Friday, June 28, 2013
More glad breezes rushed in suddenly. As they passed each tree, the tree in question performed a merry dance to its music. Faster and faster – shaking its leaves like a belly dancer in green, moving her body enchantingly and enticingly. The breeze passed to the next tree which took up its dance. And the next… and the next. I watched spell bound. Very intriguing – almost as if a message was being passed from tree to tree.
It reminded me of a baton being passed from tree to tree, from bush to bush from plant to plant. A baton handed to a tree which took up the dance before handing it to the next one. And so it went on. A fascinating sight.
Passing the baton. As I muse on the topic, a thought occurs to me. As writers, do we take the baton from our forerunners? Do we in turn pass a baton on? Do we continue something that was begun centuries ago – from hieroglyphics on walls to writing on animal skins. From ancient writing on papyrus to computer typing in the modern day.
Aren’t we blessed that we have so much modern paraphernalia to write on and write with? Being a writer who’s handwriting is a disgrace (sorry, but it’s true) – I can’t tell you how thankful I am that I live in an age when I am excused if I type letters rather than write them. At least people can read my letters that way. I’m blessed to use a word processor that can check my spelling at the click of a button. I’m grateful I can cut and paste and edit my documents freely because I use a computer to write my books and not paper and pen as in days gone by.
We who live in the 21st century have much to be grateful for, don’t we? We take the baton from writers who have gone before us. L.M.M. Montgomery is one I’d love to take the baton from. There are many more. Jeffrey Archer, Mary Stewart, Louisa M Alcott, Markus Zuzak, Richard Foster, Philip Yancy, C.S. Lewis, N.T. Wright, C.S. Lewis, Dallas Willard are a few who spring to mind. Their writing has greatly impacted my life. I have been blessed to learn from them. Yes, I’d love to get the baton from each of them.
As writers, each of us is unique. And yet –our writing is the result of much reading and learning and accepting batons from numerous remarkable writers from the past. Best of all, we have a story to tell that has eternal consequences. We aren’t writing just to make a dent in the literary world. As Christian writers we are writing because of the flame God lit in our hearts when we became His.
We write because we can’t help but share the good news in whatever form we are called to - either implicitly or explicitly. We write because the love of God shed abroad in our hearts compels us to share the glad news of the Greatest Story ever told.
How’s your writing fire burning these days? If you are discouraged, disappointed, tired or in despair – do take a moment to look back and remember. Remember the baton that was given you by the writers of yore. Remember afresh the baton that was passed into your hand by the Word made flesh when He called you to your own Writing Journey.
May you and I be faithful to our call. May we pass that baton on, with joy, enthusiasm and with much excitement. One day we will see the results of all our writing endeavours and we might even be surprised. In the world’s eyes we may have not done much. But in the eyes of the Our Creator – if we have been faithful to our call, it is enough.
And so…. let me with deep joy, pass that baton on.
Anusha has always been fascinated by the English language and loves playing with words. She is thankful she can continue playing many decades since she first began. She is passionate about Jesus and the difference He has made in her life. She also loves to sing, to make friends, to read, to write, to walk and to admire the beauty of God's Creation. Do drop in at her website, Dancing in the Rain to say Hello.
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
To many days go by where my focus is on the doing and not the one who stands by me. Reading Ann Voskamps book, "One Thousand Gifts" challenged me to begin a list of thanksgiving to God. (Such a great book - thanks Ann (without an 'E').
Today I was cooking a quiche for lunch, and looking after grandchildren who were playing outside. I had onion and garlic sautéing, roast veggies ready to mix into the egg mixture and excited to surprise my husband and daughter with a yummy lunch.
The sound of happy laughter took me outside to check on the precious gift of my two youngest grandchildren. Once outside I stood watching them and felt overwhelmed by Gods goodness in the gift of their precious faces.
But this wasn't the gift I noted down in my journal ...
A gentle breeze blew through my full line of washing and I thanked God for the break in the rain to get my washing dry. Moving to the line I began to remove and fold the towels as I listened to the sounds of birds and children mixing together.
TRACEY, THE ONIONS!
As I raced inside I felt overwhelmed by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. You may say I just remembered, which is true, but how did I remember?
So many times in the past I've ignored the prompting ...
- prompting to call in and visit someone, ignored, only to find out later that they were sad
- prompting to pick up something from the supermarket when shopping, only to get home to find we need it.
- prompting to save my onions!!!!! Yummiest quiche every
When I sit down to write I invite my co-author to prompt my mind and often as I look back I marvel at His hand upon me.
Have you finished a manuscript and actually read it later and think, how on earth did I write that? I feel that way about my books.
If we write for Him, He is in it with us!
Journal entry - Thank-you that every minute of every day you are with me!!!
Monday, June 24, 2013
Friday, June 21, 2013
You see, after many years of producing a fifteen minute program, we've just begun a new one five minute we've named VANTAGE POINT. It begins in the secular and gives the Bible answer to issues that are on people's minds. I guess it's something like 'casting your bread on the waters' because only the Lord knows who will be listening at a time when they might need to hear a message that has the potential to change their life. Or perhaps encourage someone to take a stand, or explain something from God's point of view.
Even so, it would be wonderful if anyone of you in our writing fraternity would share an idea that's on your mind that could make a great five minute script. Oh, I know we're all busy, writing, editing, marketing, and so on, but something you have thought about, or even more exciting...a rough SCRIPT would be an extraordinary gift to help get the message out. We've heartily embraced this commitment, and how wonderful if you feel led to have a share in this great outreach.
At present we are heard on scores of FM stations throughout Australia. So, like the man in Macedonia in Paul's vision, I can also say 'Won't you come over (via email) & help us?'
Rita Galieh is also a novelist with two books published and two now being looked at by Even Before Publishing an Australian publisher.
If you'd like to contact Rita about this, her email is: ritagal (at) optusnet (dot) com (dot) au
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Perhaps you’re about to embark on writing your first full length work or perhaps you’ve been in this place before. Whichever it is, I have found the feeling is the same. It’s that mind-blowing moment when your brain almost explodes with possibilities, when this or that story races through your head, when one delicious scenario after another pops into your brain in full technicolour—or perhaps even 3D with surround sound or whatever it is these days! It’s that exciting stage when your characters start to take shape and you begin to fall in love with them, treating them as real people—which of course any author knows they are! It’s that instant when you sense yourself almost bodily being drawn into that vortex of plot and character development and point of view and setting until you begin to lose touch with reality—at least for a few delicious moments.
All that presupposes the particular project at hand is a novel. Yet I found the same thing with my non-fiction book Soul Friend, released last year. I can still feel the excitement as those chapters unfolded and I saw how I could move ahead with the whole idea. I began to envisage how I could perhaps encourage others to find a soul friend or spiritual mentor of their own or to be that person for someone else. I felt almost overwhelmed with the thought that God could possibly use my own journey with my spiritual mentor to speak into someone else’s life. What a joy and privilege!
And yet ... and yet it can all be just a wee bit daunting too at this point. It’s now that I begin to wonder what I am even thinking of, committing myself yet again to months and months—perhaps even years—of hard slog to bring that next book to fruition! With fiction writing, it’s a wonderful experience to be able to breathe life into those characters that, prior to this, have existed only in my imagination. But there’s a lot of hard work involved too. On some days, the words will come only with great difficulty and I will grope for how to move my characters from Point A to Point B. On other days, whether writing fiction or non-fiction, my fingers will hardly be able to keep up with my brain as they fly across the keyboard, spilling those words onto the screen.
All up, this writing journey is a big leap of faith, isn’t it? As Christian authors, we may know it’s what God wants us to do, but it still requires that leap from us. Yet when we take that leap, we know we will land in the hands of our awesome God who has promised to be with us through it all.
And that makes all the difference, don’t you think?
Monday, June 17, 2013
"There is a mysterious, spiritual component to writing. We may start writing our words but then find that our words are being written for us. We may find we are in the midst of an encounter with God, writing things we did not intend, discovering things we did not see.”This quote resonates with me because so often I have found myself writing things I never intended. I know this is true for many authors. I recall hearing an author talking about writing his novel and how he was upset one day when one of his characters unexpectedly died!
McHugh, A. (2009) Introverts in the Church. Downers Grove, IL : InterVarsity
I find this sentiment to be true not just with my creative writing pursuits but even as I’m doing my daily devotions.
I use the SOAP journaling approach in my devotions. This method was original developed by Wayne Cordeiro and discussed in his book, The Divine Mentor. In this approach you write a couple of paragraphs about a Bible verse that has spoken to you during your time of reading.
One of the things Cordeiro suggests is that each day you give your writing a title which summaries the main point. I have discovered that I need to leave writing my title until the end. Since what I thought was going to be my main point at the start, is often not my main point by the time I’ve finished.
It is a surprise to me that God regularly steers my thoughts and leads me to write unexpectedly. Over the years I have used different methods for my daily devotions but the reason I continue with this approach is for this very reason: I never know what God is going to say to me until I have written it down!
Saturday, June 15, 2013
is like a custom-made piece of jewelry,
And a wise friend’s timely reprimand
is like a gold ring slipped on your finger.”
Friday, June 14, 2013
Is writing a hobby or a career? Maybe it should be both.
I'm a writer, I have been all my life. Many of my early childhood memories involve making up stories and writing them down. I remember the moment in my classroom when I realised for the first time, that I could write real words, and string them together into a meaningful sentence. I remember sitting with my parents in restaurants, waiting for the food to arrive (it always takes hours when you’re a kid). I would write stories in an exercise book. I'm sure that a love of writing is something that God wired into me.
Writing was definitely a hobby for me as a child. When I was in grade six I decided what I wanted to be when I grew up - a computer programmer. What a nerd! I had great fun writing that year, but I didn't choose author as my career path. It just never occurred to me that writing could be a job. Writing was what you did for fun. It wasn't work! If I’d seen things differently then I wonder if my life might have taken a different path - who knows?
I went on to study computing at university and achieved my career goal. Through all of this I never lost my love of writing. During my uni days I wrote lots of Star Trek fan fiction (who didn't?). As a young adult in my first job I turned my attention to novels. I was sure I could do it. My parents were always supportive. The idea of trying to get something published entered my mind and never really left.
As I've grown older I've come to realise something important. To succeed with this writing game, it has to be more than just a hobby. I have to treat it like a career - regardless of whether writing is my ‘day job’ or not. I have to develop a professional attitude to my writing. Here are a few ways that I am learning to do this.
1) Learn the Writing Craft.
As with any creative endeavour, you have to learn the craft. There are so many resources out there to help with this. I remember when I first came to understand the rules behind point-of-view - it was very eye-opening. I learned about story structure - this was a huge revelation to me that totally changed the way I view the creation of a novel. Learning about scene structure was the next logical step. At the end of this article I share a couple of books and free resources that helped me.
2) Stick at it
Completing a novel-length manuscript is a big job. Getting to the end requires dedication. Not just a little “writing when you feel like it”. Many people say you must write every day. Some even suggest word limit goals that every writer should aim for if they want to be taken seriously. We are all different and have unique life situations, so I think we should find a schedule that works for our situation. My current schedule is to spend an hour or two writing fiction (without distraction) every Saturday morning. I'm sticking to this quite well. I started a manuscript at the beginning of the year and I aim to have the first draft completed by year’s end. So far I'm ahead of schedule. Credit must go to my kids who are pretty good at leaving Daddy alone for his special writing time (amazing since they’re usually such a handful). This may not be an appropriate schedule later on, but as an unpublished writer, I have the luxury of setting my own deadlines right now.
As an amateur you have the freedom to make up everything. It doesn't matter if you get a fact wrong because you're just writing for fun right? While fiction (particularly sci-fi and fantasy) does give us some room for inventing things, there are times when you just need to do the hard yards and research something. While writing my novel I have learned about a fascinating range of subjects such as astronomy and galactic coordinate systems, particle weapons, people trafficking, Tasmanian aboriginal culture, early nineteenth century history, self-defence for women and bush tucker. Obviously I'm no expert on any of these things, but I've certainly expanded my mind somewhat.
4) The ‘E Word’
As a hobbyist, I have tended to finish a first draft, look lovingly at it and say "I'm finished". Now, what will I write next?” If I hope to become an author I know this isn't good enough. Editing is an important part of producing a book of publishable quality. This is a skill I'm going to have to develop. Of course there is only so much self-editing you can do. Just like with software development, eventually you have to hand the product on to someone else with a fresh perspective who can find the bugs that you will never see. I’ll need to get my work professionally edited.
5) Surround yourself with Role Models
I think it's helpful to learn from those further along the journey. I've had the privilege of meeting Mary Hawkins a couple of times, and she has been very supportive. Hanging out with everyone here at Christian Writers Downunder has also been fantastic. The community is very welcoming of a newbie like me. This brings to mind the great cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 12:1.
So that’s my journey so far. I'm sure there are still more lessons for me to learn. In all of this, there is one thing I don’t want to lose - the passion that drove me to write as a hobby in the first place. Taking a story from idea to a publishable manuscript seems to me to require a huge amount of dedication, and love is a much greater motivator than duty (that’s a line from my novel)
So what about you? What ideas would you suggest to an aspiring author such as myself to help adopt the professional attitude?
Resources that have helped me:
- The Complete Guide to Writing and Selling the Christian Novel by Penelope Stokes. This book had some great thoughts about creating a story from a Christian perspective. It is also the first place I learned about point of view.
- Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. As a software developer, the idea of engineering a story really appealed to me. There are lots of great lessons here with a huge focus on story structure.
- K.M. Weiland has two brilliant series on story structure and scene structure. You can read the articles or listen to the podcasts.
- Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson. This book showed me how to go from a passing grade on POV to an A+.
Adam Collings is a writer of speculative fiction. He is actively working toward becoming a published author, and is currently working on a space opera. He lives in Tasmania, Australia with his wife Linda and two monsters (oops I mean children). Adam works as a software developer for a consulting engineering company. You can find Adam on-line at collingszone.wordpress.com or his Google+ Profile