Tag Archives: writer’s journey

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 The simple fact is, as an unpublished and unknown writer, I haven’t earned the right to toss the “rules” aside.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

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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“Wounded Warriors”

Writers are some of the bravest people I know. They march into the kingdom of darkness–following the lead of their Lord–and seek to do battle with the evil hosts that lurk within.

And they write.

Christian writers bear the burden of conviction, the weight of mission, and the scars of their past. And a keen awareness of their present weakness. They need not look often to know that the baggage from their own past is dragging along behind them.

And they write.

The enemy of our souls–of all souls–tries to stop them. He tells them that they are not as good as “so and so.” He reminds them of hurtful comments. And mocks their attempts to move forward on the writer’s journey.

And they write.

As they sit to write stories that stab his veil of darkness with the sharp power of words, and threaten to open avenues of light for others, the devil retaliates with lies. “Your Work-in-progress is terrible,” or “Your last book was a failure…and that means you are too.” He spews discouragement, threatening them with weariness and doubt. Tempting them to give up.

And they write.

He offers them the sweet taste of arrogance and pride, and tries to make them believe that they are a star…one that shines brighter than the Nazarene. Satan’s flattery is lined with razor-sharp blades that cut as the writer swallow his lies, the cuts opening wounds that bleed away their joy.

And they write.

Dear God, Someone reading these words today needs Your help. They have grown discouraged under the weight of our enemy’s deceit. They can feel his hot, foul breath on their necks and they are feeling defenseless before him. They have started to question Your calling in their life. They are ready to quit. Please, Father, come to their aid, and assure them of Your never-ending presence. Refresh their soul. Heal their wounds. Send them a friend. And return to them the joy of their salvation. And then…they write. In Jesus Name, so be it.”

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“I dedicate this book to…”

Yes, I read the dedication page in every novel I read. And, yes, I think about what I’ll put on the dedication page of my debut novel (when that day comes). There’s a special kind of emotional energy spelled out in that small section of thanks and appreciation. And I’m willing to bet that many writers put a ton of thought and effort into the words they use there–at least on their first few books.

So I was thinking…since Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, I wanted to share an idea with you. If I had the great privilege of turning in a dedication page for my first novel, and it needed to submitted today, it would read like this:

Loving. Supportive. Sacrificial. Honest. Patient. My Beloved. All these words describe the person to whom I dedicate this book: my wife, Kristal. Your understanding and encouragement has made this writer’s journey possible. My dear, I count my life blessed because you are in it. And I look forward to the new chapters that God has yet to write in our life together.

If you were preparing a dedication page today, what would it say?

Happy Valentine’s Day everybody.

 

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Discovering

For me, one of the most exhilarating experiences on my writing journey is discovering what I don’t know.

The respect of writing happens when we come to an understanding of how enormous the task is. Such awareness is liberating, not humiliating. It’s like wandering around in a huge mansion that contains room after room after room of surprises and discoveries. Each room is filled with opportunities to learn something. And I’m convinced that part of what it means to be created in God’s image is that we possess the unique ability to discover, reason, and learn in a given context. And each lesson learned is like a key that unlocks another door.

I don’t want to “just write,” I want to write with power and passion. I want to be a good steward of this calling. And good stewards are alert learners. They’re hungry and teachable.

Sometimes I learn from other writers or editors, and sometimes I learn from books on the craft/business of writing, and other times I just stumble my way into an “Aha!” moment.

While knowledge isn’t the a guarantee of skillful application, you can’t apply what you don’t know. But once you know it, you can grow it!

How man times do we cheat ourselves–and God–by not being humble enough to admit that we don’t know everything? Pride is a poor covering for ignorance. It really accomplishes nothing but self-deception. And deceived stewards can’t be good stewards.

I’m in the process of going back through my first book. Oddly enough, I can’t find the words to describe how empowering it is to look at the glaring weaknesses and be able to know that’s what they are! And then feel confident about how to fix them! It’s more than the thrill of discovery, it’s the thrill of creativity intelligently focused.

The balance to be maintained on the writer’s journey is between celebrating strength and recognizing weakness. If you know something now that you didn’t know before, than you have grown. And if you remember that there is much more yet to be learned, you can continue to grow in the future.

What has been a lesson you’ve learned as a writer in the last year?

 

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Out with the old

Recently I opened a file that contained the start of a novel. It was a project that I’d started several years ago. As I read through the first few pages, I could feel my stomach churning. Several pages later I was cramming Tums down my gullet like they were sweet tarts. A chapter further and I was fighting the dry heaves.

I was stunned that a human being could create something so terrible. I wanted to call 9-1-1 and turn myself in for something. There had to be a law somewhere that banned the writing of such terrible literature. I couldn’t look my James Scott Bell books on writing in the face.

It was a dark moment. Then a realization broke through the shameful gloominess and brought rays of affirmation: I’m not as bad anymore…I mean, my writing doesn’t stink as much now…wait, that’s not exactly what I’m trying to say…you probably understand. Right?

Seriously, I’m glad I put myself through the torture of reading my earliest attempt at novel-writing. It was a start…that counts for something. But more important, it wasn’t my last attempt. I’ve kept writing…learning…writing…learning…and I’ve proven to myself that this writing journey is about growing.

What have you learned from re-reading your first “baby-steps” as a writer? Are you better now than you were? In what ways?

Please take a minute to share the lessons you’ve learned and the ways you’ve been able to measure your growth as a writer.

 

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