Choosing the Hard Work By Stephanie Ascough
Do you ever find it difficult to pick one writing project? After a year of practicing short stories, flash fiction and poetry, I knew that 2018 was my year to tackle a longer project. The problem was, I had four of them waiting to be finished, and I was in agony over which one to pick.
These projects included two novels and two short story collections I wanted to expand and revise. Of all these, my darling was the YA fantasy novel I’d begun five years ago. I really wanted to return to it. But it just felt so big. And scary.
Instead of tackling something that really speaks to me at a deep level, I followed fear and went back to looking through all four projects. I analyzed them from every angle. Unfortunately, no loud voice pierced the clouds, saying, “here Stephanie, pick this story and you will automatically feel fulfilled and will land the perfect publishing deal by the end of the year and gain thousands of devoted readers.”
Instead, my thoughts ran along this line: This project requires too much revising. Where to begin! That project needs a lot more developmental work. Can I give it the heart it lacks? This project is too big. I want to go back to short stories! Waaa!
I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to settle down and make a plan when I’m in Goldilocks mode.
Writing a novel is daunting. It’s a complex, often taxing process. Admitting that is important. If we aren’t honest with ourselves about the marathon nature of novel writing, we’re going to burn out before we reach the halfway mark.
There are many organizational tools that help tremendously, but they don’t take away the fact that writing 50k or more words is simply a lot. of. work. After you’ve written a draft or five, there’s revising and editing. And if you can’t dim those stars in your eyes (don’t!), the whole publication process is yet another complex dance we writers must learn and navigate.
When I finally looked that fear in the face, I understood what held me back. I wanted something that felt manageable. I wanted to be in control. Writing short stories, for me, had become a neat little package deal. Written, edited, done. There, I learned something, now I’m moving on.
While there’s nothing wrong with short stories, writing my novel had been a revealing and winding road of discovery, not just about writing, but about myself. Within the pages of those drafts, I learn what I had to offer to readers, and I learn about the deep digging work of writing a story that pulls darkness, despair and loss together and then transforms them into a work of art. Yes, it’s hard. On so many levels. But I need it. Someone out there needs it too. It’s a work of art I can’t give up on.
For me as a Christ follower, I need to see how good it is to face heart work that’s bigger than me, like this novel. It’s when I know something is too big for me that he can walk alongside me and show me things I can’t see on my own. He does something on a spiritual level through this process. What we do to or receive in one aspect of ourselves effects the rest of ourselves. After all, isn’t the creative process a whole person process?
If something is holding you back as a writer, it may look entirely different for you than it does for me. But if it feels too big to tackle, my advice is this. Press in anyway. Take another look. Those stories that lead you to explore your heart and mind can be the most difficult, and the most rewarding. You will be stretched. You will be exhausted. You will be surprised. And you will grow.
And someday, someone else might read your story and grow, too.
Meet the author...
Stephanie discovered her own love for reading when she devoured Little House in the Big Woods at the age of six. She has been scribbling stories for as long as she can remember. Today, she still loves reading, especially children’s and YA fantasy literature. After scribbling many short stories and poems, she is currently revising her first YA fantasy novel. Diversity, formative experiences, and personality theory in literature are some of her favorite topics to explore. She and her husband raise their four children in Florida. You can find her on Instagram at @stephanie.ascough and on her blog: www.stephanieascough.wordpress.com.