my case, this column should probably be called “Author by Twilight.”
Let me explain.
My first novel, The
Unfinished Gift (Revell), has been on the shelves of
bookstores and available online for a month. For any author, just
getting published is a dream come true. To have your first book picked
up by a major publisher, another dream. To have it published as a
hardback . . . well, I got three dreams for the price of one. My second
book, The Homecoming (also by Revell), is due out
Pinch me; I’m still dreaming.
But when I awake, I’m very
grateful I have a “real” job—one that pays the bills and provides for
I’m still new in the publishing
world (as I said, barely a month old), and perhaps my books will take
off and the money will also exceed my dreams. But I’ve read that the
overwhelming majority of published authors provide a supportive income,
second income, or hold down a full-time job doing something other than
I am a full-time pastor. I’ve
been one the last twenty-four years. Maybe a lot of fiction authors are
also pastors. I haven’t met any yet. One thing that could account for
this is that being a pastor is more like a vocation than a regular job,
one that doesn’t come with regular hours.
I actually tried to indulge my
love of fiction writing back in the late ’90s, but I had to abandon it
because I couldn’t find a way to make it work. One of the great
challenges pastors have is meshing together the demands of family and
ministry. Failing to get this right has forced many a pastor to throw
in the towel. Toss into the fray the challenge of writing novels and,
as my friends from New York would say . . . fuggetaboutit.
So what’s different now? After
two decades of pastoring, have I finally found a way through the
scheduling maze? Partly. But I suspect the real solution is that my
children are grown now and don’t need me like they used to. When I come
home, my wife doesn’t need me to rescue her from a very long day of
caring for small children.
years ago, my wife, Cindi, began nudging me to start writing again. She
was one of my biggest fans and believed I should be writing. I said,
“Cindi, when am I gonna find time to do this?”
She had already thought it
through. “How about while I’m fixing dinner, and then after, when I’m
cleaning up? You could write then.”
It’s not the ideal setting, to
be sure, but I thought it might just work. I had no idea how much I
could accomplish in that time span, but as it turns out, it was enough
to finish two books and see them through to market (I’m almost finished
with a third).
that’s when I write, at
twilight, usually as the sun begins to descend (or in the fall when we
set the clocks back, in the dark). On Mondays, my day off, I get to
write an extra two to three hours, sometimes more.
say “writing,” but I spend my
available time rotating through several related things. First, there’s
the writing itself (which I enjoy the most). Because I write mostly
historical fiction, I spend lots of time reading nonfiction historical
books (which I also love).
not one of those who writes
from start to finish, then comes back for several big rewrites. Each
time I sit down to write, I reread my last chapter and edit it before
writing the next chapter. The time gap helps me see what I’ve just
written more like a reader would see it. This approach also helps me
reenter the world of my story. After writing, I read everything to
Cindi. More than anyone else, she helps me “keep it real.”
The final way I spend my
“writing” time is the business side. It’s the part I least understand
and feel the most inadequate. But I still enjoy it, because I’m so
grateful to God to have a business side to my
writing. I mean, c’mon, I’m receiving and sending e-mails from my
agent, my editor, my marketing and publicity friends at Revell, reading
and resubmitting changes, approving artwork, discussing things about my
current novel. To me, these are delightful distractions.
Maybe someday the Lord will
allow me to increase my writing time beyond the twilight hours. I still
have imaginations of one day sitting with my laptop on a shady porch;
at a cabin beside a beautiful lake; or on the balcony of an oceanfront
cottage, the gulls calling, the waves lapping gently on the shore. In
those daydreams, I’m actually writing in the morning or in the
afternoon (just after my nap).
I have no idea if I’ll ever get
to do that. But that’s the wonderful thing about writing fiction . . .
I can go there in my mind and almost see it, hear it, feel it. Then if
I want, I can write it all down.
True, it’s not the same as being
there. But right now, I’m grateful to God for something close.