Friday, August 14, 2009

Another one

What's up with these dreams of having dinner with authors? Last night I dreamed George R.R. Martin and I shared a pizza at what must have been a country club. There were fountains, big stretches of lawn, and, of all things, tetherball, though I didn't challenge him to a match. I wonder who would have won if we'd played . . .

Friday, August 07, 2009

Why not?

I started reading Richard Foster's Prayer today and in the intro to part one he shares this little story:

"A disciple once came to Abba Joseph, saying, 'Father, according as I am able, I keep my little rule, my little fast, and my little prayer. And according as I am able, I strive to cleanse my mind of all evil thougths and my heart of all evil intents. Now, what more should I do?' Abba Joseph rose up and stretched out his hands to heaven, and his fingers became ten lamps of flame. He answered, 'Why not be totally changed into fire?'"

Why not indeed?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Thank you Kate Elliott

For anyone curious to know a little more about the process of writing a novel and what it has been like for me personally, one of my favorite authors, Kate Elliott, writes here on the subject of how writers talk about writing. I've shared a little bit through e-mail and on this blog about the doubts that creep in about my writing abilities and the worries over the quality of what I've created. Elliott's post resonated for me as I have certainly experienced what she writes about, particularly this bit:

"What was I thinking? Why do I even bother to write? Nothing I write is any good and I am a failure and a hack.

[This means] I have plunged into the soul-sucking abyss of self doubt. This happens occasionally (okay, okay, too often, but there you are). However, these episodes of self doubt, which spur me to stare at my text with despair and loathing, probably also are one of the reasons that and ways in which I improve as a writer (assuming I do improve, and I do think I have improved)."

Yup, that sounds about right.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A conversation with Patrick Rothfuss

First of all, let me apologize to all of you who have been waiting over 3 weeks to hear how my conversation with Patrick Rothfuss went. I can’t believe it was that long ago. There has been a lot for me to think about and I wanted to listen to the whole conversation again in case I missed something. Thank you for your patience.

The morning of our conversation I had a strong sense that it would be an eye opening experience, and it was exactly that. We talked for nearly three hours about the craft of writing and about my book, but mostly about the craft. And this should come as no surprise, but that is exactly what I needed. I do have some very specific story elements to work on in this book and in my future writing, but Pat really helped me to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, to see elements of my writing that can be improved. It was daunting, but good, as the picture above suggests (it's from a column Pat once wrote).

Whether that means cutting internal monologue in favor of dialogue and action that reveal character thoughts and motivations, or withholding information from the reader in a natural way to pique their curiosity; building tension through real conflicts and their resolutions or avoiding the infamous speculative fiction “info dump.” We discussed each of these things and many others. I am especially grateful because each of these issues were things I couldn’t have seen on my own. I’ve read and revised this book 5 or 6 times, but I had never noticed any of the things he talked about. Even most of my early readers didn’t comment on these issues, though I want to give a hearty shout out to Mike and Ann for addressing some of the very issues Pat touched on. You guys rock!

Clearly there is a lot for me to work on, but I’m excited to do it.

But how should I do it? That is a question Pat brought up toward the end of our conversation. Should I allot a few hundred hours to fixing these big picture issues and rewriting at least half of the book, or should I allot those same hours to writing on a clean slate? Even now, three weeks later, I don’t know the answer to that question. But I do know my next step. I’m going to work on short stories for a little while, practicing the things we talked about in a shorter form, one that won’t require such a huge commitment of time right out of the gate. Hopefully this time will produce some great stories and equip me to tell better stories later. And whether the next project turns out to be rewriting the story I’ve already written or something completely different will just have to be determined when I get there.

At the end of the day it comes down to this: I have been praying for a long time that what I write will be truly excellent, and this conversation will help me toward that. Pat did say that I’ve created a cool cosmology, done some solid world-building, created some solid dialogue (though there isn’t enough of it), and created a cast of characters (though they don’t shine as well as they could). So I did some things well this time around. But it can be better. And isn’t that what I should strive toward: using the gifts God has given me to their fullest in his service?

So thank you once again to all of you who are reading this and have played a part in the process. Thank you for your prayers, your encouragement, and your support. I would also like to send a special thank you to those who read early drafts of my book and to those who contributed financially to make this opportunity possible.

This was a big step on the path the Lord is stretching out before me, and I earnestly desire your continued partnership. Last semester the Lord gave me three words in answer to the question, “Lord, what is it that you want me to become and do if I am to do your will.” And those words were: Bold, Courageous, and Diligent. Pray that I would grow into those as I continue to journey down this road.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A couple nights ago I dreamed I had dinner with Neil Gaiman . He was witty, charming, and quite funny. I wish I'd asked him some questions . . .

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Drinking from a Dry Well

In Drinking from a Dry Well, Thomas H. Green writes:

“The Lord has known our darkness all along, from the first moment he called us. God is not surprised or shocked by our sinfulness—we are! If we are to grow in love, we have to accept the reality of our own sinful condition—even come to peace about it. Not because we like it, but because the Lord accepts and loves us as we are. He does wish to purify and transform us. But that is his work. We do not make ourselves worthy of his love by bewailing our sinfulness. Rather, he makes us worthy by loving us.”

How true, on all counts! We do not make ourselves worthy of his love; he makes us worthy by loving us. This dual knowledge can be so distasteful to us, but it is what we need. Oh, to know ourselves as we are that we might see him as he is—to see him as he is that we might know ourselves as we are.

Gentle truths brush the soul like waves kiss the shore,

softly drawing it into the Light

as the ocean draws all upon the beach into itself.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Carrion Comfort

But ah, but O thou terrible, why wouldst thou rude on me 

Thy wring-earth right foot rock? lay a lionlimb against me? scan 

With darksome devouring eyes my bruised bones? and fan, 

O in turns of tempest, me heaped there; me frantic to avoid thee and flee? 

Why? That my chaff might fly; my grain lie, sheer and clear.

-Gerard Manley Hopkins

This slice of “Carrion Comfort” blesses my soul. To all who have felt what Hopkins writes of, who have felt the pain of life crashing down like the heavy foot of God whose power holds the whole earth together, since it is in fact God who has battered you, trod upon you with his world-encompassing power, spread you out when all you wanted was to stay heaped and huddled--hidden, when all you sought was to run from him. Why would God deal so with one who loves him? Why would, in the words of St. Teresa of Avila, he treat his friends so? Why? That our chaff might fly; our grain lie, sheer and clear. That we might be winnowed, separated, and refined--sanctified. That the wheat in us might be separated from the chaff. That, having been made new, we might be made holy too.