Tag Archives: story

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 The simple fact is, as an unpublished and unknown writer, I haven’t earned the right to toss the “rules” aside.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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Filed under books, Christian Fiction, Christian Growth, Christian Life, editing, Larry W. Timm, reading, Writing

“This is Writing”

To journey far to the places in my mind,

to touch, smell, see, taste, hear, and find

the words that wait for the breath of life;

This is writing.

To give life through labored anticipation,

to join with God in the gift of creation,

in awe of the life-giving power of words;

This is writing.

To bring forth from my soul this offering,

to my God, the first-fruits of story I bring,

then bare my soul for the sake of another’s;

This is writing.

To watch what I’ve nurtured go on its way,

to caress, then release it–never forgetting to pray,

 that, with God’s blessing, I can give life again;

This is writing.

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When Preparation meets Opportunity

I have a friend who carries a plastic spoon and fork around in his shirt pocket. When asked why said cutlery is part of his attire, he responded, “I never know when I’m going to meet up with some food.”

Sheer brilliance.

He chuckled, and then added, “You never know when preparation will meet opportunity. And I want to be ready.”

Confucius, eat your heart out. Especially if you have a plastic fork and spoon in your pocket.

Had I not just recently stumbled across a picture of myself, I’d be tempted to adopt my friend’s policy. But the picture was troubling…to say the least. Either I’m smuggling a ham in the front of my shirt or I need to call Jenny Craig. And I don’t remember smuggling any pork products. Therefore I’ve deduced that I haven’t been one to miss any cuisine consuming opportunities. Therefore, I will NOT be carrying silverware around in my pockets.

But I will take his saying and apply it to my writing journey. His “proverb” is very wise counsel indeed for the aspiring writer. I want to stuff my pockets with wisdom gained by experience. I want to work hard to learn AND apply the tools of the trade so that I can be ready when an opportunity to take the next step comes my way. But I can’t just sit around and wait for opportunity to seek me out. No siree, Bob (or Bob-ette)! I’m going to write…and write…and write some more, so that when the door of publication is opened for me, I can step through it.

It means that I can’t just start novels. I have to finish them. I need to have a few completed manuscripts “in my pocket” so that agents and publishers will know that I’m able to work hard and long. I want to show that I can last beyond the adrenaline rush that propelled me through the first few chapters.

Being a good steward of story means that we do the hard work of getting and staying prepared.

Are you prepared to meet opportunity? How do YOU stay prepared? Or, what is keeping you from being prepared? Please share your thoughts.

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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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Taking advantage of my son’s nightmares

For the last two nights, my four-year-old son, Josiah, has woke up crying or otherwise agitated because “there are snakes under my pillow!” Understand that his “room” is actually a 5 x 6 foot area that’s attached to our bedroom. It’s like a large walk-in closet really. My point is that if the snakes where really in his room, they’d have also been in ours.

And that’s a problem. Because I’m terrified of snakes. I’m talking the I’d-trample-an-elderly-person-to-get-away-from-the-slimy-devils kind of fear. When I worked for the city of Florence, Kansas a long time ago, one of my jobs was to be the cemetery caretaker. (The real term was “sexton” but I can’t say that with a straight face. But I digress). Anyway, one time I was weed-eating around some stones and hit a snake. The snake landed on my shoe. To this day I have no idea where the weed-eater landed or how I made it back to town.

Now, back to my upset toddler:  he claimed there were snakes in his room…directly under his pillow. So I asked his mother if she was going to just lay there or go do something about it. Here’s another difference between me and my wife: she’s not a writer…I am. Which means that while she’s going to comfort our snake-threatened youngin’, my writer’s brain was asking, “What if?”

I mean, we were up. I might as well be using the time wisely. I don’t know if it will ever work it’s way into a story, but time will tell. And if there ever are real snakes in our room, I’ll be writing that story from the camper.

I’m just sayin’.

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A One Volume Library

I keep a library on my desk. Sometimes I carry it with me. I’ve even been known to take the entire collection with me when visiting someone in the hospital. I have the same library at home too.

It’s handy and affordable.

The reason that I love this portable library is because it’s a gift from a dear friend. This collection of sixty-six books is more relevant than today’s newspaper. And I find out more about my friend, my world, and myself when I access this wonderful assortment of literal history, prophecy, poetry, and some of the greatest stories ever written.

My friend is a best-selling author. He knows a thing or two about communicating effectively…you know, the whole handwriting on the wall thing, just to name one. He understands the power and permanence of the written word.

My friend is God. The “library” of which I speak is the Bible.

Writer friend, understand that there is a unique influence that has been entrusted to us. No, I’m not suggesting that our words are on par to inspired scripture, but I am saying that God has entrusted us with a powerful tool. We have the honor of learning from God’s Word, and then teaching the great lessons in story form. Lets just make sure we’re staying in His Word while we’re trying to carry out this incredible task.

What are you reading in the Bible this week?

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A Preacher and A Funeral Director…

Okay, so the title to this post sounds like the beginning to a bad joke, but that’s not what I have in mind. For several years, however, I was both a preacher and a licensed funeral director in Kansas. It reminds me of the joke about the frustrated preacher who left his ministry to work for the local funeral parlor. Someone asked him why he quit preaching to become an undertaker. “When I straighten people out now, they stay straight,” he replied.

I’ll wait for the booing to simmer down before going on with the post…..there, let’s proceed.

You may not be tempted to leave your work as a writer to become a mortician, but perhaps frustration is boiling under the surface. Maybe you are being tempted to quit…to give up on the responsibility of being a steward of story.

Before you do, please do me this favor: take a minute to finish this sentence…”I love writing for God because______________________________________________________________________________________________________.

How has your answer changed since you felt the first spark of passion as a writer? What do you think caused the change? Is it too late to get the original spark back?

 

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Summing it all up

“What’s your story about?”

It’s a question that I’ll have to answer when I get to the American Christian Fiction Writers convention in Dallas next week. Shouldn’t be that hard…right?

The problem, it seems to me, is that I have a tendency to go from one extreme to the other in attempting to answer the question. It reminds me of the preacher who preached a thirteen point sermon one week. Afterwards he realized he’d overdone it, so the next Sunday he began his sermon by saying, “In light of last weeks thirteen point sermon, this morning’s message will be pointless.”

I’m really trying to get my answer to fall in between the multi-pointed and the pointless response. I want to say enough, but not too much. I want an agent/editor’s eyes to open wide, not gloss over. So what am I going to do?

Simply this:  I’m going to practice, practice, practice. Not that I’m going to strut around ready to spot my elevator pitch to anyone who even appears to be forming the question, but I do want to be able to be clear and concise.

My testimony as a Christian should be much the same way. When someone asks me a reason for the hope that is in me, I should be able to give a short and focused answer. AND I should be prepared to follow that up with a more detailed explanation if the opportunity presents itself. Both require preparation.

Two sentences or less:  Why are you a Christian?

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Editor: Coach, Mentor, Friend

I just sent my manuscript to the freelance editor. It’s a game of ping-pong we play where she marks several chapters, emails them to me, and then I make or reject the suggestions. Once I’m done with the section under scrutiny, I email it back to her, and off we go.

I’ve always found the process of creating a story to be an exciting thrill-ride, but the editing experience is just as exhilarating for me. Maybe I’m weird–don’t respond to that–but seeing the story I love become sharper and stronger is amazing. Sometimes I see the things that the editor has marked and want to bang my head on the table and cry out, “why didn’t I see that?”

Okay…a tad dramatic, but you get the point. When I submit my story to “fresh eyes”, I’m doing the story a favor. The fact is, I’m too close to my story to see all the weaknesses. I’ve had people read the story and very often they spot something that I missed.

I have to decide whether I’m after an ego boost or a story boost. Can I take the red ink professionally or will I only take it personally? Is this about me or story? Do I trust the editor?

When I open God’s Word, or feel the conviction of His Spirit in my life, I’m faced with a similar choice. Will I see the Christian life as about me or for Him? Will I trust that His corrections in my life are for the best, according to His purposes?

What is God working on in your life?

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