I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Check engine light?

I knew we should have gotten a green one.

Three months ago, our car lease was up, and we needed a new vehicle. Knowing baby was on the way, my hubby insisted on “family size.” After diligent searching, we finally ended up with an SUV. As we finished signing the papers, the car dealer says, “So, you know I might not be able to get you the earthy green color you want.”

Wait, what? I thought that’s what I just bought?

Turns out, he couldn’t get a green one with the specifications we were looking for. So, we ended up settling for my least favorite color SUV. White.

Fast forward two months in my white SUV. The traction control light in my brand new SUV is constantly flickering on and off. The engine is making a whining noise. It’s idling terribly. Then, the check engine light chimes in. Perfect.

So, I bring the new SUV to the dealership. They look the vehicle over and say something about a coil in a cylinder somewhere deep in the engine that may be the problem. But, of course, they’re not really sure.

The proposed solution: Can I take it home and continue driving it, paying more attention to when it “acts up?”

Me: Um. Sure, I guess. And if it continues?

The answer: Well, if it’s what we think it is, next your ABS will go out as the computer compensates and shuts down systems one by one. Then we’ll know it’s the cylinder thingy.

Me: Hm. That sounds dangerous. Maybe we should just get the cylinder thingy checked out now.

Dealership: Oh, no, we’d have to pull the whole engine out, and that usually causes more problems down the road. We’d rather narrow the cause down first.

(At the expense of an eight-month pregnant lady’s anti-lock brakes during a Minnesota winter? Really? That’s the best solution?)

Apparently. Two days later, the check engine light and the traction control light begin blinking in tandem. Back to the dealership it goes…hopefully to get it’s cylinder thingy checked out.

We all have circumstances in our lives and in our manuscripts where we're tempted to patch things up, or hold out to see if they get worse. Sometimes it seems simpler to ignore a critique buddy’s feedback than rework the engine of your manuscript. But just like my SUV, if you ignore potential “check engine lights” that critique buddies point out in your WIP, you may just get stuck overhauling it later, like my SUV that’s in the shop now.

Have you ever had a situation where you made a quick fix instead of meeting the challenge head on? How did it impede your progress down the road?

Image from freefoto.com


  1. Oh, Ames--living just a few miles away in the same MN winter (that only now turned cold) and w/ a pregnant dtr.-in-law whose baby is due just 2 weeks after you, I really relate. Getting feedback from a regional writing contest where 4 out of 5 judges found my dialogue weak was my steady engine light--not even blinking. I nearly decided to walk from now on, no more cars--but that would seriously limit my life style.
    Here's hopes they fix your situation soon w/ even better wheels--and that baby comes easily on a warmer sunny day.

  2. I admire your ability to keep calm, that is not a good experience and you can keep objective. hope things get fine for you.

    - Jo
    ignition coils

  3. Oh Amy, how frustrating. I love how you turned your experience into a life lesson. I know I've had times when I tried to do thing the easy way rather than the best way. I always end up going back to fix the bigger mess. I'm learning in writing, and in life, to go through and work through the best option, not necessarily the easiest option. :)

  4. Now this is a keeper post.
    And a beautiful way of applying real life to writing life.
    And, yeah, I am so sorry your brand new SUV is in the shop. Really.
    But that "check engine light" analogy? Brilliant.

  5. Oh gosh, I so hear you on this, Amy: Sometimes it seems simpler to ignore a critique buddy’s feedback than rework the engine of your manuscript.

    Like Beth said, brilliant analogy. :) Hope your car gets fixed easily, soon and cheaply so baby Lindberg can enjoy his mode of transportation.

  6. Hey DEE, I'm so excited you have a new grandchild on the way!

    Glad you were able to heed the check engine light around your dialogue, and look at all the success you've had this past year!

  7. Thanks, Johann! Life is such an adventure, you might as well enjoy the ride, right? Stress is never helpful! Whatever prevents me from going into early labor, I'm all about it!

    Thanks for stopping by!

  8. P.S., awesome information on the ignition coils. I need to learn to be a better listener, I guess!

  9. Jeanne,

    I like the way you put that, to pick the best option, and not the easiest. I know I have areas in my life I still need to put this into practice!

  10. Beth,

    Thanks! I'll never forget how you told me you chucked nearly 50k of your WIP, TEE, after attending Storycrafters. I was like, whoa, that lady is crazy. I don't know if I could do it! And now look at you! In heeding the check engine, we will have a brand new debut fiction TEE book out. HOORAY!

    I can't wait!

  11. Thanks, MTagg! I's super excited for baby Lindberg's appearance, and for my SUV to come home or send his replacement to my house. Hope things are well with you!

  12. Amster!
    How very, very funny...my SUV is doing the same thing! Urrggh!

    I loved the analogy and the life application!


  13. Thanks for this analogy, Amy! Those "check engine" lights on critiques can make me want to hit the delete button, but after it stops hurting in a few minutes, I can usually see the point, and the rewrite always makes me thankful for the overhaul.

  14. Ugh, AT, I feel your pain! I hope yours isn't the coil thingy and you get it fixed quick!

  15. Teri, I so admire your spunk. And you are totally right, those check engine lights when it comes to critiques can sting sometimes - but they often do lead to an overhaul that is an improvement. Thanks for sharing!

  16. So agree with all the comments here. Last year at DT, Susie said something about my wip sounded like a Love Inspired Suspense and I said No Way. Could not imagine cutting 40,000 words from it.

    But I finally listened to my great mentor, and whacked away. And IMHO, have a much better book! Great post, Amy. And I hope you get your car fixed soon. Maybe they'll give you another one...an earthy green one.

  17. Pat, that is soooooo brave to chop 40K. I'm so glad you were willing to try and have a much better book, that's awesome!

    You and me both, I'm shooting for a new earthy green one. I hear white is ripped to shreds in the shop right now!

  18. Ames, I had every intention of replying yesterday, but time slipped away.

    So sorry about the engine frustration. I hate that dealers don't always want to do the work so they "encourage" you to wait it out. I'm glad your SUV is in the shop.

    My writing check engine light came on when my editor asked me to remove a secondary character from my manuscript. I so wanted to ignore her feedback, but she has knowledge about what readers want that I don't have, so after pouting, pondering, and praying, I did as she suggested. And she was right--the story was much stronger. I saved the character to use in a different book. We don't want all that fun to go to waste. :)