INKBLOTS, July 25, 2010, seven men on a sunny summer evening on the cool side of the house.
Doug McComas read the synopsis and sample chapters of his submission to Writers’ Edge. Admitted that his wife thinks it’s still rough, needs smoothing in (wives can be brutal critics, in my experience, but then it isn’t much help to have them stifle a yawn and say, “It’s just awesome,” when you and she know it’s not. We must never encourage lying in our spouses).
John Schrupp commented that he was trying to read some Ernest Hemmingway and he thought it was pretty not very good writing and wondered what the big deal is about the guy. He doesn’t give very good description of things, John thought.
Doug read a sample chapter we had not heard yet. I love his inflections reading his own characters. Claire is a crack-up female who is totally unrealistic about her understanding of the war, wounds, casualties. Nathan re-entering civilian life, home, getting a much-needed night’s sleep, meal, renewed energy—he did a good job of showing us the difficulties of post-war life. Preaching poor or unscriptural… How about “lacking eloquence” or power or not very interesting, instead of poor. Subtly exposing his shallow faith.
The humor and refreshment of this chapter gives a time to breath again after the intensity of the war sequences. Doug will be near all this as he goes to Guam to work on nukes. I ask a bout how he is going to transition to show more depth and substance to Claire’s character. He explained that he is going to have Nathan need her cheerfulness and her loquaciousness as a counter to his own personality.
David Killian read the first chapter, rewritten, of his futuristic political thriller. Great clam on scientists. Story revolves around cloning, si-fi. Don’t tell us that he didn’t care about what happened to human subjects. Show this, don’t tell it. We need breathers, more sensory description that makes the reader feel like the contrivance could be real. Give more of a sense of the reality of what these cranks are up to, a newspaper article mentioned that debunked cloning, scorn for those who persist in ignoring their research, what they are capable of. The reader has to feel like this could actually be happening somewhere in the world. May be compare with when critics though man could never fly, do heart transplant surgery, make a motor car. John S suggested having some kind of controlling symbol--he referred to the beginning of Duncan’s War and finding the hole in the ground near the castle ruins. And then he had the gall to say some derogatory thing about me not taking his advice when he reads for me. Shocking. Opening scene has bad guys—two of them, but no normal joe that the reader can care about, can see the unfolding drama through his eyes. Handle it carefully and the reader will begin to worry about what will happen to a relatively good guy like the lab assistant, who maybe drops a beaker overhearing the scheme unfold.
Doug decided to read the brutal review he received from his first submission. We could feel it coming, especially use of the word “competence.” They describe problems with pace and moving too slowly in places. This is a book for men and men do not buy Christian books. Mostly women buy Christian books. They would not buy one on Nazis, some who may be considered Christians. Writing style they gave a 2, and said the book for the Christian audience needs to have a clearer Christian conviction. For a first feature length fiction work it is remarkable.
I read the first chapter of my Evangelical Press biography of Isaac Watts, A Watts Awakening, my seventeen-year-old experience of grace and the gospel prompted by singing Watts.