Have You Ever Started a Writing Group?

I haven’t!

But, that’s just what my wife, Lisa, and I are about to do.

It’s not that there aren’t good writing groups around us. There are. And I mean, really good. It’s not that I’m a control freak, seeking the spotlight, or trying to promote myself. I’ll admit that in years past, that might very well have been my motivation, but one of the effects of the adversity God has allowed in my life the past several years is that a lot of my controlling, spotlight-seeking, self-promoting impulses were quite thoroughly crushed, and good riddance.

No, the reason that Lisa and I have decided to start a new writing group is because, as many good writing groups as there are in this area, most of them are packed. So, clearly, still more are needed. A second reason is that Lisa and I feel strongly led to support faith-based writers. I rarely encountered faith-based writers in the writing groups I attended, and thinking about that I think I may have put my finger on why: A lot of the content that contemporary mainstream writers, particularly yet-to-be-published writers, write can be very tough for faith-based writers to handle. And conversely, I’m sure a lot of faith-based writers would feel very vulnerable having their faith-based writing critiqued by such writers.

So, most faith-based writers, even published authors, tend to steer well clear of writing groups. And this is a shame, because, let’s be honest… a lot of Biblical and Christian fiction is being published because the demand for faith-based content is so high. Faith-based writers should be equipped so that they can produce some of the best writing available anywhere, and sadly, by virtue of not feeling welcome or comfortable in secular writing groups, they’re just not being equipped as well as they deserve.

Lisa and I want to change all of this – for the sake of faith-based writers, for the sake of the faith-based publishing industry, for the sake of literature, and most of all for the sake of the Good News. So, our writing group will be specifically and exclusively for faith-based writing of all types: devotionals, poetry, theological and biblical commentary, but with a special emphasis on the most neglected genre of all: faith-based fiction.

Now, I can’t say that I have attended tons of writing groups over the years. I’ve really only attended two with any regularity or consistency. But, I got a lot of helpful support and advice from those groups, and I’d like to pass on the support and encouragement I’ve received from them into the faith community.

We know that this is a need throughout the faith community, and we’d like this group to be the first of many such groups, supporting faith-based writers even across the country, if it be His will.

Details will follow as they become established, so please keep an eye out for them to follow.

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Expanding the Plan

Most writers become aware pretty quickly that there are two sorts of writers: plotters and pantsers. Writers will usually place themselves somewhere on a spectrum with pre-planning every detail on one end of the spectrum and pre-planning nothing and writing totally by the seat of your pants on the other.

Now, I believe every writer begins as a pantser. Even if their natural inclination is to be a plotter, plotting is its own skill and must be learned. So, brand new writers, those sitting down to try their hand at the craft for the very first time, invariably write by the seat of their pants because, at the outset, it’s all they know to do.

I am also of the opinion that as writers mature and grow, they move inexorably toward becoming plotters. The degree of pre-planning that will work best for each writer will vary, but I believe that, at some point, every writer on their path to becoming a mature writer must learn how to add structure to their writing in some sort of planning stage.

On my previous blog site, I posted about a plotting method developed and used by a writer named Rachel Aaron. She posted about it on her blog in a post called How I Plot a Novel in 5 Steps. There’s no way I’ll be able to remotely do it justice in a summary, so I highly recommend reading it in it’s entirety. This method was the first time I had come across a comprehensive template for plotting a novel, and it was absolutely revolutionary. I never had an opportunity to use it because life got in the way, but just reading through it over and over changed how I thought about plotting stories, and my ability to conceptualize a story took a tremendous leap forward. Thank you, Rachel.

Now, add this to that. Several days ago I came across another method, even more comprehensive than Rachel Aaron’s method. This method is somewhat better-known: The Snowflake Method, by Randy Ingermanson. I strongly suggest visiting his site, even if you’re not all that interested in the Snowflake Method. Everything I like about Rachel Aaron’s method is amplified and expanded in Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method, but has the added bonus of practically writing your story synopses for you along the way toward plotting the novel. That’s really handy when it comes to selling your novel or pitching an agent. There is a potential drawback to this method (and Randy Ingermanson, himself, has removed a step that he no longer needs), which is that so much of the novel is established before writing Word One that the process can be overwhelming for some writers and cause them to become burned out on the project altogether. But it works really well for Randy and a lot of other writers swear by it. I’ll have to give it a try and see how well it works for me. I’m eager to see.

So, back to Expanding the Plan

According to the research I’ve done, very few writers sell the first stories they write.  And, that makes sense. Do artists sell their first painting? Composers, the first song they ever wrote?  Rarely. Now, some writers develop quickly and manage to sell their second novel. But, more usually, it’s the third, or even the fourth novel a writer finishes that becomes their first novel to be published. I’m sure that, if a lot of them had known that the third or fourth novel they finished would be the first one published, they might have made different choices about what story ideas they pursued.

With that in mind, the Sons of Kalev story is the story I’m most committed to. It’s the story I most believe in, and the story that I believe has the best commercial potential. Consequently, I don’t want to do a rookie job on it. So, given that I have several other projects I’ve started, and that I have not come close to finishing any of those projects, I’m actually going to divert my focus away from the Sons of Kalev project for a while and I’m going to use those unfinished projects to develop my writing skills.

I’m going to start from scratch, as if they were brand-new story ideas, and use what I’ve learned since I started to produce the best work I can. Character development, world building, story arcs, theme, tone, plot and structure, dialogue and exposition, will all be on the chopping block as I re-examine what I’ve done and see if I can complete a first novel. Then another, and another. Then, when I feel like I’m starting to produce commercial-grade writing, then I’ll turn my attention to the Sons of Kalev project and see if I can produce a novel I can sell.

Culling the character list

I have eight characters on my list of primary characters. I know, that’s a lot of primary characters. But I did decide that two of them could be easily combined and that, alone, would tighten things up quite a bit.

So, here’s the updated list:

Nebnakht – A wealthy Egyptian Priest of Ptah

Ankhti – His wife, a socialite

Abdkadjed – Their first-born son, a palace scribe

Pamunedes – Their second son, a charioteer in Pharaoh’s army

Mered – A Hebrew manservant of the tribe of Levi

Khaba – A Hebrew manservant of the tribe of Y’hudah, a devotee of Ptah

Ahuva Bat Aset – A Hebrew maidservant of the tribe of Gad, a devotee of Isis

 

I know. It looks like the title character (Kalev) has gone missing. But I decided to essentially fold his storyline into Khaba’s storyline. That seems to resolve a lot of issues I had with both characters.

Yes, Virginia, there is a plan to pause

A new phase of life brings a new perspective on writing.

After a year of my wife going on the road with me as I worked as a professional truck driver, followed by our spending two years in Alabama spending practically every waking moment trying to make ends meet, we’ve come back to Florida to start over.  We absolutely see the hand of God in this, so we are by no means discouraged. On the contrary, despite the humble circumstances we are starting out in here, Lisa and I are very excited to discover what He has in store for us now. So, while we reboot professionally and do our best to keep our eyes wide open for whatever opportunities God may be establishing for us, we have deliberately set out to eliminate any preconceived notions and underlying assumptions regarding what those opportunities may be. And that’s how it was that, just days ago, Lisa and I discovered that, completely independently of each other, we had both begun to consider returning to writing.

Now, the project that’s been on my mind for years, a historical fiction story taking place during the time of the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt, is still in its early planning/conceptual stage, so it will likely be some time before I have anything from the draft to share; and that’s assuming that I even decide that sharing content from the draft is such a good idea. But the point of this post is primarily to update folks on a couple of things:

  1. In hindsight, the pause in my ability to write was clearly part of His plan, even if it wasn’t mine.
  2. That, while I may not have a ton of time to devote to writing right now, that pause is absolutely over.

So, it’s sleeve rolling time. Baruch Hashem! (Blessed be the Name of the Lord!)

Wow, what a crazy ride it’s been!

Okay, here’s the deal…

I last posted here in April of last year. Yes, I still think about the Sons of Kalev project. Yes, I REALLY wish I had the time to write. But the reality is that my workdays start with me waking up at 4:00 am. I get to the office just before 6:00 am, I work at the office until 3:00 pm, get home at around 4:00 pm, work at home until about 7:00 pm, and finally relax until going to bed at 8:00 pm so I can get exactly eight hours of sleep before doing it all again the next day. That’s my life.

And I want you to know that I’m not exactly complaining, here. I absolutely love what I do for a living. Essentially, I’m a web designer, and that’s what I do for most of my day, but I’m also currently learning other web technologies so I can add web developer to the list of jobs I can do. Put simply, I’m just flat-out swamped. Every single day. It’s a great career to have, and I’m resolved that this is what I need to be doing.

The only downside is…

I REALLY want to write that story!

I just can’t right now. That makes me sad, but being able to support my family doing another job that I also love makes me happy enough to shed tears. I’m truly blessed, and I know it.

So, the point of my post here is this:

I don’t know when I’ll finally be able to write this story, or even if I’ll ever be able to write this story, but if God wants me to write it, then He is perfectly capable of providing the circumstances that will allow me to be able to write it. Until then, if I think of something while I’m working to support my family that would pertain to the Sons of Kalev, I’ll document it. I have an online folder where I store such things. Beyond that, I wouldn’t expect much to happen. But if and when it does, I’ll post it here, first.

Thanks to all of you who have supported and encouraged my writing. Many of you became dear friends along the way, so your time and effort was not wasted.

Be well, everyone.

William

Friday Fun – Beating Writer’s Block

I love helpful advice like this. Acquiring writing discipline is one of the big things that separates professionals from amateurs, and serious amateurs from hobbyists.

Live to Write - Write to Live

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: We recently asked you what questions you’d like answered in our Friday Fun post. Today, we’re answering the following reader question:

FriFunQuestion7JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: Hi, Laurel. Writer’s Block is something each of us battles at one time or another. I have days when I believe it’s a real thing and days where I know it’s all in my head. Either way, I’ve dealt with it enough over the years that I wrote a four-part series on the topic:

I…

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Taking Writing More Seriously Than Ever – And Proving It

In my quest to be a significantly more serious and focused writer, I’ve decided upon a course of action much more bold than I’ve ever considered before. I’m going to write to the best of my ability and submit my writing to contests. If I win something, that would be nice (and my eventual goal will be to start winning contests on at least a semi-regular basis), but my initial goal will be to simply get better at writing by taking it seriously and doing the work necessary to improve.  Continue reading “Taking Writing More Seriously Than Ever – And Proving It”