Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Can't Find it Grind it--Writing to Love Your Neighbor (Inkblots)

I'm off today to spend the week with 8 writers in Oxford
Six bludgeoned 'Blots this rainy evening (Patrick told us a horrible story, not fiction, about being attacked and beat with a rock. I hope he mines this in his book nearing completion). Alisa shared with us about the final work on Swiftwater, final editorial work and some frustration and final revisions, but light at the end of the tunnel. The buck stops with the author in an author consortium publishing venture, so we want to see this as an opportunity, one that makes the final book all that much better. Heaps of deleting and rewriting going on around here. and brainstorming. And we discussed stream of consciousness writing (Ulysses) and how much Jonathan and Patrick do not like it. Rachel reads:

Rachel's Russian cheese-smuggling yarn, fascinating and deeply hunger-inspiring. Rachel reads her work so well, with such feeling and unique character and voice. Does the simile of the barrel of a rifle following its target work? Not sure, but worth discussing. On further reflection, I think it is a similar problem as active passive voice, where the subject is receiving action instead of doing it. Rifles don't act. Shooters of guns act. Rachel drops the bomb that guys do stupid things for girls all the time. Mark is bitter, but Trusov just wants his cheese. John commented on the rifle simile, that the hunter should be following. Ingrid is a stick-to-the-man type character. Patrick suggested that Ingrid needs to have leverage on Mark and he is motivated by self-interest, but the leverage conveys to the reader that this is authentic.

Jonathan told us about a book called Story Grid, compiled from an editor's blog posts, from a successful editor. Every story has three acts, using the Silence of the Lambs, which morphed into a movie so easily and needed virtually no change from book to screen (not an endorsement). Patrick shared with us about "finishing" the book and some of the revisions he made and why he made them. His rewriting is like a case study on himself, where he was when he wrote the first draft and where he has progressed. The two biggies that Inkblots returns to (I hope more than these, but certainly not less than these), showing and not telling, and remaining in character point of view. If you fail to do the latter the reader is confused, disoriented, halting and uncertain about whose world they are supposed to be in, which character are they supposed to care most about? An important part of loving your neighbor as an author is loving and respecting your reader; jolt them all over the anthropological map and you are not loving your neighbor. We don't want to read like a young man who asked me to teach him how to drive a stick shift. "Can't find it, grind it" only works on somebody else's clutch; mine was burned up. We do this to readers when we don't write with point-of-view integrity.

It is possible to shift points of view, but it must be done with care and conventionality. All that to say, Patrick discovered that he did not have a clear perspective soon enough for the reader to get immersed in the yarn. Lewis does the shift from Peter back to Lucy, to Susan and Edmond, but even at that there is a dominant character and every reader knows it, Lucy. Tolkien-era Arthur Ransom does it with the siblings in Swallows & Amazons. But beware. The cliff looms precipitously when you do.

Patrick reads from the revised Adam & Steve yarn, a parody on same-sex marriage, in which he creates a sense of the actuality of having the technology to impregnate one of the two males, using elaborate and costly medical research, heavily funded by federal dollars, no doubt, forcibly extracted from gullible brow-beaten taxpayers. I wonder if Patrick gives too much away with the superlatives he uses to describe the monstrous process to pull off this Frankensteinian genetic fiasco. Patrick clearly has had a ball writing this bazaar reality scenario. Be sure to play up the bold social experiment and let the reader feel sick. Humor is a two-edged sword, and if you're not careful you will expose your hand too soon in the story, and the ones you want to prod may see through the ruse and bolt deeper into the wastelands if you are not careful.

John reads some of his rewrite after last Thursday's major revision and critique work with Editorial Director Mary Lynn Spear in the Scriptorium last week. John launched right into the major rewrite. Avoid writing "obviously in thought"; instead show the posture of obvious thought, in facial expressions. This is a weighty discussion between a daughter who is pregnant and has considered taking her own life. It feels a bit over written, too much actually said that would be better conveyed in some thoughts, some inferences, conclusions drawn from the uncomfortable mannerism of the mother or the daughter. Can you show development to the relationship between the mother and daughter, beginning with awkwardness and gradually, with fits and starts, becoming more congenial. I feel like it is too congenial and over stated at least in places. I'll just be in the kitchen if you need me. Kill the word just, seemed, and the other qualifying verbal tics. It is tough writing this kind of conversation. There has to be more circular avoidance, then move in, and blurt it out. Even though the family is undergoing change, good changes, going to church together, nevertheless, everything isn't all okay. It doesn't work that way in a broken world. Show genuine change, yet with the realities of the habits of life, and the reality of abiding sin, still with hope, but not oversimplified, everything is all okay now.

Advance copy of LUTHER IN LOVE just arrived!

Monday, March 20, 2017

2 GRACE AWARD Finalist Bond Books for 2016

Thanks to the many of you who nominated my books for the GRACE AWARDS (2016). Not one but two of them are GW finalists (as near as I could tell, the only two books by the same author to make the finals), for which I am grateful to God.
YOUNG ADULT: (including Middle Grade and New Adult)
THE REVOLT by Douglas Bond ( P&R Publishing) ~ In his short career as a battle secretary, Hugh West’all has come close to death many times. But when he leaves the war behind to enter the hallowed halls of Oxford, he meets John of Wycliffe and soon embarks on a mission even more exciting—and perhaps just as dangerous. Using his scribe’s quill to translate the Bible into English, the language of the common people, Hugh begins to understand the beauty of the gospel as never before. But he and his friends are up against the corrupt monolith of the medieval church, and it will stop at nothing to crush Wycliffe’s work.
ACTION-ADVENTURE/WESTERN/EPIC FICTION: (exploits, quest, daring, expansive)
THE BATTLE OF SEATTLE by Doughlas Bond (P&R Publishing) ~ It’s 1855 in the Pacific Northwest, and hostility between white settlers and native tribes is rising quickly, leading to deaths on both sides. As tensions mount, young William Tidd joins Charles Eaton’s Rangers on a mission to hunt down Chief Leschi of the Nisqually. If they can stop him, they may be able to end the bloodshed before it gets worse . . . but not everyone wants peace with the enemy. Is all-out war inevitable? Through skirmishes, raids, close calls, and betrayal—William’s assumptions, beliefs, courage, and friendships will all be challenged in a few breakneck weeks.

When is a Book Finished? Inkblots

Four diehard 'Blots tonight, weather abated after blustery morning (no worries about maple tree falling on the Scriptorium, thanks to my eldest son and contacts). It is a delight after a busy day to sit down, breathe and enter the world of writing and literature with fellow 'Blots.

We discussed when to share your manuscript with a potential reader. I advised folks to revise and rewrite until you feel like you have your manuscript where you want it to be, including proof reading. Respect your reader who will spend hours of their time poring over your work. Nothing is more disheartening than to offer a critique only to hear, "Oh, I rewrote that whole section last week. I've made all those changes already." In other words, I can really do this without you, but keep reading anyway.

There are several levels of readers. You need a fast global reader (John Schrupp) who can give you perspective on the whole work, character arc, plot unity, and so forth. Then there is the unique reader who can read globally and for precise proofing details ('Blots Editorial Director Mary Lynn Spear is one of these rare people). There are many good proofreaders and editors out there (I'm glad because I have nothing like enough time to be that for very many others), but whomever you choose, you will need a careful and experienced proofreader and final copy editor. Expect to pay for these reading services. A great deal of time and skill goes into proofing and copy editing a manuscript. Getting grammar and punctuation correct can make or break a book. The chronic problem for indie published books is shoddy copy editing. InkBlots Press must at all cost avoid producing books that have not passed through the critical gateways that make for a first-rate finished book. 

Alisa leads off reading from her forthcoming The Emblem, written before Swiftwater, due to release later this month. Kelly, protagonist, or Jamie? Heather standing on the patio instead. Show us Heather seeming to have something to say to her (to Kelly, right?). What does a person look like when they are about to say something? You don't need uncomfortably from foot to foot because you make it clear that she is uncomfortable. The flats feel like they are going to become something of a symbol, a good idea. Without trying to interfere--I think you showed that, or were about to, rather than telling us that. She could berate herself for never wanting to interfere, get involved in the lives of others, and feeling like she had nothing to offer, someone who just went along with whomever was dominant in the room. Colored woman. We talked about this the other day, the difficulty of being in a historical context and avoiding using our preferred verbiage at the moment. They didn't use African American in the '20s, though they did use the n word, and rightly you did not, in my opinion. Patrick suggested he would like to hear more internal conflict material in italics.

Patrick pointed out how important it is to have a character who may be deeply flawed in certain areas, but they are competent in doing something, plumbing, woodcarving, listening to the woes of others, solving problems; the reader will be drawn to a character who is competent in doing something well.

Patrick reads near the end of his speculative fiction work, a Rahab character, apostate brother comes, shoot out, escape. This is after all that, back window of the truck shot out. Gabe fell asleep. A Sarb attack on a free human colony, hurl the disposables in first. If that doesn't break through the lines, send in the real troops to finish things off. A mass of feral Sarbs. Engine squealed and a zombie let out a visceral scream. Just as you read that I was about to write that I thought you needed to give us more sounds, so take it or leave it. You are sticking well with Gabe's reaction to the chase scene, the truck about to careen out of control. This is vivid, but I do think we need to hear more of the sounds of a truck doing what this truck is doing. What does that sound like? Were there smells? The over heating engine, human sweat super charged with fear? What do Sarbs sound like? Do they have a ferocious battle cry, heavy breathing, laughter, slavering? Do they smell as they get closer? Could you detect them simply by their smell? What does it smell like? When Gabe charges out of the wrecked truck, what is he thinking? Are Sarbs always unarmed? Do we know this already? When the Sarbs stand their ground, what do they look like, sound like? Are they leering, shouting, chanting--growl and hiss, I heard that, but I think the sounds of these creatures would be bone-chilling. The conversation sending the girl Duplicity who is a half Sarb for help. It should feel more frantic, desperate, do-or-die. It seems like this would work better if the girl offered to go for
LUTHER IN LOVE, due any day
help, and Gabe wouldn't hear of it, but she insisted. She may have come to the same conclusion about Sarbs smelling non-Sarbs, and voiced it to Gabe. Switch this around and I think you will have a far more powerful moment. Duplicity does make it through, and Gabe seems to react with more emotion than he showed below.

I read part of my Luther article for Modern Reformation Magazine, deadline looming. Reformation Romance, working title. Luther in Love is finished and in production, hopefully available by next week. I have learned so much writing this book! And I have gained a far greater appreciation for the sometimes-difficult role God calls some couples and families to. Pre-order at