|That's me on the left getting hammered by my writing|
BIRTHING A FINAL CHAPTER
Rachel is the designated reader for John since some people commented on John's oral reading sounding like Eeyore was at the mic. John's last chapter where his protagonist is giving birth. Rachel had commented on John's deficiencies in writing a birthing scene when he had never been in the room when any of his kids were born (John was fathering in an era when fathers were banned from birthing rooms, so was Bob). Write what you know, and if you don't know it, research, research, research until you do. "Let me give you a quick check," is, to my ear, overwriting for how a doctor or labor and delivery nurse would speak during hard contractions. "Let's check." Seems like it might be more realistic. Or let me check. She called, she rubbed my back but these were two different females. Clarify pronouns. My heart began to quicken. My heart beat faster. Be concise; four words are better than five, almost always. You have the new mother quoting a Bible verse. Is that consistent with her character and new experience as a young Christian? Can the nurse quote the verse or someone else? The doctor would not hold up a needle and thread for the mother to see, especially a first time mom; doctors try to conceal needles from patients. Patrick felt like this was a significant improvement over the previous versions of this final chapter. Some repetition of words, panting, for example. More description of what a new born baby looks like and the effect it has on the mother. I remember being there and participating in the birth of all six of my children, and the overwhelming emotion, speechless, but felt I must speak, tears of wonder, joy expressed in that mysterious inner swelling that makes you feel you will burst. Anxiety about the baby being healthy? And vigilance in case something happens to the baby.
ALTRUISM AND THE EROSION OF THE GOSPEL
Patrick is up next. He feels overwhelmed at the moment with what to do next, how to get to the next place with his writing. He feels that culturally the church is tending to reduce the gospel down to an altruistic abstraction. So he has written speculative fiction that confronts and exposes social disorder that results from the socializing of the gospel. And now Patrick is working on a short non-fiction book that concisely lays out his concerns about the social gospel trending in the church. This chapter is on legalism, overly zealous emphasis on obedience especially with minute details of obedience. Altruism promises that true and authentic Christianity will fall off the road on either side of the ditch. He is more concerned with conservatives who don't but should have answers, than with liberal progressive Christianity, so called.
Two things I would suggest with this book idea. Until you are a recognized authority (I'm not saying this as an insult but as a simple fact about most of us and most people in the church) you need to demonstrate that you know what those who are recognized as authorities, dead and alive, have written and spoken about on this topic. Give your reader confidence in your research. The second thing I would urge you to consider is to take a less theoretical approach. Take Jesus' approach, which is to illustrate with a specific story example, a case study, or a practical demonstration in a role played story, then interpret in your non-fiction prose. Another method which I would recommend in this piece, is for you to use yourself as an example of these two errors. How have you found them in yourself?
Lastly I wonder about some of the verbiage Patrick used in this excerpt. Is it more obedience not less? Isn't the dialectic here that their minute obedience is externally motivated by pride and a mistaken sense that they can win God's favor by good works, but their hearts are not right. Jesus is exposing that their hearts are not right, not that they need more obedience. They needed true and right obedience, not merely external conformity to a code of law. Hence his "whitewashed tombs metaphor." They don't need "more obedience, not less," more whitewash on the tomb. They need regeneration, quickening, a transformed heart, good works that spring from gratitude and love. Any other kind is "filthy rags" in God's sight. They don't need more self-righteousness, more filthy rags. The hottest spots in hell will be for the "righteous," so called, the ones Jesus did not come to save. He came to seek and to save the lost, those who have despaired in their righteousness, their efforts, their "obedience," their good works. True biblical good works, sanctification, obedience, is of another kind altogether. Just adding more of the old kind, the legalistic self-righteousness kind, only furthers condemnation. Clarify terms like grace, obedience, good works. This is where the literature will help you and citing it will help your potential reader immensely.
Avrie, visiting from Houston, is reading a short story (a portion thereof), for middle grade readers. Setting in an eccentric bookshop. Characters are not human; they're characters from the books on the shelves in the bookshop. Contemporary fantasy genre. Not zombies though. Strange Tales. I like how you don't need much attribution, and it is clear to the listener reader who is speaking. Very fluid dialogue. I also like how the books and bookshelves seem to be reacting to the humans and jump into laps. Paper cuts are intentional, given by books that are too full of themselves, like textbooks. Authors are dangerous. We don't need the authors. They're a bad lot most of them.
Love the names, Alias, Read, Novelette, Peter Strange... Gluten free café. Board of characters will be furious. How does the bookstore smell? One of the charms of bookshops is their smell, old leather, paper, a bit of dust, a pinch of binding glue. You get the idea. Can you describe what your characters look like? How do the characters exist? The characters are like actors that authors hire to be in their books, but the characters actually influence the story more than the author knows. It's all reversed. The characters employ the authors. Bob observed that this story is platonic, in the sense that the characters are derived from virtues or vices maybe. Its a very intriguing and though it is not clear to us where you are going, we are drawn in, fascinated, and want to hear more.
IRON SHARPENING IRON
Then 'Blots did what 'Blots often does, revert to an excurses that sort of took over (and lasted well past 10:pm), but was stimulating, relevant, and left us all chewing, swallowing, and digesting the evening spent together.
MY MANUSCRIPT BEATING ME TO A PULP
I didn't bother reading from my WW II French Resistance yarn. It would have been unkind. I care about my fellow 'Blots too much to inflict it on them. The characters are dominating the ring. I feel like I'm wrestling wholly on the defensive, cornered, against the ropes. Writing this book right now is like sparring, gloves-off MMA fashion, and I'm getting pounded, head spinning, vision clouding over, on the verge of plummeting face down, never to rise again. Jeering and mocking me from its corner, the manuscript and it's thugs have clearly won the opening rounds, and I'm swollen-eyed and bloodied. And that's all before a glass of Writer's Block red blend. So what do I do? I go back to the gym and work on my fitness, more jumping rope, more cardio, more strength fitness, and do my level best to master that left punch to the jaw. I'm going to beat this thing, show it who's boss, lay it flat on the mat--a grandiose-sounding triumph, of which there is not a shred of evidence at the moment. I'll post another chapter on this blog. That way you can weep with he who weeps. And then unsubscribe and follow a living author who still has a pulse.