Everyone I know has Spring Fever, including me. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and the snow is melting at last. The steady drip of snowmelt from the eaves outside my office sounds like a drumbeat, summoning me to come outside and play. The season of new beginnings is here.
And it’s a new beginning for my next writing project, too. My contract schedule has me handing in my manuscript in January then completing any changes my editor asks for in March. I’ve just finished that process and turned in all of my final changes and edits, so now I’m ready to start the process all over again with a new book.
But where will my ideas come from? How does the next story begin to form in my mind? Every author is different, but I begin by replenishing my supply of words. That means reading lots and lots of books. I choose authors who not only know how to tell a great story but also have an extraordinary love of language. I just finished two novels by one of my favorite writers, Rosamunde Pilcher, who can tell a gripping tale while painting word-pictures that are so vivid they can make me shiver: “Antony opened the front door, and the cold wind flowed in like a sluice of icy water.” Brr!
At the same time, I start reading lots of non-fiction books about the historical time period or setting that I’ve chosen. This includes first-person accounts such as diaries or memoirs written by people who might have lived alongside my fictional characters. Whenever possible, I visit the setting for my new novel, taking photos and absorbing all the sights and sounds and smells, keeping track of them in a notebook for future use. I also love to ask people to tell me their love stories, or their God-stories, or their family’s story. (Warning: don’t ever tell me a story unless you’re not afraid to see it in one of my books!) I’m creating what I call “story soup,” tossing images and ideas and historical facts into a huge pot and letting it all simmer together in the back of my mind until I’m ready to start writing.
One of the things I love to do while these ideas and images are simmering is to go outside in the gorgeous spring sunshine and sample God’s creative handiwork. I want the theme of His redemption to flow through all of my novels—how he takes what is broken and cold and dying and fills it with renewed life. And seeing the beauty of rebirth in nature as the snow melts and the new grass and spring leaves began to peek through,inspires me to tell of His goodness and grace all over again.
After the overwhelming destruction and judgment of the flood, God promised Noah—and us—that “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease” (Genesis 8:22). We will always have seasons in life that feel like a long, dark, frigid winter—those times when life hits us in the face like “a sluice of icy water.” But He is the God of Springtime and new beginnings and second chances. He breathes life into the cold, dark corners of our hearts and we begin to find joy again. “Behold! I make all things new!” No wonder we have Spring Fever. Let’s go dance in the snow-puddles!