Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tense Writing, Day 2

Yesterday I started talking about the book I'm currently reading, Elisha's Bones. There were two comments from yesterday.

Robert- There is plenty of suspense and the reader is left hanging at the end of chapters a lot, but that wasn't what I was looking for.

Mark- Ding, ding, we have a winner!

We get so used to patterns and techniques that we may not always notice a difference. It took me a few pages to realize why I was a little unsettled by Elisha - it was written in the present tense.

Think about it. Most fiction writing is done in the past tense. Other tenses come into play with conversations or other situations, but it is rare to see a book in a first person point of view (POV to all the writers out there) moving along in present tense. First person POV gives more intimacy to that character's thoughts, but I'm finding in Elisha that using the present tense gives even more immediate reaction. The past tense gives the impression that the character is relating something that's already happened back to the reader. Present tense puts the action right now, and offers up opportunity for surprises (like when the main character gets whapped in the nose).

I mentioned yesterday that we are creatures of habit. It took a few chapters to fully get comfortable reading this book. Sometimes I think it creates some awkward sentence structure, or isn't fully true to how life works. When the POV character gets hit in the nose, he has a couple of thoughts before the impact. I don't think we'd really be cognizant of all that was happening before such an impact.

Overall, I'm really enjoying this book. The different tense is comfortable now, and the writer is doing a good job of using it to his advantage. It was hard yesterday to write my one paragraph in present tense, so I can't imagine writing a whole book that way!

For another example of risk-taking in Christian fiction, I can also recommend Travis Thrasher's novel Blinded. It doesn't involve tense, but POV. He writes it totally in second person POV ("You saw the beautiful blonde approach the table. You manage to not lose the contents of your drink as your hand shakes.") This is generally considered a huge no-no, but according to novelist Brandilyn Collins, he pulls it off. I haven't read it yet, but it is on my list of "when I get caught up enough I'm going to get it" books.

It's great to see different tactics that pay off. I hope people don't stumble over different techniques, because so far Elisha is a winner. I'll have more on it in the blog tour for it in April.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tense Writing

We are creatures of habit.

This comes as no surprise. We like what we like, and we're not always willing to be flexible or try something different (eating something green won't kill you Mark!). Sometimes it is subtle.

I started reading a book for an upcoming blog tour, Elisha's Bones by Don Hoesel. I was drawn in by the archeological mystery a la Indiana Jones, but there was something disconcerting, but I couldn't put my finger on it initially.

I read further. The bumpy bus ride jars my hand, but the shaking book isn't confusing me. There is something in the way the book is written. My seat partner snorts and turns the other way, allowing me to dive back into the intriguing story.

I've just left a clue on what was different about this book. I was going to write a post just explaining it, but I think it will be interesting to see if someone can figure out the difference by what I just wrote. Check back tomorrow for the answer...


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

CSFF Tour - The Codebearers Series

This month's CSFF tour features Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow by the Miller Brothers.

I am impressed in investigating this book, because the Miller Brothers are 30 somethings who are writing books they would have liked to have when they were around 10. Of course, not much was written from a Christian perspective for that age range back then, but there also wasn't technology to allow said authors to create their own book trailer, rocking web site full of games and networking, and even allow a FREE read of the book online.

I appreciate what they've done, as I have boys getting into the age range for this book, and I want this type of work available as part (but not the only part) of what they read.

I didn't realize there was a free read available, so I don't have any original content to add. However, why not "borrow" the best of the CSFF tour? I've gone through all of the posts as of noonish on 3/18, the third day of the tour, and can recommend some high points to visit. You can see the links to all the participants below.

John Otte gives some critique, and talks about his hopes for Christian speculative fiction.

Fred Warren does the same thing I'm doing, giving a tour overview. His is more clever than mine. Curses, Fred!

Wade Ogletree gets the "Going Overboard Award", with not 1, not 3, but 6(!) posts about the book. (OK, they're all great posts!)

Becky Miller, our ringmaster (more in the circus way, rather than Sauronic fashion), always has great thoughts. Link is to March '09 archives, and look for CSFF Tour or allegory (great post there!)

Val Comer gives a good review of the book, and the opening paragraphs as well. Two for one!

I'll also highlight new CSFF member Ryan Heart and her coded post. Tricky.

Becky Miller always tracks EVERY post, a daunting task, so you can go to all the posts off of this link.

*Participants’ Links:

Brandon Barr
Keanan Brand
Valerie Comer
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Shane Deal
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Marcus Goodyear
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Jason Isbell
Cris Jesse
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Wade Ogletree
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson

Friday, March 13, 2009

Writing and Rewriting, Oh My!

I am slowly struggling to write a novel. I've had loooong periods of no writing, punctuated with some relative creativity. I'm slowly learning to shut off my internal editor to a degree to just get something, anything, on the page. If I don't, that confounded editor can freeze me up.

Lately I've hit one of those good periods, and have done more than what I've accomplished in a long time. Still, I'm probably only 1/4th of what I want to be. I'm determined to see this through, but I realize I'm in for a long haul.

On Facebook author Terri Blackstock wrote a note regarding the hard work of rewriting. She talks about the enormous amount of rewriting she does, and how it is the major part of working a novel into publishing state.

Good grief, Charlie Brown! I'm struggling as it is to get ONE draft done.

This is what she had to say regarding those beginning novelists she's tried to help:
But sometimes, they’ll receive what I’m saying with thoughtfulness, take notes, ask questions. That’s good. When I’m sure they understand what is needed to fix the problems, I send them on their way to rewrite their book. I’m thinking they’ll do what I do—take it through seven or eight or twelve more drafts, each time getting deeper into the characters, making the plot more intriguing, polishing the writing … For me, that takes months. But too often, they’ll call me a week later and say, “I took the afternoon off work yesterday and did all the rewrites you suggested. I think it’s ready to go.”
It goes without saying, she's not too impressed with this amount of effort. She did say that it doens't matter whether you write a full draft then rewrite, or if you rewrite page-by-page as you go. The key is that writing is talent, skill, but also perseverance and the willingness to put in the hard work.

*Sigh* Looks like I'm in this for the long haul. I'm willing, and I know it's not easy for anyone, but it's not easy with career and family/kids and ministry. Check back in 5 years when I've gotten my head on straight and gotten something substantial done, LOL.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

A Little Help?

I need a little help here, from all my writing buddies or anyone who wants to give this a shot.

I have notes on my novel idea that I keep in my Palm Pilot. I've scribbled in there for 3-4 years. I review it every so often to see if I'm missing any ideas that could be the thing I need right then, or if I'm getting off track.

Yesterday I was looking at it, and in the middle of some notes there is a name.

Guido DiGregorio.

I have no idea who this is, or what he's doing in my notes. I can't remember for the life of me why this guy is there.

So, you tell me. Who is Guido DiGregorio? (Maybe I'll have to figure out a prize for the most creative.) For those who know what my project is, if you can fit him in, all the better!

Step up to the comments, and begin!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

My Treasure

I came across this while cleaning out some files. I thought I'd share it, rather than have it sit around. I wrote it in 1995 while I was in the School of Biblical Studies with Youth With a Mission in Canberra, Australia.


Lord, where is my treasure? It is not where it should be. I had it all in hand, so that You would not have to worry about me.

I considered, "What will be the best? I do want to take care." Perhaps it would be wise to spread my treasure around. "Diversify," the money-man says. And if some disappears, I will have the rest to come back to, in my need of the days.

So I proceeded with my plan. I looked about, and I saw people cross my gaze. What a beginning-my fellow man. I then gave of my treasure: a man, a woman, relationships special and dear. But when I came searching, there was none to be found. Portions were gone, not to be returned, others strewn on the ground. "I am fortunate though, I have more." So I moved to my next trove.

What will make a mark in this world? What I can do, my knowledge, my talents, my potential. Of course I deposited a cache there. It was all in my power. But treasure was lost in each dream unfulfilled. Who can reach all their expectations? Not one, I'm afraid. More treasure in ruin, and less to get me by.

"I must take care of myself," was another consideration of mine. We only have one body to carry us through. It made sense, therefore, some treasure would stay with me. My strength, my mind, my pleasures were investments of sure benefit. Yet I am just flesh and mortal, no force in my own. The tears and the years each steal their own share. And from all of my efforts, my treasure was gone.

Lord, please tell me what happened! I thought my treasure was so secure. This was not supposed to take place; now all I am is broken.

My Lord spoke to me, "My child, now you will see. It is not in yourself that your treasure is protected. You were never asked to defend and stand your ground. My heart, My hand has always been available to cover what is precious to you. But only in your point of loss would you realize your fraility.

Now your treasure will be laid up in heaven-from My throne it will be guarded. It was never a burden for me, to be the watcher of your soul. Now you can rest in My delight, and know that you will find My inheritance for you!"

Inspired by the Gospel of Luke, chapter 12, verses 22-34.