Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Appreciation for New Songs

For family worship this week, my wife and I practiced a few of the new songs, trying to familiarize ourselves especially with #147 and #149 (the two that will be sung for the memorial this year). Our favorite of this new batch is #149. The lyrics, the music, and the composition of the orchestral music is very moving.

We also really like #150. I’m so happy to see that the style of our music has expanded in the last year or so. I especially like the tribal percussion and unique rhythms of both #150 and #142. As a worldwide brotherhood, it only seems fitting to have melodies and compositions that reflect our varied ethnicity!

Actually, besides just the music, it seems we've seen the creativity of our organization really blossom in the past few years (especially since the launch of the updated site). The photography and design on our magazines, for example, has become cleaner, more modern, and more appealing than ever before. The use of infographics (now a weekly part of the Meeting Workbooks) is wonderful. And now, a constant output of eye-catching, artistic videos paired with professionally composed music. It's just incredible. I can't help but thinking of the scripture at Isaiah 60:17:

“Instead of the copper I shall bring in gold, and instead of the iron I shall bring in silver, and instead of the wood, copper, and instead of the stones, iron; and I will appoint peace as your overseers and righteousness as your task assigners.”

If you haven't yet had a chance to preview the new songs, you can listen here.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Writing a Novel

In the course of writing three novels, I’ve adopted a lot of tools and techniques to help me along the way. Some I’ve developed myself, while others I’ve picked up from other authors and bloggers. Some techniques have even come from you, my readers. I thought it’d be nice to occasionally write a blog post to share a few of the methods that I use to help me go from concept to first draft and beyond.

First of all, I’d have to say that writing a novel isn’t hard per se, but like any long-term project, perseverance is a must. I’ve gotten emails over the past couple of years from friends who lament, ‘I’d love to write a novel, if only I had the time!’ Well, I’m here to tell you that writing a novel is less about having the time and more about having dedication

Using graphing software helps me visualize my progress as I write.

As with anything else, short term goals can be a big help. For me, that goal tends to be writing 2,000 words per day. Since my books thus far have run at around 100,000 words, this means that if all goes well, I can have a first draft done in a little under two months. Has this actually happened yet? Well, no. But the goal is still useful. It gives me something to shoot for each time I sit down in front of the computer to write.

‘But where can I find the time?’ you're thinking, right? Well, like anything else, writing a novel requires a certain amount of discipline and sacrifice. For me, it means limiting how much time I spend in front of the TV. It’s no big secret that TV viewing can be a huge time waster. (According to a Nielson study done in 2012, the average American over the age of 2 spends 34 hours watching TV each week, or just under five hours each day!)

Of course, I’d imagine this average is a lot lower among Witnesses, who, on top of their secular lives, must schedule in Family Worship, the ministry, meeting preparation and attendance, and personal study. Still, by shaving away just a few hours of TV viewing per week, I’ve found that I’ve had a lot more time to do more productive things, like writing. So how long does it take to hit my goal of 2,000 words? It varies from day to day, but on average I’ve found that I can hit that mark in about two hours. The result is pretty rough, and barely good enough to make it into a first draft, but as any writer will tell you, the first step of writing a novel is just getting the words and ideas on the paper (or the screen).

Making it all sound pretty comes later, in the editing stage, which I’ll save for another post…

Saturday, February 13, 2016

New blog launch

Well, I've resisted the urge for a while, but here we are. I've finally caved and set up an actual blog (as in, a website where I post more than just snippets from my books). Wait, I know what you're thinking: Just what the internet needs, right? More bloggers!

I've decided to do it for a few reasons. For one, I hope that having this site will help me to keep motivated with my writing. I'm just about finished with my third novel in as many years and I'd love to keep up the pace, but with increasing responsibilities and endless demands on my time, it's hard to make any promises. The idea is that having something like this will get me to keep writing (every few days, if possible), even if I haven't yet invested in the next big writing project.

Another reason for joining the blogging masses is to share some of the things I've learned about writing itself. I'm no professional writer and I can't say I've ever aspired to be one, but I have picked up some techniques along the way that might be helpful for other amateur writers. A surprising number of emails have come through with questions and feedback along these lines, so hopefully making my answers public here will be of some benefit to others.

Third, having a blog like this will help to centralize things a bit. For example, I can put all news related to any of my novels here, like book printings, digital releases, etc. I believe this will make things much easier for visitors to these sites, since they will no longer need to jump from one site to the next just to get the latest scoop.

Finally, I'd like to use this site to host the occasional poll or gather thoughts and expertise from my readers. The feedback I've gotten from all of you has been wonderful, and I'm forever grateful for the time that many of you have put into contacting me and sharing your thoughts. I've gotten lots of great suggestions from fellow writers to improve my writing, and many others have written in with concerns regarding the accuracy (or plausibility, I should probably say) of some of the details and events depicted in the books. Needless to say, this has all been very helpful. Hopefully, having this blog will allow me to address specific issues and garner even more valuable input.