What I Learned when I Wrote a Novel in One Month

One of my earliest memories is of dictating a story to my mother. This was before I could read or write. She remembers many of these stories.

I tried to write a fantasy novel in sixth grade. When the class was watching Ghandi I was writing a pathetic rip-off of Lord of the Rings. I knew it was bad at that time. But I still don’t know why a bunch of sixth graders were watching Ghandi in class or what we were supposed to get out of it.

I wrote short stories in high school, shamefully passing for high school versions of Stephen King short stories.

Then I stopped writing stories. I wrote disjointed philosophy papers instead. Later I wrote slightly more jointed theology papers, then half-jointed sermons for a long time.

But the desire to write never quite died, and lately it’s been burning something fierce. So I did woodworking for a while. When it was too cold and dark to make sawdust I read. Or played computer games. But the itch became somewhat severe. Two novels stalled around chapter three, and all I had to show for it was some serious gaming skills at Call of Duty and Knights of the Old Republic.

Then I discovered National Novel Writing Month. So I followed the rules and wrote a 50214 word novel. It needs serious help, but I learned a lot doing it.

First, it’s possible. Probably not for everybody, but if for those who harbor a desire and a modicum of experience writing anything fictive, it is possible.

Second, it’s work. My hands hurt every night (but I have bad typing style). It took a lot of energy all those nights when I didn’t have much left from long days and rowdy kids. It wasn’t always fun, but there were bursts and briefs of something akin to joy here and there.

Third, think of the pros, the big name authors, the best-sellers. Think of 90% of all the novels you’ve ever read. Those guys are serious craftsmen. They do not exist in the same world as you do. Even the trashiest romance novelist, the mass-market paper back fantasy author, the woman that did the adaption of a screenplay. George Lucas, even. Pros. Not in your league. Not in my league. Not yet, anyway. Now think of the most hackneyed, god-awful novel you’ve ever attempted to read. Still a pro. Still in another league, though he may be swinging in AA or even Short-Season A. But he can still out-pitch, out bat, and out run you.

Fourth, I have a seriously good wife. She drove me through this, making sure that once I sat down to write, laundry got folded, dishes washed, house straightened, and the kids told to “be quiet and go to sleep and this time I mean it.” Every night. I wouldn’t have done it without her encouragement. OK…I knew she was a good wife even before this, but her support was wonderful.

Fifth, first novels are good experience, not always good stories. In other words, while I appreciate your interest and encouragement, you most likely will not be seeing the words I wrote anytime soon. Believe you me, that is to spare your eyes as much as it is to spare my dwindling self-respect.

It was a great experience, but not for the faint-hearted. Like hiking the Grand Canyon. But unlike hiking the Grand Canyon, which I want to do again someday but not too soon, now that I’ve had two nights off of writing, I’m almost ready to start in again.


I promised in the comments on the last post that I would restore my link list. But when I went over to “Blogrolling” to get the code, the site is missing. Apparently they were providing the feeds for it, but the site itself is done.

Have no fear, though, for I still have (most) of those links saved…somewhere. I’ll do my best.

UPDATE: What I thought should be very simple, very easy–as Chef Tell used to say, is not. A similar list of blogs that I currently read is being assembled.

If, in a few days, if your blog was listed and now is not, or should be, or you’d like it to be, just let me know.

Thanksgiving For Everything

An excerpt from a sermon for tomorrow

Our thanksgiving as Christians is much deeper than simply thanking God for all the good things. Christians give thanks for the bad too. Christians thank thank God for disease, for cancer, for the droughts, for the rain that comes to late, for the injuries.

It sounds masochistic. Perverse. The delusions of a fanatic. Nonsense. Think what you will.

I know that God is good.

I know that β€œall things work together for good, for those who love God.”

I know that St. Paul says, β€œin everything give thanks.”

I know that God disciplines those He loves.

I know that God works all things for my salvation.

I know that God is good.

I know that suffering with Christ is a blessing.

I know that Christ suffered for me.

I know that God is good, even when it looks like hell to me.

I know that God is patient, long-suffering, even when I am not.

I know that at the times this is hard. When the job goes badly, when people turn against you, when the fever rages, when the diagnoses comes, when all seems dark–that kind of thanksgiving is far, far, from my lips and has fled my heart.

But God is good. What He does is good. What He allows is good.

If not, we should all go home and never come back.

If not, our faith is empty.

If not, there is no hope.

If not, even Christ cannot save you.

God is good and loves his whole creation.

In everything give thanks, knowing that God works all things for the good for those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.

See “How Can We Give Thanks” by Fr. Stephen Freeman

Prayer Request

Lucille Choat died this morning at 5:20 am after a long illness. She suffered numerous strokes over the years, leaving her unable to speak, and near the end, move at all.

On Tuesday of last week I prayed with her, and she actually nodded her head when I prayed the Lord’s Prayer with her. When I assured her of the God’s love for her, and of her faith in Christ that I had seen, she nodded again. That was the greatest response I’d seen her give in weeks.

Pray for all.

Saying of the Day

[Bishop Epiphanius] said, “God remits the debts of sinners who are penitent, for example, the sinful woman and the publican, but of the righteous man he even asks interest. This is what he says to his apostles, ‘Except your righteousness exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'”

Sayings. Epiphanius. 15

“No Time to Read Novels”

That is the nonsense I saw a pastor write somewhere. That’s like saying “I have no time to eat a cookie. I have no time to have a good conversation with someone. I have no time to dream. I have no time to smell my wife’s perfume. I have no time to take a long deep breath of autumn air.”

I wonder if he somehow finds time to watch the Game. Or the Shows. Or read the Newspaper. Or blog…which is where I read the comment.