Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Walk, a Brainstorm, and a Discovery


I mentioned in passing that I'm currently redrafting The Prophet's Key (sequel to The Prophet's Quest). What I didn't say is that this novel is being a petulant little child.

I'm over twenty thousand words in, and something doesn't feel right. That's one of the worst feelings as a writer--that uneasy sense that something is wrong. It's when your spidey sense, which grows more and more accurate the more you write, tells you that something isn't working, and then you need to figure out what that something is so you can fix it ASAP.

This dull alarm is even worse when it comes for a story that's very near and dear to your heart. Journeys of the Chosen is a big project for me. It's important. I've invested a lot into it. So I want to be 'in the zone,' as it were. I want to be head over heels in love with this book I'm writing. That's what drafting is for! (And then I'll fall out of love during editing, only to fall back in again. It's how the cycle goes.)

So on Sunday, after lazing around and devouring half a novel (I can't remember the last time I read so much in one sitting--it was glorious, folks), I decided to take a walk to stir up my creative juices so I could make use of some writing time. And, let's be honest, I was falling asleep on the couch, so some physical exercise was a good idea.

Walking is a great time to contemplate things, specifically writing things. Marching along, hands stuffed in my sweater pockets and hair tossing in a brisk wind, I stewed. What's the problem? I asked myself. Why haven't I clicked with TPK yet? I ordered my wandering thoughts into a list.

  • Is it drafting doldrums? Drafting can be massively fun--in fact, it often is for me--but I know I usually go through bouts of wishing everything was already on paper so I could just fix and fiddle. So am I struggling to manufacture new words?
  • Is it prolonged editoritis? When I transition between editing obsessively (*cough* The Brightest Thread *cough*) and creating something new, it usually takes a bit for my left brain to settle down and shut up enough for my right brain to freely and messily explore things. But if I'm 20k in, I shouldn't still be feeling like this.
  • Is it because chunks of my plot are shaky and not yet researched? There's some stuff I haven't mapped out yet, and some of it is potentially tricky. Writing oneself into a plot wormhole is never a pleasant feeling.
  • Or . . . is it something else entirely? Maybe I haven't yet connected to the heart of the story. Maybe I haven't hit upon the reason I'm rooting for these characters and this book. Am I in love with the book yet? And if not . . . why?

In Ted Dekker's writing course that I'm slowly going through, The Creative Way, he teaches that in order to write powerful, transformational fiction, you need to take that journey of transformation yourself, along with your characters.

So I asked myself, "What's my journey with this story? Where do my struggles and my characters' struggles intersect?"

I know that once I figure that out, I'll truly, deeply care about TPK.

As I walked, I turned that over in my mind. And I came up with some good stuff that resonates with me. One intersection of author/character struggles I thought about was that of homesickness. The paradoxical kind you can get even when you're under your own roof. The longing for times past--good times, safe times--coupled with the bittersweet resignation towards an uncertain future. I've experienced that, and it's something my characters are going through in an even worse way. So in their journey through that homesickness, I need to take my own journey. Work through my own struggles.

I thought, "Let's delve into that, Tracey. Make it poignant and palpable on the page. Grip the readers with that aching, that yearning. Make Aileen and Josiah hurt in their individual ways, so much that I feel the pain and the readers feel the pain."



One criticism book 1 received from my editor was that I raised good challenges, only to let them fall away without much effort. I see myself doing the same thing now with book 2. Am I afraid of the pain?

I so badly want my protagonists to succeed because I so badly want to succeed in life. So is this too-easy conflict resolution my way of trying to make my own problems fall away with little effort? I'm scared of those dark moments when I have nothing but blind trust to lean on, and so I avoid putting my characters into those moments. Or rather, I put them there, but I don't let them stay for long.

It comes down to trust. I have trouble trusting that God will come through in my valleys. But I need to live bravely. And like my dear friend Christine recently said, we need to write bravely too.

This, then, is my journey. A journey of trust, of faith in the blackest darkness and of clinging to hope when all other handholds are washed away.

I must make my characters suffer. Chip away at their resolve bit by bit until they fall into a deep valley from which they see no way out.




Make their lives a living hell, so to speak (progressively worse in each book as I raise the stakes and whatnot), in order to discover alongside them how to trust the King and believe He's still there and still in the business of rescuing lost hearts. This is my journey just as much as it is theirs. When my own heart recognizes the 'valley of the shadow of death' for just that--shadows--and trusts in the light, that transformation will be apparent in the story too. What I bleed onto the page will transform the characters. In turn, it will transform the readers.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a book to write.


  1. I am so glad you've figured out how to go about your novel! And I wanted to say THANK YOU FOR THIS POST!! I've been feeling the same about the second draft of my WIP, lately, and this post has helped tremendously! Thank you!! <3

    1. You've no idea how ridiculously happy it makes me to hear that this is helpful! I hadn't expressly written it as writing advice, but I see now that just sharing each other's writing journeys/processes can sometimes be the best kind of advice. Happy writing, Liv! <3

  2. TRACEY DYCK YOU'VE DONE IT AGAIN. Thank you for this beautiful post that SO encouraged me :D. I've been editing my (extremely stubborn) novella that I haven't touched since December, and this post really lifted my spirits! I LOVED IT SO MUCH. Thank you, Tracey!

    I'm SO glad you were able to figure out what was bothering you about your novel. Not knowing what is wrong with your WIP is just TERRIBLE, I can't stand when that happens! But at least you got it worked out :).

    Also, I have made a discovery. The Prophet's Key will certainly end up being one of my five-star books when it gets published and I get to read it! Can't wait until that day comes! Here's to you and your endeavor with Journeys Of The Chosen! *sends you chocolate*

    1. Is that the novella you entered in Five Magic Spindles? ;) I'm so glad this was encouraging and helpful! GO CONQUER THAT STORY.

      I'm relieved too. It's not all worked out yet, but at least I know what one of the big problems is. Diagnosing the issue is a big step towards fixing it. :)

      Oh gosh. *blushes* I can hardly wait for you to read The Prophet's Quest and The Prophet's Key too! Squee! (<--look how undignified this author is. she says squee. >.<) The chocolate is much appreciated, thank you. <333

    2. Yeah, it is. I have a love/hate relationship with my stories when I'm editing them :D. BUT I INTEND TO CONQUER IT IF IT'S THE LAST THING I DO. XD

      I can't wait until I'm able to read it! IT IS GOING TO BE SO GOOD!!!

    3. Awesome! And lol, don't we all? I, for one, love the process of seeing the story improve, but sometimes hate the many, many flaws I see.


  3. There is something about a walk that gets the creative juices flowing; and there is something about pain that makes a story stronger.
    Great to hear an update on your writing!

    1. So true! Almost every time I go for a walk with writing on my mind, something positive happens. And what's a story without pain and conflict?

      I will follow your 'there is something' line with: There is something about Blue's comments that make them feel as if they should be official quotes. :)

    2. That's why one of my favourite things to do is putter outside. I'm not wandering aimlessly, I'm thinking! And the higher the stakes, the better the story!

      Why thank you! Feel free to quote me, and when people ask you where that came from you can say 'out of the Blue'. (I'm now wishing that I had given my blog that name. Missed opportunity!)

    3. Exactly! Walks, showers, and other mindless activities are perfect for thinking.

      I shall do that, if I remember the quote. ;) Out of the blue! That's great! In the book I just finished, The Raven Boys, the main character's name is Blue...and she did not appreciate when someone used that phrase. XD (But I love your blog's name! Speaking of which, I need to go make my presence known there.)

  4. I'm glad you had a revelation about it! I hope the writing goes good, I always have a hard time pinpointing what I'm doing wrong well writing.

    1. Thank you, Skye. <3 It can be so tough to figure out the problem. Sometimes you need another pair of eyes (or ears), and sometimes you just have to hammer away at it until the story breaks open its secrets.

  5. That is absolutely the word feeling for a writer, when you know something is wrong, but can't figure out what it is. Especially, as you said, when it's a story you're very close to.

    Walks are amazing, magical things. Seriously. I plotted an entire story one time from a single walk. They're amazing.

    I am so happy to hear you were able to break past this block! I know exactly where you're coming from. It's really hard to cause your characters pain and conflict when you so badly want them to win. I guess we have to remember that through pain comes beauty. It really makes one think about God and the decisions He has to make for us, doesn't it?

    I have no doubt whatsoever that your story will reflect that beautiful message. Of pain. Of trust. Of God's grace. Keep writing! It's going to be amazing!

    (Also, I got a little thrill when I saw my name and link to my post there. ^_^)

    1. *worst feeling
      (I don't know where "word feeling" came from. >.>)

    2. It is, isn't it? So disconcerting. Writing is rather un-fun until you figure out why the alarm bells are ringing.

      PROOF RIGHT THERE. (Now I'm curious. Which story was that?) Walks clear my mind and help me gain some distance, figuratively and literally. I really should take them more often. When I reach the point of writing fulltime, I'm seriously going to schedule in walks every day. *nods*

      It is hard, and sometimes I don't realize it. I mean, I often talk about how fun it is to make my characters suffer... so why would I have the opposite problem of going too easy on them? XD
      I *often* view life/God/myself through the lens of story. It makes things fall into place for me. When I remember that God is working all things together for my good, just as an author works their character's struggles and pain for their good, it's such a comfort.

      Thank you ever so much! You're such an encouragement, Christine! <3

      (It was a beautiful post, and it definitely threaded through my ponderings during that walk.)

      (My brain corrected it to worst without even realizing. But I suppose any feelings associated with writing COULD be word feelings? XD)

    3. It's a really old story I started back when I was 16 called Orthadia. Kind of my first big epic fantasy, actually. It's a mess, but I'd love to one day go back and rewrite that thing. It'd probably be completely different, but still. That story is special to me.

      I love this idea of scheduled walks! I think that's a fantastic thing for an author. I may have to join you!

      Haha! Too true. I cackle about destroying my charries and then...I don't *want* too. The paradox of a writer, am I right?

      I agree! Being a writer gives us such an interesting view of God, and really puts things into perspective. It is comforting knowing all the struggles we go through will be for our good in the end.

      Word feelings! HA. You're right. That basically explains the writer's life right there. XD

    4. That's so neat! Your first big epic fantasy--wow. That's a special thing, however messy it is.

      You're on! ^_^

      Oh goodness, EVERYTHING about a writer is paradoxical.

      Amen, sister. <3

      This needs to catch on, I think. I can just see the online writing community tossing around the term "word feelings" or #wordfeels or something. XD

    5. #wordfeels
      I am in love with that!

  6. This is a neat revelation. I had a similar one years ago. Sometimes we have to go where it's dark to find the light.


    1. So very true! It's often in the dark places that the light shines brighter, and therefore means more. :)

  7. Walks are so inspiring, aren't they? ^_^

    1. Very much so! The mindless movement is often just the ticket for getting my thoughts on track. ^_^

    2. I forgot to mention, welcome to Adventure Awaits! It's one big campfire of life-sharing and tale-telling around here. :)

  8. I LOVE THIS! I just love it. Going for walks and talking through book problems with oneself IS THE BEST. I'll never forget a day last winter when I'd been inside all day working on a horrible History extended essay. It was dark and snowy outside and my book was stressing me out, and I'd been at the computer far too long, and impulsively I ran downstairs, pulled my winter gear on, and went out in the pitch darkness talking furiously to myself as I spedwalked up and down our drive for a long time! I can't remember if I resolved the issue that night but it was definitely a step.

    "The longing for times past--good times, safe times--coupled with the bittersweet resignation towards an uncertain future." That's a beautiful line. (Could you give it to Aileen?) There's a Welsh word I love, hiareth, which means "a longing for a home you've never known". Which probably fits very well for them when they find themselves dragons in a parallel universe.

    So, you have an editor, you say? TELL ME MORE. ~makes grabby editor hands~

    Lovely post!

    1. THANK YOU! <3 I don't know if it's the exercise, the change of scene, or the fresh air (or all of the above), but a walk is a great way to work out writing problems.
      That's an awesome memory! (You must have a long driveway... If I walked up and down mine, it would begin to feel monotonous very quickly. XD) Walking in the snowy dark sounds lovely.

      D'aww, thanks. ^_^ (Great idea! I should do that.) Hiareth--just the definition evokes that emotion. Love it. I know I read about some foreign word like that several months ago on a blog somewhere, but I can't remember if it was hiareth or something else... But you're right, that word fits them completely.

      Okay, here's the short version of a long story: Right around the time I was in desperate need of an editor for The Prophet's Quest (3 or 4 years ago), I found out that the wife of an author I really respect (she's his editor) was offering her services publicly. I ended up hiring her, and both she and her husband were IMMENSELY helpful. TPQ completely transformed (twice!) because of their advice. Her time on this project ended a while ago, but she's the reason TPQ is where it is. The whole thing was a huge answer to prayer! But because she's no longer offering her editing services, I'm unable to refer you, sadly.

    2. So what's the positchz with TPQ now? Are you going to publish it???!!

    3. That's what I'm hoping to do! I'm slooooowly researching agents and whatnot, because I'd like to begin querying soon. (!!!)

    4. That's so exciting! Keep us updated!!!

      PS Tracey I'm not sure what part of Canada you live in but I am praying for Alberta and your whole country x

    5. I sure will!!!

      P.S. Thank you so much. Those prayers are appreciated. xx (I'm in Manitoba, parts of which are experiencing fires as well, though not on the scale of Fort McMurray.)