Eureka?

I like that word mostly because of its history. It comes from ancient Greek meaning “I found it.”

From Wikipedia: “The exclamation ‘Eureka!’ is attributed to the ancient Greek scholar Archimedes. He reportedly proclaimed “Eureka! Eureka!” after he had stepped into a bath and noticed that the water level rose, whereupon he suddenly understood that the volume of water displaced must be equal to the volume of the part of his body he had submerged. “

I had a bit of a Eureka moment whilst taking a shower this morning. I think I figured out a better prologue for my novel (the one that failed so miserably in the contest).

I rewrote the first chapter already from a different point of view, but I’m not sure I like how it turned out. The first iteration contained a lot of information necessary to the rest of the book, but I couldn’t include it in the rewrite, because the new point of view character doesn’t have that information. Yet it won’t fit anywhere else. At least not yet. I did ask a few people to read the prologue and first three chapters to see what they think, so we’ll see how that goes. Maybe it does work, and I’m being overly critical.

Perhaps I’ll have another Eureka moment whilst in the shower tomorrow, or at least by the end of June. I intend to present this novel to an agent at a writers conference in July.

Also, I signed up to write more devotionals for my church. The focus is on the minor Old Testament prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah and Nahum. Each day is a separate chapter of each book (except Obadiah since it’s only one chapter), so the series will encompass a month.

So far I signed up to write six devotionals. I wanted to sign up for more, but I thought that might be too greedy.

I look forward to writing them, especially the ones in Hosea. It’s about how God not only punishes his people (Israel), but about his relentless pursuit of drawing Israel back to him in spite of her sins. It’s a love story in many ways. Plus, as a writer, I can appreciate the beauty of the prose, and the parallels it draws between God and Israel, and Hosea and his wife and children.

Hmm. Maybe I should study Hosea as a writer, and see how I can apply those techniques to my own writing. Something to think about anyway.

Self-Deceit?

I received the score sheets and suggested edits to my contest submission three days ago, and I have yet to download or even open the attachments.

I’m still too uncertain as to whether or not I’m emotionally capable of handling more criticism — even though intellectually I know many of the comments will only help to improve my craft.

As writers we get so close to our stories that we can’t see what readers see. What seems obvious to us can be confusing to the reader.

As I continue to struggle with feelings of rejection and inadequacy, I am nonetheless thinking and simmering over the scoresheets themselves.

I believe I have come up with a way to “speed up” the first chapter, and give the reader a sense — at least at the beginning — of who the main character is. As a reader, I do like to pick one character — at least to start — to latch onto, relate to, and root for. By giving the reader three equally important characters, the reader has more difficulty making that choice.

All it will take for me is to switch the point of view to a different character. Everything else that happens won’t change, so it won’t adversely effect the rest of the story.

Still, by avoiding the judges comments, am I engaging in a bit of self-deceit?

Adam Savage of “Mythbusters” once said: “I reject your reality, and substitute my own.”

Perhaps that’s what I’m doing, both with my previous entry about my manuscript not being the best fit for the contest (and hence the low scores), and by rewriting the first chapter entirely without looking at and thereby digesting the other comments.

I won’t know for sure until I read the comments . . .

Nope, still not ready to face them. I prefer to swim in my chosen “reality” for a while longer.

Maybe tomorrow.

Well That Was Rough

I just received the score sheets from my contest entry, and boy were they critical. Out of a score of 100, it received an average of 50.

What’s interesting is the average scoring for the previous contest was 84 for the first round and 88 for the final round.

For the same book.

What’s even more interesting about the results is how consistent the judges comments are in each contest.

Perhaps the difference lies in that the first contest (where my novel received the highest scores) the judges judged the first five pages, and for the second contest, the judges judged the first fifteen pages.

A few consistent comments:

1. A Christian worldview not evident (which I was aware of; I wondered if it may be more appropriate for a more mainstream audience. Now I know).

2. Who’s the main character? This I thought might be iffy, because there isn’t one main character. There’s three.

3. It starts out slow with too much narration, not enough action, while at the same time not enough world-building details. Sigh. As one who has little confidence in writing intriguing, and story-moving detail as it is, I feel like someone just told me to climb Mount Everest with my stubby legs and arthritic knees.

4. First line (hook) needs work. Ugh.

I just had a thought. While I like entering these kinds of contests, I wonder if the questions asked of the judges are a bit too constraining.

For instance, the questions emphasize the importance of the first line. A lot of readers (at least the one’s I’ve asked about it) don’t seem to care as long as the first few pages are intriguing. Then there are the questions about whether or not the main character (singular) is obvious at the start. At least in my novel, I have three, and I’ll state with some confidence that most books have at least two, especially those with romantic plots and subplots. Add to the mix the questions about an obvious “Christian worldview”. Some novels will always be more subtle in that area than others.

Those questions almost guarantee a lower score for books that don’t necessarily fit into that mold — such as lacking an attention-grabbing first line (but the subsequent writing is), has more than one main character, and the “message” is subtle (or becomes more evident later in the book).

I can’t help but wonder if my novel wasn’t the best fit for this particular contest. Something to think about anyway. I don’t regret it though, because the remaining comments and suggestions are worth considering, and may result in a better book in the end.

Nor do I fault the contest, or the judges. I fact, they have earned from me a greater respect for having to muddle through my entry. I will forever appreciate them taking the time to read it, and give me their honest assessments.

In the final analysis, it’s my fault for not studying my own novel more such as its genre, sub-genre and target audience, and comparing it to the overall purpose of the contest.

I just saw this quote, and think it’s rather appropriate:

“Let your thoughts lift you into creativity that is not hampered by opinion.” – Red Haircrow

The Journey of Discovery

We’re studying the book of Isaiah in church, and the instructor of the video study guide relayed a story of one of her classes.

Isaiah describes a person called the Servant in later chapters. She asked the students, which consisted of Jews, Christians, atheists and Buddhists, to name a few, to figure out who that person is, may be, or was.

In the end they determined that person would be both human and a deity.

As a Christian, I know exactly who the Servant is. I learned about him in ways that didn’t include Old Testament prophesy. In reading Isaiah, there’s no question. As Brandon, one of our pastors said, “That’s Jesus. Next!”

I heard a line on the show “Earth: Final Conflict,” where a character –a scientist — complained how scientists were no longer necessary, because the Taelons were giving humanity everything. Humans no longer needed to endeavor scientific advancement. He said, “The journey of discovery is what makes us human.”

What happens, then, when we are deprived of that journey?

I felt a little of that loss during last week’s study. Like getting the answers to a test without even knowing, let alone understanding — or discovering — the questions. Or someone telling me the end of a story before I have a chance to read the first page.

I don’t regret my journey with God, not even close. I mostly wonder what uncovering him through Old Testament prophesy would be like, to have that a-ha moment of discovering Jesus for the first time as I read the Bible instead of discovering Jesus before I read the Bible.

An Attempt at Losing with Grace

Well, I’m a little bummed. I submitted my latest novel to a contest, and just discovered it didn’t even make the semi-finals.

Part of me is thinking, “Wow. It must have sucked. Maybe I should give up on editing the darn thing, because it has no chance of even getting published.” (Don’t worry, I’ll get over it, because it did win a different contest last year. All this means is the competition was especially good, not that mine sucked).

Sure I was hoping to at least make the finals if not win, both for bragging rights, and because after each round, the judges submit a score sheet with comments for improvement. Win or lose, those comments alone are worth the price of submission.

The good news is I no longer have to think about going to the conference this year when they announce the winners.

Call it coincidence, or call it irony (or ironic coincidence), but less than 15 minutes before discovering I had lost, I commented on a Facebook post about one of my favorite verses in the Bible:

“Accept the way God does things, for who can straighten what he has made crooked.” Ecclesiastes 7:13

Believe or Else — Until You Leave The House

I overheard a boy say, “I have to believe in God until I turn 18 or when I move out. Then I can believe whatever I want.”

I found that a little concerning. It almost sounded as though faith was being forced on him, and that he looked forward to not believing in God later in life.

Faith should never be forced on anyone.

Some could argue at this point that Christians believe just that. Even Jesus said that those who don’t believe in him will die (John 3:16-20 & John 8:24). History abounds of instances where churches killed or imprisoned those who refused to convert.

I won’t argue church history, except to say they got it wrong. Jesus never told anyone to force others to believe; he merely stated what will happen to those who refuse to believe (see Matthew 13:41-42 & 49-50).

We are all still free to make that choice, as long as we first consider the consequences of that choice.

Nor do I think we can force anyone to believe anything anyway. Sure, we can say we believe in God to appease others, but we are also fabulous liars. We, in fact, more often than not hide what’s true in our heart than what we reveal — both good and bad.

Jesus, however, knows what’s in our heart regardless. Sure, scripture says we must confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9), but we must accept it as truth in our heart first.

Jesus will always know the difference even when those around us don’t: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” ~ Matthew 15:8 (& Isaiah 29:13)

I also had to ask a question of myself. Am I forcing my own son to believe in Jesus? After all, I take him with me to church twice a week, he goes to a Christian school, I pray with him every night, and I keep my car radio on a Christian station to name a few.

Yet I never once said, “Believe or else.”

Exposing and even immersing my son in my faith is showing him how important Jesus is. At the same time, I try to encourage him to ask questions, even (especially) the hard questions. Still, I know that no matter how much I encourage him to believe, that choice will always be his to make — the whole leading the horse to water stuff.

I think it’s important to encourage, and not threaten when it comes to faith, children most of all. They all rebel in one form or another, and if we present our faith as tyrannical, and unattractive, they will run away from it the first chance they get — perhaps permanently.

I’ll leave you with these:

“Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. ‘Honor your father and mother.’ This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, ‘things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.’

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” ~ Ephesians 6:1-4

“So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. “ ~ Deuteronomy 11:18-19

“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” ~ Proverbs 22:6

Busy!

I noticed I haven’t shared an entry in almost three weeks. I’m not slacking, though. Writing-wise I’m doing a lot:

1. Editing my fantasy novel (for the umpteenth time)

2. Finished writing devotionals for my church.

3. Beta reading two short stories for another writer

4. Will be beta reading a friend’s novel in the next few days

5. Reading (although not as much as I’d like, because I keep buying books without first reading the ones I have now).

Happy Friday!