‘Should’ might as well be a four letter word when it comes to writing. I should write everyday. I should release a book so many times a year. My manuscript should be a certain length. My book should sell this many copies. Should. Should. Should.
So often I have allowed these ‘shoulds’ to dictate the way I write. But this week, the Lord pulled me up on it.
I had in my mind how long a book should be. How long readers expected it to be if I dared to call it a full-fledged novel. However, what had inconveniently slipped to the back of my mind was the fact that it is often the shorter projects I have found the most joy in. The Battle for Harenburg Hill, for instance, is to this day one of my favourite writes and is technically a novella. Azure Blaze, my most recent release, is also under fifty-thousand words.
However, for some reason, when I began my historical romance, I instantly placed the expectation on it that it should be a longer work. Historical was serious and I needed to take it seriously. No fleeting adventures for me, this had to be epic in every sense of the word.
Then I started writing and I found the story and the historical aspects melding together while I managed to keep a fast pace. I was writing the way I enjoyed, only, suddenly, I got to the point where I was nearing the end of my first draft and I still hadn’t reached the 50k mark.
I tried to invent more conflict in my imagination and work out ways to extend the story, but it felt like it would be dragging it out. And for what? To meet some imaginary expectation I had placed on myself?
I felt called to write this story but in this call, the Lord certainly didn’t place a word count expectation on me. Instead, He graciously met me each morning at my worship desk as I attempted to wake up at 5am to take communion, pray, and then write as worship. His mercies are new every morning and even when I felt stuck, I would pray, and over the course of the day He would miraculously provide inspiration for the next scene. I have learned that pantser-ing with God isn’t really being a true pantser, because the Ultimate Author does know how the story is going to end. Thankfully.
(Quick definition of ‘Pantser’ curtesy of Writers Digest: A pantser is a term most commonly applied to fiction writers, especially novelists, who write their stories “by the seat of their pants.” The opposite would be a plotter, or someone who uses outlines to help plot out their novels. Many writers fall into one camp or the other, though it’s not uncommon for writers to try both methods from book to book.)
In my Jesus time this week, He has been revealing my need to get rid of the shoulds and focus on the musts instead.
- I must rely on Him to write.
- I must not listen to the world’s expectations
- I must seek to write for His glory alone
So, I’m excited to announce that I finished the first draft of a story this week! Its final word count is still unknown, who knows where the Lord may lead the editing process, but this story was an absolute joy to write in His presence – as it should be.
P.S. Look out for more details on the project in my newsletter next week