Writers I Read

Some writers have a knack for making me read their work. There’s one science fiction writer, for example, who’s blog I follow. Understand, I’m not a fan of science fiction, but I read this author’s blog, word for word. I don’t skim.

Others I want to read. I’ll follow someone’s blog because I read a post once that I thought was interesting, or because I like their novel, or we had a meaningful exchange of ideas on Facebook or in the comments section of another blog. I respect them. I just don’t always find myself reading what they write.

Others, I skim. I know the experts tell us to do it, and they do–adding bold font or bullet points. But that allows me to skim, encourages me to skim, so I skim. And nothing in what I’m skimming compels me to go back and read more carefully.

So what is it that those writers have whose posts grab me and hold me even when they’re writing about a movie I don’t want to see, will never see, or about microbes in the human gut, or about growing up in Kansas, or whatever it might be?

Of course there are those post with content in which I’m interested. It might be writing or fantasy or a significant spiritual truth. It might be a topic I like discussing, like creation or politics or sports. Content driven articles, I understand.

What I don’t understand is that intangible. I’ve stopped reading articles about speculative fiction or the publishing industry or God–topics I love to read about and discuss–all because … well, I lost interest. I’ve subscribed to blogs by famous writers because I thought it would help me stay current with my genre–only to find that I have no idea with that person is saying on a day-to-day basis.

On the other hand, I’ve received newsletters by novelists whose books I’ve never read, and yet I devour the articles down to the last word. Why?

I’d love to know because I’d love to replicate those writers’ ability … although, as I write that, I wonder, can ability be replicated? Probably not, but technique might be learned.

One thing some of those writers have is humor. Notice, I didn’t say, a sense of humor. I have a sense of humor. In fact I love to laugh. Love, love, love to laugh. I just don’t use humor much in my writing. I admire authors who do. Andrew Peterson, Matt Mikalatos, Jonathan Robers–I love their books and appreciate their use of humor. I just haven’t got a clue how to use it in my own writing.

A time or two I tried to use humor here on my blog–a little exaggeration, perhaps, a bit of irony or sarcasm. As I recall, those posts have inevitably garnered criticism because someone didn’t recognize the humor. I don’t blame them. Unless you can see the twinkle in my eye or the upturned eyebrow or the suppressed smile, how do you know I meant those lines to be funny?

Writers that write humor can do it. I, on the other hand, am at a loss.

Humor isn’t the only thing that makes writing interesting. When Brandilyn Collins used to blog, I often said she could write the phone book, and I’d find it interesting. I never did quite figure how why, though. She often told stories, and told them well, so perhaps that was her secret ingredient.

Maybe there isn’t one way, either. Some writers are engaging because their content is controversial (Mike Duran), some because they bring a quality of professionalism and expertise, some because they are entertaining.

And the borin ones in which I lose interest? I’m still trying to figure that out. 😉

You can help. Tell me what makes you read a blog post from start to finish or what makes you start to skim or to stop altogether. After all, with all your input, these posts here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction are bound to get a whole lot better!!

Published in: on August 30, 2012 at 6:06 pm  Comments (10)  
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Unity And Disagreement

Apparently I entered the Christian fiction wars again last week with my Thursday post, “The Misconception About Weaker Brothers.” The irony is, I actually intended to remove some of the shrapnel the combatants so often use to snipe at each other. But according to Fred Warren at Spec Faith, Sally Apokedak at Facebook, and Mike Duran in the comments to the above post, I apparently initiated an incursion. Not my intention.

The truth is, Christians aren’t supposed to be warring with each other. Paul said to the church in Philippi

make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Later in the book he scolded two women who weren’t living in harmony with each other, and earlier he pointed out there were some believers preaching Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives. About the latter, he said, So what? Just as long as Christ is being preached, that’s all that matters.

Which brings me to the fiction wars. The issue in question is whether or not Christian writers should use profanity and cussing in fiction. (Sometimes references to sex get thrown into the mix as well, but of late the topic has centered on “certain” words).

Both sides have their reasons and their verses–one of the more popular being Romans 14, which I addressed in my “Misconception” post and even more so in “Weaker Brothers, Legalists, And Christian Fiction”, believing as I do that so many of us are ignoring clear passages of Scripture in order to make this a treatise on how to handle “gray areas.”

In all honesty, I don’t see why Christians can’t look at each other’s writing and conclude, So what? Just as long as Christ is being preached. OK, I could hear it from the abstainers before I’d finished typing the sentence: But they’re not preaching Christ. They admit it. They don’t even think they have to have good theology in their books. They’re sacrificing truth at the altar of art.

I submit that this position isn’t tenable. No one knows what God can or will use in someone else’s life or for what purpose. For example a story with some of “those words” may well bring a reader to the author’s Facebook page or blog where he will hear the gospel or at least interact with Christians.

At the same time, I can hear the accommodaters saying, YIKES! Preaching in fiction? That’s been the whole problem with Christian fiction and the very thing we’re crusading against!!!! (OK, maybe only two exclamation points. 😉 )

So what, I say. There are Christian brothers and sisters who have a different vision of fiction than you do. But aren’t we to be serving the same Lord? Aren’t we to have one purpose?

Not the same methods, mind you. It’s the whole feet-hands-ears-and-eyes argument showing that even the small and apparently offensive parts of the body are important and necessary. So why can’t abstainer writers simply look at the accommodater writers and say, there go those smelly old feet. I’m sure glad they’re trudging the mean streets for me. Or why can’t the accommodater writers say, there are those Bible-thumping hands. I’m sure glad they’re out there contending for the faith, even in stories.

The fact is, there are no winners in the Christian fiction writer wars. No winners. None. When we judge each other or treat each other with contempt, the Church loses. We are to love each other as a demonstration of our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. When we fail to demonstrate love for one another, we give the world the opportunity to discredit God’s name.

This does not mean we need to wave the white flag of surrender or that we need to find a position with which we can all agree. I suspect we won’t. This does not mean we should stop stating what we believe. Most of us have that right and freedom–thank God.

It does mean, however, that we refuse to fight with each other, that we respect those who disagree with us, that we stop treating them, even in subtle ways, as incompetent or inferior, either spiritually or artistically. It means that we make a decision to value our witness over our ideas about writing.

Seasons Of Contentment

In the book of Philippians, the Apostle Paul wrote that he’d learned to be content in whatever circumstances he found himself.

I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. (Phil. 4:12)

He follows that statement with the verse that is perhaps taken out of context more than any other: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Paul’s clear meaning was that he could go hungry because of Him who strengthened him. Or he could be filled because of Him who strengthened him. In other words, the two extremes were no different in his way of looking at things.

I can extrapolate from what Paul said and conclude that both ends of the spectrum needed strength to get through. “Being filled” was not without its difficulties.

What I find interesting is that Paul didn’t seem concerned about escaping from either end. He didn’t look at the being filled end as more desirable and the going hungry part as something to avoid. Granted, he was grateful when the Philippian church sent gifts for his needs, but he made a point of saying he wasn’t seeking the gift so much as the reward he knew their generosity would bring them.

It’s an interesting perspective, one I don’t see often in ministries that are supported by giving. I wonder what would happen if para-church organization started asking for prayer instead of money, and if they asked for those prayers to center on the effectiveness of their work, not on the funds they thought they needed.

But that’s actually an aside.

As I thought about contentment, I realized that there are other things that can cause me to be discontented besides the state of my finances.

Today, for example, I had the first page of my first book in The Lore of Efrathah posted on an agent blog with the question, Would you keep reading? Let’s say the feedback wasn’t what I’d hoped for.

In many respects I feel like I’m going through a poverty of positive feedback. I won’t bore you with details, but it dawned on me as I was thinking about what to write today, that God doesn’t condition our contentment: I can be content if I’m poor but not if people say they don’t like fantasy.

I don’t think that’s the way it works. Paul said earlier in his letter that believers are to do all things without grumbling or disputing. Really? All things?

I think verse thirteen has to be in play–I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Not, I can fly because God strengthens me, or even, I can be a NY Times best-selling author because God strengthens me. Rather, I can be content because God strengthens me.

If I’m experiencing a season of poverty, God can strengthen me so I will be content. If I’m experiencing a season of little positive feedback, God can strengthen me so I will be content.

And on the other end of the scale, if I am experiencing a season of wealth, God can strengthen me so that I won’t worry, become greedy, hoard, or be irresponsible, being content instead. If I am experiencing a season of favorable feedback, God can strengthen me so that I won’t steal His glory, being content instead.

Well, how about that? It looks like any season is actually the season of contentment.

Published in: on July 11, 2012 at 6:59 pm  Comments (8)  
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Starting Over

Not so long ago I mentioned that I’m starting a new book. I’m having a lot of fun thinking things through, getting to know my character, and fitting the events of this story in with what comes after in The Lore of Efrathah. I did mention the new one is a prequel to my four-book story, didn’t I?

The thing is, it takes place some 250 years earlier, so I need to figure out the history and what kinds of changes would be likely in the world.

Interestingly, as I’m putting this story together, I realize Lore is actually a kind of dystopian series, though I’m sure it doesn’t read like one.

Besides the fun, I’m finding myself hesitant to commit. Maybe I really am not ready to start the story yet, but I can’t help but wonder if I’m not simply experiencing “starting over” jitters.

Quite frankly, it’s uncomfortable to start over. I’m not on familiar ground any more. There are unknowns lurking at the bottom of every page, questions I don’t even know to ask yet. And playing in the back of my mind like a song I can’t shake is the real issue: Who are these people and how do all these ideas fit together into one cohesive story?

Like any number of others, I’ve used the metaphor of weaving a story together — particularly in talking about the theme. If you misplace that thread by putting it in too prominent a place, readers will think you’re being preachy, but if you push it too far in the background, it will lose all potency. It’s a good picture — threads everywhere, and trying to get them all through the loom in the right order.

Then there are all the technique things I know now that I didn’t know when I started my last book. Can I layer my plot and incorporate appropriate subplots that will enhance the theme? Will my character’s inner conflict play well with the external conflict?

So with the doubts swirling in my head and the satisfaction of preparation, I wonder if I’m missing the important point of starting over — actually getting words down. That first sentence, first paragraph, first page.

Will I know when I have all I need to actually start? Will there be nothing left to do but flesh out the scenes that have started to form in my head?

Sometimes I wish writers could apprentice, like craftsmen of old used to do. Then I could ask a wise, experienced author how it will be, when I will know. But the thing about writing, it’s not the same experience for everyone.

I know some writers who would rather sit down and start writing so they can get to know their character, the world, the bit players, the backstory. I understand that. I learn a lot when I write. It forces me to think things through before I can set them down in a coherent way.

But when it comes to fiction, I don’t know enough to start writing until I get some of those questions answered. Otherwise, I’m writing the same character, the same problems, just clothed with different made up skin.

So here I am, at the cusp of a new beginning, and I’m wondering, how will I know when it’s time to jump.

As I said, I learn as I write, so as I finished that last sentence, it dawned on me that as a Christian, I don’t have to worry about even such a thing because I’m not in this venture alone, any more than I’m in any other part of daily living alone. He who began a good work in me — that refining process to make me like His Son, Jesus Christ — isn’t going to walk away with the job half done. So whatever He wants to do with my writing will be part of that ultimate purpose.

Then these verses came to mind:

Deut. 31:6 – Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.

Deut. 31:8 – The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.

Yes, I know. Those verses weren’t written to writers. Moses said this to Israel and to Joshua before they crossed over the Jordan into the land God was giving them. But like every other verse of Scripture, these have been given to teach, reprove, correct, and train in righteousness.

How much more should I who have the Holy Spirit living in my life be able to count on the truth that God will not fail or forsake me? Consequently, in the face of starting over, I don’t need to fear or be dismayed.

Published in: on February 3, 2012 at 7:13 pm  Comments (8)  
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Our Organic God

One of the things writers talk about is creating stories organically. The alternative is to force a story to become what you want it to become by reducing it to a formula. Organic stories are the ones that seem real, that last long after you’ve closed the book, that affect you rather than merely entertaining you.

There is no one key to writing organic stories, but they must have characters that seem like real people with believable motivations, realistic emotional patterns and true-to-life psychological mechanisms for handling problems.

The formulaic characters are little more than place holders. In a formulaic romance, for example, insert heroine in page 1, the opening paragraph; slot in romantic lead in chapter 2. Almost it doesn’t matter who these people are. They will have some problem that keeps them apart for a third of the book, then they will draw toward one another only to run into a wedge that drives them further apart for another third. Then when all seems hopeless and the heroine experiences the black night of the soul, they resolve the conflict and come together. Or something like that. You get the gist. There’s a pattern, one that romance writers are taught to follow in writing seminars.

I’m not trying to pick on romances. I think westerns can be just as formulaic and so can mysteries. Character X discovers crime Y with suspects A, B, and C. You get the idea.

I don’t know enough about any of these genres to know whether there is a way to write them organically — to make them come alive and therefore to separate from the pack. I do know that readers of formulaic books have a hard time remembering if they’ve already read Busted, Bashed, or Butchered. (I just made up those titles, but that kind of title connection in a series is another part of the formula). Even by reading the back cover, readers can draw a blank. Is this the book they read? It sounds vaguely familiar, but so do the other two.

What does all this have to do with God?

I’m reading in the book of Job once more and I was struck with the fact that Job’s friends saw God as a formulaic figure. He was as good as programmed, in their minds, and had to act in manner C if person A did action B. In other words, they were not seeing God as organic — alive and relational. They were talking about Him as if He were an it, a force, a thing they could predict.

While Job was wrong to complain against God and to accuse Him of wrong doing (which is why he repented in the end), he nevertheless got it right that God is a free and independent person, transcendent, in fact, and able to act however He wants to act. He’s organic.

In the last few years some professing Christians have accused traditional Christianity of putting God in a box (or a book with gilded pages — or was that guilt? See The Shack). Let Him be organic, in other words. Well, funny thing. The most organic thing a person can do is reveal who he is. You want to know me? Let me tell you about myself so that you’re not reading your own thoughts or feelings or motives into my actions.

This, God chose to do.

Instead of embracing His story about Himself and His relationship with Mankind, however, many people, even “religious” ones, decide they get to say who God is and what He’s like. What they’re doing is “re-imaging” Him into the formula they’ve created, in the same way that Job’s friends did.

God must punish sin and reward righteousness, those men of old said. That was their formula. Consequently, they left no room for God to do anything else with an unrighteous man other than bring disaster down on his head. And since disaster hit Job five fold, he was clearly, according to their formula, an unrighteous man.

People today do essentially the same thing. God is loving and kind and forgiving and tolerant and an advocate for peace. Therefore he would never send people to hell, order the death of an entire people group, or consign the entire human race to live with a sin nature because one person ate a bite of forbidden fruit. That’s not God, they say.

Maybe that’s not the formulaic God they’ve concocted, but the organic God who is sovereign, just, and good, can do all the things He revealed in His word. And more.

Published in: on January 17, 2012 at 6:21 pm  Comments (2)  
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I Started A New Book

One possible image of Jim Thompson, protagonist of The Lore Of Efrathah

I’m not reading a new book. I’m writing a new book. This may not be a big deal to lots of writers, but it is to me. I’ve been working on The Lore Of Efrathah, the four book epic fantasy story of Jim Thompson and his journey … well, hopefully some day you’ll get to read it. But suffice it to say, I’ve been working on that story for a very long time.

The book I’m starting now is my “Hobbit” book — the prequel of the four-book epic. I’m pretty excited about it, to be honest. At first I didn’t have a story, just an end point. I also knew I didn’t want it to be a journey quest, since that’s primarily what Lore is. I wanted this one to be different, but similar enough so that readers who like it wouldn’t be disappointed with the four-book epic.

So now I have the rudiments of a story, and I’m in the process of developing characters. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve had to flesh out main characters. Sure, I added minor characters from time to time, especially in Against Blood and Fire, the conclusion of Lore. But this is different. This is the main character and the necessary opponents. Who are these people, I keep asking. What do they want?

It’s slower than I’d like, but more fun, too. Slower because I’m taking a different approach this time. I’m really trying to get the scaffolding up before I start writing. I mean, I want the story structure to be in place. I want to know it’s right, that it works, that I have all the pieces.

Not that I think I’ll map out the story, then sit down and write. I don’t work that way. In John Truby’s book The Anatomy of Story which I’ve been going through, he has twenty-two steps in developing the story framework, one being to list all the scenes you’ll have in your book.

I balked. No way am I ready to list scenes. Even when I knew my characters inside and out and had the end of the series all lined up and in my sights would I have dared to write out a list of scenes. How can I know, when things change so easily?

I tried that in my first book. I carefully outlined the entire thing but as I wrote, the next logical step after I completed one scene was something different from my outline. So I inserted and changed and doubled back and skipped. And decided I’d never do the entire outline ahead of time again.

But I have to know what’s going to happen in the present scene and maybe in the one after that. I can’t write when I’m facing blankness. I don’t know how to start.

I stumbled on a system that works well for me, and later learned that Jim Bell had a name for it in his Plot & Structure book. I use the headlights method. I need to shine the light far enough ahead so I can see where to go, and I need to know what my destination is, but I don’t need to have the entire map laid out in front of me as I head down the road.

I’ve got lots to do still. I don’t have names for my characters yet. They are still Hero, Opponent 1, Opponent 2 and so on. I don’t know the subplots for sure and I don’t know who the allies will be, though I have some rough idea.

The main thing I’m trying to do now is get to know this new protagonist, and not make him a Jim Thompson clone!

Anyway, if any of you think of it, you can pray for me as I venture out into this new story. It’s exciting, as I said, and at times a little daunting. I fluctuate from thinking the plot is too convoluted to thinking it’s too simple and boring. I think I’ll never know the characters well enough, that I won’t be able to make someone with the set of needs and desires Hero has, likable enough for readers to take to him.

So yes, I would appreciate many prayers. Only by God’s grace will I be able to make this story what I would like it to be.

The Importance Of Living Life

I don’t know if this is typical of other writers, but when I first started writing full time, I became nearly obsessed with my work. I loved writing. I often explained that my job was living inside that dream world readers get lost in when they’re submerged in a good book. It was pure joy, and I could work long hours and not even realize how much time had passed.

I wanted to work seven days a week, too. For some reason — I can only think that God’s Spirit directed me — I decided that so much time devoted to my writing could end up burning me out. That was such a sad thought — that the thing I loved so much could become tedious, boring, laborious — I was willing to take precautions against such an eventuality, so I decided to take a “Sabbath” rest.

Even with the day off, my life was radically different. As a teacher, I’d lived by the calendar. Holidays were special days that changed my routine, even if I used them for work. Summer was a different season, weekends always involved doing something non-work related.

But as a writer, one day was much the same as the other. Saturdays could be writing days just as easily as Tuesdays. Summers were no longer unique from the rest of the year. Holidays that didn’t involve family get-togethers were no longer special, unless I made them so intentionally.

Yet why would I? I loved writing. It was like going on vacation every day of the week.

At some point, however, I woke up to a fact I’d ignored: by expending myself on my writing, I was no longer doing the things that fueled my thoughts in the first place. I wasn’t living life. I wasn’t even observing it any more.

The fact is, to write, even something as simple as these blog posts, a writer has to have input as surely as a fresh water lake must have both an outlet and a source for the water filling it. Without the outlet, the water becomes stagnant, without the source, the lake dries up.

In short, a writer needs to write, but he or she must also live life — read good books both fiction and non-fiction, magazines, online articles, even newspapers (yes, they still exist 😉 ); spend time doing a non-writing related hobby; hang out with non-writer friends from time to time; go somewhere; see something; schedule in exercise, chores, the mundane we’d just as soon pass off to someone else — which, it turns out, helps our thinking processes.

Interestingly, these writer principles also apply to Christians. We need our spiritual tank renewed in the same way that a writer needs his emotional and mental (and spiritual) tanks renewed. And of equal importance is the outlet. We need to serve others, not just soak up truth. Of course it’s easy to think serving our families is sufficient, even all-consuming, but I tend to think we benefit from a wider channel that reaches more people.

I also tend to think we benefit when our service includes spiritual service. Shoveling snow for our neighbor is a great way to show love, but perhaps we need to broach spiritual issues with them too. I am the worst when it comes to bringing up spiritual matters with someone I think is uninterested. I don’t want to be offensive or preachy, but I can’t help but wonder how many times I’ve passed up opportunities to talk with someone starved for the love of the Lord because I didn’t want them to be uncomfortable.

Here’s where listening to the Holy Spirit comes into play, I think.

I’m also reminded of Colossians 4:6 — “Let your speech always be with grace as though seasoned with salt so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” The always makes me think there’s a pattern we are to build into our speech so that the knowing how to respond flows from it naturally.

Like the water overflowing from a lake.

Published in: on January 3, 2012 at 5:57 pm  Comments (4)  
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Whose World Is It, Part 5 – In, But Not Of

One last important point for us to understand regarding the issue of who’s ruling the world.

First some linguistic background. The Greek word for world is kosmos (which you may recognize as the source for the English word cosmos). According to Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon, the Biblical meaning of the word can be outlined as follows (excluding several points that seem irrelevant to this discussion):

3) the world, the universe

4) the circle of the earth, the earth

5) the inhabitants of the earth, men, the human family

6) “the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ

7) world affairs, the aggregate of things earthly

    a) the whole circle of earthly goods, endowments riches, advantages, pleasures, etc, which although hollow and frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ

I’ve always assumed that context made it clear which of these meanings applied to a particular verse, but now I see that some people might take a verse like John 3:16 and read into the word world, not “the inhabitants of the earth,” as I do, but “the world, the universe.”

I still think context reveals meaning. For example, John 3:16 follows “For God so loved the world” with “whoever believes in Him,” clarifying that this use of world relates to entities with the capacity to believe — humans.

Perhaps the most telling passage in this discussion is I John 2:15-17 because John clearly uses the world in several of its meanings. In other words, he puts the universe and the aggregate of things earthly together, under the same admonition:

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. [emphasis mine]

James echos a portion of these thoughts when he says, “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

The Christian, then, is to be distinct. We are to fix our eyes on Jesus, set our minds on things above, reject loving the world and things in the world.

But what about “the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ”?

I haven’t done an exhaustive study of the word “world” to say categorically that I know this to be absolute, but I have reason to believe that, rather than rejecting love for the world of lost sinners, the Christian is directed to love each.

One passage that leads me in this direction is Philippians 3:18-19 where Paul says, “For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things” (emphasis mine).

Why would Paul be weeping unless he felt great sorrow at the condition, including the destruction, of these enemies of the cross?

“Enemies” brings me to the second reason. We are instructed in Scripture to love our enemies. In addition, Christ told us that we would be hated in the world.

“If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. (John 15:19; see also John 17:14)

On the strength of this hatred, I conclude “the world,” meaning, “the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ” encompasses the enemies I am to love.

So here’s this final point: not loving the world but loving those trapped by their own sin nature in the system that hates God and teaches them to do likewise puts the Christian in a tenuous place. We must be close enough to “the ungodly multitude” so we can love them but far enough from “the aggregate of things earthly” that we don’t start loving them. Therein lies the tension of being in the world but not of it.

The significance for writers is this: while there is a place for writing to encourage, instruct, or admonish fellow believers, our call as a group is not limited to that type of writing. We have a responsibility to “the ungodly multitude” too. Who else do we think is going to see the light we are to be, in a crooked and perverse generation? (See Phil. 2:14-15)

As Jesus reminds us, light needs to be displayed prominently, not hidden away. Writers, including bloggers, aren’t exclusive in this opportunity, but working with words makes our light-showing job all the easier.

Published in: on November 9, 2011 at 1:24 pm  Comments (3)  
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Name That Book

The story started somewhat slowly, what with the main character off taking a hike. Alone. In an isolated countryside.

And a good deal of it was told, with long sections reserved for first person descriptive observations.

What’s more, the “train-wreck” scene — apparently part of the contemporary formula for holding readers’ interest (see author Mike Duran’s recent post “What Grabs Readers and What Keeps Them”) was only alluded to because the main character was out cold.

And yet, this is a classic. Not one from the 1800s, mind you. This book was written in modern (though certainly not contemporary) times. It’s even part of a series.

Most Christians would list it as Christian fiction, though it was published by a general market press before the era of Evangelical Christian Publishing Association houses. There is no conversion scene, no gospel message, no allegory.

The genre is adult speculative, and speculate is probably what this one does the best. It’s imaginative, original, inventive.

But in contrast to today’s literature, I suspect the meandering sentence structure, the somewhat stiff style, and the more expansive vocabulary of this one might be somewhat off-putting. I confess that I had to make a personal adjustment to a kind of writing I haven’t enjoyed for some time.

The story itself broke a lot of the “good story” guidelines. The main character didn’t particularly want anything except to survive. The antagonists turned out to be allies. The stakes didn’t seem particularly high. The rising action happened too soon and the denouement was far too long.

And yet …

Something about this one makes it compelling. Perhaps it’s the fresh view of our world. Or the ideas it suggests about the supernatural. Maybe it’s the close look at human nature the story affords.

Certainly the total is greater than its parts, but I have to think this one is great because of what it says more than anything else. Maybe that’s just my perspective.

And now, if you haven’t guessed already, I’ll give a series of specific clues. In the comments let me know if and when you figured out the title of this classic.

10. Though the story begins on earth, most of it takes place elsewhere.
9. There is no portal.
8. The main character is kidnapped.
7. His kidnappers mistakenly think they need to provide a human sacrifice.
6. The main character is a philologist by occupation.
5. His ability with language helps him discover the truth.
4. The hnau he once feared become his allies.
3. The storyline may have been influenced by H. G. Wells’s First Men in the Moon.
2. The main character is Dr. Elwin Ransom.
1. The author is C.S. Lewis.

And the book title is …

Out Of The Silent Planet.

What’s Important?

It’s easy to get inundated with activity. Maybe it’s a part of the Western culture or maybe it’s always been this way, but it seems as if there is always more to do than time to do it.

I felt that way when I was a teacher. If nothing else, there were always papers to grade, and I got used to carry a satchel and a red pen whenever I thought I might have a few “spare” moments … because there really weren’t any such things.

As a writer, little has changed. I still have laundry and dishes and the other household tasks, but the structured teaching day has been replaced by a less structured potpourri of activity: answering email, contacting PR representatives about blog tours, editing a chapter in my latest novel, responding to contacts on Facebook, working on the new editing project, writing a blog post, researching agents, hammering out another draft of a query letter, and on and on. Now I carry a blog tour book with me for those “spare” moments.

The day never ends with me crossing off the last item on my to do list. The best I seem to be able to manage is to tackle a few “must do” assignments. The problem is, what do I place in that “must do” category?

Some of these tasks are ones I don’t enjoy, others are why I wanted to be a writer. My first choice, quite obviously, would be to put the fun ones (actually writing) first. The problem with that approach is that I’d never get to the unpleasant but necessary ones.

I know some people who reverse the process — get the unpleasant out of the way first. The problem here is, those are recurrent, and it’s quite possible to never get to the fun ones. I can do all the work to build a platform and network with people in the writing business and promote my genre of choice (fantasy, in case anyone visiting might be unclear about that 😉 ) — and never write.

So today I took a little time to catch up on some of the blogs I try to follow (love Google Reader), and came across a post by PR pro Rebeca Seitz, she of last year’s Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference seminars (funny co-incidence that we have the same blog template, don’t you think?)

In Rebeca’s post, she put work into perspective — the privilege of connecting. After all, I write to connect, just as I once taught to connect or coached to connect. The great thing about writing is that I’m able to determine how meaningful that connection will be.

For me it has to start with prayer. First I must connect with God, then allow Him to show me how to proceed from there.

In His economy, though, nothing is wasted. No thirty-second chat on Facebook, no hour-long agent search. Not even throwing in a load of laundry.

The problem isn’t really in deciding what is most important or most necessary. It’s in perspective — viewing the work God gives me as something I can do for His glory. No matter how mundane or separated from “the fun stuff.”

And by the way, if you’re wondering, for me blogging is part of the fun stuff! 😀

Published in: on January 18, 2011 at 6:58 pm  Comments (2)  
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