Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Journey So Far...

From January through December 2008 I focused on writing and completing the story I believe the Lord had given me - The Sower, which is loosely based on the parable of the sower. It was a such a period of awakening for me. Having characters come to life and tell me in the wee hours of the night the things they wanted to do next and the things that I had already written that they disagreed with. Sounds crazy, I know. I definitely didn't expect that but I can assure you that most fiction writers experience the same thing. Oh, it was such fun. At the time I was living alone, but these characters were so real to me that I felt I was sharing my flat (apartment) with a whole bunch of people (although none of them contributed towards the rent ;-)).

I was luxuriating in and getting such a charge out of the creative process of writing that I didn't even think about the publishing side. I typed the last period in my manuscript before even considering the next steps in the process. I got a group of readers together to critique my story and for the most part got extremely encouraging feedback. I was on my way. I then read through a manual on the publishing process and browsed through Sally E. Stuart's Christian Writers Guide 2009. I truly believed that as soon as an agent reads my query letter they would be sure to snap me up. Surprise, surprise that didn't happen. After getting a few knock backs I remembered one of Roxanne Henke's books where the main character was a writer and attended a writers' conference. Aah, maybe attending one would be a good idea, I thought. I did some research and then joined ACFW and planned to attend the next conference which was scheduled for September. I'd never been to Denver and the place looked like it could be fun.

There were many highs and lows and many nerve wracking moments for me. I met some truly special people, heard some extraordinary stories and learnt the tools of the trade from amazing teachers. As the time for my agent and publisher appointments drew nearer I went from hope to fear based on what I was hearing from other attendees. Discouragement set in immediately after my paid critique, which made me so nervous for the next set of appointments. The lessons I learnt at the early bird workshop buoyed me, after all I'd applied most of the tips the instructor shared but that lift was quickly dashed when an agent told me that "readers don't easily identify with a male protagonist, so either change it or make one of the female characters a co-protagonist." I was crushed because making those changes would completely change my story.

I came back to London a stronger writer for the lessons I'd learned, but also solemn as I realised that writing is not for the faint of heart. The months that followed included some big changes in my personal life so I was not as focused on my writing as I should have been, but by the same token I've needed this space to re-group and get that quiet assurance within my spirit that this is what I'm supposed to be doing at this point in my life. God has a journey mapped out for me and the fact that things have not all gone as expected does not mean that I'm not exactly where I'm supposed to be. Here's to knuckling down and letting God speak as He wills through me. Cheers.


  1. Thank you for sharing your experience, Ufuoma. One book that has helped me 'wage the war' is "The Art of War for Writers," written by novelist James Scott Bell. One of his last chapters is about turning criticism into a strength.He writes:

    "There are critics who simply tear at you, and you can and should ignore them. There are others, however, who just might have a point to make that you can learn from.

    "So learn, glean, and ignore the rest. Treat it as a pain, a symptom that you show the doctor. He treats you, tells you how to get better, and sends you on your way."

    Don't lose heart, Ufuoma. God has a purpose in all of this. And yes, we writers must develop thick skins.

  2. Ah yes, the publishing part of being a writer is not fun. Try to hang onto the joy you found in writing the story in the first place. Even if no one every buys your work, that surge of creative delight is yours forever.

  3. Ufuoma, I definitely agree writing is not for the faint of heart. Thanks for sharing your writing journey with us :-)

  4. I had to laugh about your characters. Mine are always living in my head. The more I hear them the better I know the story is going. And, they can be so opinionated - lol. I am glad you got to go to a conference. I've been to the RWA annual conference twice and I have gotten so much out of it. I need to check out the ACFA conference too.

  5. So true!! I wish it were easy, but I think those of us who stick with it and truly want to do whatever it takes to improve and learn the craft, will make it in the end! At least that is what I'm hoping!

  6. Yes, I identify! My characters 'ganged up' a short while back and insisted on individual audiences with me! Last October I went into isolation for a month to write and it was spooky throughout. On my very last evening, one of them whispered something into my ear to me that was so profound I burst into tears!

    Good luck and keep on having fun!