Monday, March 19, 2012

Pray for Rain

“Ask rain from the Lord in the season of the spring rain, from the Lord who makes the storm clouds, and he will give them showers of rain, to everyone the vegetation in the field” (Zechariah 10:1).

Have you ever heard the maxim, “Be careful what you wish for; you just might get it”? When I read this verse, that’s the first thing that came to mind. I have prayed for life’s rain. I have prayed for change, for growth, for a richer walk with God. I have prayed fervently for that rain and then I have watched the storm clouds gather.

I have to tell you, sometimes the rain comes in with awful force. I’ve been terrified by tempest gales. I’ve been blinded by striking light. I’ve been pelted by icy stones. You see, sometimes more than a gentle shower is needed to cleanse the grime. Sometimes that topsoil needs to be washed away to reveal fresh, rich soil beneath, soil that’s cultivated to feed seeds.

We are told in Genesis 1:28 to “be fruitful and multiply.” I always thought those two terms went together, instructing humankind to reproduce. However, I learned today that the “fruitful” part may mean to develop the fruit of the Spirit. (“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).) You know what? Fruit cannot grow without a “season of spring rain.”

In your writing, that season of rain may bring rejection letters, harsh critiques, or low sales figures. Do not be afraid when the raindrops fall. Spread your arms wide open and receive God’s healing rain!

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Monday, March 12, 2012

It Falls Apart

I was reading along just fine. I was the heroine, head over heels in love with my hero. I felt the gritty wind of the trail and shivered under twinkling stars, periodically glancing over my shoulder to see if the villain had caught up to us yet. Then, whoa! I was thrown from my thoroughbred into the land of first drafts.

What happened? I was deeply involved in a published novel, one that was written fairly well…until Chapter 15. In my opinion, the author could have neatly disposed of the villain and wrapped everything up into a happy ending within one, maybe two more chapters, but no, the hero had to go traipsing off on another unnecessary adventure and get himself shot. The writing got noticeably sloppy from that point on as well, relying very heavily on dialog and hitting the reader over the head with religion to resolve all the conflicts. What had been smooth and subtle in the first half blew like tumbleweeds in the second.

Now, I don’t know what really happened during the creation of that book, but it felt like the writer got tired of telling her tale and hurried to wrap it up. The closing pages read like first drafts. I think it is imperative that all writers have a peer group of trusted advisors, a handful of friends who will read your material with fresh eyes and let you know where the glitches are. If you don’t have a support group like that, start one yourself! Find a few friends who tell it like it is. Be prepared to take constructive criticism. Encourage one another, but maintain some sensitivity. (Remember your goal is to refine each other’s writing, not spotlight each other’s mistakes!) And let’s all avoid falling apart at Chapter 15.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Keeping Dialect in Check

He sat a spell, chompin’ on chaw an’ whittlin’ a chunk ‘o hick’ry into a fine set of longhorns.


Quick! What can you tell about the character of the above sentence? I would guess he is likely an American who resides in a rural part of Texas, perhaps an aging cowboy on a ranch somewhere in the hill country. He didn’t describe the house, but I imagine him in a rocker on the porch of a faded white clapboard farmhouse overlooking land that’s been in his family for generations. I can even hear cattle lowing in the distance and see a vivid orange-pink-blue sunset ablaze on the horizon. All that from one sentence spoken in rich dialect.

Adding dialect to your fiction expands the imagery without “telling” your reader what you see in your head. It paints a picture without using adjectives. It authenticates not only the setting but also the personalities of your characters. If your reader can “hear” the speaker’s and/or the characters’ voices, he will be pulled right into the story and won’t want to leave the action until he turns the final page.

Dialect can be overdone, though. Imagine reading an entire book written like that opening sentence. The thought of it hurts my eyes! I recently read a novel set in 16th century Scotland that was almost as heavy with Scottish brogue as that line is with Texas twang. The author did a marvelous job keeping consistency throughout, and the dialect did accentuate the setting and the characters. However, I found it distracting to have the entire novel in an altered language. I found myself skimming words that were difficult to pronounce and rolling my eyes at some character interactions. I really wanted to like the book, but too much dialect knocked my opinion down several notches.

Writing dialect is tricky. Keep it in check!

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Puppy Clumsy

We have a seven-month-old miniature dachshund named Slinky. He’s absolutely adorable! He loves to romp and wrestle and chew. Our other two dogs have gotten a lot more exercise since he arrived, and when the three of them play together, it’s quite amusing to watch.

Slinky is puppy clumsy. He bats his big ole paws and nudges his velvety nose at his playmates, then tromps right over top of them until they nip back. He rolls over them, scoots under them, jabs at their ears. Doesn’t matter if there’s an obstacle (or a person) in the way; he charges right across. Long drop from the sofa? No problem, he slinks right down like his namesake toy.

Slinky is all play with no inhibition.

Don’t you long to be that way when you write? I sure do! No holding back. I just want to let thoughts flow freely from the creative recesses of my mind. I want stories to nudge me and tromp through my thoughts until I nab them. I want the words to roll over my mind, scoot under the internal editor, and jab my listening ear. I want those ideas to charge right out and slink onto the blank page. I want to be puppy clumsy!

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Monday, February 13, 2012

The Writer

If you are reading this blog, you are not normal. Nope. Not at all. Because you are a writer. Please allow me to introduce you to, well, you.

You hear voices. Characters whisper in your ear. You see them too. The intricate beadwork on her gown, the plush velvet cape, those pearls…his killer blue eyes. They tease you with tidbits and tales until you relent to recording their rendezvous.

You organize. OK, to some people that might look like one big mess, but all those Post-It Notes stuck on the wall are really an intricate storyboard detailing each plot and scheme.

You persevere. You must. You cannot stop until you’ve written every last detail. If you leave your characters hanging, they may, like Pirandello's Six Characters, seek out another storyteller.

You obsess. You could edit to infinity. This verb is stronger than that one. Show, don’t tell! Torque, morph, develop, improve. Master. Submit.

You bite your nails. You sweat. Waiting to hear from that editor or agent, you’ve paced a rut in your hardwood floor.

You have tough skin. More than one rejection has taught you this publishing game’s not personal. “Your piece doesn’t fit our market.” “That subject just isn’t selling right now.” “This is very well written, but…” You send it out again.

You come back for more. Again and again. You get knocked down, but you get up again and you keep on going, because you know you have a message to deliver to someone out there, and you are the one who’s been called to task.

No, there’s nothing normal about you. And I pray that never changes, my friend.

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This sums it up ;)

This sums it up ;)