Little Things and NaNo Update

Early this morning, I remembered that today marked a year exactly since the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that disrupted our lives and the lives of thousands of people here in New Zealand. Wow. Amazing how many changes can be made in a year, and how two minutes at midnight has created challenges for people to this day. One main road still hasn’t been opened yet as a result (although the current hope is that they will be able to open it within a month).

So much in such a little time.

Little Things and NaNo Update

I was listening to a podcast earlier today as I cleaned a few windows in my bedroom that have been bugging me for weeks. Michael Hyatt, a well-known leader in the business world, was talking, and he said something about how our words and actions can influence people either positively or negatively, depending on how we use them. He went on to say that our attitudes and perceptions of life can, in some cases anyway, be huge determining factors in how others relate to us—or even if we end up keeping our jobs or not! Again, another case where little things can influence huge changes, either good or bad.

Lots to ponder there.

The main project for me these last two weeks has been writing. Since I signed up for NaNoWriMo, I’ve been writing at least a little each day. It’s been so, so fun. And while I know that we shouldn’t just do life for the fun aspect, I do think it’s okay in the creative sphere to really challenge yourself to turn up each day and get something done. The challenge is good, but it’s also fun to do.

Last week, I finished the first children’s story I was writing, and began a second that I’ve been pondering off and on for a little while. I’m almost to the end of the second now, and I’m not sure where I’ll be going from here, as I’ll still need nearly 23,000 words of something to write in the next fifteen days in order to win NaNo.

One thing that I have found fascinating over the course of this challenge is the fact that my creativity levels can be depleted. Some days are better, some are worse, but overall I’ve witnessed a general slide in the creativity to a not-so-full state. That’s fine, as I know I’ll be able to tank up over the next few months again, but it has been an interesting trend to follow.

I also have been amusing myself greatly by how much I forget to include one particular character in my more recent story. It’s a dragon, who is supposed to be a little bit on the arrogant slash snarky side, but he keeps forgetting to act his character or I forget he’s even there…this is when I’m looking forward to doing some editing so I can put him back in later. 🙂

In all, NaNo has gone a lot better than I expected so far, I’ve loved (almost) every minute—except for the few times when I realize I’m writing an extremely boring scene!—and I’m looking forward to the final sixteen-or-so days.

Now, I’d better go see if I can figure out another story to write, or else make some good progress on planning out the story I’ve been wanting to write for years!

What projects have you been working on lately? Have you ever listened to podcasts by business leaders? What is one useful tip you have picked up or been given recently?

November’s NaNoWriMo and a Thankfulness Challenge

Last Wednesday, I did something crazy that I’m hoping I won’t end up regretting (I don’t think I will): I signed up for NaNoWriMo this month. (NaNo, as in National Novel Writing Month, or the crazy challenge writers take to write 50,000 words in 30 days.) I’ve participated other years—and even managed to get to 50k in 2013!—but since then, I’ve gained a lot of other responsibilities, so this is proving to be an even bigger challenge than it was back then.

But it’s been so, so fun as well. It’s thrilling to watch a story develop under your fingertips; to “live” in another place and try to put all five senses that you’re discovering there in word form so that someone else can experience it as well.

November's NaNoWriMo and a Thankfulness Challenge 01

Pre-food near-starvation mode

As an aside: One thing I’ve discovered about myself (to my surprise!) is that I tend to write a lot more clearly than I speak. That’s become a continual annoyance to me, because words flow so well through my fingertips, but not necessarily through my lips. But that’s okay. It’s always good to have at least one thing to hone in life, right?

Back in 2013, and again in 2014 and 2015, I believe, I participated in another month-long challenge in November: GiveThanks x7. It was hosted by a girl’s magazine, The King’s Blooming Rose, with the goal being to write down seven things I’m grateful for every day of the month of November. It proved to be a lovely time of creating a habit of thankfulness, a frame of mind I’d love to be in constantly.

This year, although the magazine isn’t hosting the challenge, they do encourage us to do it ourselves. So I thought I’d share my “thankful” lists from the last three days.

November's NaNoWriMo and a Thankfulness Challenge 02

Post-food relaxation mode (at this point, I’m thinking there are probably some interesting and useful parallels between sheep and humans, as the Bible often points out).

November 1:

  1. Haunt Fox by Jim Kjielgaard—a fascinating nature book!
  2. Peacocks—they’re so pretty!
  3. Beautiful mornings
  4. November
  5. A new dresser for my little sister
  6. NaNoWriMo
  7. Work away from home!

November 2:

  1. Summery days
  2. Motel-quality sheets (what luxury!)
  3. Stories to write
  4. Roses
  5. Bible memory verses
  6. Pitcher plants—fascinating things, especially when wasps get stuck in them!
  7. Dear friends who are willing to help when it’s difficult to get something done ourselves (oh, that I might be a friend like that to other people!)

November 3:

  1. The quails I heard early this morning
  2. Brothers that I can delight with stories
  3. My happy little sister
  4. God’s faithfulness
  5. The color of fresh spring green
  6. Taking walks with my little sister
  7. Her delight in nature

Have you ever written fictional stories and/or participated in a writing challenge? What are some things you are thankful for today?

In Which I…Embark on Being a Writer Again

Eleven days ago, I started a journey I’ve been pondering for quite a few months now, but hadn’t figured out how to do until then. But once I did figure it out—at least, the first step—I jumped in. And I haven’t looked back. Until today.

If you had known me back in 2012, you would have found me a girl who was just discovering the beauties of creative writing. Just testing the waters, starting to feel the potential, excited that my dreams, thoughts, and ideas could be expressed in such an exciting way. I signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, or NaNo for short) that year, and my first task was researching what this “novel” thing mentioned in the website’s name was. The next year, I read every writing blog I could find, and grew by leaps and bounds in my knowledge. I loved it.

In 2013, I went into NaNo with a much better idea of what this whole thing was about, eager to tell the story I’d been trying to write for a year and a half at that point. I lost myself in the story, reveling in the descriptions and characters that seemed to leap from my head to the page. For those first three weeks of November, I lived the rest of my life as an automaton, completely caught up in my story. Then I won NaNo, finished the book, and suddenly realized…what do I do next?

Writing Again

Over the course of the next few months, into early 2014, I edited the novel, and dreamed about the new ideas I had as a result of all the creative writing I’d been doing.

Then I stopped. I had a new story idea that I loved, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it work—so from early 2014 until now, mid-2017, I barely ever picked up the creative pen, so to speak. Last November, I briefly tried again for NaNoWriMo, but almost immediately got stymied because I couldn’t figure out where the story was going.

This month, I’ve started again.

I decided to be simple, but intentional about writing. I’ve really missed using my imagination in the story realm, and the longer I let it go the more I miss it, so I’ve decided to simply write 100 words per day—so that if nothing else, I can practice the craft at least a little every day. You know, the old “practice makes perfect—or at least makes you better at it”.

I asked a dear friend if she’d be willing to be my accountability partner for this goal, and (thank you, Rachel!) she agreed. So now she’s getting an exorbitant amount of emails from me now, but it’s keeping me on track. I’m thankful—and loving to be back “in the saddle” again!

(By the way—you should totally check out her blog. I love it, and she tends to do an excellent job of stepping on my toes, too, in that excellent way she has. She’s shared some very good articles lately.)

Do you enjoy creative writing? What have you written recently?

Good vs. Great (and Why I Don’t Like War Room)

I read great books all the time. Sometimes, it almost feels repetitive to say “this is such a great book!” because I’ve said it literally a hundred-plus times before. But the truth is—there are lots of great books out there. Yes, there are a lot of “good” ones, too. Ones that aren’t really great, but are still good and still teachable.

Often, I ponder the difference between these books. What makes one book just good and another really great? Do I judge a book as great simply because it had an adventure-filled storyline, or is it something deeper?

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Case in point: Just recently, my family and I got to watch War Room for the first time. If you’ve followed Christian news at all for the last year or so, I’m sure you’ve heard of this new movie from the Kendrick brothers. Having watched and appreciated the four previous movies, I figured this would be another great one as well. Well…I came away feeling less than impressed. The overall theme of the movie? Yes, that’s great. But the movie itself? Good, at best. Now, that isn’t the opinion of everyone in my family—praise God for different people with different strengths who can appreciate things I can’t so much!—but for me, I was disappointed to some extent.

As far as the encouragement to pray, I can go along with that 100%. I also appreciated the (whats-it-called?) cinematography—that was also well done. However, I felt like some of the things added to the movie were only there for the excitement factor (such as the jump-rope competition; yes, it was part of the story throughout, but it felt contrived). Many of the scenes felt like telling, not showing (characters just sat and yakked…which isn’t all bad AND there is some good stuff shared there, but it still was “telling”). And overall, I felt like the winning was contrived—whether it was the tension at home (wrapped up way too soon), or the bad guy being let off with a way too easy fine (considering the circumstances, he should have gotten a lot more punishment than he did), it wasn’t all that satisfying. Yes, it was good. Yes, I did mostly enjoy it in the end. But I’ve found a few bones to pick about it.

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Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Knowing that I tend to write some pretty lame fiction, I really don’t want to pass judgment on other people’s books. Maybe I’m cut out to be more of a reader than a writer, although I’m sure I’ll always secretly wish that I could be a writer too. Writing is just so fun! At the same time, though, I wonder why one book that should be great is just good. Average. Why somehow it’s failed to hit the higher point on the judgment meter, even though I know the author is a dedicated Christian who has the ability to craft amazing stories.

In rereading my review of 21 Days of Grace tonight (review will be up in about a week), I think I may have discovered a partial answer to that: The characters weren’t needy. By that I mean they didn’t desperately need an out, whatever it is. They weren’t flawed.

Is it possible that in writing Christian fiction we’re so steeped in our ideal of what Christianity should look like that we miss the fact that underneath we’re all sinners? That we’re all flawed, in some way or another? And as a result of this ideal we create people—saved or unsaved—in our stories that ultimately end up “perfect” (which, of course, isn’t possible or plausible in real life)?

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Of course, there’s got to be a balance here. We can’t glory in sin in order for characters to be flawed. And we can’t have them so flawed that it makes it unbelievable that they can ever be a true Christian. But perhaps we need to step outside of our idea of perfectionism just a little bit in order to grasp the beauty of what Christ has done for us. Perhaps once in a while we need to distance ourselves from what we know and believe is right and consider another point of view, in order to see the truth more clearly.

I’m sure there are more pieces to this puzzle that I haven’t figured out yet. There’s got to be. But maybe this is one key to work with, one reason that makes some books that should be great just good, and makes some books truly amazing.

What do you think? What are some differences that you can see between a “good” and a “great” book? Do you think we could be so blinded by our worldview that we can’t create engaging, useful stories?