Tag Archives: The Art of Writing

To Be a Writer–Read!

 

At last we have some young people joining this blog, and that makes me happy–because there’s plenty of work for everyone in regaining cultural ground for Christ’s Kingdom, and none of us is going to live long enough to do it all. As is the nature of things, we’ll have to pass a lot of this work on to another generation.

Some of you, I’m sure, will want to be writers someday, if not now. I know what that feels like: I started writing science fiction novels before I started high school. I sold my first book in 1986. I was a casualty of the implosion of the horror market, no one wanted to publish my books anymore, but I kept at it. Had to! A lot of changes–for the better–swept over me, and twenty years later I published Bell Mountain, copyright 2010. Now it’s 2018, and I’m currently writing the 12th book in the series.

So my first tip to any teen or tween who wants to be a writer is, keep at it. The goal of publication is fantastically hard to attain. You wouldn’t believe how many books I wrote that never got published, and never will be. There is no substitute for perseverance.

And my second tip is just as simple: read. Read as much as you possibly can, especially the kind of books you want to write someday.

We learn by watching others do what we want to do. By example, and by imitation. How would you ever learn to walk, if you never saw anybody walking? How would you learn to talk, if you never heard anybody talking? Reading is just as important to anyone who wants to be a writer. Read, read, and read some more, and never, never stop.

We all have dreams of hitting it big while we’re still young. Like Stephen Crane, or F. Scott Fitzgerald. But most of us simply aren’t ready yet. We haven’t seen enough, heard enough, lived enough. An awful lot of living has to go into your writing. And you, as a writer, are always a work in progress, never finished, always room for improvement, always more to learn. I believe God knew I wasn’t ready, no matter how passionately I wanted to be published: and He knew best. If God ever decided to give us everything we ever prayed for, He wouldn’t be doing us a favor. Sometimes, when we think He’s pounding us, He’s really blessing us: and maybe we’ll last long enough to realize it, long after the fact.

Anyway, I wish to encourage young writers. Don’t stop–the Kingdom has work for you to do.


My ‘Bell Mountain’ Interview

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It was eight years ago, but I think this is still the best interview I’ve had–largely due to the thoughtful questions asked by Chalcedon’s Andrea Schwartz. Here’s the audio for the whole thing, about 23 minutes long. I apologize, in advance, for my slow way of talking. As for my voice, it’s ideally suited for mime.

https://chalcedon.edu/resources/audio/lee-duigon-bell-mountain-notable-people

At the time, I had three Bell Mountain books in print, with No. 4, The Last Banquet, ready to go to press. Here in 2018, I’m waiting for No. 11, The Temptation, to come out, and writing No. 12, His Mercy Endureth Forever. 

How many more to come?

As many as God gives me to write.


Beat the Heat

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If I don’t stop blogging and get out there and start writing, it’ll soon be too hot to write. And then the cold weather will have settled in before I can finish the book–ah, fanabla!

I reckon (as Helki would say) I’m about halfway done with His Mercy Endureth Forever, Book No. 12 of my Bell Mountain series. I have absolutely no idea what the climax is going to be. The Lord will tell me when I least expect it: He likes to surprise me.


Rain, Rain, Go Away!

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I can’t write fiction indoors anymore. I don’t know why, and I’d be interested to hear any theories on the subject; but the fact is that I just can’t get my mind into my fictional world of Obann if I’m sitting at a table, surrounded by walls, with the phone ringing (and it’s always a call I’d rather not receive–“Hi! This is Sheryl from Meshuggah Resorts, and our records show you had a wonderful time two years ago at our Sphagnum House Motel,” etc. All a load of ridiculous lies. So glad I got up to answer that!)

Just now the problem is that it’s been raining buckets for four days in a row, I haven’t been able to get back to work on my book, and I’m losing track of my hyenas. Now I hardly know where they’ll turn up next. And Jack and Martis have just had a very close call–I think that was last Wednesday. My momentum is not where I’d like it to be.

His Mercy Endureth Forever is, I reckon, nearly halfway finished. Oh, for a sunny day tomorrow!

Well, I’m writing this novel in the Lord’s service, and I’ll have to leave the weather up to Him.


A Good Day (Finally)

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Despite a threat of rain, I finished an important chapter today in my new book, His Mercy Endureth Forever.

Back when I was writing my horror novels, in the 80s and 90s, I really stunk at titles. In three out of four published books, the publisher changed the title; and I didn’t mind, because their titles were a lot better than mine. Mine were bad enough to be blotted from my memory.

But by now I’ve been at this long enough to learn how to come up with a decent title first and then let it guide me throughout the writing of the book. I learned this by reading British crime novelist H.R.F. Keating, famous for his Inspector Ghote books. A Keating title always informs the whole story, and he did it in such a way that you can see it as you read. (To say nothing of the pleasure I and so many others get from an Inspector Ghote novel–try ’em, you’ll like ’em.)

Anyway, I ask the Lord to give me the story He wants me to tell, and open myself up to the plot playing out in ways I never expected.

And so far it’s worked out very well for me–very well indeed.


Did I Do That?

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These remarks may strike some of you as a little weird. But writing fantasy novels does tend to lean a bit in that direction. And there are always readers who are curious about what it’s like to be a writer. So here goes.

I’m editing Bell Mountain No. 11, The Temptation, which means I have to read it attentively. And although I do know I made up the characters that populate my books, it doesn’t feel anymore like I made them up! They feel like real people that I really know.

When I’m actually writing a book, I’m too deeply involved in writing it to respond to what I’ve written. So when I read it, much later, it’s a whole different experience–almost as if someone else wrote the book, not me. I read a passage that gets to me and find myself thinking, “Oh, I didn’t write that! Did I? Could I?” It feels like these characters, places, and events came into print through me and have a real existence that has little or nothing to do with me. As if I were more a chronicler than a creator.

I wonder if other writers feel these things. I know she isn’t, but at the same time I just can’t shed the notion that Gurun (that’s her, pictured above) is a real person who is even now doing things, experiencing things, that I don’t know about.

I believe the people I read about in the “news” are real, don’t I?

“Never heard of ’em,” says Gurun.


‘My Hometown Fans’ (2015)

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Welcome to the Local Authors section.

Three years have gone by, and my hometown library still has not restored my books to their place in the Young Readers section: they remain exiled to the Local Authors ghetto, where no one in his right mind will ever find them.

https://leeduigon.com/2015/12/03/my-hometown-fans/

Not to be a snob: but in this age of easy self-publishing, I don’t think people understand how blisteringly hard, trying, tortuous, soul-harrowing, and gut-wrenching it is to get your work published by a real publisher and get paid for it. I actually achieved that–but only after years of heartache.

So to get tossed off as “probably one of those self-published Local Authors writing about the kids he played horseshoes with in 1962”–well, that rankles. Like it would be impossible for a yokel like me ever to write something that anybody would pay to publish.

I still can’t get anybody around here to read my stuff.


I Love My Characters

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Ellayne at work

I have to admit an embarrassing thing. I have fallen in love with my characters.

They’re fictional. I made them up. But by now I’ve spent so much time with them, they don’t feel like made-up people anymore. They feel like real people.

Yesterday–sometimes it’s like I just watch this stuff come out of my pen–Ellayne had a set-to with Lord Orth. I love Ellayne because she has so much go to her: you just can’t keep her down. And I love Lord Orth for the totality of his conversion, which took away the gourmandizing theological show-off and left a humble servant of God… who is now more himself than he ever was before.

I love Wytt for his resourcefulness, his complete lack of fear, and his very small size that never stops him from doing big things.

I love Gurun for her courage: here’s a girl who’s deathly afraid of riding a horse, dreading that she might fall off in front of all these men who insist she be a queen; but that doesn’t keep her out of the saddle.

I love King Ryons for his earnestness, Fnaa for his irrepressible sense of fun, Uduqu for his cheerful bluntness, Obst for his devotion, and Helki for his wildness–and for the fact that there’s no one else remotely like him.

I even get kind of fond of the villains. Lord Reesh. Ysbott the Snake. Lord Chutt. Just don’t let them know I said that.

And I love Nanny Witkom standing up in the cart in the middle of the world’s worst downpour, hair flying every which way, crying “Behold the salvation of the Lord!” No wonder Chief Zekelesh, who couldn’t understand a word she said, was so attached to her.

Of course, if you haven’t read any of these books, you won’t have met any of these characters. But that’s a problem easily remedied.

But if you have, tell me–are there any characters you’ve fallen in love with?

Yeesh! At one point, when they thought I’d killed off Chief Uduqu, both my wife and my editor were ready to tan my hide… I guess I’m not the only one who gets kind of involved with these books.


Progress on ‘The Temptation’

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I heard from my excellent copy and continuity editor, Kathy, today. She’s finished her work on The Temptation, aka Bell Mountain No. 11–and she loved it. Her main job is to find mistakes and contradictions in the text, and she doesn’t seem to have found any–none, at least, requiring my attention.

So now I’ve got to contact our artist, Kirk DouPonce, and see about a cover. I don’t think he’s had a chance to read the book yet, but there must be a scene in there somewhere that he’ll want to use. Not all cover artists read the book first, so I’m very grateful that he does.

Meanwhile, I’m toiling away on No. 12, His Mercy Endureth Forever, taking every opportunity I can, between rain and thunderstorms, to get outside and write. I don’t know yet where the next few chapters will be going: I can only ask the Lord to guide me.

While you’re waiting, there are now ten Bell Mountain books in print, including No. 9, The Throne, pictured above. I know some of you have already read all ten. If you’re eagerly waiting for the next one–well, I’m working as fast as I can.


Are We Really Talking ‘Christian Fiction’?

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I’ve decided “Christian fiction” is probably a good label to get rid of. I mean, would “Christian peanut butter” be all that different from ordinary peanut butter?

It seems that when we use that label–the fiction, not the peanut butter–we’re talking about two different things: fiction pitched to a predominantly Christian audience, and fiction written for a Christian purpose.

We don’t want to spread our art so thin that it has no depth, any more than we want to focus so narrowly on a Christian audience–if such a thing actually exists–that we freeze out everybody else. “You really can’t enjoy this book unless you’re a Christian” is not a principle that holds much appeal for me.

If a book is sappy, it’s sappy whether it’s “Christian fiction” or not: it’s sappy.

What about fiction written for a Christian purpose? Well, what would be a Christian purpose? Several spring to mind. Reclaiming cultural ground for Christ’s Kingdom by competing successfully with secular products: and maybe even pushing some of the truly nasty stuff right off the shelves. Introducing readers, who might not have any Christian background, to Christian themes and habits of thought: sort of breaking ground for the Gospel. Exposing dangers and faults in some aspects of the culture that most readers just take for granted, never thinking about it anymore, when really they should be. Thinking about it hard.

“Unknowable” once made a telling remark about a certain kind of “Christian music”–the kind that takes out “baby” and plugs in “Jesus” but otherwise doesn’t change anything: it remains the same old secular stuff, with slightly different words. He put his finger on exactly what I mean.

Let’s compete and let’s win–not by out-heroding Herod, but by offering something better. Much better!

And yes, I do know great secular fiction when I see it, and I try to learn from it, so that such art as I have can more effectively serve Christ’s Kingdom. Besides, who do you think gave those great secular writers their talent?


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