, we win.

Oh, and that reminds me: you can win a very helpful book for marching forth: The 2011 Christian Writers Market Guide.

And how can you win it? Simple:
  • write us a 300 word essay (that's three hundred words, no more) about how you intend to march forth in the coming days or weeks.
  • Don't post it in the comments. Send it in the body of an email to novelmatters at gmail dot com.
  • In the subject line write: March Forth!
We'll post the winning essay on Monday Thursday. (Sorry - the other ladies injected a bit of sanity here. You need time to write, and we need time to read.)

After you send the essay, please share your thoughts in the comments. We do love to read what you have to say.


Susie Finkbeiner said...

I have the 2011 Market is an amazing resource.

I wanted to thank you for the "God Pep Talk"! I'm writing my 2nd novel and have reached a very important and difficult part of the writing. I feel that I am approaching this section of the writing with a sense of the sacred...and I've been so terrified to screw up!

Thank you for reminding me that this too is in God's control. You ladies are always such encouragement!

Dina Sleiman said...

Okay, I sent you a little something. 300 words precisely according to microsoft. Clearly I have too much free time.

The place I am right now is that I have an agent, three finished books, and some good prospects with publishers, but the waiting has been killing me. So I've been trying to get back to enjoying the process and each moment.

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Dina, the agent thing has been a huge struggle for me. I know I need to keep trucking. This too is a God thing...and in His timing.

I'm excited for you! I bet the waiting is torture!

Heidi said...

I love the idea of marching forth, fully trusting in our Father. Thanks for the post!

Kathleen Popa said...

Dina, I'm thrilled by what you said in your comment on Wednesday's post: "I'm so enjoying all the people in this blog community." Writers need each other, and how cool that you are befriending and encouraging one another here.

Susie, thanks for being part of that. Speaking from experience: "terrified" is a bad place from which to write. "Playful" is good. "Reverent" is good too, as long as you remember you have a delete key. See Wednesday's post.

Dina, you're right to remind yourself to enjoy the process and each moment. You'll be a better writer and live a better life. Nowhere do I read of Abraham asking God, "Are we there yet?" during his long years of journeying. Pretty remarkable, isn't it?

Heidi, we are so glad you're here.

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Thanks. You know the last few days have been full of prayer that the Holy Spirit would give me the words and confidence.

I felt that this blog post was especially timely! The delete key is a good friend of mine.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

Today is the 35th anniversary of my arrival in Canada. We were writing emails to each other and thanking my parents for their courage never realising the significance of those words, March Forth! They really did. Each of us feels the responsibility to continue the march, accomplish something worthy of their sacrifice. And each of us is writing a book of some sort.
Dina, I wanted to say, I'm with you. The story bounces around in my head until it just has to burst out(I mean, march forth). The inner voice is writing the story so if it doesn't want something then it has the right to be listened to.
As for my own marching, thanks for the battle cry. I feel stronger for it.

Kathleen Popa said...

Henrietta, I'm cheering you on. What country did your parents march forth from?

Jan Cline said...

Each time I think of March forth I hear "keep your eye on the prize". It's nice to have something to march toward, and it's hard for me to ignore the call within to march. Im thankful for it.

Megan Sayer said...

299 words. Does that still count?

They're all true though.

Chris Loehmer Kincaid said...

When I read this post at three this morning (when I couldn't sleep), I immediately knew what I wanted to write. And after I wrote it and reread the topic, I thought, did I get the assignment right? But I had to submit it anyway. And the last few lines of my submission should help explain that.

Patti Hill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bonnie Grove said...

Hey - is this one of those contests where I sink my teeth into the bones of their writing?????

Or am I supposed to play nice with others?

I get so confused.

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Bonnie - LOL! You're so funny.

Jennifer said...

Just saw this post. I love it! Writing something up today and will submit later. Thanks for the inspiration!

Janie Southard said...

This is what I've been needing: challenge and encouragement! I just recently found you and I'm so glad I did. I'm wanting to get serious about my writing and set aside the things that so easily entangle me. It is the gift God has given me and I want to use it to reflect Him.

Ellen Staley said...

Bonnie, I love you sense of humor!

My bones are still healing. ;)