Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A Real Job

I was told once that the best way to learn something is to teach it. So, here's what I'll do. I promised my critique group that I'd keep them posted as I read through Robert McKee's "Story." The book is aimed at screenwriters, but Lord help us, we're not that different. Stephen King said that your story will get you a lot farther than your writing ability. I have to agree, and apparently so does Mr. McKee. We often complain, as writers, that the market is just too flooded with manuscripts, nobody will ever see our work.

According to McKee, it just ain't so.

The reason that you see so many bad movies these days isn't because producers just don't care what they send out, it's because they have little choice in screenplays. Probably the same is true of publishers. If we work, and I do mean work, very hard at our craft and develop the best story we can, we will get published. It's not magic, it's work, work, work.

I posted a comment on Brandilyn's blog today concerning critique groups. While I'm involved with an excellent group now (chocolate chip cookies, girls, and fast!), I've been involved with some not so good groups. If your critique partner isn't willing to learn, accept criticism, and grow as a writer, then he or she is an anchor to your career as well. And that's how you have to think of it, as a career. Sure, you can have that other career, the one that's paying the bills right now, but if you don't consider writing as important as whatever it is that you spent a lifetime developing or four years in college learning, then you'd better be satisfied with writing for the fun of it (if anyone needs help with that run-on, I'll send the abridged version).

Okay, here's me: I'm an engineer with Visteon (soon to be Ford). I make very good money, I have a nice house, cars, a trailer that's way too long. Could I stay this course and retire comfortably? Sure. But, someday, I'd ask myself "what if?" And I don't want to ask myself that. "What if?" means that I've missed something, I've taken this one shot God gives us and not used the desires and talent He's given me. Yes, I have salvation and that alone is enough. Our talents, however, are gifts, and what a waste never to let them see the light of day.

So, what was I talking about? (Goldfish Moment). Oh yeah, Story. So I think I'll continue this blog with my insights from Story and, by the way, Stein on Writing, which I'm going through at the same time. I just finished reading the part on tension. Great stuff! Yes, Dineen, he goes on a bit, but the advice is excellent. I take notes and cut to the meat of the situation. Yes, I need a life. But that's what hard work is all about, isn't it?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Just say NO

It seems that everyone is ganging up on me this week. I love backstory, it seems, and in today's fiction market, that just isn't tolerated. So I'll surrender. I cut and hack and, in my own words, just tell the story.

It's Saturday morning and I'm sitting at my kitchen island. I love wireless, don't you? There is nothing better than a cool (not quite crisp yet) autumn morning and a cup of coffee. I got up before everyone else because the opening scene for a book that is still two years away kept gnawing at my brain. So I gave up and wrote it. Y'all should be proud of me--no backstory. Just like Brandilyn says: When it comes to backstory, DON'T.

The small people who inhabit my house are stirring now, so I'll cut this one short. They'll probably want food again, even though they just ate--what?--yesterday?


Thursday, September 22, 2005

And autumn has arrived...

In the words of Junie B. Jones: "Yeah, but here's the problem." The internet makes my writing life a lot easier when it comes to research. However, there are about a million fantastic writing sites out there. Gena introduced me to Dave Long's site. Holy cow, what a great source of information, and straight from the horse's mouth (I know I used a cow and a horse in the same sentence and my blog is definately not farm related, but who's keeping track?). Then I get on Bradilyn Collin's web site and she's got a post that is aimed straight at my little writer's heart--lay off the backstory! What's really annoying is that Robin just told me that about my first chapter last night. I hate it when she's right. It's okay, I'll get my revenge when I critique her chapters.

Did I digress? I think so. Anyway, I'm supposed to be writing in what little time I have each day, not reading blogs, reading fiction, reading writing books, etc. I know I have to do all that, too. But, man, I could spend four hours a day on the net. Just like I'm doing right now. But it's lunch time, so it's okay, although I have a Kathryn Mackel novel sitting here waiting for me. So I think I'll get to that. Seeya later.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Summer's Gone

There's something about the last day of summer that makes me want to hurry up and go see a Tiger's game, take my kids fishing, go on one more camping trip, and take a nap in the middle of the front lawn...all before midnight. Fall is my favorite season, and Michigan does it well. But I'm always a little remourseful about another summer slipped past, wondering if I did enough so that my kids will, at least, have one memory from it that will creep into their minds every so often for the rest of their lives.

Okay, enough of that. Now that the weather will get colder and I'm taking this semester off from school (MBA), I should get a lot written. I'm editing Soul Searcher like mad. My goal--here it is, publicly stated--is to have Soul Searcher ready for submission by the end of the year, then have the next novel, Third Kiss, ready by the next ACFW conference.

My crit partners--Dineen, Robin, and Ronie, will keep me on track. They have zero tolerance for laziness. My laziness, anyway. My wife, Kelly, will also shove me when necessary, and also tell me when I'm ignoring my family. Gina, I'll let you have Buffy the Vampire. Make sure she keeps a pint of O negative in her Ali Bag.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Spooky Stuff

Okay, I said I'd try to do a better job of maintaining my blog, and I blew it. Look, there's weeds all over the place and the mums are a lovely shade of rust brown. This time, I won't promise anything, but I'll really really try, okay?

I went to the ACFW conference in Nashville this weekend. For those of you who attended, you know what's coming. The first thing I learned is "It's ALL Good." The second thing I learned is that a southerner can say "bless your heart" and apply about a hundred different meanings to it. It's kind of like when a New Yorker says "with all do respect." You can follow that with ANYTHING and get away with it (ie. "With all do respect, you're a moron." The southern equivalent: "Bless your heart, you've got less brains than a squirrel on Botox.")

Okay, enough of that. The best thing that I got out of the conference was the confirmation, from editors and agents alike, that spooky Christian fiction is the "in" thing now. It's about time. Not that I'm opposed to a nice romantic novel, but you gotta throw a corpse in there every now and then to shake things up a bit. I was thinking even a nice horror/chik lit subgrene, "Buffy the Vampire." (The audience groans)

Seriously, though, I met all these odd people I've only known through the internet and, guess what? They really are odd. But loveable. I also met a few folk who posessed my inclination toward the "darker" side of the craft. Let's face it, the Bible contains a lot of scary stuff--demons, fallen angels, weddings. There are more of us out there, so beware. The "Christian Fiction" shelf at Border's isn't all that safe anymore.

Keep the lights on, folks, it's getting interesting.