Sunday, January 29, 2012

"God Told Me to Write This Book"

Do you ever hear people use that line? Does it make you cringe?

Religious people in publishing have a bad rap, as we do in just about every other industry, for two reasons.

1. We tend to be idealistic and naive, at least at the beginning, and not realize how we sound to others, nor that God might not intend for that particular book to be published, but for us to go through the exercise of being faithful and obedient in writing it.

2. We don't realize how many times before that line has been used to excuse bad writing and demand favor from agents and editors.

As a newbie, struggling to find even a mustard seed of confidence, I wondered why I should bother to do something that has nothing whatsoever to do with feeding the poor or winning souls, yet the story consumed me. I would lose myself in writing for days and weeks at a time, then guiltily abandon it to catch up with other things. I could not find the balance; it was all or nothing.

I have cried out from the bottom of my soul, weeping and wretched, for God to turn off my imagination. I wanted to "die" creatively so that I could function more effectively in other areas. I've given up on that request, the answer is clearly "No, you have to figure this out and do it."

I started this novel by sitting down and making myself write something. Anything. Just to write. That was in February of 2007. Soon it will be the fifth anniversary of that day.  The book is a mess. Not plotted, not planned. An organic growth of characters and storyline. I have written umpteen queries, none of which are close to useful. I've done an outline in retrospect. I've completely re-imagined my fictional world and characters twice. I am about to start another major revision.

Why bother? Why not just abandon it as a learning experience and do something else? Because this morning, when I got up to make my coffee, God stopped me in the kitchen, just as he stopped me Friday morning on my way into work, and many other days in the past five years.

"Finish the book," spoke that soft, knowing in my soul.

Instantly I push back. "Is that really You, or just my subconscious desire to escape the drudgery of my daily routine into a fantasy of importance and self-fulfillment?"

Infinitely patient pause.

"Finish the book."

Panic surges. "Technically it is finished. I wrote 'The End.' Do you mean really finish it for publication, because I don't think anyone will like it and I know I don't have time to promote it. You know I'm barely managing all the other things I have to do."

"Just finish it. Trust Me."

So, I am going to finish it, if only to get the Creator of the Universe off my back.

God told me to do it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Things I learned about Writing from Disney World

Winnie-the-Pooh  and me. We both like honey and trees.

My family and I recently returned from our first trip together to Disney World. It was awesome. Mid-January is a great time to go. The parks are not crowded at all. (Shhh! Don't tell anyone.)

Offerings to a Tibetan statue
It was torture, however, in that I did not have good wi-fi or 3G coverage, and so was basically cut off from the Internet. I also couldn't write, as travelling with kids and crowding into one hotel room doesn't leave much time for writing, let alone privacy. But I did have plenty of time to muse as we walked through the various parks and waited in line for rides.
What really impressed me was the power of the imaginary world created in each area of each park. I think it was most noticeable to me in the Animal Kingdom as we moved between Asia and Africa, and in the Magic Kingdom between Tomorrowland and Adventure Land.  I recalled from years ago that the rides had lots to keep you interested while you were waiting in line, but it seemed that things had gotten even more engaging since I was there last in 1995.

Perhaps this is because my work-addled brain was desperate for amusement, or perhaps it's because I look at everything now through the eyes of a writer.

What struck me over and over were three things:


That is what drives each tale, each area, each ride. Tigger is bouncy, Pooh is sweet, Jack Sparrow raunchy and brave, C-3PO pompus and silly.

There are AT-AT's searching for rebel troops among the redwood forests of Endor. Immediately you have plot and setting. Just add a few troops and a young ewok, and there's your story.
Or in our case, a couple of young Jedi.

The last night we had dinner in the Norweigan Castle. I was in absolute Heaven!

We did not know that this was the"Princess Dinner." Belle, Cinderella, Aurora, Snow White and Ariel (minus fins) all found their way to the table. The boys were absolutely mortified and refused to have a picture taken with any of them.

I have to give Cinderella credit. She really tried to engage our two young princes.

"Will you help defend my castle?" she asked.

My son stared down at his plate. "I'm sorry. I have business with the Vikings. I can't."

THAT is the power of story, folks!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Fresh Start

Whoa! It's January. How did THAT happen?

I am so very glad that 2011 is over, I can't even tell you. It was a way too depressing and frustrating year for me, especially in that while I did technically finish my novel, it is a long way from being in publishable form. It needs a ton of editing which I have not the heart to do, frankly, but am working my way up to it.

Things are always so much easier in the first draft. Which is probably why Nanowrimo is so popular.

But I am determined not to lose heart. My goal is to finish my novel and be ready to pitch it at the Lehigh Valley Writer's Conference this spring. May the agent I choose not fail to show up as she did last year. But that was good, because the book  wasn't ready.

Working full time really cuts into the whole creativity gig. As do migraines and a massive interactive online fiction obsession. I have done just about everything I can think of to do with my characters and I feel like I've written six books. Look at me, I'm J.R.R. Tolkein! 

Anyway, I need a new project. A fresh start. I have a vague idea of one. My goal this year is to FINISH "THE GOLDEN GRYPHON" for good. For better or worse, it needs to be done. Out of my life. Will Faldur and Marenya end up together? The world will never know if I don't wrap it up.

And to write at least two short stories. It's been a looooong time since I wrote a story.

What about you? What fresh starts - or overdue endings - do you have in mind for this year?

(The Mayans were just kidding, by the way. The world will not end so yes, you do need to pay your taxes. I'm just sayin'.)