A week has gone by since my last post (and that sheepdog trial is starting today, I’m looking forward to watching the finale on Sunday, streaming live here).

I’ve spent the week working on the final chapters of my WIP, a story that’s posed some of the greatest challenges I’ve ever faced as a writer and a researcher. It’s one of those stories that I’m not sure I’m old enough, wise enough, mature enough, skilled enough, to do justice. I knew that at the outset, and there have been plenty of struggles along the way. Times I’ve had to set it aside for a few weeks. Lots of mornings where it was the focus of my prayers.

The book spans twenty years, so I’ve had to research the largest chunk of history for this one novel than I’ve ever researched for any book before it.

It’s a generational story, so I’m dealing with more than one hero and one heroine. Three of each, actually. One of those main characters does something terribly terribly wrong at the start of the book, yet my goal is to make the character sympathetic to the reader anyway. It’s also to show how God can take… well, let’s call it what it is, a crime… and bring something good from it. A whole lot of painful consequences along the way, but in the end, good. In the end, hope.

I’ve noticed something about the stories that grab hold of my heart, the ones I choose to write out of all the possibilities that present themselves to my brain in the course of a year. There has to be an element of uncertainty involved, a question of whether or not I can actually pull it off. Something about that challenge is alluring to my soul. While it’s guaranteed to bring me stress, it also promises to stretch me. As a writer. As a Christian. And the faith it requires bleeds over into other areas of my life.

So this one thing I know: if I want to keep growing as a writer, a storyteller, I can’t choose the easy story. I can’t choose the level path, or the one I’ve walked before. It has to be the steep and windy one, leading up to a height where the air is thin, but the view is new and grand.

Q for writers: is there some thread of similarity that runs through the stories you choose to write? What does a story or a character have to contain for it to be plucked out of the well of possibilities and given months, or years, of your heart and soul (and blood, tears, and sweat)?

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