Deep POV: Confessions of a Christian Writer

The ramblings of an emergent-realistic-edgy-working-for-God-and-the-pay-isn’t-that-great-sometimes-confused-christian-fiction writer (uh, that would be me).

Friday, May 27, 2005

To be a Real "Christian Writer"

M y W r i t e r s G r o u p: Putting out the sun:
"Now I don't pretend to know, but I think too many Christian writers have written about God, thinking that this is what he's asking us to do when He calls us to write. But it's just a moot point. If you're a Christian and you wrote it, it's about Him. So stop shouting. It's not helping. Let your characters learn and live on the page and forget about what you think you have to do. I mean, who do we think we are? We think we can save anyone? It's the Holy Spirit who convicts of sin, who leads in salvation. It's Jesus who forgives and redeems. And it's God Himself who draws people and fills us with the love they need to see."
Whew! Mick is smokin'--read the whole article, please. He says so eloquently what I've been trying to say all along!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

God, Inc.

Yahoo! Finance - All Business - God, Inc.

This is a fascinating article and certainly no surprise. To a large extent, the interest in and growth of the emergent church comes out of a reaction to this attitude. And the same attitude, in my opinion, is reflected in the Christian publishing world (mimicking its larger ABA relative), which creates writers like me who do not want to be a part of such a huge business organization. Yes, yes, I can hear ya clearly: writing is a business. Granted. But does it have to be of such gargantuan proportions that the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing and the writer is nothing except a cog in the whole process? Most writers complain that they get little support from their publisher and the sales department barely knows their name. Perhaps that's just the way business operates nowadays across the board, but that doesn't make it right. And it makes me want to look for a small press.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Celebration of New Christian Fiction IV

This month's Celebration is now up at Chris Mikesell's site, So Much Stuff I Can't Recall. Check it out!

Monday, May 23, 2005

Christianity Today Book Awards 2005

Christianity Today Book Awards 2005 - Christianity Today Magazine:

It's interesting that the two novels honored were not published by major Christian publishers like Zondervan or Tyndale and that both novels are very literary in nature.

Is this good news or not?

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Bookmarks in MS Word

Ray Rhamey has just re-published an old article on his blog Flogging the Quill that will revolunize my life. Every writer develops her own system for storing/saving her manuscript. I've always done mine by chapter because I've found one long, huge document to be unwieldly and impossible to navigate when you're looking for something specific. Easier, I reasoned, to search through one chapter than forty. That's before I read Ray's article on bookmarks in Microsoft Word. Yes, I'm sure some of you know all about this and are thinking, "Well, duh!" But even though I've been using Word for years, I had no idea. Check it out here.

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Reclusive 'Mockingbird' Author Appears - Yahoo! News

I'll be honest, I didn't even know Harper Lee was still alive. This article explains why. If I'd known she was going to be in town, I surely would've tried to catch a glimpse of her. Call me a Harper Lee groupie! To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my all-time favorite books. It's amazing, though, that she never published another book. I wonder why? Was it the notoriety? Or did she have too much pressure given how beloved the book is? I imagine that would be hard. As soon as book #2 hit the shelves, the comparisons would start. Well, maybe she said everything she had to say and just wanted to move on.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Faith in Writing

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1
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In her book Walking on Water Reflections on Faith and Art, Madeleine L'Engle says the following:

In a lecture at Wheaton I quoted the Anglican theologian, H.A. Williams, "The opposite of sin can only be faith, and never virtue."

The creative process has a lot to do with faith, and nothing to do with virtue, which may explain why so many artists are far from virtuous; are, indeed, great sinners. And yet, at the moment of creation, they must have complete faith, faith in their vision, faith in their work.
As I am now only one-and-one-half chapters from finishing my novel, I stopped to reflect on the truth of her words. It does take faith, doesn't it? In God, in His calling, in the specific world you are attempting to create, and in your God-given skills, your ability to carry the project through from beginning to end.

Too often, people start a novel with great enthusiasm, but falter somewhere along the line--usually, in the middle. They end up setting the book aside and feel terrible that they did. I'm not sure there's a sure cure for that, a magic formula that'll make you finish what you start. It may just be every writer has some "practice" books that never get done. Or the original idea just wasn't strong enough to carry a novel. Or it wasn't organized enough to plant some great plot points in the middle that'll pull the reader (and the author) along.

Whatever the reason, finishing a book takes faith. You keep going because you believe in your vision and, even more importantly, you believe that God is walking that road with you just as He walks every other road in your life. Whenever I hit a rough patch in my writing where it seems like nothing is working and my forward motion is gone, I step back. I think, I pray, I log off the computer and go to bed. I talk to other people too, especially my crit partners. Inevitably, a light comes on and I'm shown the way to go. Then, picking up my backpack and walking stick, I can resume the book's journey (and mine) excited and refreshed. That, I think, is what faith in writing is all about. At least, it is for me!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Religious Books

This quote is from Publishers Marketplace daily newsletter, Publishers Lunch:

Religious book sales were the other big gainer, rising 11 percent, to $1.95 billion, helped by a rise in unit sales of 8.5 percent, to 221 million units.

The statistic is from the Book Industry Study Group's (BISG) annual statistical overview of the entire book business, BOOK INDUSTRY TRENDS.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

My "Real" Age

After the last post, I couldn't help this!

You Are 25 Years Old


Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

The Best Age to Write a Best-Seller

Haunt your major characters

Flogging the Quill: Haunt your major characters for stronger storytelling

Another great post from Ray Rhamey. I'm happy to say that the protagonist in my novel, Waylaid (which is two chapters from being finished!) is, indeed, haunted. In fact, long before Ray's post on this, I wrote this tagline (with a lot of help from my crit partner, Linda Bennett!):

Haunted by shadowy images from his past, a troubled young man takes refuge in the arms of two improbable lovers.

So, I'm feeling like I'm at least on the right track.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Why I Will Never Be a Literary Writer

I love beautiful language, really, I do. I'm reading Tender is the Night right now--how could I not? Read this:

Knotted at her throat she wore a lilac scarf that even in the achromatic sunshine cast its color up to her face and down around her moving feet in a lilac shadow.

or this...

When this died away on the summer air, she walked on, between kaleidoscopic peonies massed in pink clouds, black and brown tulips and fragile mauve-stemmed roses, transparent like sugar flowers in a confectioner’s window— until, as if the scherzo of color could reach no further intensity, it broke off suddenly in mid-air, and moist steps went down to a level five feet below.

Both excerpts are wonderful. I wish I could write description like that, where a shadow can be lilac-colored, and flowers are sugar. My strength is in dialogue, though, so I always struggle with good description. I also, if truth be told, find that my eyes glaze over at too much of it. Or too much interior monologue/focus on the character's every thought. Although I'm not a person who likes action/suspense books, mysteries, or spy thrillers, I do enjoy a good plot in whatever I'm reading and I sometimes find that lacking in books labeled "literary." Take Walker Percy's novel, The Moviegoer. This came highly recommended by several writers I know and one editor who has a list posted on his blog, a list I've been attempting to read through. So, I bought a copy of the book. I've read well into it, but so far, nothing is happening, at least nothing that captures my interest. It's well written, it's interesting given the period in which it was written, but it has very little plot ... at least for me.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, who, for some reason, I did not read in school, has been a notable exception. I fully expected him to be like Walker Percy, but when I read The Great Gatsby, I was surprised to find there was a plot. It took awhile to get there, but it was well worth the wait. Maybe the Percy book is that way too, but I'm not sure I'll ever be able to finish it.

My conclusion? I'll never be a literary writer so it's good that I don't want to be. I am not attracted to the idea of writing in first person and while I enjoy deep character studies, I like them done within the context of a story that moves and propels the protagonist forward. I like to see the characters set into situations that stretch and challenge them. If they are sitting around musing about the state of the world or what color blue the lake is or how often they've been in love, well, I am bored. I do some of that in my own writing, but there's a plot, too, one that compels them to act. Which is just the way I want it.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Mermaid Chair

JS Online: 'Mermaid Chair' an exploration of spirituality, sexuality
The story of a married woman (Jessie Sullivan) who returns to her childhood island home from Atlanta and falls in love with a monk has all the makings of a titillating tale. But "The Mermaid Chair" is the awakening of a sensitive woman and the quest of a man for spirituality and peace. It is, as Jessie says later in the novel, the notion of "a place inside open up, the secret place where I would carry him."
Sue Monk Kidd sounds like a fascinating writer. I'd like to read her first book, The Secret Life of Bees before I read this one. Anyone read either book?

I also like that it took her three-and-one-half years to write Bees. And that she says,"The best way to learn to write is to write." So many people seem to skip that part of the process.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Anne Rice

Anne Rice Gets Biblical in Her Next Book - Yahoo! News
Vampires are usually her passion, but Anne Rice is getting biblical in her next book, due out in November from publisher Random House. "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt" will tell the story of Jesus' early years in his own words.
This sounds very interesting. I've read a couple of Rice's vampire books and it seems to me her biggest problem is going to be her current readers' expectations. Maybe she's trying to break out of the mold!

Monday, May 02, 2005

The New York Times > Books > Sunday Book Review > 'Plan B': Born Again, Again

The New York Times > Books > Sunday Book Review > 'Plan B': Born Again, Again:
"Lamott makes almost everyone a little uncomfortable. Her secular friends and fans wish she would talk about Jesus a little less. Conservative Christian readers wish she wouldn't use language culled from bathroom stalls or refer to God as ''he or she.''
I love Anne Lamott. Yes, she makes me crazy too. I cringe at some of the things she says, but I think she's a wonderfully healthy part of my Christian walk and my writer's education. Why? Because I sometimes struggle with her same human struggles, things she's not afraid to mention like how imperfect she is as a mother, how her fears overcome her reason, how she sucks as a writer. Plus, she taught me that my number one reason for writing must be because I love it; I write because it gives me pleasure (and gives God pleasure too!), not because I have to be published. There's great peace in that. And through all of her crises and doubts, she clings to the Lord in such an honest, forthright way she always amazes me. How can she be a Christian? I think after she's made some remark I don't normally hear in my tidy, neat, evangelical world, but then again, what do I know? She's probably not the perfect role model, but then again, who is?