Tag Archives: stories

Please observe the rules…guidelines…suggestions

Sometime ago, during my years as a funeral director, I was at a church preparing for a funeral. I was passing through their fellowship hall and a sign on the wall caught my attention. It read, “Please observe Parish Hall rules: NO tape on walls!”

I’ll give you one guess how the sign was attached to the wall. Yep…tape.

I have a great respect for the craft of writing, and especially for those who have earned the right to make observations about what works and what doesn’t. I am learning–weekly it seems–that there is so much I don’t know and need to learn. Since I’m an expert at nothing, I am trying to be open-minded and devoted to doing what is necessary to improve my writing skills and my story-telling ability. So I seek advice, search out critiques of my work, and try to get to know those who are recognized as accomplished writers. I work hard and long to see what I’m doing right and what I’m doing wrong.

And I try to follow the rules…if I can figure them out. But isn’t okay to just admit that there aren’t really that many hard-and-fast rules in traditional-style publishing anymore? Sometimes, what is a rule for one writer just doesn’t apply to another. These custom-fit guidelines are important, to be sure, but sometimes new writers are confused because they are told not to do something that others are doing. They’re told, “it won’t work” or “so-and-so won’t publish it like this.” Then you find out, however, that another publisher will.

What’s a new writer to do?

First, understand that there’s a difference between a rule and a commandment. A rule is a solid guideline that describes the way something is expected to be done at the current time. A commandment is forever (God has never amended or revised His Ten Commandments.) Rules are sometimes proactive and sometimes reactive. They are useful for structure. Rules change when it’s demonstrated that “it can be done another way.”

Humility and respect are the keys, in my opinion. The simple fact is, as an unpublished and unknown writer, I haven’t earned the right to toss the “rules” aside. I don’t have the same unspoken permission the bend/break the rules because I haven’t sold any books yet…I don’t have a track record of making anyone any money. I can pout, whine, complain, and get all snarky, but what good does that do? Or I could just say, “Well, if I can’t do it the way I want to, I’ll just quit writing.” Yeah, that’ll show them. NOT!

So I try to learn what is expected, while also attempting to develop my own unique writer’s voice.

How do YOU handle this wrestling match with your own unique personality & style and the rules that are parts of the writing craft?

NOTE:  I invite you to “Like” my Author Page at www.facebook.com/larrywtimm  If you already have, please know that I appreciate it very much.

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The 3 word sentence that guides my writing

An unusual survey was taken in which participants were asked this question: What 3 word sentence would you most like to have said to you?

  • The third most common response was: “Supper is ready.”
  • The second most popular answer was:  “I forgive you.”
  • The answer that topped the list was:  “I love you.”

Each answer could serve as a motivation for my writing…yes, even the one about supper being ready. 🙂 You see, as a Christian writer, I want my stories to motivate people to get ready for that one great supper:  the Lamb’s supper. Or, to put it another way, I don’t want anyone to miss out on the great marriage feast where the Bride (the Church) is forever joined to the Groom (the Lord Jesus). Someday the trumpet is going to sound, and it’ll be like God is declaring, “Come on, children, supper is ready.”

And I pray that my writing will show how God can restore the broken, revive the hopeless, and declare the guilty can be pronounced innocent before the eternal Judge. I very much want my books to take my readers on a heart-pounding thrill ride through the darkness that is this world, the whole time making sure that they can see glimpses of light penetrating that darkness. I refuse to ignore or sugar-coat the reality of sin and the destructive consequences it brings, but I want readers to know that God stands ready & willing to forgive them of their sins, to transfer them from the domain of darkness to the Kingdom of His Beloved Son, and to give them new life. Our Lord knows a little something about resurrection, wouldn’t you say? Jesus shed his blood–and rose from the dead–for the forgiveness of sins.

But the most popular answer gives me the reason why Jesus came to earth, hung on the cross, and conquered death and sin. I want my readers to know that God loves them. When someone finishes one of my books, I hope that they will be drawn to a deeper fellowship with the God Who loves them. Once a theologian was asked what he thought was the single greatest theological truth he’d learned in his decades of Bible study. He could have mentioned any of the various doctrinal truths that are so plentiful in Scripture. He could have tried to draw water from the deep wells of theology. Instead he replied, “the single greatest truth that I have learned is that Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

I hope my readers can know the same thing because they read one of my books.

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With Regrets

Fifteen minutes before Sunday School started, it felt as though someone had punched the air out of my lungs. I hadn’t been prepared for the news I’d just been given. A friend had just told me that someone I knew had been found dead a day earlier. “No I hadn’t heard,” is what I think I mumbled. My thoughts were a jumbled concoction of sympathy for his wife and sadness that this man’s troubled life had ended. Suddenly. Alone.

Then shame and guilt encircled me. I should have done more. I should have reached out and done…something. Should I have called him regularly? Regret haunted me that day, growing somewhat less hateful in the last few days, but not completely lowering its voice. It’s still there as I write these words.

No, I’m not responsible for all of his decisions. But the fact remains: There were things I could have done. I won’t get the chance to do them now. I will always regret that sad reality.

Writer, friend, please read the rest of this post carefully. Don’t come to the end of your writer’s journey with unwritten stories in your soul…stories that you were going to write someday but never did. Maybe God has been working in your heart, telling you to write something…please do it. It could make a difference in someone’s life. Don’t let fear or fades shove your story to the side. Don’t let laziness or procrastination lull your story to sleep. Don’t let doubt or discouragement cause that story to remain forever on the back burner. Write on. Write now.

Because now is all you have.

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Quality Never Goes Out Of Style

Great stories are timeless.

It doesn’t depend on genre, trends, or anything else. Great writing is great writing. Period. Quality doesn’t have a “use by” date. It continues to be used by God to reach new readers, years after its original publication date.

Isn’t that what we strive for as writers? Don’t we really want our stories to have long-lasting relevance? The potential for “timelessness” is one of the things that keeps me in love with writing.

As a preacher, I thrive on the preaching moment when I stand before a congregation and proclaim the Word of God. Preaching is a happening…an event. But the uniqueness of that experience is mostly a one-time thing. Recordings of sermons are great tools, but the dynamic isn’t the same. And I’ll repeat–so as NOT to allow room for anyone to suggest that I’m discounting preaching: I LOVE PREACHING. There’s an “aliveness” that surges through my soul when I’m preaching. I feel the same thrill about teaching. The church where I am privileged to serve means everything to me. I look forward to being with them each Sunday.

But there’s something different about writing. When I sit to write a story, I’m humbled anew at the vast potential that surrounds the words–potential to reach a vast number of readers, in various parts of the world, in different languages, even if they’re separated by years as well as other distinctions. And the digital revolution may just be making the potential even greater!

It’s the great “what if?” of possibility. And I can’t control much–if any–of it.

But I can have a direct influence on one thing: quality. I can refuse to settle for good writing and push myself for the best I can do, no matter where I’m at on the journey of writing. I can…I will…I must pursue excellence. That means I never stop learning the craft, because I respect it.

Because maybe, just maybe, my writing will change someone’s life. Even if it’s just mine.

 

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How “CHRISTIAN” should our stories be?

Christian story tellers write Christian fiction. I proudly belong to a national group called American Christian Fiction Writers.

What makes Christian fiction different from other types of fiction?

Is it the words we use? Is it the issues we tackle or the way we deal with them? Is it the amount of Bible references we put in our books? Or the subtle Christian themes we fold into the pages?

But what makes a book, theme, or scene Christian?

I’m convinced the answer to that question can liberating. Or dominating. Perhaps it depends on attitude and agenda. We like “black & white” answers, and that’s okay, but not everything can be so designated. For instance, here another question that stirs discussion in churches–even causes splits:  what makes a worship service a “real” worship service? Some demand the old hymns, while others want the newest praise songs. Some want a pipe organ and others get all giddy when they walk into a sanctuary and see a drum set and guitars. So which is it?

See what I mean?

When it comes to Christian Fiction, who decides what is and isn’t Christian? And what standards do they use to make such a judgment?

My opinion, formed through observation and experience, is that Christian Fiction can be defined as much by what is not a part of the story as by what is part of the story.

I believe our story should leave people thinking about “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute…(Phil 4:8a). But I also believe that we have a responsibility to keep in mind that all the things mentioned above–along with the source of our salvation–is specifically revealed in the name of Jesus. But does that mean that I have to include His name in every book? Keep in mind that there is an entire book of the Holy Bible in which God’s name never appears! Yet God included it in His collection of “books” called the Bible.

If I use Philippians 4:8 as a guide, then I’ll be careful to include story elements that honor God, AND I’ll keep from using profane things that dishonor him (such as explicit sexual content, profane language, and any other elements that celebrate “evil” instead of exposing it). But even deciding how much to hint at sexual attraction/activity, foul language, etc… isn’t always “black & white”.

I very much want to hear your comments on the questions in this post. Please take a minute to share your thoughts. Thank you.

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From Eden to Ear Hair

We could have had it so good in the Garden. But Adam and Eve got kicked out. And it’s been a downhill spiral since then. We inherited a life of toil, pain, suffering, and death. Our bodies, once meant to endure forever, are now something less than perfect.

We’ve gone from perfection to infection…from immortality to death…from Eden to ear hair.

Thanks, Adam.

But I can’t put the blame on Adam…not entirely. The Holy Word of my Holy God tells me that I have sinned too. Adam isn’t accountable for my sins…I am. The guilt is mine. Theologians can argue whether I was born in sin or became guilty when I reached an age of accountability and willfully sinned, but in the end it’s a moot point (at least for the purposes of this post). All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

What can we do? Is there anyway to reverse the curse?

The answer to those questions is the reason I write. And the reason I have something to write about. Furthermore, whether I write blunt statements about God’s truths or layer in subtle elements of spiritual reality, I know that I have information about the “double cure” from sin. And God has called me to write about it. He has called me to proclaim His answer to the guilt and the power of sin. He has allowed me the privilege of sharing HOPE. And I want all my stories to have that element, because humanity desperately needs it.

We will never get back to Eden. We are stuck in decaying bodies on a decaying planet, and time is running out. And I want people to know that Jesus (i.e. the “second Adam”) has come to shine light into darkness, to offer life were death know reigns, and to promise something better than Eden.

It’s called HEAVEN. What an example of grace and mercy it is that this sinful man is allowed to write stories that point people in that direction.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go trim my ear hair, and then get back to writing.

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“The Best Is Yet To Come”

A little girl climbed onto her great-grandmother’s lap. She looked at the old woman’s snowy white hair, then at the many wrinkles that lined her face. “Great-Grandma, did God make you?”

“Yes,” the old saint replied.

“Did God make me too?”

“Yes, dear.”

“Well,” said the little girl, “don’t you think He’s doing a better job now than He used to?”

I chuckle at that story, knowing that the little girl hadn’t yet learned that these physical bodies of ours are temporary, and are unable to hide the signs of wear and tear that come with age. She would eventually come to understand that her great-grandma didn’t start off old. It wouldn’t take long to discover that it was time that had carved those wrinkles and had taken the color from her great-grandma’s hair.

As a writer, I know that I only have a limited amount of time to write. And my readers are dealing with the same dilemma. I pray that the stories I write will draw them closer to the God that loves them. If I can urge someone to journey on with renewed strength toward heaven, then I’ve used my time wisely. If I write books that stir readers to a renewed commitment to the Lord, then it’s been time well spent. More than anything in this world–whether in preaching, teaching, or writing–I want to communicate that a God of love and mercy is knowable here, and invites us all into His hereafter.

No one will stumble into heaven accidentally.

That makes the call to write an important task. Time is limited to help point people in the right direction.

Can Christian fiction carry out this task?

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History is His Story

As far as many children in America are concerned, Mother Goose is more relevant than Father God.

That happens when the Bible’s historical accounts are taught as “cute little stories”, complete with comic strip characters. It happens when our children are taught Bible history that has been revised from fact to fable. It happens when are children are exposed to a system that intentionally expels the Bible from the room when a discussion about “real-life, real-time” world history is about to begin. This is done in the name of tolerance, which usually means that everything–except the Bible–is invited to contribute to the discussion.

As a Christian who writes fiction, I do so based on one non-negotiable conviction: the stories I write are ways to communicate knowable, powerful, and Divinely inspired truths from God. I didn’t say my stories were divinely inspired…I said that my stories ARE BASED ON the truth that comes from God and can be found in the Bible. I believe the Bible is the Word of God in the language of mankind. And any meaningful truth that I seek to highlight in my books can be found in the Bible. I don’t create truth, but I am called to proclaim it.

A Christian writer who does not have a firm belief in the Bible as true and accurate is not Christian at all. They are religious probably, but not Christian. My claim to be a Christian is based upon my response to the Christ that has been revealed in the Scriptures. If I can not trust the validity of the Bible, than I have nothing but religious fancies upon which to base my stories. And that’s not worth my time.

God has dealt with mankind in the context of literal times, places, and events. He made sure those real events we needed to know about have been preserved in His book. And, someday, we are all going to meet the Author.

Oh, by the way, that’s a matter of literal history too.

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If the Declaration of Independence were written today

The worldview of the author shapes what he or she writes. So as I look around at the humanistic mindset that fuels our society, I shudder to think of what the Declaration of Independence would look like if written or revised by our pagan leaders of this era. I submit it might begin something like this:

When in the course of human events (although there is nothing superior about the animal known as “human”), it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another (those disbanding should apologize for their intolerance and out-dated morality), and to assume amoung the Powers of the earth (i.e. United Nations), the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature (Evolution and Global Warming) and of Nature’s God entitle them (pick your “god” and your entitlements), a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare (but not in a way that would be offensive) the causes (extremism) which impel them to the separation.

We hold (loosely) these truths (tested in focus groups and subject to change without notice) to be self-evident (unless they are not politically expedient), that all men (animals, plants, glaciers, and ozone layers) are created (empowered by indoctrination) equal (unless they are Christians), that they are endowed by their Creator (Federal Government) with certain unalienable (no offense to illegal aliens) Rights (as shall be determined by the Supreme Court and/or the United Nations General Assembly), that amoung these are Life (once you escape the womb), Liberty (freedom from responsibility or accountability) and the pursuit of Happiness (as defined by your inner desires and not shackled by organized religion).

Yes, what we write is most certainly colored by the lens through which we view the world. As a Christian, I write stories that are informed by my belief in God. I recognize–even if imperfectly–the power of words and their ability reach people emotionally and intellectually. And I believe that God will hold me accountable for what I do with those words.

Writing is not a game or a therapeutic hobby. It is a powerful stewardship.

People who might not spend much–or any–time in a Bible, might read one of my books. I must shape more stories so that light shines out and helps them see a path to truth…to redemption…to God.

What stories to you think our society needs hear today?

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Skeptics

One time an evangelist was preaching to a crowd of people. A man in the crowd kept heckling him, but the preacher kept preaching, trying not to pay attention to the man. But when the man yelled, “if you’re so smart…tell me, where did Cain get his wife?”

The preacher looked directly at the man. “I can’t tell you where Cain got his wife, but when I get to heaven I’ll ask him.”

The man smirked. “What if he’s not in heaven?”

“Then you ask him,” the preacher said.

When it comes to the writing journey, you will find that skeptics line the road. They question your reason for writing, sometimes firing questions at you that are hard to answer. Or they try hard to plant seeds of doubt which will undermine your self-confidence or sense of calling. These voices from without are draining.

But they’re not the worst. The worst skeptic lives inside each writer.

I’m convinced that times of self-doubt are part of the journey. And since not everything we write drips with brilliance, we focus on those less-than-readable pages as proof positive that we don’t have what it takes to be a writer. Or we allow room for the monster called “Maybe” to live in our minds. This monster growls out questions like, “Maybe you heard God wrong…Maybe He didn’t call you to be a writer…Maybe that contest judge who hated your story was the only one telling the truth…Maybe you should consider giving up.”

What do you do when the skeptic within taunts you? How do you silence it?

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