Where I play with words. I can't promise it'll make sense.
|On a whim, I decided to submit my latest WIP (work in progress) to the yearly ACFW (http://www.ACFW.com) First Impressions contest. Contestants submit their back cover blurb of 500 words and the first five pages of their WIP.
In November, I discovered my story made the finals along with two others in my chosen category.
Two days ago, I received the phone call that my story won. Was I excited! Making the finals to start meant that the judges believed my story was good enough to continue on, and to win is a writer’s second-best validation (The first is for readers and/or publishers to actually purchase said story).
Aside from winning, the best part of the contest is the judges’ score sheets and comments on the submission. The score sheets ask questions such as:
Did you want to keep reading more when you reached the end of the five pages?
Did the author hook you in the opening page, enticing you to keep reading?
Was the dialogue engaging and interesting?
Even if my story hadn’t won, the comments and score sheets are invaluable. I now know -- in general -- the story’s strengths and weaknesses.
None of it came as too much of a surprise, because I know what my weaknesses are. Although I did discover my weaknesses aren’t as weak as they used to be, such as too little detail while at the same time being too wordy.
In short, taking all the comments into consideration -- especially where the judges agree -- I have one more major edit to go, and it might be ready for submission to prospective agents.
|About being bored, or out of stuff to do.
I learned that at an early age. I once told my mom that I was bored, and she eagerly eliminated that boredom by giving me chores to last at least the rest of the day.
Same goes for my job. I tell my boss I’m out of work, and my desk is soon drowning in incomplete projects.
My last entry I complained about how my motivation and desire to write had waned, and that no idea seemed good enough to start, let alone finish.
I received this email today:
I help coordinate a team of devotional writers who periodically (and hopefully more frequently in 2018!) write short devotions to encourage faith development and unity at Legacy. As I was pulling together information for next year's Lenten Devotions, your name came to mind. I recalled that writing was a passion of yours and wondered if you might want to help out with the next round of devotions?
Here's how it typically works:
I obtain Bible focus/sermon planning information from pastoral staff
I develop Scripture focus for devotions (number of devotions vary-for example we usually have 33 Lenten Devotions about 5/each week of Lent) and create document for writing assignments
Writer's Group is invited to sign up for specific devotions
Devotions are written by individual writers and submitted for review and grammatical edit
I submit entire project to JoAnn for design and printing
Attached are some guidelines that might answer some initial questions, but feel free to let me know what questions you have. Does this sound like something you'd enjoy?
Of course I agreed, even though I haven’t written devotionals in a while.
I had to chuckle, though, because the opportunity showing up right after my last entry seemed too coincidental.
I’m reminded of a short conversation between Sherlock and his older brother, Mycroft from the BBC series “Sherlock.”
Mycroft asked Sherlock, “What did I tell you about coincidences?”
“The universe is rarely so lazy.”
I replace “universe” with “God,” when coincidences like this happen. Today I was also reminded of how my mom would invariably give me something to do when I was bored.
I think God heard my complaint and thought, “She’s not writing, and not liking not writing, so I need to give her something to write about. Here you go.”
I’ve heard it said that if we ask God for patience, he will place us in circumstances that teach us to be patient. It’s an example of “be careful what you with (or pray) for.” God just might say yes.
The best part of writing devotions is it forces me to study the Bible more, something I’ve lacked of late as well. Writing devotions will help me learn, study, further build my relationship with God, and perhaps help others do the same.
That’s my hope anyway.
Since I’m writing them for someone else, I don’t know yet if I can share them here. I’ll try, though. If not, maybe I’ll write more than I need to. We’ll see.
|Quote by Dorothy Parker.
I can relate to this, especially recently. For the past month, I can’t seem to write a single blog entry. I had also hoped to write 50,000 words in October, and I barely surpassed 10,000. I started writing two short stories, but have yet to finish either.
My lack of writing boils down to a combination of lost interest and motivation, and a waning confidence. I don’t know where it comes from except to say that the more time passes with no writing, the more I believe I lost whatever skill I’ve gained, both in my writing ability, and finding interesting subjects to write about.
In short, I suck at this whole writing thing, and to share even a single word is to embarrass myself and waste readers’ time.
What I need to do is shelve my unfinished short stories in favor of finishing the second draft of my latest novel. I entered the first few pages to a contest for which I should hear how it fared within the next two weeks. Although it made it to the finals, I’d like it to win. The prize amounts to little more than bragging rights, but I’m okay with that. If I ever decide to seek publication for it, winning a contest will hopefully pique an agent or publishers interest when they might otherwise pass it by.
It’s not a big deal either way, because an agent once told me, winning a contest is based largely on comparing the quality of the entries. Saying my book is the best out of a lot could mean nothing more than mine was only slightly less mediocre then the other contestants’. It still has to stand on its own merits when read by others, whether my chosen audience or publishers/agents.
In the meantime, I need to submit another complete novel to agents. The question is, since one novel ready for submittal is science fiction, the other is fantasy that could work for either the mainstream or Christian markets. Not all agents take both mainstream science fiction and Christian fantasy. I may have to decide which audience is more important to me.
You’d think as a Christian, the choice would be obvious.
But it’s not. Does God want me to write books for Christians alone where Jesus sits front and center, or reach out into the world? Not to preach, though, because my mainstream novels contain little by way of Christian faith. At least overtly. Several of my characters believe in God, but they don’t preach or try to convert. They simply believe in a Creator, a power beyond their understanding, but worthy of worship anyway, however quietly.
Writing is hard, because it’s a skill in need of constant practice, just like any other artist or musician. “Use it or lose it,” as they say. It also requires constant thoughtfulness, to ever ask the question: is this interesting, and not only to myself? Aside from well-written, is it informative, or entertaining? Both? Neither?
Because we writers pour so much of ourselves into our writing, there’s the constant fear of rejection, of not being good enough. With every word we succeed in writing, we feel like we’re taking one more step closer to an abyss. We think that by not writing, we can avoid falling into that abyss with no bottom, no light, and no way out. That abyss is obscurity, of failure. Of learning beyond all doubt we wasted our time trying to develop a skill, but in the end will never be successful at it. It’s the fear of finding out we will never be good enough. Better to dream in blissful ignorance.
And yet, whenever I do push through those fears and insecurities, and finish a blog entry, short story or novel, I realize I didn’t careen into an abyss after all. While the story may not be publishable at first, it’s at least finished. That alone is an accomplishment.
Yet knowing I can succeed, because I have succeeded many times, why is it still so hard to finish?
Maybe it’s what Dorothy Parker said. Oftentimes we prefer the destination to the journey. To skip the lengthy step of bloody, heart-wrenching work.
After all, how many of us who have traveled long distances look forward to the many hours on the road, on the water, or in the air verses arriving at our chosen destination?
Unfortunately for the uncertain writer, the journey matters most to the reader, not the destination. If it didn’t, all stories would contain the first page and the last with nothing in between.
It’s the in between parts that invites people to read, and keep reading.
It’s also the part writers hate the most.
|I’m adding a new word to my personal dictionary. It can’t be found (as yet) in any other dictionary, because it’s not an official word. I’ve only seen it once, but it’s such a perfect word, I think everyone needs to add it to their own personal dictionary.
A few days ago, a friend posted an article on Facebook: http://charlesmartinbooks.com/blog/entry/what_i_think...about_the_movie
It’s written by Charles Martin, author of “The Mountain Between Us”. The entry is about his feelings both toward the movie and the changes made to it, and the criticism he has received because of those changes (namely a sex scene that wasn’t in the book).
I won’t give much away, because regardless of your feelings about the author’s religious beliefs, it’s well written and has a few lessons I know I need, and perhaps others as well.
One quote in particular grabbed me: “So, let’s become unoffendable and pray these folks into the Kingdom of Heaven where every knee will bow and every tongue confess. “
Did you spot the word I want to add to my dictionary?
You guessed it. “Unoffendable.”
I commented on my friend’s Facebook post thusly (in part): “I especially like the first [part of that] sentence about ‘becoming unoffendable.’ That right there would solve a lot of problems we see today.”
Think of it. What would social media and our world today (especially in the US) look like if everyone decided they would no longer be offended by everything? How many of us would finally see the joys in life when we no longer focus so much on the ick? How many of us would retain relationships we quit on because we found offense with someone’s postings, or friends/family quit on us because they found offense over what we post(ed)?
As for me, I resolve to be unoffendable, no matter how many times my computer tells me it’s not a word.
|I don’t recall someone ever saying that. In fact, this is the first time I’ve strung those ten words in that particular order. I’ve always used someone else in place of “me,” whether it’s one of my parents, a famous person, or someone who chose to do something I consider extraordinary or worthy of respect -- perhaps even awe.
“I want to be as successful as that person someday.”
“I want to be as kind and generous as that person someday.”
“I want to write like that person someday.”
The list is endless, and we’ve all said something similar. To the point it’s cliche.
I’ll bet the people we admire, and who we believe have reached the pinnacle of what we deem as the perfect life, have likely said the same thing at some point in their lives. Mentors have their own mentors, and heroes have their own heroes.
Don’t get me wrong. We need heroes, mentors and leaders, because they more often than not inspire us to reach further toward our own dreams and desires. The downside of that, however, is inspiration can twist into envy and jealousy. We can pay so much attention to those we admire, we soon reach the realization that we can never be who they are. In that, we will fail, because we are not them, and never will be.
I am me the same way you are you. No one can be me anymore than I can be you. We can have similar dreams and aspirations, but the similarity ends there. How I reach my goal will be far different from how you reach yours. Our sucesses and failures will be as unique as our DNA.
What brought this thought about was reading an entry by an author I admire. His words seemed to flow off the page (screen), and I thought, “Why can’t I write like that? To have his wisdom, and eloquence?”
Then I remembered something I had written decades ago: "Selling Me Short" by vivacious
Adding to that:
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
you are still with me!
God made me the way he did for many reasons, not just one. His gifts to me are for specific purposes that no one can steal, copy, or take over.
The reverse is also true. I can’t steal, copy or take over anyone else’s gifts or life goals. Or their successes. I must always be cognizant of what inspires me, and avoid the too-easy twist into envy, because doing so ignores and can possibly destroy the dreams God has made for me. In the end, I fail at being me -- the way God meant for me to be.
The same is true for you, so go out there and strive to be you when you grow up.
|I'm attending an interesting Bible study on Wednesdays at my church.
Atheism came up in the conversation last night, and someone said how an atheist friend once told him, "People use religion as a crutch."
I've heard that before, too. Then it occurred to me. Yes, religion -- faith -- is a crutch.
And that's a good thing.
Would we tell someone with a broken leg to not use crutches to get around, or a paraplegic to not use his/her wheelchair? That would not only be idiotic, but insulting. Perhaps even cruel.
Just as anyone injured or handicapped can't move around and be independent without their physical aids, people of faith can't function at their best -- be independent -- without depending on God.
It seems counter-intuitive, doesn't it? How does one live independently while depending on God?
Part of faith in God is admitting we're weak. We don't have all the answers, we can't control everything, sometimes not even ourselves. That's a tough one to admit, because especially here in the States, we are taught that we can control our destiny. We have so many choices whether it's who we marry, who we associate with, schools, colleges, and career choices to name but a few.
Yet we can't control when we get a cold, if we'll contract a fatal disease, if someone decides to commit a crime against us, runs a red light and injures us, nature's wrath, when our loved ones pass, when a friend breaks a trust, the list is near infinite.
Faith teaches us that control is an illusion. It teaches us that control is not what brings us hope, joy or courage. It's God, and the decision to depend on him and his wisdom instead of our own flawed, human understanding of the world around us and beyond.
For instance, without my faith, I wouldn't have had the courage to broach a difficult subject which resulted in the birth of our son (long story, that. I'll tell it another time).
Without depending on God, I wouldn't have the courage to write this entry, let alone seek an agent for my full-length novels.
So, yes, God is my crutch, and I shout it proudly.
He's my unfailing, beautiful crutch.
|Four down, fourteen to go.
My luck on finding a literary agent is holding.
I'd like to write more about how I must really suck as a writer when agents don't respond at all, or they respond in less than two days to inform me how my novel "isn't right for them," but I won't.
I've said it all before, and that's boring.
Instead, I will mope in relative silence for a day or so, and send out new queries, because I so enjoy torturing myself.
|"Writing is a way of talking without being interrupted." -- Jules Renard
I've already described -- for some of you, incessantly -- how much writing is an outlet that keeps me sane.
As the quote above also notes, writing gives me an opportunity to hash out my strange and almost incomprehensible thoughts to make them less strange and more comprehensible, with plenty of time to figure it out before I decide to share it.
As I started this entry, my first thought was how this would end up a repeat of other entries, and I don't like to repeat myself.
So how do I look at the quote a little differently?
Human beings, for the most part, like comfort, and the familiar. We seek them out, sometimes at great expense, whether it be spending less time with family, or risking our physical and mental health. Seems kind of silly when looking at it that way. Isn't comfort supposed to allow us to relax, to not have to worry about things? Yet we worry and fret over not being comfortable enough.
I'm not a risk-taker. Like I wrote in my previous entry, it's due to learning early on in life to weigh all potential consequences of my actions before I make them. I suppose in some ways, I've stifled myself from experiencing more.
Then a question popped in my head: Do I use my natural inability to express myself except through writing as an excuse not work harder to express myself in other ways? Am I, figuratively-speaking, hiding in a closet out of fear of making a fool out of myself, or hurting someone with my spoken words?
Aside: My husband and I decided to change our diet: Less processed foods and more meat, fruits and vegetables. Without all that refined sugar and bread, my body is screaming at me for torturing it so. So it turns around and tortures me with cravings for the very things my body doesn't need. Supper, when will you be ready?
I feel like Audrey II from the movie "Little Shop of Horrors" when it yells, "Feed me!" In song form. Except I'm not singing . . .
Okay, back on track. Where was I? Oh, yeah. Hiding in figurative closets.
I need to start exercising my voice, so I can create neural pathways between my mouth and brain. Like building any muscle, that can only be accomplished through practice. Lots of it.
If I am to see my books published, and sold successfully, I need to go out in the world to market them. That will inevitably require rubbing elbows with people face-to-face such as at book signings. It's a scary prospect, but a necessary one.
Who knows, by practicing now when it won't cost me anything I may become -- if not expert -- certainly competent with talking out loud without fear of stumbling all over myself and being misunderstood.
"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline." -- 2 Timothy 1:7
|Today’s writing devotional asks what freedom means to me.
I didn’t want to tackle this question. Still don’t really, but to write is to explore. That includes exploring the darker, scarier places, whether they be in the mind or our surroundings, and to explore what makes us uncomfortable.
I don’t want to discuss what freedom means to me, and to me alone, because then it’s a matter of opinion only. I prefer facts to opinion, unless that opinion is informed with facts. That includes my own.
Yet I don’t want to cut and paste the Webster’s definition of freedom and call it a day. Your time is worth more than that.
I look to every controversy and question today’s society asks through two specific lenses: The importance of the individual and my Christian faith.
To define freedom I look to those two perspectives.
I didn’t get into trouble (much) growing up. I did far less than what my mom expected of both my sister and me. My mom said it was due to both of us having a strong sense of self-interest. Not selfishness, but in taking care that whatever we did wouldn’t have an adverse affect on our health and safety. We made mistakes, certainly, but nothing serious or permanent.
I boiled it down to something my mom told me when I was an early teen: “You can do whatever you want, but you will accept the consequences for them.”
Because my mom gave me the freedom to choose my actions, it put the fear of God into me (to use a phrase both literally and figuratively). Her words made me stop to consider what possible consequences I could face before, and not after I acted. It also meant my parents would not protect me from those consequences. They were my sole responsibility.
That’s what freedom truly is — not only the ability to decide our actions, but the necessity of accepting the consequences and responsibility for those actions.
My faith works the same way. God will not always stop me from making both good and bad choices, but he does expect me to take responsibility for them. He saved my soul, certainly, but he won’t always save me from the workings of this world. My actions are still my own, the consequences mine to accept, and I am to blame no one for them except me.
“Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.” — Galatians 6:4-5
|This year we were in the 90% zone for the Total Eclipse, and I was quite happy with that. I've enjoyed two other partial solar eclipses and four total lunar eclipses within the last 10 years. Since I enjoy photography almost as much as writing, I was excited for the opportunity to take pictures of this one. Especially since it was closer to a total than I have yet experienced.
Until friends of ours who live in Nebraska invited us down to view it from their house. They live in Scottsbluff which was in the totality zone. You can imagine my excitement, I'm sure. And here's the result (eleven photos total):
If you've never seen a total solar eclipse, I recommend that no matter how far you have to travel to see it, do it. There's no other experience like it, and you certainly won't regret it. It's awesome and eerie at the same time. It'll make you feel small yet privileged that you could experience such an amazing cosmic event.
If you want to know when and where the next ones will be, check out http://www.timeanddate.com. And no, they didn't pay me to advertise their site.