Ten years ago, it began to rain. I sat on our Himalayan porch and watched the rain pour down on our terraced garden. Darren rode off to work at DMI, in the rain. The boys did three hours of homeschool and then made mudslides, near the corn crop. The Maoists called yet another strike and the army kept practicing and the king didn’t know what to do. It was the beginning of our seventh monsoon and I was struggling, so I turned on our laptop and began to write.
Ten years later (and six books published), this is what I’d tell my younger self:
Pour it out. Just write. Don’t worry about what anyone else is going to think, just write from the bottom of your heart about the things that make you laugh and cry and stare in wonder, and the reader will probably also stare in wonder and laugh and cry with you… because they’ve all had their own monsoons, or years of drought, or months of waiting and impossible questions… so stop worrying and pour it out.
‘Pace’ is very important, but even now, I can’t tell you what it is. You have to find it yourself, inside every sentence. But trust me, you will.
Stories need to come alive – so the reader can smell them and hear them and touch them – especially the mudslides, and the way the army boots sound when they march in rows past your house. So capture all of that, but most importantly, capture the soul – the thing inside you full of questions, and a longing for truth and beauty and love. Capture that, truthfully.
But as you do, try and focus on your unfathomable questions, rather than your neat, simple answers. None of us are in heaven yet and we don’t know everything, and some days we hardly know anything at all. So write well and honestly, but leave as many gaps as you can… so that the reader can put their fragile longings and questions inside your story, quietly.
More than anything, as you write, catch a tiny glimpse of what could be, of what is still to come, a plan for forever, and a purpose for now, so the reader can keep going too, and put their hope in a God who loves them, completely and utterly, and has invited them into his marvelous, over-arching story.
When you’ve finished your small story, smile for a moment (because it’s good to have written 65,000 words) and then sit back down and rewrite again and again (until you want to throw the whole thing out the window), because the rewriting is when you find the sparkly bits.
And remember, whatever happens next is not up to you.