Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Writing Techniques -- Character Thoughts

I read an article in Writer’s Digest magazine years ago that I’ve never forgotten. I don't remember its title, but the article gave advice on how to portray a character's thoughts without using clunky italics or resorting to typing, “he thought” or “she thought”. All that’s needed is to describe a physical action performed by the character (usually having something to do with his/her face or eyes), and then simply write the character’s thought after that line of description. Readers will instantly know whose thoughts they are.

An example. Say I have a character named Joe. He's tracking someone. He gets out of his jeep, crouches down in the middle of a dirt road, and maybe fingers some dirt. My sentence: “Joe scanned the horizon. They were getting away, and he was completely powerless to do anything about it.” There’s no doubt here who’s doing the thinking.

This is a technique we've all no doubt read in novels before (and now that I'm further along in my writing I employ it without thinking), but when the article spelled it out for me those many years ago, I remember having a Eureka moment.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Cutting Edge

The question comes up often among Christian novelists. How edgy is too edgy? How far should Christian writers push the envelope?

I believe there is no finite answer. A book I might consider too graphic or edgy will be the book that will change someone else's life. It's all about balance. And while I do believe there are some things Christians shouldn't write or read (the excuse of exposing myself to the world in order to be relevant just doesn’t cut it for me), what it all comes down to is each individual listening to their heart and God’s leading. We're all different to reach different people. The eye can't say to the ear, "I don't need you!" The hand can't say to the foot, "I don't need you!"

Sometimes the important stuff is forgotten when we Christians get all into the nitty gritty details of theology and doctrine. Bottom line, let's look at Jesus as our example. He hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors. He told stories that made people uncomfortable. But through all of his teaching, and all of his stories, the thread of grace and redemption was woven. The prodigal didn't stay wallowing in the mud with the pigs. He came home to his father. The Good Samaritan rescued the man beaten by thugs.

What were Jesus' last words to his disciples? "Go into all the world and preach the gospel ..." That's what it's all about for me. And the cool thing is there are countless ways to do it.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

TL Hines Advice

A recent quote from TL Hines (author of the novel Waking Lazarus), really hit home for me. It appeared on Chris Well's blog, Learning Curve. Chris asked TL, "What advice would you give to aspiring writers?"

Part of TL's response:

Write because you love it, not because you have a huge desire to be published. If you're writing for the love of it, enjoying the creation and escaping into the minds of other characters, you'll ironically be on the path to publication. If you're writing because the most important thing in the world is seeing your name in print, you're misguided. You'll be worrying too much about what sells. You'll be chasing every new trend. You'll be frequenting writing boards online, and asking questions such as, "Should I use Courier or Times New Roman on my manuscript?" And frankly, you'll be spending less time actually writing.

I know of which I speak, because I've been there. I wrote my first book, went through more than 80 rejections from literary agents. I chalked it up to learning, put away the book, then wrote a second book. Again, more rejections. Maybe 100 of them this time.

Frustrated, I started writing a third book, wondering why I should even bother. Then, I realized I had a bad case of publication fever, and I had to sit down and say to myself: "You know what? It doesn't really matter if I ever get published, because I love writing. So I'm going to focus on writing, and quit worrying about publishing." With this admission to myself, I felt a weight lifted from my shoulders.

And ironically, about two weeks after being honest with myself, I received an email from Dave Long, acquisitions editor for Bethany House, who had downloaded the first chapter of my first book and was interested in seeing more. A month later, I had a two-book contract.

I don't think the timing on any of that was a coincidence.

Read the full interview here.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

2006 Christy Award Winners

Congratulations to all the nominees!

The 2006 winners are:

Contemporary Stand-alone: Levi's Will by W. Dale Cramer
Contemporary Series: The Road to Home by Vanessa Del Fabbro
Historical: Whence Came a Prince by Liz Curtis Higgs
Romance: A Bride Most Begrudging by Deanne Gist
Suspense/MysteryRiver Rising by Athol Dickson
Visionary: Shadow Over Kiriath by Karen Hancock
First Novel: This Heavy Silence by Nicole Mazzarella

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Live Life!

Tell me if you've been here: You're writing's clipping along at break-neck speed. You're meeting all your deadlines, even exceeding them. Ideas are flowing from your brain to your typing fingers as effortlessly as a rushing mountain stream. Then you hit "the wall". Your well dries up. Your brain feels like oatmeal mush. How could someone like you even begin to think you can write a book (or article or story) worth reading?

I'd venture to guess just about every writer on the planet has been in this wilderness before. But you know what? You don't have to stay there wallowing in frustration. Here's a tip I'm learning: If I want to write deeply, I need to live life. Sometimes it's very easy as writers to hole ourselves up in our offices and draw from our creative wells time and time again without ever refilling. We need to get out and live life!

I'll admit it. I'm an introvert. I'd rather take a walk by myself than go to a party. My idea of fun is sitting in a comfy chair reading a good novel. I don't mind being alone in a room all day long staring at a computer screen. But I need to learn how to get over some of these tendencies. Break out of my shell. Never be afraid to ask questions. Constantly strive to learn new things. I know I won't truly enjoy life if I don't get out there and do things my introvert self would rather avoid.

Several months ago my local airport was having an "open house". I read in the paper they were offering helicopter rides. That sounded very cool to the more adventurous part of me, but it was quickly squelched by the cautious part. It took some prodding from a family member, but I finally overrode my hesitance and went for it. I plunked down my $25.00 and climbed on board a two-person Bell helicopter. I'm so glad I did. What an amazing experience. My creative juices were flowing through the entire five minutes (what if someone got on board expecting a five minute ride and was instead kidnapped ... what if a helicopter pilot and one passenger crashed in the wilderness and had to survive ....)

Don't be afraid to do something out of your comfort zone today. And while you're at it, try not to think about how you can use the research in your writing, like I did. Just enjoy the experience. It will be like adding buckets of water to your creative well.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Brandilyn Collins' Java Joint Blog Begins Today

Author (and blogger) Brandilyn Collins has written a novel that comes out in August called Violet Dawn. It is part of a new series she has started called the Kanner Lake Series. She sent out Advance Reader Copies to those who requested them and asked them to choose a character that they liked. Then she asked the readers to send her a make believe post from the character for a make believe blog by the 'Kanner Lake' make believeresidents. This is going to be an actual blog full of ficticious bloggers written by real bloggers who liked Violet Dawn. It begins today! Go check it out by pressing the button for Java Joint!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

FIRST Day, July 1st

It is July 1st, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and their latest book's FIRST chapter!

This month's feature author is:
Marilynn Griffith.
Marilynn Griffith is a freelance writer and conference speaker whose online columns reach over 20,000 women each month. Her recent writing credits include Pink(Shades of Style #1), Made of Honor, Chicken Soup for the Christian Woman's Soul, Proverbs for the People, and For Better or for Worse. She is also a blogger! Visit her Rhythms of Grace blog and learn ever so much! Marilynn lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with her husband and children.

Her latest book, Jade (Shades of Style #2), just came out and she has agreed to be our July feature author for the FIRST Day Blog tour.

Having the perfect life isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Designer Lily Chau doesn't know if she's finally got it together or if life is starting to unravel. With a successful boyfriend and a great job at up-and-coming fashion house Garments of Praise, it seems she has the perfect pattern for success. But her mother's health is failing, her boyfriend just won't pop the question, and being a pattern maker is a far cry from having a clothing line of her own. Lily is sure her hands are just too full to draw her deepest dreams.

Raya and Chenille, Lily's pals at Garments of Praise offer plenty of advice and sympathy. Jean, Lily's co-worker and second Mom even goes behind Lily's back to boost her chances of success. When she's chosen for the reality show The Next Design Diva, it seems like the chance of a lifetime for Lily. But the mysterious designer chosen to mentor her sends her spinning. He's fresh, fine—and way off limits. Suddenly Lily's life goes from carefully patterned to nothing but a tangle of threads.

Praise for the Shades of Style series:

"Griffith's ...Shades of Style series features four women in the fashion industry: Raya, Chenille, Lily, and Jean. The women fight to save their struggling business and learn some important lessons about people, life, and faith."— Library Journal

“The …Shades of Style series combines multicultural characters with heartache, drama, humor, and romance.”—Charisma Magazine
Read the FIRST chapter!

For space restraints, Chapter 1 can now be read at the Firsts blog: