Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Major Authors’ Category

He didn’t remember that a mere book might reek of sex, possibility, fecundity.  Yet a book has a ripe furrow and a yielding spine, he thought, and the nuances to be teased from its pages are nearly infinite in their variety and coquettish appeal.  And what new life can emerge from a book.  Any book, maybe.

 

~ A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire, born on this day in 1954

 

Photograph by Tom Woodward

Photograph by Tom Woodward

Read Full Post »

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought

I summon up remembrance of things past,

I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,

And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:

Then can I drown an eye, unus’d to flow,

For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,

And weep afresh love’s long since cancell’d woe,

And moan th’ expense of many a vanish’d sight;

Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,

And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er

The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,

Which I new pay as if not paid before.

But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,

All losses are restor’d, and sorrows end.

 

~ William Shakespeare, died on this day in 1616

 

"Meditation" by Wilhelm Amberg, circa 1880

“Meditation” by Wilhelm Amberg, circa 1880

Read Full Post »

Old forms and phrases began to have a sense that frightened her.  She had a new feeling, the feeling of danger; on which a new remedy rose to meet it, the idea of an inner self or, in other words, of concealment.  She puzzled out with imperfect signs, but with a prodigious spirit, that she had been a centre of hatred and a messenger of insult, and that everything was bad because she had been employed to make it so.  Her parted lips locked themselves with the determination to be employed no longer.  She would forget everything, she would repeat nothing, and when, as a tribute to the successful application of her system, she began to be called a little idiot, she tasted a pleasure new and keen.  When therefore, as she grew older, [they] in turn announced before her that she had grown shockingly dull, it was not from any real contraction of her little stream of life.  She spoiled their fun, but she practically added to her own.  She saw more and more; she saw too much.

 

~ From What Maisie Knew by Henry James, born on this day in 1843

 

James_What_Maisie_Knew_cover

Read Full Post »

Take this kiss upon the brow!

And, in parting from you now,

Thus much let me avow –

You are not wrong, who deem

That my days have been a dream;

Yet if hope has flown away

In a night, or in a day,

In a vision, or in none,

Is it therefore the less gone?

All that we see or seem

Is but a dream within a dream.

 

I stand amid the roar

Of a surf-tormented shore,

And I hold within my hand

Grains of the golden sand –

How few! yet how they creep

Through my fingers to the deep,

While I weep – while I weep!

O God! Can I not grasp

Them with a tighter clasp?

O God! can I not save

One from the pitiless wave?

Is all that we see or seem

But a dream within a dream?

 

                ~ Edgar Allan Poe, born on this day in 1809

 

Thomas Pollock Anshutz, circa 1900

Thomas Pollock Anshutz, circa 1900

Read Full Post »

A curious thing seems to be happening in MFA workshops and critique groups.  Criticism regarding spelling, grammar, and punctuation is considered hypercritical and offered only with considerable apologies for nitpicking.  “Your editor will catch and correct those problems” seems to be the widespread assumption, which disregards entirely the fact that, as unpublished, amateur writers, we don’t yet have editors.  Moreover, we have less chance of ever having one if our query letters and submissions reflect a bungling of or indifference to the fundamental rules of writing.

Personally, I think relying on others to tidy up our work is a slippery slope.  More often than not, a seemingly minor punctuation edit such as the addition or elimination of a comma or an ellipsis will change the carefully wrought tone of a passage entirely.  Further, many of these “petty” edits are stylistic.  Will my editor know, for instance, that I intended to capitalize “It” when referring to a personified Fate?  The portrait of the resplendent but doomed Dorian Gray might have been inelegantly smeared rather than excruciatingly seared “with the lines of suffering” had Oscar himself not corrected his typist’s error.

Writing well is more than the generation of an engaging plot and well-developed characters and the correction of inadvertent POV shifts; it is the ability to inspire, evoke, engage, and transform through words and syntax and rhythm.  But none of that can be achieved if the passage is a distracting, irreverent jumble of comma splices, dangling participles, improperly used apostrophes, and misplaced semicolons.  Such blatant disregard for the fundamental mechanics of writing would destroy any stylistic or substantive merits of the piece and undermine the credibility of the author.

As both a Christian and a writer, I feel a heightened responsibility to write well and to confront and overcome any prevailing issue of ordinariness at all costs.  The standards for writing that is divine or inspirational should never be compromised for the sake of the enterprise or message.  “Christians,” according to screenwriter and script consultant Barbara Nicolosi in The Making of a Christian Bestseller by Ann Byle, “tend to allow mediocrity because of our penchant for looking at the heart, not the art.”  She goes on to criticize some of the “slop” in Christian literary art that is justified by the market because of the artist’s good intentions.  “We’re ending up giving a false witness to what our faith is. It’s devastating.”

I agree wholeheartedly with this assertion, having encountered faith-based writing that is both technically inadequate and thematically trite, and I deem the deficiencies even more objectionable than I would if I came across them in the secular realm, considering what is at stake.  My intention as a Christian writer is not only to support an unfettered approach to genuine and controversial subject matter but also to advocate the highest standards of technical imperatives and artistic excellence in Christian fiction and nonfiction.

So let’s master the semicolon and colon and solve the lay/lie/laid/lain mystery once and for all.  Consult grammar manuals in relentless pursuit of accuracy, and find a critique partner or group that isn’t reluctant to point out grammatical errors or other weaknesses.  Let’s eliminate our beloved adverbs where possible, and murder our darlings.  And, for heaven’s sake, please tell me if I mean “sow” rather than “sew.”  Let’s utilize our talents in a way that exalts unabashedly the One who bestowed them.  If that means revising and editing ad nauseam, so be it.  After all, as William Zinsser reminds us in On Writing Well, “a good editor likes nothing better than a piece of copy he hardly has to touch.”

 

This post appeared on the American Christian Fiction Writers website on November 19, 2015.

 

Draft of Chapter Four of "The Picture of Dorian Gray"

Draft of Chapter Four of “The Picture of Dorian Gray”

Read Full Post »

There is perhaps no branch of work amongst the arts so free at the present time as that of the writing of fiction.  There are no official prohibitions, no embarrassing or hampering limitations, no oppressive restraints.  Subject and method of treatment are both free.  A writer is under no special obligation, no preliminary guarantee; he may choose his own subject and treat it in his own way.  In fact, his duty to the public—to the State—appears to be nil.  What one might call the cosmic police do not trouble him at all.  Under these conditions, hitherto kept possible by the self-respect of authors, a branch of the art of authorship has arisen and gone on perfecting itself in mechanical excellence, until it has become an important factor of the life of the nation.  Today if the supply of fiction were to be suddenly withdrawn the effect would be felt almost as much as the failure of the supply of breadstuffs.

 

~ From “The Censorship of Fiction” by Bram Stoker, born on this day in 1847

 

Bram Stoker, circa 1906

Bram Stoker, circa 1906

Read Full Post »

The seasons send their ruin as they go,

For in the spring the narciss shows its head

Nor withers till the rose has flamed to red,

And in the autumn purple violets blow,

And the slim crocus stirs the winter snow;

Wherefore yon leafless trees will bloom again

And this grey land grow green with summer rain

And send up cowslips for some boy to mow.

 

But what of life whose bitter hungry sea

Flows at our heels, and gloom of sunless night

Covers the days which never more return?

Ambition, love and all the thoughts that burn

We lose too soon, and only find delight

In withered husks of some dead memory.

 

                            ~ Oscar Wilde, born on this day in 1854

 

Oscar Wilde with "Poems" (Napoleon Sarony, New York, 1882)

Oscar Wilde with “Poems” (Napoleon Sarony, New York, 1882)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 71 other followers

%d bloggers like this: