Tag Archives: Reading

Three directions of a writer’s life

A writer’s time is precious. Duties pile up, deadlines taunt and torture, and demands play tug-of-war with your attention span. The fact is a writer must walk the writing journey with the ability to maintain a 3-way focus.

*A writer must look UPWARD: Writing Christian fiction is not a task that should be attempted without the realization that we need the strength only God can supply. It is essential that we be intentional in our discipleship. Writing is a stewardship from God, and good stewards stay in close contact with their Master. We should seek His face in personal worship on a regular basis during the week. Let us love Jesus with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Let us be far more in love with His Word than we are with our own words. Let’s spend time in His Book before we spend time in our own.

*A writer must look INWARD:  Every one of us needs to cultivate the habit of taking a personal inventory of our writing life. We should be brutally honest with ourselves and seek answers to questions like: Why am I writing? What are my strengths and weaknesses? What motivates me to write? What stops me from writing? How can I grow as a writer? What sacrifices do I need to make? Good writers never stop learning. And great writing doesn’t happen by accident.

*A writer must look OUTWARD:  If we see our writing as a service to our readers, we will craft stories that will connect with them. In a real sense, we have a responsibility to many people–our readers, agents, editors, and even to other writers. I would not be as far along in my writing journey if it were not for the gracious help of other writers. Even though busy with their own writing responsibilities, several writers have taken time to help me with mine. I won’t forget that kindness, and will do my best to serve & encourage other writers when I can. Writers need to remember we are part of a community of writers.

What do you think?

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

Top 10 Ways to tell if a Writer’s Spouse is needing Attention

The writing journey is hard on writers. Can I get an “AMEN!”? Pressure…hard work…did I mention pressure?

But being married to a writer can also be stressful. With that in mind, I present to you the Top 10 Ways to tell if a Writer’s Spouse is needing Attention:

 

#10:  They’re making prank phone calls just so they can have someone real to talk to. And if the person is normal, that’s a bonus.

# 9:  They come to a book signing just so they can have some face-to-face time with their writer spouse. And they keep getting in line because they’ve “got a lot on their mind.”

# 8:  They walk around the house naked just to see if their spouse will notice.

# 7:  They get in trouble with the IRS because they tried to claim the characters of their spouse’s current writing project as dependents since “they’re sooooooooo important!”

# 6:  They picket their spouse’s writers group meeting and chant, “Watch more TV! Watch more TV!”

# 5:  They call the county courthouse and offer to “Track Change” their marriage license.

# 4:  They have a shirt made that says, I got your inciting incident right here!

# 3:  They refer to their children as “precious consequences of writer’s block.”

# 2:  After planning the family vacation, they dance around the house and giggle profusely because they managed to find a spot in the desert that is hundreds of miles from a Barnes & Noble or a Starbucks.

# 1:  They call 9-1-1 and claim that an unfinished manuscript is holding their spouse hostage, and add, “the office is in the apartment above the garage…bring tear gas and those things that flash and go BOOM!

How about we just be sure to take care of the wonderful spouses that support us, so we avoid any of the above?

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“Plot or Characters?”

Do not fear the road of imagination…walk it boldly…take in the sights, the sounds, the tastes, the smells…the textures. Imagine your characters reaching from the pages of your story, and inviting your readers to take their hand and walk with them. Take your reader somewhere unique and believable. Make them hate to see the journey end, and leave them filled with regret that they have to bid the characters farewell.

I am the least qualified to answer the questions as to whether captivating characters or provocative plots drive a story from The words “Chapter One” to the words “The End.” People more capable than me have plucked the strings of that debate for decades, and the dueling banjos will be heard long after I am gone. But I know that plots without characters are like a musical score without an orchestra , and characters without plots are like an orchestra without any musical score.

Characters move me. Plots move them.

I have several characters packed in my imagination. Some are harmless. Some are funny and fun-loving. Some are broken. A few are well-intentioned but flawed. Some are capable of incredible good, while others sink to revolting depths of evil. Some are born out of the happy times in my life, and others are represent my deepest pains and my most unrelenting sorrows. And others…well, I’m not sure where they came from. But I’m sure we’ve met before.

And I also have stories blooming in my head. I can think of six story ideas that are demanding my attention right now. Two are sequels to books I’ve already written. One is a story idea that was plopped in my lap at a recent writers conference (thanks J. K.). Another is probably going to be the beginning of a series. And two are story ideas that started as contest entries and are begging to be fleshed out.

So, as a writer or a reader, what’s most important to you…plot or characters? Who are some of your favorite characters from books or movies? What are the most intriguing plots you’ve been caught up in?

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“Batting our Bicuspids for Books”

NOTE: At the end of today’s post, I’ve got an exciting announcement about the first ever interview to appear on this blog! I’m so excited I could scream (but I’m in the library at the moment, so I won’t).

The Apostle John and the Apostle Peter are seated at a table in a nice cafe in Jerusalem, enjoying a kosher breakfast, when in stomps the Apostle Paul, frustration furrowed across his brow. He’s rubbing his bald head and muttering.

“What’s wrong?” asks John as Paul paces next to the table.

“I’ve just come from Parchment Express. The business cards I ordered are still not ready!”

“Oh, for my sake,”Peter blurts. The two other Apostles turn and stare at him. His hand freezes inches from his mouth, a piece of dried fish pinched in his fingers. “Was that out loud?”

John nods. Paul rolls his eyes.

“Sorry,” Peter adds. “That’s a bad habit I’ve got.”

“As I was saying,” Paul says tartly, “I healed two guys in line, only to find out my two-colored cards–with all the relevant contact information for my next missionary journey–are not going to be ready on time. I’m going to have to head across the sea, and when I step out of the boat…no cards!”

“No cards,” mumbles Peter. “Try doing it with NO LAND!” His eyes go wide. “Opps…did it again.”

“Do you want me to oppose you to your face again?” Paul yells.

John bolts to his feet. “Brethren, let us love one another!”

Paul rubs the bridge of his hooked nose. “I’m sorry, Peter. It’s just that it was my whole marketing campaign.”

Peter downs the rest of his non-fermented grape juice (after all, it’s not yet 9 a.m.). “I can understand the frustration, Paul.” He slaps his hand on the table, his cheeks growing redder than usual. “I can’t get the scroll host for the church scrollsite to respond to any of my epistles! And my mother-in-law’s wanting to post recipes.”

“Have either of you ever tried animal stickers?” John asks.

“What?” Peter and Paul say in unison.

“You put them on the back ends of horses, mules, or camels. It’s a new marketing idea. I’m not sure it’s going to stick around,” John says, then busts out in a deep belly laugh. He finally catches his breath. “Stick around” Get it?”

Peter and Paul banish John from the cafe.

Friends, the best marketing strategy known to man hasn’t really changed. It’s called WORD OF MOUTH. Business cards, bumper stickers, bookmarks, and coffee mugs are fine, but they’re not a substitute for getting the word out by “batting our bicuspids.” (I use that phrase in honor of Dr. Howard Hendricks. I heard him use it in a sermon many years ago). I believe that, as writers of Christian fiction, we have a duty to one another to tell other people about the many great books that are available. Most people will pick up a book that someone they trust recommends. So if you loved a book, let someone know. Talk up other authors and their books. If you’ve been blessed by a book, chances are many other readers will be also.

Pick a book you’ve loved recently and tell ten people about it in the next week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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That Small But Loyal Band”

One of the disciplines that I try to keep up as a writer–and one that I recommend to writers at all stages of their writing journey–is to keep two types of reading a part of your regular routine: First, always be reading a novel or two. Read novels of all genres. Learn to appreciate the skill of another writer’s ability to tell a story. Second, always read, and reread, books on the craft of writing. And don’t limit your reading to only your particular type of writing–fiction writers can learn from those inclined to the non-fiction side of the table, and visa versa).

I’m glad to tell you about the craft book I’m reading now, because it has been a tremendous blessing to me. It’s published by Writer’s Digest Books (they have several great ones), and is called Word Painting: A Guide to Writing More Descriptively. I highly recommend this book by Rebecca McClanahan. It’s impossible to quote every line or paragraph that has wowed me (I think there are laws discouraging such liberal borrowing), so let me share just one quote (emphasis mine):

“Unlike visual artists, we [writers] have no brushes, no clay, no glazes, no many-colored palette to aid us in describing our world. And unlike performing artists, we have no keyboard, no trombone, no toe shoes, no tutu, no midair leap with which to stun our audience and ourselves. What we have is the alphabet, that small but loyal band of vowels and consonants.

Since the word is our only tool, we cannot afford to be imprecise…”

Writers are artists. I’m awed and humbled by that concept. Moreover, we’re using what has been entrusted to us as writers–namely words–to paint new worlds, or at least new perspectives of the old world, for our readers. It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. But writers know that the right words–precise and evocative–can be worth a thousand pictures in our readers minds.

So paint away, my friend. Gather that “small but loyal band of vowels and consonants” into a work of art. The world will be a more beautiful place because you did.

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What’s that smell?

Have you ever had anyone look at you through squinty eyes, their nose all scrunched up, and ask, “What’s thaaaaat smell?” Maybe you have noticed the offending odor, but have been unable to track down the guilty source. Or perhaps, like a teenager in his own bedroom, your sense of smell has been assaulted to numbness, leaving you unsure of what smell has the questioner’s nose bent out of joint. You might even be a tad embarrassed that you hadn’t noticed the stench before it went public.

Welcome to the writer’s life.

Nooooooo, I don’t mean that writers are smelly creatures, or that the task of writing stinks. What I’m referring to is your manuscript. Wait a minute! Relax that fist and take back what you just said about me and my fat head (my head is normal size, thank you.) And before you waste a perfectly good stove top by spilling tar all over it, let me explain what I meant. Please.

Every writer has stinky parts to their manuscripts. The problem is sometimes–many times, actually–we’ve sat in our own smell so long that we can’t tell roses from rotten eggs. We need to call in an independent nose to give our manuscript an objective sniff or two. Because, like it or not, your manuscript has a few rotten spots. Mine too.

Now, we can sit around and pretend that our manuscripts don’t have  pungent issues, or we can let a trained bloodhound follow the trail. Then we can eliminate the problem, and make our manuscripts far more enjoyable for our readers.

Don’ be afraid to expose your manuscript to people who can give you honest feedback. Join a local ACFW chapter or a similar group that encourages members to critique one another. Or develop a stable of first-readers who you can trust. Offer to read other writer’s manuscripts, in order to be of service to them too.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go…something smells.

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A Journey To Remember

My daughter, Jayne, and I have gone many places together. And we’ve repeatedly died.

Often our demise has been chalked up to extreme temperatures. Then there were the times when we accidentally shot ourselves while hunting for food…irinically so we wouldn’t starve to death. Trying to cross flooded rivers has done us in more than once too. And even when we’ve managed to survive these things, we’ve had to stop and bury other members of our traveling party who didn’t. And usually those who are dead or dying have been sick with scurvy, cholera, or other ailments. Then there were those nasty “bites”…mosquito bites, snake bites, and frostbite. Icky.

We’ve encountered flooded trails, polluted water, broken wagons, prairie fires, harsh thunderstorms, blinding blizzards, gnawing hunger, exhausting thirst, blocked roads, steep paths, wild animals, quicksand, dust-storms, high mountains and relentless deserts. Also, we’ve had to deal with ill-tempered travelers, injured draft animals and high prices at hole-in-the-wall trading posts. Double yuck.

I can imagine some people turning to their spouses and saying, “We’re never going anywhere with the Timm family. I’d rather go visit your mother!”

Don’t worry. Jayne and I experienced these journeys from the comfort of our home while playing Oregon Trail on the computer. It’s a game that provides an educational–if not terror-filled–journey demonstrating what early settlers underwent and overcame to reach a new home and start new lives.

Good writing takes a reader on a journey too. Maybe they are emotionally connected to a character or curiosity keeps them turning the pages or a sense of unsatisfied justice makes them need to see what happens to the villain. And the reader is on a journey of our making. And it better be believable. Because time is precious. There had better be something for their heart and mind to embrace. They have to feel a strong need to continue–even finish–the journey with you.

And, as a writer, I want them to make it to the end…better for the journey.

Answer this question: what keeps you turning the pages of a book?

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What makes you read or write?

     I’ve always loved reading books. And my wife and I have tried to instill that love in our children. We took them to libraries when they were tiny Timms. In fact, I’m surprised that one of them wasn’t born between two bookshelves.

     The discipline of reading is essential to the survival of a society. Illiteracy erodes generation after generation, until–like the Hebrews during their darkest days–a generation comes along that’s ignorant of their heritage because they have no want (or ability) to read the documents in which that once great heritage is captured. That’s why illiteracy in the USA, and in the church overall, has such catastrophic consequences. illiteracy breeds ignorance, which breeds contempt, which breeds apathy, which breeds the lack of ability or desire to think.

     I’m convinced that every writer should be a reader. We should read often, and read widely–daring to step out of our genre. A few of my favorite writers–such as Deborah Raney, Nancy Mehl, Karl Bacon–are not just suspense writers. Their books contain suspense, but they are very good in so many other areas (romance, or historical fiction for example). But I learn from them…the way they describe things, use different interesting phrases to describe things, etc… I love to read Terri Blackstock and Brandilyn Collins. And not long ago, I read The Stand by Stephen King. I learn so much about writing by reading people who excel at it. And I’ve been a Sherlock Holmes addict for years. Is there a support group for that?

     Why do you love to read? Why do you want others to love to read? Why do you want others to pick up a copy of your book and read it?

     Please share your answers with me. I’m looking forward to reading them. I might just learn something.

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