Friday, January 20, 2006

A Pause in the Intermittent Blogging Stream

My blog posts have not been frequent in the past, and now they will become quite rare for a while. Some important issues have come up that will take away a lot of time and energy, and my writing deadlines will consume the rest of my time. I apologize to those who have enjoyed or benefitted from my scant offerings. I hope to resume posting soon.

Monday, January 16, 2006

SOTP Writing?

No, I didn't misspell STOP. By SOTP, I mean Seat Of The Pants writing, the kind of writing you do when you create a manuscript without outlines, storyboards, or snowflakes (I'll explain that later). You have a basic idea in your head, you sit down at your keyboard, and you let your imagination fly as you live the story along with your characters. It's exciting, because you really don't often know what's going to happen next. It can also be dangerous, because you might write yourself into a corner and have a problem finding a way out.

I enjoy SOTP writing. It makes every writing day an adventure. But I cheat a little. I have much of the story in my head, so I know the direction I'm going. I like to keep my ideas in my head instead of on paper, because that keeps them fluid. If I typed them out, I think I would be less likely to allow them to change as new ideas pop up. Keeping them in my head makes me more flexible.

I had no trouble doing this with three of the four Dragons in our Midst (DIOM) books, but Circles of Seven presented a challenge. There was a complexity of depth to the story with intertwined ideas from scene to scene that taxed my brain. I remember telling my editor that the story felt too big for me. I had a hard time wrapping my brain around it. Still, I finally managed to do it, and I think it worked out well.

My current book, the DIOM prequel, is making me wrestle again, even more so. The story is so huge--taking place over a multi-thousand year period, with threads of connection throughout each time period, each book of the old series, and the future books in the new series--my brain is about to spill out of my ears. I am tempted to write a summary narrative just to get it down somewhere before the details get lost in the jumble of human fraility and approaching senility. We'll see.

If you're a writer, what do you do? Are you a SOTP writer? Do you outline? Are you a snowflake addict? (See Randy Ingermanson's cool method: Click Here)

I'd like to hear (read) your experiences.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Sex Problem

As I'm writing the prequel to Dragons in our Midst, I'm realizing that the story I want to tell cannot be fully understood without explaining some sexually provocative details. Of course I can't do that in young adult fantasy in the Christian market. And I don't want to do that anyway. I have a desire to protect young readers from an infusion of sensual thoughts in this already sex-saturated culture.

It's kind of strange, though, that the Bible is not too skittish about giving us some provocative stories. Just yesterday, in our family devotions, our Old Testament reading came from Genesis 38, and there's some pretty edgy stuff in that chapter. The details seemed important enough to include, and they gave us crucial insight into the family situation. I wonder if such a story would be publishable in the Christian market.

But, I digress.

The challenge for me is to write the story in such a way that adult readers and more mature young readers will be able to figure out what's going on, but readers who are too young to benefit from the details or might be upset by them would not catch the underlying meanings. (That was a mouthful!) I tried to do this in Circles of Seven when Billy had to face a temptation to lust, and I think it worked out well.

This new story, however, presents a more difficult challenge. The reason for the existence of a continuing antagonist requires an aberrant sexual union between an established evildoer in my story and a Bible character of ill repute. Don't hit me with the heresy club yet. This union is well within reasonable interpretation principles. The problem will be presenting this source of evil without writing anything provocative or titillating, while at the same time giving the feeling that something very evil is taking place. The sense of darkness is necessary, but I don't want any of that darkness to be left in my readers' minds.

If anyone else has gone through this process, I would appreciate any hints on what you did to pull it off.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Sprinting and Resting in Writing

As I'm working on my newest book, I'm reminded again of the importance of pace in a story. In my stories there are quite a few heavy action scenes, and young readers like those, but we can't maintain a fast pace without wearing down a reader after a while.

Every good action scene needs to follow with a substantial rest period, a time for reflection and setting up the tension that leads to the next action scene. Without the buildup of tension, the action seems frenetic and without purpose. It's simply tiring.

Also, I think the reader needs some time to catch his breath with the characters. The reader enjoys a few pages to contemplate the consequences of the action with the characters and how they must plan for the future. As each action scene is threaded together by skillful rest periods, the reader feels the motivations behind the action and is emotionally involved throughout.

So, always remember to give readers a break, one that helps them emote with the hero as he cleans his sword, savor the aroma of the meal the hero is cooking over an open fire as he chats with his comrades, and feel the energy as the hero mounts his horse for the next adventure.

Monday, January 09, 2006

What Can I Offer?

When I consider my presence on the web, I realize that most of the content is about my books and about me. There's a simple reason for that. I know about those subjects and can write about them easily. But I would like to do more. I would like to provide content that will help people, besides the pontificating and venting I do from time to time, which might provide a little inspiration.

I don't really have any writing tips that aren't already published in a dozen different books or websites of other writers. I'm not the best writer around, so aspiring writers have better options when it comes to getting the tools to tweak their own writing. I have some tips about being a father and husband, but I have already written books that pretty much cover all of that.

Until I come up with some ideas for more helpful content, I suppose it would be best to continue with what sets me apart as a writer and and continue to dwell on those topics. My readers know, or at least can sense, that I believe in writing about positive role models for my Christian characters. I don't like the sinful stereotypes that so many novelists feel they have to infuse in their characters. Our journey in faith is one of victory, not wallowing in sinful self-defeat. This, I believe, makes my stories unique, and I will continue to write about this passion.

If anyone has any ideas about what I can do to provide more practically helpful content, I would be glad to listen.

Friday, January 06, 2006


Regarding my previous post, I called the Wycliffe office and asked for my friend's contact information. Instead of giving that to me, they sent my contact information to him. He e-mailed me the same day.

Yes, this was the man I had prayed for. He remembers the miracles and how God revealed His grace, power, and mercy. He called himself "stiff-necked," but now he is following God with all his heart, helping with Bible translators in Southeast Asia.

Praise the Lord!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Rest of the Story

Several months ago I posted a story (See story here) about a friend in college. I witnessed to him, prayed for him, and saw God work several miracles in an attempt to bring my friend closer to Him. My friend refused the gospel, even after seeing God's amazing, powerful love. You can learn more about my thoughts concerning what God was trying to do by reading the last few paragraphs of part two of that story (See Part two here).

Last week, one of my readers visited our home. She had become friends with my daughters and stayed with us for a few days. During that visit, I told her this story. I mentioned that I have prayed for him for 25 years and that I had sometimes Googled his name to see if I could find him, but I gave up on that.

Thinking about the Google search, I decided to try it again last night. I knew my friend had planned to go into the Navy, so I added Navy to his name in the search. I clicked on the very first link that came up, and the page described a man who went to the University of Florida (yes, that's my college), graduated in 1980 in engineering (Yes again), and was on a Navy scholarship while in school (bingo, once more). I scrolled down and found his photo. Yes, this man is an older version of my friend, same face and body shape, same strong jaw, etc. I found him!

So, what is he doing now? Though he repudiated God's call and miraculous love, did God's word have any lasting effect on him?

Drum roll, please. ... My friend is now a consultant for Wycliffe Bible Translators!!!! He became a Christian about ten years after the story events and is now on fire for the Lord!

I am now in the process of trying to contact him. I'm looking forward to hearing the rest of the rest of the story! Stay tuned.