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.