NEW WEEK NEW FACE – GUEST POST by MARIAN MERRITT
Write What You Know
Those words are usually the first ones writers hear, read, or think when they begin their writing journey.
I knew from a very early age I wanted to be a writer. Growing up in a very rural part of south Louisiana—the end of the road on the bayou—I became a voracious reader. I could travel anywhere, meet interesting people, see complex life situations, and experience deep emotions all in the pages of a book. Needless to say, I became enamored with writers. I admired their ability to create characters that moved me to tears, laughter, anger, sadness, and joy. Made me care about their fictional characters, if only real while I read their story.
Before long, my own fictional characters occupied many moments and clamored to have their stories told. But what did I know? A girl who grew up in such a remote area, didn’t travel much, and didn’t have the finances or means to go to college. What could I possibly have to write about that would interest anyone else? That could move others?
Life took the usual turn, marriage, a job, family, and finally that college degree. The writing dream took a back seat and lay dormant for many years.
Even after “life happened,” I still didn’t believe that any of my experiences were extraordinary enough to classify as writing-worthy.
In 2003, something changed. God awakened the writing dream into a force that couldn’t be ignored. Yet, that voice in my head continued to ask, “what do I know?”
Ideas danced through my brain and before long the things I’d taken for granted growing up: my Cajun culture, the unique south Louisiana landscape, and the wonderfully strong, resilient, and kind people I’d grown up around were what I knew needed to be portrayed. The Cajun culture is unlike any in the country. It’s my heritage. It’s what I know.
The Louisiana that few saw on TV or in books at that time didn’t always portray Cajuns in a positive light. To do so in the pages of a novel became my mission.
So I set off to write the great American novel set in south Louisiana. It didn’t take long to realize, it takes more than “writing what you know” to craft a novel. It takes learning HOW to craft a novel. I now had another mission, to learn as much as possible about how to write. Which is what I did through conferences, seminars, books, online courses, writing groups, whatever I could to learn the craft.
Again, I set out to pen a masterpiece.
Again, it didn’t take long to realize that it takes more than following all the so-called writing rules to create a good story. So what did I really know?
I struggled and didn’t understand why after such effort, things still weren’t working. That’s when God answered my burning question. “You know me.”
Did I really know Him? I knew about Him and I knew what I’d been taught growing up about following His rules. Yet, like with writing, I soon realized, to really know Him is not about following rules or following a formula. To really know Him is to totally trust Him. Something I hadn’t been doing especially with writing.
Even after this revelation, it took a while and a move to a small town in Colorado, away from my heritage, away from the noise of the writing world, and away from the things I’d taken for granted for so many years for me to truly understand the gift I’d been given and the power of trusting God. Not just in major life decisions, but in everyday things. But, most importantly, letting Him lead my writing. Letting Him write the stories He’d placed in my heart. Letting time with Him be the goal, not penning a bestseller.
Once I began to write WITH God and not just FOR God, my writing life changed. I didn’t stress so much about following “the rules.” Yes, I knew them and used them, but I knew that those things weren’t the meat of the story they were only a means to tell it.
I began praying before each writing session for God to take over and lead me to write what He wanted for whomever He intended the story to minister to.
Ironically this consummate plotter (a writer who plots everything that she’s going to write) became a pantser (a writer who writes by the seat of their pants) and allowed God to take the keyboard. Kinda like Jesus take the wheel for writers.
It’s writing through without stopping to edit until the book is finished and letting the ideas God gives you to flow. It’s spending intimate time creating with the Creator.
Even during the in-depth character sketches to get to intimately know my characters, God is present. It’s usually during these character “interviews” that the story begins to take shape. And the big “what if” question is raised.
What if? The starter-block for every story.
What if a young woman who has lost her faith and is stranded on a deserted Louisiana road is rescued by a Christian resident of Bijou Bayou? One who introduces her to her cousin, the mechanic whose major-league-baseball-playing nephew is in town? The same pitcher the young woman disparaged in a recent online sports article.
See how one “What if?” can lead to a story! That was the question that spurred my soon-to-be-released Christmas Novella, GUMBO WEATHER.
Praying before any God-honoring task always results in intimate time with Him during the task. All we have to do is ask.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7 NIV
She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Women’s Fiction Writers Association.
This Louisiana native writes her Christmas romances and Southern women’s fiction with a Louisiana/Colorado connection from the Texas home she shares with her husband and a very spoiled Labradoodle.
Buy links to Marian’s Books: http://www.marianmerritt.com/#!/cnec
Marian Merritt, New Week New Face, #NWNF, Guest Post, Gumbo Weather, A Cajun Christmas Miracle, The Moon has No Light, Vigil