New Year’s Writing Resolution

by Peter Leavell, @PeterLeavell

New Year’s resolutions and toddlers—cute, but better when they belong to someone else.

This year, there’s one resolution I’m focused on, and that’s finding my invisible culture so that I have permission to be obsessive about my writing.

What does that mean?

Invisible culture: The intangible aspects of a group setting that reinforces good or bad behavior, not always through explicitly written rules, but through codes of conduct that a newcomer would need to interpret and learn, so they mightfit in comfortably.

A group of bank robbers will not act like bakers. They’ll probably look more like…well, more like writers, really.

For example, let’s get controversial. Church and clothes. Is there a doctrine that defines what clothes to wear in worship? EVERYONE MUST WEAR EARLY CHRISTIAN ROBES. 4th Peter 1:9. The end. Controversy over.

The Essential Scenes in every best-seller

Essential scenes cover

Create a powerful story with these essential scenes!

We hate spam too, so we won't send you any. Promise. Powered by ConvertKit

But one fellow goes to church topless. Dude. He’s getting looks from disapproval to lust. His attempt to bare his soul in worship falls too short, and we’re eager for him to show respect to God and to everyone else. But he’s from tribal Africa, where it’s hot, and clothes are hard to come by. Instead of everyone else in the church going topless (this example’s getting out of hand), we’re going to encourage him to dress up a bit.

Invisible culture makes us comfortable. But it’s more than that. As Angela Duckworth says in her book, Grit, “The culture in which we live, and which we identify, powerfully shapes just about every aspect of our being.” These are “invisible psychological boundaries separating us from them.”

Clothes in church are a vital part of worship—naked will simply not do. Swearing at the priest or pastor will be discouraged. Writing on the wall ‘Scrooge McDuck is My Homeboy’ at work will probably not put you in good graces with your boss.

But it’s not just negative fences invisible cultures build. Libraries encourage reading. Churches encourage spirituality. Good families encourage safety, openness, and love.

If you want to be a writer, find writers and join them.

Allow yourself to be taken by the culture.

Go to writer’s conferences. Write in libraries in coffeehouses. Get a job selling books. Teach English. Ask her on a date, go to a bookstore, each buy a book, and going somewhere romantic to read. Be cool with Hemingway and TS Elliot and get down with Byron and grow close to Chaucer. Freak when Victor Hugo sais ‘Perseverance, secret of all triumphs.’

As the incredible author Brandilyn Collins has said, there are writers, and there are normals. Embrace your inner author nerd. We’re team writer!

The secret of being a great writer? Obsess your gift. People respect authenticity, particularities, and odd ducks, especially when it falls just short of recklessness.

Allow yourself the comfort of the writing culture. You’ll find when looking at writers, you’ll stop saying ‘that’s the way they do things,’ to believing ‘this is how and why I do things.’

And sitting down to a computer, opening up a vein and bleeding out a story won’t seem such a bizarre act. It will simply be who you are.

 


Shadow of Devil’s Tower

Philip Anderson is a reluctant gunslinger whose fame has spread through the Dakota Territory. He can’t escape his reputation as the hero who took down the entire Maxwell Gang, and he’s even had a popular dime novel written about him. All Philip yearns for is to live a quiet life raising horses and to finally marry his beloved Anna. He’d gladly give up his half of the treasure map his murdered father left behind, but until Jacob Wilkes is captured he can never hang up his gun. Bent on destroying Philip and everything he loves, Wilkes has his eye on the hidden cache. And on Anna.

Just when Philip thinks he might be able to bury the demons of his past, the unthinkable happens and Anna and her family are kidnapped. Riding his Arabian mare Raven, he is forced into the race of his life as he desperately tracks his enemies across the desert. Can he rescue Anna before it’s too late? Joining forces with old friends like Teddy Roosevelt and Running Deer, Philip is pushed to the breaking point. Will he ever be free, or must he make the ultimate sacrifice for those he loves under the shadow of Devil’s Tower?

Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. For entertainment, he reads historical books, where he finds ideas for new novels. Whenever he has a chance, he takes his wife and two homeschooled children on crazy but fun research trips. Learn more about Peter’s books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.com

Do Writers Get Second Chances?

by Peter Leavell, @PeterLeavell

John Howland is forever known to history as fortunate. And with his second shot at life, he didn’t hold back.

Writers, it’s never one and done. You get second chances. And with the second chance, you’ll be all the smarter.

Prevailing winds chilled Howland to the bone. He grasped the rail as the ship lurched, rolled, then dipped, leaving his stomach behind.

He couldn’t know that the Mayflower was poor construction. True, she was only 100 feet long, 80 livable feet (11 or 12 living room couches end to end), and 24 feet wide (about the width of a tight, two-lane road), but that wasn’t what made her lean to the side. What made her pitch was her height—she was small but tall, with two and ½ stories with masts towering into the sky. Her center of gravity was high, and she swayed at alarming angles.

Sailors ran around him, doing things a landlubber like himself didn’t quite understand. He didn’t know they were furling the sails and turning the ship into the wind, a rare act of seamanship, but the howling wind in the lines seemed to calm, and the raging storm offered a break.

Why did he come to the deck? Because the storm up here was better than conditions below.

For 2 ½ months and 3000 miles, averaging 2 miles per hour, the Pilgrims lived in the gun deck, stretching 5 ½ feet, floor to ceiling. Dark and cramped, one 102 men, women, and children shared the tight space with the mast’s base, and a boat that was taken apart to be reassembled in the new world.

He wouldn’t have imagined going on deck the first half of the journey. There had been one particular sailor who would have stopped him.

The sailor had teased the Pilgrims and their ways, using filthy language and crude jokes. The sailor thought the Pilgrims silly. First, the Pilgrims had left King James and his religious oppression for the freedom of Holland, but the economy of Holland was turning the minds of young Pilgrims to pursue money instead of God. They left Holland for the solitude of the New World. The sailor couldn’t imagine why they kept moving. And then there were the strange customs. The Pilgrims didn’t sing hymns (they’re not inspired by God, but written by humans), didn’t celebrate holidays of any sort (not even Christmas). So, he teased them mercilessly.

Then the sailor died of disease. The only death on the Mayflower. God’s wrath on the wicked, the Pilgrims confirmed.

Without harassment, Howland felt free to leave the cramped quarters to take a breath of fresh air.

The ship calmed, but the clouds still scurried low over the mast.

He let go of the railing.

The ship lurched.

He slipped over the side of the Mayflower and plunged into the swirling ocean. He fought the thousands of feet of darkness that pulled him down into oblivion.

He reached for the side of the ship. The smooth wood was slipping by. If it passed, there was no way to turn around and he would drift on the bottom of the sea forever—John Howland’s final resting place. No marriage. No children. Just the end of his earthly existence.

Every inch of the Mayflower that passed, his small chance of survival dropped even lower.

His opportunities were sliding away.

Something touched his arm, a rope that had fallen into the sea and dangled from a yardarm.

He grabbed tight.

Ship propulsion dragged him behind. He instantly plunged ten feet underwater. He held tight.

In a moment, Howland resurfaced. A quick glance told him sailors were pulling the rope, a boat hook ready. Soon, he was standing on deck, shivering in the cold.

God had given him a second chance at life. And he would make the most of it. The girl he liked on the Mayflower—Elizabeth— he married. They had 10 children and 88 grandchildren. Living to age 90, he was privileged to greet them all into the world.

As writers, we find ourselves with second chances, because we fail over and over. Just like John Howland, he found God’s providence in his life, and a little wiser, understood better what life was about. If you’re rejected, know that there are second chances, and you’ll be better prepared to tackle that next project!

SOURCE: Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War


Shadow of Devil’s Tower

Philip Anderson is a reluctant gunslinger whose fame has spread through the Dakota Territory. He can’t escape his reputation as the hero who took down the entire Maxwell Gang, and he’s even had a popular dime novel written about him. All Philip yearns for is to live a quiet life raising horses and to finally marry his beloved Anna. He’d gladly give up his half of the treasure map his murdered father left behind, but until Jacob Wilkes is captured he can never hang up his gun. Bent on destroying Philip and everything he loves, Wilkes has his eye on the hidden cache. And on Anna.

Just when Philip thinks he might be able to bury the demons of his past, the unthinkable happens and Anna and her family are kidnapped. Riding his Arabian mare Raven, he is forced into the race of his life as he desperately tracks his enemies across the desert. Can he rescue Anna before it’s too late? Joining forces with old friends like Teddy Roosevelt and Running Deer, Philip is pushed to the breaking point. Will he ever be free, or must he make the ultimate sacrifice for those he loves under the shadow of Devil’s Tower?

Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. For entertainment, he reads historical books, where he finds ideas for new novels. Whenever he has a chance, he takes his wife and two homeschooled children on crazy but fun research trips. Learn more about Peter’s books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.com

Get The Edge On Your Dreams

by Peter Leavell, @PeterLeavell

“Too unconcerned to love and too passionless to hate, too detached to be selfish and too lifeless to be unselfish, too indifferent to experience joy and too cold to express sorrow, they are neither dead nor alive; they merely exist.” Martin Luther King Jr.

But that’s not you. No. You’re a writer, living at the height of your passion. Dreams, hopes, rage, swoons—oh, it’s the writer’s life for you!

That’s why you’re reading Novel Rocket, to get the edge on your dreams.

I’ve needed productivity ideas, so I’ve been reading. Here’s some tips I’ve gathered from the sources I’ll list below. (These get harsh, but this is my pep talk—this is how I talk to myself. My arms are cross and my tone is terse.)

  • Your writing passion is bizarre and will create a life that doesn’t look like those of your friends. If you’re not okay with that, drop writing and pursue normal.
  • Energy on many projects won’t get them done. Focus on one project to its completion. Then move on.
  • If you’re not sure if you should do something, the answer is definitely no. Only do the absolute ‘yes!’ “Want to go to the party tonight?” If it’s not your dream come true, the answer is no. “Read this!” Meh. The answer is no. Life is too short for meh.
  • It’s okay not to be the perfect friend, mother, brother, housecleaner, church member, because God makes up the difference. There is no such thing as perfect.
  • Raising children while you write? Your children will be a bit twisted. That’s okay.
  • Take care of yourself first. Sleep. Exercise. Eat right. Chuck your emotions on this matter into the river and let them float away. No, you won’t enjoy creating a healthy body and mind, but you’ll do it. It’s called ‘Protecting the Asset.’ Live longer. Grace the world with your presence and your work.
  • Procrastination is only good if you’re letting your mind wander. Otherwise, just get to work. One trick is to use Mel Robbins’ five second rule. It takes the mind five seconds to talk a person out of following instincts. Count backwards from five when you have the instinct to write but don’t want to. It’s odd, but it works.
  • Think, read, watch only the fascinating. Cut out the frivolous. Wash away the boring. It’s okay not to put up with sludge.
  • Play. A lot. Play ‘sparks exploration.’ Forget how to play? Remember what you liked as a kid, and start there.
  • Do you gamble? Yes, you do. With time. Instead of pulling the handle on the slot machine for a meager payout every 6-10 tugs, you’re flipping from your writing to Facebook or twitter or blog or text or email in hopes that you’ll see something that will pay out emotionally, which sometimes it does. But mostly, it doesn’t. DON’T WRITE DISTRACTED. EVER. Let your mind wander while writing, and you’ll have amazing and bizarre ideas.
  • Wake before everyone else for quiet time.
  • You’re a slave to information. Stop. Control the information. When the alarm jerks you out of sleep, roll out of bed. Don’t snooze. Get the day started right. If you must, count backwards from five to keep your mind from talking yourself into staying in bed. While getting ready, keep a planner nearby to jot down ideas for your day. THE SECOND you check your phone, something outside your mind controls you. A hurricane. A riot. An email with a task. Don’t start the day with your mind fixated on something other than what you’re about—your writing and plots and formulating your day to manage errands, school, kids, and meals and fitting writing in. As horrible as bad news is, focus on your own mind, first.
  • Don’t binge watch TV. Read great books. Sports scores and Hollywood gossip are frivolous. Control the frivolous.
  • Force creative time. Just sit and think. Let the mind wander. It helps when you turn off the TV. You never know where your mind will go.
  • Don’t forget, you have choice. From big to small, you choose everything. You chose to have more children. You chose your job, your home. Not choosing is a choice. Keep choosing with purpose.

Keep in mind, as a writer, cutting out unnecessary words is vital to great writing. Do the same with your life—Less But Better. And after some time, you’ll find you’re getting an edge on your dreams.

SOURCES
  • The Five Second Rule by Mel Robbins
  • How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams
  • Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg Mckeown
  • Free to Lean: Making Peace With Your Lopsided Life by Jocelyn Green

TWEETABLES

Get The Edge On Your Dreams by @PeterLeavell on @Novel Rocket #writing http://bit.ly/2fPSuXj

Dreams, hopes, rage, swoons—oh, it’s the writer’s life for you! @PeterLeavell on @Novel Rocket #writing http://bit.ly/2fPSuXj

Cutting out unnecessary words is vital – same with your life—Less But Better @PeterLeavell @Novel Rocket #writing http://bit.ly/2fPSuXj

——————–

Shadow of Devil’s Tower

Philip Anderson is a reluctant gunslinger whose fame has spread through the Dakota Territory. He can’t escape his reputation as the hero who took down the entire Maxwell Gang, and he’s even had a popular dime novel written about him. All Philip yearns for is to live a quiet life raising horses and to finally marry his beloved Anna. He’d gladly give up his half of the treasure map his murdered father left behind, but until Jacob Wilkes is captured he can never hang up his gun. Bent on destroying Philip and everything he loves, Wilkes has his eye on the hidden cache. And on Anna.

Just when Philip thinks he might be able to bury the demons of his past, the unthinkable happens and Anna and her family are kidnapped. Riding his Arabian mare Raven, he is forced into the race of his life as he desperately tracks his enemies across the desert. Can he rescue Anna before it’s too late? Joining forces with old friends like Teddy Roosevelt and Running Deer, Philip is pushed to the breaking point. Will he ever be free, or must he make the ultimate sacrifice for those he loves under the shadow of Devil’s Tower?

Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. For entertainment, he reads historical books, where he finds ideas for new novels. Whenever he has a chance, he takes his wife and two homeschooled children on crazy but fun research trips. Learn more about Peter’s books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.com

Love IS the Answer

by Peter Leavell, @PeterLeavell 

God, are You good? Are You everywhere and know all things?

Yes? Then why does evil exist? (Theodicy)

Evil: Harm. Injury. And the decision to cause harm and injury. Enter the villain.
What overcomes evil? Gumption? Bacon? A can-do attitude? All good thing—maybe even great—but that’s not the Biblical, or even the philosophical answer.

Love: A feeling of constant affection for a person. The great commandment and the golden rule. Enter the hero.

Theologian pumps fist in the air. “Yes! Free will to love God keeps Him from destroying evil at this time, allowing us to choose the greater. Or the worse. But choice is indicative in the definition of love.”

Thank you. May I have the mic back, please.

Christian fiction tests the Bible’s claim that love is the antithesis of evil. A tall order, especially when the ability to examine evil is limited by the need to keep the literature relatively clean. That aside, love/compassion compels the hero in our novels to right the wrongs, no matter how evil they are.

Natural evil: Natural disasters, like hurricanes, fires, and bacon shortages.A villain’s randomness without intent.

Moral evil:
Genocide. Murder. Pain. Emotional abuse. Villains at their worst. The stories are endless.

The worse the evil, the more amazing the hero.

The hero’s journey of self-discovery is a series of choices that reflect God’s goodness despite the evil in this world. Is the hero’s love strong enough to act? Or is the hero’s fear, self-preservation, or selfish desires, too strong and evil wins?

The movie Dunkirk had only a few choice words, but a son’s journey of self-discovery and love left me stunned. Darth Vader’s act of love overcame evil. The Brothers Karamazov is the philosophical journey of rejecting God because of evil. The Great Gatsby is a hunger for love, but everyone is too immature to give, or even receive it. A Wrinkle in Time blatantly researches this theme.

God, are you good? Are you omnipotent and omnipresent?

Why does evil exist?

Explore the theme in your work!

TWEETABLES
The worse the evil, the more amazing the hero.~ Peter Leavell (Click to Tweet)

———————

Shadow of Devil’s Tower


Philip Anderson is a reluctant gunslinger whose fame has spread through the Dakota Territory. He can’t escape his reputation as the hero who took down the entire Maxwell Gang, and he’s even had a popular dime novel written about him. All Philip yearns for is to live a quiet life raising horses and to finally marry his beloved Anna. He’d gladly give up his half of the treasure map his murdered father left behind, but until Jacob Wilkes is captured he can never hang up his gun. Bent on destroying Philip and everything he loves, Wilkes has his eye on the hidden cache. And on Anna.

Just when Philip thinks he might be able to bury the demons of his past, the unthinkable happens and Anna and her family are kidnapped. Riding his Arabian mare Raven, he is forced into the race of his life as he desperately tracks his enemies across the desert. Can he rescue Anna before it’s too late? Joining forces with old friends like Teddy Roosevelt and Running Deer, Philip is pushed to the breaking point. Will he ever be free, or must he make the ultimate sacrifice for those he loves under the shadow of Devil’s Tower?

Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. For entertainment, he reads historical books, where he finds ideas for new novels. Whenever he has a chance, he takes his wife and two homeschooled children on crazy but fun research trips. Learn more about Peter’s books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.com