Today’s guest writer is Deborah Clack, who is a native Texan and nonrecovering chocolate addict. A high-school AP history teacher for 10 years, Deborah earned a master’s degree in education and was awarded Teacher of the Year for Arts in Education. Now she creates award-winning stories of her own with endearing characters and a hard-fought romance. She asks her heroines, as well as her readers, to dig deep, play hard, and laugh often.
Deborah can lip-sync the heck out of Barbara Streisand’s “Jingle Bells” and is a fan of the original romantic suspense movie Star Wars. She lives in the Lone Star State with her family. You can find her on The Social Media, where she pretends to be an extrovert. She would love to connect with you on deborahclack.com.
Have you ever received a piece of writing advice, and mentally rejected it out of hand, even as you nodded and smiled politely?
Eight years ago, when I started writing, several people advised me to study short stories. Never particularly interested in reading short stories, I couldn’t picture how mastering them could help me write my 90,000-word contemporary romances. Ignoring their wisdom, I went on my way and put all of the words on my pages until my heart was content.
Fast forward five unpublished books later and out of the blue, God nudged me to write a piece of flash fiction. A super fun meet-cute swam around in my mind, but I didn’t know how to dive into the short story length.
Two hours into an FBI-worthy search through my computer files, I struck gold and found old conference sessions on crafting flash fiction. I wrote the piece and submitted it to a contest, thinking that was the end of my short-story career. My focus returned to those all-important books I was writing.
A couple of years and numerous manuscript rejections later, I slammed into all that became 2020.
Each of us has a story about what happened to our creativity last year. Some authors were machines of productivity. For others, getting words on a page required exponential energy. Many questions arose about how the pandemic might affect the publishing world.
With so much out of my control, what could I do in the meantime?
The disappointing cancellation of writers conferences brought an unexpected blessing in the form of free online seminars and reduced rates to Zoom conferences.
I took every class I could fit into my schedule. Even if I didn’t think the topic applied to me. In a podcast, Thomas Umstattd, Jr. and James L. Rubart suggested authors should read a craft book, then write a short story that applied the newly learned concepts. Rinse and repeat with another craft book. Again with the short stories! But what a brilliant, low-risk idea. We don’t have to invest in a 90,000-word novel to learn a new skill.
I also attended an online seminar by the talented Tina Radcliffe about writing flash fiction romance for Woman’s World magazine. Her fascinating class showed me that my love of all things romance could be put on a page in short form, if only I would try.
Writing an 800-word story meant that words cost more to use. My focus sharpened. I became more disciplined with character backstories, more deliberate in my use of setting. This skill set bled into my longer manuscripts. I didn’t understand the value when I started this journey, but God knew this was something I needed. He also knew it would take time.
What would you do if God sat down with you, looked you in the eyes, and asked, “Will you wait for my plan?” What if He said to you, “I promise I’m going ahead of you in this journey. Each step you take, rejection you receive, silence you hear, is for a purpose. Will you wait for Me?”
Would you tear up your self-imposed calendar? Would your expectations fade? Would your spirit calm?
The timing piece of the publishing process is not ours to know. But it’s ours to experience. It’s ours to embrace. For me it was old conference recordings. A nudge and a contest entry. A pandemic that made me stop to learn different skills. Free professional development I would never have chosen for myself. A mentor who said three words, “Why not you?”
And a mighty God who knew eight years ago when I started writing books that an 800-word story would be my first publication in today’s issue of Woman’s World magazine. Writing in a story form I knew nothing about, to an audience I hadn’t considered, for a readership I never would have met on my own.
I don’t have any idea what God’s plans are for my 90,000-word books. What I know is that He walked me down a purposeful path I would not have known to explore. And I could not be more grateful.
Keep writing. Try new things. Nothing is wasted.
What about you? Have you tried anything new lately? I’d love to hear where you are on the journey.