Tag Archives: The Art of Writing

‘The Silver Trumpet’: Almost Ready

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If you’re wondering where I’ve been all afternoon, I’ve been right here at this computer, doing my part of the final edit of The Silver Trumpet. Our boss, Mark Rushdoony, hopes to publish it in January.

No one has ever published an error-free book, but at Chalcedon we come about as close to it as humanly possible. This will be my third time proofreading the book, and I’m only one of several proofreaders. Actually, it’s quite shocking when I discover–after the book is published!–a typo on a page.

Susan, my editor, had a rather complicated reaction to The Temptation. She’s worried about some of the characters’ welfare. Some of them are very definitely sailing into harm’s way. I pray that in the spring I’ll be ready to start writing the next installment of the story.

But first we’ve gotta get The Silver Trumpet into print!

At least the editing job takes my mind off WordPress.


BTW, I Finished the Book

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Yeah, The Temptation, she’s-a done–in spite of all the computer problems, doctor visits, bad weather, and constant interruptions, Book No. 11 of my Bell Mountain series is all typed up, polished, and sent off to my editor.

I have no idea to what extent, if any, I have succeeded in communicating the vision I had for this book. My wife read the last six chapters this morning, but she was very tired and I don’t know quite what to make of her reaction.

What I tried to do, in the climax of this story, was difficult. It had to be written so that a reasonably with-it 12-year-old would have no trouble understanding it, but at the same time in such a way so as not to alienate adult readers. Sorta like when the pitching coach comes out and tells you, “Don’t give him anything to hit, but don’t walk him, either.”

Oh, well. A writer who’s sure of himself is probably headed for a bad book. I had to work very intently on the climax and I’m kinda wrung out. It’ll be a week or two before I start to miss having no book to be working on. In the meantime, Chalcedon has plenty for me to do.


What’s So Hard About Writing Fantasy?

When I first read J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings in high school–and I’m currently re-reading it, I don’t know how many times–it blew me away. I didn’t know it was possible to write such stories; but a couple of chapters into it, I knew I wanted to write fantasy. It took me over 40 years to come up with Bell Mountain.

A lot of people write fantasy, but according to any number of readers, few write it well. After Tim Wildmon interviewed me on his internet TV show, he turned to his assistant and shook his head. And said, “He made the whole thing up! Whew! I don’t know how you do that.”

Practice, man, practice…

People ask me why I have to sit outside to write it. Well, the phone doesn’t ring outside. I’ve got trees and sky, birds and squirrels, to keep me company. And I have to get myself into a world that doesn’t exist except in my imagination. I have to be able, in my mind, to see it and hear it and touch it. This takes a great deal of concentration, easily broken.

I have to relate to characters that I invented as if they were real. Although I’m inventing what they say and do, think and feel, I can’t just have them do anything I want. They have to behave as if they really live. Again, lots and lots of concentration. A character like Helki the Rod doesn’t just grow on trees. He has to say and do whatever he would say and do if he were real.

I have to see these landscapes, it has to be a movie in my mind. And I have to resist the temptation to load my story with elves and dwarves and wizards and all the other stock characters that burden so many other fantasies. No invincible female warriors, no crusty but benign old sages. Impossibly beautiful, know-it-all elves, uh-uh. Otherwise, next thing you know, all you’ve got is a pile of cliches.

It’s all very difficult, a constant challenge–but it’s the kind of work that I love best. The finished product has to be very different from everybody else’s finished product. I reach back into vanished worlds of the long-gone past and pluck out animals that most of my readers never heard of before. Creatures known to us only imperfectly, from bones and scientific speculations that may or may not be accurate.

Nor can I do any of this without prayer. Lots and lots of prayer.

Which leaves me, when a book is finally done, figuratively gasping for breath and wondering, “Well, now what do I do???” But the Bell Mountain stories are a kind of history, and in history there’s always yet another chapter.


Serious Mainstream Bilgewater (2013)

Writing is much on my mind today–maybe because, once I finish typing up the last chapters of The Temptation, I will again be in that not-so-pleasant limbo that exists for authors between books. Maybe I ought to write longer books…

https://leeduigon.com/2013/04/20/serious-mainstream-bilgewater/


Finished for Real

Image result for images of baby alligator hatching

Okay, now I really have finished writing The Temptation and can go on to type up the last bunch of chapters, polishing them as I go, and send them in to my editor. And that, Lord willing, will be Bell Mountain No. 11.

As various computer woes swept over me this weekend, I realized there was something important that I had to add to the climax. I won’t tell you what it was, except to say it caught Gallgoid the Chief Spy flat-footed, and you have to get up pretty early in the morning to do that.

Why a picture of a baby alligator hatching?

Well, an alligator starts out small and can grow very, very big; and I pray my books will do the same, in the Lord’s service.


Writing the Cover Blurb

Now that I’ve got a cover for The Silver Trumpet, I have to write the blurb for it, which I did this afternoon.

Somehow I always find it a difficult task–sum up the whole novel in 150 words, and do it in such a way as to make someone want to open it up and read it. This always leaves me wondering if I should’ve kept it to 150 words in the first place.

Which brings me back some 30 years to my days as a horror novelist for a major New York City publishing house. They wouldn’t have dreamed of letting the book’s author write the cover blurb.

See that one up there? The cover copy on the back was written by someone who hadn’t read the book, or at best only skimmed a part of it. What you read on the back cover only slightly resembles the content of the book. I would have liked to complain, but that would’ve only made them laugh.

So Storehouse Press has me writing the cover copy for my own books, and the cover artist actually reads the book before he creates the cover, and everybody’s happy.

Next time you feel a book as given you a bum steer, please try to remember it’s probably not the author’s fault.


Waiting for the Climax

(P.S.–Welcome back, Linda: first good news of the day.)

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I’ve been working very hard on The Temptation, racing against the calendar to try to finish it before the weather grows too cold to work outside anymore and I have to somehow write indoors where the phone always rings.

I have this odd sense, now, of drawing toward the climax at a high rate of speed but having no idea of what that climax will turn out to be. My experience has been that God will give it to me in a flash when I’m not expecting it. It’s really cool when that happens, although it tries my nerve to wait for it. Maybe it’s a test of faith.

Now that another big chunk of my time is to be taken away from me and given to the dentist, I suppose I ought to try to work on Sunday. I’d rather not. Some rest would be nice. Ah, well… Guide me, O Lord. Please.

 


Lee’s Writing Factory

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Good grief! Is it really 3:20 already?

What have I written today? Blog posts, Newswithviews column, part of a movie review for the Chalcedon magazine, and two more chapters of my book.

Piece of cake–if you’re used to working for a newspaper.

As an editor and reporter, I had to keep the old typewriter going for hours on end; and to make it just a bit harder, I had to keep hopping from one assignment to another. You’re always working on several different stories at once, plus rewrites of other people’s stuff, plus editing, headlines, photo captions, local sports results… And if you think it’s easy to keep track of it all–well, try it sometime. And you can completely forget about waiting for the muse to visit you. You’ve got deadlines.

Back and forth, back and forth. Marlboro Township politics. Regional Sewerage Authority in financial trouble. Kid finds dead tiger shark on beach. Holmdel High School football team gets crushed again. Before you can finish one, you have to start another.

So, yeah, I’m pretty tired now. Time for a smoko, as they say in the Outback.

If you’re thinking about really, truly, honest-to-Pete becoming a writer–put in a few years at a local newspaper. After that, you’re ready for anything.

 


Do I See It as I Write It?

That was what my wife asked me yesterday: “Do you see it as you write it? And do you hear the dialogue?”

The answer to both is yes. As the story unfolds, it’s like a movie playing in my head. I’d like to get some background music playing with it, too, but I haven’t yet mastered that facet of the art.

If I don’t see it, I reckon the reader won’t see it, either. I had some help with the lake monster from The Temple, pictured above: it’s really just the Liopleurodon from Tim Haines’ Walking with Dinosaurs, and I emailed artist Kirk DouPonce with the applicable clip from the movie. But I had to add the lake, the cliffs of Kara Karram, and King Ryons’ army reacting to the unexpected intrusion. Nothing to go on there but my imagination.

Kirk uses live models to pose as story characters on my covers. Because he takes the trouble to read the books before he goes to work on them, he sometimes paints a character exactly as I imagine him or her to be. I don’t know how he does that.

I watch a lot of movies and read a lot of books because it helps me to harness my imagination. In my mind, the characters that populate the stories are as real as Kirk’s models. Sometimes I find myself casting movie and TV actors to portray them; and when that works, it works really well indeed. Wes Studi as Ysbott the Snake. John Nettles as Lord Chutt. And so on–it really works. And it gets me cranked up to imagine and describe things and people that I haven’t seen in any movie. I can even see and hear Helki the Rod–and I don’t know of any actor that can play him.

Patty’s last question, though, isn’t quite so easy to answer: “When you’re seeing and hearing all these things, how do you come back?”

But we don’t have to worry about that until I start having trouble coming back.


‘The Temptation’ Marches On

The Throne

The weather is telling me I’d better shift into high gear if I want to finish writing The Temptation before it gets too cold to write outside. Yeah, I could work indoors–but when it comes to my books, I’d much rather work outdoors.

I’m typing up the latest chapter set, which will give me 25 completed chapters. The Lord has not yet shown me how to end the story. All sorts of action is going on, in and out of Obann City and the ruins of Old Obann: my characters are very busy. All I can do is pray for inspiration and plug on. I know from experience that the ending of the book will be given to me in a sudden burst: that’s how He likes to give it to me.

I really wonder what it’ll be!


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