Inspiration and Perspiration

NCWA blog shines a Spotlight on the writing journey of CIRCLE OF SEASONS: MEETING GOD IN THE CHURCH YEAR by Kimberlee Conway Ireton.

In January 2007, I got a book contract.

After my initial dance of euphoria, reality set in, and with it, fear: how on earth was I going to write a book? When the contract came in the mail I had a three-year-old and a three-month-old—and only eight hours of writing time each week.

And I’m a lousy writer.

I’m a really good re-writer, but this means my writing process is highly time-consuming. I have to write a whole bunch of nothing, spewing all my random thoughts onto the page before I realize what I’m trying to say.

Given the time-eating nature of writing garbage and then sifting through the garbage to find the one gem of a paragraph or sentence or even phrase that’s present in it, I wondered how I was ever going to finish a 35,000-word book in nine months.

Lynne Baab,author of ten books and my patron saint of writing, helped me map out a plan that took into account the fact that I spend about a quarter of my writing time actually writing, and the rest of it rewriting and revising.

It was a very aggressive schedule: two weeks (about 16 hours) to initially write/rewrite each of the eight chapters of my book, then one week (eight hours) to further revise each chapter. Then I sent my still very rough book out to five readers for feedback, after which I had another month (40 hours) to incorporate their comments into another round of revisions.

Each day, I faithfully showed up at my computer, prayed that God would make it possible for me to do more than I knew I could do, and started typing. Sometimes the words poured generously across the page. Sometimes they had to be wrenched and wrestled there.

But either way, the Spirit of God was breathing life into my words; I just couldn’t always see that at the time.

For instance: the Epiphany chapter of my book gave me fits. I wrote and found nothing usable, so I wrote again with the same result. It took me 12 of my 16 hours to even find a gem I could use to provide direction for the chapter. But once I did, the writing flowed, and in just a few hours I was able to finish the whole chapter, piecing in material I’d written—and written off—in those frustrating days of what seemed like wasted writing time.

Months later, when I got my editor’s comments back, he wanted significant revisions to—guess what—the Epiphany chapter. I went through eight drafts, using various iterations of my editor’s suggestions before one line—one line!— morphed into a story, and that story fit the themes of the chapter far better than I could have ever dreamed.

I think of Jesus’ words to his disciples after they feed the 5000: “Gather up the fragments, that nothing may be lost” (John 6:12). Indeed, nothing was. Amazing, that.

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Book giveaway! Leave a comment on this post by December 15th and  your name will be entered in a drawing to receive a copy of Kimberlee’s book!

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In CIRCLE OF SEASONS: MEETING GOD IN THE CHURCH YEAR (Intervarsity), Kimberlee Conway Ireton shows how paying attention to the circling of the liturgical seasons can deepen our faith. Through reflections on her experience, she encourages Christians to embrace the church year, exploring the ways it shapes our unfolding life with Christ.

She invites readers to participate in the rhythms of its seasons—from the reflective preparation of Advent and Lent to the joyful celebrations of Christmas and Easter to the often lulling dailiness of Ordinary Time—and shows how these seasons ground our life with Christ in time, in Scripture, and in community.

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In addition to her book, Kimberlee Conway Ireton blogs about good reads, great writing, and raising her four young children on her website. In December, she’ll also be writing scintillating posts about Advent and Christmas.

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7 thoughts on “Inspiration and Perspiration

  1. I appreciate your post. Since you’re writing about Advent on your blog, perhaps you’d be interested in an excellent book on the topic: Preparing My Heart for Advent. It’s the first book in a Bible study series and was written by Ann Marie Stewart. I’d be glad to supply you with a review of the book for your blog if interested. I recently wrote the fourth book in this series, Preparing My Heart for Grandparenting. And I have reviews others have written about that book as well (for future reference). If interested, contact me on Facebook or my blog: http://www.preparingmyheart.net.

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    • Jan,

      God does indeed turn ashes into beauty! I look back at the early drafts of my book and then at the final version, and I am often amazed that I was able to get from the initial dreck to the words that were published, and I am so grateful that God is in the business of taking the raw and raggedy stuff we offer and turning it into something lovely.

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  2. Great story and a good example of how we depend on each other in this journey. I’d be interesting in hearing how you got the book contract in the first place in a future posting.

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    • Dennis,

      You’re exactly right. I couldn’t have written this book on my own. From getting the contract to writing the book to revising it, I relied on other people every step along the way. The book wouldn’t be nearly as good as it is if it weren’t for all the folks, including my fabuloso editor, who read early drafts and made suggestions about how to improve it. I think our writing is better and richer when we allow others to speak into the words we write.

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  3. Kimberlee, I am so new to this writing process thing that I found your comments very encouraging. I just recently took a challenge to write a 1000 word blip that would include yarn and I did. After which I wondered how long is a real story/book anyway? 35,000 words ugh! So glad we have Holy Spirit and our Christian friends to prod us along the way. Thank you much for giving a reminder to the newbies and the rest that writing is possible even under great time constraints.

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    • Jean,

      I’m so glad you found this post encouraging. When you feel compelled to write, you make time for it, even if it’s just in little snippets here and there. I can’t not write, though I find I have very little time for it these days (I had twins in July), and though writing in dibs and dabs is not my preference, it’s what I’ve got right now, and it’s way better than not writing. So hang in there: lots of little bits add up over time!

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