Thursday, March 30, 2006

The doors are closing -- Part 1

The light is dimming, and the doors are closing on Christian SF/F. I'm hearing that said more and more places. I see it, too, even on a personal level. I don’t know what the Lord is going to do. From the emails I get there are an awful lot of people who want to write fantasy, so I don’t understand why that doesn’t translate into readers willing to buy it. But trying to analyze such things is a complete waste of time. The bottom line is, "You’re not promoted until the Lord promotes you. If He doesn’t prosper you, you don’t want it." I know that’s a hard concept to get hold of. I sometimes even still hear my own whiny inner voice say, “Oh. I don’t know. I think maybe it would be pretty good.” When I write it out like that, though, I recoil in disgust. "Promotion from the devil and his world would be good? Are you out of your mind? Go read Ecclesiastes again and remember what is true."

What is true is that there is so much more to life than being published. But we writers seem to get this tunnel vision wherein being published becomes crucial to our happiness. To contemplate the prospect of never having it can send us into depression for days. Some of us can't bear to contemplate it at all. Yet Paul said, "If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content." Most of us have WAY more than those simple necessities: ease of living, health, families, friends, material prosperity, literacy, the word of God taught in every conceivable format -- blessings that outstrip anything the majority of people who have ever lived in all of time have experienced. And yet… the door is closing, some are saying. My books might never be published. Those of us who are published wonder, Will the books of my heart come into print only to die in obscurity in a matter of months? Will I ever publish another one?

It’s happened to many, many writers, I’m sorry to say. In the general market a book can appear on bookstore shelves and vanish in a matter of weeks. All that work, gone in mere weeks. Ecclesiastes 9 speaks to this… The race is not to the swift, the battle is not to the strong, bread is not to the wise and favor is not to the clever, for time and chance overtake them all. There are no guarantees.

Some think just doing enough work, hanging on long enough, and having enough faith will get them through. I thought that. But at the same time, I’ve always known the fallacy in that. If it's not the Lord's will for my life, it may not ever happen. And how can I ever be certain it is His will until it does happen? For a long time I didn't want to accept that possibility, and so I alternated between hope and despair, promise and discouragement.

The answer to that perpetual state of doublemindedness turned out to lie in accepting both possibilities. To realize if God chose to deny the publication I desired, I would not be losing out. His plan would not be less. Indeed, God’s plans are far bigger and better than anything I could come up with. And also much different. When I began to contemplate and believe how much He loves me, to focus not on the gifts, but on the Giver, I finally began to experience some consistent peace in this matter. Happiness does not depend on any particular circumstance, for we know deep in our hearts that any circumstance can change. No matter what worldly securities we acquire, they can be lost in a moment. Because life is change and we never know what a day may bring.

What we know is that the Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. We know that if we stay in His Plan we will see His goodness in the land of the living. It might manifest itself in the fulfillment of our heartfelt dreams, or it might be something far, far greater. And the thing is... we have no idea which or what. Even when we're in it, we don't know. We can speculate and imagine and try to extrapolate. But we really just don't know. All we can hang on to is the the fact that if we trust Him, obey Him, and wait patiently for Him to do the work, we won't be disappointed.

Grace and peace

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Back to chapter 3

Had to go back to chapter 3 today to figure out which of the two characters in it should be the viewpoint character. I've done the scene from both viewpoints, and liked them both so much I ended up putting one version in chapter 3 and the other in chapter 8. (Yes, I know that sounds weird, but the things they talk about are largely different, and I figured I could change it more later). Now, however, I think the POV (point of view) I have in chapter 8 should be in chapter 3, and also that much of the material in that chapter 8 scene should be combined with the material in chapter 3. Today I figured all that out and lumped all the stuff together into one mostly incoherent section. But I've printed it up and tomorrow I'll start reading through the hard copy and see if I can pull it together. All this so I can figure out how to start ch 17.

And at the same time, we've just heard today of a death in the extended family and are in the midst of preparing to take an unexpected trip to the memorial service. But as tonight's Bible Class reminded me: the Lord has everything under control, all of which depends on His ability, not mine. The challenge is to keep remembering that and to believe it.

Pressing on

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

In Acceptance Lies Peace

In James 1:14, the Greek word for "lust" is epithumia, a word which can also refer to a simple desire or longing, not necessarily something bad or evil. It’s only when a particular desire or longing entices you away from the principles of God's word that it becomes a lust. Moreover, though in our culture the word lust is most often associated with sex, it actually refers to other areas of desire as well – desire for recognition and approval, for money, for a husband or wife, for children, for success, for pleasure. None of these are wrong in themselves. It's only when they take us away from our fellowship with God through the disobedience of being frustrated, obsessed, self-pitying, doubting that He is who He says He is, etc, that they become a lust.

Before I was published I wrestled with all this a lot, for my deep desire, of course, was to be published. Now instead of publication, I find myself longing for good sales and good reviews -- different sides of the same coin really. I still desire recognition and approval for what I do, even though I know that I do it as unto the Lord. I don’t think it’s wrong to want people to like what you do. It’s just that you can’t let it carry you away from the peace you have in the Lord. Turns out the things I learned about dealing with this in my pre-pub days still serve me today.

In her book Keep a Quiet Heart Elisabeth Elliot said,

"There are a great many things in this life we cannot change. Should we stew and fume and fret and be miserable about it? Or say, "Yes, Lord... I accept what has been given and I won't make a fuss about what has not been given." Look not after great things. Small breathings, small desires after the Lord, if true and pure, are sweet beginnings of life. Take heed of despising the day of small things by looking for some great visitation.

"Thou must wait for life to be measured out by the Father. And be content with what proportion and at what time He shall please to measure."

Wise words, that I still find myself calling to mind.

Finished chapter 16 today. The let-it-be-bad method is working splendidly!


Monday, March 27, 2006

This and that

Yesterday I read about a writer who stops reading when he comes to the first negative adverb/adjective in a review of his work and throws the review away. He throws the good reviews away too, but those he reads all the way through. I kind of like that approach. At least the part about the negative reviews. LOL Wonder if I could even do it. One thing I know, and that's the fact that negative feedback still has far too much power over me. Invariably it shakes my confidence and drains away my enthusiasm, though lately it's not been as bad as in the past. It does seem that the less time and attention I give to it, the better it is for my work in progress.

"For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ."

My contract on the two new books came in today's mail. That gave me a giggle, seeing the title there on the first page. Right now it's The Black Box and (Untitled). Amazing. God just keeps on coming through.

I'm also happy to report that today I once again adopted and maintained the really-bad-draft mentality and turned out 10 1/2 pages of Chapter 16. My schedule (ahem) calls for me to finish ch 22 by the end of March. I have abandoned all hope of that, but I would like to get as close to it as I can.


Saturday, March 25, 2006

Really bad means REALLY BAD

I forgot about writing really lousy drafts! Or rather, I knew about it, and I even have a sign about it on my desk, but I'd forgotten about it. Kind of like I know the Lord has promised to take care of me and bless me , and that He is wise and good and kind and powerful, yet suddenly I am worried and fretful again. I know it, but it's not registering. I'm not applying it.

Really lousy drafts are just that. Really lousy drafts. Bad, bad writing that makes me wince as I'm setting it down. Sentences and thoughts that provoke all manner of objections -- No! It can't be that way. It should come after this, or before that. Or, This is really cornball... Or melodramatic. Or off the wall.

I just have to plug my mental ears and keep on writing, one bad sentence after another.

So. I put on Handel's Water Music, got out my picture of Abramm and set to it. I've had the entire glorious day to work uninterrupted, except by myself and the laundry. And as of this moment, I've done 8 pages of very bad draft to finish chapter 15. Hallelujah!

Now I think I'll go make chocolate chip cookies and think about ch 16.


Handel's Water Music -- The Academy of Ancient Music -- Christopher Hogwood

Friday, March 24, 2006

Getting nowhere

I've completely forgotten where I got this quote -- I thought it was from Overcoming Writing Blocks, but I just now looked it up and couldn't find it. Anyway, I refer to it all the time:

"It is important to realize that before any problem is solved there is very often a period of frustration. A time when it seems you are getting nowhere, that you are further from a solution than ever (or the problem is far bigger than you thought) and that all is hopeless. The harder you think, the more hopeless it seems."

That was today. I have been gnawing at chapter 15b now for three days. More and more pieces are coming together but I just can't seem to get anything to really start cooking yet. It didn't help that my husband took today off, and that I had a bunch of silly, time-consuming computer problems that took up the entire morning... But that's what the Lord's given me for today. And I will accept it. He knows what He's doing. And besides, this has happened more times than I can count. It's a mystery how it works, but that's how it works. So I'm going to walk around the park now.

grace and peace,

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Return of the Guardian-King

Well, it's official. Book Number 4 in the Legends of the Guardian King series will be re-titled Return of the Guardian-King. Not my original or preferrred title, but one I can live with. I am grateful to even have a publisher and marketing team involved in seeing my work put into print and who are committed to doing the very best job that they can. And since I am not expert in how to sell books, I am happy to defer to their wisdom.

It helps to know that even writers so great as Dean Koontz do not always get their "original and preferred" titles. In his afterward to the Berkley books new edition of Lightning he related that neither it nor Watchers, Whispers, Phantoms, Strangers or The Bad Place were his "original and preferred" titles. So I feel in august company. (And I always did wonder about Watchers, for that title seemed to have nothing to do with the book. His original was Guardian, which makes a lot more sense. Though I have to admit, Watchers is a more interesting and even threatening title.)

Still working on chapter 15b. Researched fig trees today and learned all sorts of incredible stuff about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil as distorted in Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. I also read about 17 century surgery techniques for bladder stone removal -- ugh. This from reading through Samuel Pepys diary in hopes of getting some info on royal balls.

Now it's off to the Y.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

time and words

In revising any piece of writing one of the things that must be considered is the relative importance of the various concepts you are putting forth. The biggest thing that signals importance is the amount of words that are spent on a subject.

If you devote many words to describing a particular character, the reader knows that character is important and will remember him. If you go on and on about how the protagonist is feeling, the very amount of wordage and time spent says it's an important part of the story. If you take a whole chapter to develop the trip to the coffee shop you have again made that event Important -- even if that was not your intent at all.

Often, especially in a first draft, we go on and on about something that really isn't very important. Hence the need for revision. To go back after the heat of drafting and look at what you've done: How many words did you spend on the various elements of the piece and how well does that correspond to their relative importance?

Life is an awful lot like writing. Only, as was mentioned yesterday, it's not words that determine importance so much as time and thinking, and sometimes we need to do some revising. What do we spend the most time doing, and even more important, what do we spend the most time thinking about, worrying about, and dreaming about? If we step back and really evaluate that, it will tell us a lot about what is really most important in our lives -- whether our intent is that it be so or not.

To be effective one must be selective.

(Thanks Kelli!)

grace & peace,

progress log: worked out an outline for the second half of ch 15; may do some actual writing tonight.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

What is Worship?

From Infuze Magazine's Editor in Chief, Robin Parrish, on hearing an interesting concept regarding worship:

"Worship isn't about music. It's not about chanting. It's not about hands raised into the air or those goosebump feelings you get.

'Think about where your time goes. Think about where your money goes. Those are
the things that you worship.'

"Makes you think, doesn't it? Whether you worship God or you worship some shallow movie star, whether you worship your bulging biceps or that shiny car sitting in the driveway... it gets you thinking about why you do, and how you express it.

"But wait, it gets better. Here's the best part. Really let this one sink in:

'Whatever it is we worship, we imitate. Whatever we imitate, we become.'
"So here's my question: what are you worshiping? Is it someone worthy? Or something fleeting?

"That's one question you better make sure you have a good answer to."

~Infuze Magazine Newsletter #111

I totally agree! What do we look to for our happiness, for our stability? Not, what do we say we look to, but what do we actually look to, in practice? God's plan for our lives, which is largely unknown to us with regard to the details, or our own which seems bright with promise? God's strength and character, or our own ability? God's word, or the world's instruction?

To put it another way: If you want something so badly that it's making you depressed because you don't have it, that is where your true focus is, and in essence it's become an idol in your soul...


Progress log: 9 drecky pages of ch 15 plus 1 page of a future scene

Monday, March 20, 2006

Fog and Snow

This is a great picture for expressing how I felt for most of today. Imagine you are standing in the foreground. Where are you going to go? Do you have any idea where you are? Where you're going? You can see there's a snowy slope right in front of you that appears to quickly get very steep. It's going to be hard, and is that even the best way to go? Is it going to lead you somewhere, or are you just going to flounder your way into a ditch filled with winter-dead underbrush? You can't tell if there are mountains beyond that fog or a valley... can't even tell if it's north or south or east or west.

Yeah. That's how it was today. I finished chapter 3 over the weekend and then for most of today everything seemed in disarray. Certain plot threads lacked cohesiveness (they could hardly even be called threads, more like random events). The whole thing needed more unity. But I could hardly even recall what "the whole thing" was. What to do?

Well, how about the ironing? Ha! I kept asking the Lord what I should do in between nonstops and lying on the couch staring at the penquin mobile, and sitting at the desk in the bedroom watching the grackles drop dog food into the black watering bucket outside. And I kept getting the nudge that I should do the ironing. Which didn't seem right at all, but finally I did it.

And it was good. When I was done, I had a couple new ideas. As I started to write them down, an avalanche of them overtook me, and even brought along some dialog. Now I have an outline for Chapter 15 and 4 pages of it written. Also a revised ending for Chapter 3.

O Happy Day!

Snow photo by garrulus

Friday, March 17, 2006


Photo by Nakae
Well, today's work schedule has been shot to pieces. For one thing, my husband is home every other Friday and we go to breakfast, so I get a later start than usual. For another, this week is spring break at the University so my son wanted to come over and do his laundry and of course that is always a fun distraction. He wasn't coming over until after noon, though, so I thought I'd get going before he got here.

Instead, just as I was getting underway my agent called. With astonishing news: Bethany House has offered me a two-book contract that includes the book I just did the proposal for (Black Box) and another, to be mutually agreed upon at a later date.

I talked to him for quite awhile. After I hung up, my husband came in and asked what the news was, good or bad, and all I could do was squeal. I was hoping they'd go for the one, but I never expected they'd want to do two! So far as I know, that was never even suggested.

Anyway, they want to market it as suspense, which of course doesn't really follow the career rules of writing in the same genre. But then I knew that when I proposed the book in the first place. And not having a lot of choice, I have to conclude it was the Lord's hand in the matter.

What happened is that back before Arena sold, and things weren't looking real hopeful, I decided to do a book that would serve as a bridge between the existing market and what I wanted to do (ie, Arena). So I started working it up, ended up writing about 9 chapters and got very interested in it. But then after Arena sold, my editor at Bethany didn't really like my idea, so I put it aside and started developing another book. That was to be the bridge between Arena and the Guardian King books. But then Guardian King sold too and now there was no need for the second bridge book. The Lord had turned my logical, bridge-book progression all topsy turvey.

I still don't know what His plan is. Black Box is superficially not like anything I've done so far, and yet, in terms of subject matter, world building, character types, and action/suspense, it is. It's just not the obvious fantasy or Sf I've done before, and, as I said, they are excited about marketing it as suspense. So am I. Suspense sells much better than fantasy! Besides, it is suspenseful and it is set in this world. But it's also got the fantasy/sf elements. They're just not as in your face as my previous books. I see this as one more part of a body of work that is going to be something unique.

Marketing gurus talk about author branding and I remember a few years back at Mt. Hermon participating in a session where we attempted to come up with taglines for each other that would serve as a start on this branding. Writing from the Edge of Imagination was the one they came up with for me, and as you can see I've made use of it -- though not as a tagline. I was never comfortable with the branding concept, though, because how can you know what your brand is going to be when you're just starting out? I have never read in only one genre. Why would I want to write in only one? But that goes against all conventional wisdom, and is one reason I gave up on all that and put it in the Lord's hands. Let Him brand me. (I rather like that metaphor, actually).

Lately I've come across others who confirm that for authors, it is our names that ultimately turn out to be our brands, for the name represents a certain type of book that may or may not conform to a particular genre. I especially like this concept because it plays to the idea that we don't know what the future holds. We don't know what the Lord has planned.

So I look at this and I think, yes it goes against marketing wisdom, and it does seem like a sort of abandonment of fantasy... but I don't think it is. Or rather, I don't think it's me abandoning something. It's just me going the direction I am supposed to go, which doesn't happen to line up with the logical, typical way to go about doing things. Nevertheless, I am certain I was supposed to write the Guardian King books, and immensely grateful God has seen fit to publish them.

I am just as certain that I am supposed to write Black Box next. For one thing, when it came time to do the proposal, I had only it and the other book I'd developed pre Arena. And NO time to work up something else. When I asked the Lord which of the two I should work on now, Black Box was the one that kept drawing my thoughts. So I went for it. And got a lot of positive responses from the people around me when I told them about it, as well as a sudden influx of research material. Even in Bible class!

And now I suppose you want to know what it is, too, right? Well, all in good time. Today I'll just tell you that I call it the cult book. It is set around Tucson, and it involves some local weirdness that occurred a few years back. Oh yes, and one more thing... the management team doesn't like the title... LOL.

For now, though, it's back to Light out of Shadow. Or whatever it's going to be called. More on that later, too.

Hooray and Praise the Lord!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Overcoming the email addiction

I have finally come to a sort of understanding about the mechanics of my email addiction. Maybe even a solution that will lead to me curbing my obsessive checking of it throughout the day -- when I should be writing. I know it's not a good thing to do, because I never know what will be there and even if what's there is good, it always throws me out of the world I am supposed to be working in. Innocuous emails can engage something in my mind that can distract me for hours. Even when checking it produces nothing, instead of going back to work, I'm still feeling restless so I go read blogs. Which can eat up hours as well. But I'll not go on about the torrent of distractions that can flood my life from the simple click of the mouse on the email icon.

I'm more interested in what drives me to do it in the first place and I think I know what it is. Writing for me is hard. I think I've made that pretty clear. When I sit here facing the screen, seeking to write or shape a chapter, and I have all these options before me and no idea which to pick or what order to do them in, when I start to concentrate and to work the material around a bit, only to see what I've done is not right, and I need to do it another way. And then do that again. And again. At some point in there I start to feel a tiny burst of frustration and discouragement. My confidence falters, just a bit. It begins to seem hopeless. I can't see how I'm going to get this mess to ever be right. It's all going to fail. And immediately I have the idea to go check email. These thoughts are mere flashes, and the feeling is very subtle, very quick. For the longest time I wasn't really even aware of them. Just of myself suddenly sick getting the idea I should check the email and the next thing you know, here it comes.

Why do I do that? What do I think I'm going to find in my Inbox? The scene already written out in perfect form? I wish! No, that won't be there, but I might get a nice reader letter, and that will give me a little charge of feel-good emotion. I've read where getting those little "positive strokes" really can get to be an addiction. And in the solitude of my house, in the midst of the pressure of making myself pay attention, a little feel-good burst seems like just the solution.
Only it's not. I might feel good for a moment or two, but the work is still there. Or worse, if nothing comes in, and I need to go elsewhere for my fix, that just leads to, well... (see above).

It was just a couple of days ago I realized the part about the little burst of frustration and discouragement. And it was yesterday that it dawned on me that in those moments I shouldn't be going to the world (email, blogs, etc) looking for something to prop up my flagging confidence and enthusiasm. I should be going to the Lord. Right then. Stop. Realize what's happening. Take a deep breath. Confess the frustration and the fear and ask for His help to overcome the desire to escape. Ask for His help to stick with the work.

I need to remember that He has called me to this project: "You are my servant. I have chosen you and not rejected you. Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you at your problems for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Emphatically I will help you. I will hold you up with my righteous right hand.”

I need to exercise patience when things get frustrating, and recall that He has promised to help me, and is guiding me, and that while it may not be beautiful now, eventually it will be. He will make it so and I will not be ashamed. Yeah!

I tried it out today and it worked. I set myself to work for 50 minute intervals -- 50 minutes of writing, then 10 minutes of housework/break. I did five of them. And I worked during those times and I didn't go check the email or read any blogs. The revision of chapter 3 is not yet completed, but close. I need to go to Office Max and get some more paper so I can print it up and let it cool. I also have to decide if I should split up what has turned into a very long chapter, or just let it be long for the moment and go on.

We'll see what tomorrow brings. For now, though, I'm pretty excited about this new approach.

Grace and peace,

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Another Outline

Finished the revision of chapter 2 on Sunday afternoon -- and yes, it did rain. Even snowed on the mountains. Sunday morning was absolutely beautiful. (The picture is of downtown Tucson against our snow-topped mountains)

Yesterday I cleaned up my desk, read through chapter 4 (decided it could stand for now), did several nonstops and seemed unable to concentrate as well as I would have liked. I suspect I was simmering.

Today I decided to switch gears and characters and did another of the paragraph by paragraph outlines of what is happening in chapter 3. I realized as I did it that another way it helps is by short circuiting the power the words themselves have to draw you through the story. Sometimes the words fit together well enough and lead so strongly into one another that the whole thing seems right as you read it through -- but remains mysteriously wrong when you're done. Doing the p by p outline helps you to disable that effect and with the outline in hand you can start to see what you've actually written in terms of concepts. Maybe the subject of the characters' dialogue is something that is irrelevant in the big picture, though in the scene itself it seemed rather compelling -- this outline helps you see that.

It also helps you to be able to draw comparisons and see progressions of thoughts you might not otherwise see. And to be able to group things better than you can if you are just trying to evaluate it as an entire scene. As a result I'm now able to see what I need to do about this chapter and a number of things that I want to add/subtract. Tomorrow I'll see if I can implement it all.

Grace on your day

Monday, March 13, 2006

Pinned to my bulletin board

"Self-discipline is the consistent self-determination and concentration on an objective, and avoidance of any distractions that obstruct that objective."

"You can't find the right words to begin until you know where you're going, and you can't know where you're going until you find the right words. Thus you must start by writing the wrong words going in the wrong direction."

"Add a little to a little. Do it again, and soon that little will be A LOT!"


Friday, March 10, 2006

Delaying action

Wow. We have dark clouds and strong winds today. It might even rain, though so far it has not. Since we are in the midst of a drought, rain would be wonderful. Even if we weren't in a drought, rain is wonderful.

Anyway, I began the revision of Chapter 2 yesterday, just looking through it and starting to think about what I didn't like about it. Today I continued that and, being unable to figure out what exactly was wrong, I did what I often do in such cases: I made an outline of what was there. That is, I read through it slowly and noted for each page, paragraph by paragraph, what was happening. Like this:

Page 1, Paragraph 1: Abramm confronts the wolf thingies behind him
Page 2, Paragraph 1: description of their battle array plus his evaluation of the situation
Page 2, Paragraph 2: thoughts of despair and gloom
Page 2, Paragraph 3: description of the wolves's breath and the sounds the men are making...

And so on. I find when I do that it is much easier to see what exactly is happening, and if, in fact, anything of consequence is even happening.

Sometimes writers get into a problem with action sequences where they do no more than delay the thing they really want to happen. (I tend to be one of those writers.) For example, you may have a story about the relationship between Jane and Joe and at this point in the plot, Jane has decided that the relationship is over and arranges to meet Joe at the coffee shop to tell him.

You begin by describing Jane as she goes out to her car only to find that the battery is dead. So she rushes to the bus stop and just manages to catch the bus to the coffee shop. But then the bus breaks down. Heading over to another bustop, she gets lost, but finds her way back and finally gets on another bus. This one lets her off at the wrong spot so she has to walk, but on the way she breaks the heel of her shoe and has to travel barefoot... and so on, until she finally gets to the coffee shop.

It may be that the entire sequence is quite disturbing to Jane, and she agonizes her way through all of it, worrying about whether Joe will be there or not, worrying about what he will say, what she will say; maybe you have some really evocative descriptions of the bus and the other passengers, etc, but still... you don't have to show any of it, because none of it changes the fact that Jane will eventually tell Joe they are breaking up. Even if Joe has left the coffee shop and Jane's announcement is put off to another day, nothing has been changed by the bus fiasco. The main event is the relationship between Jane and Joe, not Jane's troubles en route to the meeting. It's not until she tells him her decision that the actual plot continues.

That's the sort of problem I was having with chapter 2 -- although there are no coffee shops, buses or dead batteries in chapter 2! Though the action was interesting, it served as little more than a delaying factor. If it didn't happen, nothing that came after would really be changed.

The solution in such a case is to either cut such passages out altogether, insert the material only as summary (if it matters at all), or change the events enough that they now relate to the actual plot. In this case, I did all three. And I'm happy to say that I've reached the midpoint of page 12 and am at this moment pretty happy with how things are going, not only for how the whole scene has acquired more relevance in the moment but also as things will develop down the road.


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Janine Johnston

LINK: The Art of Janine Johnston

I went looking for pictures of wolfpacks and found this really cool picture -- somewhat evocative of what I'm doing, though not exactly. My wolves are not quite wolves in a rather different way from this ... Wolf-dragon-shapechanger things. I'm still putting them together and many questions remain... But anyway, this was cool and it sent me to the site of the artist, Janine Johnston. Very impressive, and I guess that's not surprising since she's been involved in comics and gaming and collectable cards for some time. In any case, I really enjoyed her images.

As for me... I finished Chapter 1 today, finally. It's 24 pages long and I cannot believe how hard it was to work through. I was expecting it to take a day at most. But I think the work has been good, the chapter is better and a lot of new thinking has occurred because of it.

Little by little,

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Speedily and with precision

After crawling along yesterday and ending up only about halfway through Chapter 1, and noting it was already the seventh of March, I confess to a bit of dismay in contemplating my postition. But just a bit. I had hoped to fly through chapter 1 not crawl, and yesterday I reflected that since the Lord was in charge, He was really going to have to light a fire under me here in the next couple of months. It's beginning to look like ten- and twenty- chapter months loom in my future, after all. Not only that, I'd just read an article saying that in order to write a really good, complex story, one has to have a lot of time to think it through, let it simmer, to keep going over and over it, adding new layers, seeing it in new ways... and obviously I wasn't going to have that kind of time. So He was going to have to see that I got it right without a lot of time and revisions.

Well last night I put on Bible class (it's a CD of past lessons, Ecclesiastes again) and in the course of the lesson, the pastor drew some comparisons between the qualities of eagles and the life of the believer who is dedicated to the Plan of God for his life:

"When we're filled with the Holy Spirit, He will give us the swiftness, energy and power to perform the task God has given us to perform -- and to do it SPEEDILY and with PRECISION and ACCURACY."

I just had to laugh. That bit of information could not have been more timely. I see I can trust Him in every way and He is making sure I know that.

Today was my half day, since I quit early for Wednesday lunch with my friends. I went back to page 11 and worked forward through page 16. Still crawling, but progress, nonetheless.


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Tortoise day

It was a tortoise day, today. I went back to page 4 of Chapter one and worked through it just about line by line, untangling snarl after snarl, working through one question after another. What does the character actually see as he's coming down the hill? Who is doing what? What is the best way to describe it all? The clearest, the most dramatic way. Small questions, big questions, questions of logistics and just plain logic (if they're standing in group with the wind howling around them are they really going to be able to hear what each other is saying?) I worked through page 9, then went back to about 6 and worked it again, this time up to about the middle of page 12. That was enough for today -- or at least for my brain for today, even if my desire could be for something more.


Monday, March 06, 2006

the good that I would...

Even without the complication of serpents’ venom, fear is a constant temptation for me; one I have to face in some form nearly every day. Fear I’ll not get the story ‘right,’ fear I’ll not finish on time, fear I’ll not have been suitably disciplined and because of it, all will be lost… Even fear I’ll run into that horrible blankness when I want so badly to write something and make some progress. That in particular stops me from diving in, the same way fear of cold water makes you stand waffling at the side of the swimming pool.

The solution is a familiar one that for me must be repeated constantly: I must recall and believe that God has all of it under control. That He’s the one writing this novel, not me, and that NONE of it depends on me, not even on my being regular and disciplined. I WANT to write this book. I want it to be the best I can make it. I show up at the desk almost every day and I’m willing to work hard when I know what to do. I’m listening to the teaching of His word daily and trying to apply it. As much as I can, I’m filled with the Spirit. That’s all I need to do. He will do the rest.

Even my failures in self-discipline are not a problem for Him. He knows my weakness and He knows at times it’s going to get the better of me. He’s already told me that’s going to happen: “The good things I want to do, I don’t, and the self-indulgent, stupid things I don’t want to do, that’s what I do.” Of course He’s allowed for it! That’s why He provided such an easy means of getting back into fellowship: I will acknowledge my sin to Him and move on. What He wants is what I’m already doing, for the most part. But he also wants me to relax and trust Him completely for this. And to enjoy the flight.

Today: I finished the second draft of chapter 1, through page 11. It takes lots of thinking, but I rather enjoy revising. It's fun to make things better.

Grace to you,

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Bit by Serpents

No, we don't have cobras in Arizona, but we were just doing a study on Ecclesiastes 10:8-11 which talks of taking care lest you get bit by serpents... and it got me thinking. That sometimes a series of events, words spoken, emails, and things read can combine themselves into a noxious venom that paralyzes the mind and deadens the emotions. Suddenly there is no hope. Suddenly the cloud of gloom and doom arrives. Why bother to finish this book? No one wants it anyway. Who am I kidding? It's just going to be put out as quickly as possible and fade away as quickly as it can be made to fade. Booksellers won't buy it, no one will know it exists, readers won't remember, won't care if they do...

Noxious, silly thinking, and it's weird the way it creeps up on you. You may not even feel the actual strike of the "serpent" (or serpents) in question. But later, the next day maybe, when you go into your office or to your desk and you look at the work in progress, suddenly you cannot write. You cannot bear to think of the work at all. The entire thing has transformed itself in the night, from something bright with promise to this hulking, slobbering, grunting monstrosity. Its gray, misshapen form will only going to put everyone to sleep. You see now that the whole thing is wrong, that you've been on the wrong track for 15 chapters and you must go back and redo everything. Throw it all out and start again.

Now you'll never make your deadline. All is lost. Woe and woe! And more woe.

It started Thursday sometime and swelled up on Friday. Took me all morning to think and pray and confess the tangle of sins that had somehow begun to bind me. To recall who it is I serve and that He has guided all along, that He IS helping me, that He has not forsaken me. That His plan is bigger and better than anything I can imagine and I don't know what that is! I think I know what the plan is going to look like for me, how things are going to unfold. And that's nonsense. I haven't the foggiest notion how they will unfold or even what they are. How silly, then to look at things in the world and make extrapolations of what that means God's plan is going to be next week. Next month. Next year.

Anti venom. Doctrinal anti-venom. It's amazing how it clears the mind and restores the soul.

Yes, I do need to go back to chapter 1, I think. But I don't need to throw everything out and start from scratch. I just need to do a bit of refining. Now that I have an idea where I'm going and what's important, I can do it. So that's the task for tomorrow.


Thursday, March 02, 2006

14 down, 26 to go

Did 7 more pages of chapter 14 yesterday morning before breaking for Wednesday lunch, then another 6 today before I called it done in first draft. Wow. Three days and done. Now it's on to chapter 15. Funny to look back and see that all that writing was done in about three hours total. I spend a lot more time thinking than actually writing. That's probably a good thing, but it's very frustrating. It would be much easier to just forge ahead with your first plan to have your character leave before dawn and just forget about the fact that if the wolves are out at night and your character is trying to avoid them, he's not going to leave before dawn ... Actually that was the realization that came to me after I finished the scene today, but too late now. It's done in a draft and I'm leaving that problem for later.

No word on the title change yet, but I did send off suggestions for the cover design of Book 4. Have to take the dog to the vet in an hour so I guess I'll go eat lunch.