We come to it at last, the end of another year. 2012 is finished. Frankly, this has been a major 12-month spread for me. I turned thirty, completed my first novel, and moved 2,500 miles from the west coast to the east coast based on a leading of faith due to my relationship with Christ Jesus. Those are the major milestones, anyway (in other, lesser news, Lego released Lord of the Rings building sets, all of which are excellent, and Christopher Nolan completed a three-film Batman character arc that, while imperfect, essentially compresses the hero’s 70-plus years of comic history into a deeply moving mythic retelling that is unlikely to be surpassed in my lifetime).
This year, I completed the first draft of a novel for National Novel Write Month, a writing exercise during which participants must complete a 50,000 word novel in the thirty days of November. After three weeks distance from finishing the manuscript, I decided it was time to read it and see just how bad it is. I am happy to report that it is not nearly as awful and unreadable as I thought it was…or maybe I’m just too in love with my own writing (I am guessing it is the latter, for sure).
As promised, I have completed the below reaction. You will note that my arrogance and narcissism find their way into my remarks, but I try to be fair overall. My response is similar to the type I would have provided while doing script coverage out west. We’ll see if I can be as honest with myself as I was with other authors whose works I deconstructed.
The Traveler’s Tales: Abinthor (tentatively titled) may be one of the strangest reading experiences I have encountered in some time. While the story begins in a relatively believable way despite its fantasy setting, the narrative derails under the weight of its own rather convoluted plot and the unclear themes it is explores. A certain lyrical quality resides in the language of the text, but it is overshadowed by the storytelling issues.
The tale opens with a strange but interesting event that is left unresolved and provides the reader with something of a false hope. While this initial, attention-grabbing event feels like a short story, the rest of the tale is far more broad and over-reaching, lacking the intimacy that the format of the novel inherently allows. This creates a sense of ongoing disappointment, in that the reader wants the story to return to something more akin to its opening while in actuality the tale gets larger and more cumbersome.
The bulk of the first third of the book is spent with character introductions and a long timeline that does not seem to make a great deal of sense. This structure provides the reader with a cast of players that are clearly interconnected though each is also engaged in his/her own subplot. When the central protagonist emerges, he seems an odd choice given all the other players that the reader is asked to follow. This is not a good development.
The second and third portions of the story reinforce this unfocused protagonist issue, but in a strange way this works in some respects, particularly when one is able to complete the novel and get a contextualized picture of why it is written the way that it is. Whether this brushstroke at the end was deliberate or an eleventh hour addition is uncertain, but it lends itself to making the story’s design acceptable (and actually somewhat more interesting).
That being said, however, the narrative does need to be refined and focused, and at least one chapter (the last one) will need a complete overhaul. In the current draft, the reader gets the feeling of unprepared hurriedness in the story’s presentation. For example, as already mentioned, the events of the first chapter feel wholly different than the rest of the text, as though the author had one clear idea in the beginning–to get his protagonist on the “road of adventure”–then completely abandoned his initial plan for other ideas and free-associative concepts floating around in his mind. Additionally, the timeline is entirely skewed by the last third of the text, wherein everyone’s ages are arbitrarily close despite this being a multi-generational tale. As this is a first draft written in a shotgun-style, a plethora of errors are present on every page, not the least of which is a change in the spelling of several character names, which causes a great deal of confusion. Finally, the author mentions a great number of creatures and people groups without providing any context to the reader, forcing on the audience a requirement to create their own ideas of an item without any context beyond the phonetic nature of the names/terms provided.
Despite these necessary corrections, however, the novel has a certain strength in its language. The text bears a lyrical quality in its structure, tone and voice, as though it is written with a love for the melodic nature of refined speech, even if it sometimes veers into more common vernacular when a more fitting, well-chosen phrase would be more appropriate. Frankly, this rather specific voice will prove to be the work’s greatest blessing and curse. Those who find the the style stimulating will likely overlook other possible story-telling sins; but those who do not care for the writer’s pace and manner will see through every plot-hole and also abhor the process of reading the work given its cumbersome nature.
Overall, the first draft of The Traveler’s Tales: Abinthor is readable despite its free-associative, unplanned presentation; but before it is legible for anyone beyond the author, the text will need more than a polish.Learn More
This Christmas, I could think of only one thing I wanted to share with the world–a link to my Amazon wishlist (kidding). I have had a moment of inspiration, and I am taking full advantage. I will try to be brief, but please forgive me if (when) I am not.
This holiday, I want to give some unsolicited advice (the best kind, right?). This Christmas, I want to exhort you, or challenge you, or encourage you–whatever word to which you best respond, whatever word will spur you to action, that’s what I want to do.
Friends, be broken this Christmas. At all the various functions you attend, with your friends and family. Be broken. Be honest. Be imperfect. Be exhausted.
Let those who know you know the truth. Let them know the year has been hard. Let them know that you are hurting. Let them know you are tired. Let them know you need prayer or help. Let them know the real you.
Christians such as myself often want to keep some semblance of sacred meaning to this melee called “the holidays”, but we are so easily swept into the wave of pageants, presents, and social pressures. Be here; be there. Be on time; be well-dressed. Be peppy; be funny; be careful; be pleasant.
I say be broken. Take your time. Be late but be present. Pause. Rest. Listen. Talk. Share. Give. Give not only the material but the immaterial, not the wealth of your wallet but the treasure of your soul. Give a listening ear, a kind word, a caring hug, a soft hand, a warm heart, a gentle kiss.
So many of us ache during the holidays. The year was harder than we expected; our lives are not where we thought they would be. We miss this person who died this year, or we miss that person that cannot be present. We are hurting for ourselves, or we are hurting for others, and at times we feel alone in crowded churches and long lines, at large dinners or big parties.
This year, connect. Be bold; and be broken. When someone asks “how are you?” tell them the truth, and then ask them to do the same, and be ready for their pain, and love them for it. Thank them for it. Cherish these times. Give them a hug that lasts a little longer, where you squeeze them extra hard, as if to say, “I hurt for you because you hurt, and I love you, and I thank you for being here, for being you.”
I gotta be honest. I learned this today of all days at an event that wasn’t even Christmas related. This holiday season, I have been in the wave–not so much the buying wave but the planning wave, the events wave, the church wave, and the self-reflection-because-its-the-end-of-the-year wave. None of these waves are bad (in fact, all of them can be very good), but they are the waves that give you a ride, not a lasting, deeply touching experience. No. The honest moments of fragility and self-sacrificial love are the ones that endure. Tonight I sat and released in conversation. I told family how hard this move has been. I told them how it’s felt to have no work come Christmastime; and I told them that for the first time, I had empathy, real empathy, for those in a financial bind amidst the pressures of the holidays. For the first time in life, I know how it feels to walk past the perfect gift for that special someone and be unable to buy it. That feeling–that feeling is deep. Powerfully deep. To want to give and be unable makes one feel shameful, wounded, and low. That’s the truth of it, and I had never experienced that before this year. Never. What a blessing to be taught such a valuable lesson in love, in compassion, in being broken (not just “broke”).
This Christmas, I hurt for people. People I don’t know but I have seen or about whom I have heard–people who I know are hurting. And you know what, my friends, this hurt I carry for them feels so incredibly appropriate to the Christmas season. To feel such a thing, to hurt for another person’s hurt, what a gift of human emotion; I am blessed for feeling it, and I have acted on it.
But I cannot stop by calling you to be honest with others, though I know that will be the end-all for some of you. I must also encourage you to be honest with God. If never at any other time of year then at this tim, be broken before God and be heartbroken with God. Begin to love him or renew your love for him. You want to celebrate Christ’s birth? Seek Christ. Talk to him. Cry with him. Give him praise. Give him worship. And give him your heart–voice your concerns, your joys, and your grief. He already knows your soul, but do you? Give him your attention, let him use it to talk to you; give him your adoration, let him fill you with his love. Read his gift of Scripture, and say to him aloud that he’s the greatest gift ever received by any person on this earth. And do this not only at church but alone. In your room. In your bed. In the shower. In the car. Thank him for the blessings you have already received and the blessings to come because you know he is good. Imagine if you had a birthday, and your own family didn’t talk to you, didn’t tell you that they loved you, didn’t give you their time. Don’t do that to Jesus, not if you call him Savior. Oh how God wants his children to spend time with Him at Christmas!
All that said (and I know it could hardly be described as “brief”); be broken this year. Let yourself be open and honest, and accept that same trusting sincerity from others in return. That’s a gift that requires neither bills nor receipts, neither wrappings nor bows, neither malls nor websites, but it is a gift that we all deeply need, and we all freely can give.
Thank you so very much for reading, and thank you also for your constant support. Love and affection to you all. Be blessed. Bless others. And have a truly wonderful and truly safe holiday, full of fellowship and merrymaking, joy and wonder! Merry Christmas!
I aim to tell the truth.
When I blog, converse, write fiction, or tweet, I mean to be honest. I realize that in some instances I may be incorrect or ignorant; but I count those effects as acceptable in the face of being trustworthy and forthcoming, especially because I can correct the prior more easily than rebuild trust if it’s been broken.
That being said, I am compelled to be a bit vulnerable today with some thoughts that struck me during a recent run. These are not easy things for me to share, but I felt very compelled to just take a respite from usual updates in order to refocus.
I know that often on this blog and twitter, my thoughts pertain to encouragement and changing perspective toward God, and these are good things. I also realize that my Scripture memorization and described prayer life may sound as though I really “have it all together” and that I am ever-optimistic and at peace with myself and place in life.
Truth be told, however; I have very low days. Yes, on these days my focus is recalibrated in light of who God is and who I am in relation to him, but I usually don’t post until after that process of re-assessment occurs. Sometimes I will wrestle to spend time in prayer and Scripture reading; some days I fail to do so altogether. Sometimes my actions and deeds are faithless, truly lacking in any desire to glorify God. When I examine myself, I see a regenerate heart but one that is not nearly where I want it to be. I am prideful and selfish and arrogant so often it astounds me, and I fall into sins of gossip, of envy, and covetousness despite my desire to love.
I guess what I am trying to say is that I never want to encourage looking to me as a picture of virtue rather than looking to Christ. Inasmuch as you may value what I share, let the glory and honor be given to Christ alone. Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, is a picture of what Christianity should look like–our model should always be him. He is the one who needs to be seen as “having it all together”. He is the one who needs to be the example. He is the one worth of honor, praise, and adulation.
I am not sure why I felt this post was so necessary, but I did. As always, thanks for reading,
[This original post was lost during an update. While the original commentary on the verses is gone, but the text of scripture has been reprinted.]
And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that do not profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you the good and right way. Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider the great things he has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.”
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.Learn More