Sparkles by Ashlee: faith, funny, + fulfilling dreams

Welcome to Sparkles by Ashlee, a Christian lifestyle blog over faith, funny, and fulfilling dreams. I'm Ashlee Staerk, and I'm a teenager in love with Jesus and writing stories for His glory in Iowa. Grab your fave drink (I'll take a Dr. Pepper), and peruse my blog, where I document what God is teaching me, encouragement He lays on my heart, the good and the bad in life (always keeping it real), and my journey of trusting God with my dreams!

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That Time I Decided to Rewrite My First Novel....

I can remember the day I started writing my first book. It was someday in the spring, 2014. I was sitting at my usual fave spot at our kitchen table, right next to the window, which had revealed a nice spring day (I think, haha, but I was writing about spring that day because I felt inspired to do so, so I'm guessing it was). I remember thinking the book I'd been writing at the start of entering fifth grade, so the previous fall, wasn't really going anywhere. It was basically me processing my thoughts about entering middle school. It had some good lessons, but I just knew I could do better. And there was this one idea that I'd wrote down as I was writing this fifth grade story that never left my mind. It was a deep idea, one that I was a little intimidated to write about because truthfully, I didn't know if I could do it, if I even knew what to say. But it was a thrilling idea, and I couldn't wait to finish my fifth grade story to begin it.

But that day . . . I don't know. Something clicked. It was like God was laying on my heart the green light to go on from my fifth grade story. That was an excellent start, and I couldn't believe I'd actually written 30,000 words on it. But there was a lot on my heart, a lot God had taught me about what it means to surrender your life to Him since I didn't truly do that until the summer of 2013.

There were three things about this idea I liked and one also kind of scared me:

  • One. It would contain so many of my childhood memories. The setting was in one of the most special places to me, a place where I've learned what love and faith is. A place where I'd truly grown up so much, both physically and spiritually. I couldn't wait to dive into those things.
  • Two. I wouldn't get bored with the story. I get bored easily when writing my stories. Then again, I was only just newly eleven years old when I started, so I'm sure I did bore easily. But not this idea. I don't remember how this idea came to me, actually, I think I was reading book summaries of authors I like, and in a rush I just got my own idea. But the idea was full of drama and action and, more importantly, packed with plenty of opportunities for themes and life lessons.
  • Three. I was excited for this aspect, but I was also kind of freaked out to tackle this: the themes this story would have. As I mentioned above, this was a deep story idea. Really deep. I don't want to give details away yet, but I'll say this: it involved death. And I was only eleven, and one of my biggest fears was having to watch somebody I loved die. I began asking myself questions like, okay, what would I do? How would I react? How would that impact my faith in God? How would I learn to trust Him? How would I move on? Hence, a book was born. But those were questions I set out to answer with this story, and I was worried about it because I didn't even know the answers myself.

But I started writing. Writing the first few pages of a brand new sparkly book is so exciting, bubbling with new beginnings and possibilities and words that are just ready to pour out. Then I made an outline, and somehow, it just formed. I know God was guiding me this entire time with the ideas. The actual ending, what I was going to say and how I was going to resolve the story, didn't come until I was, like, halfway done with the book. But when God revealed it to me, it just came pouring out, literally, onto my outline in my pink Sharpie. There's a big list of around six lessons that suddenly became clear to me.

I always said I learned things about my faith I didn't even know I learned until after writing this book, and that's why I say this. Because it was a challenging topic to write about, one that I didn't even know how I would deal with in my own life, but God showed me through that story that I would be fine. And it was like I just felt a peace about it.

The ending came over winter break, 2014. Right around Christmas. It was the most thrilling feeling, plugging away at those final chapters on the last page of my outline, knowing this book I'd only dreamed of finishing would be finished. I'd never finished a story before, and when I started this book, I set a word count goal for 40,000 words. I really hoped and prayed I'd finish it, but I was just going to hope for the best, because I knew I was only eleven, and I was going to have school, and who knew if I was actually capable of finishing a novel?

But by the grace of God, I did. Those final chapters were so fun and beautiful to write. I remember bounding into the room where my mom was, updating her every time I finished a chapter telling her I was so close. And then I did. God laid the story on my heart, and He made sure I didn't grow bored of it. It was a story that needed to be told, I am positive of that. And after I finished it, I couldn't believe it. I'd exceeded my word count goal at a little under 60,000 words, and afterwards I was just like, wow. That story is actually done. And how in the world did I learn what I did about life and God?! The answer: God. Totally Him, every step of the journey. He was guiding the entire story and revealed to me what I needed to know at the proper time. It was amazing to see that, and He gets all of the glory for this story, whatever may happen to it in the future.

And, the future . . . what does that look like? I revised and edited the book in 2015 with some minor changes to the storyline and completely finished my edits in 2016, or so I thought. I put together a bunch of summaries and synopses in 2016, also, but I never did anything with the story in terms of emailing an agent. I guess maybe I was scared to, but I just never felt ready. But now it's another year, and I needed to seriously look at my plans and goals for this story, which will always be special to me.

I had four options mainly: rewrite the entire story and start from scratch was the first; second, don't touch the original story but add to it; third, don't do anything new to the story but edit the original; and fourth, do nothing to it.

So I considered those. The first option didn't sound appealing at all. Starting from scratch would take a whole new year just to write, that and I really liked my original story. I didn't know if I felt completely confident going with the fourth option, which is the other extreme, doing nothing to it, because my writing skills . . . well, I mean, I was eleven, and now I'm fourteen. So I decided to do a mix of both with two conditions: 1) If I was going to add scenes, I needed to stay true to the story. I wrote this at eleven years old. It needs to stay that way. The story is special to me, and I don't want to drastically change it because in a way it does mark my maturity and my relationship with God at that time. It marked the lessons I'd learned then, and they were good lessons because they were the lessons God revealed to me at that time. 2) If I was going to edit the story, I couldn't overdo it. The grammar and writing style was acceptable for the sake of publishing, but again, I wanted to be careful and rather picky about the edits I made to the story. If I change it too much, it won't be as special because that wasn't the story in 2014. Like I said, it marks what I learned then, and it's special because of that.

So that's what's next. I'm going to do my best adding and editing the story so that the original message can shine even brighter, but not changing it enough so that the original message is gone or replaced. It's quite a difficult process, but I'm excited to revisit this story and see where God will take it next. I would so so so appreciate the prayers!

I appreciate each one of you that's encouraged me in my writing journey! When this one is done, it's all for you. <3