Hey guys! I hope everyone had a very, very merry Christmas! It’s a new week, so I thought I’d get a new post out. Besides, since I’m on break this week I have more time for blogging than I usually would. I hope you guys like the extra posts! XD
So today I’m doing Know the Novel again. This time it’s Within the WIP. This is hosted by the awesome Christine Smith, so go check out her blog if you haven’t already! If you’re interested in seeing her Within the WIP post, you can find it HERE. And if you missed my previous Know the Novel post, you can find that HERE.
Yes, yes, yes, I am doing this backwards! This is part two, while the one I did previously was part three. Christine does monthly linkups, one for October, one for November, and one for December. I had the honor of joining the December one! These part two questions were for November, but I hadn’t yet started my blog back then. However, in her posts Christine says that her questions are free for the taking anytime! So, LOL, I thought it would be fun to answer the questions for Within the WIP today!
The main reason I decided to do this is because, to be honest, after finishing the first draft of The Apostle’s Sister I have been VERY discouraged. I read the whole thing through, and sometimes I wanted to cry. Not at the emotion, though – at the mistakes I saw in almost every sentence! I have plunged into the second draft and just finished edits on Chapter One, but I’m still feeling kind of shaky. If anyone relates, there can be times when you really need to renew your excitement for your WIP. That’s me right now. I needed to write another post all about it, because when I did It Is Written, I walked away soooo pumped to keep on writing this novel! And the main reason I walked away so pumped was because of all your encouraging comments! Honestly, you guys have been so incredibly kind and supportive of this novel, and that is a huge blessing for me. I never thought there would be people who would actually care to read my book. I seriously can’t thank you enough for all your kind words. I truly treasure each and every comment, and remembering them is what keeps me going when I’m tempted to just give up on the whole thing. So if y’all can put up with a little more of my craziness, I really needed to write another post where I just spill all the details on The Apostle’s Sister and renew my excitement for and commitment to it.
Wow, that was one huge ramble! So sorry about that. Let’s just start, shall we? A huge thank you to Christine for putting these questions out there!
1. How’s the writing going overall?
Let me just say the second draft is WAY WAY tougher than the first. Anyone with me here? (If you have any second draft experiences you’d like to share, I’d love to hear them. I’m kind of stressed out, honestly, LOL.) I just finished writing the second draft of Chapter One, and now it’s going through some beta reading. (Shoutout to my amazing writer friends Maggie and Katherine from Teen Writers’ Nook for being willing to do this! I really, REALLY appreciate it, like a trillion times over. And if you’re not following their blog, you totally should be.)
Anyway, I was feeling anxious when I went into Chapter One. There were so many things to fix, and I was pretty overwhelmed. But I just took it one word at a time and tried to just focus on that. I told myself not to think about this being a 120K novel – to think about it being one word, and then one sentence, and one paragraph, and one page, and so on until I had gone over one whole chapter. Eventually, as I got back into the swing of my Biblical storyworld, I began (unexpectedly) enjoying it just as I enjoyed the first draft when I finally forced myself to just WRITE IT. I remembered why I am so passionate about this novel, and determined I wouldn’t give up. It took me almost a whole week, but I did get through Chapter One.
And I found the most amazing thing when I finished editing. I think I mentioned before that I’m a bit concerned about my word count. I thought it might be a little too long, especially since I want teenagers to be my main target audience, and some of them don’t read very often or have short attention spans. (Several of my friends are like this, and it’s totally okay, but I decided I should keep that in mind.) Anyway, I ended up cutting almost 700 unnecessary words from Chapter One, while also adding a certain flashback to Temira’s childhood memories that wasn’t there before, and definitely enhanced and improved the story once it was added. So I cut down on word count (700 words is a BIG improvement, I think) while being able to add a few very important paragraphs. So I’m actually proud of that! It definitely gave me a little encouragement.
2. What’s been the most fun aspect about writing this novel so far?
To this one, I’m always going to have to say this: Realizing that Bible figures were REAL PEOPLE WITH REAL FEELINGS JUST LIKE ME!! Sometimes I struggle to remember that they were living, breathing people, and NOT statues. Every minute I spend with this novel, I learn better and better that they were just like me. They had their moments when they thought they couldn’t go on. They sobbed. They made mistakes, they fought, they made up, they lost courage. They got tired and mad and sad and gleeful. They experienced every emotion we experience.
So yes, it is just SO much fun to discover that they were real people. I believe God means for us to realize that, because he wants our experience reading his word to be as rewarding as possible, and recognizing that his saints were just like us makes the Bible so, SO much more rewarding to read. I already loved and admired St. Paul, but I love and admire him even more now that I realize he was as much of an emotional human being as I am. It’s so much fun to find you can relate to your favorite saints!
3. What do you think of your characters at this point? Who’s your favorite to write about?
Okay, so as I said in my previous post, my favorite character is obviously Paul. My favorite character will always be Paul. My post from a week ago, Five Reasons to Love St. Paul, explains my feelings pretty well. And my second favorite is Temira, because her love for Paul is just beautiful to write about. In my It Is Written post, I said I’d be a little more creative and chose St. Luke as my third favorite. I love Luke because he’s that one faithful friend who never leaves, and I think it’s true that the best friends are the ones that stay and never go. Luke is there for all the toughest moments, and he is always so supportive.
Honestly though, my favorite character is Paul, and that will never change. But I’m going to have to say that my favorite to write about are both Paul and Temira. I just love, love, LOVE their sibling dynamic, and the bond between a brother and sister is a truly special thing. I love how sometimes they scold each other; sometimes they laugh with each other; sometimes they think on painful childhood memories that only they can share; and sometimes they don’t have to talk to comfort each other, they’re just comfortably silent. I love their closeness.
Literally while writing that whole paragraph I was smiling so hard. I knew writing this post would be good for me, LOL! But seriously, it reminded me how much I love writing about their relationship.
4. Has your novel surprised you in any way?
Ah, yes. In SO many ways! For the sake of time, though, I shall share just a couple.
First, Temira herself surprised me – A LOT – at times! Sometimes she can be quite impulsive. Sometimes I found myself saying, “Wait a minute – why is she reacting like that? Why is she giving me this major development to work with?” I’m not sure if anyone knows what I’m talking about, but have any of you ever had that weird feeling that your characters are leading you rather than you leading them? I’ve heard some people say, “You’re the author. You can make them do whatever,” you know? But really, you CAN’T. Sometimes I wanted Temira to do something and she was just like NO. LOL! I feel like sometimes our characters show major resistance and willpower! It’s like she was saying to me, “No, I won’t do that. That’s just not me.” She taught me some big lessons about not rushing or slowing down character development. Honestly, character development is probably the biggest writing lesson I’ve learned so far from The Apostle’s Sister.
Second, Paul definitely surprised me, too. I feel like when you read about certain people in the Bible, you get this sort of idea that he was this big strong rock who never got discouraged and never made any mistakes. I realize now that from reading the book of Acts and St. Paul’s letters, I sort of got the idea in my head that he was just this mighty apostle who didn’t need any help from anyone and just went around keeping his churches in order with perfect grace and success.
But as I wrote, I found that although Paul was indeed an apostle with a special mission from God, he needed help from others. He needed someone to confide in when things got rough. He needed comfort and support and tender care. He needed Temira very much, and without her, things would be even more painful for him. He got frustrated with his churches at times, despite how much he loved them. (I’m thinking specifically of the churches of Galatia and Corinth here.) Paul was actually very sensitive and vulnerable, and cruel people hurt him. Some might think words can never hurt you, especially if you’re the apostle Paul, but that’s just not true. Paul did get his feelings hurt – sometimes even crushed. Again, it all comes back to the same thing – Bible figures were people just like us. Paul had incredible faith, but even he struggled. And that’s very encouraging for us, that if he was a person with our same emotions and he did such amazing things for God, we can, too.
5. Have you come across any problem areas?
Yes, yes, yes, a ton. *sigh
A lot of times I came across things in my plot that didn’t work as I imagined they would. Actually, there were a lot of plot points that I will either be altering or completely cutting in this second draft. There are plenty of things I will be changing about the plot – and I’m talking major changes. In fact, one of them is so major that I am seriously considering adding another character to rectify it. It’ll be hard to fix, but a new character is exciting, so I’m hopeful about it!
Anyways, yes. It’s mostly plot that I had the biggest problems with. I have a lot to fix, but there were, happily, a lot more things that did work VERY well. But the plot of the first draft, they say, is rarely the perfect plot. It’s not until many drafts later that all those gaps are gone, all those confusing things make sense, no one is acting inconsistently with the character traits you’ve given them, and everything is basically just right. So I am hopeful. Thank goodness we can fix things in edits!
6. What’s been your biggest victory with writing this novel at this point?
Really, it’s all of you guys who commented on my last Know the Novel post. So many of you said the snippets actually moved you, and I read so many comments encouraging me to get published because my book would actually impact you. Seriously, there was so much encouragement! And I was nervous about sharing the snippets, but everyone was so kind. After reading your comments, I decided I wasn’t giving up on The Apostle’s Sister. I was going to make it the best it could be and then pursue publication, rather than just dreaming about it. And I’m still doing all that. It’s really because of you guys. You’ve persuaded me to keep going. I don’t know how to express how much it really meant to me to find that people valued the words I shared.
After all the encouragement I received, my biggest victory is finishing the first draft. It might be awful and full of mistakes, but I wrote it. And I’m trying to be proud of that, because it really is an accomplishment. I remember the days when I used to start on projects and then toss them within weeks. I’m not doing that this time. I sat down and I made myself write that first draft. I wrote the entire novel. I got the heart of the story down, because I believe the heart WAS somehow captured.
7. If you were transported into your novel and became any one of the characters, which one do you think you’d be? Would you take any different actions than they have?
This is a super fun question! And it’s a super easy one for me, too. If I were transported into my novel (which would be so awesome) I would definitely be Temira. While I was writing her, I discovered that she and I have so many similarities. As I said before, she can be impulsive sometimes. She’s very passionate and loyal, and when she loves someone or something she is FIERCE about it. That’s exactly how I am. If I really care about someone or something, I’m all-out passionate and loyal and fierce. I will always be there. The people I care about had better watch out, because they will never get rid of me no matter how hard they try! (Did that sound a little scary?)
But anyways, I feel like Temira’s character arc is similar to my own “character arc” (yes, people not in novels have those too, because what else could arcs in novels be modeled after?) over the past couple years. At the beginning of the novel, Temira is a troubled young woman with a lack of real compassion, and she is hardened by the tragedies she has been through since she was only a little girl. Though she is a widow and a mother, she also lacks maturity, and is more of a girl than a woman in many ways. In summary, she is not the kindest or most likeable person at the start of the novel, but we commiserate with her when we learn her reasons for the way she acts. She has hardened herself because from childhood she experienced abuse, neglect, and betrayal, and she witnessed stonings and floggings and other horrible things. She struggles to have compassion because no one has ever shown her any – except her brother, who promised her as a little girl that he would never leave her, and then he did just that. What’s worse, he became just like their father, whom they both hated as children. Because her brother hurt her so much, Temira has closed off her heart in order to avoid being hurt again. That’s why, when Paul walks back into her life, at first she shuts him out in the fear that he is not sincere and just wants to hurt her again.
However, at the end of the novel, Temira is a mature, kind, generous, and incredibly compassionate woman. And it’s not because she’s twenty years older than she was at the start. It’s because she knows Christ intimately, in contrast to the start, when she thought he was nothing but a man who claimed to be the Messiah and was crucified for it. Because her brother came home to her and in love shared with her what changed him, she changed, too. Paul brought her to his God, and from then on she was changed. Throughout the novel, she experiences much more tragedy. She is the sister of a man who is stoned and flogged and imprisoned, and so many more horrible things. But instead of hardening her, those things strengthen her trust in her God.
In summary, a relationship with God just changes us. I can relate to Temira because I was once just like her at the beginning of the book – lacking compassion, hardened, and unforgiving. But now I can proudly say I am like her throughout the rest of the novel and at the end – I go through hardship, but it strengthens my relationship with God; and I have compassion for others.
Another big reason I relate to Temira so much is because I am actually a little sister, too. And like her, I love my brother. Of course, I have never seen my brother tortured or anything like what Temira saw done to Paul. But having the personal experience helps me to better understand how I would feel if I did see him endure those things. The love of a little sister for her brother is a very special thing.
The Bible doesn’t actually tell us whether Paul’s sister was older or younger. Acts 23:16 just calls her “Paul’s sister.” It doesn’t specify her age in relation to his. So she could have been his bossy big sister. She could have even been his twin sister. But I decided to make her his younger sister because I could relate better to that. I don’t know what it’s like to be bossy – only what it’s like to be bossed, LOL. Anyway, I would have had to use more imagination to create their relationship if I decided to make her older or a twin. But if I made her younger, I could use less imagination and more personal experience. Because I know what it’s like to love a big brother. Imagination is an incredible thing, but it’s even better when you have that personal experience.
Would I take any different actions than Temira did during the course of the novel? Honestly, no. Her actions from the beginning of the novel are all things I would have done before I became a Christian, and after she becomes a Christian, her actions are all things I would do now. Of course, strong Christians, the sisters of apostles being no exceptions, still make mistakes. I would make the same ones Temira did.
8. Give us the first sentence or paragraph then 2 (or 3!) more favorite snippets!
Okay, I’m only sharing the first SENTENCE. (Sorry, LOL. But I am selfish.) And it may be subject to change. If you guys want to let me know what you think of it in the comments, that would be great. Would this first sentence encourage you to keep reading? Here it is:
“Could your life be saved by a brother who once hated you?”– The Apostle’s Sister (page 1)
Okay, now for the snippets.
Temira was silent, looking down at the wailing baby with a breaking heart. She could see all his little bones popping out. He was crying until he was blue in the face. Being an apostle’s sister, she had seen many tragedies; but she felt this was the worst of them all. To abandon one’s child! She thought of Reuben, her precious gift from Naboth. Never could she have abandoned him. This poor little thing was so tiny and bony, he seemed hardly big enough to draw his breath. He must have a weak heart and weak lungs, for he coughed up something foamy and red. He might not live very long if no one cared for him.
“What is his name?” she asked.
Abigail shrugged. “I don’t know. His mother didn’t say – just dumped him and walked away.”
Temira took the child from Abigail and cradled him in her own arms. The little thing immediately stopped crying, blinked, and looked up at her with huge brown eyes. She looked into his red little face and suddenly was overwhelmed with love for him. Lord, she prayed, and knew exactly what he was leading her to do. Her new little son nestled here in her arms.
“I’ll take him,” she said resolutely. “I will adopt him and raise him as my own.”
The other women stared. “That’s a crazy idea,” Elizabeth said. “That child doesn’t have a prayer.”
“He has many prayers,” retorted Temira. “I just sent up a thousand prayers for him. This is my son. Is that all right with all of you?”
Abigail shrugged again. “Do what you wish. None of us can take him.”
“You’ll soon regret it,” Elizabeth called after her, but Temira was not listening. She left the meeting-house in a daze.
She rocked the baby against her breast. She was still in shock that he was three years old – Reuben’s age when Paul came to them in Tarsus. How could this scrawny mite be three years old? He did not look more than even one year. If he was this small and weak, how would he ever live? Even Luke might not know what to do.
This next snippet is Paul’s speech to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:17-38). Next to the torture scenes, Paul’s preaching moments were actually the hardest for me to write. I always worried they might be too preachy (LOL) if you know what I mean? I’ve heard that a lot of readers don’t like direct quotes from the Bible in Biblical fiction, because they’re here to explore what St. Paul might have said that WASN’T in the Bible. So I tried to cut down on the preaching scenes, and when I had to do them, to make them short. I can think of only two others besides this one in the entire book. Anyway, if any of you want to pop on the comments and tell me what you think of this preaching scene, I would REALLY appreciate it. I actually like this snippet, but I want to see what others think. Anyways, so sorry for the preliminary speech. Let’s just get to the snippet now! Here it is:
From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. When they came, he spoke tenderly to them, saying:
“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with humility and tears. There were many trials with the Jews who tried to oppose us, but even through that my love for you never wavered. I did not shrink from teaching you of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, bound by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there. I know only that the Holy Spirit in every city warns me of the imprisonment and afflictions awaiting me.
“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify of the grace he has shown me. Behold, I know that none of you will see my face again.”
At this there was a collective gasp. Even Seth’s little face was filled with solemnity. Temira held him close, and suddenly her eyes blurred as she looked into her brother’s face. She felt Luke’s gently encouraging hand on her shoulder, and saw Claudia standing soberly beside him. Persis held four-year-old Mira, Epaphroditus beside her; Primus’ eyes were luminous. Reuben reached out to take his mother’s hand, and Mesi took the other. Temira took a shuddering breath to collect herself.
“The Lord paid for the church with his own blood,” Paul said solemnly. “And so you must care for his flock. Fierce wolves will come in among you after I am gone, and you cannot let them lead you astray. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish you with tears. You yourselves know that my own hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me.” Looking down, he saw Seth’s little arms reaching up to him. He lifted his nephew and held him. Seth looked at the Ephesian elders with big eyes, then snuggled against Paul’s chest. The elders smiled. Paul kissed Seth’s forehead, then continued. “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
With that Paul knelt and prayed with them, Seth kneeling beside him. And they all fell on Paul’s neck, embraced him and kissed him. The house filled with the sound of weeping, for the elders were sorrowful most of all that Paul had said they would never see his face again in this life.
Beholding the scene, this time Temira could not hold back her tears, and they spilled down her cheeks. Suddenly a strange, cold fear clutched at her heart. She remembered the words of Simeon the prophet to the Lord’s mother, when she brought her baby to be dedicated: There will be pain for you, and a sword shall pierce your heart. Temira felt that cry was a cry for all women of the ages – the mothers, wives, daughters, and sisters of men who had been given great and terrible missions for God. And she felt… oh, she felt… she felt it was the sisters who suffered the most.
“I am very thankful,” she murmured to herself, “that Paul has neither wife nor daughter, or he would break their hearts, just as he is breaking mine.”
So yes, those were a couple of favorite snippets. I probably won’t be sharing any more, at least for a long while. So I hope y’all enjoyed. XD
9. Share an interesting tidbit about the writing process so far! (For example: Have you made any hilarious typos? Derailed from your outline? Killed off a character? Changed projects entirely? Anything you want to share!)
Okay, so I have not made any hilarious typos, derailed from my outline, or changed projects entirely, but I HAVE killed off a character. In fact, The Apostle’s Sister contains TWO character deaths. But I am not saying who they are, so don’t ask! And you remember that new character I said earlier I was seriously considering adding? If I add her, there will be another death scene, because she will die too. But I am not saying who “she” is. So there you go. There are character deaths!
10. Take us on a tour of what a normal writing day for this novel looks like. Where do you write? What time of day? Alone or with others? Is a lot of coffee (or some other drink) consumed? Do you light candles? Play music? Get distracted by social media (*cough, cough*)? Tell all!
Fun question! Unfortunately, I don’t have a very fun answer. So what I do is sit on my bed, cushioned by some very comfortable pillows. I used to write at my desk, but I found I struggled to get into the creative zone because it reminded me too much of schoolwork. So my room it is, surrounded by my pink walls! I’m always alone, because I work much better that way.
Now that it’s Christmas break, I have all day to write. But since usually I’m in school, I’ll tell you what I do then. I try to get some writing in early in the morning before school, usually around 6:45 to 7:45. Then after school, once my homework is taken care of and dinner is eaten, usually around 5:30 or 6:00, I write. And I write until about midnight!
I don’t drink coffee, so I always have a bottle of water next to me. And while I write, I always have soft classical music playing. I can’t write words while there are different words in my ears; that’s really confusing to me, so I never listen to music with words. It’s always classical.
I know, my routine isn’t super exciting.
Hope you all enjoyed the post!
Let me just say that this really did help me a lot! I feel excited about this novel again, after spending this time just talking and talking about it. Thank you guys so much for putting up with my craziness. And now, thanks to you, I’m ready to keep working away on that second draft!
Hope everyone has a great day! Don’t forget to say hi in the comments.
And don’t forget – eat, pray, write, repeat!