Category Archives: editing

Been there, done that

 

   Recently I heard a joke about a guy who went in for surgery. After he was rolled into the pre-op area, his wife trudged her way down the long haul toward the hospital cafeteria. But two steps from the cafeteria entrance, she heard her husband screaming, and she froze in her tracks. She looked down the hall to see him running toward her.

“Honey, what’s wrong?” she asked.

He pointed at the nurse marching down the hall towards them. “I heard what she said!”

“What did she say?”

“She said, ‘I know you’ve never been through this kind of operation before, but it’s a relatively minor procedure, so try to stop shaking. There’s a good chance everything will turn out okay.'”

The wife shook her head. “But, honey, the nurse was just trying to help you.”

His eyes went wide. “She was talking to the doctor!”

Yeah, we’d all like to know that our surgeon has been there and done that before we entrust our bodies to him. I don’t want my doctor to point to an x-ray and exclaim, “Wow! What’s that d0-hicky there?” Hardly a confidence builder.

One of the challenges of being a writer is deciding who to go to for advice. Let’s face it–and this is an uncomfortable truth–there are a few self-proclaimed experts out there on the literary landscape. Doubtless, many of them mean well and can even offer random nuggets of information that can benefit any writer. But others have never really been there and done that. And, frankly, your time as a writer is too precious to waste. The stewardship of story calls for us to carefully exercise discernment.

Thankfully there are tons of people (al though I’ve never actually weighed them) out there who bring to the proverbial table wisdom gained by the experience of having walked the road themselves. They are usually very humble people who are willing to share what they’ve learned because the respect the craft, and they genuinely want to help another writer succeed. They remember the times someone helped them in the past, and the vow they made to sacrificially do the same if they ever had the chance.

How do YOU decide who will help shape your story? How do YOU decide who to go to for advice? Any experience–good or not-so-good–you care to share (don’t mention names, please)?

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Filed under Christian Fiction, Christian Growth, Christian Life, editing, Larry W. Timm, reading, Writing

“Top 10 Signs You Need a Break from Writing”

Hey, even writers need a vacation. No matter how much we love something, we sometimes need a break from it. Here are the Top 10 Signs You Need a Break from Writing. If any of these describe you, put your hands above your head and back away from your WIP slowly.

TOP 10 SIGNS YOU NEED A BREAK FROM WRITING:

#10:  You are stalking someone so you can eventually interview them and ask them how it felt.

# 9:  You refer to your spouse as “the antagonist I’m currently married to.”

# 8:  Your best friend cries on your shoulder and shares a terrible problem they’re having in their life, and all you can say is, “Ohhhhhhh, this will make a great inciting incident in my book!”

# 7:  When you go on vacation, you pack a suitcase for each of your main characters.

# 6:  One of your children interrupts you with a question, and you say, “And what chapter are you in?”

# 5:  You dial 9-1-1 and say, “I need to see how fast you can get here! ready? Go! Hurry, this is research, lady!”

# 4:  When you’re in jail for repeatedly calling 9-1-1 for research (see #5), you scare the beejeebers out of your cell mates by telling them how you once used a flip-flop to kill a man, and then disposed of his body with a wood-chipper…and you forget to tell them it’s fiction…or was it?

# 3:  You let one of your favorite characters die and then refuse to speak to yourself for a week.

# 2:  You realize that you just dictated the last six chapters of your book into your electric razor. (And now your chin is bleeding).

# 1:  You run up to the poor kid mowing your lawn and scream, “I said to leave one inch margins, moron!”

Soooooo, anyone (else) need a break? 🙂

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Filed under Christian Fiction, editing, Larry W. Timm, Top 10 List, Top Ten list, Writing

Have They Seen His Story?

On my trek from North Carolina back to Kansas, I passed near Joplin, MO and saw a billboard for the Precious Moments Chapel near by. A few precious moments characters were pictured on the billboard, along with the words “Have You Seen His Story?” Cute little characters were waiting to illustrate the news of God’s love, if I only had time to take the proper exit and drop by. But I didn’t.

But that wasn’t the end of it. My writer’s brain grabbed me with strong hands of conviction and stared deep into my soul. And that still, small voice said, “When someone reads one of your books, will they been given the opportunity to see His Story?”

Writers, we are simply ambassadors for Christ on the printed page. So may we agree with the hymn writer and find great joy in telling His Story to our readers. It will be our theme in glory…let’s become accustomed to it here.

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Filed under Christian Fiction, Christian Growth, Christian Life, editing, family, Larry W. Timm

Invest & Invite

When you invest in your dream, you invite success to come your way.

This is why I’m spending money to drive 1000 miles and attend the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. It’s why I’m willing to separated from my family for a short period of time. It’s why I allowed myself and my writing to be vulnerable by entering a couple of contests. It’s why I’m going to risk making a fool out of myself and pitch my work to agents and editors. It’s why I’m going to cram my days with workshops, classes, and face-to-face time with other writers who are skilled in the craft and business of writing.

Are any of these things guarantees that I will find an agent or a publishing contract this week? No. But by investing in my dream of being a published novelist, I am giving myself opportunities to succeed. The fact is, these writers, agents, and editors aren’t going to show up on my doorstep. I have to invest in my work before I can expect them to do the same.

And as I pack my van, load up the cooler with snacks and Dr. Pepper, stuff my luggage with sample chapters and one-sheets, and plug-in the borrowed GPS, I realize how blessed I am to have a wife and children who support my dream. They cheer me on as I chase this calling–this stewardship of story–and whatever success comes my way, I know it is theirs as much as it is mine.

Writer, invest in your dream, and invite success to come your way also.

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“The Danger of Making a Long Story Short”

Word usage is of key importance in writing. We’re told to use active words instead of passive words, evocative terms rather than lifeless ones, and we even characterize our manuscripts by “word count” instead of number of pages. All of us have heard the critical advice to cut out “weasel” words, and, thereby, unclutter our WIPs. All of this is wise. But sometimes saying something in the least amount of words actually makes thing worse.

Here are some examples of what I mean. These are, reportedly, actual statements found on insurance forms where drivers attempted to summarize the details of an accident in the fewest words possible.

  • Coming home, I drove into the wrong house and collided with a tree I don’t have.
  • I collided with a stationary truck coming the other way.
  • The guy was all over the road. I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him.
  • I was on my way to the doctor with rear end trouble when my universal joint gave way, causing me to have an accident.
  • The indirect cause of the accident was a little guy with a big mouth.
  • I was thrown from my car as it left the road. I was later found in a ditch by some stray cows.
  • The telephone pole was approaching. I was attempting to swerve out of its way when it struck the front end.
  • I’d been driving for forty years, when I fell asleep causing the accident.
  • As I approached the intersection, a signal appeared in a place where no stop sign had ever appeared before. I was unable to stop in time to avoid the accident.
  • My car was legally parked as it backed into the other vehicle.
  • An invisible car came out of nowhere and struck my car and vanished.
  • I told the police that I was not injured, but on removing my hat, found that I had a fractured skull.
  • I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law, and headed over the embankment.

It isn’t the amount of words, but the right amount of words that matters. Yes, often things can be said using fewer words. I’m all for efficiency. But there are also times that we edit ourselves into trouble, being more concerned about counting words than using words that count. Sometimes we get in trouble when we try to “make a long story short.”

What do you think?

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“Am I Really An Author?”

I had a pretty cool experience a few weeks ago. I still smile when I think about it. I was talking with a new friend when his wife walked up. He said, “Honey, do you know Larry Timm?”

She looked at me and smiled. “Oh, you’re an author, aren’t you?”

I was floored, and momentarily speechless (which is surprising to some people). An Author! A split second later, grinning like a gassy infant, I managed to say, “Well…um…I…I…that is…yeah, I’m a writer. I haven’t been published yet, though.” Then I giggled.

What a dork.

I’ll bet she walked away absolutely impressed with my command of the English language. But I still think about that moment with fondness (except for the grin and giggle). I’d never been called an author before. In public even! She seemed very positive about the entire idea. Like it was a compliment or something.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the whole thing is pretty cool. I liked hearing someone say the word. But can I claim to be an author before I’m actually published? I’m a writer, and I’m working hard to become a published author, but I haven’t experienced that honor yet.

What would have happened if I’d said, “Yes. I. Am. An. Author.”? Out loud. In public.

Many scenarios run through my over-active imagination: Like the police pulling me over later and saying, “Mr. Timm, you’re under arrest for impersonating an author.” And then they taser me just for the fun of it. Then I imagine being shaken awake and looking up into the eyes of my perturbed mother. She kicks dirty laundry into the only uncluttered corner of my boyhood room and says, “Wake up, son. You must have been having a wild dream. You were giggling like a nut, and mumbling author…author…author…shhhhh, they’ll hear you.” Then she hands me a paper towel. “Wipe that drool off your cheek, for Pete’s sake. By the way, I put the zit cream on your dresser. Get up and get dressed for school. And what’s that smell?” Or I see myself stretched out on a couch. Next to the couch, a stuffy looking lady with glasses is sitting in a padded office chair and looking down her upturned nose at me. There’s a diploma on her wall that says, “Dr. Ugotta B. Kiddinme, Doctor of Mental Stuff.” She slides her glasses off and taps her pen on the thick file perched on her lap. “Now, Laurence, we’ve been through this before–many sessions ago–you’re not really an author. Do we need to increase your meds?” Or I picture sitting rigid at a table, wires taped to my hand, chest, and head. A guy leans over a machine and stares at the lines being drawn on a paper. “Yes or No…are you an author?” I’m sweating under the overly large light bulb dangling above my head. “Yes or No, Mr. Timm? And, by the way, we’ll know if you’re lying…and man are you going to be sorry if you are.”

Soooooo, I’m needing some guidance here. I’d appreciate your comments.

Is there a difference between a WRITER and an AUTHOR?

What do you think about that question? I know that all authors are writers, but are all writers authors? And how did it feel the first time YOU were called an author?

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“Top Ten Really Unhelpful Comments to Read in a Rejection Letter”

Let’s face it: every writer is going to get rejected. But the rejection letter would sting much worse if it contained any of the following “Top Ten Really Unhelpful Comments.”

#10:  Not only will I not represent you, but you owe me $79.65 for toner. I’ve never gone through so much red in only three chapters! (I’m sending toner receipt as a separate attachment).

# 9:  Be in formed that our agency will not be able or willing to take you as a client because…well, that would just be plain silly.

# 8:  Were you sober when you wrote this?

# 7:  But look on the bright side: you’re going to have lots more time for other hobbies since it’s clear you’re not a writer.

# 6:  Thanks for sending me your manuscript, as you’ve made my decision to retire much easier.

# 5:  My agency will not be able to represent you. And, I’m sorry, but I will be able to return your manuscript because I threw up on it.

# 4:  While I’m certainly not interested in representing you, I’m enclosing the address of another agent that you should send this manuscript to…because I can’t stand the guy.

# 3:  In addition to the recommendation that you stop writing immediately, I also highly recommend that you go get a CaT-Scan.

# 2:  After reading only two chapters of your hideous book, I was incredibly envious of the character who died in chapter one.

# 1:  I’d give you more reasons why I hated your book, but UPS just delivered the do-it-yourself Electric Shock Therapy Kit I had overnighted to me. I’ve got a whole lot of forgetting to do!

Rejection hurts, huh?

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“There Once Was a Nice Lady…”

Okay, fellow writers, enjoy the following story, and then I’ll meet you at the end for a few sentences of application. Someone gave me this story many years ago, and I like to share it when I can. It’s moving. Uhhummm.

There one was a nice lady who was a little old-fashioned. She was planning a vacation at a particular popular campground, but first she wanted to make sure of the accommodations.

Uppermost in her mind were the toilet facilities. She couldn’t bring herself to write the word toilet in a letter, so she settled on bathroom commode. But when she wrote that down it still sounded too forward, so she rewrote her letter to the campground director and referred to the bathroom commode as the BC. “Does your campground have a BC?” she finally wrote.

The campground director was baffled by this euphemism. He showed the letter to several people and they couldn’t decipher it either. Finally he decided that she must be asking about the location of the nearest Baptist Church, so he say down and penned this reply.

“Dear Madam, I regret very much the delay in answering your letter, but now I take pleasure in informing you that a BC is located about nine miles north of the campground and is capable of seating 250 people at one time. I admit this is quite a distance away if you are in the habit of going regularly. However, you will be pleased to know that a great many people take their lunch along and make a day of it. They usually arrive early and stay late.

“The last time my wife and I went was about six years ago and it was so crowded that we had to stand up the whole time. It may interest you to know that there is a supper planned to help raise money to buy more seats. This will be held in the basement of the BC. I would like to say that it pains me very much not to be able to go more often, but it is surely no lack of desire on my part. As we grow older it seems to be more of an effort, particularly in cold weather.

“If you decide to visit our campground, perhaps I could go with you the first time, sit with you, and introduce you around to all the other folks. Remember, this is a friendly community.”

Okay, my writer friends, how important is it that we be clear in our writing? Do we really need to offer concrete descriptions, discernible character development, and understandable dialogue? If we are writing Christian fiction, can we afford to be misunderstood or to have our message (if we have one) lost along the way because we did a poor job of communicating clearly? Let me know what you think. By the way, I’m going to Blue Ridge in a few weeks, should I check to see if they have a BC at the conference?

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“Top 10 Bad Ways To Start an Acceptance Speech When You Win a Writing Contest”

Still working on my version of a theme song for American Christian Fiction Writers, so here’s another “Top 10” list. Many writers–myself included–have entered writing contests. And, possibly, a few writers have fantasized about what they’d say or do if they won and had to make an acceptance speech. Here are ten things to avoid:

Top Ten Bad Ways To Start an Acceptance Speech When You Win A Writing Contest

#10:  By fainting on stage.

# 9:  By way of live video feed from the restroom

# 8:  By saying, “Personally, I think my book stinks! Wow, the other entries in this category must have been really bad!”

# 7:  By crying so hard that you short-circuit the microphone and electrocute yourself.

# 6:  By saying, “Man, this award looks a lot smaller up close.”

# 5:  By saying, “Since I may never actually publish this book, I’m going to read the entire thing to you now. Chapter one…….

# 4:  By jumping on your table and yelling, “Show me the money!”

# 3:  By staring at the editor who rejected your previous book and screaming, “Track Change this!”

# 2:  By declaring, “I’d just like to say to the other contestants, Na-Na-Na-Na-Na-Na!”

# 1:  By shaking your head in disbelief and announcing, “I didn’t really think this book would win when I printed it off the internet!”

Any other bad things could happen (besides me in a kilt)?

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“Turn that Frown Upside Down…but not for long!”

I love to laugh. And I really enjoy making other people laugh. There’s something extremely satisfying about the power of humor. I try to sprinkle humorous moments through my suspense novels as a way of taking my foot off the gas for a moment, so the reader can take a breath. I want the reader to have a chuckle and enjoy a smile, but I want them to look out the windshield and see that another hairpin curve is up ahead. I want them to anticipate what’s about to happen.

Humor is as necessary as it is revealing.

It’s necessary because it can serve as a relief valve, allowing us to vent out some of the pressures that build up. It’s revealing in regard to the type and timing of the humor. And, often times, the power of humor is found in its ability to be a bonding agent. Humor is a universal experience. People of all cultures, generations, languages, and backgrounds find enjoyment in a good laugh. Smiles cross almost all barriers.

And humor is a great “set-up” tool. A reader laughs at something and, willingly or not, drops their guard a little. And when they do that, a writer can wring the most out of the next jolt of suspense. It’s like watching people giggle as the roller coaster climbs the steep incline, even though they know that “what goes up, must go down.” (I don’t personally ride roller coasters because when it comes to the contents of my stomach, the rule is reversed:  “what goes down will come up.”).

When a reader finishes one of my books, I want them to have no hesitation when they say, “That was a suspense book. What a ride!” And if the humor did its job, the ride was even better than they hoped it would be.

Do you think humor, especially in suspense books, is effective? Do you have any examples of writers who do it well?

SPECIAL NOTE: Please take a moment and drop by my friend’s blog, and enjoy an interview that Bethany Shaw Macmanus did with me. Let Bethany know what you think. I’m honored to be her guest at www.anoiseinthenight.wordpress.com

FRIDAY’S POST: I’m working on my version of a theme song for American Christian Fiction Writers and another “Top 10” list…so be sure to see which one is posted on Friday.  🙂

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