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Posts Tagged ‘character’

How many things are you able to focus on at the same time? Are you expert at juggling any number of balls and not dropping a single one? Or are you a little like I was yesterday when I tried to answer a question at the same time as signing one of my books? Much to my embarrassment, I made a mistake writing my own name!

Right now, however, my writing challenge is a little bigger than spelling my own name correctly. Recently I reached that delightful stage yet again of checking through two different novels at the same time, while also planning out my next book, writing blogs and preparing talks.

So why edit two novels simultaneously? Well, it so happens that, having just handed my sixth novel over to one of my expert manuscript readers to check, I needed to consider her comments carefully and put the relevant changes in place. Then last week, my publisher emailed me the print-ready version of my fifth novel, ‘Heléna’s Legacy’, due for release next month, for one final check before going to print. My challenge then is to remember who is who in each novel and also what these characters did along the way. And all the while I will have to guard against thinking ‘No, this character wouldn’t have said this or that – it’s all wrong!’ and wanting to change things drastically, only to realise I have a different character from my more recent novel in mind.

But I’m also into planning my seventh book – this time a work of non-fiction. I know I have to get moving on this, if it is going to see the light of day within the next two or three years. Yet my weekly blogs are also important to me – and of course I always want to prepare well for each speaking engagement.

And that’s one reason I’m in awe of our amazing God, the Creator and Sustainer of the whole universe, who is all-powerful, all-knowing and present in all places – who is in fact the ultimate ‘multi-tasker’! Our God, the Alpha and Omega, was there at the beginning of all things and will still be there at the very end, as Revelation 21:6 tells us. And in those intervening millennia, God has watched over his people, and will continue to watch over us all at one and the same time. Unlike me, God does not get mixed up and forget us, his ‘characters’, or the stories of our lives. In Luke 12:6-7, we read Jesus’ own words to his disciples:

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God, Indeed the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

I’m so glad that while God is busy looking after you, the same is true for me! I’m so glad that while God is shaping the story of my life in a way that is unique and just right for me, this same God is concurrently writing yours. And I’m so glad that, in God’s perfect author hands, all of these stories will flow well, deal with all the devious twists and turns of the plot along the way and reach their desired conclusion in a most satisfactory manner. We are worth more than sparrows to God. We are not forgotten.

Now that’s some multi-tasking, don’t you think?

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Possibly the only thing I am disappointed about with the study I have finally acquired for myself in our home is the fact that when I look out of the window beside my desk, what meets my eye is the ugly fibro wall of the neighbour’s garage and the paling fence between their property and ours.  Yet this morning, when I looked out, my eyes travelled upwards and I realised I could see the tops of the trees growing in the park on the other side of our neighbour’s house.  And high up in the branches of the tallest tree there I saw two birds.  They were perched precariously on two of the topmost slender branches, seemingly unperturbed by the fact that these branches were swaying markedly as the wind blew them and as they bent under the weight of the birds themselves.

I returned to my Scripture reading for the day and a few moments later read these words from Luke 13:18-19:

What is the kingdom of God like?  What shall I compare it to?  It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden.  It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches.

As I reflected on this, I realised that I can choose to view the words I will write in the hours ahead of me this morning – or any day – as mustard seeds.  I ‘sow’ them, if you like, as I carefully choose which word to use and blend them together with others in whole sentences and paragraphs.  I read and re-read, trying to find the right combination that will convey exactly what I feel needs to be conveyed at that particular point and through that particular character.  Often I end up deleting what I have written and begin to ‘re-plant’, this time in a different way.  All the while, I am hoping that the words I write will combine with the whole, each in their own individual and important way, to form a story fashioned under God’s hand – perhaps even a story that will touch people’s hearts and lives and hopefully bear fruit for the kingdom.  And daily, as my story grows, I continue to craft it and fine hone it, shaping it in the way that best conveys the seeds of truth it contains, as far as I am able.  And as I do, I try to stay close to God, so that God’s very Spirit will somehow draw my readers to find their place in the story.  Perhaps they will rest there for a moment, perching on the branches, as it were, regaining strength and being challenged to spread their wings yet again and continue their own journey of being who God intends them to be for the kingdom. 

The wind is still buffeting that tree I can see from my window, even as I look now.  But the birds are gone.  May you too go out into your world today, strengthened by God to sow whatever ‘mustard seeds’ you have been given.  And may you face whatever you need to with peace, hope and joy, as you seek to play your part in God’s kingdom.

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Who would not want to be a novelist?  Why would anyone ever want to be anything else?

Most days, I have the privilege of sitting down at my computer in my own little ‘novel kingdom’, revisiting what I have previously written, catching up on what my characters have done and then hatching further plans for their futures.  I can even change their names, if I decide their current ones don’t suit after all.  With one or two flicks of my finger, the ‘find and replace’ function of my computer is activated – and Steve is no longer Steve but Josh, or Sue has now miraculously become Jan and has a whole new identity.  Perhaps they have even moved cities as well – perhaps they have acquired a new partner or even an entire new family.

Writing can be fun.  It can be life-giving and oh so satisfying.  I have power – power to make characters do and say certain things, to react in certain ways, to experience wonderful, happy times as well as go through great valleys of grief.  But be warned – characters can sometimes take on a life of their own!  At least, my characters have.  Sometimes they have surprised me no end or shocked me or even made me so proud of them and the choices they have made.

And I have to own up.  It is a fact that one day, when out enjoying coffee with my husband, I urged him to drive home quickly, so that I could see what my characters had been up to while I had been out!  Sad – but very true.

It helps to be crazy to be writer, I have often maintained – especially since the episode I have just described.  It helps me handle the unexpected insurrections of my characters when they rise up in revolt or attempt to sort out their own lives, without even so much as a by-your-leave.  It helps me come back day after day and stick at it, sometimes deleting everything I wrote the previous day in disgust before beginning again, at other times losing track of reality and writing for hours without a break.  It helps me deal with the fact that, barring the dream that one of my novels might become a bestseller, I will make very little money out of writing.

But I will keep on persevering.  After all, not everyone has been given this same privilege as I have to write, to create, to share my heart and hopefully God’s heart with others.  I know God is with me on this crazy writing journey.  And that’s all that matters.

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