Posts made in March, 2013

When It’s Hard

Posted by on Mar 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

Some days you wake up, and it’s hard–not the getting out of bed or the morning routine necessarily but facing the day in its entirety. Whether it be due to work or the lack thereof or guests coming or some insurmountable project, some days are like that. Life must be done, but it’s not going to be easy. On those days, it’s just hard.

I don’t have these days a great deal, and when I do have them, I tend to know why. I can pinpoint the source or my angst and misgivings, usually down to the event or item on the to-do list. Once that thing is accomplished, the day just seems to be exponentially better, regardless of anything happening to warrant its improvement–other than being done with the task, circumstance, or event in question.
I think you all know what I mean, and I think we know how to face this. I don’t need to provide an action items list. All I need to do is tell you the truth and encourage you to remember it.

Ready?

You got this, so get to it. Those who love you have your back, and if you fail they’ll cut you slack.

That’s it. Bada-Bing.

Yeah, life is tough some days. You are human. You can struggle. You can hurt.

When it’s hard, accept it. Own it. Embrace it. Then show it just how hard you hit back.

Have a great weekend full of love and sincerity. Thanks for reading,
C

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3 Places from Where One Should Write

Posted by on Mar 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

Some days I find myself writing from the wrong place.

I write from my wallet. I write from my insecurity. I write from my anger. Or my pride.

These are not the days I produce my best work. In fact, the work on these days is often useless. The tone is off, the language is vapid or dense, and the content is nothing but word count. I can tell that my heart’s not in it. It wreaks of falsehood.

While trying to procure a 9-5 gig, I’ve basically lived life as I would as a full time writer. I’ve failed plenty, but I’ve also developed a few useful habits. If I had the chance to support my wife and me through the written word, I think I am capable. I would love to do so. But the writing has to be honest. When it isn’t, it’s lousy; there’s no getting around that fact. If I’m not writing from the right place, I’m heading in the wrong direction.

I’ve found three “sweet spots” from which my best work comes, and I would encourage you to do the same. See below:

Write from your Head. 
There’s an adage that goes “write what you know.” I agree. I have tried to write what I have no business writing and in doing so have churned some pretty lumpy butter (case in point). This is not to say you can’t write about a place you’ve never been or person you’ve never met, but you need to write from what you know about that place or person. If you want to write about London, and you can’t visit there or don’t know a thing about it, then go there in your mind. Go there through a book. Go there in photos. Go there through film. Then develop an informed construct of it and take the reader there. I believe that a good writer ultimately takes their readers to the writer’s version of a given place anyway, but having some knowledge about that place (or era, or person) is necessary to give the reader a vivid and useful experience.  Fill your head with that noun, and then embellish it to the nines when sharing it with your readers. Let them know what you know.

Write from your Heart
What’s your passion? What moves you? Makes you cry? Makes you care? Write about those things or, at least, write what affects them. Another old adage is “the writer’s job is to move the reader, beginning with him/herself”. That’s the rub, folks. That’s actually the point at which I found myself confident in sending out reader copies of Stronghold. Once I was tense where I designed the book to be tense, renewed when I intended the book to renew, and invested from front to back, I knew I was ready to hand over the car keys. Now granted, I wrote the thing and I may have been filling in a gap or two that could have tripped the average beta reader, but I know that from a base level, from prologue to epilogue, I put myself through the experience that I want readers to have with the book. I know from whence that journey came–and it was not from the wallet or my insecurity.

Write from your Gut
If you’ve been doing this for any amount of time, you know what works when you read it back to yourself. Out Loud. When it counts. Please do this with your work. Read it aloud like you would to a crowd whose paid $100 bucks a head to hear you. If it’s tough to read, difficult to say, or confusing, fix it. Your ability to do this is a sense you develop, not unlike the manner in which a basketball player shoots the ball with accuracy and grace. Oh, and if you’re just beginning, don’t worry, once you digest a metric ton of content and start to create your own prose, your gut will get a feeling for what works. Trust this. You may think the visual you’ve painted in words is artistic and beautiful and poignant, but if your gut tells you that 10 out of 10 readers who aren’t your mom are going to laugh at it, trust that sense. Your gut is saving you from a later time when someone will tell you they hated that description and your gut is going to wrench upon itself with embarrassment. Your gut does not want this, and it will save you from yourself and these comments more than you can imagine. On the flip, if you’re gut tells you something is good, you can count on it and fight for it. Now, that doesn’t mean every sentence or idea; in fact, it oftentimes means one sentence in a chapter, that one sentence that makes you stop and go, “Yeah, that’s me right there. And it’s good. I wrote that. I want more.” Note: If you are not getting a few of these in your writing project, get to revising. You need them. You need the sentences or ideas that strike you, the author, as new, perfect, and essential every time you stumble on them during your rewrites. These moments serve as your “gut check”. They say to you, “Hey, you with the neurosis, you aren’t as bad as you think. You got something here. Keep at it.” When your gut tells you that, you know you’ve got the goods.

So, what are you waiting for? Get writing (from the right places, that is).

Oh, and as always, thanks for reading,
C

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Memorization: Amos 5:14-15

Posted by on Mar 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

Simple. Biblical. Beautiful.

Seek good, and not evil, 
that you may live; 
and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, 
as you have said.
Hate evil, and love good, 
and establish justice in the gate; 
it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts,
will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

This is not from Proverbs, not an admonition toward wisdom. This is one of Israel’s prophets calling her back to the simplest of pursuits. I do not need to say much else. I love it.

I memorized this as a cadence and said it over and over and over. It never got old.

Never will.

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.

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On Flippant Jests

Posted by on Mar 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

We all jest. We all make flippant comments. Well, most of us do, anyway. Some folks have matured to the point that they realize some humor is worth going unsaid, and they see no need to make a joke or comment at another’s expense.

I am not one of these folks. In fact, I can remember occasions specifically wherein my flippant attempt at laughter met with another persons’ hurt; and despite the laugh that was earned, the shame I felt after the fact was not worth the cost of hurting a fellow human being.

And, frankly, the strange thing is that up until recently, I would have seen nothing wrong with the jesting of another in and of itself. In fact, I might have encouraged it. I happen to take myself far too seriously, and a good ribbing is useful for me to be a bit less severe in regard to my pride and self importance.

However, I have discovered of late a very strange phenomenon–that inasmuch as the singular jab or jibe is easily excusable and forgotten, the constant assault of such barbs adds up quickly; and in doing so, pierces the heart in a very different type of way. While one layered back-handed compliment can hit a person quickly and specifically, a series of flippant and vapid remarks piled upon one another from multiple parties create a festering and lingering wound that one cannot easily place.

You ask yourself “Why do I feel so poorly about my weight today?”, and while you cannot pinpoint one hurtful world, you can remember that persons A, B, D, and H all said something over the last week. You cannot even remember the words they said, but you can remember–very vividly–your feeling at the time the comment passed their lips, and while no singular event made an impact in and of itself, the series of them compounded into a feeling that (a) none of the speakers intended and (b) is likely an inaccurate reflection of reality.

I bring this up not because I have recently been victim of such an inadvertant assault (though I might have been were I not self-aware and proactive about processing these things) but more so because I know, in my heart, that I have not only been the cause of such hurt feelings but also that I am of the personality type that I could continue to be that jesting person in the future if I fail to keep myself in check. These days, I tend to run a split-second cost/benefit analysis before each joke I make. I ask, “Is the laugh that will be wrought by this action or phrase worth any cost to its hearers in terms of truth, goodness, beauty, and virtue?” If the answer is no, I tend to refrain; and despite the amount of jokes I toss into the wind, I self-censor quite a bit. If the answer is yes, the jest will not have a detrimental effect, I run with it, say my piece, and laugh afterward.

But I find I can easily misread the count in my cost column, not knowing that a listener will be affected more deeply than I had thought. And while my comment may not be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, it can be that third or fourth bushel full that makes the next step that much harder for the person to take.

I am trying to be more mindful of this, and I will need to do so as I continue living. Part of the gig of loving folk, you know–valuing their esteem more than my own cleverness (and anyone who knows me knows I greatly overvalue my own cleverness). How bout you?

Thanks for reading,
C

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This Is Why We Have Publishers.

Posted by on Mar 20, 2013 in Uncategorized

So, Stronghold is done. The final polish is complete (until the inevitable proof-polish after my next beta reader finishes it). The book is ready.

Well, all except for the cover. And the formatting. For a number of different platforms. In both digital and print.

Oh, and the fune-tuning for each of those platforms. Oh, and of course the proof-read on the printed version before conversion to any digital format can be done.

Oh, and…never mind.

This is why publishers will not be going away, at least not anytime soon. I am finding that creating the text of a novel is only the first step toward releasing it. There’s this little stage between the two called production. The author pours his or soul into a blank page, but then those pages needs to be re-formatted for maximum readability. Once upon a time that meant offset printing for hardback and, hopefully, later paperback editions. Now it usually means at least the latter plus a number of digital formats, all of which have their own nuances.

Publishing houses have people that do this. Self-publishers do to. Themselves.

I can see why some folks refuse to take the self-pub route and continue their pursuit of traditional publishing. Other than the increased legitimacy of being able to say, “A professional publishing house thought my book worthy of publication”, the individual can also boast, “and they are doing all that non-creative, tedious work of formatting, which requires a huge amount of time and energy–time and energy, I, the author, will now have to write.” Yes, there is some wisdom there.

Formatting is messy. Fonts. Spacing. Page breaks. Section breaks. Margins. Tabs. White space. Indents. The list goes on and on, and when one is doing all this by himself or herself for the first time, the frustration and complexity is compounded by always second-guessing what is truly the best choice. Funny thing is, on some subconscious level, we kind of know. We’ve read enough books (hopefully) to know how spacing should dictate pace on the pages and how certain fonts feel more comfortable than others. But finding that answer takes some trial and error, to be sure.

If nothing else, this process has been a stretching one. I am becoming far more appreciative of books. The fonts that are used, the manner in which their are laid, the way space is utilized to assist the reader, providing guidance for the experience. I am hoping these new concepts I have learned will translate into my own production method and thereby enhance my readers’ ability to pour through Stronghold. I guess we’ll see come May (oops, did I just let something slip about the release?)

Thanks for letting me vent for a few…back to the drawing board. Or notepad. Or whatever it’s called for writers.
C

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