Tag Archives: Writers

“How To Build A Writer”

If we put on ill-fitting lab coats and gathered in a dank laboratory, in order to give life to the next great writer, how would we start?

How would we build a WRITER from scratch?

What necessary parts would we need to stitch together so that our Franken-writer would do more than keep polishing the same three chapters while moaning and stomping around like there’s a rusty bolt lodged in an uncomfortable place?

We’d probably want a writer with a noggin stuffed with the type of grey matter that can remember the lessons that matter, while shoving aside the unhelpful stuff. And this build-it-yourself cranium needs to be sturdy enough to ram its way through writer’s block, have a face that looks good in author’s photos, and have a nose that can be held to the grindstone. Not to mention a mouth that knows when to open and when to stay closed.

Next we’d want to give this writer a heart. Not just any old blood-pumper either. It needs to be a heart that’s strong enough to love, and hard enough that it’s not easily broken when people don’t love back. The heart will be soaked in a strong solution of passion fluid that will keep it tender. And this heart will have room to care for the needs of readers and other writers.

Give Franken-writer a godly soul, and this prototype will keep the right priorities in the correct order, desire to follow God through thick and thin, and consider each story to be an offering to God.

At some point–and much to our disgust, perhaps–we’ll need to turn our attention to Franken-writer’s rump region, and tack on a fairly generous amount of seat-meat. It needs to be padded well enough to endure long sessions in a desk chair, yet firm enough to withstand a good, hard kick from friends and foes alike. And, yes, it will have to be able to take repeated coatings of butt-glue when Franken-writer needs to stay in the desk chair, but doesn’t “feel like” writing anymore.

And Franken-writer’s entire body will need to be covered with a thick hide that can withstand the barbs of criticism, and scrub clean with soap and water.

That’s just some of what we’ll need to give our Franken-writer. On second thought…why don’t we just concentrate on how WE can be the greatest writer WE CAN BE? After all, we have some ideas on what it takes, right?

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Filed under Christian Fiction, Christian Growth, Christian Life, editing, Larry W. Timm, reading, Uncategorized, 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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“Getting the Max from your Ax”

I stared into the kind eyes of my Youth Minister and waited. He cleared his throat and leaned forward, resting his forearms on his desk. “I’m thrilled you believe God wants you to preach His Word. But,” he said as he leaned back in his chair, “while I admire your passion to go from town to town and preach on street corners and places like that, it’s probably not the best strategy.”

“What do you mean?”

“Let me put it to you this way,” he said. “there’s an old saying, you can cut down more trees with a sharp ax than with a dull one. Do you understand what I mean?”

“Kind of, I guess.” Actually I wasn’t sure.

“It means that you need to take time to prepare…to stand over the stone and grind a sharp edge on your ax so you can be ready to chop away. Additionally, you need to learn how to handle an ax from people who’ve used one effectively and often. What I’m saying is that you need time to mature as a believer. You need to learn the Bible so you can handle it accurately.”

He was right, of course. And that conversation, thirty-one years ago, led me to Bible College to “sharpen my ax.” The grinding process was a combination of education and experience. I leaned theology. I learned preaching and teaching. I learned discipline that strengthened my devotion. And I had plenty of opportunities to preach while doing it.

The same lessons applies to writing. Passion, while important, isn’t enough. I have to work at writing, study writing, and live writing–while keeping the flame of passion from being smothered by discouragement or frustration. Another wise person (a writer for whom I have the highest respect) reminded me recently that patience is important. In other words, take time to sharpen the ax. Go to conferences. Join a writers group. Enter contests. And keep writing and submitting your work, my friend. Keep swinging the ax, just remmeber…you’ll cut down more trees with a sharp ax than with a dull one.

So I’ll see you around the grindstone.

 

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He Endured

For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself…

Those words were written by the author of Hebrews–chapter 12, verse three. Who is the “Him” and exactly what “hostility” did he endure?

Verse two answers both questions:

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

The word translated “endured” means “to abide under or to bear up very courageously under suffering.” The words have an “above and beyond” texture. It emphasizes that the suffering was great, but Christ’s endurance was greater. He exceedingly outlasted the suffering.

It means that His fatal suffering on the old rugged cross was not the tragic ending of a brave man, but the gracious unfolding of God’s plan. Jesus didn’t end up on those rough wooden beams by accident. This isn’t the inspirational story of an unfortunate martyr. Jesus didn’t just go through the cross, He went to the cross.

Verse two reveals that He did it “for the joy set before Him.” He joyfully super-endured in order to die for our sins.

Keeping that fact clear in my mind helps me carry on as a writer. Our Saviour endured torture and death for us, and I pray that my stories will point people to that truth. It’s just one way that I can serve the One Who loves me with an unquenchable love.

Carry on, fellow writers, for our Lord has endured–and defeated–death and darkness.

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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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Writers and Spiritual Warfare (Part 2)

(see previous post for Part 1)

Our only weapon in the spiritual battle is the Word of God. Let’s be clear on that. The stories we write do not take the place of God’s living Word. In fact my stories are only effective if they are based on firm scriptural truth. I need to think of them as a “this is how God & His Word brings victory in place of defeat, light in place of darkness, life in place of death” applications of what God’s Word reveals.

So if you and I, as writers, are not feeding from the Bible, we have robbed our writing of its most powerful–life-giving–force. The kind that touches souls and not just emotions. And we are cutting our readers off from the only supply line that really matters.

So while we are well equipped for spiritual warfare, there is another great truth that we need to remember: we are not alone. Please re-read those last four words again. One more time–this time put “I” in place of “we”. Do you remember the last part of the quote from St. Francis de Sales that began Part 1 of these posts? It said:

…for without being seen, they [angels] are present with you.

We are not alone. We’re not alone when we pray for God to give, then bless story ideas. We’re not alone when we develop characters and story goals. We’re not alone when we bang out word after word after word, only to cut or replace many of them. We’re not alone when we stare at the blinking cursor on our screens and wonder if we even know what we’re doing anymore. We’re not alone when the story rushes out of our minds & souls like a flash-flood sweeping down a muddy mountainside. We’re not alone when we type “The End” or when we finish polishing that proposal and with trembling finger punch the Send button. We’re not alone during those tortuous weeks or months when no response plops down in our Inbox. We’re not alone when the rejections come. And we’re not alone when God says “Yes” and we sign a contract and enjoy the fruits of our labor.

WE ARE NOT ALONE! EVER! NOT FOR ONE SECOND…ONE WORD…ONE JOY OR SORROW.

God never abandons His troops. We are surrounded by a reality beyond the veil. Like the servant of Elisha, we need to know that the hills are filled with God’s mighty angelic warriors.

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Respect

The journey of being a novelist is often noted for its solitary confinement. We sit at our keyboards and attempt to give birth to a dream, a calling, a passion. We place words on a page like a painter carefully brushes colors across a canvas. It is hard work. And it is the kind of hard work that no one else can do for us. We have to write our stories.

There’s no graph in the front of any novel that charts the ups and downs the writer met during the writing of that book. And if we’ve done our job well, the reader will not think about the author when they’re nose is buried in the book and they are “in the story.” It is, after all, all about the story that God has given us to write.

One of the sources of encouragement that jolts us with bursts of energy is the opportunity to meet other writers who understand the journey. In other words, they’re as weird as we are. Some of these people are published authors, but many are still trying to get their foot in the door. I am blessed by them all in so many ways.

Friends like Joe Courtmanche, whose vibrant personality blesses me in countless ways. Joe has a blog www.commotioninthepews.com I encourage you to visit it and enjoy his wide-ranging posts. Joe is one of the most decent people I’ve ever met and I’m glad to count him as a friend. And I am confident that it won’t be long until you are reading one of his books. Another friend is Karl Bacon. Karl has written a book called An Eye For Glory. It’s an amazing book that captures a slice of time during the Civil War with characters that will grab your heart and open your eyes. Go get that book now….run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore, or download it in e-book form. You’ll be glad you did. I happen to know that he has a second book done, and hopefully it will soon be available for readers.

I mention these two good men because they represent the kinds of people who work hard to tell great stories. They, like the many great writers in Christian Fiction, are wonderful examples of giftedness expressed through humble spirits. There are others I could mention, like Deborah Raney and Nancy Mehl, who are great examples of humble stewards in the Lord’s service.

Writers, at least the ones I’ve met, are people who love their craft, love their readers, and–most importantly–love their Lord. I’m honored to know them.

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Let’s Create A New Holiday

As a minister–one of those clergy type people–I’m always blessed and humbled when October rolls around and my dear congregation at Gracepoint shows an extra measure of appreciation for our ministry together. I didn’t create “Clergy Appreciation Month” and, to be honest, I’m not really sure it’s necessary, but the kind words do affirm and encourage me.

But I’m urging you to join me in calling for a new holiday: a holiday that honors those who support our journey as Christian fiction writers. And don’t say, “Well, we already have Thanksgiving.” (Insert game show buzzer here). I’m not talking about sticking this on the backside of a holiday that already exists. No siree, Bob (or whatever your name is). I think we need to give birth to a brand spankin’ new celebration–maybe even one that lasts a week or an entire month.

The point of this purposeful observance would be to honor those dear people who faithfully, optimistically, and sacrificially support us as writers. People like our spouses, children, extended family, friends, local ACFW chapter members, agents, editors, critique partners….you get the point. (Although I may not include my eleven-year-old daughter, Jayne, who just shot a nerf dart at me while I was typing this post, and scared about 36 months off of my writing career…okay, I’ll forgive her. By the way, she’s a pretty good writer herself.)

Now, as I hunker in my bunker, hoping to escape more incoming nerf projectiles, let me return to the proposal.

I propose that all members of the family known as Christian Writers begin the discussion of creating a special observance during which we honor those who support us in the stewardship of story that God has entrusted to us.

I’m serious about this. I especially call on my fellow members of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) to begin considering this proposal. Here’s how you can help:

  1. Share this post everywhere you can.
  2. Make this an agenda item at your next ACFW chapter meeting.
  3. Mention the idea–in your own words–on every social media site you have a presence on.
  4. Discuss it on the ACFW loop.
  5. Begin a contest to see what we could call this time of special observance (Thanksgiving Day is already taken).
  6. Offer suggestions on when to have this special time. Should it be a “universal time” that we all observe in the same month, or can we go State by State?

And let’s not forget to pray. I really believe that God can use this to encourage our encouragers.

I can’t wait to hear your comments! Will YOU help spread the word?

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IT’S HERE!

Okay, as you read this, I’m heading to Dallas for the American Christian Fiction Writers conference. Months and months of hard work have gone into preparation for these next few days. I’ve written a book that I’m going to be pitching to agents and editors…and anyone else I can trap in a corner or on an elevator…err, I mean anyone else who wants to hear about a thrilling suspense novel.

Equal to that anticipation, however, is the excitement of seeing old friends. I’m already looking forward to hugs and handshakes, smiles and laughter, and everything that goes with being face-to-face with people I have learned to care about and admire. I’m going rub shoulders with incredibly talented writers, who’ve never heard of me but I’ve sure heard of them. It’s an honor.

But it isn’t all fun and games. This is also a time to dig in and learn how to become a better writer. If I can’t be teachable, then I’m wasting my time. I don’t plan on wasting my time. I plan on growing, on building new friendships, and on doing more listening and less talking.

It’s a wonderful opportunity. And when I get home on Sunday might, I want the Lord to look back over the way I spent my time and energy, and say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

And as thrilled as I am to be going to Dallas, I’m more thrilled to be coming home to my wife and children.

Can you imagine what our gathering in heaven is going to be like? Wow! Talk about a homecoming! Are you ready?

 

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Christian Fiction Will Never Die

The reason that Christian fiction will never die is because truth is eternal. The forms used to express truth may be altered by culture, but the basic “nuts and bolts” of every story are the timeless truths that stay relevant from one generation to another: love, faith, honor, redemption, forgiveness, etc…

Even secular novelists rely on these staples of morality…these elements of a civil society. Most of the time, however, secular novelists are not looking to discover the  source of those moral underpinnings. And since they are not seeking to discover that, their readers most likely won’t find them either. At least not in anything more than abstract ideas.

More than just wanting efficiency in the craft of writing, Christian writers hope to honor the God who gave us the truth. We stand upon the Bible, and seek to be faithful. We know our stories are vehicles. But we also know our stories matter on a level beyond this realm. And we know words are not just words…they are powerful tools, entrusted to us by God for the purpose of communicating His redemptive agenda.

Christian fiction will always be relevant because truth will always be relevant.

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