Flying Beyond the Stars {Mon Writer's Tics and Tricks}

Monday, 2 September 2013

via Pinterest
Everyone has the right, after reading this post, to brand me the most irresponsible, procrastinative rag-a-muffin alive. After all, I really much rather ought to be writing up long belayed letters to my friends Abigail and Sarah, answering a dozen emails from close friends who have sent me sweet messages more than a month ago, scribbling that key scene in A Love that Never Fails that's been bugging me and responding to comments cordially left on my blog months ago - or even if I really wanted to be a good girl and still blog, answer one of the Get 'em Tigers questions you've all sent me...

But you see, I am tired. Really, quite. Between the continuous see-saw of the daily hum-drum of life, I am a bit of a fatigued rag-doll each evening these days and I can't think of doing anything, except something fun like this post below. You will forgive me, I hope? Emails, letters, stories and comments will be attended to in time ^_^, Lord willing. But at any rate, a while ago I happened to bump along a blog, Just As I Am, of a sweet young lady, sweet Megan. I took note of it, but lost her blog link along the way (that's the price for not following a blog you like promptly!) As it happens, she just launched a new writerly blog, Every Good Word, a blog born out of a desire to share encouragement and wisdom with fellow writers. I think that is just a wonderful idea! We all need to be encouraging one another in this work of writing in a Christ-centered way, and I love how Megan has based her blog-name and theme on 2 Thessalonians 2: 16- 17, "Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work." 

The tag questions had a positively intriguing flavor to them, and begged to be answered; besides, when Bree, Jenny, Miriam, Elizabeth Rose, Schuyler and Katie all join up on this writerly tag-link, it is quite hard to resist not joining the band-wagon, late though I be in the whole tagging game. So here, we go again... more tags. I know you all love tags, and I promised to do another one sometime but I've yet to keep that promise for you... so perhaps you'll join in this one until then ?? I, meanwhile, will try avoiding doing another tag for a while from now on and focus more on serious-no-nonsense posts. (tongueincheek)

1. What was your first-ever piece of writing?
Not the most promising sort of 'first-piece' of writing to my career I must say - it was a simplistic attempt at a medieval allegory inspired (I use the word 'inspire' loosely for now when I look on it, it feels like a direct rip-off) from Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and Christiana with bits of Holy War and Hannah Hurnard's Hind's Feet on High Places. It is pretty embarrassing how I almost stole whole scenes from different books and just changed perfectly good words so it would be my writing after all and not plagiarizing - which actually it was. I was 12 years old at the time, not much read in fiction besides Bunyan and Patricia St. John, so perhaps it can be forgiven. But I can say that it had some original ideas and scenes which, while badly written, had a promising premise and theme - for one thing, Ecclesiastes and Songs of Solomon made their way intrinsically into the story-line which makes me happy just thinking about it. I love the premise (not the plot, mind you!) that much that one day, I should like to pick up this mess of a story and write a sort of allegorical novella - not like Narnia or Lord of the Rings exactly. More of the same strain with Milton's Paradise Lost or the Divine Comedy of Dante. Actually, though the story was nothing brilliant (and I never got to finish it), I did show it to my Dad who read it and seemed to see something good in it; he suggested to me a title which I am still fond of, Escape from Vanity, and said that if I finished it, we could look into the possibility of self-publishing. I hope Dad was humouring me, though... I really do! Here are snippets for your amusement:

Her work was as what you would think very pleasant and easy. She also had a lot more time to enjoy herself but she was still very unhappy and even more so then when she worked in the palace. The reason was that she could find no meaning in life and felt hopelessly lost. She would weep, 'What will happen to me when my days are gone like a water down a stream? "For indeed I said in my heart, go now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure; and, behold, this also is vanity. I said of laughter, it is mad: and of mirth, what does it do? I made great works; I built myself houses; I planted vineyards; and behold all was vanity.”'
- Escape from Vanity
“Sirs, I and my fellow pilgrims are journeying to the Prince Emmanuel’s Kingdom; we go to the City of the King. As for you, you needn’t disguise yourself to be just, for with us is the Discerner of all thoughts and I know who you all are. You are liars! And Lucifer is the father of it. For a seed to bring forth fruit it must first go into the soil and be buried; then it will rise and bring forth life and strength. Now be gone from us, you enemies of the Prince!” And when they saw that it was useless to persuade them any farther they left them alone. 
 - Escape from Vanity 
3. How old were you when you first started writing?
I started writing when I was twelve and have been writing ever since. Of course, I have been creating stories for ever so much longer. Since birth, I should say. 
Name two writing goals. One short term & one long term.
Last week I was doing a bit of calculations and I realized how with my increasingly large school-load during these last two or so years of my highschool education, I have to set priorities straight. This means that I am giving myself longer time to accomplish some of the goals which would not normally take a long time to complete. One of those goals is to complete (edit, redraft, etc) A Love that Never Fails and take up The Crown of Life again. My other long term goal is to one day land myself a multi-book contract with publisher/agent, if it is the Lord's will.
3. Do you write fiction or non-fiction?
I write fiction mostly. I journal, I write letters and emails and blog and use facebook which sort of gets dumped in the 'non-fiction' genre... and I love it, but fiction rubs off in all that I write. I can't help it.
4. Bouncing off of question 4, what's your favourite genre to write in?
Most of my writing experience has been in historical fiction and I love it! I tend to write hard-core historical fiction in style with books like The Acts of Faith Series by Janette Oke and Davis Bunn, The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas,  Lew Wallace's Ben Hur or The Keys of the Kingdom by A. J. Cronin and love basing my stories on history and cultures of the past (i.e. one of my novels is set in 1st Century Ancient Rome and the other in World War 2 England/Australia); Elizabeth Rose put it so 'right' on the vast source of storytelling themes and plots one can glean from the history 'of warfare and siege, fierce pride in one's homeland and people, heroes and traitors, all-encompassing love and bitter hate, martyrs, peasants, and kings . . . and that's enough to keep me going for years.' Amen to thatBut I am also very fond of high epic fantasy/legend/fairy-tales, science-fiction and mystery tales (of selected authors) as well as inspirational classic-romance (if it is wholesome and clean!) and children's fiction, and have enjoyed dabbling in bits of those genres within my historical fiction works, and have many story ideas for the future within different genres up my sleeve so we'll have to see how that goes.  Unity in diversity is my philosophical idea behind it, I suppose. (But, hush! It was meant to be a secret.)
5. One writing lesson you've learned since 2013 began.
Can I mention three? Ooh, thank you, thank you!!! W-e-l-l, for one thing I am learning this lesson, abet painfully, that a first draft of a novel will rarely be a masterpiece. There will always be editing afterwards and that is where I can stress over the 'badness' of my writing; not before, since it will palarize my writing. Sometimes a little over-confidence (coupled with an angry red pen after the first draft of is completed) will go along way. The other lesson I am learning is not being afraid to write the painful and difficult scenes and characters/stories and allowing myself to touch on the more vulnerable, tough themes that I would be normally afraid to pen, and instead learning to trust My Heavenly Father to guide my words and meditations of my heart and mind - in every good word! This year I am additionally finding another lesson to be very important is how my attitude and mood will greatly affect my writing on a daily basis - physically, emotionally and spiritually; there is so much to the importance of allowing ourselves to occasionally shed tears of frustration and heartache over our work, but to use these self-same sentiments to goad us to persevere and 'never give up'!
6. Favourite author, off the top of your head!
I am sure this is not a question any bibliophile enjoys: if you will excuse me, I am gonna bend the rule and bash your head with three again. Sorry, Megan! I give you J.R.R. Tolkien as favourite author, off the top of my head... because I've never read any fictional work to compare with the masterpieces of The Lord of the Rings, Hobbit and Silmarrillion - his works are so deep with spiritual truths and beauty within the epic legends and tales of ordinary and yet extraordinary hobbits, elves and kings of old - they make me cry every time. And then there is C.S. Lewis, because as Rachel said... he just is... so good. I love C.S. Lewis! - and no, I am not building a sacred halo around him just so you'd know. He and Tolkien were fallible men and sometimes I archly raise my eyebrows and think I disagree... but even when I disagree my mind rebels and says, 'What giants!' ^_^ - and anyway, it is only rarely one disagrees :)).

And then, just because I cannot help it, I must include 'off the top of my head', my favourite children's Christian author - Patricia St. John. I will have to write reviews for her novels around here by and by - unlike any other book, hers (she wrote many!) affected my childhood growing up years in a special, beautiful, bittersweet way...

'One evening when I was eight years old, I had been sent to bed without any supper and I was in disgrace.'
 Tanglewoods' Secret, Patricia St. John

But he had come home to his living children and he had found peace. They would live a day at a time, and he need not be crushed by the burden of the future. He too had a Father.
 I Needed A Neighbour, Patricia St. John
7. Three current favourite books.
I've never been asked this question before! But it is all the better for originality and bibliophile-minded understanding of our love of books. A current favourite book  of mine would be Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South which I am currently reading for the first time. Gee, but it is such an excellent book with such delightful characters! Far better, in my humble opinion than Pride and Prejudice (there, I said it!), but maybe you'd not like me to compare so I will shut up. The Lord of the Rings, which is a constant favourite *rougish chuckle* and The Silmarillion which I am pretending is part of The Lord of the Rings; another book I am reading at this time, With Christ in the School of Prayer - that's one very good book.
8. Biggest influence on your writing {person}: I could get all philosophical about it but really simply put, my family has been the biggest influence on my writing (not to mention my life!). I would, if I had to boil it down to one individual, say that my father has been the greatest single influence on not so much how I write but rather why I do, what I write. He was the one who, by his quiet spiritual example, his instilling of the Christian faith and truths of the Word of God in my childhood, and his wonderful story-telling abilities, nurtured in me and helped lead me by God's Grace to faith Christ; the biographies he narrated with such life and vibrancy to my sisters and me as a child instilled in me the love of stories from a very young age and the desire to create them. Fiction was never part of the natural environment  I grew up in my younger years - stories were though, and so was the faith my dad and mum brought me up in, strengthened with the many discussions we have constantly as a family on theology, devotional thought, philosophy, history, daily life lessons... ^_^. Daddy has been always there to encourage me both spiritually and in my daily life and interests - especially in the books I read! I owe much to my Mama as well for my writing - she taught me my letters from infanthood and encouraged my love of reading and interest of writing; she's always got a sympathetic ear to hear me 'spill out' my frustrations, literary and otherwise. And of course... my sisters... where would I be without them? They are my closest kindred spirits so it is only natural that they influence all that I write! 

I can also say that the online Inklings I have come across through blogging-land - girls like Jenny, Abigail (you ladies have influenced me so much!!!), Elizabeth Rose, Rachel Coker and Rachel Heffington, Katie, Schuyler, Annie, Emily, Leah, Bree... ^_^ you have all, as iron sharpeneth iron, sharpened my countenance as a writer and worked your way to becoming such dear friends and writerly comrades. THANK YOU!
9. What's your go-to writing music?
Well, well, well - if you must must know it happens to be movie and game soundtracks, classical music and selected Christian songs and movie songs that inspire my current writing projects. But you knew that already, didn't you? Here are some I listen to constantly, though I haven't not watched all of the movies, and may not necessarily recommend them all either: The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, Les Miserables 2012, King's Speech, War Horse, Lincoln, Schlinder's List, Ben Hur, Luther, Braveheart, Gods and Generals, Miss Potter, Becoming Jane, The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, Crusader Kings II Paradox Interactive, Hugo, Young Victoria, Amazing Grace, Pirates of the Carribean, Thor, Soul of Ultimate Nation, The Prince of Egypt, The Nativity Story, How To Train Your Dragon, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Gladiator, Emma, North and South... as for bands and music groups as in, The Tolkien Ensemble, Celtic Women, Sons of Korah, The Gothard Sisters, The Von Trapps, celtic music, instrumental hymns  - composers/singers/musicians: Graham Kendrick, Hayley Westrana, Enya, Andrew Peterson, Audrey Assad, Julia Fischer, Howard Shore, Harry-Gregson Williams, David Arnold, John Williams, Hans Zimmer, etc. Some random favourite songs to listen to as I write are: Assad's Show Me, Regina Spektor's The Call, You Raise Me Up, May it Be, In Dreams, (Les Mis songs!), Misty Mountains and Song of the Lonely Mountain, Mockin Bird Hill, Frodo's Lament for Gandalf, Into the West, Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring, Its The Little Things, You'll Find Your Way Home, Scarborough Fair, Water is Wide, Mary Did You Know? It is Well With My Soul, You'll Never Walk Alone, Blessings, Carry the Fire, Knowing You...
10. List three to five writing quirks of your's! Little habits, must-haves as you write, etc.
a. I cannot write unless there is the complete absence of distractions (people, usually, poking their nose over my head will drive me to the wall with irritation - you are warned!)) and I must be left alone in peace or else my writing is all cranked up and worth the backspacebackspacebackspace button.... Solitude, music on my Spotify or iPod, a hot drink at the table next to me and maybe an apple or a cluster of strawberries for when I am hungry adds to the perfect bliss of all my literary needs, though I can write well without such luxuries as long as I have quietness and a sharpened pen (Word-Document).
b. I usually need to give myself at least 1/2 an hour to warm up into whatever scene I am scribbling at the current time and I hate interruptions so much, my mood can swiftly fall down to the depths of the Grand Canyon if I have to stop in the middle of a paragraph/scene - unless those interruptions happen to appear in the form of mail brown-paper package tied up with string.
c. My writing basket which is clogged with my writing notebooks, pens, research material and current favourite books comes with me wherever I go and whenever I choose to write. I panic otherwise. 
d. I have to write in the company of good books close at hand - at times not relating at all to what I am writing. It is simply such a comfort to sit in the company of the Greats and glean inspiration and wisdom in the way Mark Twain described entering a library of great books.
e. I fumble and play with my hair, and stare into nothingness in effort to induce 'inspiration' when writer's block whispers its eminent presence. I get cranky being asked 'have you written anymore??'... when I have not. Natural.
f. One of my favourite times are those ungodly hours of the night when oft' the greatest inspiration and drama flows through my pen - curled up in my blankets under torchlight, scribbling with my fountain pen (pencils are hard to write with!) some really emotional melodramatic piece onto my writing notebook - I love waking up in the morning and going through it and laughing over the way my mind worked in those silent hours... But by far, my comfort zone is typing up my story on my laptop on a quiet afternoon or evening.
11. What does your writing mean to you?
Writing to me is a method of self-expression - a way of putting into a reality of flesh-and-blood peoples, distant lands and ancient realms and struggles the human tale of the Fall and, consequent of it, God's glorious Redemption, of mercy and grace, and the hope that comes from Christ. It is being able to capture, as it were, a shadow image of His Story in our lives and in the lives of those who've run before us. It is being able to put into thoughts the struggles and triumphs I go through as a person and as a Child of God - and being able to impart the blessings and ideas learnt and impressed in my heart as the Lord guides me through the path of life, through the narrow way that leads to Calvary and our Home High Up Yonder. Just as I have received through reading the treasure troves of the Greats in their books and tales of the past, I want to do the same to others - I want to inspire others with Sehnsucht for the transcendent and glorious - for our Lord; to 'recapture the splendour' through ink splatters and fragments of words and stories. Also, I cannot help but write - to relieve the flood of sentiments and high emotions and let myself dream and fly away in the imagination God has given me. It is a gift, to be sure. One I would never have dreamed to have been blessed with, but I am immensely, immensely grateful for. My writing has become part of who I am - through my writing, I've met wonderful real friends as well as imaginary ones. God has taught me so much on this writing journey which belongs in a story of its own. I always long to remember, how I am but a pencil, and HE is in fact the Author.

'The Christian is the really free man - he is free to have imagination. This too is our heritage. The Christian is the one whose imagination should fly beyond the stars.'
- Francis Schaeffer

6 sweet note(s):

  1. Wow Joy! It's lovely when people do memes like this, as it's fun to find out more about them, and this is an exceptionally nice post! :o ) Beautiful.
    God bless you!
    ~Ysa

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  2. I've always wondered what Escape from Vanity was when you referred to it, and now I know! :) Hehe, don't all young readers plagiarize? But it's really an age thing, and everybody grows out of it. ;) I think you would be good at an allegory story; that would suit your writing style, from what I've seen of it. :)

    You've been learning some good writing lessons this year! Some of them I am learning as well. I have definitely been praying for you as it can be very, very difficult sometimes to let go and write a bad first draft, however necessary--but it's a good thing to do, and you will get it all fixed to your heart's content as you come back for re-writes. :) I too, am learning to write the vulnerable, tough themes. Sometimes I feel like they work, and sometimes they don't. It's absolutely terrifying on every occasion, but it's a valuable lesson for every writer, and will take us to greater heights, even if we've had to go to greater depths to achieve the skill. :) And God's grace is sufficient in our weakness!

    And I've enjoyed meeting you on the blogosphere as well! :) Thanks for mentioning me in your post; it always gives a reader a little smile of delight when they see themselves mentioned. :D

    Love,
    Schuyler

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  3. Glad you liked this post, Ysa; thanks! Oh yes, such blog memes are a blast of good o' fun!
    God bless, and thanks for commenting, dear :)

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  4. Well now you know indeed! Thanks, Schuyler, for your sweet comment and encouragement :). Your comments always put a smile on my face. Oh yes, they all do, except I don't think I was even aware of my plagiarizing so much at the time. Goodness gracious, but I am glad I have matured a little!! :). Last year I had planned to completely ditch Escape from Vanity, but then I started getting inspiration for a sort of fantasy story which I thought perhaps could work out in a better form in Escape from Vanity. Turns out though now, they are two quite separate tales! However, whatever snippets I have shared from 'Escape from Vanity' are more likely to be from a different fantasy novel still in its early ideas stage tentatively titled 'Taurus Elnath'; methinks you'll hear more of it in the future! Hmm, thanks, I shall keep that thought in mind :).

    Thank you so much, Schuyler for your prayers regarding my novel; it is so appreciated!! Yes, it is a challenge, but thankfully things are starting to clear up just a little... it still feels horrible writing a scene which I know just isn't right by 100 miles yet and then just pressing through when I want to go back all the time and fix it!! But I am so glad that at last plot ideas have started to come together :).

    ...'will take us to greater heights, even if we've had to go to greater depths to achieve the skill. :) And God's grace is sufficient in our weakness! ohh, amen, Schuyler! That was encouraging. Thank you! Indeed, His Grace is sufficient in our weakness... without Him we can do nothing. :).

    You're welcome <3 :)!

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  5. Beautiful new design, dearest Joy! I really love it! It's so nice and fresh...and I think it loads much faster than the old design...
    Much love,
    Sarah

    ofsimplethings-sarah.blogspot.com

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  6. Thanks, Sarah dear <3 :) I love you! And I am glad you love the new design - Hannah did a great job with it, didn't she? ^_^

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"Gracious words are like a honeycomb; sweetness to the soul and health to the body..." ~Proverbs 16:24

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