Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Push We Need to Move Forward with Our Writing

by Mary Denman @MaryDenman

It's hard to release our writing to the world.
It can be hard to release our writing to the world.

Recently, I released my baby to an agent. Not one of my children, mind you. But my other baby.

My first novel.

The one crafted several years ago.

The one that was put on hold while homeschooling my five kids.

The one that was keeping me from moving forward.

The one I knew needed work, but wasn’t quite sure where to go with it.

Once I realized I couldn’t do other projects until I knew whether to dig in or walk away, I understood I needed feedback. I truly wanted honest feedback. Someone who knew nothing of my story needed to read it. To tell me where the strengths and weaknesses were.
So, it left the safe confines of my computer and critique group to go before an agent for honest feedback.

And I got it!

My novel isn’t ready for publication.

My reaction? Oddly enough, was just plain relief.

No feeling like a failure. No feeling of rejection. No tears of sorrow. No offense taken at the honest response.

Honest feedback and even bad news doesn't
have to derail our writing.
If I’d gotten the exact same feedback a few years ago, I’d probably have done all of the above. But because I’ve been blogging and writing for so long now, the feedback hasn’t derailed me. I can see it for what it is. It’s honest. And it’s spot on.

You see, I knew the story had issues.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty of good writing in there.

Yet, the tension was off in a couple of places. I just couldn’t put my finger on what that was or how to fix it. Then I wondered if I could fix it. Or if I should even try to fix it.

Now I know.

With help from my great critique buddies, I can do this.

But I’m not going to. Not now anyway. My heart isn’t in it.

Again, don’t get me wrong. I love my characters. I don’t want to leave them. They mean a lot to me. Readers agree the hero and heroine have great chemistry.

Sometimes we can't the forest for the trees.
But I can’t see the forest for the trees. To truly make this novel work, I’d probably have to write lots of chapters for the beginning of the book. From scratch.  Again, that’s not what it seems. I LOVE writing new chapters. But writing new chapters for an existing book and making sure they all fit in with what’s already written is very challenging for me. That’s where the trees get in the way.

Because I originally wrote this book so long ago, I know I’ve grown greatly as a writer. But this draft is entrenched in my head.

We all need perspective.
So, I’ve got to purposely leave the trees and the forest for a while. I need perspective. I need to climb high enough up the mountainside to be able to look back down on the woods and see what they look like from above. To see where the river flows. To see where the nearly impassible parts are. To figure out how my characters are supposed to get from one end of the forest to the other without dying or losing their way.

Does that mean I’m going to stop writing? No.

It means I need to be equipped to climb the mountain. I need to read great authors to see how they weave great stories. I need to read books on craft by masters of writing.

I need to keep blogging. Doing articles. In a word, I have to keep writing.

And, I need to be open to the possibility of an entirely new forest. You see, when I get high enough up the mountain, and maybe even to the top of it, I may see another forest that’s calling me. Maybe it’ll be non-fiction. Maybe a different novel. 

I don’t yet know what my writing career is going to look like.

Maybe you’re in the same place. 

Maybe your work has been rejected and you don’t know whether to proceed or change directions.  

Maybe it hurts so much that you just want to quit.

Please don’t.

Join me in learning more about our craft. In reading great stories. In continuing to press on in this writing journey.

And remember, writing is a journey. Not a destination.

I don’t know about you, but I have a forest to leave and a mountain to climb.

Will I see you at the peak?

Don't forget to join the conversation!

The push we need to move forward with our writing can sometimes seem harsh - @MaryDenman on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Sometimes hard, honest feedback on our #writing helps us move forward -@MaryDenman on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Mary Denman is a writer who also loves photography. Or a photographer who loves writing. As a freelance writer, Mary has had articles published in various forms ranging from Focus on the Family publications to magazines to devotions to op-ed pieces. She has also completed her first novel and started her second. She's a member of several professional writing organizations including ACFW, My Book Therapy, and Word Weavers.

As a professional photographer, Mary has had photos published in both print literature and online. Her shots have been used by businesses and by fellow authors alike. Her philosophy is to catch a moment that reflects God’s beauty and creativity, whether in nature, in life or in the face of her subjects. And as a writer herself, she understands what authors need in a headshot. Mary blends the two mediums of writing and photography on her blog


  1. Mary, what a good article! I loved it and tweeted it. BTW, did you get my email about getting ready for our ACFW-SC Chapter meeting June 27 where you will be speaking? Everyone is welcome to come. Keep up the good work! See you Saturday the 27th at 2:00 PM
    Elva Cobb Martin, Pres. ACFW-SC Chapter

    1. Thank Elva! Yes, I did get the email. I've been buried since Blue Ridge, but I have time to breath now. Looking forward to the 27th!

      Thanks for dropping by!

  2. I so understand. I've had to revive my first novel and decided to change genres. The story works better now. I'm waiting as I sent it off to have it looked at by someone in this new genre. Thanks for the great article!

    1. Jennifer, what a great idea! In writing, there are so many ways to deal with problems. Thanks for sharing that. I hope the new genre works and I hope your solution helps inspire someone else!

  3. I so understand. I've had to revive my first novel and decided to change genres. The story works better now. I'm waiting as I sent it off to have it looked at by someone in this new genre. Thanks for the great article!

  4. This was a good read for the unpublished person like me. Thanks for sharing your thought process during your writing journey.

    1. Melodie, I hope you can learn not to take rejection personally, but learn to grow from it. And, I really hope your writing finds success and blesses others.

      You're very welcome for the share. :)

  5. Mary,

    What a great post!

    I just sent my first "serious" novel off for a developmental review. I've been working on it periodically for 16 years and everything you said about your novel applies to mine.

    So do my thoughts on getting this review.





    What if I get bad news? What if I get good news???

    I just sent mine in yesterday, so the timing of your article is Providential. Thank you for sharing it.

    Best wishes,


    1. Thanks Carrie! If you get good news, celebrate! If you get constructive criticism, then learn from it and KEEP going!!

      Let us know how it goes.

  6. This is so exciting that you're writing novels, Mary. You are so creative, I can't wait to read your work in the future. May God bless and direct your writing journey. Thank you for sharing it with us today. The encouragement to keep writing is needed!

    1. Thanks Katy. Please do keep writing! We all have to make decisions to keep going when times are hard. You can do it!

  7. This is a wonderful post! I enjoyed it so much because I've been in your shoes. Yes, I have a book that I love and the characters are wonderful. It's the first book I wrote (years ago). I believe it could be published one day... with a lot of work. :) My heart just isn't there. One day, I might be ready to take it on, but for now it will wait. Thanks so much for putting exactly what I was thinking into words.

    1. You're so very welcome Stacey! Be free to write what you need to now! :)

      I day.....

  8. Yay, Mary! Thank you for your encouraging words. I've been at a standstill on my latest novel for quite a while, too. But I'm slowly making progress. We can do it!

    1. I'm glad you're making progress again V! Sometimes we need a little time, a mountain and some clarity. Sounds like you found yours!

  9. You always speak to my heart, Mary. As you know, I came away from my appointments at Blue Ridge with mixed messages: It's great but too far outside of the box. I, too, need to step back and seek God's direction. But He has reminded me that He does His best work outside of the box!

    1. You're right Sherry, God does great work outside the box! Keep dreaming and see what God does! ;)

  10. I love this, Mary. I just keep plugging along even though sometimes I'm not sure where to ... it's okay because of posts like this one. Sometimes I just need to hear, "Keep writing."

  11. Thank you for the words of encouragement.