Found this funny video on my agent’s blog, and have now watched it many times, often all in a row. If you are inclined toward a lot of serious study of the Word of God, and/or you just like the sound of big, melodious words, you might find it funny, too. (Though I’m almost as fascinated by how fast the guy can say/sing all this, as by what he’s saying/singing.) I’m dedicating it to my Pastor, John Farley, of Lighthouse Bible Church. 🙂 (A philologist, if you don’t know, is a type of linguist. The word literally means “love of words.” Today it’s used for those who study written texts, usually ancient ones.) Enjoy!
Last week, having discovered the nine-year-old post I “reposted” yesterday, I decided to put the “discoveries” I’d made therein into practice. I would take all those pesky cards with all their suggestions and ideas that I’d found so confusing, and assemble them into a list.
Except, when I went to do that, I discovered that the cards had disappeared. After a few moments cogitation, spiced with alarm at the notion I might somehow have thrown them all away, I recalled that I’d already made a list of them, and furthermore, that it had been more or less incorporated into a very wordy and long-winded “outline.” (I use the word advisedly. It isn’t so much an outline as a… conglomeration. Maybe a step up from the non-ordered list mentioned in the last post, but nowhere near any kind of cohesive outline.)
That I forgot having already made my list, is yet one more result of the fractured nature of my life these days. I seem to get in a couple of good days of work and then… Things Happen that I must deal with, or that distract me despite my intention not to be distracted, and when I finally get back to work, I can’t remember where I left off. That’s because I never envision the latest weird distraction that may come up to consume my time the next day and keep me away from the office, so often I don’t make detailed notes of what I must do next. (And that assumes I even know what I must do next.)
If I do make notes, when I come back to the work after the interruptions, I often can’t figure out what they mean nor recall what I had in mind when I wrote them. So once again I’m left sitting there with a feeling of confusion, my head full of whirling thoughts and ideas and ‘maybe’s,’ but nothing concrete. So there I sit, staring at the computer screen, or the papers on my desk… getting nowhere, wanting to run away, and finally recalling that I should to take my problem to the Lord, which I did.
And He delivered the following, which I happened to find amidst my papers — which is to say, I can’t recall how I found it, only that suddenly it was lying there on my desk and I picked it up. And read it:
[Transcription if you can’t decipher this: “Here’s something I’ve been doing (22 Feb 2005): Just putting my narrative notes right into the chapter, or cobbling snatches of dialog together in order to get something going — instead of sitting down and writing the sequence out whole cloth.”]
And by “writing the sequence out whole cloth,” I meant “start with the fully realized scene and just write it out as it might appear in the finished copy” (yes, I was delusional, but often delusional people don’t realize they are being delusional). To do that, of course, I needed to figure out all the details in advance which was where I was getting hung up.
But hey, this note from the me of the past suggested I forget about trying to make it all orderly and cause and effect and logical… instead of all that, just get the stuff down. You can always change it later.
So that’s what I’ve been doing. If Sevorius is going to walk into the room Varko is in… do I have a description of that room somewhere? Grab it and put it in. What about Varko? Do I have a description of him? Oh yes. In fact I have pages and pages of notes on him, including all manner of details. So I copied and pasted the description, and worked in some of those others notes, and so on.
As I saw again how sometimes that was all that was needed to get a scene moving. And if not, I’d just stop, type in a
and move on, inserting or laying down whatever other idea/dialogue snatch I had for that character in that general section of the story. It’s what I did yesterday and I ended up with 15 pages of chapter 14 which I’m calling it done for now.
More than that, several things happened along the way that I hadn’t anticipated. For one, Sevorius is suddenly having panic attacks and he has no idea why. For another, Varko wants him to look into my hero’s past, and suddenly a whole line of conflict I hadn’t thought of has presented itself. Yay!
Next up is chapter 15 and I’m going to continue mining my outline and voluminous notes for material to “stuff” into the chapter. That is, see if there aren’t some new interruptions – distractions – crucial errands/tasks that must be run/carried out/endured Right Now This Very Instant!!! that I can put into my next scene.
(Originally posted Wednesday, February 22, 2006)
I know I’ve said in different places that I tend not to make outlines, but that’s only partially true. There comes a point in the process of writing the story that I suddenly realize I have to at least tentatively plot the rest of the book.
Saturday I finished a very rough, very sketchy draft of Chapter 13, and with that reached the end of Part 1. After that I realized I had to plot the rest of the book. Until this point I’ve had stacks of index cards sitting around my desk. Stacks of things that might happen, or could happen, or will happen to Abramm. Stacks of things for Maddie. And Trap. And Carissa. Smaller stacks for others. Periodically I go through them and try to sort, but it’s usually very difficult, because they aren’t all even events. Sometimes the note is just of someone’s general mindset. Or it’s a note on the background situation. Or even a description. It might be a line of dialog that could really go anywhere. I probably have about six inches worth of stacks. Maybe more.
This sort of thing is very hard to order, and often I end up laying a batch of cards out on the desk in no particular order. I arrange a few of them together, shake my head over the rest, then give up and go back to whatever early chapter I was working on.
But eventually I have to know more clearly where I’m going and that happened last weekend. So for the last two and half days I’ve been taking the cards and putting them into a list. If I try too hard to put them into an ordered list, I will freak myself out. So I just require that I put them on the list, and assure myself I will deal with the ordering later. I got this idea from a book called Overcoming Writing Blocks, out of print now, unfortunately. It’s the one that suggested I make the index cards of Whatever Occurs to Me in the first place. And at this stage in the process it informs me that “a frequent cause of blocking is the confusion that ensues when you try to hold the entire pattern in your head at one time.” Amen, to that!
So you just sit down and you start listing your notes. “Once you’ve made the transfer from cards to list,” says the book, “you will automatically begin to engage that powerful ranking faculty everyone possesses: certain entries will begin to stand out from the page… others will naturally fall into secondary positions, to cluster around more important concepts that they support…” And how about this? It works.
I now have about 10 pages of plotline. Which is a good thing. The bad thing is that I’ve got waaay too much. So much, it makes me want to hyperventilate. So much, I have to back off, and put it all in the Lord’s hands. I don’t know how He’s going to do it, but somehow He will bring order to all this. And it’s a good thing, because from where I sit at the moment, it looks downright impossible!
Recently I attended another Nandi function at the Reid Park Zoo called “An African Sundowner with Nandi.” A “Sundowner” in Africa is the custom of enjoying cocktails at the end of the day outside beneath a gorgeous sunset. The zoo provided cocktails — and hors d’oeuvres — while God delivered on the gorgeous sunset.
After the cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, we got to see close-up demonstrations of how the keepers work with the elephants using Mabu, their 12,000 pound bull elephant (and Nandi’s daddy) for one half of us and “Auntie” Lugile for the other half.
I made a beeline for the Mabu demo as soon as the announcement was made. We stood around one half of a little wood-railed enclosure in which the trainer stood, the other half of the enclosure behind her being the protective barrier the trainers use at Reid Park. Mabu waited on the other side of the barrier. (At most he was ten feet away from me, maybe less. I was in awe.)
The barrier itself is a good fifteen to twenty feet tall and made of heavy, rectangular metal bars that form open-air “windows” in a sort of grid pattern, except the rectangles differ in size. Many of them are actually little doors that can be opened so the trainer can do whatever needs done.
It’s treat based training, so our demonstrator had a big bucket of pellets that she used for the treats. She opened a lower window, held out her hand toward Mabu, he extended his trunk through the opening and, widening the open end of it, met her palm, kind of like an elephant’s version of a high-five. The opening of the end of his trunk, however, was bigger than her hand. I think that was a “get ready” signal and response for she used it between each new task she asked him to do.
After the introductory exchange, she gave him some pellets, then another hand signal and he turned and placed his right front foot on the lower edge of the window, bent so that the heavy bottom pad faced her (and us) so she could brush it off and inspect it. When she signaled that she was done, he took his foot out of the window and turned back to collect some more treats. He did this with all four feet. (Feet and tusks, said the keepers, are the areas they have the most trouble with in keeping elephants in captivity. They check the feet every day)
Another signal prompted him to face her, lift his trunk high and in so doing, open his mouth so she could see into it and make sure all was well. We got to see in it as well. 🙂
He is SO big, so awesome! I wish I had words for the experience of watching him, the impact of his size, the sense of keen intelligence there and of being observed by him in a way that’s different from other animals, and even from the elephants most of the time. You could also sense that he was having fun, and maybe even that he enjoyed being the center of attention.
After that we went to the main yard where the keepers brought out decorated cardboard boxes with “Happy Six Month Birthday, Nandi!” on them. There was also a birthday “cake”: two large flat, rounds of frozen fruit pieces and juice joined by three slender tree branches with bark on them (bark is a tasty treat for elephants). Once all was in place the keepers left the paddock and let the elephants in — or at least Mom, Nandi and her two brothers.
They literally ran in, all excited. Mom made short work of the cake, using her feet to hold down the bottom while pulling at the top with her trunk. When that didn’t work, she just stepped on the bottom round and crushed it. Meanwhile the others were tearing the boxes apart and eating the hay inside. Well, except for Nandi. She tore her box open, ignored the hay, and continued to dismantle the box piece by piece, accompanied by all sorts of other gyrations that were just fun to watch.
I didn’t bring my camera because it was going to be low light, so I don’t have photos, but I do have this video that was made around Christmas. By then she had progressed quite a bit over the last video I posted where all she did was climb over the log and stand there. In this one she’s playing with the ball, dancing about, and doing funny things with her trunk. In short, it’s just too cute to pass up. (Also, at the very beginning of this, where Semba and Nandi are walking along with the trainer who’s outside the pen with a bucket of pellets, if you watch closely you can see the trainer give Semba a command to lift her trunk and she does so)
Well, things were going well last week. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I began to move — slowly — through Chapter 14. But then came Friday and my morning appointment with the eye doctor to make sure the shingles I developed in my eye a couple of years ago was still quiescent.
The appointment went normally, the news was good, but when I was driving home — slowly, via back streets — I noticed that everything seemed much brighter and blurrier than in the past. I chalked it up to the fact that it was a clear, bright day, whereas the last time I’d done it, the day had been overcast and I had driven home later in the afternoon.
But even when I got home, everything was so bright I had to close most of the blinds. And I could hardly even look at the computer screen, much less work on it. Focusing on the small printed words of my hard-copy drafts was difficult as well, and I began to think my sight had degenerated much more than I feared (even though tests at the eye doctor’s had said otherwise). I could not work on the book at all: couldn’t look at the computer screen, couldn’t stand to read the print on typed pages, was getting a headache just trying… so I worked on cards. And even that was a strain.
Finally, increasingly frustrated with my inability to see clearly I went into the bathroom to check on my pupil, thinking it was only the left eye that had been dilated, which was the usual procedure. Instead I finally discovered the problem: the tech had dilated both my eyes, by mistake, I think, since the doctor never looked in my right eye, only the left. In any case, there they were, these huge black pupils staring back at me. Even though it had been hours since the appointment, they still looked huge — which brings up another drawback to seeing the eye doctor in the morning rather than the afternoon: I have blue eyes and from what I’ve read, dilation takes longer to recede in blue eyes than it does in brown eyes. Indeed, it wasn’t until well into the evening before they were back to normal… and so, once again my intentions to keep consistent in writing this book were thwarted.
The next day, Saturday, I could see again, but now I had all the errands I might have done Friday but couldn’t, to attend to: dog food to pick up, dog bran to buy, a car gas tank on empty to fill up… administrative duties, etc. So no work then, either.
Today was our local assembly’s monthly communion and pot luck, longer than usual because we had a visit from some evangelist friends who minister in Pakistan. It was great to see and visit with them… but when I got home I was wiped out and so… yet another day where I didn’t get to the book…
Still I did manage to this post written! So I shall feel good about that, at least… I set all this down, as example of all the weird things that keep happening to interrupt the flow, consume time I’d hoped to devote to writing, and even get me off kilter. I keep asking myself, “Was it always like this? How did I get those other books written, anyway?”
Nevertheless, I do know that everything comes to me through my Lord’s permission, and for my blessing, even if it doesn’t seem like much of a blessing. He’s definitely teaching me patience. Or maybe I should say He’s giving me lots of lessons designed to develop it. I am just a very slow learner…
My daughter-in-law sent me this. Perhaps you have to know dogs and dog parks, but I think it’s hysterical.
A couple of weeks ago, in the course of a really bad day when it came to making any progress on my WIP, and as I was lamenting yet again the fact that I had pitched the writing journals I’d kept during the creation of Return of the Guardian King, it occurred to me that maybe I had posted some entries regarding it when I first started blogging back in 2006 on Blogger. It would have been about the right time. And it like this blog was subtitled “The Writing Diary of Novelist Karen Hancock,” so it seemed reasonable to think that I might have actually posted something from my journals. Or barring that, at least something about my journey in writing that book.
Why did I pitch those journals? Well, “they’re all the same” I’d told myself. “I’ve been writing for over — ahem — forty years and kept diaries for most of those years. Why would I need to keep more?”
Well, because Return of the Guardian King was the first book I’d done in a long time that started basically from scratch. The Light of Eidon, The Shadow Within and Shadow Over Kiriath had all been completely or partially drafted before I had to work on them within the Bethany House deadline structure. RotGK was the only one for which I had little more than the most general of ideas where I was going when I began. Since that’s a lot of what I’m experiencing now with The Other Side of the Sky, it would have been really helpful for me now, had I kept those particular diaries.
So I went looking and happily, I found some entries. Since they reflect or at least speak to a lot of what I’m going through currently, I thought I’d repost a few of them now and then.
Today’s entry, originally posted to Blogger on February 18, 2006, is one such post: it not only described what I’ve been going through lately but offered helpful counsel:
Recently I came across this thought from Annie Dillard in her book The Writing Life,
“At best the sensation of writing is that of unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then — and only then — it is handed to you.”
This struck me very strongly, because we’ve just been reviewing in Bible class how it is to search for God. He only reveals Himself to us if we search for Him diligently, as if we were hunting for treasure. Treasure hunters do not sit back and wait for the treasure to come to them. They go out and search for a likely spot and then they dig, and lug dirt and dig and lug. It’s not easy. When they get tired, they keep digging. When nothing turns up for all their digging, they do not quit, they go on. They try a new place. And finally, maybe three years later, they find that for which they’ve been searching. It is, in a way, handed to them.
So it is with the search for the story, for the perfect, right arrangement that will resonate, for the answers to the questions of who these people are, and what they will become, what is it I really care about, and what am I really trying to say? How can any of that be easy to find? If God Himself is not easy and simple, how can writing about what I know of Him and my life in Him be easy and simple? Spiritually now I’m beginning to grasp things I can’t even articulate. I cannot explain them with words. How can writing about them be easy?
It can’t. It won’t be. Some days I’ll find the silver and the gold. Other days it will feel like endless digging and lugging of dirt. The key is to keep going. To keep on learning about who God is through His word. To keep on writing. To trust that He is guiding me and that in the end I will not be ashamed. That in time it will all come together. If my motivation is correct, and the power system in which I operate is correct, it will be rewarded.
“If you seek her (wisdom) as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord, and discover the knowledge of God…I, wisdom, love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me. ” Proverbs 2:4,5; 8:17
With the holiday season I haven’t had as much time as much time as I’d like to visit Nandi the baby elephant at Tucson’s Reid Park Zoo.
My last trip was in December on a Thursday morning before grocery shopping. Got there just as the gates were opened. She was jumping and hopping, taunting her brother Sundzu frequently, doing all kinds of crazy things with her trunk: flinging it about, putting hay in her mouth, only to spit is out, mimicking the adults as they flung dust or mud on their sides (though she doesn’t fling anything — I don’t think she has a clue what they’re doing…) It’s all fascinating and as always I loved it all.
This 30 second video was made back in October 2014. Nandi was just starting her thing for climbing over the logs in her enclosure. (Oh, and at the end, where she and another elephant are sharing caresses with their trunks — that’s Mabu, her dad, with her. I didn’t realize it the first few times I watched it. Until I noticed his tusk.)
Actually, I’m now starting to wonder where the first three weeks of February have gone. I used to think weeks lasted a long time. Now they seem to pass in a breath.
In December we traveled to California to visit my stepmother and our son, daughter-in-law and grandkids for Christmas. This year we saw my stepmother first, so we wouldn’t have to worry about being sick and having to leave before we planned so as not to infect her. Which was what happened last year.
At 94, her age was severely restricting her social activities: she was no longer able to negotiate stairs, was increasingly subject to falls, and spent most of her day sitting in a chair looking out the window on the quiet street where she lived. That or watching television. Midday was her one active, alert time, so that’s when we scheduled our meeting. We shared lunch, a photo album featuring her great-grand-daughter, then played dominoes. She beat us both. We had a wonderful time. The next day we headed down to San Diego to be with the kids over Christmas, and returned home a couple days after.
On New Year’s Day, she suffered a stroke that left her unable to talk and paralyzed on one side. Two weeks after that, she went home to be with the Lord. When my cousin called to tell me, I was… not surprised, and really not even sad. In fact, my first reaction was elation. She’d been set free and I felt it in a very real way. No longer shackled to the body that had been steadily breaking down, allowing her less and less memory, comfort, mobility, use…
She has a new body now and she is with my Dad, her own parents, all the brothers, sister, in-laws and friends that had preceded her in death, and she’s in a place of no more sorrow, no more pain, no more tears, face to face with her precious Lord. How can I feel anything but joy that she has been finally and wholly set free?
About a week after she passed, I got another call. My aunt, the younger sister of my dad and center of his large family (there were seven of them) had unexpectedly died of pneumonia. Because a large number of my cousins were already planning to come to my step mom’s funeral they arranged things so that both services were held the same day in the same cemetery. My aunt’s graveside service was held at 10am and my stepmother’s at 1pm on a Saturday, the last day of January.
I mention this because my cousin who was arranging my stepmother’s funeral pressed very hard to get that day, which was only two weeks after her death. Why? Because every important date in the history of my dad and my stepmom’s relationship is in January. They were both born in January, they were married in January and both of them died in January. So it seemed right the funeral should be in January…
We drove to California on the Friday before (with Quigley!) and came home on Sunday. Our son came up from San Diego with our granddaughter, and it was great to have the chance to see them, and also to reconnect with cousins I hadn’t seen for years. I felt a little nervous about it all beforehand, but it turned out to be a wonderful, beautiful day.
And the minister who officiated at my stepmother’s funeral got the Gospel in loud and clear, both at the chapel and even more clearly and directly at the graveside service. I was quite pleased by that and I know my stepmother would have been as well.
Well, in three words… It’s on hold.
I progressed through three weeks of it, and really enjoyed it, learned a lot of things, was reminded of even more things, read some interesting short stories I never would have otherwise read, that I hated at first, and then came to see were quite compelling in their way. I still remember some of the images they conjured up, and the fascinating techniques that were employed. And I even think I may have the start of several short pieces of my own. So I definitely plan to get back to it once I have a little more of The Other Side of the Sky under my belt… like perhaps a first draft!
So why did I stop?
Well, for Lesson three we were to go somewhere and observe someone and make detailed notes in our writing notebook. I went to Starbucks, got my latte and blueberry scone and a table to go with them where I sat and observed a young girl on the other side of the glass, seated slightly facing away from me as she focused on her smart phone.
It was fascinating. I took lots of notes. Then I came home and looked through the accompanying class sheets designed to aid us in developing a character and realized that I had already done all that when I was developing my characters for Sky. I have a huge notebook with all the notes… I didn’t need another character!
Also, by that time I’d begun doing the writing exercises from the standpoint of my WIP, and the lights began to come on again with respect to the book, so that I started working regularly on it…
But then came an emergency trip to California in October, followed by visits from our son and his family for Thanksgiving, followed by the all-too-soon advent of Christmas and another trip to CA, and my writing work took a back seat to all of that. I’ve picked it up again these last couple of weeks and…dare I say it? …things are going well. Which is to say, I’m moving through chapter 13, rather than staring out the window blankly..
None of which is to say that I’ve abandoned the class, because I haven’t. Sky just happens to be the writing project with the (sort of) deadline, while the class is self-regulated. I can stop now and take it up again as I choose. In fact, I’m looking forward to doing that when I have the time…