Monday, July 29, 2013

A Writer's Ride Across the Pages

This past week, I went on a two day bike ride of 100 miles...Yeah, not usually my thing, but I had some friends that wanted to join in the tradition of RAGBRAI (an annual ride across Iowa). So I took the plunge.
As I forced myself to continue strong up hills, down hills, around curves and potholes, I couldn't help but relate my 100 mile bike ride to writing a 100k novel.

The Beginning:

For four months, my small group women and I planned to ride our bikes and prove to ourselves (and maybe our husbands) that we could do it! We had a vision and we were determined to see it through. It's that excitment you get when you are ready to venture into a new journey of story. You know it's a winner, and you're ready to prove to yourself (and maybe your husband) that you have what it takes to get all the way to "The End". As the week crept closer, I began to envision falling flat on my face on the roadway. What was I trying to do? Who was I trying to kid? I am certainly not qualified to ride a bike, let alone a trek like this one!

This kind of doubt also creeps in at this point in the writing process. Is my story going to be a marketable idea? Does it have the hook it needs to succeed? Can I even write such a story?

And like we all find a way to push away those doubts and delve into the love of our story, I pushed doubts of the ride aside, began to pedal, and joy met me on the ride. I grew excited when I began to meet others on the ride, just as I enjoy discovering new characters and learning from them in my writing. The landscape took my breath away as I pushed up hills and coasted down them, just as exploring the setting of my story fills my spirit with worship of the Creator.

Every once in a while on my bike, I'd glance ahead and see the hills and potholes waiting to throw me off, and I would find myself pushing down the fear, ignoring the challenge ahead and focusing on the moment. As a writer, I also do this when I try to keep my inner editor clicks on and tries to drag me to the mire of the tangled web that I am creating in my plot or character development. I must turn it off to press on, knowing that the journey has just begun.

The Middle:

Round and round I pedaled, and at one point, I thought, what am I doing??? How in the world did I get myself into this? I am tired, and annoyed, and ready to quit. I could only dwell on the negative of the ride behind me, those bikers passing me...even if it was more "their" sport than mine, (yeah, I am competitive!) and I focused on all the hills, hills, and more hills ahead.
If you've ever felt like this once your energy for starting a new novel fizzles, and your adrenaline sputters to a low, then you have reached the middle of your novel where it threatens to sag like a big ol' flat tire. This is the part where you try to switch gears, try to pedal harder, try to reach for that water bottle and find refreshment somewhere, anywhere, for your characters and your story.
I just had to push through on my ride. Lean on the God who gives the ultimate refresher, and find a new hope in the journey.
When you get to this part in the writing process, PRAY. God's given you the story, He'll help you find resilience to master that middle.

The Strong Finish:

My body was sore and tired, I had many miles behind me, many people along the path, many, many, many hills conquered. But the ride wasn't over. I had another day ahead. And after a good night's rest, I set out to finish up this goal of mine.
Sometimes we are worn out after the struggle of that "middle ground" in our novel. Sometimes we've put the brakes on, and begun to brainstorm all over again, drawing new flow charts in the roadside gravel. But when you allow yourself time and rest, the finish sometimes comes faster than you expect.
I knew that it would be a shorter day on that second day. And with the way my body felt, I hoped the finish line would come quickly. There were still hills, potholes, rude bikers, slow bikers, FAST bikers, that tried to knock me down, but the finish line was creeping closer and closer. The last town met me before I knew I was there. And before I could really understand it...I was done.
As writers, when we begin to complete the words needed to tell the story, the plotline, the character arc, all the elements that draw out one long stretched out finish line, we pick up momentum and energy to make that final push. Don't quit now! You've worked too much to leave the road and get lost in the cornfields of defeat.:)
Have you had a life journey that is similar to your writing journey? Would love to hear about it!

Angie Dicken first began writing fiction as a creative outlet during the monotonous, mothering days of diapers and temper tantrums. She is passionate to impress God's love on women regardless of their background or belief. This desire serves as a catalyst for Angie's fiction, which weaves salvation and grace themes across historical cultures and social boundaries. Angie is an ACFW member and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency.


Unknown said...

RAGBRAI! I always loved covering that back when I was reporting. But I remember thinking that and the county fair always happened on the hottest weeks of the year. :) I can't even remember what the weather was like though last week? Anyway, congrats on completing the ride!

Angie Dicken said...

Thanks, Melissa! It was a fun experience! We had decent weather on Wednesday and Thursday. A little hot on Thursday. But nothing like the beginning of the week.:)