Carrie Lynn Lewis

Words of Encouragement

Lost in Cyber Space – Reconstructing Perfect Opportunities

If you’ve been following this blog this week,  you already know that I’m in the processing of reconstructing the last several chapters of Perfect Opportunities.

You also know I’ve made good progress so far.

I promised on Monday to explain why reconstruction is necessary. Especially since the next thing on the road to publication was professional editing.

Lost in Cyber Space

I officially finished Perfect Opportunities December 31, 2015.

Since then, I’ve been waiting. Trying to decide on the best course of action. One more round of revisions and review or grit my teeth and start looking for an editor?

My crit partner knows well what a perfectionist I am and advised me over Memorial Day weekend to look for an editor. Furthermore, she advised that I look for someone to do a developmental (big picture) edit. The whole hog. The whole nine yards.

I’ve finished a lot of manuscripts since writing my first complete story in the eighth grade.

I’ve shared some of those stories with others, for their advice and counsel and so I could get an objective look at where I needed to improve my writing.

But a developmental editor? That’s like going from Little League to the World Series in one step.

Was Perfect Opportunities ready?

Was I ready?

I felt like I was standing at the edge of a cliff, pondering that first step. A step that couldn’t easily be called back once taken.

My crit partner told me to square my shoulders and take the plunge. She even gave me a place to start.

So I did what I usually do when facing such decisions.

I hemmed.

Then I hawed.

After a little more hemming and hawing, I went to my husband, told him what was up, and asked for a prayer. He prayed with me at once and I went back to the computer, determined to do what needed to be done.

Part of that was telling the prospective editor a little bit about my story. Most of it I could do without checking facts. When it came to word count, though, I couldn’t remember, so I opened the manuscript to look.

Disaster Strikes

The word count displayed at the bottom of the document baffled me. Just over 32,000 on a manuscript that should have been at least twice that size. I skipped to the end of the document and discovered only half the story was there.

A moment of panic ensued, then I calmed myself with the thought that I had several backups. All I had to do was find the full manuscript in a backup folder and everything would be cool.

Perfect Opportunities Word Count

Panic turned to dismay, then to disbelief, and finally to the feeling that I’d been sucker punched.

None of the backup manuscripts were complete, either. After a search that took parts of two days and included every computer in the house, the best I could do was a manuscript that concluded with Chapter 25 and was about two-thirds complete. There was no trace of the two weeks worth of revision work that followed that manuscript.

It was all just…. Gone.

Lost in Cyber Space

What Next?

My first reaction, as you might guess, was to curl up in a ball and cry.

Then I wondered why I should bother with that story anyway. Why not just move on to something else?

map-525349_1280Then a spirit of resolve settled over me. I still had my crit partner’s notes on those missing chapters—or could get them from her. All I had to do was copy them into the current manuscript and do the work over. Yes, it would be repeated effort, but chances were the story would be better this time around than it had been before.

With the resolve, came a sense of purpose.

Plan A

Plan A was hubby’s plan. Attempt to retrieve the lost manuscript via recovery software. It was a worthwhile plan. One hat could save me hours of work.

So I held off my own efforts with the hope that his recovery attempts would be successful.

They weren’t.

Plan B

My plan was to begin putting the pieces back together on June 6. Assemble all the crits delivered by my crit partner, then make the necessary changes. I gave myself two weeks. After all, I’d done it once, right? I can do it again.

You already know how the first two days went. Much better than anticipated.

And with the LORD’s help, Perfect Opportunities will be better now than it was before.

Good enough to face the red pen of a developmental editor!

Perfect Opportunities
Phase:Reconstruction
Due:2 weeks ago
70.6%

Perfect Opportunities Progress Continues

Subscribe now and don’t miss another book update.

Progress continues. Four more chapters completed today.

I also worked on the most difficult chapter. It’s not yet complete, but only one problem remains. After that, it’s almost clear sailing.

10 Days remain until the due date. Can I finish a week ahead of schedule? That’s what I’m shooting for now.

Perfect Opportunities
Phase:Reconstruction
Due:2 weeks ago
70.6%

Perfect Opportunities Reconstruction Progress Update

Setback!

I’m having to reconstruct the last seventeen chapters of Perfect Opportunities (more about that on Wednesday).

Today begins that process, which I hope to conclude by June 18.

Reconstruction began with reassembling all the chapters returned by my crit partner last November and December. Praise God she had them available, since I’d also lost the emails to which they’d been attached.

After the chapters were restored, I went through them once and made all the easy changes. Mostly adding or deleting commas and removing or changing frequently used words such as “then” and “though.”

In the afternoon, I went through all the chapters again and made the next easiest changes. This involved a little more rewriting.

By the end of the day, eight of seventeen chapters were completed. That’s the good news.

The rest of the story is that the changes that remains are the more difficult changes. The ones I agonized over the first time through last November and December. I don’t expect to be finishing as many chapters per day from this point forward.

Even so, nearly half of them are finished and there are still 11 days until the deadline.

It should be do-able.

Inspiration or Perspiration?

Is creativity more dependent on inspiration or perspiration?

Inspiration or PerspirationI’ve been a professional artist a lot longer than I’ve been a professional writer. I’ve been painting for profit for over 35 years. I’ve been a disciplined writer since June 2008 and I’ve been getting paid for writing since early 2012.

During that time, I’ve talked with dozens of artists and writers and one of the most common things I hear from both crowds is something like this:

I only paint/write when I’m inspired.

Reluctant MuseThe phraseology might be different. Inspiration might be replaced by mood, muses, chunks of uninterrupted time, or the right location. Regardless of how the sentiment is phrased, the meaning is pretty much the same. I do my thing when I feel like it.

I say this from experience. I used to say the same thing.

When I said, “I only paint when I have at least an hour,” what I really meant was, “It’s not worth my time to put out paint and clean up brushes if I have only a few minutes to paint.”

When I said, “I’m not inspired today”, what I really meant was, “I don’t feel like it today”.

You get the idea.

I’m not implying that every writer who says similar things is engaging in the same double talk in which I was engaged, but a lot of us are.

How can I be so sure?

Because I still catch myself thinking that way, because I know it’s double talk for me, and because I know I’m not unique.

Inspiration or Perspiration?

“Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration.” Thomas Alva Edison

Light BulbsI’m primarily a teaching artist. I have to teach and/or make art as much every day as possible whether I feel like or not; whether I have hours of uninterrupted time or not; whether I’m inspired or not. If I don’t, the work doesn’t get done, the students don’t come back, and the cash flow dries up.

Now that I write for money, the same principle holds true. If I don’t write, I don’t get paid. No money, no food. It’s as simple as that.

Everyday Determination

A few years back, I learned a valuable lesson in making the best possible use of every moment of painting time. Even small amounts of time add up day after day.

Every day I sit around waiting for inspiration is an opportunity lost. So I’ve found or developed ways to encourage writing on those days when inspiration is lacking.

Writing things I can do in 15 minutes or less. Timed writings. Personal writing challenges. Accountability challenges with writing buddies and/or crit partners.

Whatever it takes, I’ve found ways to write every day at least five days a week.

The Disclaimer

Before anyone gets the idea that I’m saying everyone has to write every day, let me assure you that’s not what I’m saying at all. I just happen to be able to work at home and that allows me to force myself to put my seat and my chair’s seat together in front of the computer or with a pen and paper and write every day .

What I am saying is that each of us knows when we really are in need of inspiration and when our excuses are just excuses.

And I’m encouraging you to be honest with yourself. When you are making excuses, acknowledge it.

Set the excuses aside.

Just write.

Or whatever it is you’re putting off.

Remembering Memorial Day

Farmer with Flag on TractorComing up with each week’s new post can be a piece of cake or a tough row to hoe.

Usually, I begin thinking about topics on Monday and gradually narrow the choices and develop ideas throughout the week. On a good week, I draft a decent post on Monday, then read and revise it each day until it’s ready to publish. Sometimes that takes just a few days.

Sometimes it takes all week.

Last week, I came down with a cold. I’m still battling it this week, though I think—hope, pray—the worst of it is now behind me. That means my creative powers are somewhat below par at the moment.

Coming up with something to talk about this week was like pulling teeth. Hen’s teeth. It just wasn’t happening. I felt so pressed down on Monday, that I opened my blogging program, looked things over, then closed it again.

I felt better Tuesday. Not great, but Monday was so bad, it seemed like it had to be the turning point. Time for a fresh start!

Except there was no fresh start. Other than having a comment to respond to—thank you, Jocelyn, it was good to meet you—nothing had changed.

And then….

I remembered Memorial Day.

Remembering Memorial Day

High Flying FlagToday is the beginning of Memorial Day Weekend. That didn’t provide a topic immediately, but it gave me something to do; look for photographs.

The photographs I found—some of which I’m sharing here—provided the rest of the pieces to the puzzle of this week’s post: Memorial Day.

Meat on a GrillI confess that for the longest time, Memorial Day was an opportunity for family gatherings and cook-outs.

I don’t remember much about cookouts until we reached our late teens and the practice didn’t really take hold until my nieces and nephews began entering the picture. Then any excuse to have them visit was a good excuse as far as my parents were concerned.

For all of that, I don’t know that we ever talked about why we were celebrating Memorial Day. I don’t remember talking about it at home or in school (though I’m sure we must have).  I’m not even sure I knew there was a deeper meaning.

One thing I am sure of is that I’m not the only one in this sad state, so here’s a quick history of the event we now call Memorial Day.

The Origin of Memorial Day

Grave CrossesWithin a year of the end of the Civil War, the graves of fallen soldiers from both sides were decorated by local citizens. Their desire was simply to honor the memories of those men and to acknowledge the sacrifices they made.

The practice was so widespread that in coming years, several cities, towns, and villages around the country (as it was then), laid claim to the fact that they were the first to observe the day. Waterloo, New York was later given the honor officially.

In 1868, General John Logan instituted the observance of Decoration Day in his General Order No. 11. He stated that he chose the date, May 30, because it did not commemorate any particular battle.

Decoration Day became an official national holiday after World War I, when it was expanded to honor all who died in defense of their country.

The official date was also changed from May 30 each year to the last Monday in May.

So it is that on the final Monday of each May, we take time to recognize, honor, and remember those who have fallen in service to the nation and on behalf of our continuing liberty.

Whatever Your Plans…

for remembering Memorial Day, I hope you’ll take a moment to remember the reason behind the holiday. You don’t have to decorate the graves of loved ones—though that tradition continues here in the south—but do pause to remember those who have given their lives to preserve and protect the liberties we all too easily take for granted.

And if you know a living veteran, thank him or her for their service, too.

Thank You Veterans

 

The Delight of Gray Days

I have always loved gray days. There is something utterly fascinating about the gray light of impending rain. Something motivating. Something inspiring.

The Delight of Gray Days

Usually, the inspiration is of an artistic nature. What colors would be best to convey the sense of mist, rain, and color that are both muted and saturated at the same time?

But there are also other pleasures. The smell of the air when rain is coming or falling.

The way light reflects off the water.

The patterns of raindrops in puddles. I ask you, what’s not to like?

Raindrops in a Puddle

Gray Days and Mondays

We’ve been getting rain the last few weeks. It seems each Monday has arrived with a veil of rain. As dry as it’s been in this part of the country, I’m not complaining. Every drop is a blessing to the winter wheat in the fields, the cattle on prairie pastures, and all of the rivers, lakes, and ponds. Our water table is also benefiting.

So are the lawns. Everything is turning green and those greens are especially delightful on a gray day. These two photographs—one looking west, the other east—don’t do the color justice.  That doesn’t keep me from taking pictures, though. If only to capture the mood and hold onto the memory.

First Street on a rainy, gray day

First Street Looking East on a Gray Day

All colors look more saturated and rich on a rainy, gray day. Look at the red tree in the photo above and the red roses below. Lovely! You don’t have to be an artist to appreciate their beauty.

Roses in the Rain

After the rain is over, there comes that time between gray day and sun-shining day; when the light has reached me and I’m looking at the backside of the rain storm, as in the photo below. The thing that would have made this scene better is a rainbow!

I’ve always been fascinated by the play of lighted trees against a dark sky, no matter what time of day it happens. When it happens in the evening, as in this photo, it’s even better.

Departing Rain

And then there’s all the wetness that follows a gray day. Street lights reflecting on wet brick streets are a delight all their own.

Sixth Street in the Rain

No matter where I encounter a gray day or when, there’s something especially delightful about the mystery and ambiguity of that wonderful, gray light.

What about you? Do you like gray days, too? What’s your favorite thing about them?

Perfect Opportunities Progress Update

I just made progress on Perfect Opportunities! So far I’m 70% complete on the Proofing phase, getting the manuscript ready for professional editing.

Of all the steps in bringing a novel to successful publication, this is the most intimidating one. It’s one thing to let friends, neighbors, and fellow writers read my book and give me advice.

It’s quite another to turn it over to a professional!

Perfect Opportunities Cover Design 2
Perfect Opportunities
Phase:Proofing
70%

A Godly Life Isn’t an Instant Transformation

A Godly Life Isn't an Instant Transformation

Do Fictional Characters Have to be Flawed?

Conventional writing wisdom dictates that fictional characters have to be flawed–especially lead characters.

Depending on the source, flaws can range from physical handicaps to personal struggles; besetting sins to outright criminal behavior. However a flaw is described, every book on writing and/or on characterization recommends flawed characters.

I’d like to take a look at this tenet of conventional wisdom, then offer a different perspective.

Do Fictional Characters Have to be Flawed?

Among the top reasons writers with a Christian worldview should have flawed characters are these:

  • The Bible is filled with Godly people who were also flawed.
  • Characters who aren’t flawed aren’t interesting.
  • All of us are flawed and can’t connect with characters who aren’t like us.
  • Redemption is available to all, no matter how flawed, and Christian authors need to exemplify that availability in their writing.

I have no arguments with any of these reasons. There are no perfect people. I have only to look into my heart to know that’s true.

What I am suggesting is that giving lead characters serious flaws just to create a flawed character is sometimes a disservice.

Do Fictional Characters Have to be Flawed

Biblical Examples

The Bible is full of Godly people who were flawed, some of them seriously. Samson comes immediately to mind, but he’s not the only one.

But there are also examples of people living a Godly life; people who exemplify living a godly life; people who show us what withstanding temptation and following God at every turn looks like.

Who?

Joseph. Sold into slavery, subject to repeated attempts at seduction, imprisoned on trumped-up charges, and forgotten. He served God faithfully and prospered at everything he did. He ended up second in charge in Egypt.

Daniel. Captured and taken into exile by the Babylonians as a young man, educated by them to serve in their government, he followed God at every turn. He confronted the machinations of political opponents through several kings and two kingdoms. Through it all, he stood firm, never wavering in his faith and dedication to God.

Ruth chose to leave her own country and family to go with her widowed mother-in-law when Naomi returned to Judah. Her devotion to her mother-in-law was noted among Naomi’s countrymen to such an extent that she was called “better than sons” to the widowed Naomi.

And, most notable of all, Jesus Christ, who lived without sin despite facing all the trials and temptations we face.

None of us can be Christ. That’s simply not possible.

But we can choose to live by His teaching. That’s what living a Godly life is all about and it’s how Joseph, Daniel, and others lived.

Such noble men and women live today, making choices every day to turn from wrong and follow God, living good and righteous lives, showing those around them what ‘doing things in a Godly manner’ looks like.

Interesting Characters

But would they make interesting fictional characters? Are the lives of these people and others like them any less interesting than those who have lived or are living debauched lives?

I say, no.

In fact, the life of Joseph or Daniel would be a fascinating study of dealing with challenge and temptation. The political intrigue that swirled around Daniel would make a great novel. And how many readers would like to know how to resist temptation before it’s too late rather than learn how to pick up the pieces afterward?

Are the only characters readers can identify with people who have made serious, sometimes deliberately bad decisions? Is it so impossible for readers to connect with or look up to characters who face temptations and challenges and stay true to their calling, no matter what form of resistance results?

I don’t believe it is.

If it were, there wouldn’t be such disappointment when well-known athletes and others who are considered role models are suddenly found to be guilty. If people truly want lead characters who fall short, why do they not also want role models who fall short?

The Matter of Redemption

Redemption is available to all regardless of the goodness or badness of their lives. That is a seminal feature of the Christian doctrine.

We all have character flaws. That is, quite simply, part of being human.

But a lot of people are good according to worldly standards. They don’t cheat on their wives or their taxes. They are honest and hardworking. They keep their word and are loyal. Are they any less in need of redemption than those who’ve struggled with addictions, divorce, or any of the many things commonly referred to as flaws?

No.

The plain and simple fact is that there is no such thing as good  in God’s economy. We have all fallen short of God’s standards for sinlessness. Without the sacrificial and atoning blood of Christ, we are sentenced to eternal separation from God.

The Risk We Run

The risk I run in writing about obviously flawed characters (or perhaps in not writing about role model worthy characters) is that I create the impression that people who are good  by worldly standards don’t need redemption.  People like my Dad, who said all during my growing up years that he didn’t need religion because he was as good as other people (including many Christians).

Is there room for role model worthy characters in today's fiction

I’m not against writing about flawed characters. Even I have lead characters who do not come close to Daniel or Joseph. Writers should write what they feel called to write.

All I’m suggesting is that writers need to be careful not to over-emphasize the flaw in order to emphasize redemption at the expense of writing about good people who also need redemption.

Or about role-model worthy characters; the type of characters who exemplify living a Godly life in the face of challenges, hardships, and resistance.

Is it not as noble a calling to set out an example of how to avoid willful flaws and deep sins as it is to show how to find redemption after succumbing to them?

Do fictional characters have to be flawed, or is there room for role-model worthy characters in today’s fiction?

7 Things I Remember About Mom on Mother’s Day

Today is Mother’s Day; a day that’s all about Mom.

Since I can’t be with Mom today, I thought I’d reach across the miles and the years and list some of my fondest memories from younger years.

Read Me a Story!

I have loved reading from before the time when I could read for myself. Mom must have gotten tired of reading the same stories over and over, but she did it anyway. Even after I’d memorized my favorites and could tell them to myself.

Flannel Graph Stories

Mom was consistent in teaching us from the Bible from an early age. I’m old enough to remember her home-made flannel graph illustrations of Bible events. She even let us make some of them when we got old enough.

Although I sometimes thought they were pointless and refused to listen when I was younger, I now look back on those Saturday mornings around the kitchen table and confess that they are the foundation of my faith.

Green Coats

One year, us three girls—probably all under five—had matching coats. They were made of green corduroy and trimmed with white rickrack. I confess that I don’t honestly remember those coats, but I’ve seen pictures of them. And I envy Mom her ability to take a few yards of material and make something like that. I could do it if my life depended on it, but the results wouldn’t be nearly as cute.

Or probably as useful.

The Garden

No flower garden this! I don’t know to this day how big it was, but when I was six or seven, it looked more like a field. It was huge!

Mom did a lot of canning and grew everything she could grow. Peas. Sweet corn. Green beans and shell beans. Beets, carrots, tomatoes. If we used it and it could be grown in a garden, it was.

Of course as we got older, we were assigned garden duties. Namely, pulling weeds. But what began as a chore in the eyes of a child turned into a pleasure by the time Mom retired from gardening.

Canned Green Beans

Home Cooked Meals

One of the delights of growing up on a farm is fresh food. The garden, yes, but also from the dairy barn and the chicken coop. Of course, fresh food leads to home cooked meals, and Mom always prepared good meals. She knew how to fry liver just right, with the right amount of crispy crust and the right amount of onions.

And her spaghetti! I’m approaching 57 and still haven’t found any other spaghetti recipe that holds a candle to Mom’s.

Always There

Mom was always there. It didn’t matter what time of day or night, she was available (except for a few overnight hospital stays when sisters and brother were born). Skinned knees, broken hearts, sadness and rejoicing. She was always close by.

That didn’t always bode well. It meant she was there to see it when I threw a toy at a sister or when I did something else I shouldn’t have been doing. But from where I now am, I can look back on those moments with fondness because they contributed to who and what I am now just as much as everything else.

Maybe more.

The Most Important Gift of All

Faith, plain and simple.

Mom has always, for as long as I can remember, talked about God and how good and gracious He is. From my earliest memories to the days when Dad died and beyond, she has leaned on the provision of God and has not been afraid to talk about it.

She’s a faithful prayer warrior, praying for salvation for her spouse for over twenty years before that prayer was finally answered in the affirmative—two short years before Dad died.

She taught Bible to all of us from the time we could sit up and listen to Bible stories and she taught us by example what a God-serving mother and wife looks like.

For God So Loved

I went with her on the day she was baptized. I was a teenager then and rebellious in spirit, if not in action. I heard what the minister said to her on that day and I saw what she did. I knew why she did it.

Her example led me down the same path only a few weeks later.

And Mom is the one who baptized me in the family swimming pool. What a special moment. Born again in Christ at the hands of the one who gave birth to me.

There are, of course, many other memories from childhood and young adulthood, but time fails to list them all. It is in the spirit of all those memories—spoken and unspoken—that I say thank you to Mom.

Happy Mother's Day 2016

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