I try never to write books with a particular theme in mind. Generally, what I've found is that when books/movies are written with a particular theme or message in mind, it becomes preachy, and the story and characters suffer. It's my opinion that when you focus on the story, the theme becomes a natural and integral part of the story, and is way more powerful than a story written to prove a point. So I try to organically write a story, dedicate my writing to God, and leave the theme up to Him. And generally, when I notice the theme later, I'm floored by what God was doing in my writing without me even noticing it.
I wrote Acktorek to jumpstart and revitalize my imagination. Seriously. After that really bad bout of writer's block I've mentioned a time or two on here, I needed something low stress, something that was new, something imaginative, something where I didn't have to worry about word count. So I just wrote. And the story formed. Not exactly what I'd envisioned, but it came out better. (Though I have to say, I do sometimes miss the original bits and pieces of books that get left behind when I actually write them.)
Fast forward to the beginning of this year. I was in a place where I was ready to abandon all I've worked for in these last six years of publishing and more of writing. Adulting is hard. Being an entrepreneur is hard. Things in my life aren't going the way I'd envisioned (spoiler alert: they never do). Back in December, when I was dealing with some personal things that weren't panning out the way I'd hoped, I'd felt God impressing on me to trust Him. To
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths." —Proverbs 3:5-6
I'm just going to be honest here: I wasn't. Sure, in my head, I knew that I needed to trust God, but in my heart, I was ready to throw away everything God had brought me through up to this point and go do something entirely different. Yes, there are times when God wants us to completely change what we're doing. I'm not going to deny that. But when you've been following where God leads and using the gifts He's given you, and when the results aren't what you expected, you decide to throw it away and go do something else in your own strength because it looks easier than fighting the battle God put in front of you...well, that's not good. That's not trusting Him.
I couldn't rest in my new plan. I just couldn't. I was miserable, I felt sick about it. But I was so done with what I'd been doing, so done with trusting God when the results weren't anything like what I'd expected. Luckily, I have parents who are both supportive, and who honestly fight harder for my dreams than I do. My mom told me not to talk about my other plan until I read Business Boutique. ...still haven't actually finished it, but anywho.
As I read Business Boutique, I finally started to remember why I write in the first place. Why I teach music the way I do. Why I love it. Can you believe I'd forgotten why I love to write? Even though this was after I'd written draft 1 of Acktorek and quite enjoyed it? I started to pray that God would direct me in the next steps for my author career. I honestly had no plans for my writing this year, other than maybe to try to write another draft of the Espionage sequel. (Apparently, Espionage is my least popular book. Please go give it some love. 😊) Which I suppose isn't all that surprising, considering I was thinking about giving it up. And you know what? I didn't at all feel God impress it upon me to give up writing. Indeed, it was quite the opposite.
I felt Him telling me to go ahead and do the new Time Captives covers now. To take steps to make my books more professional. And then there was Realm Makers. I obviously already wanted to go. I had friends ask repeatedly if I was going this year. I hadn't planned on it. At some point the idea of trying traditional publishing with Acktorek was planted in my head by one of Nadine Brandes's newsletters where she explained why she went with a bigger publisher for Fawkes and Romanov. I felt like I should pitch at Realm Makers. But there was no way I'd have it ready for this summer.
Yet, God kept putting all the pieces into place. Plans came together for me to logistically get to Realm Makers. (I rarely drive on the interstate at home, much less out of town...back roads and in-town driving for the win!) I got both the pitch appointments I wanted, even though I'd convinced myself I wouldn't get either. I had hiccups with Time Captives—which will be available on consignment in the bookstore, so if you're going to be there, check it out!—but I now have a box ready to take to St. Louis. I have my business cards.
Acktorek is where things are really crazy, though, and I have to give glory to God for where it all is right now. I never thought it was possible to write a draft as fast as I wrote the second draft of Acktorek. Seriously. But I did it. I had no idea how to pitch a book, how to write a book proposal, what I'm getting myself into here. (Still don't really.) But I've learned soooooo much. I have no idea what's going to come of these pitch meetings. I have no idea what things I'm going to learn during the conference. I have no idea who I'm going to meet and what connections I'm going to make, or honestly, why God wants me at Realm Makers this summer at all. I don't know. But I'm (finally) trusting that He has a reason for it.
And funny thing, as I've been working on my proposal and pitch, I've thought about the theme of the book. One list of questions commonly asked during verbal pitches was about the theme. It took some brainstorming, but finally I figured out that theme. That message of the book that I didn't put there intentionally. Not the only theme dealt with in the book, but by far the most prominent one. And this is what I wrote:
-What is the theme of this story?
Trust. Trusting your family, trusting your friends, ultimately trusting God. Trusting that He knows what He’s doing, that even the worst circumstances work together for good, that however excruciating things might be, He will give you strength to bear and overcome them.
Trust. All this time, I've been struggling with trust. With trusting that, even when things don't look at all like what I expected, God is still in control, working all things together for good, for His glory. That He knows what He's doing. And all this time, He's been guiding me through a book that's all about trust. All about seemingly terrible circumstances with no way out, where God has been orchestrating it His way, which is totally different from ours.
When I realized that, I was amazed. God is pretty awesome. He always teaches me things through my own books when I give them over to Him and ask Him to do what He will with them.
I don't know what's going to come out of Realm Makers. I don't know what's next for Acktorek. I don't know what's next for me as a writer. But I do know that God knows. God is in control. And all I have to do is trust Him.
"Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass." —Psalm 37:5