Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘manuscript’

 

It's a ... novel!

It’s a … novel!

As I put the finishing touches on a manuscript I will enter in the Genesis contest with American Christian Fiction Writers I am deluged with advice from the blogs of other writers, critique comments, bullet points from books on the craft of writing and of course, my own gut feelings.

When you have a baby, you want the best for it.  You want to be the best parent, give great counsel, love unconditionally, and have moments when you can sit back and beam proudly at your accomplishment. It’s no different with the birth of a manuscript.

The problem with parenting is that often love is blind and you find yourself overlooking things that should be corrected, behaviors that should be stopped, disciplinary action that should be taken and a few other mistakes. The problem with writing – ditto.

My first big struggle came when input from a contest judge stated my story was good and publishable but she questioned whether first person was the right point of view for the story.  Two other judges in the contest gave feedback that my voice was light and funny and really lent enjoyment to the story.

So what to do?  I decided to take chapter one and try a different point of view.  I worked diligently, but in the end I couldn’t do it.  It just didn’t feel right. The story didn’t flow and it didn’t make me smile when I read it back.  I made an executive decision to leave the point of view alone.

My second struggle came with the advice every writer gets from every critique, every article and every bit of advice from seasoned authors – too much back story.  My first reaction,  “But you have to get to know my MC before you will really understand the story.  She is her history. You want me to cut all that good stuff out?  I’m going to need a lot of anesthesia for that kind of surgery.  And a supply of pain killers afterward.” 

I began cutting, bleeding and moaning at each step.  What I discovered in the long run was all that history is what led me to know my character intimately. And because I knew her so well, I could tell her story in the present letting her personality and her actions suggest the history that made her the way she is.  Brilliant!

The third big struggle was with the story being “overwritten”.  I had to study that comment because I wasn’t sure what it meant.  Reading back through the manuscript I found  it was all action.  Action is good.  Action is key. Action is what moves the story forward. However, as I observed from some of my favorite reads, now and then the reader needs a chance to catch a breath, experience a golden moment, bask in a lazy description of the scene, the prophetic moment, the romance, the MC’s dreams, even a crazy conversation between two characters that seems to have no relevance to the main theme.

When I went back and broke up the action a little with some of this frosting on the cake stuff, I loved it.  It began to read like a novel you can’t put down.

I’m excited about one or two more edits before submitting it for the contest.  And I’m excited that once again I learned a couple of valuable lessons in the process.

  • You can love your work too much and it will cause you to ignore valuable guidance. Just like parenting, once in a while you have to look past the “my perfect child” part and address the little flaws that if not corrected can result in a big problem.
  • You can love your work too little and let the miles and miles of advice take you away from your core idea. Editing and correcting, cutting and revising are good until you find you’ve lost the “you” in your writing. Each writer is unique in some way. Don’t lose sight of your special something that exists in everything you  compose.
  • You can never know too much about your character, but you can certainly reveal too much about your character. Back story is like Elmer’s glue – a little goes a long way. Don’t put so much in that your reader gets stuck . But include just enough to get the reader attached.
  • As in all things, seek guidance, pray, trust your instincts and be willing to take a risk. Every parent knows there is a lot of “seat of your pants” parenting that goes into a well raised child.

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”   Kurt Vonnegut

Psalms 32:8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

It happens every January 1, a new year like a blank page begging for a story.  It stretches out before you, not yet sullied, not yet marked by disappointment, not yet peppered with regret.  You look back and analyze the past year and there are always parts you’d like to erase.  You look forward and begin to make resolutions that will guarantee improvement.

There is excitement and enthusiasm for a while.  If you are like me, you get into a cleaning frenzy.  You reorganize.  You dust corners you’ve forgotten about for the past several months.  I would love to start every year by throwing out the old wardrobe and starting over with everything brand new, never worn. 

The first day of a new year is perfection – for about five minutes.  Hard as you try you can’t keep it that way. Before the day ends you’ve probably said something you wish you hadn’t, neglected something you should have taken care of, and shoved an item into a place it didn’t go. All those wonderful resolutions already starting to crumble and you have another 364 days to go.

Still, I am a hopeless resolution maker. I am a dreamer of better decisions, kinder thoughts, more generous actions and a deeper walk. I am a seeker of more meaning and richer relationships.  I am a planner of more organized days and fewer busy nights.

For several years now I have been reading through the Bible, beginning January 1st and finishing triumphantly December 31st. I have not failed to live up to this commitment yet.

And God has not failed to reveal new ideas and thoughts to me through His amazing words.  Here is the perfect example.

It’s January 3, 2013 and I have just read through the story of creation again.  I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve studied this particular section of scripture. However, this is the first time I was struck with how it parallels the start of a brand new year. Picture God looking out on nothing and deciding to create something, so He starts with light.

Now here is the clue God gave me for how to improve my life in 2013. God didn’t create light and jump to the next step. “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  God saw that the light was good,…” Genesis 1:3-4a

God took time to look His first step over and make sure it was good before moving on. What a thought!  Take time to make sure where you are is right and good before you move forward.

To me that means when the realization comes that I’ve stumbled in thought, word or deed, I need to stop and make amends. When I’m short with my husband, who is one of the few people who can push me from my normally tolerant and gentle self to irritation, I can’t just walk on.  I have to stop and ask forgiveness because I desire to please God in all things.  I want Him to look at me and say “that was good, move on.”

When I neglect my devotions or don’t take time with someone who needs time, or spread gossip, or fail to put all of my effort or talent in what God has called me to do, I need to go back and make it right.

God stopped several times in the creation process and assessed His work. Did the world He created stay beautiful and unsullied? Nope.  Man messed it up within a very short time, and continues to distort it every day. But that doesn’t change what God did.

Take some time this first week of 2013 to look for the original good in God’s actions that first week of the very first year ever.  Here’s what you will find:

  • There is still heart wrenching, soul moving beauty in a sunrise. 
  • There is still tranquility in the still waters and breathtaking power in a waterfall.
  • There is still majesty beyond description in the mighty mountains and cool, soothing peace in the lush valleys.
  • There is still hope in the shimmer of moonlight, laughter in the antics of animals, wonder in the effortless soaring of a bird, faith in the ebb and flow of the ocean.
  • And never doubt, there is still goodness in man. The news may try to hide it, evil will try to cast a shadow on it. But it’s there, every day, in the heart and spirit of the ones who choose to walk with God and live out love, forgiveness and grace.

Look for it and you will find it. When you do, remind yourself “it is good”.

 “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good….” Genesis 1:31a

Read Full Post »

MB900431278[1]Our Christmas program at church took place yesterday. It was filled with music, a little drama and a bit of narration to tie it all together.  I composed the narration and as I wrote in an earlier blog, I agonized over every word, praying it would be exactly right to bring people closer to Christ.

I want to share with you a piece of that narration I never could have known would have much deeper meaning in light of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.

To introduce the part of our program that emphasized the birth of Jesus and led into a touching rendition of “Isn’t He Beautiful”, I wrote the following:

What child is born that a mother’s heart doesn’t melt the moment she sees his squirming wrinkled body?   What long anticipated newborn comes into this world that a mother’s love doesn’t overflow in a flood of emotion?

The weight of carrying, the pain of labor – all forgotten in the moment of that baby’s first cry.  A mother’s heart swells and she is convinced at that moment that her child is more beautiful, more perfect, more amazing than any other.

Mary was no different than other mothers in that respect. But when she gazed upon the infant Savior, she was consumed with much more than motherly love.

Mary saw a miracle, a mystery,  a majesty far beyond anything she’d ever experienced.  And at that moment, this woman of grace exhaled her last normal oxygen filled breath, and inhaled a new life.

Never again would her lungs expand without the presence of Jesus filling them.

Never again would she speak without the experience of Jesus softening her words.

Never again would her arms reach out without the feel of Jesus in them.

And this is the same for each and every one who lays down the former life and embraces the Christmas miracle.

As those words were shared during the program Sunday, my heart rushed to the parents grieving for lost children in Newtown, Connecticut. A senseless, tragic, unimaginable few moments have left them shattered. There are no words of comfort that could ease their pain, no quote of scripture that will cause the tears to stop falling – at least for a time. Grief, while it may soften, will be their constant companion for the rest of their life.

But the words God gave me for that narration reminded me of what we take for granted every day.  We have nothing except what God gives. The people we treasure in this life are merely on loan, sent by God’s grace to enhance our experience. Mary certainly discovered the truth of this when she watched her Son die.

Here is a wonderful reality in a time of great loss.  The physical presence of a loved one is gone, but God makes sure the memories are left behind to carry us through our time of grieving.

Like the words in the narration, here is what those parents are left with.  They will never again take a breath without the presence of their child filling it, never again speak without the experience of their child softening their words, never again reach out their arms without the feel of their child filling them. The experience of a child, regardless of how short the time span, changes us forever.

Nothing justifies the evil that took those children away.

But God, in His great compassion, will not leave those mothers and fathers bankrupt. He is prepared to fill their emptiness, catch their tears, heal their hearts and gently care for their children until they are reunited in the moment He chooses to bring them together again. Let us pray that through the cloud of pain and grief, they can see the hand of God extended.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Rev 21:4

Read Full Post »

MB900423031[1]Here’s what I discovered in the month of November. There are limits to what I can accomplish. I am a chronic over-committer, over-achiever, over-estimator and over-just about everything else.

This past month it came to a head. Here’s what I had on my plate:

  • Full time plus job (and it’s open enrollment which means a steady parade of employees in my HR office, a plethora of paperwork, and a million questions to answer)
  • My commitment to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.
  • Thanksgiving with all the pie baking, etc.
  • My birthday with lunches and meeting friends over coffee and family stuff.
  • Weekly practices with the Christmas choir.
  • Writing of the Christmas pageant.
  • Early Christmas shopping (I did black Friday!!!)
  • All my regular scheduled meetings, bible studies and worship activities.
  • Friends in crisis.
  • And – well – the rest I can’t remember because I am too tired

I think I’m getting old. My body doesn’t hold up as well as it used to and I hate to admit this but I get tired sometimes. There is nothing that gets my dander up more than sitting down in my chair by the fire and falling asleep immediately. I need some kind of device that sends an electric shock through my body the second my head nods.

Everything on my list is something I want to do, enjoy and never want to give up. Not only that, but there are even more things that I’d like to get involved in but to do them I’d have to give up sleeping all together.  It seems the days get shorter and what used to be plenty of time seems to have become never enough time.

Looking back my great regret is that I did not finish the novel.  I did get ten chapters and 20,000 words written.  I wrote from 4:00 a.m. until 5:00 a.m. almost every morning. I squeezed a few more minutes in here and there. I jotted handwritten notes in grocery lines and on my lunch breaks to transcribe later. But I just couldn’t get there. I feel bad about it because I seldom let myself fail to do what I’ve set my mind on.

So I’m using this blog to give myself a pep talk.

  • I didn’t finish but at least I started and it’s a really good start.
  • My novel is shaping up to be a good one.
  • I discovered that I can shake the cobwebs from my brain even earlier than usual (I usually don’t get up until 4:30 a.m. and then I spend fifteen or twenty minutes sipping coffee and letting my brain coast.)
  • The world does not end when you admit that you failed.
  • Life is too short to beat yourself up.
  • When I look at my list, the novel is the only thing I did not accomplish so that in itself is a pat on the back, right?

Writing is hard work. Work is hard work. Having fun is hard work. Ministry is hard work. Anything that you are committed to doing well is hard work.

There, I feel better.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.1 Cor 10:31

Read Full Post »

Am I crazy or what?  I don’t need Daylight Savings Time.  I need Sanity Savings Time. For those of you who may not be aware, November is National Novel Writing Month. It comes with it a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in 31 days.  You can participate with hundreds of other writers at NaNoWriMo online where you enter your daily word count, get lots of encouragement and follow others who are doing the same thing.

My decision to accept the challenge came just like everything else I say yes to – jump in there impulsively and wonder why later. Now that I’ve begun, I’m analyzing whether this is even possible. I have to admit I skimmed over the 50,000 word part when I first read about NaNoWriMo. But now my brain has led me to the point of realizing the expectation is 1,613 words a day.

Actually I can’t figure on a whole day in which to accomplish the 1,613 words. At least eight hours of my day are spent at work, not writing.  At least one hour of my day is spent in bible study and scripture reading, not writing. Another two or three hours of my day are spent in activities with family, church, and friends, not writing. Then there’s housework, cooking, driving, sleeping, showering, dressing, talking on the phone, eating, etc, etc. – not writing.

But, here’s the amazing part of this post – after two days I have actually written 4,527 words! That’s well over the average daily count and it’s a miracle.  When did I do it?  I have no idea.  I squeezed a few minutes from my lunch break.  I put down my fiction novel for the time being. I wrote while watching a movie with my husband. I wrote during some really early morning hours. I’m pretty pumped after two days.

How do we ever accomplish the things we pack onto our ridiculous schedules? By sheer determination, organization and teeth gritting tenacity, that’s how.

I’m watching my children do the impossible balancing of schedules with kids in school and extracurricular activities. I see things happening at church because already busy people commit and get busier. It is true that the more people have on their plate the more they seem to accomplish.  They are the people who can’t seem to say no and always seem to squeeze it in. They get much done but they sacrifice much at the same time.

There is a balance – I just haven’t quite found it yet. There are so many things I want to do and I’m not getting any younger. On the other hand, my body doesn’t always cooperate with my ambition. It keeps demanding rest and nourishment.

My brain is still running at full speed it seems because the ideas keep flowing. On the other hand it doesn’t always retain the stuff it needs to for as long as it should. A lot of my creativity can be found laying in the wake of where I have been. I had a great idea but by the time I get to the place where I can write it down it’s gone.

I’m not averse to slowing down a little. On the other hand, the minute I slow down I fall asleep. I hate that.

All this rambling is just to ask this question – can I do it? Can I write 50,000 words in 31 days? Probably. Will I have to sacrifice something else to get it done? Probably. Am I ready to reprioritize my whole life and cut back on activities? Probably not. Am I going to wear myself out periodically? Most definitely.

But my great goal is to have this on my epitath after I die:   With God’s help, she finally got everything done.

Lord, you establish peace for us;
    all that we have accomplished you have done for us.  Isaiah 26:12

Read Full Post »

This morning I looked out my office window to see the first deer of the season snacking on a big birch tree just a few feet away.  Gentle, graceful creatures with soft gray hides and inquisitive eyes, they always brighten my day.   I am blessed to work in a facility that is surrounded by meticulous landscaping, about a hundred trees and a scattering of wildlife that often frequent the area.  As pleasant as the arrival of  deer is, the sad thing is it signals the nearness of winter.

Winter is not my favorite season by a long way.  I hate being cold.  But winter scenery is another matter.  I do love the beauty of billowy clouds, snow on the evergreen, even the bare tree branches against an azure sky.  I love the first sign of twinkle lights in  windows and the first sound of Christmas carols on the radio.

What I don’t like is coming to work in the dark and leaving work in the dark.  I vote against bitter wind, sleet and below zero temperatures.  I’d like to ban storms or at least limit their visits to when I’m already cuddled in front of the pellet stove with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book.

Alas, every season, every activity, every hobby contains the good parts and the bad parts.  I’m a writer. It’s what I love to do.  I love the light bulb burst of a new idea and I love the furious flow of words from my brain to the paper or computer screen.  I don’t love writer’s block, editing for the tenth time or getting to the middle of a great manuscript and finding myself at a loss of where to go next. If only writing were fun and productive all the time.  Or for that matter, parenting, cooking, working, teaching, reading and so on and so on.

Jesus certainly faced the same challenges in His life on earth.  I would guess He loved the opportunity to heal but didn’t care for the moments when healing didn’t happen because of someone’s lack of faith.  I’ll bet he loved spending time with his closest friends and followers, but hated the moments when it seemed they hadn’t learned a thing from Him; when they questioned who He really was and failed to accept the power in His very name.

Today I spoke with a friend who is really under attack right now and it’s no surprise.  She has had a renewal of faith and is on fire with hope, enthusiasm and joy.  I don’t imagine satan likes that much.  So, he’s out to shake her up.  She’s finding herself in the not so likeable part of the Christian walk.  It’s a reminder that there’s work to do to stay focused and motivated through the ups and downs of life.  Here’s the workout program.  Repeat as often as necessary until you feel those spiritual muscles bulging.

1)  From a  kneeling position, inhale deeply, exhale and pray.  Pray early, pray late, pray always.  Pray when it’s going well and when it’s not.  This will build strength within.

2)  From a sitting position, lift your Bible as often as possible and read.  This will strengthen your mind and your resolve.

3)  Spread your arms wide and reach out to others.  This will strengthen your commitment and build your confidence.

4)  Ask others to join your fitness club.  Ask them to pray with you, talk with you, share with you, commiserate with you and praise God with you.  This will build up your joy and inner peace.

And remember this – if you weren’t on the right path, satan wouldn’t pay you a bit of attention.  He doesn’t care what you’re doing as long as you aren’t doing what God wants you to do.  He doesn’t have a plan for your life.  He just wants to make sure you aren’t following God’s plan for your life.  A good exercise program like the one above will keep him from achieving his goal.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord Himself is the Rock eternal.  Isaiah 26:3-4

Read Full Post »

I love 4:30 a.m. on a summer morning.  When I slip outside in my robe with a cup of coffee in hand it’s still dark.  And quiet – so very quiet it brings a sense of peace that I embrace because I know within a short time it will be shattered by the day’s  events.

Everything is asleep.  No birds sing.  The trees are still.  There isn’t even a hint yet of the sun stretching her arms and yawning before peeking over the distant hill.  It is a moment in time filled with expectation.

With the stretch of sweltering heat we’ve been experiencing, the early air is a kiss of cool that will not last so I let it settle around me and I sit very still.  I’m waiting for the first sense of something.

It comes with the tiniest puff of a morning breeze.  That sweet little sensation is followed by the distant sound of a car engine starting.  I feel bad for the driver who hasn’t the time to welcome a few moments of stillness.  I keep my eyes on the horizon because I want to be the first to catch a glimpse of pinkish light.  I want to see the beauty and have a flash of compassion for the sleepyheads who are missing this.

The beginning of a new day is not something to be taken for granted.  Our human minds can never know ahead of time what will follow.  Oh, we have our routines, our tasks, our plans, our responsibilities.  We are so caught up in them we miss the grace filled gifts that drop unexpectedly when we least expect them.

Take this morning for instance.  I could be delving early into my housework, repairing the damage of a busy week before we jump on the motorcycle in less than two hours.  I could be getting a start on the laundry.  I could be working on my latest manuscript that I’m always trying to find time to finish.

But if I were doing any of those things, I wouldn’t be sitting here watching the neighbor’s cat slinking along the top of a wooden fence like an Olympic gymnast on the balance beam, soundless yet alert, in search of an unsuspecting mouse in the field.

I wouldn’t notice that when the willow branches stir they dance in perfect unison to a soundless symphony.

I wouldn’t catch the beginning of light dispelling the darkness to the point where shadowy outlines begin to reveal themselves and it’s like God is creating the earth again as I watch.

I wouldn’t have the satisfaction of laughing to myself and telling the first golden rays of sun, “Ha – I win the who-got-up-first contest.”

In a few minutes I will see dust and hear traffic and feel heat.  In a few minutes I’ll be busy.  In a few minutes my plans and routine will begin to be rerouted by the unexpected turns of the day.  In a few minutes I’ll have to have conversations, make decisions, get exasperated, and keep moving forward.

But for these few moments the world is perfect.  Every morning that I get the chance to do this I think it must be like resurrection morning when Jesus stood expectantly, waiting for the weeping world to wake so He could reveal Himself as the miracle of all miracles.  I bet He watched shadows fade, saw the sun wake, felt the breeze stir, listened for the sound of approaching feet and inhaled the beauty of the moment knowing He would soon be busy with His people and His message.

Precious Lord, this morning my heart overflows with gratitude for this tiny moment in time when You come to me to resurrect a heart that has been beaten down by the pressures of living.  I appreciate your taking the time to lift Your hand and point out the beauty of stillness.  Remind me today in the valley of my life that the mountaintop awaits on the other side of the day, here on my porch just before sunrise.  Amen

His coming is as brilliant as the sunrise. Rays of light flash from his hands, where his awesome power is hidden.  Habakkuk 3:4

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »