Monday, January 30, 2012

Born to Write?

"Each of us has been designed for one of two immortal functions, as either a storyteller or as a cross-legged listener to tales of wonder, love and daring."
Bryce Courtenay
(contemporary, best-selling author in Australia )

I agree with this statement. I have found, though, that I also enjoy being the listener, or the reader. Storytelling started around the campfires right after language became useful. I can see in my mind, primitive folks way back then, who probably did a mime type storytelling we would think of as charades.

Monday, January 23, 2012


"It's a poor sort of memory that only works backward."
Lewis Carroll

Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said: "one can't believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
(Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 5)

Writing fantasy tends to open your mind to remembering things that haven't quite happened yet and believing impossible things quite easily.

Now see? If you believed that statement in any way, shape, or form, you have proven it.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Who is your Internal Editor?

The one thing I have learned about editing over the years is that you have to edit and publish out of your own tastes, enthusiasms, and concerns, and not out of notions or guesswork about what other people might like to read.--
Norman Cousins
(June 24, 1915 – November 30, 1990) was an American political journalist, author, professor, and world peace advocate.

I remember Mr. Cousins mostly for his practical use of this verse: A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones. Proverbs 17:22
You can read about that adventure here:
The Healing Power of Laughter

Experienced writers seek more knowledge, better understanding of how techniques work, and how to put them together to write more affectively. In order to maintain your own "Voice" as a writer, these cerebral influences have to be relegated to the background so a writer can just write.

Novice writers do need to absorb as much information about the skill of writing as they can. But as they practice the craft, ultimately it must be their skill, their craft, their "take" on life and how they want to express the important truths in their fiction.   

Again we must say, "Write what is on your heart, and write to an audience of One." You prepare to write your story by mastery of the art. You prepare to write to your audience by being in tune with the One.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


"Of course there is no formula for success except perhaps an unconditional acceptance of life and what it brings."
Arthur Rubinstein (January 28, 1887 – December 20, 1982) was a Polish-American classical pianist who received international acclaim for his performances of the music of a variety of composers; many regard him as the greatest Chopin interpreter of the century. He is widely considered one of the greatest classical pianists of the twentieth century. Wikipedia

I like this quote. Success, in my mind, is not what other people count as noteworthy, but what God blesses. Small acts of kindness, large commitments to the betterment of others, everyday determination to follow Christ, and the realization that life is lived with more than the accolades of others, but also, the silliness of  not taking yourself seriously.
Success is acknowledging Who is the Author and Finisher of our work.
"looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Jane Austen and I agree

"Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery."
Jane Austen

When I pick up a book to read, I don't want to suffer along with the downtrodden. I don't want to sludge through the mires of mankind.
I want to laugh. I want to look at the glass half full, and I get very impatient with people who are trying to pound it into my head that the glass is half empty.
Yes, I have read some heartrending fiction. I cry easily when the plot takes me to an emotional pothole. But by and large, I don't want to DWELL on gloom, despair, and agony. The brooding hero doesn't get much sympathy from me.
And therefore, when I write, I write what I would like to read. One parent gave me one of the best compliments I have ever had. She said she trusted me because even though I took her children to a dark place, she knew I would not leave them there.

Writing Advice from CS Lewis

In 1959, an American schoolgirl appealed to C. S. Lewis for writing advice, and he sent her a list of eight rules for good writing: Always write (and read) with the ear, not the eye. You shd. hear

1. Turn off the radio [and television].

2. Read good books and avoid most magazines.

3. Write with the ear, not the eye. Make every sentence sound good.
4. Write only about things that interest you. If you have no interests, you won't ever be a writer.
5. Be clear. Remember that readers can't know your mind. Don't forget to tell them exactly what they need to know to understand you.
6. Save odds and ends of writing attempts, because you may be able to use them later.
7. You need a well-trained sense of word-rhythm, and the noise of a typewriter will interfere.
8. Know the meaning of every word you use.

Source: C. S. Lewis. Collected Letters. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1966, 291-292. Quoted in Kathryn Lindskoog, Creative Writing for People Who Can't Not Write. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1989, 253. not sound nice, try again.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Let it go

"Kipling believed that the author's intent is the least important aspect. What is important is that the author create his work. The later interpretation of it has nothing to do with him, being entirely in the hands of the reader."
Jorge Luis Borges (a prolific writer from Argentine, essayist, poet and translator born in Buenos Aires. His work embraces the "character of unreality in all literature." He dabbled in everything from poetry to photography.

Borges makes clear a concept that is sometimes hard for an author to accept. Once your thoughts are formed into to words, the words are put on paper, and a random reader takes up the book, the author is no longer in control of his work. All written communication is at the mercy of the interpreter. This is a good and a bad thing. 
The writer must represent many things to produce meaning in the readers' minds, and feel confident enough to allow the reader to claim the images evoked and shape them to his own understanding.

To say windmill might bring up the image of an old wooden contraption on an dilapidated farm. Or, windmill might be visualized as rows and rows of tall, sleek steel generating energy on a wind farm.

When the reader is allowed to bring his own memories and experiences to a book, he or she invests in the story. The consumption of the book is a more satisfying adventure. 
A good description is only specific enough to make parameters for the reader to use in constructing his own image of the scene.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Analysis paralysis

One of my writer friends introduced me to this term. It occurs when a writer becomes bound up in rules and can't write. As Mae West said, "I like restraint, if it doesn't go too far."

So know the rules so your story structure supports your tale.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


"Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader - not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon."
E.L. Doctorow (American author, with a long list of awards and accomplishments)

This is one of my favorite quotes about description.  When the author uses more than just the sense of sight to describe a setting the problem of the reader being on the outside looking in disappears.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Write Good! er, um, well

"There is only one way to defeat the enemy, and that is to write as well as one can."
Saul Bellow Jewish-American author, who won the Nobel Prize. Jewish Virtual Library

This quote can cover lots of territory. Out of context, we don't know who the enemy is.
Who? Our critics, reviewers with a tendency toward sadistic literary knife twisting? Definitely, superior writing will put them in their place.
This cartoon is a good example of writing well. The point is made through sarcasm. Words count, but must be written with care to actually express an idea.
Or could the enemy be someone against what we hold dear? Does the enemy undermine the American dream? Thomas Paine used writing to communicate the ideas of the Revolution to common farmers as well as to intellectuals, using words to stir the hearts of the leaders and followers of the Revolution. But Thomas Paine espoused a deist's anger against God and the Bible in later tracts.
So the enemy might be a good person with a concept that does not glorify God. A bludgeon does nothing to change one's opinion, but carefully crafted words can. It behooves us to write well when we wish to influence our readers to ponder the things of God.

Writing well is a worthy goal.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Perseverence and Discernment

"Just keep writing. Your perfect beginning is probably right ahead of you."
Johanna Harness (writer of YA fiction)

I very often use the very first line I type into the blank document, but rework the other lines on the front page until the mix is just right. I've never dropped the whole first chapter or any substantial chunk of writing. Jumping into the middle of the action helps avoid the need to lop off the beginning. The "action" does not have to be a high-speed car chase. The action is more likely to be an embodiment of the main character's  normal life.
I know many authors who write in speed mode to get thoughts on paper. They feel that the pages they discard were valuable in getting into their characters' heads, the scene, and the tone of the book.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Wow! It looks like I didn't write at all in 2011.

Of course, that is not true. I did write, but I was handicapped by a bunch of physical things. Bah! Bad Body, bad! I will attempt to do better in 2012. Occasionally I will have something from my daily writing, but there might be other material here as well.
For instance, I recommend this book Seize the Story by Victoria Hanley. It is a Handbook for Teens who like to Write. Her website is Victoria Hanley . I gave this book as a Christmas present to one of my young friends.
So, it looks like I will occasionally mention books I've read. You can go to my book list to see a number of books I have liked. I no longer put number ratings on the books. I know many of these authors and they are all five star people.
I love writer quotes:
"There is no way of writing well and also of writing easily."
Anthony Trollope (24 April 1815 – 6 December 1882) was one of the most successful, prolific, and respected English novelists of the Victorian era.
More info: A.T. Overview
Trollope treated literature as a trade and wrote by the clock. No author has been more methodical. He was prolific and astute in depicting those he rubbed elbows with. I confess I have never read a whole book by A.T., but I have seen the BBC works based on his writing.

Here's to a new year! I pray for productivity in 2012. Good health to you and wise decisions.