This summer has turned out much busier than I had expected or planned on, though it has all been good things. Visiting friends, enjoying various celebrations, working in ministry and being able to serve others; these are activities that bring great joy to my heart and soul. However, after the last few years of moving houses, planning a wedding, and settling into a new stage of life, I’ll admit that I’m looking forward to a reprieve from so much activity. Any day now.
I’m happy to say, though, that my writing has actually been moving along quite well lately! With my own office again, access to all my books, and a more settled feeling to life overall, my imagination has finally had leisure to really indulge itself and roam freely.
Recently, I finished the first complete draft of my novel, Of Love and Dinosaurs, and am now starting to work on revisions!
The first inkling of this story suggested itself to me back in 2014, at the wedding of a dear friend. It started with a question: how would one write a love story that has to do with dinosaurs? It wasn’t long after that I had a rough outline of an idea and a protagonist, Felix, that have taken residence in my head ever since. The story and themes have percolated on and off, evolving and growing, influenced by new events and people in my own life. In the meantime, I finished writing and published my first novella, A Waking Dream, and then conceived, wrote, and published my non-fiction book, An Adult-ish Toolkit: 30 Things I Learned in 30 Years. Not long after that, I started writing regular articles for the Catholic News Herald in the diocese of Charlotte. And in the midst of it all, lots of “Life” was happening, which certainly kept me on a bit of an edge mentally.
All that time, though, I was getting to know Felix and his story and the other characters in his life. New themes and insights would present themselves to me as if of their own accord. I was learning a great deal about dinosaurs, and falling in love with them more than I even expected. I delved deeper into my own faith, and so started questioning where God fit into Felix’s world. I did a lot of thinking about the relationship between God and the dinosaurs and how it all relates to us. And I asked myself what kind of story I wanted to tell, but then realized that the story has really just been telling itself to me the whole time.
Eight years ago, when I first came up with the seed of this book, I could not have written it the way that it needed to be told. Even now, I still doubt that I am yet a good enough writer to do it justice. But I also know that I will never accomplish anything if I don’t at least make the attempt. And I love Felix and my other characters too much to let them exist only in my own head.
I consider myself at the fun stage of writing a book now. The bones of the work are all there and now I get to go back and play and put some flesh on everything. I get to take that rough sketch and clean it up, smoothing the lines and adding the details that will make it beautiful, or at least as beautiful as I can.
When I talk to people about writing and they share their own dreams or ambitions of one day writing a book, there is only one piece of advice that I always give. It’s not original to me, but I can’t remember where I first heard it; perhaps Stephen King or Neil Gaiman or Anne Lamont, possibly all of them, but I can’t be certain.
The most helpful thing when it comes to writing is this: just put words on paper, because you can’t edit a blank page. Write it all down as best you can as fast as you can, and don’t let your own doubts get in your way. No one is perfect in the beginning, or in the middle, or even at the end of their writing careers. But that should never keep you from starting. Just put your butt in the chair, write it all down, and then edit it to be what you actually want it to be.
I’m very proud of my first draft, all 57,000+ words, but I know I’ve still got a long way to go before the final draft. However, I also know that I’m that much closer now, and that’s a pretty good feeling.
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