When the calendar changed from May to June, did your thoughts turn
to the beach, a National Park, a campground, an upcoming family
reunion, a cabin in the mountains, a cottage along the shore, a condo
rental near the water park?
What are your travel plans for the summer? If you’re vacationing or visiting family this summer, what’s your destination?
What’s your writing destination for the new season? Are you
planning to make waves, surf the waves, or wave from your patio
furniture as the summer goes by?
Planning for a vacation and planning a writing career. What do they share in common?
In our household, I’m the designated vacation planner. I
find the bargain- priced but nice accommodations (after the fiasco with
the sight unseen No-Tell Motel my husband found us for a fall getaway a
few years ago), book the flights, figure out the timeline, research
points of interest, create the packing lists, print the boarding
Making a travel plan is familiar territory for me. And I
never leave home without a healthy supply of imagination. So it’s
logical that the similarities between the writing life and vacation
planning stood out like freshly painted lines on the highway.
Pick a spot.
Where are you headed in your writing career? “I don’t know.
I’m leaving it all up to God” is a legitimate response; but God also
blesses those who dream with His purposes in mind. Consider Joseph,
Daniel, even Jacob who wrestled with God in his longing to know God’s
best for His life.
Goal-setting is encouraged, as long as we’re seeking God
for minute-by-minute direction, and flexible when He calls out, “Course
What’s your writing career destination? Have you
prayerfully asked God for a destination to keep in mind, to keep
striving toward? If you haven’t, how will you know when you’ve reached
where He asked you to go?
No matter our personality or learning style, planning ahead
can often spell the difference between running out of fuel on Novelist
Highway and being prepared for any emergency or delay.
According to Proverbs 13:16 (TLB), “A wise man thinks
ahead; a fool doesn’t and even brags about it!” A few chapters later,
we’re told, “Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word,”
Proverbs 16:1 (MSG).
From printer ink supplies to marketing plans to conference preparation to future projects, a wise writer plans ahead.
Decide the best way to travel.
Train? Boat? Plane? Car? RV? What’s the best way to reach
your summer vacation destination, given its location, costs, time
involved, efficiency, or which method will offer the best views?
Early in his or her journey, a novelist will want to
explore modes of transportation. College courses? Online classes? Which
books on the craft of writing are most important for my skill level and
the gaps in my education? Which workshops best fit my needs and
After education comes the question, “Which publishing
method best suits what I write, my audience, my goals, and God’s goals
for me? Independent publishing? Small press? Traditional publishing? A
hybrid of several methods?”
The decisions will affect—as it does in travel—expenses,
time invested, what methods specifically reach your destination goals,
and what you’ll find when you get there. The decisions also affect how
much luggage you can haul with you, but that’s for another time.
Keep navigational tools updated.
An outdated GPS system may not know that highway names have
changed. It may be unaware of recent detours. It won’t help you find
refueling stations or newly developed points of interest. And it may
try to steer you toward Burlington, Maryland when you were headed to
Burlington, Wisconsin. (Ask me how I know.)
The most up-to-date navigational tools, used wisely,
provide a wealth of information and safety tips for the novelist
traveler. ACFW endeavors to keep its members apprised of information
that will help them on their journeys. When we grow still enough,
pulling over to the side of the road so we can hear better, we’ll sense
God’s whisper-voice saying, “Recalculating.”
Prepare for long waits.
If check-in time at the beach cottage is three o’clock, and
the beach is—according to Google—six hours away, the wise traveler
knows better than to leave home at noon. Because who wants to miss a
minute of beach time? The wise traveler knows better than to leave at
nine in the morning? Technically, six hours should be enough time to
get there. But that’s not allowing for anything unexpected—long trains,
extra gas station stops, an important conversation with a local,
getting lost, a flat tire, engine trouble…
Novelists who aren’t prepared for extended periods of
waiting are prone to frustration. Waiting is part of the journey. When
we mentally allow for it, we’re better prepared to endure it.
Especially if we bring a stack of books to read while we wait!
A worship song that was a favorite at past ACFW conferences
said, “I will serve You while I’m waiting/ I will love You while I’m
waiting” (John Waller). More than good advice, it’s a wise life plan.
Enjoy the scenery.
“Honey! There’s a waterfall. Can we stop?”
“Is it on our agenda? Then, no.”
That kind of response makes for tension in the vehicle and a soul-ache from missing out on what makes a road trip memorable.
Writers who enjoy the scenery along the way—celebrating
small successes, building relationships with other writers and with
industry professionals, marking progress rather than the distance from
the goal—find the writing experience enriching no matter how far they
get that day, or in their entire journey. Don’t forget to enjoy the
scenery. Don’t resent the time it takes for a writer to stare out the
window at the way a leaf turns in the breeze. It’s part of the trip.
Take note of historical markers.
Some of the most fascinating, sobering, or heartening
information on any journey is discovered on historical markers that
line the way. “George Washington slept here.” “This is the location of
the first shot fired during the Civil War.” “You’re standing on land
that was a river prior to the eruption of Mount St. Helens.”
Paying attention to the stories of novelists who have taken
the trip ahead of us, studying the history of publishing, and listening
to the advice of seasoned travelers can’t help but add to the
Watch for ways to bless people along the way.
You’re biking cross-country with your novel, logging even
more miles than you thought each day. You glance beside you and see a
fellow traveler whose spirit is listing, who obviously needs a drink of
encouragement water, and whose front tire has a worn spot. Do you take
a little time to help? Or do you stick to your predetermined word/mile
count for the day?
Which answer will make the trip worth taking?
Take advantage of rest stops.
Novelist Ernest Hemingway wrote these familiar words: ““In order to write about life, first you must live it.”
Potholes in novelists’ roads can shake the vehicle’s
undercarriage. One pothole is devoting so much time to writing about
life that they neglect to live it, or investing so much effort in
creating character development that their personal character wanes from
inattention, or working so hard to build meaningful themes into their
stories that they ignore the themes playing out in their families every
God notes in His Word that He wants His children to get
their proper rest (Psalm 127:2 NLB). When a novelist listens more
intently to the bleating alarm of a deadline than to the divinely
created body rhythms that say it’s time to pull off and stretch, walk,
breathe, nap, the novelist is likely to burn out before the journey’s
Document the journey.
Don’t just write stories. Write about the journey. Share
word pictures and images that will remind you how far you’ve come and
what you’ve experienced along the way. They’ll remind you why you’re on
this journey, and encourage others on theirs.
ACFW is a trusted travel guide for Christian novelists.
It’s the go-to resource for crafting great story journeys, planning
your trip, helping you pack an emergency kit, and coming to the rescue
when you have a flat. It is the “sag team” offering you a cup of cold
water in Jesus’ name and team of watchers cheering as you cross the
finish line. For more information, check out http://www.acfw.com