Do what you know

Writing is a tough job. Learning about new subjects and putting that into a story in a way that makes sense to people who know it a lot better than I do isn’t easy.

So what’s the best way around this? Write about what you know. Put in the things you are the expert about. King David did this in the Bible. He faced the biggest challenges of his life using what he knew (1 Sam 17:39-40,  48-49).

He was given modern weapons and armour but didn’t know how to use it. But he gave them all up because he needed something he knew how to use . He needed what he was best at, not the best tools available. As most of us know, he used the a sling and a stone, tools he knew how to use well.

Other writers tend to do the same thing. Stephen King, the great writer of countless best sellers seem to have one thing in common in most stories. Stories usually include a main character who had some issues with drinking or drugs. A little history about Stephen King. He had struggles with such substances before, and had lived the experience. He therefore knows these things better than others who do not or have not had a history with alcohol or drugs.

So his characters are realistic. Their battles seem real. The fear of turning to these substances, I almost feel that same fear. He’s good, because he uses things he knows.

You can be good too. Just start with something you know and you’re off to a good start.

Add some drama to your life

Most of us like drama. Drama on tv is exciting or interesting. We think we know what’s going on. Then all of a sudden, something unexpected happens and we wonder, what’s going to happen next.

On the same note, most of us don’t like drama. Drama in our lives turn the things we like or are used to upside-down. All of a sudden, something unexpected happens and we wonder, what are we going to do next.

How interesting, we like it when it happens to others but not to us. We like it when other people have to manage the distress, heartaches, stress and whatever comes with managing the unexpected.

Psalms explores the drama that King David had to face. We read about how his enemies surround him, how King Saul was after his life. But we also read how he held on to the One who truly matters.

We like to follow the stories of people who overcame diversity and difficulties. Can you imagine watching a movie where the hero goes through life with any difficulties? Which of these would you prefer to read about: a trip to school without any issues, vs a trip to school where the hero was chased by a dog, fell into a puddle, while dodging bullets from the rebel forces fighting for their freedom.

A life without drama is boring, and we don’t grow. In good movies, the heroes must grow and change. Change in their mindset somehow. In the Matrix, the hero grows from an uncertain messiah into one who embraces his calling. In Die hard, our hero grows from a man who’s there to save his marriage to one who’s marriage is strengthened. And you can see this in almost all good movies.

So  when you write, add in some unexpected events that will turn things upside-down. You’ll find your story so much more interesting.

Get ready to run the race

Welcome back. I hope you’ve had a good break. I had originally intended to get back to blogging when the year began, but felt it wasn’t time. And I’m glad I listened to the still small voice. Having a well rested soul is as important as a well rested body.

Writing isn’t a physically exhausting job, but it can be mentally draining. The brain works extra hard, thinking up new ideas and putting ourselves in people’s shoes and mindsets. Would you hear a typical (if there was such a thing) 80-year-old grandmother use the words “Yeah, that’s rad.”? Didn’t think so.

And to start off the year with a refreshed body, soul and spirit is always good, especially when we’re going to be writing. Some might be wondering, “why?” Because writing a good novel isn’t an overnight task. A novel can take months to be completed, from start to finish. Some may take even longer. Fans of A Song of Ice and Fire series have waited over 10 years for the sixth book to be released, and who knows when George RR Martin will start on the seventh and last book?

Like our faith, being a race to be ran with endurance (Heb 12:1), we need to write with perseverance. The book will get there when it gets there, not before, not after. It cannot be rushed as we’ll not rest easily if it isn’t satisfactory.

So, I’m glad for the break I had, and should be ready to run this race, and finally see my first novel come fruition. Hope you are ready too.

Plan your story

I was helping my neighbour build his home extension a while ago. It was the first time I was involved in a building project and it was interesting. I think we took as much time comparing the plans to the pieces of structure as we did measuring the placements and nailing them into place.

I was only involved in setting up the frame, but every part of the frame played a part in creating and supporting the floor plan. It wasn’t easy getting the picture of the final product then, but in these final days of construction, I can now see my neighbour’s vision.

Planning takes time. It takes us away from the fun part of writing – the writing. But planning is important as it gives our story structure. It helps us tell the complete story. We know what we’re working towards and what we’re working with.

Even from the very beginning, God had a plan and a purpose for man’s redemption (Gen 3:14-15). And the rest of the Bible serves to build upon that plan. Do a search on Jesus in the Old Testament and you’ll see what I mean.

So before you write, make a plan. It doesn’t have to be detailed, but you need to know what you’re working towards.

The meaningful writing

What is our purpose? Why are we here? What is the purpose of life, or the meaning of life? These are important questions that people have been asking for a very long time. When it comes to writing, we, the authors are in control of the purpose of the book and its characters.

We decide what we are writing about and who we are writing to. That’s how we start and base the structure upon that. Who is the writing for? What do we want it to achieve? These are the questions we have to ask ourselves before we start planning or writing.

Last week, we saw that the Bible has a structure of a story, a setup, the main body of the story and the conclusion. The Bible is a story, yes. But it is also an instructional book. It tells us the story of God, but also how God works in us and how He moves in us (in ways that simply blow our minds). So there is a different structure to the Bible as well. And when we compare the Old Testament and the original Hebrew Bible of the Old Testament, they are again structured differently. So what do the compilers of the Christian Old Testament want us to know?

The Hebrew Bible is separated into three parts – the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. The Christian Bible kept the Law as it is, the first five books, Genesis to Deuteronomy. We rearranged the rest into:

  • history books – Joshua to Esther
  • writings or poetry – Job to Song of Songs (Song of Solomon)
  • major prophets – Isaiah to Daniel
  • minor prophets – Hosea to Malachi
  • Gospels – Matthew to John
  • church history – Acts
  • Pauline Epistles – Romans to Philemon
  • other epistles – Hebrews to Jude
  • apocalyptic – Revelations

When we see the structure of the Bible, we can start to see where we can get a better understanding of its purpose.

So if you, like me, want to write a children’s story, we need to see what makes a good children’s story first. Do your homework, look at other children’s stories you like to read to your little ones. See the repetition and structure. That’s what you need to incorporate in your own writing. We the authors have to give our writing structure to help our readers get the message.

Hebrews 12:2 tell us that Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. So if you want to understand the purpose and meaning of your life, look at how God has structured and guided you.

God structures things, therefore, we need too as well.