Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Revising Characters

It is time to revisit some old friends of mine.

You'd think after working on a novel for 7 years that I'd know these people pretty well by now. However, sometimes you don't really ask the questions that get you deep into a relationship.

When I've had critiques done of my work so far, my main character Jenna usually comes across as well-rounded. She was a little too head-strong initially, but I think I've worked some of her rough edges down.

I think Tebow is more than just a cutout

Now the male lead and her romantic interest, Derek? He's another story. I think I start off showing the differences he has compared to Jenna, but he later on blends into being whatever she needs him to be. I think I lost track of who he was. In doing so, I don't think he is very three-dimensional.

I know I love it when a book has numerous 3-D characters, people who reflect reality and could be someone you know in real life. The cardboard cutouts in a book get boring fast.

This is the right time to recognize this. I've got the whole book in front of me to show who Derek is in more depth. Why does he accompany Jenna to Thailand? What does he want?

I'm not settling for two 3-D characters either. I want to evaluate my secondary characters and see what I can do for them. One or two of them are fairly well-rounded. I'll have to evaluate that when I get to them.

I am finding that the first draft is hard to get down. The framework of the story needs a foundation, and that can be tricky for me at times. The revision seems to be going smoothly for me. Now that I see the outline, I can work on filling the meat out onto the bones. And mix my metaphors.

What do you do when it comes to creating depth in your characters? How do you beef them up in the revision process?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Tell A Story

I've been following the Verge Network on Twitter (@VergeNetwork) all summer. They post some thought-provoking articles on missional life and discipleship. You have to pay for full access, but some gems have popped up on the free side.

This inteview by Rick Warren of Asian church planter Ying Kai is eye-opening and simple. When doing evangelism:

  1. Tell a story
  2. Don't ask for permission to share
Check out the video in the link below for the explanation. Makes sense, and I've tried it. It works!

What say you? Have you found any successful ways to share your faith?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Continuing The Writing Adventure

On last week's Writing Wednesday I talked about finally putting "The End" down on my longstanding first draft of a novel.

Revision is the next step in the process with the novel, but there's another major step I'm taking this year.

I'm attending the American Christian Fiction Writers' Conference in Dallas next month.

The ACFW is the largest organization that supports Christian fiction writers in the country. They hold this conference each year, and for several years I've had to deal with the sins of jealousy and covetousness when seeing other writers announce they are going. (Just kidding) (Sorta)

I'm excited to go. I've heard different opinions on when to go to your first conference. Some have said early on to go to the workshops and get training, others have suggested waiting until you've done something significant related to writing.

For a general writer, my advice would be to evaluate potential conferences and see if they offer courses or workshops for your level. If it seems geared to someone who is farther along the writing path, maybe that isn't the best fit. If, like the ACFW conference, they have several levels of training offered, it would be a great start even if you're pretty new.

For the Christian writer, there's the added consideration of what the Lord is leading you to do. I wanted to have my first novel finished before I thought about it. I wasn't finished when I signed up, but I have since then. However, I feel the doors have been opened for me this year that weren't before, so I have a confidence that I'm making the right decision.

The cool thing about the ACFW folks is the length they go to in order to make us "first-timers" feel welcome and the support offered. There's a email loop with advice for us covering various topics. The first day has a noob orientation. There is a lot of prayer that goes into everything that happens there. That is very encouraging.

The conference is September 20-23 and I head out the Wednesday night before. I'll post more about this before I go.

Here goes nothing!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

CSFF Tour - Eye Of The Sword

Guess what's back?

After a summer hiatus, the Christian Sci-fi/Fantasy Tour (CSFF as it is affectionately known) is back. This month the focus book is Eye of the Sword by Karyn Henley.

Unfortunately I didn't read this book, as I'm preparing for a special event that I'll talk more about tomorrow. I hate to miss out on books, because the CSFF Tour usually features the best in Christian fantasy or science fiction. Here's what Amazon has to say about it:

Where angels walk the ground and the future is told in song, does a man of low rank have a chance at love with a princess?

In Camrithia, a land of shadows and mystical secrets, Trevin lives to serve King Laetham. But his heart belongs to the princess, Melaia. When the King sends Trevin on on a dangerous quest to find the missing comains—captains in the king’s army—he must leave Melaia to the advances of a swaggering Dregmoorian prince.

Challenged to prove his worth, Trevin throws himself into his quest. Striving to prove his love, Trevin undertakes a second mission—find the harps Melaia seeks in order to restore the stairway to heaven. Through fire caves, rogue winds, and murderous threats, Trevin remains steadfastly dedicated to his quest—even when he is falsely accused of a heinous crime. As Trevin’s time runs out, he realizes he must face the shame and horror of his own past and the nightmare that has come to life. Will he have the courage to finish what he has started?

If this interests you at all, you can get more information at Karyn's blog or Facebook page. Of course, my other partners on the tour I'm sure have a lot of intriguing feedback, so be sure to check them out as well.
Until next time, when I have more time...

Julie Bihn
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Jackie Castle
Brenda Castro
Jeff Chapman
Theresa Dunlap
Cynthia Dyer
Victor Gentile
Ryan Heart
Janeen Ippolito
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Rebekah Loper
Shannon McDermott
Karen McSpadden
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Anna Mittower
Mirriam Neal
Faye Oygard
Nathan Reimer
Chawna Schroeder
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler

Monday, August 20, 2012


Sometimes our culture sets us up against God's will for our lives.

As we continue walking out the Outreach Saga in the local park, we're learning things all the time. We are meeting next to a low-income housing complex of 100 or so units. In getting to know the people there, I've noticed that they have their own little community there.

Since it is an area of low resources, the people have learned to pool together to help each other out. They spend more time interacting. Sometimes they have conflict, but living so close together they live differntly than a lot of suburban Americans.

We've been blessed to be accepted by a group of them, and they come on Sunday evenings to fellowship, to talk about the Word, and to encourage one another.

My point in this post is the contrast to how individualistic we are as Americans. We are taught to do things independently. Pull youself up by your own bootstraps. It sometimes is a sign of weakness to need someone's help.

American Christians play into this. We talk about "our walk with God" as an individual thing. We forget that we are called to be part of a body, a family.

I don't think this is God's will for us. Certainly I have to answer to God for my own actions, and I have a relationship with Jesus. The ancient world used to think solely in the concept of the clan or tribe, and the individual didn't matter. According to Thomas Cahill's book The Gift Of The Jews, the idea of an individual relationship with God, an independent reckoning was revolutionary.

Western culture has taken this too far. We are built to need one another. I know some people would rather be hermits. My mother could leave work on Friday and not talk to another soul until Monday morning and it would suit her just fine. She said liked it, but I would argue she let herself get into a mindset that she wasn't really created for.

I would argue that the Western idea of individualism and the Eastern focus on community over a person are extremes, and that the Biblical ideal would foster a strong personal relationship with Jesus in a healthy community of believers that encouraged and exhorted one another.

I'm glad that we're learning as much in this process as the people that are joining us in the park. When you don't have a lot, you have to work together with other more. I'm encouraged by their example, and I hope Christians can wake up to the value of having brothers and sisters in Christ that keep us accountable and build us up. Yes, people can hurt you, but the blessings of opening up far outweight the risks in the long-run.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The End (Just The Beginning)

There comes a day in every writer's life when they must type these words.

The end.

I've resisted calling myself a writer or an author, because I've never written those words on something significant. Sure, I've finished a few short stories, but my novel WIP was something that seemed like it never would get done. Other people might argue that since I write regularly (this blog, a newspaper column) then I am a writer. I never felt like I was there.

Until this weekend.

On Sunday evening I sat on the couch, my laptop warming my legs. I finished the last sentence of my novel. Set the laptop down to think about it. Picked it up, read the last chapter and reconsidered.

Then I typed, "The end."

I finished the first draft of a labor of love. I started with the initial idea and first couple of chapters in 2005. Yes, it took me this long! I thought about giving up several times. It never seemed right to quit though.

After 60,000 words (what the word processor counts, not including all the erased words that didn't make the cut), I had the basis for a novel. I could say it.

I had written a book.

Well, I finished the first draft. Which I count as significant, since so many people say they're going to write a book and never do it. I vowed last year to not be that person. what?

*Looks at his watch, taps his chin*

Oh, you're still here? Cool. Me too.

Now of course is the dreaded revision process. Although, I liked the last time I did some serious revision. I realize that my writing needs a lot of work. Characters are flimsy and need a work-out. Plot points disappear like the Big Lost River here in the Idaho desert. Cliches need filleted.

And it's not like I'm on a deadline or anything...

(more details next week)

Monday, August 06, 2012

Fighting Sex Tourism On Amazon

The e-publishing revolution is allow a lot of people to get their words out there. Unfortunately, there are some people who say awful things and shouldn't have such a platform.

Through Love146 I found out about a book on Amazon available via Kindle that talks about the "age of consent" in countries around the world. This disgusting work even has a chapter that specifies the *lowest* ages, and mentions one country that has no consent age for sex!

These are children who are being sexually exploited, pure and simple. There is no romantic consent going on here. This book is being used by pedophiles and abusers in the Third World.

I'm not going to name the book to give it more publicity or search engine fuel. However, I am going to ask you to take a minute and go to the Love146 Task Force page and do one of the steps listed, at least, to help ask Amazon and Jeff Bezos to take this horrible thing out of their store.

According to a letter you can print out and send to Mr. Bezos, this type of campaign has worked before. Please help to fight the scourge of child sex trafficking. I know we are asked on the web to do things all the time, but this only takes a minute, and will help cut down on the demand for such terrible crimes.

Jesus said that if you do such things for the least of these, you're doing it for Him.

Thanks and peace be with you.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Getting Out Of The Rut

photo by Catie Rhodes 
Who's been in a rut before?

Everyone raise your hands. We've all done it. Whether it is with our food choices, our daily activities, or our writing, we've been in the place where we get stuck and can't move on to new and exciting things.

The rut is comforable. You don't have to think about it. The path is set, all you need to do is follow it.

My family just did a weekend road trip that included seeing part of the Oregon Trail. To me it was amazing to think that thousands of people trekked west in the mid-1800's for a new life. The standard path was so well worn that there are still ruts visible over some grassy hills in southern Idaho after all this time.

I've been stuck in a grammatical rut for the last couple of chapters. I'm trying to finish for a deadline. That might be pushing me to stick to a comfortable routine. My rut is this: "James wanted to finish his coffee, but Kristin was giving him that look."

Nothing wrong with that by itself, right? My problem is that I keep using this compound sentence structure EVERY paragraph it seems. I don't want simple short sentences every time, but this way of using a conjunction is becoming to repetitive. SEE! I just did it again.

Argh. It is hard enough pushing toward the end. I can see it. The end. No more mirage shimmering in the distance. It really is there. But in fighting toward it I still want to do a decent job and not have to return to edit every single "Blah, blah, blah, BUT/AND/SO blah, blah, blah" clause that I can't seem to avoid.

At least I am recognizing it. We all have blind spots as authors. Better to know now than be surprised withthe edits. Now, how to get past this? There's always the "bomb under the sofa" technique.

What say you? What have some of your ruts been? Anything goes here! For writers, how did you get out of said rut?