I didn’t know I was a writer until I "accidentally" started writing a novel in late 2007. Looking back on all the writing I’ve done in my life, I can’t believe it took 26 years for me to realize I'm a writer. I thought everyone wrote. When I was growing up, I watched my dad write down his personal reflections and devotional thoughts in a thick notebook. When the notebook got full, he’d start another.
I started writing my first novel when I was eight years old. I had no plot and a family of ten characters. The first day, I threw a birthday party for my main character and let the cats mate. Then I detailed each of my characters’ actions as they brushed their teeth and got ready for bed. I didn’t want to leave anything out and thereby imply one of them hadn’t brushed his teeth!
My eleven-year-old brother gave me a piece of advice on the story. "Make sure you include everything that happens, every single day," he said. This caused me great discouragement. I would have to wait two months before the cats had kittens, and an entire year before the next birthday party could occur. Writing about getting out of bed, eating breakfast, and doing chores for the next 59 days did not thrill me. So I quit.
I did some assigned writing in school, but I didn’t particularly enjoy it. My main goal was to make the piece as long as possible so that I could have fun typing it up. To this end, I purposely repeated long phrases and used the little word “that” as much as I could. The things I wrote back then are so boring I can’t stand to read them.
When I was around 20 years old, I began keeping a journal. That’s when I really learned to write. With no grammar rules hanging over me and no one to read and censor my work, I began to write freely. I wrote out my anger, my frustration, and my confusion regarding God and life in general. I wrote out everything bad I had ever done and everything bad that had ever been done to me. Over the next few years I filled several hundred pages. In the process, I learned a great deal about myself and a great deal about writing. My journal is now somewhere around 600 pages and still going strong.
Six years ago (Fall of 2007), I accidentally began writing a novel. It started innocently enough. I imagined a scene in my mind and tried to write it down the way I saw it, “just for fun.” I thought it would be a good writing exercise. But I found I couldn’t stop with a static scene; I wanted to follow my character and see what she was going to do next. Thirty pages later, I casually told my family, “I’m writing a novel.” I really thought it was a joke.
My first draft was 175 handwritten pages and took about 2 months to complete. When I was finished, I read Judy Delton’s book The 29 Most Common Writing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them (a fantastic little book, by the way), and discovered how badly written my “perfect” story was! But I thought, oh well. Look at all the practice I’m going to get editing this thing.
Editing turned into rewriting. I read Strunk and White’s Elements of Style and applied their rules plus my own common sense. When I was finished, I printed three copies and let a few people read it. Again, I thought it was perfect – for a few weeks. Then I began to see the glaring shortcomings. For one thing, there was no predictable point-of-view. It was time to rewrite again.
In the spring of 2012, I submitted what I thought was a finished manuscript to a publisher I knew. Within a few days he contacted me, saying he liked it, but it needed more emotion. Thus began the final, and most difficult, rewrite. I poured everything I knew and had ever experienced into the story. It was slow going, but when I completed it in the spring of 2013, I knew I had done my absolute best. I dreaded sending it back to the publisher, afraid he'd tell me to rewrite it again. Bless his heart, he didn't.
Tessa: From Fear to Faith was released in September of 2013 as an e-book and a paperback, after undergoing painstaking editing jobs by both me and a professional editor. Marketing will be a new challenge, but I'm determined to do my best and enjoy it along the way!
I love being a writer; it's hard work, but it's never boring. I love the thought that my books will go places I can't dream of and bring the gospel message to people I will never meet. I love being able to capture my imaginations and share them with others.
Check out my publisher's website at www.lifesentencepublishing.com. They have been wonderful to work with throughout this whole project. If you know anyone who's looking for a Christian publisher, I highly recommend them!