Last Monday I turned in a novel. My second one in seven months.
For some writers, that's a normal feat. Producing good reads every three months, or less, is common.
But that's extraordinary for me.
I've learned to become the fast novelist. In the fall I write a 105K novel in three months. Rewrote it in three weeks.
Then wrote a 52K novel. Very rough first draft. Ha! Blessed are the editors who read my manuscripts.
When my editor and I discussed my deadlines she offered to change them, but that meant releases would be delayed. Um, no, no...
"Let's go for it," I said. "Diamonds come from pressure."
I had peace. I knew the Lord would be with me. It was a season to apply a little elbow grease to the ole schedule.
But you know, it's never easy. Two years ago, that kind of schedule would've sunk me. I knew in my spirit not to take on a heavy load. Come the start of 2014, I knew why.
But last fall, I knew I was in a new season.
Writing always comes with a certain tension. Even on good days, there's a small tension in my gut.
The page is eager for a story not yet fully known. And I'm the only one who can discover it.
A novelist has to hide away when others are playing. Saturdays are not a day off when on deadline. Sometimes there is no "weekend."
When the story is finally finished and turned in, there's an elation. A relief. I liken it to the end of a tough quarter in college.
The sun shines brighter. The warmth is deeper. Music plays from some mysterious place in my heart.
I might go shopping. Or take an afternoon at the beach.
Lunch with friends. Yahoo!
But when creating diamonds...
The pressure never completely lets go.
A week after I turned in my latest novel, I woke up Monday morning with that tautness. "Time to write the next novel."
The next deadline is closing in. No break.
I have research books to read. Novels to endorse for friends. Other responsibilities to the writer community. To my worship team at church
Not to mention houseguests, a writers retreat, and an upcoming move by my in-laws to my town.
And the twist tightens.
The "joy" from the week off fades. Time to get back to work. The blank page is available for the pen of my words. Waiting for a story I have yet to conceive.
It never ends when you're a writer. If you're not writing, you want to be writing. If you're in between those two spaces, you're researching. Thinking. Trying to come up with the next great novel.
Some days I'd love to have a co-worker, you know?
"Hey, I'm going on vacay. Can you write the next three chapters for me? And, you know, make them brilliant."
Or "Hey, I'm a bit under 'it' today. Can you hammer out 2k words for me?"
Nope. There is no such person. I'm the only one who can write my stories.
You're the only one who can write YOUR stories.
Here's the deal. Diamonds DO come from pressure. When we shrink away from pressure -- let the read beware, pressure is different from stress -- we shrink away from the very thing that might produce our best work yet.
Is that the case with the two books I wrote in the fall? I have NO idea. The readers will be my judge.
But I gave the stories my all. In the time allowed.
Do you feel it? The subtle knot reminding you your job never ends?
The pressure is good for me. It keeps me thinking, working, paying attention to the world around me.
But I have to know when to unplug and just be "me."
When I start to feel burdened or lost along the way, I go to the Lord. "This is your gig. Don't let me make it all about me."
Guess what! He's faithful to provide peace. Hope. Joy! And everything I need for the next story.
Here's some tips for managing the pressure life of a novelist:
1. Avoid comparison.
2. Get ahold of your time. Set hours to write and hours to play. The more you write the more you'll realize your best routine and habits.
3. Take notes. I'm bad about this these days but jot down ideas when you're out and about so you don't forget them.
4. Have faith. The Lord is with you! Period. Give doubt the boot.
5. Use the pressure positively. To help you get to work. When pressure hits during your down time, tuck it away and relax.
6. Hit the gym. Or take a long walk. Exercise is always good for the mind-body connection.
7. Think long range. The "poor" only think of/plan for today. The middle class plans in terms of years. The wealthy of the wealthy think in decades. Give yourself time to become a great author. Stick with it. It will pay off.
Her latest book, The Wedding Chapel, was named to Booklist Top Ten Inspirational Novels of 2015.
She co-authored the critically acclaimed Songbird Novels with platinum selling country music artist Sara Evans. Their novel Softly and Tenderly, was one of Booklists 2011 Top Ten Inspirationals.