One-Year Marathon

*I am participating in the writing contest: Writers Crushing Doubt, hosted by Positive Writer.

Writers Crushing Doubt Writing Contest

When NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) 2014 was approaching, I knew I wanted to participate.  What was I going to write, though?  The previous novel idea I’d worked on for the umpteenth time wasn’t going anywhere, so I finally decided it was best to put it away—for now, anyhow.

November 1 was getting closer as I tried to come up with a new idea.  That’s when I remembered a story I created when I was in high school.  I’ll just say it was a story with an okay plot and a bad timeline, but I was happy to have created something, anyhow.  While I wanted to keep the same characters, including an antagonist with no story, I came up with a similar idea: My antagonist was going to be the main focus.  I finally had a story for him.  While outlining my ideas, I was looking forward to NaNoWriMo.  Once the clock struck midnight on the 1st of November, I was typing away.

Throughout that month, I was putting in so many words—despite my being tempted to edit and revise.  By the end of the month, my story had over 30,000 words—out of the maximum 50,000.  Nevertheless, I was proud of myself just for writing something.  I knew my story was going to have more than 50,000 words and I wanted to finish it.  During the month of December, however, I was stuck.  I had an idea as to where the story was going and how it was going to end, but I seemed to be out of ideas on putting it all together.  I didn’t end up writing anything.  Time had passed and I was still in a slump, aside from the occasions when I was able to add a new paragraph or two to my manuscript.  But I felt that it wasn’t good enough.  I constantly wondered if I would even make it to the finish line.  Even with all the inspiring words on writing I’d stumble upon on social media, I still doubted myself.

Just when I thought about putting away a project I struggled with and dreamed about for a long time, I reminded myself why I wanted to get this done.  I remembered the excitement of putting a story together and how great it felt to get to the most important parts of the story.  I also remembered my telling others about my dream of becoming an author.  I finally had a story for my characters and yet I came close to giving up.  I feared the story, itself, wasn’t going to be acceptable.  What if I couldn’t create stories as great as the ones I’ve read?  I was worried about everything.

Another form of motivation came from listening to my favorite music, allowing me to daydream.  New ideas came out of nowhere and I was able to get back to work.  I told myself I was going to lead my character toward the end, somehow.

During the month of October, I was able to get more writing done.  I couldn’t believe how far I was into the novel.  On Halloween, I was close to the end of my story, so I pushed myself to keep writing.  The suspense had me all over the place.  My hands were trembling and dramatic scenes had me teary-eyed.  The sun was almost setting as I continued my work.  I didn’t know if I was going to finish, though.  Doubt was trying to push its way back in.  Luckily, Max Richter’s From Sleep album was great motivation and the perfect soundtrack for the ending of the novel, so I kept replaying it.  “Keep going,” I told myself.

Once I typed in the final words, I was so relieved and emotionally exhausted.  My heart was pounding.  I couldn’t believe I actually did it.  “Oh, my god, I finished,” I kept saying, with nervous laughter and teary eyes.  It was also a good thing no one was home to witness how crazy I must have looked.  But I was so happy and treated myself to some chocolate.

The next day, I marked November 1, 2015, as the one-year anniversary when I started writing my novel.  It still needs improvement, but I’m proud of my work.  Along the way, I learned that writing is hard and takes a lot of time.  Comparing my work to others’ won’t make things any better, either.  We writers will fall into a slump, every now and then, but we’ll get to the finish line, eventually.  I still think back on a comment from a friend and author who said, “For those of you who have never completed a novel, believe me, it’s like running the marathon five times in one week.”

I’m not sure what will happen with my novel, but that one-year “marathon” was worth the time and tears.  And shame on me for almost quitting.

“This Side of Providence”–Review

51mCNdy-ZIL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_After leaving a life of abuse and a failed marriage in Puerto Rico, Arcelia Perez searches for a new life in America, only to end up on the wrong side of Providence, Rhode Island.  While raising her three children, Arcelia struggles with her heroin addiction that lands her in prison.  During her struggle with drug withdrawals, she makes it a goal to stay clean and to eventually reunite with the children she left behind.

This Side of Providence is told from Arcelia’s point-of-view, including those linked to her life: her street-savvy son, Cristo, who has faith that his family will be together again; her bookworm daughter, Luz, who begins to doubt her mother’s fate; Cristo’s teacher, Miss Valentin, who also deals with struggles of her own; and Snowman, Arcelia’s landlord and confidante.

This story is not only about a woman’s struggle with falling into and out of a life of drugs and alcohol, but a mother who wants to provide a better life for her children who were left to fend for themselves.  But can she do it?  Can she prove to her children that she’s changed?  The ending wasn’t what I expected, but I still liked it.  It’s a sad story, but it was still a page-turner, and the narrations were well-written.  As always, feel free to post your comments.

Happy reading!

*FTC Disclosure: I received this copy, from LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers, in exchange for an honest review.

About the author: Rachel M. Harper has received fellowships from Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony and is on the faculty at Spalding University’s low-residency MFA in Writing Program.  Her first novel, Brass Ankle Blues, was a Borders Original Voices Award finalist and selected as a Target Breakout Book.  She lives in Los Angeles.

“How to Live in Fear”–Review

_225_350_Book.1876.coverI’m a mess—but that doesn’t mean God isn’t good, He doesn’t care, or He is unable to change my situation.

In How to Live in Fear: Mastering the Art of Freaking Out, Pastor Lance Hahn talks about his current struggle with severe anxiety disorder, which he’s dealt with since he was six years old.  For unknown reasons, he’d constantly suffer panic attacks, usually at home, in school, during his sermons, etc.  Oftentimes, these attacks would lead to nausea, including fainting.  In this book, he uses empathy and patience with those who also deal with anxiety, and guides them through steps to coping with fear and panic attacks.  Not only does he guide his readers with coping, he teaches people to accept their feelings without giving in to them.  Despite the years of struggling with anxiety, Hahn has always believed God was on his side and still is.

Although this book isn’t really for me, I admit I like how honest the author is.  It’s a recommended read for those who know the pain of anxiety attacks.  Hahn isn’t one to suggest people pray and it all will go away.  Because he knows what to expect with his panic attacks, he advises people to take on healthy hobbies and activities to keep the mind occupied.  Diet and exercise is what he also recommends.

If you, readers, suffer from anxiety or know others who go through it, this book can be a guide for you.  Feel free to post your comments.

Happy reading!

FTC Disclosure: I received this copy from BookLook Bloggers, in exchange for an honest review.

About the author: Lance Hahn is the senior pastor of Bridgeway Christian Church in Roseville, California.  He is the host of the Ask Pastor Lance radio show, a conference speaker, and an adjunct professor.  He is married to Suzi, and they have two daughters, Jillian and Andie.