Where’s the Fire?

I’m a slow writer, I’ll admit it. I’m a slow reader, too, and maybe a little slow moving. I never could keep up with my mom when I was walking beside her—that is, until she was forced to take up a walker.

All that to say, maybe my perception is skewered. But here’s what I believe: quality writing, no matter what the genre or the intent—literary or commercial—needs time. I know there are writers who disagree, published writers who have told me this complaint that publishers want books too fast is a non-issue.

I disagree. First of all, if CBA books were out there winning Pulitzers, then I’d say what’s standard practice among Christian publishing houses must be working. The fact is, while the reputation of Christian fiction is improving, there still are no Pulitzers that I’m aware of. Not any Newbery awards either.

Second, I’ve recently been reminded that when I let my writing sit for a while—weeks, months even—I can come back to it with fresh eyes and see what now appears as glaring errors that previously looked like brilliant, polished, well-crafted text. 😀 What changed? Well, perhaps I have learned more about craft, but perhaps nothing changed but distance. I no longer remember precisely what I had in mind when I put those words down and am constrained to see what they actually say.

Third, time allows for others’ eyes to help out. For me it means receiving critiques. For a published author it means time with his editors to hammer out big picture problems and line-by-line improvements. In addition, there are occasions that the edited version may still need editing. There should be time for authors and editors to do this needed give and take.

Lastly, I see time between books as a marketing asset, not a hindrance. Think Harry Potter. Whatever your reaction to the books, the phenomenon that occurred, with children lining up at midnight on release day in order to buy the next installment (and parents accompanying them!), caused a newsworthy stir. Would such a thing have happened if the books came out every six months? I doubt it.

Perhaps a new author needs to release books quickly to build a following—I have my doubts about that—but from then on, what’s the hurry? I don’t see word of mouth—which people at every level in the writing business credit with really moving books off shelves—as happening without the passing of time.

There may be economic reasons I am unaware of for books to come out every six months, but for the sake of craft, I say, Slow down!

– – –

I’m a survey kind of person (is that because I’m opinionated? Hmmm. Something ELSE to ponder). If you’re interested, Bethany House is conducting a survey regarding the cover art for an upcoming release. If you’d like to participate, go to this link. It takes just a few minutes and gives you an idea of some of what pub boards must consider.

Published in: on January 31, 2007 at 10:34 am  Comments (2)  

The Tantalizing Temptation for Less than Best

For an aspiring author of Christian fiction (me), is it disobedient to settle for OK writing? If I know it’s OK and I also know how I could make it great but choose not to do so, then I would say, yes, I’m being disobedient.

There’s the thing that makes it impossible for a reader or another writer to make a judgment about an author—if I also know how I could make it great.

Sometimes the problems of craft or story we see in a book exist because the author just didn’t know there was a better way or didn’t see the snags as snags. How can a writer fix something he doesn’t believe is broken?

It takes someone coming alongside and saying, Here’s the problem I see with this story, scene, paragraph, sentence, or word. Such feedback is invaluable, though sometimes painful, but the author who listens, who really internalizes the new piece of knowledge will continue to improve.

Why wouldn’t an author want to improve? I know one thing that drives me to improve is that I am not published. Will I continue to feel as passionate about quality writing if God sees fit to bring about publication for my fiction?

I mean, then I’d have a contract, and myriads of other tasks to complete. Maybe OK writing is … well, OK … when time is short, when I know an editor will clean up my mess for me. Especially if readers don’t seem to notice, if reviews are generally good.

What a temptation!

Come to think about it, I’m adding “Temptation to write less than my best” to my list of giants in writer-land. 😉

Published in: on January 30, 2007 at 10:34 am  Comments (3)  

Writing Pretty Much OK

When God calls us to a task, is it disobedient to do it half-heartedly? How about three-quarters-heartedly? Or seven-eighths-heartedly?

Now obviously not everyone has the same talent or the same amount of talent. In a recent conversation, I erroneously made the point that the man from Jesus’s parable given five talents could have earned 10 instead of an additional 5. After more thought, I don’t believe so. His master gave him 5 because he knew he was capable of dealing with 5, and in fact he came through, doubling what he’d been entrusted with. For his work, the master praised him and rewarded him.

But what if the 5-talent guy had earned only 2 or 4, or the 10-talent guy earned only 5 or 9? It’s not quite the same as the guy who took the talent and buried it, returning it to the master with no yield. I’m wondering about some yield, just not the full measure.

And of course, because the Bible is silent about the subject, I don’t know how profitable it is to ponder the question. It is sort of like asking, How close to the line can I get without going over? Is on the line considered over?

Why am I asking these questions? They are writing related, at least in my mind. Here’s the connection. If I believe God has called me to write, is it disobedient to write without crafting well, or, more specifically, as well as I am capable?

Again, remember that I am not talking about talent or type. Some writers are witty and can inject humor into their prose with ease. That is so not me. I wish it were. (I actually love to laugh, though you probably wouldn’t know it by reading what I write.) I admire writers who have that knack, but if that was the measuring stick to determine who was writing well, I would utterly fail. But it isn’t. There are all types of writing.

Back when I didn’t even know fiction required crafting, I don’t think what I wrote was disobedient. In fact, that I wrote was really all I knew God had called me to. And so it is today, but the difference is, now I know there is much to writing well. Now I know that I need to continue being a learner, way past implementing the rudiments of Browne and King (Self-editing for Fiction Writers).

But what if I grow complacent? What if I plateau out, decide that OK is good enough? Or, what if I put myself in a position of having to write to a deadline that doesn’t allow me to write as well as I know I should (this is the procrastinator/perfectionist’s favorite trick)? Is that disobedient?

This one I have to ponder because I’m already over my self-imposed word count for these posts and have some obedience to implement in my day—of the fiction-writing kind. 😉

Published in: on January 29, 2007 at 10:33 am  Comments (3)  

In the Face of Giants, continued

So there ARE giants. They exist for me in the form of apparently insurmountable odds of ever writing well enough, of ever publishing, of ever promoting my books to the point that they would actually sell should they ever find their way in print.

Yesterday I suggested a Caleb approach, not focusing on the giants but on God who promises to do what is best for me.

I believe that with my whole heart, but just as in Caleb’s life, the giants were still in the land, and a day came when battle lines formed.

Here are some things I noticed about Caleb.

  • He waited 45 years to take on the giants—not because he had sinned, not because God didn’t want the giants defeated. But first God required him to spend time in the wilderness along with the rest of Israel.
  • Before he took on the giants, he walked across the Jordan River on dry land and watched as the walls of Jericho collapsed.
  • After five years in the land, when he was battle tested, he took on the giants.
  • He anticipated that God would be with him.
  • He didn’t assume success.
  • He elicited help.
  • I don’t want to try to turn this into a piece of allegory, but I find a lot of encouragement in this story. The fact is, defeating giants is not easy. Trusting God does not mean I do nothing or that I go it alone. And while I know He can do the miraculous, sometimes He does and sometimes He doesn’t. It’s His decision how and when He wants to work.

    Interestingly, this morning I read this:

    Though the fig tree should not blossom
    And there be no fruit on the vines,
    Though the yield of the olive should fail,
    And the fields produce no food,
    Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
    And there be no cattle in the stalls,
    Yet I will exult in the Lord,
    I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
    – Habakkuk 3:17-18

    You know what the next verse is? Yeah, Habakkuk 3:19, smarties. 😀

    The Lord God is my strength,
    And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,
    And makes me walk on my high places.

    I may never publish, which will be just what God knows I need. But if I do, it will be because He put me there. In the mean time, I have some giants to fight. 😉

    Published in: on January 26, 2007 at 10:40 am  Comments (5)  

    In the Face of Giants

    Do you believe in giants? I’ve been thinking about them a lot this past year or so. Metaphorically. To me, all the obstacles to publishing seem like giants in the land.

    I’ve got a few. I’m a woman writing in a genre men read the most. I have a male protagonist, but because more women than men buy books, readers may have a harder time connecting with him (so say the editors). I have a trilogy—the old-fashioned one-story-in-three-books kind (a big investment for a publishing house to commit to). I write for adults in a time when youth fantasy is hot. I want to sell to a CBA publisher, but CBA publishers are not yet convinced there’s a market for fantasy, at least Christian fantasy … or fantasy sold in CBA stores. My story does not address Christianity overtly, nor is it allegory—both apparently hard sells to a Christian publisher.

    Giants! Never mind the giants of writing.

    Write engaging characters. Hook the readers in the first paragraph. Pace your story well. Include suspense, foreshadowing. Avoid information dumps. Write scintillating dialogue. Vary sentence constructions. Motivate your characters, develop them. At all costs, move the story forward. Include conflict on every page. Maintain the appropriate point of view. Layer the story. Include subplots. Use strong verbs. Don’t over write scenes. And the list goes on. And on. And on. I do not exaggerate.


    Then there is the giant of promotion. I just read again in the information available about the staff at an upcoming writers’ conference how one publishing house is looking for authors with a notable platform. In other words, their name must already be a household word. Unlike Rebecca LuElla Miller. 😛 And how many publishers have similar standards but just don’t publicize the fact? How many are looking at previous sales to decide if they will sign an author or not. Enter the unpublished author … facing yet another giant.

    So here’s the thing. Caleb … Joshua, too … recognized there were giants in the land. They weren’t pie-in-the-sky pretending the giants didn’t exist. But their eyes weren’t locked on the giants. Their jaws weren’t permanently fixed in the open position as their gaze traveled up and up and up.

    They saw beyond the giants to God who promised to give them the land.

    No, I do not have a promise from God that I will be published. I do have a promise that His working in my life will be for my good. And in His promise I will trust.

    Published in: on January 25, 2007 at 12:06 pm  Comments (11)  

    CSFF Blog Tour, Day 3 – The Door Within Trilogy

    CSFF BT button

      I have to admit, I am already a little sad, because this is the last day in what has been an outstanding tour for The Door Within,
      Rise of the Wyrm Lord, and The Final Storm—the three books that make up Wayne Thomas Batson‘s highly successful The Door Within Trilogy (Tommy Nelson—now Thomas Nelson). I mentioned some of the highlights from the tour yesterday, and there are more to add.
  • To her cross-generational reviews, Cheryl Russel adds a fun interview with Aidan Thomas, the protagonist of the trilogy.
  • Robin Parrish, editor at Infuz Magazine, posted Wayne’s movie trailer used to promote the books.
  • Tina Kulesa suggests readers who love the book e-mail Thomas Nelson to let them know how they appreciate books that are packaged well and that tell such a good story. And that we would like to see more like these.
  • Sharon Hinck posted an interview that included one of Wayne’s favorite pieces of fan mail—really touching.
  • I could go on and on. Did you know that Leathel Grody is in the acknowledgements of The Final Storm?

    As I said … 😉

    I’m going to resist, however, because I want to talk a little about The Final Storm. I don’t know if you can really call this a review. In my opinion this final installment of the book was why the trilogy matters. Yes, the books are beautiful, and kids will love the swords and dragons, the fights and the great escapes. But here, in this third book, Batson addresses some of the deepest issues of life. He has been all along, of course, but it is in this last book that the ultimate decisions are made, that truth comes clear.

    In one of his reviews, Wayne says the books are about faith and purpose, answering the questions like Why am I here?

    But that’s just it, he answers the questions by not ANSWERING them. He lets the characters in the story discover these things, and the readers who identify with them, then, in turn, discover the answers as well. It is so well done.

    Not the least of which is the end. I wish I could say more, but it would be the cruelest of spoilers to even hint at the outcome. I will say, I cried. Not just a tiny moistening of the eyes, either. (Of course, I cry at Hallmark commercials, too. 😀 ) Now, I’m not saying if I was crying for joy or for sadness. Just know, the books touched my heart.

    To me that’s about the best a writer can hope for—to touch readers’ hearts. And for this reader, that’s the highest compliment I can pay.

    I highly recommend The Final Storm for all readers.

    – – –

    And now, on to other participants in the tour:

    Published in: on January 24, 2007 at 8:26 am  Comments (4)  

    CSFF Blog Tour, Day 2 – The Door Within Trilogy

    Sometimes when I look forward to something, I find I have a bit of a letdown when the actual event happens. With our current tour, however, I have not been disappointed. We have some really wonderful posts about our featured books: The Door Within, Rise of the Wyrm Lord, and The Final Storm.

    Here are some general observations about the tour so far. First, there seems to be a concensus about the appearance of the books. Anyone who has seen them in person comments about the packaging. Tommy Nelson did them right!

    Second, whenever the books have been in the hands of the target audience (or even have been read to them), there seems to be universal enthusiasm. I’m not surprised at all. Wayne Thomas Batson knows young adults, knows what kind of stories they like, knows what the needs of their hearts are.

    From that point on, the tour participants have a wide variety of things they discuss. Some have posted samples of Wayne’s digital art. Some have posted the short synopsis of each book. Others have contacted Wayne and posted interviews—each one different from the others. One of my favorites, by the way, is by James Somers (actually posted at the end of last week).

    I’m happy to announce also that we have a first. Besides his other posts, Marcus Goodyear has a podcast he created with an enticing array of information/entertainment. I’d encourage you to take a look.

    For writers, we have some good discussion about marketing, promotion, and sales. Gene Curtis has done some research and made some interesting observations about how The Door Within is selling.

    Then, of course, there are reviews. This is the heart of any blog tour. What do people who read the books really think about them? Are these books worth the investment? Should I buy them for my son/granddaughter/niece/neighbor/Sunday school attendence winner?

    According to my original plan, today I am to review Rise of the Wyrm Lord, second in The Door Within Trilogy (Tommy Nelson). But here’s the thing. There is already an outstanding review available, one posted by Sally Apokedak at All About Children’s Books.

    I’d encourage you to read Sally’s review. Unlike The Door Within, I took no notes for Rise of the Wyrm Lord and have a hard time separating my thoughts about the trilogy in its entirety from my thoughts about this particular book.

    Suffice it to say, I think Batson moves youth fiction up a notch. His trilolgy deals with some of the hard questions youth need to face—well, that adults need to face, too. Faith is not simple or uncomplicated. It is not static nor is it untested. There are failures along the way, uncertainty about choices, fear as well as hope. And through it all, God shines clearer, brighter.

    OK, I remembered one of the things I needed to mention from book two, a negative. I also need to put in a spoiler alert. One thing that bothered me was this: why did Antoinette need to go to the Realm when Gwenne was already in place? I mean, Gwenne had to leave so Antoinette could come, but why couldn’t Gwenne have been the 12th knight? I felt there was no explanation why someone not glimpse kind was needed.

    Though this was a central point, I could easily let it go and say, That’s the way it happened, and enjoy the story.

    And enjoy it I did. I have to say, I was happy to have the third book in my possession, since book two ends on a cliff-hanger.

    I highly recommend Rise of the Wyrm Lord for those readers interested in youth fantasy.

    – – –

    Others participating in the blog tour are listed below:

    Jim Black
    Jackie Castle
    Valerie Comer
    Karri Compton
    Frank Creed
    CSFF Blog Tour
    Gene Curtis
    Chris Deanne
    Janey DeMeo
    April Erwin
    Linda Gilmore
    Beth Goddard
    Marcus Goodyear
    Todd Michael Greene
    Leathel Grody
    Karen Hancock
    Katie Hart
    Sherrie Hibbs
    Sharon Hinck
    Joleen Howell
    K. D. Kragen
    Tina Kulesa
    Lost Genre Guild
    Kevin Lucia and The Bookshelf Reviews 2.0 – The Compendium
    Rachel Marks
    Shannon McNear
    Caleb Newell
    Eve Nielsen
    John Otte
    Robin Parrish
    Cheryl Russel
    Hannah Sandvig
    Mirtika Schultz
    James Somers
    Stuart Stockton
    Steve Trower
    Speculative Faith
    Daniel I. Weaver

    Published in: on January 23, 2007 at 8:16 am  Comments (4)  

    CSFF Blog Tour – The Door Within Trilogy

    What a happy blogger I am! 😀 Another fantasy blog tour! And this is one I’ve been anticipating for some time now … for a number of reasons.

    First, we are featuring, not one book, but three. Yep, author Wayne Thomas Batson made available to CSFF BT reviewers twelve sets of his Door Within Trilogy—a very generous offer.

    Second, these books are beautiful!

      Door Within
  • The Door Within
  • Rise of the Wyrm Lord

  • Rise of the Wyrm Lord
    • Final Storm
  • The Final Storm
  • Third, this story—and it is close to a true trilogy, with three books telling one story—is one of the best I’ve read in a while. Mind you, Batson is a new author, and there are a few writing glitches, so I’m not talking here about craft. I mean the STORY is excellent. It is far from predictable, has moments of brilliance, is certainly imaginative, and deals with spiritual truth in a way that is not sugarcoated.

    I had anticipated reviewing each book separately, one for each day of the tour, but because of the nature of the trilogy, I have a hard time separating the books. Still, I’ll give it a shot.

    One thing I particularly liked about the series was that each book was better than the one before it, which tells me, Batson is not resting on his laurels, or content with being just an OK writer. He’s willing to study and to learn which results in better and better writing.

    All that to say, yes, there are flaws in The Door Within, but nothing that prevents a reader from enjoying the story.

    The protagonist Aidan, a youth who has struggled for peer acceptance until he met his best friend Robby, must move across country with his family because his grandfather is gravely ill. In the midst of his frustration and anger at having to leave a situation where he has finally begun to gain acceptance, he discovers a set of scrolls, and with his grandfather’s help learns how to enter the door within.

    Then his adventure begins.

    Strengths. The Door Within is an inventive story, with an intriguing concept of glimpses—twins of each human, residing in the Mirror Realm, separated at the Great Schism.

    Batson’s story is filled with action, easily followed, and abundant good-versus-evil conflict. The world he creates is interesting, if not particularly unique, and he populated it with believable characters, some more likeable than others. His most amazing creation, in my opinion, is Falon, an unpredictable creature that is foreshadowed well, with proper hints of the power and danger of which she is capable.

    Weaknesses. Most of the writing/craft problems are minor irritants—repetition, especially of names, some dialogue that exists to inform the reader rather than fit with who the character is—but there is one problem that pulled me from the story. Some things happen without foreshadowing or motivation. Happily these occurrences are more and more infrequent as the trilogy continues.

    Considering The Door Within as a stand-alone, I recommend the book to all ages, Christian and non-Christian. As the first book in an outstanding trilogy, I’d push that to Highly Recommend.

    Be sure to take time to drop in on other bloggers participating in this month’s tour:

    Published in: on January 22, 2007 at 10:37 am  Comments (8)  

    Target Audience

    I’ve been thinking about the term “target audience,” a phrase writers hear as part of the instruction for preparing a book proposal. Knowing who the target audience is helps marketers. It’s really the question, Who out there in the public will want to read this book?

    It’s a good question. Who out there will want to read what I have to say?

    As a writer, I ask that question frequently. Other authors do too. Who out there wants to read my newsletter, my blog, my discussion board comments, my web site content, my article, my short story, my novel?

    Sometimes, with no feedback, it’s easy to think, What’s the point? (I’ll just insert here, I am so thankful for the thoughtful comments I receive here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction. Besides making me think, which I love, it lets me know people are reading and not just clicking in and out as fast as they can. 😉 )

    But that brings me back to “target audience.” If I am writing for the millions of readers in the world, I will be disappointed. Daily. The fact is, millions of folks are not finding their way to A Christian Worldview of Fiction. Nor has any publisher snapped up my trilogy.

    So do I set my sights lower?

    No, I think, higher. Something I read in Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening clarified my thinking on the matter. He pointed out that Jesus Himself was not adverse to explaining Scripture and His place in the Law and the Prophets to an audience of two men on their way to Emmaus. That brought to mind Phillip who the Holy Spirit led to an audience of one Ethiopian eunuch.

    So who is my target audience, the one or the million? I think I must write for the One. If I write to the target audience of the One who has called me and sustains me, then I can be assured He will bring to my writing those He wants to share it with.

    Somehow I don’t think that’s quite what the publishers will want to see in a book proposal, though. So I guess I’ll have to tell them about the millions. 😀

    – – –

    This has nothing to do with the topic, but over at Brandilyn Collins’ blog, she has a “check out pictures on blogs contest going, so I figured I’d put up a picture for you all to enjoy.

    Mountain Scene 2

    Published in: on January 19, 2007 at 12:34 pm  Comments (10)  

    Not Much of a Post

    I hate to admit it, but I’m distracted. I got a new computer this week, and I’m trying to learn what all it can do. One thing I’ve learned is that it can waste time. Or maybe that’s me. 😛

    At any rate, I’ve been putting more thought into figuring out what all I can do now that I couldn’t do before, and little thought into what to write this morning. (Yes, it still is morning here in frigid SoCal).

    Yesterday I thought I had an avatar uploaded, but then it didn’t show up, so I tried to paste an image into this post. (I just know you all are dying to see my mug! 😀 ) I think I know what I did wrong, but I’m not fooling with it any more.

    About the only meaningful content I have for you is this: God is good. That fact should be sufficient to get us all through the day!

    Published in: on January 18, 2007 at 12:09 pm  Comments (3)  
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