Friday, December 12, 2008

Delays and Dilemmas

I’ve been thinking about two things that often dog our paths and cause frustration. One is delays, and the other is dilemmas. I’m dealing with both right now. Both can be unavoidable, despite our best efforts, and both can be unpleasant.

Since Thanksgiving, I’ve been dealing with three delays. Though I’m a missionary who always determines to get the Christmas mail out by the first of December, we didn’t finish ours until yesterday. Though I look forward all year to the ambiance of a home decorated and lighted for Christmas, our only decorations so far are matching wreaths on the dining room wall. And as a writer trying to break into the Christian fiction market, I know the importance of being timely with submissions, yet the submissions are hung up on the second part of my title—dilemmas.

Some dilemmas are not as big as others, but they can still trip us up or slow us down. My husband has a yen this year to get a new tree, but what kind? He’s intrigued by those new ones with permanent lights—but they are expensive, I can’t imagine how you store them, and they mostly come with all white lights (I’m partial to soft colors). Another current dilemma is that we can’t decide what to do about our two daughters and their husbands for Christmas. We’ve tried matching gifts, gift certificates, and taking them shopping, but each of those has met with one catch or another.

Meanwhile, I’ve dealt with dilemmas related to my Tangled Strands novel—how to arrange the text to make the “three sample chapters” I submit, and shall I send to both interested publishers at once? Bigger than any of those dilemmas is an unexpected turn in the whole thing. On September 3, 2008, I wrote a blog titled “What? Make it the beginning?” It told about members of my writing group suggesting that the scene they had just critiqued would make a good opening for the story. That would require huge changes, but I knew almost from the first moment that it was a good idea.

Since then I’ve written a new beginning, starting the story six months later. The scene they liked so well as a beginning is just that, in the form of a prologue. Now I’ve received strong but opposing advice from two respected critique partners – 1) ditch the prologue; you’ve got a good beginning with chapter 1; and 2) oh, you must keep that scene as the opening! What to do??? I need feedback from some fresh readers, but who? “Friends” aren’t too hard to come up with, but I should also query a few who have experience with both writing and editors.

That leads to yet another dilemma—who to ask and how do I ask them? Though the author community of which I’ve been a part for two years now is incredibly generous and helpful, I am reluctant to intrude on any of them (it’s the holidays…they have their own deadlines…yada yada).

Both delays and dilemmas can have a good side, if we are willing to look for it. They can drive us closer to God if we let them, and they certainly teach patience, persistence, and perseverance. They can also produce subtle or unexpected blessings. The volume of Christmas mail brought fresh gratitude for all the friends God has given us. The house-decorating delay is going to result in some special time with our grandchildren as they help us play catch-up.

And the submission issues? “Special results” for that are still unknown—to me, but not to God.

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