Amanda Stevens

As a child, Amanda G. Stevens disparaged Mary Poppins and Stuart Little because they could never happen. Now she writes speculative fiction. Holding a Bachelor of Science degree in English, she has taught literature and composition to home-school students. She lives in Michigan and loves books, film, music, and white cheddar popcorn. Her first novel, Seek and Hide, is available from David C Cook.

Author By Night

Time and Tools

I wrote my first story while in first grade and decided I was a writer. By third or fourth grade, publishing a novel was on my list of things to do with my life. I’ve basically never not been writing.


In December 2003, I graduated from college. In January 2004, no longer obligated to all the papers required by an English degree, I started drafting the incarnation of my first full-length novel. I revised it, rewrote it, scrapped it, and started over; only to revise it and rewrite it. I gobbled craft books and worked to apply what I learned. For eight years, I worked on the same book. Along the way, of course, I’ve always had a day job. And I never once wondered about doing this writer thing. (Really, I never have. Dedication to People That Don’t Exist, thy name is Amanda.)


My agent signed me in 2012, and David C Cook offered a contract in 2013 for my four-book series, Haven Seekers. My debut novel, Seek and Hide, has been out for a little over a month now, and, as you might have guessed, my daily routine hasn’t changed. I still work full time as a clerk for a local municipality. My coworkers make frequent comments like, “We knew her when,” and “Don’t forget us when,” and “If I keep this signed book for a year or two, I bet I can auction it on eBay and retire.” Hide and Seek


I love them for it, but, of course, that’s not reality. For most of us authors, the day job continues. We work during the day, and then we work during the night.


Why?


Every author answers that question his or her own way. I can offer only my answer: I love my characters.


Everything I do—drafting (kill me now), revising and editing (squee), marketing (yeah, okay, I’ll try)—all of it is to give my characters a chance to be seen, a chance to be loved. Since before I could read, story has been my deepest love—universal magic, the people I create weaving threads of connection to people I’ve never met. Along the way, I want to be honest about the darkness of the world we live in and about the only true light, Jesus Christ. And I want to create the most excellent art I can for His glory.


But there are pitfalls to this passion.


I can’t say these pits are any deeper for us authors by night than they are for full-time novelists. I do know that when you’re working forty hours a week (or more for some of us) then coming home to dredge up creative energy (and this is ignoring other life necessities like family and friends and church and grocery shopping), time never feels enough. How to wring more minutes from the day and the night?


If the Martha/Mary struggle has become an overused Christian comparison, it’s only because it resonates so well with us. Authors can become Marthas, too. We’re creating for God’s glory. Surely He wants us to prioritize this work for Him.


Stephen King wrote in On Writing, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” It’s obvious, isn’t it? Knowledge of our craft comes from masters of our craft. I can’t write an excellent book if I never read and soak up excellence.


Just the same, though, I can’t write a God-honoring book if I never read God’s Word, if I never come into His presence to praise Him, to confess to Him, to make my requests known to Him. I can’t write a spiritual journey for my character that ends in green pastures if I am wandering in a wasteland because I don’t have time to soak up truth.


Before I write a word, I have to spend time reading the Word. Before I tackle the spiritual struggles of my characters, I have to face my own. Before I write toward a character’s redemption, I have to ask myself, You’re redeemed; are you acting like it?


Do I always put these priorities in the correct order? Absolutely not.


Does it mean instant writer’s block when I don’t? No. God isn’t my word-count genie, demanding I rub the lamp just so. That said, I definitely observe long-term patterns that coincide with my priorities. I write best when I’m closest to the One I’m writing for.


What about you, fellow authors by night? Why do you put yourself through this craziness? What are some things that help you maintain priorities?



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