When creativity nudges a book idea, strange things can happen.
Writers usually begin with the germ of an idea, maybe a “What if” question such as: “What if a young girl from Kansas ends up in the land of Oz?”
Sometimes these creative nudges become a puff of wind. They fly away, and the writer forgets about them.
But as we learn to nurture our creativity and pay closer attention to ideas, the nudging sprouts and begins to take root. Then we water it with more ideas, nurture it with the fertilizer of brainstorming and honor it with structure.
After some time of thinking, planning, or wondering through various tunnels of ideas — we begin to actually write.
All this setup can take from days to years, sometimes even decades.
My novel No Visible Scars was 15 years in the making. A long time before I held that book in my hand.
My latest book began as an idea in 2017. I knew a novel was begging to be born, but I had only the scarcest of ideas.
Then I remembered the maxim so many of us follow, “Write what you know.” So I made a list of what I knew at that time:
- Kansas, specifically Johnson County
- Church politics
- Old houses and DIY projects
- Eating gluten free
Then I found my “What if” question. What if a woman who lives in an old house loses a child and seeks help from a minister? What if the minister in Johnson County has also suffered a loss?
From that point, my idea thread wound all over the place and ended up in several knots. Brainstorming sessions with my critique group helped eliminate the unnecessary and solidify the important. And I took long walks where I talked myself through the kinks.
So when I took my creative writing retreat in Santa Fe, circa September, 2018 — I had my skeleton of ideas and a basic structure. I knew the names of my characters and was ready to begin.
I also had a Bible verse that haunted me. “The year of my redemption has come” (Isaiah 63:4). That verse would become my title.
But when I flipped open my new writing pad to begin the first chapter, something entirely different happened. A quirky change. Instead of telling the story from the female protagonist’s viewpoint, the minister jumped out and said, “Let me tell it.”
I have learned not to argue with my characters — or with the God who inspires them.
Pastor Tanner told his story about a tragic loss that led him to his year of redemption. In the process, he learned to care about the woman in my notes who had also suffered a loss. Together these two hurting characters lived out the story and became the book that is now published.
So that is how The Year of my Redemption happened. One of the fun things about books is when we find a surprise waiting in the words.
When writers are also surprised, it germinates hope that the next project will be just as much fun.
©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved
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