Saturday, April 23, 2011

God of the Empty Tomb

Sometimes you start a project with few hopes for its success. That's the way it was for me with our church's production of the Easter musical, "God of the Empty Tomb." We listened to the demo CD as I read the score. It seemed less than reverent to us. The singers on the CD all had good voices, but they lacked something, and that made us wonder how we were going to turn this into a production that would please the Lord.

As the choir practiced the songs, I could tell an immediate difference. The CD performers are professionals. We aren't. Despite the general lack of training for most of our choir, we still sound better than the album. As I sought the reasons, one thing became glaringly clear.

We all BELIEVE what we're singing. We've experienced God's love in our lives, even when going through trials and tragedies, and we KNOW He lives. 

I don't know how many of the performers on that demo CD are Christians. Maybe a few. Maybe many. I know the stress of performing in a studio. It can be overwhelming. That could be one contributing factor. I hope they all know Him. I pray for any who don't, to come to know Him, to believe the words written in that pageant.

All I know is this: when you have a group of people praying for the Lord to use them for His glory, He will.

How does this relate to writing? Here are some thoughts.
  • Do you believe what you're writing? If you don't, your readers won't, either. 
  • Are your characters flesh-and-blood people, or pawns you're shoving around a chessboard of plot? While some stories are designed to be plot-driven without much characterization, you still need to make your readers care about the outcome of the story. If they don't feel something for the inhabitants of the planet Xifantiroc, it won't mean anything to them when you destroy it.
  • Is the ending in doubt? Your readers will wonder whether your hero can win if you've given him setback after setback. Otherwise, they're liable to think something like, "So, he saved the day again. Ho hum." Make them truly believe he may utterly fail. It will make his success all the sweeter.
  • Is your finished work greater than the sum of the parts? It takes a lot of people to make a successful production. A story's parts must all work together to give reader satisfaction.
Writing a story and putting on a play are a lot alike in many ways. While writing is generally solitary, and a theatrical production just the opposite, the end results are the same. You put in a lot of work, and, if you do it correctly and have the right support, you bring it to a successful conclusion.

Have a blessed Passover and Resurrection Day!

Photo courtesy of and copyright by Kathleen Davis.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hidden salt

Good Morning America had a segment on hidden sodium in foods. That got me thinking about hiding things in our writing.

Food manufacturers & restaurants add sodium to the things we eat & drink for a couple of different reasons. One is for flavor, to enhance the taste of something that might otherwise be bland and uninteresting. The other is as a preservative. While too much sodium can lead to heart & kidney problems, too much "salt" in our writing can lead to reader indigestion.

What do I mean by salt in writing? It can be anything, really...
  • Historical snippets inserted into a novel set back in time to give it a feeling of authenticity
  • Describing things as your viewpoint character sees them (easy to overdo)
  • Adding in author worldview
  • Making note of details, such as what the characters are wearing, driving, reading, etc.
A little salt in writing goes a long way. The salt should never overpower the plot or characterization. It should always be well blended into the story, like a little salt in your muffins. Finding a glob of salt in a muffin is unpleasant. So, too, is an information dump in a story. Stirred in until it's thoroughly mixed, however, where it can't be removed without damaging the story, and your salt will bring out the flavor without harming your reader!

Happy writing!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spring Cleaning

The other day, I started a post about spring cleaning. Whether I forgot to click the "save" button, or the window closed prematurely, I don't know. It was unfinished. When I came back and found the blog entry gone, it made me think about other things that disappear.

Time. Whether you are paying it any mind or not, every second that goes by will never come again. You can make good use of time by accomplishing the things you need to do, spending it with family or friends, taking it to get better acquainted with God through reading His love letter, the Bible, using it to regenerate energy by proper rest and nutrition. You can waste it by frittering it away on things that don't matter. Whatever you think about time, our lives consist of only so much of it. What are you doing with yours? I know I'm not doing enough with mine!

Money. Without a plan, money often disappears without a trace or anything to show for it. When you have very little to start with, every cent can matter. Some things are nonnegotiable, such as paying bills, buying food, keeping some sort of roof over your head and enough clothes on your body to be decent. Sometimes it can be difficult to generate enough income to cover your "outgo."

Family & Friends. These, too, can disappear. Whether we offend a friend and lose them, or move to a new place, through neglect, or terminal illness or accident, it's too easy to lose people we value. What can we do to stay in touch with those we love? Is it a waste of time or money? Hardly! Having people we value in our lives, being someone of value to them in return, offers wonderful benefits to all concerned. A good friend can keep you from losing yourself.

So, as I look around at the raft of things I need to do, I'll keep these in mind. Lord willing, I'm spring cleaning with a purpose this year. To discern what is important, and keep dispense with what isn't...

Happy Spring Cleaning, everyone.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

How Do You Write When You're Sick?

If  you're me, the answer is probably: "Badly." However, if you have the constraints of a deadline (which I currently do not, though I wish I did!), you have to tough through it somehow. How do I think I'll do when I have to push ahead despite feeling dreadful? Will I
  • write anyway even though I'm afraid it's complete drivel and hope there's something I can salvage in editing?
  • not write and feel guilty, knowing I'll have to work extra hard as the deadline approaches?
  • call my agent or editor and explain and hope they can extend the deadline?
  • ask for help?
Currently, when I am too sick to work on my main project, I am sometimes still able to work on plotting for an upcoming project. That's what I did today, when the pounding headache & nausea I'd been struggling to believe wasn't the same virus that's been plaguing my mother finally convinced me that it was.

If you're a writer, with or without deadlines, what do you do? Please share your ideas and suggestions with me! Sorry there's no prize for the best post, but I will post a link to your reply on Facebook, so others can share your insight!