Adventures of a Debut Author: Road Signs and Mile Markers

I know the palns

photo credit: Compfight

Yesterday, a friend asked me if I wrote myself into the plot of Unraveled. The short answer is, ‘yes’. While the heroine’s story isn’t my personal story, there are elements of the author woven into the characters. It’s inevitable in the creative process, as far as I’m concerned. Just as our children inherit our physical attributes, parrot our speech and mimic our mannerisms, so it goes for the words we spill across the page. For centuries, artists have used their canvases as a platform for self-expression, a means of social commentary, or as a vehicle to sing praises to the Lord.

This verse from Jeremiah is quite familiar, I’m sure. It’s found on mugs and signs, note cards and frequently quoted this time of year as we move toward graduation season. For me, it is a sign post–a mile marker– on the road to publication. The summer I sat down to start writing Unraveled, the same summer I celebrated a milestone birthday, I entered the original first chapter of the novel in a writing contest. Within a couple of weeks, I received an email stating I was a finalist in the contest. (Hold your applause, it’s entirely possible that there were a very limited number of entries). The only stipulation for advancing in the contest was submitting a completed manuscript by the end of the year.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy, right?

Wrong.

Thus began many long hours hunched over my computer whenever my regular gig as a wife and mother allowed me a chance to type out some thoughts. There was much deleting and re-typing, as well as angsty hand-wringing … which often progressed to whining and a strong desire to give up. It was in these small moments that this verse began to re-appear in my life. Never so bold as a road sign or a billboard, but maybe in a sermon at church on Sunday morning or in a blog post by one of my favorite writers. I kept moving forward, knowing there was a plan for this story that lived on my hard drive.

I finished the first draft just hours before the contest deadline. I didn’t win the contest, but I’d accomplished something significant: my first novel, no matter how poorly constructed, was written. It was the Christmas season and among the gifts under the tree that year, I unwrapped a small sign given to me by my sister-in-law. Of course you know what it said, right?

“I know the plans I have for you … plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  -Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

Fast forward a year or so, and I’m attending a women’s conference, incidentally with the same sister-in-law who gave me that sign. We left the morning session for a break and returned with instructions that every seat had a bookmark, lying face down, with an inspirational thought or verse printed on it. While the seat you chose might be random, this message would have significant meaning for your life once you read it.

We chose our seats, I picked up my bookmark and flipped it over. Jeremiah 29:11 stared back at me. Chills (the good kind) ran through me. I drove home from the conference alone that day, a rare luxury to ride alone in a car these days, and thought about that verse quite a bit. Now maybe it had nothing to do with my writing life. If I take the time to look, I can see God’s handiwork ALL OVER the details of my life. He isn’t a God who neglects one area of our lives while focusing on another. But at least in my case, I require some remedial work on occasion and tend to need multiple signs in order to pay attention or believe what He says is true. This would be one of those instances. In order to keep pressing on toward the goal of publication, I needed the proverbial road signs to mark my way. Just as a marathon runner needs a cup of water and a loved one at the side of the road, cheering them on, I needed to know I was on the right track.

In the many phases of writing and re-writing Unraveled, the spiritual thread was the hardest for me to incorporate. Let’s be real: this Lauren girl is one messed up little chika. Eventually, I hung a locket around her neck with Jeremiah 29:11 engraved on the back. Because I’m the author and I can. Ha! Seriously, though, my hope is that this portion of the story, as well as the overall message of the novel will serve as a reminder that hope and forgiveness are real and tangible. Our God is a God with a plan. He is most definitely a God of second chances.

So there you have it, friends. The long answer to a short question. Yes, there is a bit of me woven into the threads of this story. Just as the Creator finds ways to weave His truth into our lives all of the time.

If you’re interested in reading more of Lauren’s story, Unraveled officially releases Tuesday, 4/29. More details here .

What’s your life verse? I love connecting with my readers and I’d love to know how God has worked in your life to grab your attention. Feel free to leave a comment below.

Comments

  1. Sondra Kraak:

    So true that we can’t fully separate ourselves from our created works. I see bits of my husband in my hero, and in a sense, I think he’ll always be visible to me in my heros–because he’s my hero. However, as I grow as a writer, I hope to be able to articulate personalities and situations that are far removed from mine. Whoever said “write what you know” was right on.

    Reply

    • Heidi:

      Sondra,
      I think that’s wonderful that your husband’s characteristics are visible in your heroes. Yes, I hope as I grow in my writing ability that I’ll be able to tackle more nuances and complicated personalities. Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply

  2. Brie:

    I think we are a lot alike you and I. I loved hearing this side of your story. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

    • Heidi:

      Hi Brie,
      Yes, I do believe we might be kindred spirits. Thanks for stopping by, I’m glad you enjoyed my post. Have a great week.

      Reply

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