The Making of Star Wars

I, along with so many others, enjoyed Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In fact, I watched it twice in the theaters and purchased it on Blu-ray once it became available. So last night I was bored and sat down to watch some of the special features associated with the film (particularly how it was made) and here’s what I found.

The process was overwhelmingly a discover as you go process.

This revelation was encouraging to me because in so many ways this is my process for writing. I write a first draft with at least some help from an outline and some notes. Then I revise it again and again and again, changing character voice, adding motivations, sub-plots, revelations, and personal details. Sometimes the whole theme of the book changes with an important revision.

I am still working on the revisions for book 2 of Space to Stand, and rather than having it out this spring, I hope to have it out in the fall. It is slow going, and some health issues have certainly slowed the process, but I keep plugging away, and eventually it will be published. Anyway, I have so many more stories I can’t wait to get out there!

Progress Report

It has been a while since I have given a report on my writing progress. I have not given up on writing my longest book yet, and the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated. Yes, I have had some set-backs, but I am still working through the revisions of my next book. It will be the second book in the series that began with The Last Place to Stand.

In truth, I just finished version 4.0 and will shortly begin another revision. This last revision was the hardest as there is usually one revision in every book that requires me to make the most sweeping changes, the most painful alterations. This was that revision, and while it was painful at times, the book is shaping up nicely for it. The many refinements to come can only improve your overall reading experience.

Now let’s talk about length. The Last Place to Stand was 244 pages long at just over 50,000 words. Yet this one has almost hit 75,000 words, equaling about 350 pages. For some novelists this is just a starting point, but for me it is a record. Move over Brandon Sanderson, here I come!

I have said I planned to have this book out this Spring and that still remains my hope. Before the end of my school year (that’s right, I’m a high school English teacher), I hope to have it published.

 

Read the Bible in 2015

Do you ever think to yourself that it would really be great to read through the Bible? You hear quotes from it, maybe even you have a pastor that teaches from it, but have you read the whole thing for yourself? The thing about Bible reading is that no one else can do it for you. No one else can sit at the feet of Jesus and hear what he is saying to you except you.

Our church (newhopesv.org) will be reading the Bible in 2015 together with this plan, month-by-month (LifeJournal-AllLevels2.0). Here is a two page version (Life Journal Reading Plan-No Dates-2 pgs) which if double sided fits on one piece of paper. I love this plan which comes from Wayne Cordeiro because it goes through the Bible in chronological order, but also includes New and Old Testament reading throughout. The same reading plan can also be found on your phone. Download the Youversion Bible app and for a reading plan select the Life Journal Reading Plan.

Think about what kind of person you want to be, and if you want to be someone who knows the Bible and can apply it to life, then the only way to do that is to start reading it.

Happy New Year everybody!

What I’m Thankful For

Over the years we have had a tradition at Thanksgiving. It’s not very innovative, really, but it is important. At the table, before we eat, each person says what they thank God for. As a believer, this certainly should not be a once a year thing, but at Thanksgiving we share these praises with each other. It’s a community and family building thing.

Most years I say something about my family, I know cliche, but always true. This year, however, I have a different answer. You see, having seen someone from our church pass away recently who knew Jesus, I realized something. She knew exactly where she was going afterwards, and seemed very at peace with the ending of her life. And that has given me a new appreciation for my salvation. It means, among other benefits, that I don’t have to worry about the end of my life, because I know where I am going. I have a destination, already assured, for after this life is over. And that is comforting.

So this year, when someone asks me what I’m thankful for, I’m going to say: I’m thankful that, because of Jesus, I know where I’m going after this life is over.

Getting ready for revision…again.

I’ll tell you the truth. There are parts of the writing process that I enjoy and parts I wish I could just skip. I often enjoy the first draft of anything. I securely put my internal editor behind bars, and for a month or so, I write the story as it occurs to me. I most enjoy the beginning and the ending of this process.

Then there is revision. I might enjoy the first rereading of the story where I acquaint myself again with the characters and the story and might even be surprised at some of the good things I find. But I inevitably find that the language is also repetitive, the characters lack depth or backstory, or the dialogue is shallow. That’s why I’m revising in the first place, right? Because a first draft if anything is going to be an ugly business.

It is the second through the fourth revision that is the most painful. During those times I am making major adjustments. I fix story arcs, and reshape characters. I see the flaws in all their splendor and I do the hard work of making large story-wide decisions. This part feels like work, and it’s slow going.

When I get to the fourth or fifth draft I realize that this story I’ve created is something worth telling, something worth reading. And that’s when it gets good again. Then the last couple of drafts again, where I am mostly looking for mistakes and repetitive language is painful again because I have carried this child for months and just want to give birth to the kid and get it over with.

Well, here I am at the start of the second revision and I feel morning sickness upon me. Let’s get to work.

Stand Against Infinity hits the streets

Stand Against Infinity, the prequel novelette to The Last Place to Stand, can be picked up for free on Amazon.com. That’s right, free. Why free? Because I like to get great deals on books and I figure you do to. If you like it, consider picking up The Last Place to Stand, the sequel in the series, and a full length novel.

3H662 has always tried to be a part of the solution, working hard for society and the goals given him by the government. Now he is beginning to see the tragic outcomes of his society, until he wavers on a knife edge of decision.

U2258 works in the largest building in the city, helping to bioengineer the future. But the current experiment has gone horribly wrong and it seems the government has decided not only to cover up their mistake, but they are going to put it into production, endangering everyone who will receive the upgrade.

These two, and others like them, launch out to find a place where they can get away from a world out of control. Finding in the end that the best way out, is by going back in.

Happy reading!

Getting back on the horse

Ever since I broke my leg back at the end of December, I have not been as diligent in writing regularly. In fact, weeks have gone by where I did not write or revise a single word. You might think with so much time on my hands I would spend all my time in a typing frenzy. But you would be wrong there. I read some, watched a few shows, and mostly felt miserable, but I wrote very little. Nor did the muse take me after I was up and walking again. I was surprised at how much a physical disability could affect me emotionally.

But I’m back! I have a prequel that I hope to have ready for beta-readers (i.e. my students) within the next couple of weeks, and soon after I can get it published. Once done with that I can get back to the second book in the series. I’m excited about both stories. I have spent a lot of time and energy on both and I can’t wait to share them with the world!

Am I a writer or an author?

Recently I was thinking to myself: “Self?” I asked. “What does it mean to be an author?”

To which I replied, “He needs to have written a book.” Okay, I don’t really talk to myself like that. You can put down the phone now. My sanity is assured.

I have written and published six books so far, so I guess that qualifies me. But I could never write another book and forever be an author. Harper Lee wrote one book (okay, now it’s two if you want to get technical) and has been forever labeled an author. But that’s not enough for me. I want to be a writer too. A writer writes. They may never publish, but they write. If I ever stop writing I will cease to be a writer and will only ever be an author. That’s like saying I played basketball in high school (which I did.)

No. Ideally I want to keep writing and publishing. It is not only being an author that is a kick for me, but the actual nitty-gritty of writing down stories, revising them ad-nauseum and publishing them. The whole process is so much fun. I may never get the fame of others, but two things are true. I will enjoy myself immensely and I will get better and better at the craft. And there is some hope in that, isn’t there?

Can a Christian story ever be any good?

I suppose first I should define what I think of as Christian literature. It is where the Christian theme is so central to the story that if you removed it you would no longer have a story. With this definition in mind, I realized I don’t write Christian literature.

But…

I write stories that have Christian elements. In my first trilogy for kids, The Gifted Series, I have a character who does not hesitate to talk about his Christian conversion experience. This gives the story a strong Christian flavor, but it does not make the whole story Christian. In fact a person could skip that part and still enjoy the story (though I hope they don’t.)

I suppose it depends on who my audience is. I hope to try for different audiences. Some are already Christians and some know Christians but don’t really understand what the big deal is about Jesus. I hope some of my stories will show them that. I also hope those who have rejected the idea of an all powerful God will read some of my stories and begin to question their assumptions and start the journey of faith.

But can a Christian write a good story? I think the real question being asked here is can something that has Christian elements in it be a good story. Certainly. There are many who have grown up reading C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and they were not even believers but they loved the story. So much so that a successful series of movies has been made from the books.

Then there are people like J.R.R Tolkien. He was a believer in Jesus, but did not want to make his books religious. But his battle scenes are the greatest description of spiritual warfare I have ever read, even from blatantly Christian authors. Well, I could go on with this for a long time, but you get the idea.

My desire is to write stories and write them well. But in all that I do not want to give up expressing my belief in a personal savior. Sometimes I do that with characters that spell out such a belief and other times with a character who just begins to find cracks in his beliefs in a godless world.

Why Utopias are No Fun

A utopia (meaning no where land in Greek) is a perfect world, where there is no world hunger, no wars, and everyone gets along with everyone else. And it is in fact boring. In general writers do not try to write a story in a utopia because for a story you need conflict and what conflict can happen in a perfect world? As much as we might want to live in one, it does not make for exciting adventure. Much more often a story is done in a dystopia.

A dystopia is a world where everything is messed up. It can be that robots rule the world and humans are subject to them, or that a plague is wiping out whole nations, or anyone over the age of 60 is killed and used as food for everyone else (an actual movie plot), but dystopias make for great stories. The kind that leave you holding on to the edge of your seat.

One of the most common plot twists is to begin a story in a utopia until you realize at some point that you are in fact in a dystopia. An example would be a world without war where peace reigns everywhere, until you find out in the 10th chapter that all the violent people have been sent to one continent where mayhem and killing are ubiquitous. Now your main character must travel from his utopian home in order to acquire some object that just happens to be in the middle of hell on earth. It would make for a great story, and could be anything from science fiction to horror, or just straight adventure.

Hey, that’s a good idea. Maybe you should write it.