I have an important question for you: If you developed a plan today, what could you accomplish one year from now?
This weekend as I was taking some towels out of the dryer, I realized that I’m almost to the finish line, that my job with writing this book is almost done. I’m on my last lap of revisions. Tomorrow I’m sending two-thirds of my completed (revised) manuscript to my editor, and then with an extra day off this week, I hope to get much of the rest done. This will be the second time that my editor has seen these chapters, and this time she’s simply going back through as a last glance to make sure all is correct.
As I folded the towels at my dining table, I felt a bit surprised that the writing process was this close to being complete. Like I can’t believe I’m actually going to finish this thing. I remember the day this spring that I called my friend Rachel to tell her my plan for writing and publishing this book. I needed to tell my plan to someone, and over the phone, Rachel kept telling me…
What Is it for You?
After I told Rachel my plan, I worked on it little by little. And the crazy thing is that this plan has actually worked. (Well, I guess whether it worked well is still to be determined—you can be the judge of that if you read my book. J)
I’m going to share the details of my plan with you, just in case my example could benefit you. But before I do, I want to encourage you to think about your passions and goals:
If you developed a plan today, what could you accomplish one year from now? I know life often doesn’t go as we plan, BUT maybe, just maybe… with God’s provision and grace, with your hard work and steadfastness, one year from now, it could actually happen. #WeWontShrinkBack
I confess that I never wrote out my plan in the beginning, but as I shared it verbally with Rachel and others, the plan has always included setting short-term deadlines for myself as I worked with my editor and also working with my “revision team” to improve my chapters.
The 10 Steps I Took to Write this Book:
1. The first thing I did was hire my editor, Bethany. You might remember that I wrote on my blog how my friend Jamie and I prayed for several weeks that God would provide me with the right editor if He wanted me to write this book. So Bethany is an answer to prayer. :) When I first hired Bethany in February, I emailed back and forth with her for a few weeks. She helped me to see how to take some ideas from my previous blog and develop it into an outline for a book. Then she told me that she would be able to start working on my project in May, so that determined my deadline of when I would start sending her my chapters. Having a deadline gave me a short-term goal to work towards.
2. Then I discovered Author Launch, which is an online course to walk you through the process of writing and publishing a book in 1 year. I purchased a $400 subscription, and right away I was so thankful to see the steps clearly laid out. This eased my mind into knowing I could follow a plan. Instead of spending tons of time browsing the Internet for advice, I was able to watch the videos on Author Launch to hear different perspectives of successful authors. I felt like I could take bits and pieces of each perspective and incorporate them into my writing style and my publishing goals. Author Launch has given me the guidance and support I needed to finish my book.
3. In February, I started reading and writing seriously for my book. I had to make the choice to not watch TV in the evenings because I knew once I turned on the TV, my creative brain just goes blah. I selected one night a week that I would still watch TV, but otherwise I usually stuck to this discipline—choosing a few hours of writing instead of a few episodes of Criminal Minds. If I wasn’t writing, then I was reading. I read at least a dozen novels and memoirs this spring because I’ve heard that the best way to become a good writer is to read good books. Because I just came off of being a grad student for 4 years, it felt super normal to spend hours reading and writing in the evenings and on weekends. (But I will say that this book project has been a lot more enjoyable to work on than my seminary courses.)
4. I asked a few of my friends and family members if they would be willing to read through my chapters and give me feedback. I now think of them as my “revision team.” I found that it was most helpful to meet face to face and to hear him/her read my chapter aloud. I had a list of questions that I would ask them: What do you perceive as the main point of this chapter? Which part was most interesting? Which part was long-winded or confusing? How did you feel when the chapter concluded? etc. I would invite my friends to lunch or dinner, and that gave me another short-term deadline to work on that chapter so I could show it to my friend at that lunch/dinner meeting. I usually had at least two people read a chapter, and then I’d make revisions before I sent it to my editor.
5. I worked on my chapters in chronological order. Instead of sending my manuscript to my editor all at once, I sent Bethany the chapters in sections. I didn’t get this idea from anyone; it was my preference. I guess because I’ve been a student for so long, I wanted to have the feeling of turning something in, so I could mentally move on to the next section of chapters. Each time I sent her a new section of chapters, I’d let myself download a song as a little reward for myself. :) At the end of July, I sent my last batch of chapters to Bethany.
6. In August, I drove to Nashville, TN, for a meet-up with the Author Launch community and also the Jeff Goins Tribe Writers Conference. I prayed and agonized a lot about whether I should spend the money to go, but one day as I was sitting at a picnic table during my lunch hour, I felt like God told me, “Hey, don’t shrink back. Go for it.” So I did! It cost about $500 to cover the conference, hotel room, food, and gas, but it was more than worth it. It was great to rub shoulders with other writers—just what I needed to gently slide into this writing role and feel at least halfway confident in it. The conference also was beneficial in helping me to bulk up my strategy for self-publishing.
7. In September, I received my chapters back from Bethany—section by section. That started that round of revisions. I made improvements to those chapters (according to my editor’s suggestions), and then I went through the same process as before of letting others (the same revision team members as before) read the chapters, and then I’d tweak them again.
8. In October, I started my blog to share my journey. I wanted my book to be more than words on a page, so my blog is helping me to start the #WeWontShrinkBack conversation.
9. November has been the month for final touches! (Thank you for praying for me last Friday. I felt the Lord encouraging me all day, and I got a lot done!)
10. In December, Bethany will finish her part while I finalize the book cover with my friends Forrest and Krysten. Then my goal is to send everything to Xulon Press during the first week in January. At that point, it will take Xulon Press about 6-8 weeks to have it ready for its release. (!!!!!!!)
So that has been and continues to be THE PLAN. Good luck with yours! #WeWontShrinkBack
Last week I gave you a #wewontshrinkback challenge of writing down a story from your life. I’ve enjoyed reading your stories, and it’s not too late to send them to me! I told you that I would share this week about something NEW that I’ve learned in the past few years. I have no idea if this is going to sound eccentric or bonkers to you, but here goes…
One way that my thinking has changed in the last 2 years:
I used to think dreams were just for sleeping,
but now I think that dreams can be a way that God speaks to us.
I’m not sure of the exact date, but if I had to guess, I would say that it was sometime March 2014. That’s the day that my brother Dave and I were talking after dinner, and he said he wanted to pray that God would begin speaking to me in dreams.
“Is that okay? Can I pray that for you?” he asked.
“Sure.” I didn’t have any preconceived ideas of how the Lord might answer such a prayer, but I had no reason to say no.
Dave placed his hand on my shoulder and prayed that the Lord would begin to give me dreams that are directly from Him—dreams that would contain some messages He wanted to communicate to me.
Have you ever had a dream that you thought might have been from God? Did you take it to heart or brush it off?
It’s interesting how many times we see in the Bible that God speaks to people in dreams. Off the top of my head, I think of Daniel, Joseph from the Old Testament, and Joseph from the New Testament. I teach these stories to children in my church and usually don’t blink an eye at how crazy-amazing it actually is that--
It’s probably because of these stories from the Bible that I have no problem believing stories about God-dreams that I hear from friends or read in books. I remember reading a memoir by Lauren Winner about 6 years ago. In her memoir, Lauren shares how she had converted from Judaism to Christianity. She believes that God had been “foreshadowing” her conversion for several years, but one main event in the process was a dream she had.
In her dream, she and several others had been kidnapped by mermaids and had been living in captivity underwater in the ocean for a year when a man came to rescue her. She chuckles about how her dream included mermaids, but still she knew that this dream was different. She says, “I woke up certain, as certain as I have ever been about anything, that the dream was from God and the dream was about Jesus, about how He was real and true and sure.”
She told her dream to a Christian she knew, her teacher from high school. The teacher asked her if she knew who the man was in her dream, and Lauren said, “Well, it seemed pretty obvious to me that it was Jesus.”
Lauren remained an Orthodox Jew for two more years, but she continued to think about the dream and began to open her heart to Jesus. Jesus, her Rescuer.
When I Dream…
It’s one thing to believe that it happened in the Bible, and it’s fun to believe that it can happen to other people. But isn’t it humbling and outrageous that God would speak to me through a dream?!!
But sure enough, after my brother prayed that prayer for me, I began having dreams (maybe once a month, sometimes more, sometimes less). These dreams included some vivid details, and I’d wake up suddenly, with a feeling that the dream was significant somehow. Whenever I have a dream like this, I try to write down all the details of the dream as soon as I can.
Some of the dreams are easy to understand, and they leave me with a feeling of peace and security.
But believe me, I don’t know what all of the dreams mean. Still, I write them down to show God that I’m “listening” even in my sleep. I try not to freak out about the dreams. Okay, sometimes I do freak out and call my brother or tell Erin and jump to a million conclusions.
But I’m learning to identify which part of the dream was the key message, and I search for that word or object in God’s Word for a clue to what it might mean. I try to store the dream details on a shelf in my mind (and journals), trusting that down the road God will show me how the pieces come together to point me in the right direction.
I confess, though, that I have often doubted whether these dreams are really from God or if I’m just making things up in my sleep.
Just as I was wondering this, something happened last December: For several months, I had been praying for my friend Emily and her husband to have a baby. Then one night in December, I had a dream that Emily was pregnant with a baby girl, and she was due in August. Since I had been thinking and praying about that a lot, I wasn’t sure if that dream came from my own thoughts or if it came from God.
A few days after that dream, Emily texted me that she found out she was pregnant! When she told me that her due date was in August, I knew that she would have a girl just like in my dream. Sure enough, her ultrasound showed that she was carrying a girl.
I took a photo of my journal entry where I had written down the details of that dream and sent it to Emily. I told her that that dream confirmed two things to me:
1) God knows all about her daughter’s life and has special plans for her!!
2) God was showing me to keep listening to Him through my dreams—that I’m not crazy to anticipate that He wants to speak to me in this way.
Emily and her husband Chris named their daughter Selah. I was able to visit Emily, Chris, and Selah in the hospital in August when Selah was born. And last Friday I got to spend most of the afternoon holding little Selah. What a sweet baby. And what a sweet reminder that God speaks to us, that He cares, and He is involved in the details of our lives.
So that’s where I am right now. I’m still learning lots. If you want to hear from God in your dreams, ask Him to reveal things to you—then be patient and willing to listen and obey. If you have any questions about God-dreams, I’ll direct them to my brother. :)
 Winner, Lauren. (2002). Girl Meets God: A Memoir. New York: Random House Trade Publishing.
 Winner, Lauren. (2002). Girl Meets God: A Memoir. New York: Random House Trade Publishing.
Mary works at Brookville Road Community Church, where she leads children's ministry and women's ministry. She is the author of She Won't Shrink Back: A Story of Building & Believing.