My hands shook. Paper rustled. I tried not to look at my fellow students as they pulled out their copies of my second chapter. My face heated.
Page 31. Oh, God...
After ten days of stories telling me that all that human life amounted to was sex, Vodka, and death, I brought page 31.
On page 31 my character said the opposite. Not preachy, not obvious, not a sledgehammer to death and darkness.
Only a plea from the heart.
“...the only reason I have gone this far in the first place is because I believe my God--” he stopped, looking away from me. To my astonishment, he sank to his knees, hiding his face. “Father God, help me.”
That lurked on page 31.
And they, writers of revelries, of drunkenness, of abortion, of homosexuality...they had read it.
Forest of Lies stood on its own in the real world. And I, its quivering and unconfident author, stood behind it.
~*~November 21st, 2004
I just thought of something [to say]!...I am a writer! I love writing. I am writing a story called Runaway Castle...
For years, mentions like this peppered my sporadic diary entries. I wrote, rewrote, and never finished Runaway Castle. In 2007, my mother found a novel writing class. Shivering in the drafty room with only six other students, I learned the principles of good story telling: of structure, characterization, and meaning. I finished my book. I cried. I signed up for a second class, planning to venture into the shadow-wrapped mysteries of a completely new novel. My imagination had other ideas.
Since 2006, I had lived and breathed the Robin Hood legend. I relished the words “aye” and “knave,” spent worn dollars to secure my favorite books, pounced on new ones, and worked on writing my own. In 2008, my book blossomed and ripened, overtaking my thoughts and my intentions. The day before 2009 dawned, I wrote to my writing mentor, Mr.S., and explained my dilemma; I had been submitting work for another novel, but now I wanted to do Robin Hood. At the end of my question I said: “[this story] feels like one I MUST tell. One that will become truly mine.”
He gave me the go-ahead.
Forest of Lies poured through my fingers over the next three months, a journey in darkness and light. The leaves of Sherwood rustled around me wherever I went; Robin and Marian seemed to stand beside me; I could hear Much’s jokes and feel his fear. I loved them. I lived with them. I ached for them.
In late January of 2009, I wrote the climax of my novel. It took me three hours to get out less than 2,000 words. This wasn’t normal for me. I was in tears and an emotional wreck at the end of it. The experience seemed to have drained my heart. It was all on paper, hurt and fear, darkness and light, truth and lies. I shook. I laughed. I sobbed.
This was true writing. It was so beautiful, so painful: a brilliant white light. It was my writing lifeblood poured, somehow, onto a dozen printed pages. I’m a writer. I love this. I don’t want anything else. It hurts awfully, but it’s so marvelous! That day, Forest of Lies became my soul as the written word. But there was more to come.
Up to this point, I had typical young author goals: brilliant books, publishing, checks for thousands. I loved writing just for writing’s sake, but when I thought in terms of goals I thought of glossy hardbacks and shimmering movie posters; when I fantasized, it was about fans running up to me, books in hand. I always said that I wrote for the glory of God, on writing forums, in emails. I meant it, in my head. It also was just a way of sounding noble and like I had a high calling. “Soli Deo Gloria!” I proclaimed: but I proclaimed without true meaning.
My nearest guess for my true change is April of 2009. I sat on my bed, reading Forest of Lies before I began revision. Again, the climax brought tears; I stopped reading. I slid off my bed and kneeled on the peach-colored carpet. God, this isn’t me. I couldn’t write something this beautiful. Who am I fooling? This isn’t my story; it’s yours. It has always been your story; your story through my fingers. I held the manuscript in my hand, the product of years of work even before Robin Hood entered my thoughts. I had been guided, shown along a path, led by someone that I wasn’t even acknowledging.
God, I give this to you. I say I belong to you, but I don’t. My heart I kept to myself. I now am as close to holding my heart in my hand as I ever will be. Take Forest of Lies. It’s always been yours; now I give it to you. Show me what to do, Lord. I write for you.
I meant those words. I worked hard to live by them. I didn’t know what it might cost me; I didn’t know that when you give God your soul, you have to learn to trust Him. I didn’t trust Him yet.
~*~I entered my third draft of Forest of Lies in the One Year Adventure Novel contest. I told myself I didn’t care if I won; the experience of writing had been enough. Other people, however, constantly told me that I would win. I rebuffed this, trying to remember that there were other young authors, just as good as I was, even better.
On a stormy October night, I received the world’s verdict.
One of the seven finalists.
Not first. Not second. Not third. Just a finalist. My friend, Lydia, began talking to me over chat.
me: Do you think I can write something else good?
Lydia: OF COURSE YOU CAN!!!!!
I CANNOT WAIT TO SEE UNBROKEN AND STAINED AND OPERATION ROBYN AND ROSAMONDE!!!
THEY WILL BE AMAZING!
MARK MY WORDS!
me: but FoL...
Lydia: What about it? You poured you heart into it, and everyone could tell!
It was fantastic!
your characters are amazingly developed
your writing is fantastic
me: it wasn't enough!
It wasn’t enough. My friend talked sense to me that night, but the words echoed in my mind for months, even after I thought I was over the whole thing. It came back in waves, crushing my imagination, drowning my will to write.
If that was the best I had, why should I keep writing? I didn’t have passion for anything else. Passion made it great. But not great enough.
I retreated from the battle, afraid to keep fighting. I’d been wounded, and I couldn’t trust God. I’d always been a writer. Then I had become a Writer for God. Now I was a writer in the shadows, hiding my light under the bushel, scribbling a few words in the dust. I spent too much time on the internet, doing writing that was uncommitted, and safe. The world needed me, but I was afraid of the world.
So I hid.
~*~I couldn’t hide at the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio. I had tested Forest of Lies in the welcoming community of Christian writers with the OYAN contest. Now I sat in a boat surrounded by roiling darkness and choppy waters; I had entered the real forest of lies. I saw firsthand why the world needed my small light.
My novel was the same as it had been those few months ago.
I was different. I was scared and uncertain. Forest of Lies had failed in the contest, its pilot voyage; how would it survive the real thing?
I submitted my writing anyway. Chapter 1 had been received well.
Chapter 2 had page 31.
I don’t remember much of what they said, but I do remember one student saying:
“I liked the part where he’s getting mad, and then he starts, like, praying...”
The others began flipping, looking for it. She shuffled her copy.
“It’s on page 31--I just really liked it. Strong emotion.”
My classmates nodded. I took a deep breath. After class, several people expressed interest in reading more.
Forest of Lies, which I thought had failed the trial, now stood strong in the real world. It was enough, because God was enough. My book wasn’t strong enough, good enough, on its own, just like I am not strong enough or good enough on my own. But I have the ultimate Author, and he guides my path.
I have begun to build my next boat of light. It is called Etched in Black.
I am no longer just a writer. I am a writer with purpose, a writer for my Father.
I write for His lost children. Not for their approval, but for His. Because He loves them as much as He loves me.
And He loves me so much.
This is an essay I wrote for my AP English Language course. I think it is appropriate. Soli Deo Gloria!