Tension by Marcia Lee Laycock

I love books with a lot of tension on the page – books that make you grip them a little harder than others, books that make you hold your breath.

I love the Bible for that very reason. There are so many stories in it that do all of the above. The story of Joseph, for instance, especially the scene where his brothers come before him in Egypt to beg for food, not knowing this man is the brother they betrayed. The tension on that page is palpable. What will Joseph do? Has he forgiven them or will he punish them and get his revenge at last? And the tension is drawn out as he plays games with them, throws them in jail, tells them to leave and come back again, tells them not to return without their youngest brother. (A lot of lessons for a writer to learn here). Through it all we wonder what God is doing, how this drama will play out and how God will be glorified. Even when we know the end of the story, it makes us hold our breath.

My husband preached on this passage today, and talked a bit about the tension – this is a short excerpt – (you can hear the whole message here)

“The disguise of grace promises that one day there will be a great reveal. It’s what makes the tension grow in this story, the anticipation of what it will be like when the brothers finally know who he is, when the father is finally reunited with the son that was lost. All these are prompts to us of an even greater day of revealing. Every act of disguised grace here below has the purpose in it of knowing the author of this grace for who He really is, of being brought close to the Father. The Great Reveal is coming soon.”

There has been a great deal of tension in the world lately, a great deal of drama. Many who are watching are grasping onto material things a little harder, hoping they won’t slip away. Many are holding their breath as they wonder what’s going to happen.

But, like the story of Joseph and many others in the Bible, we know what’s in the last chapter. We know God’s grace and mercy will be revealed. We know He will be glorified, whatever happens. Because, as my husband said – “He who lived His life mostly in a disguise of grace, was revealed through the resurrection as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”

Psalm 33 says it so well –

“Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere Him. For he spoke and it came to be; he commanded and it stood firm. The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance. From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth – he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do. No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in hi holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” (Psalm 33:8-22).

Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor’s wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone and also has four devotional books in print. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan. The sequel to One Smooth Stone will be released in 2011. A collection of devotionals for writers has just been released here. Visit Marcia’s website

How to Build a Ship by Marcia Lee Laycock

Antoine de St. Exupery is purported to have said, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them task and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

That quote draws me in, puts images in my mind of the vastness of the ocean, the vastness of our world and universe, the infinite vastness of God Himself. This I believe is what we aim for as writers of faith, to delve into that longing in our own being and to express it in ways that will draw others with us.

Think of a book you read that did that for you. It will live in your heart and mind for a very long time because it goes to the root of your being, your longing to be ever in the presence of God, your longing for truth.

The genius and the gift of art is that it can take us there. I remember feeling it in an art history class many years ago as I stared at the slides our instructor flashed on a large screen. “Just take these in,” he said. I did and was never the same. That art changed me, made me more aware, more ready to receive, even though, at that stage in my life, I had no idea what I wanted or needed. Viewing those representations of artwork wrought centuries before took me a step closer to searching for God.

The frustration of every artist is the limitation of his/her own self that blocks the genius, prevents us from reaching into that longing and embracing it. But there is hope. There is Christ, who always beckons, always encourages, always leads us to Truth because He is Truth. Though we are flawed and incapable, He is able to reach through our words and draw the hearts to Him.

I love the quote from Exupery because I imagine the people, my audience – people whose minds and hearts and souls have been touched by art in a way that makes them want to build and launch their own ships, to begin the journey to God that will take them deep into His presence. And I love the journey of my writing craft, because it takes me there too.

“Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell. Psalm 43:3


Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor’s wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone and also has two devotional books in print. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan. The sequel to One Smooth Stone will be released in 2011. A collection of devotionals for writers has just been released here. Visit Marcia’s website

Author Lacy Williams ~ Interviewed

Lacy Williams is a wife and mom from Oklahoma. Her debut novel, MARRYING MISS MARSHAL, won ACFW’s Genesis award before being published. She promises readers happily-ever-afters guaranteed. She combines her love of dogs with her passion for literacy by volunteering with her therapy dog Mr. Bingley in a local Kids Reading to Dogs program.

Lacy loves to hear from readers at lacyjwilliams@gmail.com. She posts short stories and giveaways at her website www.lacywilliams.net and can be found on social media at www.facebook.com/lacywilliamsbooks and www.twitter.com/lacy_williams .

What one issue makes you struggle the most as an author? How do you handle it?

Finding the strength to leave some things to God. For instance, I can write a great book but I can’t make an editor like it or buy it. Yet I still worry about it until I have an answer. Or I can do all kinds of marketing but that doesn’t guarantee that books will sell. Those things that are out of my control REALLY bug me because I’m a control person. I’m still learning to trust God but it’s a constant lesson for me!

What one issue ignites your passion? Does your passion fuel your writing? What would you do with your life if you didn’t write?

For me, I absolutely love that moment in the book when the hero or heroine has to give up everything to save the other person—for me, that romantic moment is really a mirror of what Jesus did for us when he gave up his life. That sacrifice… it just gets me every time.

I can’t really imagine not having stories running through my head, so I’m not sure what I would do if I wasn’t able to write. I have always wanted to learn to paint (watercolor, oils…) so maybe that would fuel my creative fires.

Tell us a bit about your current project.

MARRYING MISS MARSHAL is set in the Wyoming Territory in 1889. The heroine (a town marshal) is loosely based on two real-life women in law enforcement back in the 1920s. Here’s the short blurb: A woman marshal fights to maintain justice in her town and guard her heart when she must rely on help from a tenderfoot detective.

We are all about journeys…unique ones at that. How convoluted was your path to your first published book? Share some highlights or lowlights from your path to publication.

Highlights: 1) joining American Christian Fiction Writers in December 2006 and finding an awesome local chapter; 2: joining critique groups and growing my writing; 3) my first writer’s conference (fall 2007) where an editor requested a full manuscript; 4) finaling and winning in ACFW’s Genesis contest for unpubbed writers (2009); 5) selling my first book (2010); 6) holding that first book in my hands!!

Lowlights: 1) discovering that maybe critique groups weren’t for me (I have three “partners” instead); 2) slogging through learning a lot of craft, learning to finish the book, etc. 3) going through a season of learning to wait on God—patience is not my strong suit!

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.

I do still get blocked occasionally. Some of the best writing advice I’ve received on overcoming writer’s block came from Margaret Daley, who told me to go back to my characters and ask myself “is this really what they would do?”—a lot of my problems when I get stuck are trying to force my characters to do something that they wouldn’t naturally do (based on their backstory, history and personality). Once I’ve “spoken” to the characters and figured out what their true path would be, the writing comes a lot easier for me.

What mistakes have you made while seeking publication? Or to narrow it down further what’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

Trying to jump ahead of God. It’s not always easy to follow what He wants for us—for me I really struggled with a season of not having a lot of time to write, but it turned out that that season was really important to help support my family financially, and opened the door for me to be able to stay at home with my daughter and have a lot more time to write NOW. God knows what He’s doing, but sometimes it’s hard to trust, especially when we can’t see the bigger picture.

What is your favorite source for finding story ideas?

I am a research junkie and I often come across really interesting tidbits that I save for later stories—sometimes it will be a character’s occupation, sometimes a whole story will unfold from something I’ve read in a research source. GoogleBooks is one of my favorite research places.

Have you ever had one of those awkward writer moments you’d like to share with us, the ones wherein you get “the look” from the normals? Example, you stand at a knife display at the sporting goods store and ask the clerk which would be the best to use to disembowel a six foot man…please do tell.

My husband gives me the “look” all the time, but now he’s so used to it he usually just rolls his eyes.

With the clarity of experience what advice would you offer up to the wet-behind-the-ears you if beginning this writing journey today?

Find a mentor early on, someone you can trust, and then LISTEN to that person. In the beginning, it was hard for me to know who to listen to when I got different advice about my career. Lots of people want to tell you what you should do, even people who are at the same level (unpublished, aspiring…). What you really need is someone who is one or two steps ahead of you and can turn a flashlight on the path ahead of you and show you what to do next.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

Just the waiting. Waiting to see if a book will sell. Then waiting for it to hit shelves. Waiting to find out if people will like it. I think we already established that I’m not a particularly patient person.

Share a dream or something you’d love to accomplish through your writing career.

I really hope that my writing can touch someone’s life in a positive way. Maybe bring them back to God or help them reconnect with someone they’ve lost touch with.

What gives you the greatest writer buzz, makes the trip worth the hassles (besides coffee or other substances, or course )?

For me, getting to the end of the manuscript and typing THE END gives me a thrill that lasts for days. I think because I initially struggled with this a lot as a newbie writer, it means so much more to me now.

What is one of the more unique or strange life experiences that has really given you an extra oomph in your writing?

I was homeschooled throughout elementary and high school, and it really helped me learn to be self-motivated. This was a big help during college as I learned to manage assignments and do the work for self-paced online courses, and it has helped my writing immeasurably—I know my productive times and how much I can reasonably accomplish during a day.

Describe your special or favorite writing spot.

Since I spend most of my day chasing an 18-month-old around the house, I usually have my laptop open on the living room couch and try to sneak in a few hundred words while she’d distracted with her toys. Then I do a real push while she’s down for her nap, and also after bedtime (still on the couch!). I have a really nice office but I mostly use it for book storage.

What aspect of writing was the most difficult for you to grasp/conquer? How did you overcome it?

I am really great at starting books. Sometimes starting the same book over and over again. One of my biggest challenges has been finding the “oomph” to make it through to The End. I’ve found that, for me, the best way to conquer this is having my husband and a trusted critique partner just keep bugging me until I power through. Accountability is important.

What is the first thing you do when you begin a new book?

I like to spend time with my main characters before I sit down and write anything. I get to know their histories, foibles, likes and dislikes, their greatest desires and biggest fears (usually so I can put that into the book later!). I often will fill several notebook pages with notes about my main characters, and I refer to them often as I write the book.

Writing rituals. Do you have to sit somewhere specific, complete a certain number of words, leave something undone to trigger creativity for the next session? Some other quirk you’d like to share?

A lot of times I get interrupted mid-sentence when naptime is over and Little Girl sneaks into the living room to start playing again. When this happens, it does help me get back into the groove the next time I sit down at the computer, because I left things open.

Plot, seat of pants or combination?

Combo. I start with knowing the characters really well, then I write down Beginning, Three Disasters (three-act structure), and Ending. I use this as my map as I write, so I am always writing toward the next big thing that’s going to happen to the characters, but I have to leave myself the freedom for unexpected smaller happenings or else the whole thing just falls flat for me.

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?

Um… all of the above? I am blessed to have three really strong critique partners who point out things like “this plot point doesn’t make sense” or “I’m on page fifty and I really don’t like your heroine” (that last one came from a recent critique!). They are awesome at brainstorming with me to figure out what can make the plot stronger, characters more likable or real, and help me work through the saggy middle when needed.

Have you received a particularly memorable reader response or peer honor? Please share.

Since this is my first book, I haven’t gotten much yet (other than you know… from mom and dad!). I did get my first reader email and it was an awesome feeling to find out that someone I don’t know likes the book!

Parting words? Anything you wish we would’ve asked because you’ve got the perfect answer?

Thanks for letting me share about my writing journey. I hope something I’ve said will help one of the Novel Rocket readers on their path!