Every novel I've written, plus the start of my blog has all been because of a dream I've had. I've had lots of dreams that haven't turned into novels or blogs, but about eight months ago I had a dream I haven't been able to stop thinking about.
In the dream there was a peasant girl in an abandoned village standing near a swing hanging from a giant tree. Her father had built her the swing years ago. She was hesitant to sit down on the swing because she wasn’t a child anymore and there was work to be done, but after a moment she let the swing take over and found herself pushing off into the clouds. The wind and sky were all around her and for a moment it seemed all was right in the world when she heard the desperate cries of a man. She knew the sound well. It was the sound of someone being killed.
Roman guards surveyed the area often. The citizens of her village were all in
commissioned by Caesar Augustus to pay their taxes. Only the outcast; the leper and homeless, rebels
and abandoned lived in the woods surrounding her village. And she shouldn’t be in her village
anyway. The only reason she had taken
the day journey back to her homeland was to gather her oils and other bottles
of apothecary to take back to the city. She had promised her father, the Inn Keeper, she would not stray
from her task and would be back to Bethlehem
before nightfall. Bethlehem
She heard the desperate cries of the man once more. She left the swing and walked deep into the forest knowing she was putting herself in great danger, but still followed the sounds of the tormented man. Deep into the woods, she found him bound and a slew of Roman guards with their swords drawn surrounded him. Hiding behind a tree, she watched as the man received his final blow from the largest guard. The man was killed for his crime and left tied to the stump of a tree as an example to other rebels in the area.
The girl had been trained by her mother in many things; helping others in childbirth, aromatherapy, apothecary and burial rituals. She knew the man’s soul would not be permitted into heaven if he did not receive a proper burial, so she waited until the guards were gone. Through a bit of creativity and lots of hard work, she was able to drag the man to her deserted house in the village by the swing.
It was nightfall when she started the rituals – the seven candles burning around his deceased body, the rose oil circled into both of his hands symbolizing the good and bad deeds of his life, chanting the prayers for the dead, a lock of hair burned to purify his soul, his wounds cleaned, his beard shaved and finally she would administer a cut into the jugular vein were his blood would be drained. With scalpel in hand, she prepared herself to dig deep into the flesh of his neck when someone grabbed at her. Little did she know she hadn’t been alone during the ritual. The very man she was preparing for burial had come back to life! Deranged, he held her captive in his grasp – demanding for answers!
Yeah, I know! Crazy dream!
It was awesome!
So, I’ve been working on this new manuscript (working title The Swing) for about 8 months now. I’ve had some good days where the story line flows like melted butter and others where I literally have to work for every s i n g l e word. It can be physically exhausting yet wonderfully liberating. There are days I resent the task (never the story or my characters, just the writing process itself) because I’m such an active person and I have to sit here for hours on end; writing, editing, searching while the world moves on without me. I stay up too late, wake up too early and sometimes my kids eat Serrano’s bean deep and doughnuts from Bashas for dinner. I’m figuratively running through my mind searching who these characters are, understanding the Old and New Testament on a deeper level than ever before, researching embalming methods of the Egyptians, learning more about Biblical days (and sometimes finding nothing so I have to fill in the blank) and it can be exhausting. But I love this story so much, the characters are constantly stirring around in my soul; therefore I must write them on paper!
So you can imagine my frustration when I experienced writers block around page 70. The story line is thick and juicy with romance, conflict, character development and history, but I didn’t know where to go next. Writers block doesn’t happen to me often and I can usually see scene after scene in my mind, so I was incredibly frustrated with my mind drew a blank. I took a few weeks off.
I’m not the most patient writer anyway. I find I write 10 pages at a time very fast paced, like drawing a skeleton without any flesh. Then, I go back and fill in all the details. Sometimes this doubles the original 10 pages to 20 pages or more. I find additional plots and twists, insights into my characters, loop holes and missteps in the plot so it can be a pretty rewarding/difficult process. Both rewarding and difficult at the same time can be grueling.
So, how did I work through the writer’s block?
I found this incredible painting of the baby Jesus by artist Jenedy Paige and stared at it for a time, touched at the pureness and simplicity. My testimony grew on how important it is to cherish the miraculous story of the birth of the Savior of our word and find creative ways to share it so it continues to touch our hearts in new and beautiful ways.
I walk about an hour every day, mainly to work through the horrible morning sickness I’m still experiencing and I’ve started listening to best-selling author interviews on YouTube. They share writing tips, how their plots are developed and spread love and motivation for all. My favorite tips so far come from author Stephenie Meyer and author Sue Monk Kidd. I've read all their books and respect them so much as authors and creative women!
I continued reading. I just finished Lauren Oliver’s book Before I Fall.
Totally different writing style then mine (and actually, I wouldn't recommend it to young adults for some adult content), but I was in awe. Superbly written and the message at the end was so good.
I attended author Deirdra Eden’s discussion on her experience of writing and publishing her book The Watchers and it was just what I needed. Thank you, Deirdra.
I ate lots of chips and homemade salsa, which seemed to work for me.
I worked on other projects I have including editing novels I have completed or working on other ideas and manuscripts in process. I started my query and synopsis for The Swing. I blogged, read other authors blogs and researched authors I love and their current projects. The creativity out there is highly motivating.
I went to the doctor and saw the first photo of my little baby. Baby wasn’t cooperative, so still not sure what we are having. I find I’m very creative when I’m pregnant because hey, I’m creating the greatest gift ever. The joy in my heart keeps everything in perspective.
Then, yesterday I was working in the kitchen when I had an idea. I wasn’t even thinking of The Swing or my plot when a scene ran through my mind and practically knocked me over. It was perfect. I rushed to the computer and typed out six pages. I know exactly where the story is going now and my goal is to finish by Christmas. This book is a Christmas story and it has brought the spirit of Christmas to my heart in a very personal way.
So, there you have it. My new manuscript and the simple things I do to work through the occasional writer’s block I have. Now, onto writing!
For those interested, I’ve pasted below the first chapter of The Swing. I hope you enjoy it.
At first I had the idea to not even approach the swing, let alone sit on it. It was a cloudy gray morning and I had work to do, but I watched the swing sway gently in the wind, like an angel was taking a turn. That’s when I felt something calling me.
“Come swing Miriam. Play as you did as a child. Forget everything else,” it seemed to say.
The hem of my dress dragged across the ground as I walked toward the tree. I stopped and reached out to the rope like it was an old friend; for truly, how many times had I held onto the swing when I needed to hold something. I turned back toward the home, expecting to see my mother standing in the door throwing out a bucket of breakfast scraps for the chickens, but there were no chickens and there was no mother.
The swing enticed me to sit down. Never had I felt so lonely, rocking slowly at first which caused me to stay inside my thoughts. The gentle motion nudged open the doors of my mind and I contemplated all the changes I’d been through the past year since Mother’s death. The gentle breeze seemed to go through me, caressing every part of my body until a chill ran up my spin. Eventually the swing took over and my toes reached the top leaves of the giant olive tree. Flying high seemed to set me free. I was closer to heaven and for a moment, I wanted to smile.
It had been a year since we left this home, but there it stood just like the day Father and I carried out the few things we needed for our journey. Because of the irrigation system Father designed, mature olive trees grew around the perimeter of the home and provided shade all times of the day. Father had mortared the bricks with the help of his brothers and carried Mother over the threshold on their wedding day. I was born in the walls of this home 9 months later. I would be 17 years old this winter.
I’m not sure how long I’d been on the swing, letting the rhythm of it carry me away - outside my thoughts with the clouds and sky waiting for me; when I heard something in the distance. The bird’s stopped chirping and the breeze died down when I realized I was never truly alone at all. Roman guards were all around these parts. Again, I heard a muffled sound. Someone screamed out in pain, a sound I knew all too well. It was the sound of someone dying.
I placed my feet on the ground and released myself from the swing, walking away from all the questions I couldn’t answer. Each step was carefully placed. I couldn’t make any noise or I’d risk being caught.
Because of the rainy season, the ground was damp. As a child, rainy days made me sleepy, but now I was wide awake. In the distance; I heard the unmistakable sound of thunder. I stopped and placed my hand on my heart. How I wished it was only thunder I had heard earlier? I did not want to walk into danger. The wind picked up and blew wisps of my hair across my face. I wanted to go back to the swing, back to the memories of picking flowers and braiding them into my hair, back to Mother tucking me into bed at night when again, I heard the voice of a man cry out. Now that I was closer I could make out the words.
“I, Ezra, son of Gareb - on my father’s grave, am innocent,” he yelled. I turned my head and walked toward the sound, wanting to rush but knew the need to be quiet; hoping to help but knowing there was nothing I could do. That’s when I saw him.
He was strapped to a tree. From where I stood, I couldn’t see his face. He took his beating well, only grunting when the guards took turns whipping him. How could he receive it? Hit after hit and his muttered screams turned into soft moans when finally, one of the guards lashed the handle of his sword into the side of the man’s head. The man went limp.
`“Coward,” one of the men in uniform said and spit at the prisoner.
“He’s dead now. Leave him as a warning,” the captain said and placed the sword in a saddle belt around his waist. They turned and walked back toward the city. I stayed hidden behind a tree, catching my breath; waiting until they were gone so I could provide a proper burial for the man now dead.
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