ACW

ACW

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

From there to here by Sue Russell

When did you first know you wanted to write?

I thought I would tell you how I came to be the author of (to date) five self-published novels from an overt Christian worldview, and if any of it is helpful to any of you I will be pleased. It's not something that  can easily fit into a brief blog post, so I'll spread it over a number of months (unless, of course, I get the overwhelming response, 'Please don't!')
Everyone's background is different, I guess. But for me writing stories started very young, and by the time I was 11 or 12 I was busy and ambitious: I'd delivered a derivative script about tampering with oil-pipes to a television company (which replied very politely); penned a novel about the last Persian king, conquered by Alexander (for which the research was reading one out-of-date book in the school library, and 'penning' was just what I did, not being in possession of a typewriter); and other such laughable juvenile efforts. My naive ambitions far outran my knowledge or talent, but when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up my answer was always unequivocal: 'An author.' Then in my twenties I embarked on a series of children's books about a flying mouse, and made forays into poetry. Around this time I had managed to save up for a typewriter, but it took some time to find one I could afford which had an exclamation mark!

It was always there, niggling somewhere, the feeling that this was what I was destined to do, but I had no focus, no plots, nothing but imagination and daydreams. Life got in the way, as it does, and I did little but scribble the odd verse, sigh and complain ( and read, of course, lots of that) until, a long time later, some friends challenged me to get on and do it - write a novel for adults - and have the first draft down before my 50th birthday. By this time I had two children aged 11 and 9, and life was busy.

Leaving out the tedious steps and details, I wrote that first draft with two months to spare. To  begin with all I had was a mass of formless ideas, and I pitched in with more enthusiasm than organisation. I was having great fun and the result was, as I know see with painful clarity, at best self-indulgent. But somewhere in there I found my focus, and it was the result of a strange happening which for me is as rare as a meteorite falling in the garden pond. I'm most definitely not one of those souls to whom God speaks (apart from the routes of Scripture, or wiser friends.) There plopped into my unprepared consciousness these words: 'Do this for Me', and I had, and have, no doubt that He was speaking.

From that moment on, everything changed. I would never claim to have divine inspiration - that would be crazy - but I knew, I thought, why I was supposed to be scribbling away, and in those prehistoric days I wrote longhand and typed it up later on my keyboard - quite a labour, but I suppose that gave it a first edit! So there it was, my adult novel: 'Leviathan with a Fish-hook,' 126,000 words long, rambling, self-indulgent and formatted all wrong!

And there it stayed. I tried to get someone's interest, mainly agents, without success. I hadn't done my homework, I knew very little about the state of the industry or Christian fiction, and discouragement was the result. However, help was at hand. I belonged to ACW by this time, and at a writers' day someone mentioned American editors of Christian fiction, among them Donna Fleisher. I contacted Donna, ordered her taped course on strengthening one's fictional voice, learned from it, edited my manuscript (not very rigorously, I now realise) and sent the whole thing to Oregon where she worked - a weighty paper package. Looking back, it was the first sensible thing I'd done.

What happened next will be the subject of May's post!

11 comments:

  1. This is brilliant, Sue. I so identify with this. I was an occasional scribbler with a dream up until I trained for a short journalism course in London and then started to write articles freelance style. I'm closer to the next decade now I'm finally getting to self-publish my first novella, the Alpha Male, an overt Christian book. I also wouldn't say it was a directly commanded book from God but it does fulfil a word given to me over thirty years ago. Exciting stuff!! Thanks for the share.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've always written poems - usually comic ones for occasions such as birthdays etc - but it wasn't until I went to a creative writing class the day my youngest child began school that I started taking it seriously. The tutor listened to my first faltering piece (about a woman about to commit a crime) and said to the class, 'It's not perfect, but we know one thing: she can write.' I've never forgotten that. I think I'll have it put on my gravestone!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, how wonderful, Fran. When I was ten a teacher wrote in my autograph book, 'To the Daphne Du Maurier of tomorrow - keep on writing!' and it is one of my treasures.
      Bless those people who encourage us without ever knowing how important their words are.

      Delete
  3. Sue, thank you so much for this - I'm very keen to read the next instalment. As someone who scribbled terrible stories as a child and always wanted to be an author, and as someone who hasn't many years left before 50 and has children aged 11 and 9, I feel we have much in common!
    Looking forward to what happens next!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Helen. Being 50 and having young children is now, I'm afraid, 15 years ago! But I plan to go on writing (and learning and improving, I hope) for as long as I have stories to tell and the grey cells allow.

      Delete
  4. Sue, I'm tempted to shout, "Don't!" loudly, but what I really want is to read the following instalments of your writing journey. Sue

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ha, ha! Yes, I would have stopped dead if someone had actually said 'Don't!'

    ReplyDelete
  6. Sue, you're such a tease! Can't wait to read the next instalment.

    ReplyDelete
  7. It was just getting a bit too long!

    ReplyDelete
  8. You reflect so much of what we all go through, Sue - those first tentative steps towards authorship. Thanks for an illuminating start to your journey!

    ReplyDelete
  9. 'First tentative steps' is right, Claire - like a toddler, I ended up flat on my face a few times (and probably will again!)

    ReplyDelete