Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Category: Writing

Really, God?

Do you believe that your ability to write is a gift from God?

This belief has been a long process for me. I never really dared to believe it for myself until very recently.

I had a huge wobble about writing last spring. It was the latest in many wobbles over the years. This time, I determined to tackle it once and for all.

God, if You really want me to write then please let it bear fruit. And if I’ve got it all wrong, then lop the writing branch out of my life.

A hard prayer to pray, but I meant it. Even though I fully expected God to sigh with relief that I’d finally gotten the message and He could cut writing out of my life.

Within two weeks….[Read more]

NaNoWriMo: What I Learned

What an exciting (but exhausting) adventure was NaNoWriMo last month! I had a fantastic time writing my 50,000 words in less than 30 days, and learned a lot during the process.

Getting to Know My Characters

There were surprises in getting to know my characters. This story (orphans Jay, Poppy, Robyn and Blu stand only a few inches high and live in a tree; when their home is threatened with demolition they become refugees overnight) was one I have carried in my head since I was a child.

In my head, Robyn was always my main character and very lovable.

On paper, Jay – in his quiet, unobtrusive way – took centre stage early on and stayed there. And I was okay with that, if surprised. Robyn turned out to be quite selfish and lazy though she had good qualities too.

In my head, Poppy was very much a bossy big sister, a bit stressed, rather controlling.

On paper, I found Poppy intriguing. Like Shrek, she has layers, and I enjoyed the process of her allowing me to peel them back and find the real person beneath. Actually, I think she was quite a lonely and misunderstood character, often taken for granted by her siblings. She also took me completely by surprise with her archery skills when a fox raided their camp late one night. I didn’t see that one coming!

getting-to-know-characters

Just Go With It

A big part of doing NaNoWriMo for me was having fun getting to know my characters and letting them take over the story. For the first few thousand words, I wrote and they did whatever I told them.

But what a thrill for me when they suddenly started to think for themselves and do what they wanted.

The showdown came when they were fleeing the destruction of their tree home. I wanted them to hike through the woods. They thought escaping down river was best. We argued on and off all night. They won. And I’m sure the story is the better for it. From that moment onward, I let them take charge and simply followed where they led.

Leave and Start Mid-Scene

More experienced writers recommend leaving mid-scene when finishing writing for the day so that you have something exciting to come back to. I found this very useful. Initially, I switched off my laptop at the end of a scene, but found it much harder to get going the next day.

When you leave mid-scene, it’s easier to get started and keep going because your imagination is quickly stimulated.

Writers’ Block

A writer-friend recommended giving your characters emergencies and issues to handle when you’re stuck for where to go next with the story. I did this a lot. My poor little fictional family! But it was fascinating to see what they did with the various problems I threw at them and how well they coped.

Thankfully, this prevented me from getting writers’ block and from feeling like the story was flopping in the middle of the month.

Writing Buddies

With all my fine resolutions, I may not have started NaNoWriMo if not for my writing-buddies who spurred me on. On Day One, I wrote nothing. It was pretty daunting being faced with a mountain of 50,000 words in a month. But my friends emailed to ask how the word count was going and encourage me to get started. On Day Two, I began to write.

Thank you Janey, Wendy, Fiona and Angela 🙂

 

Ready, Set, Write!

Ever heard of NaNoWriMo?

It stands for National Novel Writing Month. That happens to be this month: November.

The idea is to write 50,000 words between 1st and 30th November. Lots of people all over the world take part and it sounds intense but fun.

I’ve wanted to join in for the last few years but have always been too busy. This year, however, I have a fairly free diary with no church commitments (for once)…. so I’ve registered and am at the start line.

It’s a wee bit nerve wracking, even scary, but also exciting.

I planned out my word count on the calendar. Gulp. That looks, erm, intense. I’m hoping to have one day off each week so am planning to write at least 1,925 words per day. That means 9,625 by this Saturday.

But NaNoWriMo is a writing adventure and I can’t wait to get stuck in.

I’m having a go at a young adult/children’s novel about some tiny creatures who live in a tree. They are an orphaned family called Jay, Poppy, Robin and Blu. And that’s all you’re getting for now! They have been living in my head, making their characters known for many years now, and it’s time for them to see the light of day. I have a storyline in mind but I hope my little family will go their own sweet way and surprise me with what they get up to.

If I have any spare energy, I’ll post again in a couple of weeks and let you know how I’m getting on/how frazzled I am!

 

Writing: Who? What? How?

Can I write? Should I write? Why am I bothering, it’s all been said before. Who do I think I am? I can’t do this, I’m wasting my time….

After a decade of writers’ angst, I made the decision to just get on with it. To help me, I’ve typed out some statements and pinned them on the noticeboard by my desk.

Write for an Audience of One

I have a bad habit of…..[Continue reading]

 

Drawn from Words

You’ll recall that I blogged every day through Lent as part of a word-a-day challenge by Rethink Church. Some of my friends journaled every day and one lady who became a friend through the challenge drew a picture for each word prompt.

The result of this was that three of us decided to put our favourite pieces in a book: Drawn from Words.

This has fulfilled a lifetime’s dream for me of being an author 🙂  God is so good!

Wibbly-Wobbly Writer

When I first thought God might be calling me to be a writer, I was excited: a childhood dream come true!

But it didn’t take long for doubt to set in, and those of you who know me can testify to my teetering back and forth.

Who do I think I am trying to do this? Is this really what God wants? Do I even have a gift?

It’s draining.

I even do the ‘right’ thing and take my doubts to God: ‘Are You sure You want me to write?’

It’s kind of inevitable that I tie myself in knots and end up chained by fear. Fear of failure, fear of what people think.

Too often my confidence is affected by how many Facebook likes I get for a blog post or whether it’s retweeted on Twitter. A comment on my actual blog makes my heart sing and dance.

But this is a dangerous position to be in. I’m settling for praise from people, which is nice, but not what I should be aiming for. My aim should be the heavenly ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’ from Jesus. It’s His opinion that really matters.

While it’s helpful to know if I’m reaching anyone through my writing, ultimately I need to focus on writing for an audience of One.

Love

I love that the Father had adventures planned for me before I was born: things to do, places to be, people He wants me to mother. How exciting is that?! The Father must be pretty passionate about me because He puts these desires in my heart, and is guiding me step-by-step into all He has for me.

So, how ever much I have wibbly-wobbly doubts, my part is to respond to the revelation I have right now.

For me today, this means taking writing seriously and giving it time, energy and prayer. If I’ve misheard, my Father will graciously redirect me.

The Father doesn’t clobber me over the head for getting it wrong. Nor does He operate through fear. He is love and perfect love casts out fear. So when I detect that knot of fear in the pit of my stomach, you can bet it doesn’t come from God.

What if I don’t pursue this dream because I’m scared of getting it wrong or failing? On that day when God is giving out rewards to His faithful ones, is it possible I could miss out because of being scared to go for it?

 

 

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