Friday, July 24, 2015

Television's Big Lie

A few years back I was watching this TV show called 'Californication'. You may have heard of it. It chronicled the adventures of an American author played by David Duchovny. Decent TV show. I made it few two or three seasons before I stopped watching. Nothing on the show, I just rarely make it to the end of TV series.

The way 'Californication' presented the writing process is fairly similar to how many movies and TV shows present the writing process. Here's how it works.

1. The writer struggles. Writers can't just come up with an idea or a story or a topic, sit down and write it. They can't just set aside time in their day to brain storm and plan. Or rather, they could, but it always ends up being fruitless and they have a montage of making pencil towers and throwing scrunched up paper into their waste bin. Writing can't just happen.

2. Inspiration strikes. Somehow, some way, somewhere, the writer is inspired. Often it's because of something they see or somebody might say something that makes all the pieces of their potential novel fall into place. More often, however, they experience something amazing and unusual and it becomes the catalyst for their story. Whatever the case, inspiration comes and at last they can write.

3. The writer writes. They sit down at their typewriter (or computer, but often a typewriter because writers are quirky like that or because it's a Stephen King story from the 1970s) and they punch out a story. This also often involves a montage or similar time lapse but the suggestion is that the writer simply does nothing else but write from when the time inspiration hits until the time that first draft is done?

4. Did I say first draft? Oops! That's not how it works. Because inspiration is so strong that you only need to write a book once. You get those last words down and BAM! Your work is done. Time to send it to your agent or maybe straight to the editor working at the publishing house. This person may also be your best friend and wing man when you go out drinking. Having a purely professional relationship with your professional colleague would just be weird. They love it to. Best thing you ever wrote! Sold! Print it!

5. Six months later, the book is on shelves. Everybody is buying it. It's 10/10 and you're doing interviews for Time Magazine. Fame, money, prestige and acclaim are all yours! Midlist? Obscurity? What's that? You, sir, are a genius!

Obviously it's fiction. Nobody believes this is what it's like. Nobody wants a montage for the author's third draft, most of which he does while watching repeats of Bewitched in his pyjamas. There's no value or charm in an episode where the author browses in search of a good name for a throw away character. And seeing the hero's hard work reap little to no reward, unless that's the key conflict to the story, isn't much fun to watch.

So whatever. It's fiction. Who gets upset about fiction? We all know it's not true. Writing's not like that and anybody with half a brain gets that.

But there's an idea in here I think does need some proper refuting,and that's the idea that authors work alone. Writers write the book, send it away and go onto the next book. The author jealously guards his manuscript, crafting it his art like a lone wolf. He is the keeper of the magic.

But that's not how it works. Books are made by teams and if that's an idea you need to get friendly with or you're in trouble. You, the writer, are not enough. At least, at the absolute very least, you need an editor.

And by editor, I mean an editor. Not you with an editor's hat on, not your friend who knows grammar really well. You want to make a professional book? Get a professional editor.

But books aren't made by writers and editors either. You're writing a book for people to read, yeah? So get some people to read it. Find some readers. Obviously they should be people who read lots of books. They'll have the best knowledge, intuitive or otherwise, of what works. They'll also probably get through the manuscript. Other writers are good, presuming they're writers who read books. But what's really important is that they're somebody willing to give you an honest opinion, not just of the manuscript as a whole, but as a play by play commentary, picking over each scene and telling you what they really think. Some people suggest this shouldn't be your mother or your spouse or your friends. But they can be, so long as they're willing to give you honest feedback.

We're not quite done though. Because books are made by writers and editors and test readers, but they're also made by your friends and your family, by people you brainstorm with and who suggest ideas, by their encouragement and their interest in your creative endeavors.

What it all comes down to is you are one person with one mind and one imagination. There's not enough in you to make a good book all by yourself. It takes a team, one bigger than you may have thought. Like the man said...

It's dangerous to go alone.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Soap Box: Homosexuality and The Church

A Christian opines on the politics around sexuality... Again.

For the longest time, the issue of sexuality was one of my greatest theological concerns. I've since lost interest. I interpret scripture one way, you interpret another way, he, she and they interpret it their way. We might all be wrong. In the end, God knows how he feels about sexuality and what we think means very little.

It's not a theological discussion I'm interested in anymore.

It doesn't matter.

Because what does matter, and what I am 100% certain of is that the church is wrong.

The church is just wrong.


And by the church I mean the Christian community globally in general and, especially, the leaders of that community.

The loudest voice in the church, right now, on this issue, is one with a political agenda. It's one that is strongly conservative, and one that wants to fight tooth and nail against same sex marriage in particular. Further, it's one that says homosexuality is wrong. Just plain old wrong. It's a sin. You shouldn't do it, you shouldn't be it. If you do and you are, then you are bad. Occasionally the word I hear is "abomination." And it's okay to use that word because it's in the Bible. This loud voice is one that sounds hateful and angry and it's full of condemnation and outrage.

But there's a problem with that.

It's missing something.

Did you see it?

Can you guess?

I'll tell you. This is the important part. This is why the church is wrong. Right now those loud voices are offering a big section of the Earth's population judgment and nothing else. That is NOT the church's job. It has never been the church's job to judge and it never will be the church's job to judge people. Judgment is not in our portfolio.

But Carl - you say, stepping in to hold a hypothetical conversation and explore the issue deeper - But Carl, if it is a sin, shouldn't something be said?

No. Usually the answer is yes, but this time it's no. You're wrong. You, Mr Church, hypothetical question asker, are wrong and you need to shut up about this one for a while and go sit in a corner and think about it. You can come back to the grown up's table when you are going to be responsible and offering something worthy to the discussion.

It's important to talk about sin. Sin is a big deal in Christianity. The church has a responsibility to discuss it and be aware of it. But the church has a much bigger responsibility and that is to lead people to God and encourage people to follow the examples set by Christ for all humanity. Because no sin is beyond God's power to forgive and no heart is outside God's power to change and nobody on this Earth now or ever is beyond God's love and compassion. The church's number one task in this world is to share that with people, and bring people to God.

And guess what?

You don't do that be being a judgmental arse!

If you, Mr Church, are certain beyond doubt that homosexuality is a sin then that's your business. I'm doing trying to argue that point one way or another. But before you open your mouth about it, you need to think, is what's about to come out of your trap going to bring people closer to God or push them away from God? If the answer is not the latter, then it's back to the corner for you. You can do better.

Okay, now, look, I know that you might not be like that. Maybe your little section of Christendom and your part of the community and your church leaders aren't like that. Am I annoyed by you? Well, maybe just a little. But it's not just you, it's me too. You see we're not loud enough. Maybe that angry, political, judgmental voice is coming from just a small few nutjobs or well meaning folks who lost their way. Maybe. Sure. I hope so. But what are you doing about it?

If you're not fighting against that voice, then you are complicit. You are complicit in driving people away from God and that makes you and I just as wrong.

Okay, I'm done with you, Mr Church. Go back to your corner. We'll chat later. There's a lot to discuss. Have a snack while you wait. I'm going to finish up talking to everybody else again.

This is the conclusion I've come to. This is my considered, insider opinion. It makes me kind of sad, too. That's why I've said something. This is me, personally, refusing to be complicit. I'll never be ashamed of my faith, but damn if I'm not sometimes embarrassed by my people.

You'll just have to forgive them.

A lot of them are old.

Old people. Am I right?*

By the way, since I want this blog to be informative and fun first and a place for me to opine at the masses second, I'm going to be making some changes to move these controversial soap boxing entries out of the main feed and into their own section. That way if you want to engage on the controversy, you can, if you just want updates and writing talk, they'll be the first thing you see. I'll still soap box as much as I feel inclined to, it'll just be slightly less visible for people who aren't interested.

*Jokes Old people are cool. They always have the best stories.