I am compelled as a writer to weave words together, and to connect my readers to the beating-pulse and rhythm of language. Like a perfectly executed waltz, the right word executes without missing a step; a reader trusts me to take their hand and lead them; if I write ambiguous, doubt creates a misstep—a break in attention—which the reader, now, out of rhythm, might misunderstand my intention, and our dance with language threatens to end in catastrophe; I never want the reader to think I am going to spin, when I intend to let go. Word choice is vital.
To use clear, engaging language, we writers must know the meaning of each word we choose to communicate with, and the careful writer thinks about each word’s meaning and seeks the best choice. If I want to be a great writer—a dance master of language—I must commit to clarity, and that means no Janus words—words with contradictory meanings. Clarity is the highest of ideals!
To my readers: I have over the last weeks plunged into another bout of depression. Like anyone who struggles with depression, you know there is no battle I can fight, no war I can win, no place I can hide; I can only wait-it-out and hold on to my blessings. I don’t ask for prayers or good vibes, and I certainly don’t want advice on how to fight my own demons. So, if my content appears light, knowing my plight, you might understand why. I love you all.
This book is another one of my adventures into books about writing written by actual writers. According to Francine Prose, creative writing, ultimately, cannot be taught. She encourages the would-be writer to, instead, learn through a form of literary osmosis: study the masters. She believes the rules, usually, taught in writing classes are all too often arbitrary and restrictive. Prose shows how the great writers—masters whom stand the test of time—broke with the conventions of their day.
Keep in mind, Francine Prose is not only an accomplished author, but has experience teaching creative writing at the university level; she has seen and done it all.
Of course, there are better craft reference books out there. If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of building sentences, pacing, etcetera, this book is not for you. However, if you are new to writing, and want to just know what the hell it is you are suppose to write, suppose to notice, suppose to build, suppose to engage, then this book is a must-read. Learning how the masters told their stories is never a dull undertaking.
I recommend, if you found this review helpful, you read this post, too.
Have you ever heard it said I would love to write a book, if only I had the time? I hate to hear those words. They imply that writing is easy; some people think they can just sit down, one-day, and produce a story. I want to reply: I would love to be an astronaut or a theoretical physicist, if only I had the time. It is irrational to think writing is not serious, hard work. Some people think art is a childish past-time. However, we know writing is a craft, and the technique requires mastering, and sometimes that takes decades.
Every book you have read, poem you have memorized, movie you have loved, and painting you have admired have one thing in common: someone, probably family, told the creator it wasn’t realistic. Go be unrealistic!#amwriting#WritingCommnunity#motivational
These people think since money buys everything, therefore it means everything, and dreams come, unfortunately, second. They understand little in regards to what a person is called to do. Unfortunately, haters are here to stay in our lives, so we will always be surrounded by people who grade another’s worth in numbers. Below are some examples of what you have, no-doubt, personally heard:
Do you know how difficult it is to get published? This is often the first frustration they reveal, as if you had not considered the odds. True, for some it is hard (depending on your goals), and recognition would be nice, if only to shut-you-up, but money is not the goal. Money and recognition are nice to have, but creatives would rather live without those things than work for them. See as an example, the entire life of James Joyce.
It is a fine dream, but take care of your life first, so that way, when you do not need to work anymore, you can go for it. Again, money is never the goal. These people always think in terms of money (that famous glass castle). I find it ironic when religious people give this opinion. Jesus teaches that nothing robs a person more of who they are—and their salvation—than the cares of this world. They are literally asking you to say to God, whether they realize it or not, I know you made me for this, but you were wrong about the timing. Trust me, God is on the side of those whom obey his call, and not with those who heed worldly-wisdom (common sense). Heaven’s wisdom never has and never will make sense to the ways of the world.
It does not pay well. Blah, again, it is always about money. No writer writes for money; no painter paints to be rich. Personally, I give away the wealth I already have. If I made a million from a book, I would not keep more than a couple years of expenses (if I needed them). Nothing frightens me more than arriving into old age with wealth and security, because I fulfilled someone else’s dream. The biggest lie America, ever told is that God wants you healthy and wealthy. No! God wants you humble, obedient, and kind to one another.
It sends the wrong message to your kids. What a foolish and hypocritical thing to say. Artists are not burn-outs: they have mortgages, they have families, they have financial goals too, but they, as best they can, resist this horrid ultra-capitalist attention-economy. I want my kids to be themselves, and not what the world tells them they should be. I want them to make smart decisions, but not decisions to fit-in. They will be a great disappointment to me if they sacrifice spiritual and personal goals for financial and professional reasons. I would be ashamed!
Most people fail doing this. One, these people don’t actually know very many artists or they would realize that failure, as they regard it, is a subjective construct. I see failure as never writing, regardless of recognition. Some writers would say the opposite: to be published makes it real for them. Others, like Emily Dickinson, refused to be published until after her death (she thought fame might rupture her creativity). You are a writer now, and not, only, after someone reads your work.
These are only a few of the experiences we have all had, but every artist has their own unique resistance to work against. One thing God has been working with me on, is judge not, lest you be judged accordingly. Until recently, I never conceived this as being karma, but it is true: what you put out, you get back: if I criticize others, I invite criticism into my life; if I judge other’s life-style, they will judge me by mine. As an LGBTQ+ Christian (we won’t get into that), I have quite a bit of conflict in my heart. I should keep my mind off of others and onto God.
I have an unhealthy inner dialogue with my haters; they live in my head rent-free. Every new idea seems, internally, to have-its-say against them (family). I confess to being human: I want justification, I want to be believed in, I want support, I want respect, but it is not going to happen. It takes courage to be who you are, when you have to go it alone. You cannot please everyone, so focus on your inner-circle of support. At some point, we all need to give up on wanting to please everyone. This is my prayer:
Lord, I worry about how others think of me, how they see me, and how they unapprove of my efforts. Lord, you know I spent years, a decade, trying it their way, giving all of myself to corporate work-culture, collecting accolades from work-achievements, saving more money than I need, concerning myself with the cares of this world, worrying over my future, planning everything down to the last detail. I did not know, when I could no longer be who everyone else wanted me to be that I would feel so rejected. I believed their love ran deeper than it did. I did everything right for years, exactly as it was suppose to be, and where did it get me? It got me one year ago, last week, in the ER, wanting to take my own life. I can’t go back to pretending to be someone I am not, and they can’t support me on this journey. Jesus, I trust you, and I give all of myself up to you. You are my only true friend. You have blessed me with the ability and opportunity to go after what you created me for, and I will not say no this time; I will write for you. You are worth all the hurt; you are the object of my complete devotion.Thank you for my wife, whom is my greatest, next to you, support and best friend. Reveal to me how I can be, everyday, the man she prays for. Thank you for my children. Reveal to me, Lord, how I am to raise them to seek you above all else. Thank you for my doubters. Reveal to me Lord, how I can glorify you with the work you have called me to do. Lord, thank you for creating me. Lord, thank you for pushing me forward, when I want to give up.
Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk. Keep writing friends!
Every story has a beating pulse, and is told through the eyes of the character’s heart. Deciding which point of view best fits your writing project is critical. There are two basic point of views in creative writing: First-Person and Third-Person.
Strengths of First-Person:
Widely considered to be easier to write than Third-Person.
Traditionally, the entire story is told through the eyes of one character.
Readers become a “friend” of the character.
It is possible to capture the character’s unique voice.
Weaknesses of First-Person:
No intimate and internal look at other characters in the story. The reader can only guess at their motives and thoughts.
If you think in terms of camera (POV), there is no way to move perspective to the other characters.
POV is critical. Whichever one you elect to use; you must stick with it throughout the story. You cannot bounce between First and Third-Persons. That is the kind of writing editors burn and never bother to respond to your manuscript.
If you are writing Third-Person, and the scene you are in comes from character A’s POV, then you cannot relay what character B feels or thinks.
I will provide you an elementary example:
Wrong: Jason glared at his boyfriend across the table. Pierre hated spaghetti.
Correct: Jason glared at his boyfriend across the table. Pierre looked like he hated the spaghetti.
Notice how the first example bounced between characters? That is bad writing, but the second sentence, does it right, keeps the scene being told by Jason.
A great deal of writing style is subjective, but this is one rule that cannot be violated. No matter what POV you choose to tell your story, you have to stick with it.
To my followers,
I am expecting, any day now, the arrival of our new baby girl. The due date is fast approaching. I would be grateful for good vibes and prayers. If my daughter is indeed born within the next few days, please do not be surprised if I do not post next week. We are excited to welcome her whenever she decides to come, lol.
Fortunately, school does not start back till January 18th, so by grace I have an adjustment period. If anyone thinks going to school full-time, watching a child all day, and keeping up the house, inside and out, is easy, they are insane. I have never been so busy, and once our second is born, I will be even more pressed, but I love it and very much would not wish for a different life. I am happy.
I reached a milestone this week. I finished reading the entire Bible. I am proud of myself; this was no easy feat. I finally can say I have read the whole Bible, every word. I do not know whom in real life, I would actually say it to. But I can say it, and that is something. You might say, that is good for you, but how is this related to your writing blog? My answer, God is my inspiration for writing. I just did not know that for a long time.
This post is not meant to be self-gratifying or boastful. My purpose is to show you how transformative reading the Bible is.
If you have read my work, you know I teeter on the edge of existentialism. This life is a mess, and God gives me a firm foundation in a collapsing world. He gives me a reason for hope. As an artist and scholar, I have long looked for my voice. I think I found it now; Or at least I am close. I do know one thing for certain, my writing is meant for ministry. Whether that is apologetics, fiction, or creative nonfiction, I do not know, but I know I am called to both cloth and pen.
“I Am Second”
I study creative writing at Liberty University, under New York Times Best selling author Karen Kingsbury. Both play a major role in influencing me. But for once, I do not mind being influenced. When I write about God or themes of God, my heart feels unleashed. I feel nothing, but peace, love, and fire. There is more to my writing than mere words. A higher message is being conveyed. One of hope, in a world that suffers generation-to-generation.
With that being said, I confess I am no pedantic observer of every scriptural truth. I am after all, human. God and I disagree on quite a bit. I lean progressive in scholarship; think C.S. Lewis. But I do submit to God’s design for life, not mine. I do not understand why some things are sin and others are not; etcetera. But my feelings on the subject are not part of the equation. I am second. This is where I find peace. Submission brings inner peace. That is the lesson I learned from reading the entire Bible.
Now, I am curious to learn what inspires you? What makes your heart race when you write? Whom is the reader you imagine reading your manuscript? I cannot wait to read your answers.
Below is my Goodreads review for the devotional Bible I finished a couple days ago.
Wow! I did it. I read the entire Bible, beginning to end. Peterson’s edition is designed to only take one year; it took me three. Life gets busy. I have school, a toddler, work, other books to read, etcetera. But I am proud to say, finally, I have read the entire Bible; every single word. I spent my mornings with the Bible in one hand and coffee in the other.
You should understand that The Message translation is not an authoritative translation. And Peterson’s, The Message Remix is to be read as a devotional. Serious scholarship will be done elsewhere. But you are not reading this Bible for serious scholarship; you are reading it to spend time with God. To have a daily conversation with your creator, I highly recommend this Bible. It took me years, but I am glad I finished it.
W. Alexander Dunford I will never forget the television’s blue light that night fifteen years ago. Leonardo DiCaprio’s Blood Diamond played. Outside, beneath black skies, rain pelted our windows and the house’s bones braced against high winds. Thunder shook the walls. It was Father’s idea to watch the movie. He loved violence, and I loved…
“…in that moment my fear retreated. I discovered I hated him and his kind. I hated his affluence, his expensive clothes, his chiseled looks, and the arrogance he was born to. But most of all, I hated the power he held over me, his assumption of authority, and the truth of his superiority.”
A writer reads. Not all readers love to write, but all writers love to read. And the great ones read several different genres and styles. The most important thing to understand about writing well; you must read a lot and often.
I am not talking aptitude for writing essays. Those are easy. Writing creative fiction or creative non-fiction, means you cannot, for example, overuse determiners and transitions like you would with a school essay or professional email. So, scratch what you have been taught up to this point. Do not just take my word for it. Grab any creative book. Fiction or nonfiction, it does not matter. Open it to any page. Circle all transitions, prepositional phrases, and determiners you see. Find any? Yeah, I told you. They rarely show up. A professor of mine advises keeping them down to one or two per page (in story telling). Now compare that with your writing style. I know, it sucks to see it. But you are welcome. For now on, you will write better fiction or creative nonfiction. This tip alone will improve your writing immediately.
I promise what you are trying to convey will stand on its own. Actors notice great acting; writers notice great writing. Noticing means you know something about what you see. When you read, watch each sentence like an actor watches another’s hands. Notice pacing and rhythm. All capable writers are masters of noticing. Our lives are devoted to observing the finer details. See, your OCD is a blessing after all.
I wish there were other quick tips to improve your writing. But even the advice given, might prove difficult to implement. At first. The best way to improve your writing is to read, often. Not one book a month, but four or five or more. Tiger Woods is a famous golfer whom is universally recognized as one of the games greatest athletes to ever swing a driver. He boasts that before he plays a round a golf on any given day, he hits one thousand balls. Reading is like going to the driving range before playing eighteen holes. It can be a great warm up. How could anyone be a great story teller, if they do not read stories? The answer is, any writer’s whom do not love to read, end up editors or worse, sales people (publishing agents). I shutter. That is joke. But one thing is certain, If you do not read, you are not a writer. You might be a great school paper writer, but a far cry from a novelist.
Read. Read. Read. Read some more. And read across styles and genres. Immerse yourself into poetry (which will teach you everything), fiction, creative nonfiction, etcetera. Manuals might be the only exception. But even they will prove useful to the creative. Read everything.
I hope this blurb of mine helps. Classes are going well and I enjoy sharing what I learn with all of you. Tell me what you think? Maybe you have an idea about a topic I should cover? Tell me what you are reading? I want to hear from you!
I am currently reading Les Miserables. You can follow what I am reading on Goodreads.