What’s love got to do with it?

I never planned it. Not really.

It was NaNoWriMo 2007, and I was serious about seeing if I could write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I had already written for about a week when my wife went out of town for a Women’s Retreat from our church. She left on a Friday and would be back Sunday afternoon. I had time to get serious about this writing thing.

One of those nights I was writing in a little red folding chair, laptop on my legs, and really on a roll, and I did something I never planned to do. My main character (protagonist for people who remember high school English), fell in love with someone. It just happened. It was never planned in my outline, and I had no thoughts about putting romance into the story before. One minute, the adventurer was waking up in a strange room, having all sorts of questions asked of him, trying to solve the mystery surrounding him, and the next, he finds himself staring into the beautiful eyes of this female character and there you have it, the beginning of a romance.

And did I mention, both characters were robots?

Here’s where I realized something about myself. I had been missing my wife and I didn’t even know it. That’s how these things happen. I could plan my book all I wanted, but when it came time to write, some of my frustrations, fears, aspirations, and yes, feelings of missing a loved one was bound to show up in the story.

That book was never published. Not yet anyway. But it did give me a chance to learn who I was as a writer. You see, I thought I liked science fiction, with cool futuristic worlds and technology that blew your mind. But what I found out was that there was something else required for a good story. Someone I can care about. Someone a lot like me. So my robot became as human as anyone I might meet on the street. In fact, more so because I got a chance to look into his motivations and feelings even more deeply than I could for my closest friend.

Then there is this thing about love. I used to make fun of sappy love stories. I did not think I was into all of that yucky love stuff. But I was wrong. That is why I married, after all. Sometimes it just takes a lonely night to make me realize how important it is.

Continued Progress

I’ve been really getting into the swing of things in my writing these days. My fourth revision of Danger Under Ocean’s Tides is coming along quite well. I have just come to the point where I will read a portion of what I wrote and say to myself, “I actually like that.”

Let me explain. Readers often want to believe that a book was written out of the natural brilliance of the author. That it was written under some inspiration whereby the author could do no wrong. Or, that the writer is just that good.

But that is not the case. Not by a long shot.

Writing takes work. And it has to be bad before it can be good. A first draft, for instance, is ugly, inelegant, and riddled with mistakes, both small and large. Then I try to fix huge plot holes. I mean the ones I knew were there even when I was writing it. You know, where Tracy chases the bad guy up a hill, even though two chapters before, she broke her leg. That kind of thing.

Then I read through the work and make other such changes, all the while fixing other smaller issues along the way. Then I get to what I call sentence level revision. Here my job is to craft well written sentences. I get rid of words I repeat too much, boring or poorly written sentences, and cliché phrases.

In other words, I have two main goals: 1) Write a story interesting enough to read, and 2) write it well enough people want to read it.

That being said, my next book is perhaps two months away from being published and I’m beginning to like it. When it comes out, I hope you do too.

As always, if you want any sneak peeks or to know more particulars about what I’m up to, sign up for the newsletter.


Finding Time to Write

One of the most common questions I get is, “How do you find time to write?”

My response is usually to say that I don’t watch TV. This is true. But I have another answer: I have very good boundaries. For example, I told my students where I teach that I don’t check my work email in the evenings, or on the weekends. I do my work at work, and then I leave it there. If that’s not enough, then it’ll just have to do. Having taught for eleven years helps because I have a lot of past curriculum to pull from, but my work has always stayed at work. I don’t bring it home with me. I do not bring papers home to grade. I stay after school to do some of that, and at times I can even grade while my students are working on another project.

My wife and I also pastor a church (newhopesv.org), and we live at a parsonage behind the church. This could make it nearly impossible to have clear boundaries. It helps that the church is not that large yet, but if it was, I would probably not be teaching. Meanwhile, I limit my focus to having a good message on Sunday, giving short and to the point counseling when it is needed, and building up a team of leaders who can help me reach out to others in the church, and even those outside. I have very few other responsibilities. I cannot do it all myself. In fact I really cannot do all that much. I can encourage, love, and teach members. And I can build up and release leaders to make disciples.

Another area for boundaries has to do with family. I do not take away from family time to write. When I am home from work, I am with my family until the kids are in bed. In fact, I put them to bed, read the Bible, sometimes read a story, or we just read together. Then I will either spend time with my wife, or sometimes I will work on the cover of the next book (the computer is next to the kitchen) while my wife is working in the kitchen. All in all, my family comes first. Even before the church.

And writing? I write during a very small window of time each day. Monday-Friday I drive to school about an 1 1/4 hour early, I write for an hour then, and later during lunch, and after school for a little. My goal is always two hours per day, five days a week. Until recently I even printed out a time-card so I would take it seriously. When I do this, I feel like a writer. Anything less and it feels more like a hobby, something I do only when I feel like it. I don’t want that. Otherwise you would get a new book about once every year or even every two years. Nobody wants that.

So there you have it. I don’t watch TV (opening up from 2-5 hours per day), and I have good boundaries. How about you? Do you have something you’ve always wanted to do, but you just didn’t think you had the time to do it?