Friday, October 29, 2010

It Never Happens the Same Way Twice

I had hoped to be done with my 4th book this coming Sunday. At this point, I think it's safe to say I'm NOT going to meet that goal. I'm a little disappointed in myself, but overall, not so much.

There were a lot of times in the past three weeks when I chose to do other activities instead of writing. I went to visit friends. I went to the NC State Fair. I carved a pumpkin (this takes longer than one might think). I had fun and tried to actually EXPERIENCE the autumn a little bit. It's hard to do that when you're cooped up inside a "cave" attached to a computer.

Don't get me wrong. I did put in a lot of writing hours. I worked hard. It's just that inspiration didn't come as easily as I'd hoped. It still came.

Even though I probably won't meet my goal of having a rough draft completed by Sunday, I still have a LOT of it done. There are parts I know I'm going to have to rewrite. In fact, I'm toying with the idea of just pausing in the writing of this book to go back and fix things. Generally, I'm one to just say "Get the rough draft done, and then go back and edit." But I'm learning that writing is a process that can never be duplicated exactly.

In May, I wrote a 75K word book in less than 2 weeks. I don't know if I'll ever be able to do that again. It was just something that happened (because I lost my mind for two weeks and was possessed by a fictional character--it was awesome). I can't duplicate the process.

And as I go back and look at the three books (2 of which are still rough drafts) I've completed, I realize that I've written all three of them very differently. The first one took me about seven years to finally complete (and two more years to edit to my satisfaction). It went through many changes in those seven years as I went through changes in my life (college, heartache, life, work, etc.). It is a true first book, one that grew up with me. The second book took me about 2-3 years to complete from conception to completion, but I forced myself to finish that one by making it into a serial novel for my friends to read. I'm glad I went that route, even though now I'm left with a 32 chapter monstrosity that needs major editing, and I have no idea when I'm going to get to that. My third book just flowed out of me (I really need to write more in first person!).

With this book, number four, well, I don't know. I tried to force it, but it won't be forced. It's kind of like a stubborn child that wants to be developed in its own way and in its own time. I think that it's going to need some coddling. I think I'm going to have to go back and coax the storyline and characters along before continuing to the end.

And it's okay. I'm not really that upset about not making my goal. I'm still going to strive for it, but not to the point of driving myself crazy. In other words, the computer gets turned off when I'm too tired to keep typing. If I'm not done at that point, then I'm not done.

My one regret in all of this is that the other night I turned down a friend who offered to take me to see dead bodies. My excuse was that I needed to write. I didn't write well that night, AND I missed out on seeing dead bodies. I mean, right now I'm not working on any stories involving knowledge of modern dead body facilities, but you NEVER know when that kind of knowledge might come in handy.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Progress Report

I just completed chapter nine of my fourth book. I had hoped to be done with chapter ten by today, but all in all, I can't complain. I'm making pretty good progress. Conceivably, chapter ten could be the halfway point. I'm not exactly sure how many chapters this book is going to have. I thought it was going to be a little shorter than its prequel, but who knows how long-winded I might become in the next few chapters.

I'm learning a lot, though. Since I haven't worked on a brand new book-length project in several months, I'm really relearning how much I enjoy writing. It's truly what I enjoy doing most; it's what I was meant to do. When you find that one thing, it's! No words to describe it. It's like the planets aligning or something. It's like in the movie "Chariots of Fire" when the main character is talking about how when he runs, he feels God's pleasure. I know what he means. When I write, it's like I can feel God's good pleasure just coursing through me. It's not something I'm necessarily intentionally writing or doing at the moment to glorify God. There's nothing anyone can necessarily look at and say, "Yes, I can see how you're spreading the love and truth of Christ here in this writing" (although I hope that I am). It's just that process, that moment when something beautiful is being created, that I believe makes the angels stop and say, "Whoa...." It's just glorifying to God because it's something He's doing in, in me...and that something is good. Mmm.

And I'm relating to my characters and feeling their emotions and hurting with them in their pain. And that's just something awesome to me. Again, writers just have a glimpse of what it must be like to be God. We know what's happening to our characters. We feel their pain, we care, but still make them go through it. We know that they have to go through the pain to get to the resolution, and what's on the other side of that resolution is better than what they had before. If our characters were alive and aware that their lives were being written, they would probably have some trouble trusting the author.

And I have trouble trusting the Author.

I've been reading a lot of posts on Twitter and some other places about books. Plus, I've been reading a lot. The book I'm working on and its prequel are both what I'd classify as YA Fantasies. What's trending in YA right now is what I consider to be a lot of fluff. And I'm not a fluffy writer. I like for my writing to have purpose and integrity. While I do try to make what I write fun (I DO like kissing books), I just don't like to be overgratuitous. The story and the characters are what I focus on the most, not the fluff.

And my fear is that my books just aren't going to do well because they aren't fluffy.

But I need to put that fear aside and do what I know I'm meant to do. This story I've been writing, this non-fluffy story, has been a source of pleasure. I believe it to be good pleasure. I believe it to be God's pleasure. And if God's good pleasure is the only thing that comes out of the writing of this story, then that is sufficient. I just have to trust Him with the rest of it.

After all, He's a much better Author than I am.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I Delcare Today Insanidence Day!

Something miraculous happened to me on Friday. I only worked four hours. I had the rest of the blessed day to do whatever I wanted. So what did I do? I went grocery shopping. I took a nap. I (mostly) finished (hopefully for the last time) editing my first book (again). Did that last sentence make sense? Don't know. Don't care.

So then I got to thinking how remarkable it was that I had a WHOLE HALF DAY off to do absolutely anything I wanted to with, even though I'd filled it with various activities (that nap was strenuous, I'm telling you). I mean, this HALF DAY off meant that I wouldn't have ANY right to complain about how busy I am. Those days when I'm working my ten-twelve hours, sometimes at THREE different jobs in one day, only to come home and try to write for an hour or two before falling asleep drooling on the keyboard--pssh! I can't complain about THOSE days anymore, because I had a WHOLE HALF DAY OFF on some random Friday on some random week in October of 2010.

Yes, so the point I'm trying to convey is that I'm pretty dang busy. I'm not a parent, so I'm not as busy as some, but still. I mean, what? Two jobs? No, no. Please. I'm not stressed out enough. Please give me a third job. And let me attempt to write and edit books while working those three jobs, because please, I don't have enough to do.

Unfortunately for me, I am insane.


Last night the children's director at my church (and also one of my bosses) left a message asking me if I'd sub for preschool Sunday School for this morning. My roommate looked at me and said, "You've been way too busy lately. You've got something tonight and won't get home till late. You're not going to want teach 3 year olds tomorrow. Just tell her no." I said, "You're right. I'm calling her now. I'm going to tell her no."

Here's how the conversation went:

"Hello, A. This is Ruth. I got your message about needing a sub for Sunday School?"
"Hello, Ruth! Can you help us out?"
"SURE, A.! I'd LOVE to help out. I can sub during the early service, no problem."

At this time, my roommate turns to look at me with the LOOK OF DEATH.

I say goodbye to A. and hang up. I ask my roommate to stop giving me the LOOK OF DEATH.

She says, "My look isn't going to be what kills you, you're going to kill yourself with all this stuff you keep doing."

Maybe. Killed by insanity? I'm sure there are worse ways to go. Dying of boredom, for example. But I digress...

My busyness and insanity aren't really the point of this blog entry. I'm rather, writing to inform my readers (you know, all three of them) that I am probably not going to be blogging much for the remainder of October.

I had a goal, and it was a worthy goal, of having a rough draft my fourth book (which is the sequel to my first book, which is completely unrelated to my 2nd and 3rd books, excepting that all of them are about Dragons, if you can follow any of that) completed by the end of 2010. The thing is, I'm a procrastinator. You give me a deadline, and I'll stretch it out for all it's worth. And the result is, I haven't really been working on that book at all.

Now that I've completed the edit (Oh, dear Lord, let it PLEASE be the last edit) of my first book, it's fresh in my mind. I can write that sequel.

And I've decided to move up my deadline. Why? BECAUSE I AM INSANE. THAT'S WHY. I am going to attempt to write this book (of which I've only completed one solid chapter) in what remains of October. You know, I figure I didn't have enough to do, so I thought I'd just attempt to write the VAST MAJORITY a 75,000ish word novel in three weeks. It's kind of my way of saying "HA HA I'M BETTER THAN YOU--IN YOUR FACE" to most of those silly NaNoWriMo fools who think they're awesome because they can write 50,000 words of plotless drivel in a month. BTW, I can say this with so much confidence because about 5 months ago I was posessed by a fictional character and consequently wrote a rough draft of a 75,000 word novel in less than 2 weeks. And it is an awesome book, if I do say so myself. Let's just hope insanity, I mean, brilliance can strike again! If I don't meet my goal, it's no big deal. I am just going to attempt it because I happen to be a crazy person.

Yes, so I'm going to be a little busier than usual for the remainder of this month. I may find some time to blog, but don't count on them--I mean, it's not like any of my readers (all three of them) are sitting on the edge of their seats begging for more blogs or anything, but you know, now you know.

Happy 10-10-10. I will forever remember this day as the day I declared my insanity! Happy Insanidence Day! They should make a movie with Bill Pullman and Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum and Randy Quaid and Brent Spiner about it...only with Dragons instead of aliens.

OH MY GOSH that would be epic.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

5 Questions Writers Hate

Okay, so that isn't a fair title at all. Every writer is different, so really, I should have titled this blog "5 Questions I Hate." But such a title could refer to just about any aspect of my life (even though I'm trying to limit this blog to things that only have to do with writing, even if only in a vague and general way). And no one would want to read "5 Questions About Giraffes I Hate." I suppose I could have entitled it "5 Questions About Writing I Hate," but then you could have assumed I meant I had 5 questions about writing that I hate, which isn't what I meant. I do have 5 questions about giraffes that I hate (curse you, giraffes!), but since I am trying to limit this blog to things that only have to do with writing, even if only in a vague and general way, I'll save those questions for another time and place.

Here are 5 questions that I, as a writer, hate:

Question 1: What kind of books do you write?

This one might not bother a lot of writers, but it bothers me. I think the reason it might not bother a lot of writers is because there are a lot of writers who stick to one or two genres in their writing. Now, at the moment, I've only written three books, and I'm trying to begin actively working on a fourth soon. Of these four books, two could be categorized as YA fantasy, and two could be categorized as science fiction. One might assume from the given information that the kind of books I write are fantasy and science fiction. The problem with this is, I feel like I've only begun to write! I don't want to limit myself to just one or two genres. I want to write a variety of things.

My two favorite writers, C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L'Engle, didn't just write in one or two different styles or genres. Lewis wrote fantasy, science fiction, nonfiction, autobiography, allegory...he was a writer. What kind of books did C.S. Lewis write? The answer is yes. The same can be said for L'Engle. Most of what she wrote was YA, but she also wrote some adult fiction and nonfiction. She wrote fantasy and scifi, but she also had some VERY down to earth books. She even wrote some children's books. She didn't limit herself to one genre or style because she was a writer--she just wrote whatever came to her.

I'd like to think I'm that kind of a writer, too. Only time will tell. I hope to one day be able to answer the question "What kind of books do you write?" with "YES."

Question 2: What is your book about?

I hate this question for a couple of reasons. One, it puts me on the spot. How would you like it if someone came up to you and said, "So, tell me about your entire life?" You have to think of where to begin, add in all the important details, and then find a good place to conclude without giving too much information. The second reason I really hate this question is because most people don't really understand what they're asking. Do you really want me to stand here and tell you what my book is about in 20 words or less? Because if you REALLY want to know what my book is about, then you'd better be prepared for more than 20 words. I doubt anyone is going to really want to listen to me give them a good summary of my book. I mean, if you REALLY want to know what my book is about, then you might as well just read the book--when it's published (this will lead me to another hated question momentarily).

I have a standard answer I give for when people ask me this question. "What's your book about?" "Oh, it's a YA fantasy about Dragons and stuff." The only people who get more detailed answers are people who seem GENUINELY interested and people I'm trying to sell my book to--because, hey, they really need to know.

Question 3: Can I read your book before it's published?

*FACEPALM* People don't think before they ask this question. I mean, seriously, what better way to tell your writer friend, "I want to read your book because I don't have enough faith in your work that you'll ever manage to get it published...or at the very least, I'm not willing to wait that long."

I know, I know. This is NOT what people are trying to communicate. They're trying to communicate that they have an interest in my work and are really eager to read it. But it comes across completely differently. If someone is interested in my work, I'd much prefer they wait until it's ready to be seen by the world instead of hoping to catch a glimpse of it in it's raw stages.

With that being said, it is CRUCIAL for a writer to find friends/fellow writers/people they trust to read their work. It's just not at all wise to let EVERYBODY read it. It's not a bad thing for someone to offer their help in editing, but I think it's better to let a writer approach you if they're interested in letting you read it. I've been blessed with several good friends who have given me awesome feedback on my first book. It would not be the book it is today without their help. But at the same time, I chose these people b/c I trusted them and knew they would help me more than harm me. It's not a good idea to let too many people see my work before it's ready. So yeah...don't ask me to let you read it before it's ready to be read. When it's published, that's a pretty good indication that it's ready.

Question 4: Why haven't you found a literary agent/publisher/editor yet?

This question arises out of ignorance. I realize this. For some reason, there are people who assume that finding someone to represent my writing is a very simple task. I have had people ask me after only one week of trying to find an agent why I hadn't managed to find one yet. I'm like, "Are you serious?" The sad thing was, they WERE serious.

I don't like the implication that the reason I'm not published is because I'm not working towards that. Sometimes, I could work harder than I am, but most of the time, I'm just waiting. I'm impatient in this process, but not as much as other people seem to be. It's discouraging sometimes.

Some very good writers have had to wait a long time before becoming very good published writers. I hope that's the case with me.

Question 5: Do you really think writing is a useful endeavor?

Oh, if I could only explain to practical people how creative God is. I guess practical people are as much of an enigma to me as I am to them. I can see the logic in the idea that you "can't eat a work of art," but is that the only measure of something's worth--practicality?

A very close friend of mine once said, "The Bible is the only book we really need." I guess that's true, but I didn't like the implication that we shouldn't HAVE any other books. I like something that a Christian musician, Mitch McVicker, said at one of his concerts I attended: (VERY paraphrased) The world doesn't need more Christian music or Christian musicians. But the world will always need truth, and I'm trying to be faithful to what He's given me to do.

God gave me the ability to write. God gave me the desire to write. God has given me dreams and visions and stories to write.

Why do I write? I don't like that question unless I'm answering someone to whom I'm trying to sell my writing.

A much better question is, "Why wouldn't I write?" I love it. I'm GOOD at it. It's what God has given me to do, so I write. I don't even know all that He has planned for it and through it, but you know, that doesn't matter. I'm just trying to be faithful. He'll fill in the rest of the details.

Maybe it's just that God wants to use this impractical person to shame the practical. I'm cool with that.

I may have more "questions I as a writer hate" later, but for now, I'm going to go find some giraffes I hate and ask them some questions, like, "Why are your spots so brown, dumb giraffe? Why is your neck so ridiculously long? Why doesn't anyone know what sound a giraffe makes, you freakish freak of nature?"

*I don't really hate giraffes. Okay, just some of them.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Fifteen Years

When I was about fifteen, I went on this trip with my church's youth group to a place in Tennessee (near the KY border) called Pickett State Park. We went with several other youth groups from churches in KY (and perhaps TN...I don't really remember). We didn't know any of the people from the other churches, so I guess it was one of those "let's get to know people we don't know" sort of things. Those don't work for me all that well (especially for me as an awkard fifteen year old) and this wasn't an exception.

We were there a week. It was one of the worst weeks of my life. In a really odd sort of way, it was also one of the best. I look back on it knowing that I could have handled a lot of things differently, but as an insecure fifteen year old, I wasn't mature enough to know how to handle them. I look back on it and also know that the leaders of the trip could have handled things differently. They weren't mature enough to know how to handle them. I don't know if they should have been or not, but what I do know is that NONE of them were insecure fifteen year old girls.

Actually, a big part of the problem was the leadership at this youth trip (My youth minister was an exception--he was awesome. Some of the other leaders were great, too, but the majority of them bothered me in a way I couldn't understand at the time.) There was something wrong going on Spiritually. I could tell, though I didn't understand it, and therefore alienated myself from them and a lot of the other people there. The problem was, I didn't really know what was going on inside myself. I wasn't at all aware of what God was doing. It took me another five or six years or so to figure out that I've got the Spiritual gift of discernment. I can tell when people are fake, when people are lying to themselves and to others, especially about spiritual matters. I can tell when someone's hurting or hiding something. It's an annoying gift to have sometimes (because it annoys others), and well, that week was one of the first manifestations of that gift in my life.

Another strike against me (ha! I just used a sports metaphor)! At this place with these people, I was expected to play sports. Yeah. That lasted ONE game where I was handed a baseball glove and told to "protect myself with it" in case a ball came my way. I wasn't comfortable playing baseball and burst into tears. It's not a logical reaction, but what's logical about a socially awkard fifteen year old girl who happens to hate sports and be exceptionally bad at them? After that, I decided I wasn't going to play sports and that no one could make me. I went to the rec field with all the good little athletically inclined people and sat by myself while they played games.

Something really amazing happened in those times. I had a lot of time to do nothing (since I wasn't actually WATCHING the games they were playing), and so I did a lot of thinking...which led to a lot of praying. It was during this time that God made Himself and His will very clear to me. The Spirit was moving in my life in ways it never had before, and I was listening. Satan did everything He could to prevent this. Satan used the leadership.

During worship one night, one of the main leadership guys got up in front of everyone and said something to the effect of, "The recreation time is for everyone. Healthy competition is good for everyone, and you're expected to participate. I want everyone to participate in the sporting events." I was the only one sitting out--could he not have said this to me personally instead of making an announcement out of it? Probably. He was human and flawed, but that statement was devastating to my fifteen year old ego.

So what did I do? I rebelled, of course. I continued NOT to participate in the games because they made me an emotional wreck. But there was another reason I continued to sit out. I could tell that God was doing something with me while I was sitting by myself. I made a point of going to sit by myself at other times--not just during recreation time. And fortunately I brought along a notebook on the trip. I wrote that week. I wrote a lot. Now before this time, I'd dabbled in some writing. I enjoyed it. But this week was different. I could sense God breathing in me as I wrote. I knew that this was something He purposed in me. It was a calling.

I have strayed from that calling somewhat over the past fifteen years (oh my gosh, was Pickett State Park REALLY half a lifetime ago??--yes. wow.), mainly because I'm a realistic person--and writing isn't realistic. But God hasn't let me forget all the ways He's called me, and all the ways He's still calling me.

But Pickett State Park. Oh. I look back on it sadly because I know that so much could have happened that week. I wonder the way the course of my life might have gone if I had people to support me in what I was doing. If I had been more vocal about what was going on, maybe that would have helped. ...but I doubt it.

I remember two of the leaders coming up to me and asking me why I sat by myself, and if I needed prayer. One of them actually called me "backwards" to my face. It's okay now, because, let's face it--I AM backwards. And I like it. But to an insecure fifteen year old girl, that was pretty insulting. So I looked at the lady kindly and asked her to please go away.

They tattled on me to my youth minister. Seriously. They TATTLED on me like children. But my youth minister took my side. He came and talked to me and made me feel a lot better. He told me that he had been sensing something wrong in the leadership, too. He told me he was glad I had come on the trip because He knew God was working in me. I wished the others had been like that.

At the end of the week, I remember we were at a bonfire sharing what God had done with us that week. Many people went up and gave testimony of God's work. And the main leader guy (the same one who berated me publically for daring to skip out on rec time) prayed for every person who went forward. I felt I needed to go forward too. I shared with the people there that God had shown me what He wanted me to do with my life that week. It was a pretty big deal to me as a fifteen year old girl. The leader guy looked at me and rudely said, "Is that all? Are you finished?" I nodded mutely and went to sit down.

It was discouraging, to say the least. I sometimes wonder if I might have followed my passion for writing earlier if Satan hadn't used that leader and some of the other leaders to discourage me.

But I do remember one of the other leaders who at least TRIED to be kind to me. He wasn't perfect, but I appreciated his efforts. He came up to me after all of that and saw me in the midst of the few friends I'd somehow managed to make that week. He said to me, "Now isn't this nicer than sitting all alone."

I wish I had said what was on the tip of my tongue, but I was too shy, too awkward. I thought it, though. I thought it because it was true.

I wasn't alone.

God had been with me, speaking with me, communing with me the whole time.

There are times in our lives that are just bittersweet and special. This was one of those times for me. For a long time I was very bitter about what happened that week, but in the fifteen years since it's happened (oh my gosh---really! it was fifteen years ago!!!) I've been able to see how God has molded me from that awkward insecure fifteen year old to a woman who is pretty confident. I'm not confident in myself--I mean, really? I'm still awkward. I'm confident that the One who has begun a good work in me will bring it to completion.

He began it before Pickett State Park ever happened, but that week was the beginning of something. I've still got a lot to do if I'm ever going to be a published writer, but fifteen years ago, God showed me that He wanted me to write for Him.

So that's what I'm doing. Satan still throws things at me to keep me from my goal. And sometimes I get discouraged that it's taking SO long (in my perspective) to meet the goals I set for myself.

But life is not a straight path. I've matured as a writer much more slowly than I've wanted to, but maybe there's purpose in that. All the side roads I've taken that have deterred me from my goal of being a published writer might be things God intended for me, too. And maybe there will be more side roads, more things Satan intends for evil that God uses for good.

If it takes another fifteen years for me to be published, if God is glorified, it will be worth it.

But Lord, I'd appreciate it if I didn't have to wait till I was forty-five to get published. :-D