Who’s your god?

The bulk of today’s post is about Christianity. But if you follow me for writing, I highly recommend reading this long, but informative piece: Publishing’s Parallel Universe by Louise Merrington, which talks about her experience with both traditional and indie publishing.

Now onto faith… To highlight the point I’ll be making in this post, a passage from The Heavenly Man which I gushed about earlier. This is a section written by Deling, Yun’s husband:

God helped us greatly while my husband was in prison. There are two special miracles that I’d like to share with you from this time.

With only Yun’s mother and me left to run the farm, things were desperate! We had no clue what we were doing. We decided to plant sweet potatoes, but didn’t know how to do it. I found out later that we should have planted the roots about two feet apart. I had planted them just a few inches apart!

All summer long our neighbours who heard about my foolishness mocked us and made fun of us! The news spread rapidly and I was the butt of many jokes.

Then in autumn, all our neighbours started cursing because they had very poor yields from their harvest. Their sweet potatoes were only the size of tennis balls.

When we pulled up our sweet potatoes, we found they were almost the size of basketballs! It was a great miracle and everyone knew God had taken care of us. Our neighbours respected us more from that moment on and they didn’t view my husband as a cursed criminal any more, but as a man who’d been unjustly incarcerated.

Our neighbours saw “the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.” Malachi 3:18.

The second miracle took place when Isaac was three. We had to exchange a portion of whatever crops we produced because we owned no animals or fertiliser. Therefore it was imperative we had a good harvest, or we would not be able to buy food to eat or the other items we needed to survive.

This time I didn’t know how to plant wheat seeds. I placed them so close together that they carpeted the soil!

Just a week before the wheat harvest, a severe hailstorm struck. Ice the size of tennis balls fell from the sky. I rushed outside when the hail started and could already see that some of our neighbours’ wheat fields had been completely flattened by the storm. Yun’s mother and I fell to our knees and cried out, “God, have mercy on us!”

A great miracle happened. Our field was the only one protected by the Lord. All our wheat was standing upright, untouched by the hail. Everyone else’s fields in the whole area had been obliterated.

People came out of their homes after the storm subsided and saw how the Lord Jesus Christ had protected us. It was another powerful testimony to them.

While we enjoyed thick, healthy wheat that year, our neighbours had no harvest and were forced to use what was left of their crops as food for their animals.

Looking back, despite the hard times, the Lord was faithful to us!

As most Christians understand, knowing God doesn’t mean your life is suddenly gold. It is fantastic in many ways, but it doesn’t spare you all of the hardships like some kind of mystical genie. As was the case for Deling above – her husband was still in prison, and she still struggled to survive. (The majority of us in the affluent West don’t understand what it means to literally be desperate. [Desperation is not waiting for your internet to buffer]).

Thinking that you’ll suddenly be prosperous and have everything you need is at the far end of the scale. But the other end of the scale is equally wrong: thinking of God with a little ‘g’. God doesn’t confer a small advantage in life, he’s the only advantage you’ll ever need.

It also shows that he’s a God who cares about the individual, and our earthly circumstances. Not only does he want to protect us from the ravages and consequences of sin (e.g. the woman caught in adultery), and pain but he knows us intimately even down to how many hairs are on our head.

Deling and her mother-in-law couldn’t just sit back and wait for rescue – they did what they can, and asked God to help. Note that God came through at the end which is so typically God. He didn’t have someone helpful come along and explain how to farm, but instead worked a miracle to show his power.

If we are being obedient to his call in our lives, then we can be confident that he will look after us. That doesn’t mean we will be saved from incredible hardship, but that he will help us through the hardship. It is, after all, what we’re called to do.

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24)

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Today is the Day

I barely slept a wink all night.

The countdown is close to reaching zero on two separate events. One event is that today I mail off my submission packet for Vengeance Will Come to a publisher.

My very first submission. It feels like I’m breaking new ground. Or better yet, stepping out on the ice, hoping that it’s frozen enough to bear my weight.

To be honest, I’m fully expecting a template rejection letter. Thanks, but no thanks. It’s my first novel and I’m sure I have much to learn about writing. I could have moved on without attempting to publish this first book – but the project would never have felt complete otherwise. (I still have a few wrinkles to smooth out in the manuscript, but they are minor and I hope to be actually complete in two weeks).

And without attempting submission I would never have learned about writing a synopsis, which was both a pleasure and a pain.

Writing a synopsis is an art all of its own and different to a query (or “pitch”). It forces you to distil your entire manuscript down to the core ingredients. (Vengeance Will Come is 300 A4 pages and my synopsis was 7 pages). In complete contradiction to an author’s normal impulses you must outline all major plot points, plot twists and character arcs. You must lay bare your secrets in a summarised recounting, without making it sterile.

I found creating the synopsis helpful in how it articulated the character arcs. In future projects I’m going to write the synopsis in parallel to the manuscript.

Writing a Synopsis

I’ve written before about the amateur author’s pendulum, and the indecisiveness of which route to choose. The spectrum is vast, with traditional publisher at one end and self-publish, release-for-free at the other end.

I’ve decided that I’m going to submit Vengeance Will Come to a traditional publisher. First and foremost, I want the gatekeeper to say I’m allowed through. I don’t want to self publish and (accidentally) add to the slush pile. I know I’m not experienced enough to judge my own quality objectively.

I also know myself. I don’t want to have to worry about things like cover art, promotion and marketing. (I realise there could be elements of this, but I don’t want to ‘go it alone’. I’d rather leave it to the experts).

So now I’m trying to write my very first synopsis. Trying being the operative word.

Why Publish?

I really like receiving correspondence with my readers – either via email or in the comments section below. I enjoy hearing your opinions and thoughts. Plus it also helps me with blog ideas 🙂

I recently wrote about the stress involved in writing something in Vengeance Will Come  (book 1) that I might later regret in a subsequent book in the series. Essentially I was worried about painting myself into a corner.

“BMadTiger” wrote to me and suggested:

No one says you have to publish the first volume straight away… You could write the remaining volumes and then adjust the first book if necessary…

Firstly thanks, BMadTiger, for your correspondence and thought.What you have said is very true, of course. It is sound advice.

So, what would possess me to release the novel, locking myself in, rather than write the entire series first? There are several reasons:

Seeing an outcome. I’ve spent hundreds of hours over multiple years on it, and I want to see an outcome for that effort. Until the novel is available to the public (in some form) it’s not an outcome.

(Having said that, if I did go down the route of a traditional publisher I’ve read that it’s better to pitch at least two books in a series than one).

To Avoid the Endless Revision Loop. One of the main dangers for new authors is to get stuck in one story, endlessly revising. It doesn’t matter how many times I look at a paragraph, I can still find changes. Some of those changes improve the paragraph and some just make it different. (Some, unwittingly, make it worse).

Sometimes it is better to finish a story and move on to the next one, even if the first isn’t perfect.Finishing a story is important, because in finishing you learn things you can’t learn at other points of writing. Whether a finished story should ever be released/published is another question.

There’s a difficult balance to achieve knowing when something is ready for release and when it’s still too raw. I’m assuming that will only come with experience, and probably a few missteps along the way.

Perfection: the enemy of productivity. Again, there’s a balance between quality and quantity. Some authors want to churn out multiple books a year (I don’t know how). Others want to publish a book which adds richness to the study of literature. They don’t care if a single novel is their life’s work. While not being a churner, my goal is to be able to write more than one series.

Also, this is my first novel-length story. I have to accept it’s not going to be perfect. Practice makes perfect.

See what I made. There is a desire to show others my work. I’ve spent so long on the project that I want to share it with others. I understand not everyone will like it. Different strokes for different folks, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I hope someone gets enthused by it. I think it’s probably the goal of every author: to have a community of people who like their work; who think about the worlds they create, and who delve deeper into the story than a casual read. A lofty dream, but here’s hoping.

And back to editing for me…

A true tale of success

I point you to this article: The Shack: How William Paul Young wrote a bestseller as an excellent encouragement.

Some highlights:

  • He was bankrupt and facing divorce after infidelity.
  • He wrote a novel for his family, and had 15 copies printed.
  • The average novel sells only 3,000 to 5,000 copies over its lifespan and sales of 7,500 gives you a bestseller.
  • They sent it to 26 publishers, who all were uninterested. They formed there own printing company and spent $300 on marketing.
  • It has sold 20 million copies, printed in 48 languages worldwide and remained #1 on The New York Times bestseller list for 49 straight weeks. (It has spent 136 weeks on the list, and returned to it just last week, currently sitting at No. 7).

(Incidentally it is an awesome book).

 

New Australian Imprint

It’s with some excitement that I recently found out about a new opportunity for writers of fantasy fiction.

From an announcement email:

The imprint Stone Table Books will be Morning Star Publishing’s first official foray into the fiction market, seeking to promote the work of talented Christian writers, or any writer of fantasy fiction that bears the stamp of a Christian worldview.

Dr Mark Worthing has accepted the call to head up this new imprint. As you can imagine, Mark brings to the role a wealth of energy and expertise. Some of you have had dealings with Morning Star Publishing  (or their US affiliates Wipf & Stock).

As an aspiring author it’s always great to welcome a new “buyer” to the marketplace 🙂

Perpetual Motion!

I have conquered perpetual motion.

Just before you fire off a twitter notification letting the world know that we have solved  energy production…I should clarify.

I seem to have an internal pendulum inside of me that just doesn’t stop swinging. It is the pendulum of both whether and how I should release Vengeance Will Come.

Pendulum

I can see some big pro/con lists in the near future.

In any case I can’t release it until it’s edited, so back to it…