Sunday, November 19, 2006

And So It Goes...

Life happens. Unfortunately, because of a few surprises, and a loss of almost a week and a half, I'm no where near where I'd like to be. As of this moment, I'm at 8,512 words. But, I still have eleven days. Good thing I can type over 100 words per minute.

Tata!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Courage and Fearlessness

I've managed to survive days one and two of NaNoWriMo. As of the end of Day 2, I've written a grand total of 3141 words. The arms and hands are behaving themselves. I'm happy to note that my internal editor has had little to say.

Did you know that where writing is concerned, there's a difference between courage and fearlessness? Ralph Keyes, in The Courage to Write, said:

Working writers aren't those who have eliminated their anxiety. They are the ones who keep scribbling while their heart races and their stomach churns, and who mail manuscripts with trembling fingers. The key difference between writers who are paralyzed by fear and those who are merely terrified is that--like E. B. White--the latter come to terms with their anxieties. They learn how to keep writing even as fear tries to yank their hand from the page. They find the courage to write.

Why do so many of us write in fear and trembling? Because we want desperately to communicate the souls of our characters. Though I've heard many writers say that their characters are complete fabrications with no connection to themselves. My characters come from deep within me. In every story I leave a piece of my own soul.

By the grace of God I won't fall short. I've only just begun digging deeper within myself.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

On Your Marks... Get set ...



While my husband is answering the door for Trick or Treaters, I'm making last minute preparations for the NaNoWriMo ordeal. This year, it's about putting a gag in the mouth of my internal editor. He's tormented me for much too long. I've put aside revisions to book #3 and am writing draft material on a new book, so far without even a working title.

So far I have a character and a bit of her background, and I know what she wants. I also know who doesn't want her to get it, and why. Well, a few someones, anyway. That's what I consider as the basis of any book. That ensures the conflict.

Now I have to figure out what happens next and who these characters become.

Ahhh. Here comes the fun part.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

What Kind of Insanity?





In case you didn't know, November is National Novel Writing Month. A challenge. Call it a dare if you like, plenty do. This is the month when tens of thousands of ordinarily sane writers around the world challenge themselves or one another to a ridiculous feat of endurance: Write a 50,000 book in a month. You get thirty-one 24 hour days, and not one word is allowed before November 1 or after November 30. Prewriting and plotting are great, the planning of characters and conflict are fine, too. But not one word of the book.

If we reach that coveted 50,000 word mark, we win... what? An icon much like the ones above, only it says WINNER! You get the satisfaction of having done it. The words don't have to sing or even yodel. They just have to be.

How many people long to write a book, to be published, to communicate... something. They yearn for the time when their children are older, more independent. They wait for the time when they can devote themselves full time to the task. Many promise themselves they'll do it after they retire. They never do it, sadly.

The thing about this challenge that brings me joy is knowing that so many people are actually doing it. It's just for a month, you know. They can write every day for a month. Some will enjoy the exercise, then put their manuscripts away and never look at them again. That's great. But some will continue even after November. They'll go back to those words they wrote in such a hurry and they'll revised and rework them. They'll strengthen their characters, cut out the deadwood and prune their dialogue. Some will polish their books and send them out, only to have them come back in what seems to be return mail. Or, they'll hear nothing at all for months.

Eventually, some of those books will get published. Yes, it has happened.

Either way, I applaud them. Oh, there are those that take offense How dare these people call themselves writers! Just the mention of NaNoWriMo Director Chris Baty's book "No Plot, No Problem" makes them crazy. A novel needs a plot!! Often, they resent someone who spent a month typing 50,000 thousand words of unintelligible drivel calling themselves a writer, or worse, an author.

In a way, I understand where they're coming from. They've worked long and hard, many for decades sweating blood over each book, each word. They've struggled to understand and learn this business. After rejections and despair they get "the call". They're published. Then, one day at the gym someone announces that they've just completed their first book and wants to know the name of their agent. They want fast action because they worked on it for a whole month!

My response: You can't fix a blank page, only one with words on it.

I still support this program. In 2005 they had over 59,000 participants. Almost 10,000 people world-wide wrote their 50,000 words.

In addition, in 2004 and 2005 the NaNoWriMo organization contributed over $20,000 to Room to Read to build libraries for kids in Cambodia. Those libraries are up and running now.

Check out their web site: http://www.nanowrimo.org

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Spiritually-Minded Puppies


I've been told that the difference between man and animals is that though animals have a mind, will and emotions, they do not have an everlasting spirit that communes with God. The gentleman that explained this to me said that the thing that proved this to him was that he'd never returned home to find his beloved Yorki--Teddy, by name--sprawled out on the floor communing with God.

After a search of the scriptures, I had to wonder. The book of Revelation speaks of Christ returning to earth on a white horse. In the Old Testament, the Lord used a donkey to rebuke a disobedient prophet.

Not only does God use our pets in our every day life to bring us joy and comfort, to amuse and inspire us, he uses them and all His creation to demonstrate His glory and majesty.

This little cocker spaniel is Misty. Two years ago God healed her of a particularly nasty anemia. Her red blood cells had broken down, flooding her kidneys and liver with bilirubin beyond their capacity to process. Beneath her black fur, her skin turned a fluorescent crayon-box yellow. She had to have transfusions and around the clock care. She was critically ill for six days.

One morning after picking her up at the after hours emergency care vet, I headed to the church. One dear gentleman, a food ministry volunteer, got down on his knees in the parking lot in thirty degree weather to pray for my dog.

Misty is still with us, as cunning and mischievous as ever. To God be the glory. I have no doubt He touched her.

The scripture says that God knows when every sparrow falls to the ground. So, will my cockers live in heaven with me? Perhaps my friend is right. Perhaps not. Still, I couldn't resist the image his words created.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Writing in Fear and Trembling... and in Faith


1 Corinthians 2:1-5
And I, brethren, when I came to you,
I did not come with excellence of speech
or of wisdom
declaring to you the testimony of God.
For I determined not to know anything among you
except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.
And my speech and my preaching
were not with persuasive words of human wisdom
but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,
that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men
but in the power of God. (NKJV)


Odd, isn't it, that a writer would find this scripture comforting, but I do. Before his conversion on the road to Damascus, Paul was brilliant, one of the most learned men of his time, and had every reason to be confident in the gifts God had given him. Still, sixteen years after his conversion, he still felt the need to depend heavily upon God. Paul didn't want to be limited to his own best. For his beloved children in Christ, Paul wanted God's best.

I've had times during my writing career when words came hard. Even prose that couldn't sing, came hard. My most interesting characters either uttered clich├ęs or stared sullenly into space.

During those times, I've cried out to God. Why? You've called me to write, so why can't I? What am I doing wrong? Why do my words have no life, no emotion? Tell me what to do! At this point, I'd have settled for melodrama. Writing should be a joy, a thrill. Instead, what I perceived as my failure filled me with despair.

When I've reached that point, and have done everything I know to do, everything that's ever worked to release the flow of thoughts and words, I've learned to stop and turn off the computer. Then, I seek the face of God, and then sit quietly in His presence, waiting. The Holy Spirit sometimes prompts me with this question:

"Why are you putting yourself through this?"

"Why, for you!" I said. "I'm doing this for you! I want to show your love to the world."

After I'd heard my own words, He opened my eyes and I realized the truth. I'd lost focus, and without realizing it, I'd begun to depend solely upon myself and my own giftings to write this impossibly ambitious book.

God reminded me that without Him I may be able to write a suspense novel that would keep the most critical of reviewers up until they'd turned the last page. If that happens, great, but that alone is not what I'm called to do.

My calling is to allow God to enable me to write stories that use His power not only to entertain, but bring hope to reader who is discouraged, to proclaim God's unfailing love and forgiveness, to show the world that there is no place a human heart can go that God cannot follow.

Someone once asked me if I ever had doubts about my ability. Absolutely, I do. Often, in fact. But I don't doubt God's. Not any longer. Several times I've even tried to quit writing, but God keeps calling me back. I know that if I quit, when I look back on my life, I'll know I've have failed. So in faith, I continue. I still have to study my craft and work hard. I have to exercise discipline. I have to show up at the page whether I feel like it or not. God helping me, I'll do it.

When my doubts threaten to overwhelm me, I return to another favorite scripture:

"... being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ."
- Philippians 1:6

Photograph copyright Greg Morgan,
Stained glass window of New Hope Community Church, Clackamas, Oregon

Friday, September 01, 2006

Smart Cat


I adore animals of all kinds, with the exception of rodents and bugs. This fellow belongs to a old friend of mine. Some would question his sanity. If I found myself in this position, I'd probably need a chiropractor. Linda caught him during a time of intense play, and he stayed in this position only for only the instant she snapped the picture. He scampered across the grass in just a few leaps and up the side of the fence. Something he does even while in the house. But, I can't look at this picture without smiling.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Summary of My Afternoon

A new friend of mine generously allowed me to share her thoughts on writer's block. I couldn't agree with her more. Swing by and say hello to her at http://www.betsy-ann.blogspot.com.


A Summary of My Afternoon
by Betsy Ann St. Amant

Writers block, you really stink
I need an idea, I need a link!
What to say? Where to go?
My spirits have sunk so very low.

I need a gimmick, I need a plan
My heroine desperately needs a man!
Adjectives and adverbs, don’t fail me now!
Prepositions and nouns, please tell me how!

What will I do? How will this end?
Time ticks by that I don’t have to spend.
The pressure mounts, the page stays bare
My eyes glaze over as I continue to stare

Tension builds, desperation rises
A blank manuscript just doesn’t win prizes!
The end is looming, the tunnel is dark
My palms are sweaty until – hark!

What’s that? A word? It glimmers bright
I type it out, the tunnel flickers light
Another word follows, behold, a phrase!
Oh precious muse, promise you’ll stay!

I’m on a roll - now, a paragraph!
When this is over, I just might even laugh.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

An Act of Hope

Writing is an act of hope. It means carving order from chaos.
– Jack Heffron, The Writer's Idea Book

That just about says it. All the sounds, smells, scenes, fragments of scenes, thoughts and surges of emotions must be pulled into order. As I begin a new book, the characters' faults and failures, their kindnesses and cruelties, the why's and how's of their actions, make my head spin. They're all a part of the heroine's struggle to overcome what she must, or die trying.

Sitting down at the computer is an act of hope. Communicating the essence of the characters and their stories is always a challenge. Sometimes it's as much a struggle for me to write the story as it is for the character to live it out. Still, there's a joy in the struggle.

Discovering, the struggle as well as the joy that comes with it, is something I crave. These characters won't leave me alone. This book, tentatively titled No Greater Gift, has been a stretch for me. The plotline is more intricate than any I've attempted before, and the characters face more than choices between not just stark right and wrong.

This is another book of my heart so, as Jacob wrestled with the angel, I keep wrestling with this book. One of my characters is trying to be mysterious. He probably thinks that because his mission in London during WWII is secret, that his deeper thoughts and emotions must be, too. Perhaps he's annoyed that tis isn't "his" story. He's got another think coming.

On to work! Blessings to you today

Teresa