The Writer’s Journey: When Free Climbing is a Team Sport

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by Dani Pettrey

In my latest novel, Silenced, my lead character Kayden McKenna has a passion for solo free-climbing. If you’re like me, when you first hear the term “free-climbing”, you picture a lone climber with zero fear (and very little sanity), hanging by their fingernails from a 90 degree angle on a cliff face, with no anchors or ropes.
And some solo climbers do conquer mountains like this. But I’ve learned that free-climbing doesn’t always mean, “without a rope.” Many free climbers do use anchors and ropes, but they use them as protection to keep from falling to the ground, rather than using them to pull themselves up the mountain.

The writing journey is a lot like free-climbing. We have a mountain in front of us: a huge task, steep and challenging, filled with ups and downs, and the occasional plateau (hopefully yours don’t include any dead fellow climbers like Kayden’s did ;).

To prepare for the climb, we study, practice, and build our skills. We map out the mountain, choose our route, and pick smart handholds.

And so it begins: the upward movement, the dance between us and the mountain. We work to maintain balance and keep momentum; God gives us vision and fuels our strength. He is our rock of refuge, the One we cling to when the route feels impossibly steep and our hands are shaking.

But in addition to His strength and ours, we writers can also benefit from carabiners, ropes, and belay partners, so we don’t have to do it solo. These are the mentors and friends, writing connections and industry professionals who help us scale:

• Our mentors inspire us with stories of bright horizons, and show us new techniques.

• Our pastors act as carabiners, keeping us close to the rock and committed to the climb when the going is tough.

• Our critique partners and brainstorm buddies talk us down from the ledge (or up it) when we need an extra dose of courage.

• Our friends and family help us hold on when we’re frazzled and at the end of our rope.

• And our agents and editors guide us through jagged passages and big leaps along the way.

None of them can do the climbing for us, but each plays a crucial role in our journey to the summit. Without these people in our lives, we really would be the lone climber, hanging by our fingernails!

This is something I’ve learned in my writing journey, and something my character, Kayden, learns in her journey through Silenced, too. She isn’t meant to face the rugged climb of life alone. She’s meant to do her part well, but also to rely on God, to receive love, and to face down her obstacles with the support of family and friends.

“For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on mountain heights.” Psalm 18:31-33

Dani Pettrey March 2013Dani Pettrey is a wife, home-schooling mom, and the author of the bestselling romantic suspense novels Stranded, Shattered, and Submerged, winner of the 2013 Holt Medallion for First Novel and the Colorado Romance Writers 2013 Award of Excellence. She and her husband have two daughters and reside in the D.C. Metro area. Visit Dani online at:

Comments 0

  1. What a great way to put a writer’s journey into prepective, Dani! It’s encouragment to aspiring authors!! Its something I need! Love you!

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