"God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform..." William Cowper

Monday, October 31, 2011

Letting It Cool

I've finished the first draft of my next novel and I'm ready to dive into revisions. Almost. I'm in that "letting it cool" phase. I'm distancing myself from my manuscript for a couple of weeks. Putting it from my mind.

Or at least I'm trying.

It's harder than I thought to forget about something I've invested so many hours in, something I've waken at night to think about.

But I can also feel how it's beneficial. Refreshing. I can also concentrate my efforts on other things. Still, I don't think it's as far from my mind as it should be.

How do you distance yourself from your writing?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Story Endings and Pickle Factories

As I neared the end of my four-mile run the other morning, I was feeling good. Feeling fast. Feeling the burn. Feeling like I had not only enjoyed the run, but that I had worked hard the last three and a half miles. One last hill and then around the corner to my street.

But my satisfying run was about to be ruined. For on the corner is a pickle factory. And boy, were they busy making pickles this morning. Now it's not that I'm not fond of pickles. I like them well enough. The smell from a freshly opened jar doesn't even bother me. But the scent steaming from the vent of this pickle factory was an especially strong smell of a condensed kind. It hit me in the face as I puffed past. It stung my nostrils and soured my stomach.

My run was spoiled.

This is not altogether unlike the feeling you may sometimes get when nearing the end of a book. You may be enjoying the story. You sympathize with the characters. You feel invested in them. You turn each page, wondering what new development will lead them barreling toward the climax. And then...something akin to the stench of a pickle factory wafts toward your nose (or rather, your reader's mind). Something's just not...satisfying. The ending is frumpy, the characters disappointed. The book is soured, just like my stomach on the home stretch of my run the other morning.

It's funny how a bad ending can ruin an otherwise good book and a great ending can redeem a mediocre one.

As I planned the end of my second novel, I really longed for a knockout ending, but as I wrote it smelled more like mediocre. I'm still trying to figure out possible solutions, and I'm certain my critique group will be able to help me. I'm hopeful and determined to fix the problem.

Because truly, there's nothing worse than the smell of pickles at the end of a story.

Have you ever had this experience when reading a book? Have you ever been pleasantly surprised by a book's ending?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Undo Me

Some time back, I found myself stuck in a spiritual slump. I didn't want to be bothered with anyone, or have anyone bother me. I'm ashamed to admit this, but honestly all I wanted to do was fly to a deserted island--just me and my computer and the story ideas floating in my head. Why was God setting up so many roadblocks? Didn't He want me to write for Him?

Thankfully, through multiple circumstances, God lighted my path. No, He isn't looking for more works I can throw at His mighty feet. He wants me, all of me, and if writing is a part of that, it will only be worthy of Him if I put Him first. This prayer hit home for me during that time, and it still does. I especially love the last paragraph. God bless and have a wonderful, blessed week!

I don’t really worship these day
I don’t really stand up to praise you with songs
Or prayers or actions
or with anything
I am full of all the right moves
I am full of all the right words
I am full of all the right religion
But it is all just illusion
I am really
Too religious
Too realistic
and well really just too lazy
to worship you anymore
I have lost my first love
I have lost the joy of your presence
But most of all I have lost the fear of your glory

Father I need to see you again
Like Isaiah I want to stand in awe of your glory
To fall down at your feet
To come face to face with your
I want to stand before you and see you for who you are
and me for who I am
I want to be undone

I want to know me for who I really am
I want to see the depths of my heart
And know that you are the only way
You are the only truth
You are the only life
I want to see me and understand
What it really must have taken for you to
Love me
Care for me
See me
Speak to me
Want me
Communicate with me
Die for me
Die for me
Die for me

Lord, I want to stand in that place where all I can see is your glory
And my sin
Because in that place I can’t help but worship you.
Lord let me come undone
Undo my heart
Lord, undo my heart
break down these walls that I love so much
No, wait don’t,
I’m scared I don’t know if I can handle this
But I can’t live this way anymore
I can’t stand here in this half-life
this going through the motions life
this not really alive life
Father, I need you so come in and do what you must
Cut out the tumor on my heart
Break down the walls that I love
Lord let me come undone
Undo my heart
let me worship you again

*Blake Williams

Monday, October 10, 2011

Saving The Cat

As I near the end of the first draft of my second novel, I was suddenly seized by one of those annoying, niggling feelings that something wasn't quite right. It didn't take long for me to figure it out--the problem was my hero. He's not very nice at the start of the story. In fact, except for his good looks, if I met him on the street I probably wouldn't like him very much. I seem to have this problem--I struggle creating likable characters. I don't think I'm alone.

I've heard of a technique screenwriters (and regular old writers) use early on in a movie (or story).

Have your character save a cat.

Have them do something good, something to show they have a heart, something to tug on your reader's heart.

Okay...it was worth a try. I went back to the beginning of my story, searched for an opportunity for my hero to soften up a bit. I found it, and yes, it definitely made him more likable. Still not certain he's up to par, though. Hmmm...this guy might need to save another cat or two. Maybe an entire litter.

Have you ever struggled with creating likable characters? How do you solve this problem?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Beauty Out of Chaos?

As I sit down to write this, my house is a disaster area. We're in the midst of renovations and, being married to the contractor, I'm trying to accept that we are the last on the list. Every week there is a little change in our home. A window here, a door there, new trim in my kid's bedrooms. I am truly in awe of my husband's skill as he works to make our home beautiful.

But a part of me is often irritated with how my home looks. How slow things are going. As I write this, I have two front doors. No gutters. My microwave and half of my kitchen utensils are in the unfinished addition, of which there is no heat. And speaking of heat, we're still waiting for the wood stove pipes to come in so we can have some. Hopefully the cold weather holds off for a couple more weeks.

As I struggle against the changes, I can't help but think how my house renovation is similar to how God works in our lives. A little uncomfortable change here. A new desire there. Some painful chiseling here. Like my house, I am a constant work-in-progress. Only in the end, on the day I meet my Savior, will beauty prevail. And although I look forward to that day, I hope that I get to see my home beautifully finished first!

And so I also think about this concept as I put pen to paper. Can this first draft turn into anything but chaos? Slowly I chisel. Carefully I add. A scene here. A new depth to my character there. I fly solely on the wings of hope. Who knows? Maybe in the end there will be something beautiful.