It's finally here! The first post, in what I hope will be a long list, of great stories from writers who have gone before.
In this post we will be hearing from Gabrielle Massman, a teenager with a heart for God and a calling to write. She runs a website/blog called Write for the King, a blog I visit frequently for writing advice and encouragement for my own journey.
When Lindsi asked me to write about my writing journey; frankly, I was surprised. I have yet to publish a novel or even sign with an agent, and while I run a small blog, I often get distracted and do not post. Nevertheless, I am a writer, and I have a writing journey—even if it is a small one. I may be farther along in my journey than you, but most writers are farther along than I.
Yet, where I am in my writing journey matters. This step of my journey matters—as does every step. So whether you started writing yesterday or just published your third novel, the place where you are at—right now—is important, and you are a writer.
So here is my writing journey, and here is where I stand as a writer.
I did not always love writing. For most of my elementary years, I preferred numbers to letters. Not that I was not imaginative; I had Narnia in my own back yard, and I had conversations with the cottonwood dryads that lived there. I enjoyed reading; when I was in second grade, I tried to read War and Peace but ended up settling for Watership Down. However, I did not know any reason why I should write my own adventures or thoughts down. I thought all the summery work and useless stories about boring, still drawings in homeschool were tedious and took up too much time—time I could have been using to fight leaf warriors while riding the tree dragon in the back yard. When I was little, writing was a chore.
When I started the fourth grade, my mom decided it was time for my sister and me to join the local homeschool co-op. It had four classes: art, apologetics, music, and writing. I was only interested in three. After sobbing for days, begging my mom to let me skip the writing class, I was forced to attend a creative writing class. The first story I wrote in that class had seven sentences, all of which started with the subject, and, for five of those sentences, the subject was “I.”
Then the teacher, Mrs. Smart, showed me how words could create emotions and pictures. She showed me how to put them into sentences and create a new scene and a new story. This was different from any writing I had done. Mrs. Smart would give me beautiful pictures of landscapes that could have belonged in Narnia or Middle Earth, and then I would describe them, creating my own image made up of words. I could see the crystalline blue waterfalls dancing over the slick, moss covered rocks in my prose, and, any time I wished, I could visit places I could never go. Writing became beautiful, and I loved it.
The next years went quickly, and while I never considered myself a natural writer, I loved using my imagination and writing about fantastical places and fictional friends. When I was eleven, I decided that I wanted to write a fairy tale; I wanted to write a novel. My first attempt—now that I look back—was sweetly, innocently pathetic. The Jar of Spring was the adventure of a little buck, Ethelwin, and his friends: the river-reed man, Lancelot; the naiad, Genevieve; and the annoying lark, Delsin. The group journeyed to steal back the “jar of spring” from a villain who inexplicably spoke in Spanish, translated curtesy of Microsoft Word. Though it was less than impressive with its two hundred word chapters and its childish language, Mrs. Smart and my mother praised it—and, even today, my writing teacher still has a copy. My adoring little sister would ask me to read it to her almost every night. There was nothing praiseworthy about the story, but the encouragement that I received from my family and friends kept me writing.
Over the next years, my writing improved but transformed very little. I started to rewrite The Jar of Spring with elves instead of animals and a different, more complex plot. It started to look like an actual novel with proper chapters and more realistic characters, but then something happened—I’m not sure when.
I had been in AWANA since I was in “SPARKS” and had taken apologetics classes in homeschool and through the co-op. I had always loved debating and logic, but then I realized I had a calling—a calling that was not frivolous writing and petty debates. God gave me a mission and a purpose. Today, I can only track the change through my journal entrees that I started writing to God. First, I signed, “my life is fully Yours [God’s].” Then I wrote, “my life is forfeit for You.” By the end of the journal, I closed each entry with the words “Forever in the pursuit of the Truth.” Then I went back to the beginning and inscribed a single verse on the cover: Psalm 45:1 “My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.”
Sometime between the journal entries, I realized that, not only did I have the imagination to create worlds; I could also master ideas and communicate the unspeakable through writing. I could reveal truth. I had power, and I knew Who I was going to use it for.
So, I started over my rewrite of the Jar of Spring. While I used many of the same, more developed characters, I added new themes and a new plot. I began writing for Christ. Unlike many Christian writers, I did not plan to write an allegory. Sure, I still have a God figure, much like Lewis’ Aslan, but I was not trying to retell the Bible. Rather, I presented my characters with moral dilemmas and struggles that I have with my own faith, and I watched God work out my own problems in my writing.
During NaNoWriMo 2014, I finished my first novel with 80,000 words. After a hasty edit, I made the mistake of sending it off to publishers and agents. Miraculously, one small, local publisher saw potential and followed up with me. However, I felt that God was calling me to go another route, so I choose not to publish with them. Looking back, I now realize that I had much more editing to do with my story. I developed characters more deeply and my writing style matured. I gained new ideas for the plot, and my novel became more complex.
Another writing friend encouraged me to start blogging at the beginning of 2015. Though I had no idea what I would write about, I started a blog with the goal of starting a writing platform (a prestigious term for getting lots of online followers who might buy your book one day). I made a ton of mistakes, and my first posts were terrible. My blog design was atrocious, and all around, it was embarrassing and hard work.
However, I started to blog about what I loved and what I knew. Sure, I was a new writer, so I did not know much about writing, even though my blog was supposed to be about writing. So I began to post tips about what I did know. I knew about fainting and hunting, so I posted tips for writing about those topics. Then I began posting about what I found interesting. I posted about writing and personality types or my critique of various fantasy tropes. I even post about my relationship with God. Slowly, my blog gained a follower or two.
Suddenly, after blogging for 9 months, people began to share my blog posts on Pinterest and other social media sites, and my posts suddenly became more popular. There was nothing I could do to boost my statistics, and often times, the posts I was least proud of became the most popular. I discovered that, other than posting regularly, bloggers truly have very little to do with how popular their blogs become.
Last year, I finished outlining the rest of my fantasy series, set to follow my first novel, and continued to query literary agents, still getting no positive responses. I wrote 50,000 words in my second novel during a NaNoWriMo event, and this coming July, I had planned to finish my second novel. However, I found sudden inspiration to do even more edits on my first novel, so I will be working on that project again.
Though my writing has taken years for me to even get to this point, I am grateful for the journey. I know my writing is improving, and I am happy just to polish and perfect one novel. One day I will be published, but I have a lot of work to do to get there.
To be honest, I cannot believe you have reached the end of this post. It was quite wordy, most certainly not my finest work, and not about the most interesting topic. However, perhaps my writing journey will encourage you, and if it does, I can only say, “To God be the glory. He works in mysterious ways.”
I personally think it is a great post. I find the part about blogging especially encouraging. (Since I am in the middle of starting a blog myself. :)
You can learn more about Gabrielle by visiting her website/blog, Write for the King. Here is a link.
Until next time, God Bless,