We are all about journeys…unique ones at that. How convoluted was your path to your first published book? Share some highlights or low lights from your path to publication.
My path to publication was longer than most, I think. It spanned twenty-two years, from the time I became serious about writing a novel in 1991, to 2013 when Burning Sky was released. All through the decade of the 1990s (my twenties) I was passionate about writing, confident I had every chance of one day being published, and undaunted by rejections. Many rejections!
In 1999, still with nothing but rejections to show for years of writing, God allowed a detour in my journey that would last five years, by way of cancer and chemo fog. I had just turned 30 when I was diagnosed with Hodgins Lymphoma. Though it took less than a year for the cancer to be cured, during the next five years I wrote very little at all despite my stop-and-start efforts to do so while my brain recovered in 2004 from a long-term side effect of the chemo, known as chemo fog. In 2004, I began researching and writing the type of historical fiction that would eventually be published—18th century frontier stories.
As you might imagine, those five years were fraught with challenges: frustration, disappointment, determination, set-back, tears, prayers, and ultimately a surrendering of my writing dreams into the hands of the One I should have left them in from the beginning. God was waiting for me to take that idol, which is what writing had become in my life, and knock it down.
Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work, or struggle in a particular area such as writers block or angst driven head-banging against walls? Please share some helpful overcoming hints that you’ve discovered.
You’d think I wouldn’t experience such things after such struggle, healing, and triumph during those cancer years, and all the productive ones that have followed. But I do still struggle.
God changed me during those five years of chemo fog. He shattered my self-image of a confident, intelligent, talented writer and made me aware of my weaknesses, my limitations, and my frailty. He continues to leave me in that place of “weakness awareness” with each book I write. Each feels like an overwhelming mountain I have to somehow climb. In the climbing I have many pauses to catch my breath, many moments of doubt that I will ever make it. And yet… how thrilling to know that God doesn’t recoil from my weakness, even on those days when my faith, or my strength, or even my desire, to write another book, another chapter, or another scene, is practically nonexistent.
He is faithful to remind me that I’m not doing any of this in my own strength. That all I need to do is come to the computer each day and start working and He will show up and provide what I need. One day at a time. One scene at a time. Maybe that’s just the strength to stick it out for the day and keep plugging away even if I’m not “feeling it” or see much progress. Maybe it’s sudden inspiration, or a revelation of some deeper truth embedded in the story I’m trying to tell that I’ve been dancing around for weeks with my words and I have one of those glorious “Aha” moments with Him.
Whatever it looks like, I know He’s in this with me. Even in those moments when I’m on my face before Him, simply saying, “Lord, help.”
Plot, seat of pants or combination? What is the most difficult part of pulling together a book? Ex. Do you have saggy middles, soggy characters, soupy plots during your first drafts…if so, how do you shape it up?
When asked to talk about the practical aspects of writing, I often struggle with what to share because not one of my novels has been written with the same method. I’ve written them in a linear and nonlinear fashion. I’ve plotted them thoroughly using a Three Act Structure, and I’ve barely plotted them at all and simply written by “digging where the ground is soft” as one writer I know describes her method of writing. With most novels, I’ve landed somewhere in between those extremes. I find the juggling of all the parts and pieces that go into a novel overwhelming during the first draft, which might take me a year or more to complete. I revisit my main characters’ motivations a dozen times—and sometimes change them deep into the writing process. I devour Bible teachings and devotionals hoping for that one resonating spiritual theme to reveal itself. Again, sometimes deep into the writing process. I’m still reading craft books on structuring novels, plotting, and planning, seeking for a method I haven’t yet tried that might make the process a little easier. And I’ve been doing it for twenty-six years!
If you are a writer and this sounds anything like your own writing process, you aren’t alone! I know it can be frustrating, having no writing method you can rely on to bring you through that next novel you’re about to undertake, but if you know the Lord and are His child, I invite you to look at it as a touch from a Heavenly Father; a hip out of joint, like the Patriarch Jacob of old. When your intellect and writing craft fails you, remember that like Jacob you’ve been touched and renamed. You are Governed by God (the meaning of Jacob’s new name, Israel). Lean into Him every limping step of the way as you write. Talk to Him about it—endlessly. Ask for His abundant provision in whatever way you need. Out-of-joint isn’t a comfortable place to be, but the fellowship you have with the Author of your soul will be the sweeter. In the end, He will get the glory and others will see what He can do in their weakness and be encouraged to offer even their brokenness to Him.
Either she and her children would emerge from that wilderness together, or none of them would. . . .
In 1774, the Ohio-Kentucky frontier pulses with rising tension and brutal conflicts as Colonists push westward and encroach upon Native American territories. The young Inglesby family is making the perilous journey west when an accident sends Philip back to Redstone Fort for help, forcing him to leave his pregnant wife Clare and their four-year old son Jacob on a remote mountain trail.
When Philip does not return and Jacob disappears from the wagon under the cover of darkness, Clare awakens the next morning to find herself utterly alone, in labor and wondering how she can to recover her son . . . especially when her second child is moments away from being born.
Clare will face the greatest fight of her life, as she struggles to reclaim her son from the Shawnee Indians now holding him captive. But with the battle lines sharply drawn, Jacob’s life might not be the only one at stake. When frontiersman Jeremiah Ring comes to her aid, can the stranger convince Clare that recovering her son will require the very thing her anguished heart is unwilling to do—be still, wait and let God fight this battle for them?
Lori Benton was raised east of the Appalachian Mountains, surrounded by early American history going back three hundred years. Her novels transport readers to the eighteenth century, where she brings to life the Colonial and early Federal periods of American history. When she isn’t writing, reading, or researching, Lori enjoys exploring and photographing the Oregon wilderness with her husband. She is the author of “Burning Sky,” recipient of three Christy Awards, “The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn,” Christy-nominee “The Wood’s Edge,” and “A Flight of Arrows.” Find out more about Lori at http://loribenton.blogspot.com.