Last Minute Pep Talk to Writers

I have never met a person who said, “I don’t want to write a book before I die.” Truthfully, I’m sure some people feel that way – but I haven’t met them. Most people harbor a glistening imagination deep in the wellspring of their soul that they are just too afraid to expose. Today, on the eve of Halloween, the brink of NaNo, and on the cusp of the most imaginative and magical season of the year, I would like to dedicate our minds and attention to our inner child… or, our locked-up imaginations.

“Fun is closely related to Joy,” says C.S. Lewis, “-a sort of emotional froth arising from the play instinct … it promotes charity, courage, contentment…” (And I would like to take it one step further for this 21st century audience and add that Fun creates jobs.)

In light of this NaNo contest starting up in just two days, I want to encourage those of you who plan on participating to not be afraid to dive deep into your imagination, as silly as it may seem. When you think your imagination is so far away from mainstream entertainment think of J.M. Barrie who dared to have pirates and Indians coexist on the same star-inhabited island. Think like him, and allow yourself to become inspired by the things that surround you. (And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, cancel your plans for this evening and rent Finding Neverland.)

Think of the guys at Pixar who dared to create a “children’s” movie about a senior citizen and a flying house. Be reassured by the words of Pete Docter, the co-writer and co-director of Up: “There were times when we thought to ourselves, ‘An old man in a floating house? With a Wilderness Explorer and a talking dog? What are we thinking? Who’s going to connect with this?'”

When you start to panic about writing your story, think: A secret world found in a wardrobe… A magical chocolate factory… A cowardly lion and a brainless scarecrow… a man who climbs inside a box (see what I did there?)… these are all really weird concepts. But they work! And yours can too!

As you write, don’t worry about whether people will like it or not. Write because it’s something you want to read. Because, truthfully, you’re not that different from other people. You like the same stories everyone else likes. So, who’s to say your own stories won’t be received well by others?

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Last Minute Jitters [or] What Will You Be Writing?

Last week I posted about NaNo. I said I was going to do it, and I will. But as you can see by the duel title of this message, I am growing very skeptical – or undecided – about what my subject matter should be.

I had it all figured out until last night. I was going to write a Christmas story that I’ve had planned for the last seven years, but I realized I’m just not ready for it yet. It’s a precious story to me that I don’t want to be rushed.

Then I started thinking about what people have been saying about my book The Man in the Box (coming out Nov. 30th). And it seems I’ve established myself as a suspense/adventure writer. Now granted, my next book is nowhere near said genre (Scroll down here for synopsis), but I wouldn’t want to disappoint fans of the book by deviating from suspense for too long – hence, keeping people in suspense…

Anyway, all that to say, I thought I had my book for this NaNo writer’s contest all figured out. But clearly, I don’t. I’m writing this as an encouragement to those of you who find themselves in the same boat as me. You’re not alone. And (I hope) I’m not alone.

When it comes to stories and books, I don’t want to just wing it. I want to deliver the best plot, the best characters, I possibly can. And I hope you’re the same way. I hope there aren’t many people entering this contest just to write a book, without having any concept of what they want to write. (How many times have you seen an awful movie and wondered, “Did they just make this because they were bored?”) No, I hope you go into November with a clear reason as to why you’re writing a book, and with some concept of what it will be about.

Because if you just start writing something without having any idea where it’s going or why you’re writing it, then it’s very likely you’re going to give up, and you’ll kick yourself and eat a lot of ice cream and you won’t be in any shape to eat a hearty Thanksgiving dinner… hmmm, I think I see why this contest is held in November…

I’m not there yet. But I have four days to get there. And so do you. And remember (as soon as I figure out how) I’m going to have a link somewhere on this blog for you to post your developing stories for all to see. So, stay encouraged, get prepared, and be ready to write the best book you possibly can. NaNo starts November 1st.

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From Barren to Blessed

Here on AdoptingJames we talk a lot about pop culture, faith, and writing. One institution we like to highlight  – as suggested by the name of the blog – is adoption.

Meet Caroline. She is a woman of God who struggled for many years with the despair of infertility. She struggled so much so that she chose to let her pain come between her and God, as so many of us do. Eleven years ago she decided to take her aunt up on her invitation to come to church, and she still attends to this day, being drawn closer and closer to her loving Father.

In 2006 Caroline and her husband decided to become Foster parents and God was gracious to give them their first placement the day they became licensed. They worked closely with the child’s mother who could not keep him, and they officially adopted him to be their son when he was 20 months old. They received their daughter, who had been abandoned, at seven weeks old. They adopted her when she was just sixteen months old.

They are currently no longer fostering, but are working in child welfare, and their passion for the children is immense. I encourage you to read their story. I have provided two links for you to check out. Caroline is currently writing a book about her life.

Fostering His Will

Around the Fire

How We Celebrate Halloween

Read more of this post

NaNo

I’m finally doing it. After years of hearing about it and shrugging it off as some silly little exercise… this year, I’m going to participate. Now, I know what you’re thinking:

“Andrew, you’ve already written a novel called The Man in the Box which will be available on Kindle for download on November 30th

(Did you catch that?)

“And you’ve written another one called I Am the Lionwhich will be out next year.”

That’s true too.

“So why are you trying this NaNoWriMo thing?”

Because as a writer, I want to push myself. Plus, I’d like to have another book written by the end of the year.

“That’s great,” you say. “But what the heck is NaNoWriMo?”

(Were you thinking all of that?)

National Novel Writing Month begins on November first. The goal is to write a fifty-thousand-word novel in just one month. No edits, no proofs, no corrections… just fly through and get your story told.

I used to be against this project because I believe in cultivating the art of storytelling and letting your ideas simmer and then slowly but surely mold those ideas into a seamless narrative that others can look at and appreciate all the time and effort that went into it. I still advocate for that, but I also realize many people have great stories to tell, but simply haven’t told them yet because they just haven’t gotten around to it because “Swamp People” has been consuming them or something.

Well, no more excuses, people. I’m going to be jumping into this crazy little endeavor right beside you, even in the midst of the oncoming holiday season, heated election, November birthday parties, and Thanksgiving togetherness, I’ll be at my computer dark and early each morning typing my 1,666 daily word-count.

I’m not going into this blindly. I’m preparing for my book now, doing my research, and noting plot lines that will help fuel the story. But the great thing about this contest is that you can write about virtually anything you want!

So, for you inspiring writers, I encourage you to take this challenge with me. And as Sarabeth suggested, I will be posting a link on here for you to list your samples and your blogs for others to find. Yup – free advertising!

So, buckle in and get ready. November will be quite a month. Visit nano for more information and to sign up. Dig down deep for that novel you’ve always wanted to write, start getting some notes together, and let’s embark on a really cool writing adventure together!

Oh, and did I mention? I haven’t seen the movie or read the book, but Water for Elephants was the winner a few years back, which is how it became so popular.

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A Letter to Christians

Dear Christian,

I came across many of your kind in my life. Many of you were kind and gentle, you offered words of encouragement and inspiration. You lifted me up when I felt down. You were the nicest people I worked with, but the dorkiest people to hang around. But still, somehow you seemed happier than I felt. I guess I just assumed you were pretending just like I was.

But still, some of you were jerks. You were bigoted, and forceful and condescending. You lied like the rest of us, you sometimes cursed, and you treated your spouses rudely. I’m sure you know by now that you were wrong, and judging by your life-pattern, I’m sure you are sorry. But I was just as much at fault for expecting you to be perfect. One of you said to me once, “We’re not perfect, we just follow a perfect Leader.” I thought that was so cheesy.

I didn’t know it, but I was following a perfect leader too. He was perfect in his cunningness, never missing an opportunity to darken my blindfold, or trip me up. He was perfect at lying to me, at tempting me into trouble, and accusing me for the crimes he presented to me to commit. And I was perfect at following him every step of the way.

I was great at winning arguments with you guys. I would bring up scientific facts to stump you (though I see those were just lies too… you didn’t know it, but science was your biggest ally), or cause you to trip over you tongue when I asked meaningless questions like “Can your God create a rock so big…?” I can see now that that was my way of sneaking out of the debate. And every time I used a lie as my backdoor exit. Every. Single. Time.

And your Perfect Leader – your God – let me. Because He is perfect. He is perfectly just and perfectly fair and perfectly willing to grant me freedom whenever I want it. I know you would hate for me to victimize you, but really, you were caught in the middle. You were commanded by your God to tell me the truth. But you also didn’t want to offend me – another stupid barrier we put up against you. And I don’t know about anyone else, and I wouldn’t have admitted it, but I kind of wanted you to offend me – after all, who’s not up for a hearty debate?

But a lot of you refused to. A lot of you kept silent. A lot of you knew you had to tell me about your God, but you refused. You would have rather talked about TV shows, or the latest movies, or argue politics. And honestly, I appreciated that. But now I hate you for that. That was the biggest, most unforgiving offense of all – keeping silent.

I’m not saying I would have accepted your God as my God – I’m not. I’m just saying, at least you would have been loving me the way you were supposed to. And at least I would have had more to ponder on those many nights I laid awake tossing and turning in bed, wondering if putting all my stock in multiple gods and flawed prophets is the wisest choice.

But here I am – you know where. You can tell, because of how old and charred and illegible this paper is. I’ve been here for decades, and I’ll be here for trillions of centuries and more. Every now and then I take a peak upward and see miniscule shafts of light pouring in from your World and I cry out to your God to save me – SAVE ME! – but He has trapped His echo in this furnace with me for all eternity: “You had your chance. I did My part. I offered My gift, but you refused it every single time.”

To those of you who spoke of your God to me: Thank you. To those of you who didn’t: Shape up and open your mouths, and ask your God to prevent more cages from filling up down here.

– Eternally Lost

Need an editor? Click here.

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Pirates of the Caribbean Prequel

For fans of the Pirates movies, I’ve got a treat for you. And even if you’re not a fan of all of the movies, this book could be enough to nearly satisfy what was missing in movies 2 and 3 – entertainment. (Part 4 is as good as the first one by the way – in case its predecessors discouraged you from seeing it.)

Now, at 650-odd pages, The Price of Freedom by A.C. Crispen, took me months to read. Mostly because I’d bounce back and forth to more serious books, because I do not condone anyone spending all their reading time on entertainment, and that’s what this book is –  reading candy. Too much of this kind of book and your brain will get cavities. (I know, I know, I wrote a novel for entertainment, but it’s my job, go easy on me.)

That said (stepping off my soapbox now), as far as candy goes, this one’s pretty sweet. Meet young Jack Sparrow, an ex-pirate trying to make an honest living as a sailor for the East India Trading Company. Later, he finds himself working directly under Cuttler Becket. You’ll have run-ins with a handful of characters from the movies and you’ll nod your head and say, “Ah,” several times in recognition to many familiar references.

I appreciated that Crispen didn’t linger too long on the few action scenes that there were, because sword fights in a book, as opposed to watching them in a movie, can be quite dull (“He jabbed the air, the other guy ducked. He jabbed the air again, the other guy jumped. He sliced the air this time, and the other guy leaned over…”). No, the strength of this book actually comes from the dialogue, and Jack Sparrow actually talks like Jack Sparrow!

I did have a few qualms with Freedom, however. I felt like Jack was out of character a lot of times. For instance, the author portrayed him as an abolitionist. I know, technically speaking, Sparrow is a protagonist. But the Jack Sparrow in the movies wouldn’t care one way or the other about slavery. Maybe Crispen was just being politically correct, and I can understand that – job security and all. But I always thought one of the key character-traits in Jack Sparrow was that he’s always looking out for numero uno – and with style! I just felt like I was reading about someone else when he actually cared about something other than his beloved ship or treasure. 

The other problem I had was that I didn’t feel like the book addressed all the mysteries the movies hinted at. And I certainly didn’t feel like the book’s ending pulled us up to the shore of the opening of Black Pearl when we’re first introduced to Captain Sparrow.

The last major problem I had was the sensuality. There was lots of it. I know, “A woman at every port” and all – I understand that. But I’d rather the story just cut straight to the next morning. Now to be fair, it never got graphic, but the innuendos were frequently threaded throughout. Luckily the book is thicker than my Bible, so the size alone would deter any kid from reading it.

But candy is supposed to taste good, not provide nourishment. I don’t think there was anything poisonous in this book to Christians. But if you read my blog often enough, you know that I can’t help but draw some Biblical teaching out of any book or movie. This book stumps me in that regard. It’s like Harry Potter. It’s a good time-killer, nothing more, nothing less. So if you’re looking for a fun, brainless adventure on the high seas, “[Eat] up, me hearties…”

Check it out here

Oh, and vote for my entree to help me win more products to promote my book. Click here and like my picture (it’s the first one, top row, easy to spot). Now, by all means, if you see a better entree, vote for theirs as well!