Friday, October 7, 2011

A Writer?! Seriously? by Stephanie Grace Whitson

Who doesn’t ever experience doubts about our abilities as we skip, stroll, plod, and sometime trudge down the path toward publication? It’s not a journey for the faint of heart. But, if we follow our calling, God will lead the way. Enjoy as guest author Stephanie Grace Whitson shares how God has worked in her own life and writing career.  ~ Dawn

A Writer?! Seriously?
by Stephanie Grace Whitson

God has undoubtedly had many a good laugh listening to me tell him my plans. I will never get married. (1973) We aren’t going to have children. (1980, 1982, 1986, 1989). I will never home school. (All four kids). I will never re-marry. (2003) You’d think I’d learn to hush.

When I look back on the road God used to make me a novelist, I am similarly amazed. While I’ve always loved reading and writing, I never thought it would ever be my full time job. “The mind of a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

In 1996, my husband was diagnosed with cancer. The pioneer women’s lives we’d studied for home school—especially their faith—encouraged me. God provided story as a refuge. I couldn’t control real life, but I could control fictional characters. My first pioneer heroine was the woman of faith I needed to be.

By the time Bob graduated to heaven in 2001, God had blessed my writing and I had several books in print. But the one thing that is key to staying published is also the thing writers have the least control over: sales numbers. Ephesians 1:11 resonated in my situation. God “… works all things after the counsel of His will.” God would do his will. All I could do was work hard at the things I could control and leave the rest in his hands. That’s where I remain today. Trying to be faithful to what I can control … the writing … even though after twenty-plus books, writing still isn’t easy.

Why not?

Because I love researching ideas. I love getting editorial feedback and re-writing. I hate writing the first draft. Why? Because it’s always so horrible. Every single time I begin a new book I think, “What on earth ever made me think I could write a single sentence anyone would want to read?”

How do I get past that?

One thing I’ve done is to create a comfortable place to write. For me, that’s “the catacombs” in my Victorian era home. It’s a quiet, deeper-than-normal basement with books-books-books and an oak library table for a desk and a bulletin board covered with French toile on which I pin sepia-toned photographs of my characters (I collect those relatives no one can name from flea markets & auctions). I often add historical “location shots” to lure me back in time.

But I still hate starting.  

Peter DeVries wrote, “I only write when I'm inspired, and I make sure I'm inspired every day at 9 a.m.” That resonates with me. The writing part of the writing life just isn’t glamorous. By God’s grace, though, I keep flinging really bad words onto the blank screen until I have enough of them to work with. Eventually, I begin to feel like maybe there’s hope. Maybe someone will believe she’s real. Maybe they’ll care what happens to him. Maybe God can use this story, after all. And maybe I won’t have to start my own lawn mowing service. 

Stephanie Grace Whitson began playing with imaginary friends (i.e., writing fiction) when an abandoned pioneer cemetery near the Whitson’s country home provided not only a hands-on history lesson for her four home schooled children, but also a topic of personal study. That story became her first novel, resulted in a three-book contract, and put her on the ECPA best-seller list. She’s been a finalist for the Christy Award twice and is working on book #22. In no particular order, Stephanie enjoys being Yaya (grandma), riding her motorcycle named Kitty, and quilting. She’s in graduate school pursuing her master’s degree in history and hopes someday to spend a summer in Paris, her favorite city on the planet. 

To learn more about Stephanie and her books, please visit:


  1. Thanks for the post. Like you, I find it difficult to fight the mastodons of "What were you thinking, writing such drivel?" I'm not always successful. Knowing God has called me to this (for whatever reason) and having the inspiration of writing friends has helped me overcome the doubts.

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed this post! Thank you so much for sharing honestly about your experiences, struggles and overall journey. It was definitely encouraging. I could totally relate when you said, "I collect those relatives no one can name from flea markets & auctions." I do the same thing!! Yay! I'm not the only one! :-) Thanks again! Now, time to go check our your website and blog!

  3. Thanks! That was enlightening. It is encouraging to hear which steps along the way are more difficult for some. The area I have the hardest time with, you might enjoy, and the part you struggle with, may be the exact part I love. We all come to writing and the process differently, but we all hope for the good outcome. God bless your journey...

  4. Thanks for making me feel so welcome ... and overcome doubts as Bonnie said. It helps so much to talk to other writers! Rhonda ... do you have a special way to store/archive those old photos? I need something better than what I'm doing. And Mary ... I agree completely that we are so unique in our approach to this writing gig. It's good to remember that, especially on days when I'm bring hyper-critical of myself! Bless you all and thanks again.


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