Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD (08/03/17)
TITLE: One page at a Time
By Elaine Hemingway
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It started with a Daily Reading a couple of years ago; Ezra telling the exiled people of Judah to go back to Jerusalem, but leave behind their wives and families who worshipped other gods. An idea was born and eventually, I was on a mission to write a challenging novel. I had to bear in mind the words of Chuck Swindoll: If you are writing a book, do it one page at a time.
I realised, as my characters grew, that first I had to get them to Babylon at the start of the seventy-year exile. The plot grew wings, and, like chicken soup, got thicker. As each ingredient was added and the structure broadened I found myself in an obsessive, compulsive situation that led me into a journey I could not have envisioned without the knowledge I fed on from the Bible.
Writing in England, with all the controversy surrounding the European Union, I have had to dig deeper into the original Babylon in order to see the similarities with the present Babylon. I saw the EU Building in Strasbourg as a replica of the Tower of Babel which has meant an added political interest. I wonder if an artist gets the same thrill and concern, as a picture unfolds under his or her brushes, and a 3D plethora of detail is exposed.
I once asked an engineering son, engaged in building massive, mining machinery, where on earth to start, when I saw his plans for new equipment taking up a whole wall of his office. “I begin at the bottom, Mom, and build up,” he said. Now I know a small part of the feeling.
Having been a writer for years I could never consider myself an author – doesn’t that mean published full-length books? With attempts on a YA novel and a Memoir filed away amongst other larger works, my writing has been mainly in Church, Mission and other Christian publications. Now, writing Biblical fiction, my imagination soars with ideas, sometimes repeating themselves in different ways.
Our lives are a mystery, giving much material for a testimony of how God unfolds the plans He has for us and guides us around each corner. Sometimes we are surprised that He has waited so long, but I find that when He reveals a way in which He wants us to join Him in His work He also sends assistance of one sort or another.
Moving from a vibrant Christian community to a secular society has helped me to empathise with the problems my characters encounter. Needing advice and guidance I was led to the local Writers Group, invaluable in spite of their not being on my wavelength. I love the way they encourage my exploration of troubles and triumphs of faith in the here and now as well as back in the there and then. I also learn the ease with which one can be dragged down rather than lifted up as I am reminded of a lesson given back in youth work involvement. A big guy stood on a stool and asked a little guy to pull him off. Easy! Then he stood down with the little guy on the stool and said: “Pull me up!”
Each lesson I learn sends me back to a chapter needing improvement from fresh insight gained. The plot expands, the structure suffers, while my ideas for the return to Jerusalem slowly develop into Book Two.
William Wilberforce said, “Our motto must continue to be perseverance. And ultimately I trust the Almighty will crown our efforts with success.”
In my case, about 70000 words into my great opus, my characters have not yet all been guided into Babylon, so a follow up is called for! Will I ever get to that elusive sequel? Another quote is called for, this from Helen Keller. “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”
A testimony. 700 words
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