The Forest, Not the Trees

On draft six of my story, I’m still stymied. I had been cutting excess words and adverbs, sorting dialogue tags, strengthening verbs, in other words, polishing rather than editing or revising.

After my query failed with my writing group (who very kindly asked what are the stakes, what’s the goal), I realized I need to refocus and broaden my attention. I’d lost sight of my story goal by enjoying each individual scene.

This week, handwriting in my story notebook, is my preferred way of sorting myself out as I search out blogs on creating goals and raising stakes.


Jami Gold, at Writers Helping Writers, has a good article—What Does it Mean to Raise the Stakes?—and Kristen Lamb does also in her article—Structure Matters: Building Great Stories to Endure the Ages.

Today’s Kill Zone blog also asked their commenters, many of them published, to share their writing process and I find that inspiring because there are differences. (It’s also deflating because some of the authors write fairly clean drafts that don’t require much polishing.)

Writing My Non-Fiction Book

My non-fiction book was relatively easy to write.

Inspired by my Pastoral Study Journey, I started writing some months after arriving back home from the Instituto de Estudios E Investigacion Intercultural (INESIN), in San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico.

Those life-changing two weeks in Chiapas in August 2004 kickstarted my long-dormant writer. With the approach of Advent (Christian season of four weeks before Christmas), I began writing my first non-fiction that November.

I pulled together Scripture passages and pieces of contemporary readings from magazines and scholarly books, and for each subject, I reflected on these writings in non-academic language. Then I fussed with where each part went according to theme and sent it off to beta readers.

By March or April of 2005, I was done writing and submitted it to Wild Goose Publication in Scotland. They worked with me on getting permissions to use quotes, helped me edit a bit and it was published in October 2007.

I’ve done other writing since then, some published but now it’s 11-years since I’ve had a book published. Too long.

Encouragement and Inspiration

Most helpful for me today were the words of Jessica Faust from Book Ends Literary on her September 5 blog—Editing: the Toughest Job an Author has to do.

It’s in editing that the authors are separated from writers.”


“The hardest part about editing isn’t knowing where to add a comma, it’s knowing when the course of your journey has changed and it’s listening to your heart and what you want.”

Do I have some serious editing ahead of me? Yes. Perhaps I’ll even need to re-plot and rewrite it from scratch. (Yes, I will save my other drafts. No writing is wasted.)

Wish me well on the journey.