HOW NOT TO WRITE

FeaturedHOW NOT TO WRITE

Today’s blog delves into bad writing.

A few years ago I spoke at a meeting where we were discussing someone’s book (name intentionally withheld). The book was full of foul language and filthy sex. I had agreed to review the book not knowing the author’s tendencies. In fact, I started to back out because it offended me greatly, but I had agreed to read and so I read it, although it was a struggle. My conclusion, it was a terrible book. I would never recommend it to anyone.

But it was a best seller!

If it was a best seller then how can I say such hard things about it? And if my views are correct how come it was a best seller?

I’ll answer the second question first. Sex sells. So does filthy language.

I said bad things about the book because they were true.

Back to the meeting. In my review I condemned the book for the language and excessive graphics. One attendee, obviously a fan of the author, objected. She claimed to personally know the author who she claimed was a great person.

Now understand this, I never condemned the author as a person. I condemned the writing. There is a difference, but this attendee attacked me anyway. There were others in the room who agreed with my analysis, but this woman was obviously type A and wouldn’t back down.

Since that meeting I have talked about writers not using profane language or excessively graphic scenes. I mentioned it once in a blog and a reader commented that I was imposing my religion on the readers.

Not true. I believed that writing should not contain profane language or excessively graphic scenes long before I ever accepted Christ as my Savior. In fact, I wasn’t even attending church. I’m not talking religion I am talking about what makes a great writer.

Sales doesn’t make a great writer.

There is a constant flow of pornographic books that sell. Mankind is attracted to such books. But they are not good books.

Before I got saved I read well written books of all types. I even read books that had great plots, fantastic characters, while also leaving little to the imagination. And the interesting thing is that these books were great even if the bad stuff was left out. In fact, I would contend they would have been better.

You read any of my novels and I leave out the excessive graphics. That doesn’t mean there’s no sex, violence, or anything like that. When I write a scene I leave the excess up to the reader. Which brings up an important maxim.

A writer’s job is to stimulate the reader’s imagination not replace it!

So I always have a stopping point. This is true whether it is sex or violence.

But what about language? Well, let’s take a look at that. Those defending the practice contend it is more realistic, that everyone swears. But that is a false statement. There are a lot of people who don’t swear. Hollywood and TV has created an image that says swearing is normal, but we all know people, a great many people, who don’t swear.

So, first of all, swearing is not as prevalent as advertised.

Secondly, even if it was prevalent, we need to ask why most people read. It is to escape the reality of their lives, to imagine, to relax, and to be uplifted. Sure some are drawn to the dark side (a little Star Wars there), but I doubt that is the majority.

So, how do you the author show passionate characters and/or events without crossing the line? Believe it or not there was a time when authors actually solved this dilemma. In the case of language they simply used symbols, such as !@#$%^&. The reader automatically knew they represented a swear word. Some readers probably substituted their favorite swear word if they liked to swear. But the key here is that the reader didn’t feel deprived, but simply read on.

In the case of violence or sex the authors highlighted the activities leading up to the event. For example, in Perished I wrote of a battle where a sword fight took place. Read it for yourself:

Akkub turned and saw Meremoth rushing at him. He blocked the initial strike although staggered by it. Meremoth used a two-handed grip to force Akkub back. Suddenly Akkub lost his footing and Meremoth’s sword came slicing downward unblocked.

Everything seemed to stop as the general looked at his severed hand still gripping the sword.

Here we have a sword fight that results in one man losing his hand. The amount of detail provided is not too graphic, but it is enough to stimulate the reader’s imagination. And different readers have different levels of imagination, so each reader may picture the fight differently. In any case, the scene is full of action yet not too graphic.

In the case of sex, my usual approach is to focus on the events leading up to the act and to the events leading away from the event. Again, I let the reader’s imagination fill in the gaps.

In truth, the reader’s imagination is a valuable tool available to every writer willing to make use of it.

It is a tool that needs to be sharpened. You do that by using it. Moreover, you experiment and see what works. As deeply as I believe in what I am saying I have had people who reviewed my rough drafts tell me that I needed to back off in this or that scene. So you need people you trust to review your rough draft before you submit it for publishing.

My final thought on this is: what is your ultimate goal? We all want are books to sell. That is a given. But what is your ultimate goal?

Is it to simply get rich? Then you’ll probably reject everything I’ve said.

Is it to simply write? Then you may or may not care about this blog or about sales.

Is it to write your very best book? Then I contend you want your writing to be above reproach. Fame and sales would be nice, but you want to be able to say to yourself, I did my best. And that brings a deep sense of satisfaction!

 

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R Frederick Riddle is the author of several books. For more information on him visit his Amazon Authors Page. He is also co-founder and Vice President of T&R Independent Books where his books are featured. To reply to any blog you have the option of commenting on a blog and/or sending an email to marketing@tr-indbkstore.com.

Mistaken Call

FeaturedMistaken Call

Mistaken call? What is that?

If you’ve been a Christian for awhile, you have probably been guilty of this. Sometimes when we are desirous of God’s will, we actually get ahead of him.

In the Old Testament we read of Rebekah. When she gave birth to Esau and Jacob, God had made a prophecy, “Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.”

Rebekah knew by this that Esau, the first to come forth, would serve Jacob. But Isaac favored Esau. So Rebekah took it upon herself to deceive Isaac so Jacob would get the blessing. In doing so, she actually got in front of God and the consequences of her action are felt to this very day.

In like manner, we as Christians get in front of God. Sometimes we hear a call that was never given.

Like all Christians, when I got saved and immediately had a desire to read God’s Word, to worship Him, and to serve Him. These are the first calls upon us, but we’ve got to be careful. We need to get into the right church, worship in the right manner, and serve according to His will.

Like Rebekah knew God’s will concerning Jacob getting the double blessing, I knew God wanted me to serve Him. So when the head usher came to me and asked if I was willing to be an usher, I jumped at the opportunity. I didn’t pause to ask God if that’s what He wanted me to do nor did I stop to think about the opportunity. I simply said yes.

Later that same day I did ask God’s blessing on my call to service. But the problem was I got the cart ahead of the horse. Moreover, I got in front of God.

I believe that if I’d asked God His will, He would’ve said yes. But I never gave him the chance. As a result I was miserable that first year of service. But when the term was up, I went back to God and asked Him if He wanted me to continue serving as an usher. He said yes.

I learned a valuable lesson. Always seek God’s will first! That is more important than the call itself. Once I learned that principle I put it into practice. And God has used me in a variety of areas.

It is always a mistake to assume God is ok with your decision. If your decision is wrong, it can lead you down a wrong path. But asking God first doesn’t guarantee a right decision.

There have been times when I asked God first and didn’t receive an answer right away. I have even asked several times, but didn’t receive an answer. Then I made a mistake. I looked at the facts I knew and decided God was leading me down a particular path.

Don’t get me wrong. I truly believed it was God’s will. But as time went on I came to realize I was mistaken. But what had I done wrong?

I got impatient!

God has a plan for us and we need to patiently wait on His calling. And when we haven’t heard the reply we thought was right, we need to patiently wait longer. Getting ahead of God can be costly in terms of time, energy, and money wasted. So we need to make sure of God’s leading.

How does this apply to me as a writer?

It means questioning myself. It means asking myself questions about the book before I ever write my first sentence. I means asking Him questions throughout the writing; questions like “Is this the right scene?” or “Is the plot correct?” or other questions. I need to involve God in all of my writing.

But not only that, I need to involve Him in the publishing and marketing, as well.

As with other aspects of the Christian life, God doesn’t always answer with a yes. I once knew a man who claimed he always got a yes. But nobody is perfect. All of us err sometimes. And God has three possible answers: Yes, No, and Wait. Wait is actually a delayed Yes. But wait means wait.

So seek God’s leading and let Him do the calling. And be patient. Then when He does call, be ready to follow.

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R Frederick Riddle is the author of several books. For more information on him visit his Amazon Authors Page. He is also co-founder and Vice President of T&R Independent Books where his books are featured. To reply to any blog you have the option of commenting on a blog and/or sending an email to marketing@tr-indbkstore.com.