Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Rough Draft

A quote from my Writing the First Draft folder:

"Anyone can do the rough draft of a novel and it probably won’t look much worse than the first draft of any great novel you care to name. The difference between “anyone” and a serious writer is rewriting, rewriting and more rewriting . . . the serious writer reads the words with cautious, yet growing elation . . .

"Good rewriting demands easy, unhurried tinkering with words. Each unsuccessful try eliminates another wrong solution and leads you to the right one. I can’t emphasize too strongly how important this is, the fact that writing leads to writing, that failed attempts lead to eventual success, that the solution to a rewriting problem is made up of all the attempts that led nowhere.
The trouble is that when you’re just beginning to write, you may believe that words committed to paper are sacred, fixed, immutable. But you’re not dealing with a finished, printed, copyrighted book, only with an idea, a pile of words that will change many times before they take shape as a book."

~Dorothy Bryant

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Movie: Mission Impossible 3

Instead of renting a DVD this week, we went to the theatre to see MI3 on our son's recommendation. He was right: it was good! And I like his take on Tom Cruise: the guy may jump and squeal on Oprah's couch, rave about Scientology and exhibit other eccentric behaviors, but I don't go to a movie to see him act like himself. I expect him to be acting like someone else. And for me, he did it splendidly in this. Despite it all, he remains darned good looking and he has a wonderful intensity and physicality that make him very entertaining to watch.

I think I did like this one better than its predecessors. Being a fan of the original Mission Impossible TV series, I was quite dismayed with MI 1 when the team -- which was what the series was all about -- was wiped out in the first five minutes of the movie. The second one had no team either, so I was very happy to see it returned in this one. MI 3 is still not about the team pulling one off on the bad guys per se, but I could live with that.

The opening especially intrigued me -- showing a portion of the climax, one that ends badly, before breaking away to What Came Before. Throughout the movie I kept straying back to that information, wondering if knowing it was making the story better or worse. At times I thought it didn't help, because I didn't like it, and it lessened the impact of what would have been surprising story developments otherwise. Though even when you knew what was coming, I thought they ended up doing a really good job of making it surprising and interesting. The bridge scene, for example. The capture of the rabbit's foot for another -- I was almost dreading that, to be honest. We already know from that opener that he got it, so why go through all the time and trouble of showing us how? And, as it turned out, they didn't really, and handled that section very intriguingly.

I also enjoyed the scenes between Ethan and his fiancee -- such a contrast of light and joy to all the dark tension and seriousness of the rest of what was going on in his life.

So I'd have to say, I recommend it, and am glad we paid to see it in the theatre. There are some really nice visuals that would probably lose impact on a smaller screen. Plus, it's just fun to do now and then.

Next up: Superman Returns!

Have a great day

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day 2006

Looking Back at Iraq
A war to be proud of

By Victor Davis Hanson

There may be a lot to regret about the past policy of the United States in the Middle East, but the removal of Saddam Hussein and the effort to birth democracy in his place is surely not one of them. And we should remember that this Memorial Day...

Read more of this excellent Memorial Day retrospective on our activities in Iraq here.


Korean War Memorial Photo by davebluedevil (dwm)

Friday, May 26, 2006

Even Tolkien

Lots of stuff going on around here lately -- Bear (the dog) has had to go to having his fluids administered daily now (from every three days) plus extra medications that have to be timed around his eating. We've had doctor's appointments (an hour waiting at the vet for what was to be a five minute blood draw), a birthday, an anniversary and various other distractions... um... like the season finales of Lost and 24...

But I want to thank Michelle for giving me the idea for today's post in her comment on yesterday's blog about Tolkien and Lewis struggling...

This is from Overcoming Writing Blocks, a book I've mentioned before. It's one of the many writer quotes sprinkled throughout the text:

"I play patience, or draw marvelously intricate patterns on backs of old newspapers while I'm solving the crossword. Then I feel ashamed and try to get back to work, but the phone rings or Edith calls me to tea, so I put it off for a later day." ~ J.R.R. Tolkien


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Weighed Down No More

In Bible class the other night, our pastor spoke of the goals and deceptions of the kingdom of darkness. How we often imagine the demons primarily trying to put things into our minds, when in reality their objective is more to keep things out of them -- ie, the things of God.

They want to separate us from being occupied with Christ and concentrating on the Father's Plan for our lives. Those believers who get committed and serious about learning His word and living in His plan, will be attacked. And the demons know that one of the best ways to pull us away from thinking about God is to get us thinking about ourselves and our circumstances.

And too often we are complete suckers for their ploys, especially the one of anxiety. Having dealt with our kind for thousands of years, they know how effective simple anxiety is at cutting our minds off from the things of God. And it's so easy to get us there...

Just send in some in people to put fear, worry or anxiety into our souls. Or bring in some situation of suspense. Our enemies know how much we hate not knowing what's going to happen, how automatic it is for us to fall into contemplating all the aspects of the "problem", thinking about all the bad ways things might go, then getting caught up in trying to solve them with our own power and ways.

Proverbs 12:25 Anxiety in the heart of a man weighs it down.

I've been weighed down lately, without really knowing why. For some time (a week? A couple? I'm not sure) I've awakened to a downer feeling each morning whose source I could not identify. Sometimes it would continue intermittantly throughout the day. I especially noticed it when I'd think about working on the book. I thought I was probably tired, and worried a little that if I was already starting to be tired now, what was I going to be like in a month?

Last night I finally realized that I've fallen into fear and anxiety again, though because it's been more in my emotions than in my thoughts, I didn't recognize what I was doing. Now I do. There is so much left to put into this book and I have no idea how I'm going to do it in the chapters I have remaining. I see all the things that still need to be done, fixed, added, thought of, even in the work I've already done. How will I ever have the time to do it all? What about the "cool" scenes I'd envisioned for the end? Are they really going to be that cool, or am I going to flub it up and turn what I thought would be moving and golden all flat and gray? The storyline has not gone at all in the direction I thought it would and it's turning out to be a very different book than I'd anticipated. I fear that maybe I made a wrong turn, that I've written the wrong stuff and that it's going to be a boring book. Instead of pleasing readers, moving them and making them feel glad to have read it all, I fear they will be let down and disappointed.

Those thoughts have not been at the forefront of my mind by any means, but they have drifted in and out at times and I didn't realize how much I needed to nab them and confront them. I am seeing how the kingdom of darkness does bring in people and situations and even my own stupidity (I went glory hunting again the other day, despite knowing that is a bad idea) to reinforce all these doubts...

Still, the solution is easy: confess the fear, turn away from it and concentrate on what is true. For me, that means to recall that God has chosen me for this, and not rejected me (Is 41:9,10). That He promised to help me and guide me. I have asked repeatedly, in fact, for His guidance and for Him to make this book what He wants it to be. (And, please Lord, can you make it so I'll like it too?) I believe He has answered, even if sometimes I can't see the answer. I know He will do the work he has called me to, because He's said he would (I Th 5:24). Likewise He's assured me He will help me and that I will not be ashamed.(Is 50:7) From all this I know the book is on the right track. I know that it will all fall into place at the right time, even if I can't see it from where I stand right now. He is going to do it. It's his work, not mine and if I concentrate on that and believe that, the anxiety is gone and the freedom returns.


Balloon photo by Hyku

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A New Publicist?

I was taking my walk around the park the other day and chewing -- again -- on the issue of marketing and publicity. I had read on a blog yet another flat, no-questions-asked declaration of the fact that this business is not only about writing. That we must also market, and market vigorously, spend great amounts of time devouring all resources in learning how to do it well, etc. Since it's a personal trend in me to do just that sort of thing in any new endeavor, that would mean a lot of my time. Maybe I should hire a publicist, I thought. Would that be so bad?

So I went to the Lord with my questions, and here's the thought that immediately came into my head:

"Well, you could try that if you like. You'd have to let your existing publicist go, if you mean to hire a new one, of course... but I'll be happy to step out of the way if you think a human agency can do a better job..."

Hmph. So much for that idea!


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Why I Won't Be Watching The Da Vinci Code

After several incidents of flatly declaring I would not waste my time watching -- or, heaven forbid, reading -- The Da Vinci Code over the weekend, I decided I should offer a more substantive reason than to comment with great force and conviction on its worthlessness and evil intent. So here it is:

Why in the world would I want to spend two and a half hours of my time watching a movie whose primary purpose is to discredit and misrepresent my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, His word and His work on the Cross? How could that possibly be entertaining?

For me, it could not be. Aren't I curious? No. Don't I need to watch it to know what it's about so I can answer the questions of those who might be seeking or confused? I think not. Better to know the truth of what the word of God says. Better to spend my time reviewing the reasons I believe the Word of God to be the word of God, inerrant in its original languages and the source of all truth. Better to spend my time mastering the doctrines of the Cross and the Hypostatic Union and why Jesus fathering a child with Mary Magdalene would be completely out of the Father's plan for His life. Better to become well versed on the concepts of the angelic conflict and how the devil deceives the whole world.

Because that, in a nutshell, is what I believe The Da Vinci Code to be: a repugnant deception and the devil's answer to the success of The Passion of the Christ.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Movie Night: Munich

Last Friday we rented Steven Spielberg's Munich -- about the secret Israeli squad assigned to track down and assassinate the 11 Palestinians believed to have planned the 1972 Munich massacre of 11 Israeli athletes, and the personal toll it takes on the man who led it. It was nominated for 5 Academy Awards, including best picture.

I can't exactly say it was good, or that I liked it -- it's not the sort of film that leaves you aglow with triumph -- but it was definitely worth watching. I was in college at the time the event took place, and recall it only vaguely, so it was interesting to see that recapped along with what I took to be actual footage from the news media.

I loved Eric Bana as Hector in Troy and I liked him a lot here as the team leader. His transformation from young, naive neophyte to hardened field operative is fascinating and heart-wrenching as he tries to carry out what he sees as his patriotic duty at considerable personal sacrifice. And that amidst recurring doubts as to whether what he is doing is really right. In fact, the movie itself deliberately calls into question the legitimacy of the whole operation, and makes an effort to portray both sides, Palestinians and Jews, as having equally valid claims/desires and grievances -- without really offering any conclusion. Of course, with the Word of God in the picture, the answer is clear: the Jews win; they get the land in the end. But that goes beyond the scope or intention of this film. I think it was mostly to shine a light on the complexities of the situation and the misery caused to all parties involved.

In all it was quite thought provoking, though I wonder how much of its meaning was created by the lens through which the director/writer chose to show things. It's not a documentary, after all, only "inspired" by real events. The truth could be much different.

It is not for the kiddies by any means and well earns its R rating with graphic violence, sexual content (the man and his wife), nudity, and bad language (though I don't think there was all that much of that. I can recall only a few, isolated incidents).


Saturday, May 20, 2006

How Long Will it Take?

Michelle asked yesterday if I had finished the first draft of the whole book or only Chapter 25. Alas, only Chapter 25, though I've made excellent progress on Chapter 26 today. The first draft is due about July 5.

She also asked how long it took to finish a book. Well, that's partly what this blog is about. And so far, I think I might just be on schedule, even though I have rigorously refused to draw up any such thing (ie, finish chapter 25 on this day, ch 26 on this one, etc). So how am I measuring? By comparing my progress now with how it went for Shadow Over Kiriath last year. I officially started writing that book on January 19, 2004 and by January 19, 2005, a year later, I had finished up through chapter 27. That book was due Feb 28 (after some schedule revisions the previous September) and I turned it in just about on time. So from January 19 to Feb 28, a month and a half, I wrote about 14 chapters. All together the first draft took me 13 months, one shy of the 14 months I had calculated I've typically taken to write a book over the years.

Using that as a benchmark, I looked at my progress on Return of the Guardian King, which I started writing on June 7, 2005. As of May 19, I've finished up through chapter 25. Since it seems likely that I can turn out two more chapters in the next two weeks, I'm about the same place I was at this time in the journey as I was with the last book. And if I do indeed turn it in July 5, that will also work out to be just about 13 months from start to finish of the first draft.

This is the first draft, of course. All that bad writing: gaps, holes, illogicalities, running on and on as you describe this or explain that...all those asterisks where dialogue or scenes fell off cliffs, or I just didn't feel like describing anything at the moment. The ms I turned in to my editor last year I wouldn't have shown to my dog if it wasn't for that deadline. I don't know how she managed to read it and see anything good in it. But she did. Got her feedback back to me in 13 days and I started in on another two months of concentrated work to complete the second draft. I'm expecting about the same schedule with this one.

Happy Weekend!

Friday, May 19, 2006

A Scene Crasher

Well, it's happened again. I finished chapter 25 on Tuesday, but on Wednesday I discovered that the moths had gotten to it, and contrary to Neil Gaiman's experience (see previous post On Writing Badly)... it was not better than I thought, but worse. I spent five hours of near constant focus doing a paragraph by paragraph outline, analyzing it, coming up with what needed to be done and then pressing through a rewrite of about seven pages before I knocked off for my regular Wednesday lunch with my Royal Family friends.

Yesterday (Thursday) I continued to plug away on it, working all day under a most annoying state of distractibility. But that's not what "happened again." What happened again was that I had a character who wasn't even supposed to be there barge into the middle of things. He just showed up sitting on a wall. And then he started talking. What is this? I thought. You shouldn't be here, you have nothing to do with anything. I want to focus on the events at the end of this chapter. I can't have you here nattering away wasting words and time at the beginning... begone. But he refused to go. At last, I let him have his way, and just wrote the lengthy conversations he insisted upon having with my pov, figuring I would shorten them all to a narrative summary when it was over. Which is exactly what I did. And then he began NEW conversations... Ack! After that happened enough times, I got the notion that maybe he really did need to be there. And so I've left him. For now... I'm not convinced, yet.

Anyway, I finished the chapter at 21 pages and I'm calling the first draft done.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

Why Read Fantasy?

The Lord of the Rings, The Song of Albion, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, The Wheel of Time, The Farseer Trilogy, Watership Down, The Prydain Chronicles, The Sword of Shannara, The Belgariad, The Chronicles of Narnia… All are well-known, well-loved fantasy series, many of them my personal favorites. Why do I love to read fantasy? Because, of all the genres, fantasy most leans toward illustrating important spiritual truths regarding why we are here and what life is about. Even secular fantasies do so—in rather great numbers, surprisingly enough. Typically, epic fantasies depict great battles between supernatural forces of good and evil, an obvious parallel to the invisible supernatural war Christians fight on earth. Knowing about this battle and our place in it gives our lives meaning and purpose. Even if we must engage in mundane activities, we can know that they have great significance in the unseen war.

Characters possessing the ability to recognize and fight the evil in a fantasy story reflect Christians who, through the filling of the Holy Spirit and the serious, daily study of the Word of God, acquire the ability to discern and defend against the deceptive forces of evil in our own world. The common presence of kings and other royalty provides an obvious metaphor for our relationship with the Lord, and illustrates not only the humility and devotion required of those who serve the king, but also the responsibilities and self-sacrifice required of the king himself.

Best of all, fantasy novels are almost always about great heroes. Courage, confidence, humility, self-sacrifice, virtue, perseverance, love—the qualities of a hero reflect our Lord’s character. Indeed, often a fantasy hero begins his story as a menial of unknown parentage who comes to realize there is a great battle raging—or about to break out—that he has been born to fight in. Frequently he discovers himself to be of royal parentage and possesses unusual abilities needed to win the war. After enduring many trials and difficulties (the cross before the crown), the hero defeats the evil and delivers the realm. Justice prevails and the rule of good triumphs.

All of those principles have important bearing on my own life, and I love to see them play out in the different ways authors develop them. I love heroes, love following them through their journeys. They always make me think of my Lord, and give me new ways to relate to Him. Finally, I love using the imagination God has given me to create in my own mind the fabulous and fascinating realms that others have devised for their stories. Not only is it just plain fun, it also provides ways of looking at spiritual truths from angles I might not have considered before.

With echoes of the Savior’s life and character, stories that remind me of who I am and why I am here, and themes that provoke thoughts of God’s sovereignty, justice and love—why would I not love to read Fantasy? Add in the elements of suspense, mystery, action and romance that characterize many fantasies, and how could I not recommend the genre to one and all?

[For more on the subject of Christian fantasy in particular, check out this week's ongoing blog tour on Christian Fantasy and Sf, starting at ]

Well, back to chapter 25

Have a great day

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Kiriathan and King

One of my readers has put together a forum for fans to discuss my books -- primarily the Legends of the Guardian-King, but there is a thread for the other(s) also. It's just getting started, so if you are interested in inaugurating and participating in the first such forum for my books that I'm aware of, head on over to

Categories so far include The Author, The Light of Eidon (where some discussion questions have been posted should you need something to spark your thoughts), The Shadow Within, Shadow Over Kiriath, Return of the Guardian King (guess about the last book here), Impact (discuss how the Legends have impacted you). There are also sections for discussing other books, including those not by me, general Christian topics and for the art, poetry and story contributions of fans.

Hope you'll have lots of enjoyable conversations.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Christian SF & Fantasy Blog Tour

I just wrote 8+ pages of chapter 25 -- in about two hours no less -- and to celebrate I went blogging. And just discovered that this week, there is a "blog tour" afoot highlighting Christian SF/F. It's focused on Tim Francovich's Christian Fiction Review site, largely because Tim has been so generous in his reviewing of the genre -- to the point of actually setting up what appears to be a permanent focus page on Christian SF/F.

You can start the blog here, at Becky Miller's site:

I've come in a bit late so there may be more than one post at some of the sites (or none as of yet). Several people are sponsoring book giveaways, in addition to contribuing some interesting commentary and reviews. My blog is not officially on the tour, but if things continue as well as they have today {what's that hysterical laughter I'm hearing?}, I might actually find time, energy and brain cells enough to comment on others' posts here or there.


Monday, May 15, 2006

On Writing Badly

On writing badly and how you often can't really tell, even if a thousand voices are howling in your head as you write it. Here's Neil Gaiman in an interview with Claire E. White, in The Internet Writing Journal ( , March 1999, as quoted in The Writers’ Guide to Fantasy Literature, edited by Philip Martin:

" can have one of those days when you sit down and every word is crap. It is awful. You cannot understand how or why you are writing, what gave you the illusion or delusion that you would ever have anything to say that anybody would ever want to listen to. You're not quite sure why you're wasting your time. And if there is one thing you're sure of, it's that everything that is being written that day is rubbish.

"I would also note that on those days (especially if deadlines and things are involved) I keep writing. The following day, when I actually come to look at what has been written, I will usually look at what I did the day before, and think, 'That's not quite as bad as I remember. All I need to do is delete that line and move that sentence around and its fairly usable. It's not that bad.'

"What is really sad and nightmarish (and I should add, completely unfair, in every way. And I mean it -- utterly, utterly, unfair!) is that two years later, or three years later, although you will remember very well, very clearly, that there was a point in this particular scene when you hit a horrible Writer's Block from Hell, and you will also remember there was point in this particular scene where you were writing and the words dripped like magic diamonds from your fingers -- -- as if the gods were speaking through you and every sentence was a thing of beauty and magic and brilliance.

"You can remember just as clearly that there was a point in the story, in that same scene, when the characters had turned into pathetic cardboard cut-outs and nothing they said mattered at all. You remember this very, very clearly. The problem is you are now doing a reading and you cannot for the life of you remember which bits were the gifts of the gods and dripped from your fingers like magical words and which bits were the nightmare things you just barely created and got down on paper somehow!! Which I consider most unfair. As a writer, you feel like one or the other should be better. I wouldn't mind which. I'm not somebody who's saying, "I really wish the stuff from the gods was better." I wouldn't mind which way it went. I would just like one of them to be better. Rather than when it's a few years later, and you're reading the scene out loud and you don't know, and you cannot tell. It's obviously all written by the same person and it all gets the same kind of reaction from an audience. No one leaps up to say, 'Oh look, that paragraph was clearly written on an 'off' day.'"

Me again: Yeah. I could say the same thing. Though I don't care so much about not knowing which is which. I'm just deleriously grateful the rubbish turned into something good.


Friday, May 12, 2006

Friday Night at the Movies

Nearly every Friday night we rent a movie. We've been doing it for so many years it's a tradition even the dog has bought into (he expects either a chew or to be able to find treats hidden about the house while we watch.) This week, we rented Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley. "A chick flick" my husband said, right about the time the two girls were giggling in bed about the men at the ball.

We both enjoyed it, though. I liked the story, loved the language and the English countryside and the romance. And the piano playing. It was funny the way various people kept asking to talk to someone privately and everyone else would be herded out of the room, only to be found just outside it later, clustered around with ears at the door. I think I might like the book even better, because I'd like to know more about the background and the characters than I was able to pull out of the movie. And I've always loved the complicated syntax and vocabulary of those older books.

Happy Weekend

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A Bubble Outline

Having finished chapter 20 and 23 last weekend, I began to think about 24 on Monday. (Um... that would be Chapter 24, not the TV program, 24). That sent me back to chapters 4 and 9, and I've spent the last three days working through the process of drafting a new scene for 9b.

There's definitely a process. On the first day I had the turnip head again. Could not follow a thought line to save my life. Couldn't remember thoughts I'd had two minutes after I had them. Nothing happened. I took a nap.

The second day I began to get some ideas, but it was chaotic. None of them went with any of the others. A huge mass of ingredients but no recipe and at that point, no idea whether I was baking a cake or making stew. I had some more of the spacey head, where I couldn't remember thoughts I'd just had five minutes previously and nothing seemed to catch fire and go.

Then I thought of making a bubble outline. So I got out a big sketch pad and began to put all the different things I had thought of in bubbles, with related thoughts spoking off their respective bubbles to new bubbles. Soon I discovered that I had a definite cluster of bubbles in one area and that told me what my scene needed to be -- where, whom and generally what about.

Having decided that, I sat down to write it today and it all came out. Ten pages worth. Since this plotline was a big blank before, I am very happy that I now have a good and solid idea of what it's going to be about. I'm not sure yet whether I can go right to chapter 24, or whether I'll have to revisit another of the intervening scenes... tomorrow will tell.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Prison of the Present

May 09, 2006
The Prison of the Present
By Victor Davis Hansen

"Listen to the present televised hysteria. Too few troops! No, too many still there! The CIA is out of control! No, it is weak and irrelevant! The Iraq mess only empowered Iran! No, its democratic experiment is the best way to undermine that neighboring theocracy.

"Such frenzy of the 24-hour news cycle is now everywhere, as we are lectured that our victories over the Taliban and Saddam Hussein have caused as many problems as they solved."

Read the rest of this fascinating article comparing past wars with the current one here.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Don't Watch the Wind

"He who watches the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap." ~Eccl 11:4

One of the reasons I love living in Arizona is that we can dry our clothes on a clothesline. In fact, I do it all the time. Even on days when it is cloudy. Because in Arizona, just because it is cloudy doesn't mean it will rain. Just because it is raining on the horizon doesn't mean it will rain in my back yard. And just because it is raining in my back yard when the washing machine is started doesn't mean it will be raining when the cycles are finished. (Although I admit I don't usually start the wash if it is actually raining.)

I love this concept. Tonight's Bible class was on it, and it was exactly what I needed for today. Don't wait for conditions to be perfect, because if you do, you'll never do anything. "There will always be a measure of discomfort and discouragement in executing the plan of God for our lives." We have to get used to that. We have to accept that and go forward in it. "Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary," says Galatians 6:9. The reason we're told not to lose heart is because at times it is hard, it is unpleasant, we don't feel good and things are not going right. Maybe the people we're doing it for don't appreciate it. That's okay. Just keep on doing it, trusting God at His word.

Don't try to predict future conditions either, for you have no idea what the future holds. Not next year, not tomorrow and not even in the next hour! If you can do what the Lord has called you to do now, then do it, to the best of your ability, which may be great or it may be really shaky, but it doesn't matter. Because the Lord will work it out. He has all the details in hand, which we cannot see because He doesn't want us to see them. He wants us to trust Him.

Another day of grace,

Cloud photo by jpockele

Monday, May 08, 2006


Well, I finished chapters 20 and 23 over the weekend (had parts of each to complete and I did). Today I took the dog to the vet, went through the pile of papers, catalogs and magazines on the dining room table, most of which I threw away... and then could not seem to make myself concentrate on anything. Technically I've started ch 24, but all I did was transfer a couple of pages of material I'd saved from an earlier chapter that I thought might go here... and then nothing. I think I might be tired.

Yesterday after church I came home and crashed. I ended up taking a nap, which I rarely do, and went to bed early. Today my brain still didn't want to work, even to read fiction for fun or magazines -- it all seemed too hard -- plus I had a headache, which is often a sign I'm tired.

So, mental work being a bust, I cleaned the house and did some ironing.

Maybe tomorrow will see more progress.


Saturday, May 06, 2006

Begin with a Rough Sketch

"Fiction begins with a rough sketch. One gets down the characters and their behavior any way one can, knowing the sentences will have to be revised, knowing the characters' actions may change... All that matters is, going over and over the sketch as if one had all eternity for finishing one's story, one improves now this sentence, now that, noticing what changes the new sentences urge, and in the process one gets the characters and their behavior clearer in one's head, gradually discovering the deeper implications of the characters' problems and hopes. Fiction does not spring into the world full grown like Athena. It is the process of writing and rewriting that makes a fiction profound and original. One cannot judge in advance whether or not the idea of the story is worthwhile because until one has finished writing the story one does not know for sure what the idea is."

~ John Gardner (On Becoming a Novelist, The Art of Fiction)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Words from the Past

As I've mentioned before, I have kept a writing journal for years, a method advocated by the writers of Overcoming Writing Blocks. It is supposed to help you figure out what circumstances, incidents, moods, etc, contribute to blocking. I don't think I've ever really used it for that, but I've found it has given me considerable comfort to reread passages over the years.

Today, for example, I went back to my entry on January 2, 2005, when I was at just about the same place in Shadow Over Kiriath as I am now in Return of the Guardian-King. Here's the entry:

"1 pm -- I am now stuck on Ch 22. Had what I thought were some brilliant, plot-opening, breakthrough ideas at 4:00am which I actually got up to write down. But now they don't seem quite as stupendous...

"11pm -- I thought about motivations, main goals, etc, and that felt like progress. Then I decided I'd gone overboard on the direness of Chesedh's plight and fixed that. But now I'm not sure if I'm just going overboard in everything, dragging things out too long, introducing too many issues, diluting concerns... I'm too close to tell, I know, but I feel tonight as if I've lost all control of the material. So I have to go back to the Lord. Maybe I don't know what's going on, but He does. He's called me. He's promised to guide me. I believe He is doing so and for now... He's chosen not to reveal the big picture to me.

"Remember that lesson that Pastor taught? How the Lord deliberately makes some parts of His direction obscure to test our relationship to His authority and His essence? When it doesn't make sense, you don't have the details, don't know where you're going? He's told me over and over that this is His doing. Accept it. Trust Him and keep plugging. He will lead me in paths I have not known..."

I could write that same entry today! I'm stuck on ch 21/23, and I feel as if I've lost all control of the material. That I have far too much to ever get in and at the same time what I've done is thin and weird and rambling. Right now it seems incredibly lame, so much so I wonder how I've come to this point. So it is a comfort to know that I've felt the same at the same place in writing a book before (and middles of books are notoriously difficult to write). It's also a comfort to re-read the words of encouragement and reminder that I'd written to myself at the time, for they apply just as much today as a year ago.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006


When my son was in high school, I went in once a week as an aide to the head of the English department and picked up a lot of interesting information -- about the school and about literature and writing. One of the things she said was this: "It doesn't bother me to noodle something for a long time. In fact, I like it. Because I have the confidence now that it will eventually come together. When you are younger, it's scary because you don't have that confidence. You haven't seen it happen over and over."

I think I'm starting to understand that. I think I'm starting to be more tolerant of the blank, chaotic times, because those seem to be when I am assimilating all the information, options, questions, etc. And that takes time. Blank time. Idle time. I have to wait. I have to be patient and trust.

I'm also realizing that I can't tell what I'm doing when I'm actually doing it. There's just too much going on in my brain to be at all clear on that, too many choices, too many changes of mind, too many questions and objections and possibilities considered and passed over. By the time I'm done I really have no idea what I actually did. Dorothea Brande was right when she said to never read a first draft right when y0u finish it. You haven't gotten far enough away from all that clutter that was generated when you first wrote it. Plus you're tired. Turnips are very poor editors.

Yesterday and today I did the Really Bad Drafts thing again and today, when I came up 2 and a half pages short of my goal, I decided I would just go back and fill in all the holes I'd left on my first pass. I would just do each hole one at a time, and if the filling was clumsy and awkward and obviously shoehorned in, that would be okay. Just so long as it was filled. I was amazed at how well that worked.

Pressing on

Monday, May 01, 2006

This is a Turnip

Or maybe it's my brain.
I worked all day -- staring at the ceiling, doing nonstops, reading blogs, email, websites, library books. Waiting for the words to come.

Finally I wrote seven very bad pages of Chapter 20.

A study I once read said that as rats age, the glucose drains faster from their brains when they are working hard to use them than it does from the brains of younger rats. And takes longer to replenish...

I'm not sure what that means, but if my brain were to be drained of glucose, I think this is how it would feel.

I better go to bed and get started on that replenishment.

Grace. It's always grace.