Since deciding to pursue publication for my manuscripts, I’ve been told the following:
- Write what you know.
- Write what’s on your heart.
- Write the story that scares you.
I attended the ACFW Conference in September. Two editors requested my contemporary romance proposal while a third editor strongly encouraged me to write another Amish book. Despite the excitement, I was conflicted. I feel called to write, but does God want me to write what I know (the Amish genre, Amish authors, and their readers), or does He want me to write what’s on my heart (helping our veterans heal and find freedom, which is the theme of my contemporary romance series)?
On the final day of the conference, I woke up with a vivid scene playing in my mind that involved the young daughter of a Marine. As I drove home from Nashville, I was flooded with additional scenes for a new book, complete with strong backstories for my hero and heroine – the little girl who is now an Air Force veteran. A dandelion served a symbolic role in the story, and on several occasions since September, God has made His message about the dandelion crystal clear.
Now that I’ve had time to process the experience, I can see how God’s hands have been at work in my life, leading me to write this contemporary romance series. It satisfies all three of the criteria listed above. I don’t have to choose.
Write what you know.
About ten years ago, I volunteered with Horse Power, a City Gospel Mission equine outreach program for at-risk, disadvantaged youth. Kids learned to respect and communicate with the horses as they developed meaningful relationships.
It’s been exciting to learn about the existence and success of various programs throughout the country that allow veterans working with horses to find freedom, but I need to save those stories for another post.
Write what’s on your heart.
Mental health issues don’t discriminate, and whether we’re aware of it or not, we all know someone who’s suffering. This photo is on the cover of Dr. Heidi Squier Kraft’s book Rule Number Two: Lessons I Learned in a Combat Hospital, “a powerful firsthand account of providing comfort amidst the chaos of war, and of what it takes to endure.” I’ve been reading military nonfiction to gain an understanding of the struggles our servicemen and women face on the field and once they return home. There are 22 veteran suicides a day, and almost 80% of soldiers with mental disorders are not receiving any treatment (2016 study). As a writer of inspirational fiction, my hope is for readers to find freedom through faith in Jesus.
Write what scares you.
During a recent trip to a cabin in Brown County, Indiana, my husband and I stumbled upon the Camp Atterbury Outdoor Veterans Memorial. Through nonfiction accounts and memoirs, writers have transported me from the frontlines of battle to the hospitals on our home soil. Walking past tanks, howitzers, and helicopters surrounding that memorial, some dating back to WW2, intimidated me. War scares me. Writing about a lifestyle that is unfamiliar to me scare me. I have great admiration and respect for those who have served in the U.S. military, sacrificing for our freedom. Though my stories provide a glimpse of life after the service, I pray my words and situations are authentic as my fictitious characters come alive on the page.
A great friend and mentor of mine recently gave me a great piece of advice: Write when the characters are talking to you because that doesn’t always happen. Another scene has come to mind, and so I’d better get to work!