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

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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

The Two Longings of a Story According to C. S. Lewis

by Peter Leavell, @PeterLeavell

He wanted to be a better man because of a character I created. After a lifetime of alcohol, he stopped drinking. He stopped hitting his wife. He hit off on the TV and took her to a museum and dinner.

He hasn’t looked back.

One of dozens of similar letters about my Western series made me revisit my writing philosophy to figure out why these men are cleaning up their lives and thinking outside themselves.

The idea comes from the first book I read on how to write, written by C.S. Lewis.

On Three Ways of Writing for Children, C.S. Lewis explains two types of longing.

Of the first longing: Askesis, a spiritual exercise, creating longing. C.S. Lewis was big on fantasy worlds, epic ideals, myths, and fairytales. But what does reading about dragons, villains, mysteries, and the like actually do?

George MacDonald’s Phantastes: A Faerie Romance for Men and Women is a story filled with fantastic forests, and when I read the story, I looked at real forests with longing and intrigue. I whisked my wife away to our nearby forests for a picnic and hike. And when I read At the Back of the North Wind by the same author, children became individuals to me, not to simply lumps of irritating humanlike beings that need constant supervision, but individually created with gifts and weaknesses combined to make each child special and vital. These longings made me want to be a better man.

So, I wrote a western filled with honor and virtue to heighten a love for ideals beyond our scope of daily living, creating a curiosity to learn more about reality to see what life would be like if we lived with high-minded codes. True, the perfection of these ideals might only be found in heaven, but inside of us, we long for them. There is a real mystery hidden in the pages of the fantasies. In my westerns. In books that draw attention to grand ideas. And those mysteries bring the reader to discover them in real life, adding to the joy in reading.

One the second longing: C.S. Lewis calls the opposite of the first longing a disease. A compensation for what we lack in life. Simple escapism.

The second longing comes from characters who make us dream to be famous. Or lucky. When we read about the girl whose desires come true, and then when we put the book away with little hope our desires will come true, we’re left dissatisfied with little compulsion to act, explore, or be better. A boy who gets special powers he doesn’t deserve or work for, or is asked to be part of a grand adventure that does nothing to change him or given a set of random circumstances that make the other boys who once hated him now look up to him shows no character for the reader to think on.

If we’re unlucky in love and read about characters who have gifts or looks and relationships we wish we had, our desire for betterment is crushed.

Wishful reverie,” CS Lewis says, doesn’t feed on epic stories filled with bettering life, but prefers “stories about millionaires, irresistible beauties, posh hotels, palm beaches and bedroom scenes—things that might happen, that ought to happen, that would have happened if the reader had had a fair chance.”

How to create longing so readers will consider your book more than simply consumable—

  • What is the greatest good in your novel? Getting that girl or guy to love the main character? Being heroic and saving people? Reach for something more. Don’t know what that something more is? Then read the Bible, Plato, and search for the definition of ethics and morality. Yes, it’s a lifetime search, and if you read an entire body of a writer’s work, you read his or her search.
  • Show (don’t tell) the work it takes to be amazing.
  • Life gets gruesome. Show how gruesome. The fine line here is to be gritty and not disgusting. The line is different for every reader. Know your constituency.
  • Wrong decisions happen every day. And sometimes, there’s no perfect answer because of sin. I love watching characters navigate impossible decisions. If they can do it, surely, we can in real life.
  • Study the fine line between win and succeed. Did Jesus, who died and rose again, win over his enemies, or succeed to bring salvation to all?

TWEETABLES
The Two Longings of a Story according to C. S. Lewis by Peter Leavell (Click to Tweet)

Hidden Mysteries to Get Attention by Peter Leavell (Click to Tweet)

How to create longing so readers will consider your book more than simply consumable~ 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

Businesses Shake Hands Over Publishing Contracts

by Peter Leavell, @PeterLeavell

Oh, how I love everything about the publishing business!

But lately, there’s been so much banter about publishing lately, specifically Christian publishing, my compass seems to have added up and down to the cardinal four.
I’ve learned, since hitting the market a few years ago and striking gold, that the author is her or his own business, and that the author’s business must pair up with a publisher, another business, which will best sell the product.

There’s nothing mystical, no magic, it’s just hard work and business. No good or bad, no inspiration, no better market, just publishing and books. Having a Christian label or General Market label is just a label many businesses put on the books.

The sooner an author, or aspiring author, demystifies the entire process, the less emotional toll this is on the heart. Writing is rough enough as it is.

To reiterate, the author IS a business. That means the author does the branding, business plan, budgets, etc… you know, all the stuff authors are generally pretty much terrible with.

So, authors, work what you can control (your product), partner with what company works best (Christian market, general market, self, etc), get help where you want or can get (it takes money, capital, like any business), and steer your writing career by the stars that God gives you.

Example.

For me, my brand is my passion—history and literature. I’m no genius, just a hard worker. I have an online book club, history posts on Facebook, I blog on two novel sites, and write features for ACFW—I landed those opportunities by consistently keeping myself open to helping other authors (businesses) in the industry and found myself in the right place at the right time—time and time again. Continual research and study and discussing things with anyone who will talk to me in the industry is key, as well as consumers, and now readers that I chat with are showing less interest in Christian fiction and more interest in high Theology and Philosophy, so I’m reading those books in hopes those ideas will appear naturally in my work. I read nonstop—by May, I’ve read 30 books of all sorts of genres. I found a great opportunity to publish my western series with Mountain view , and have several agents I’ve talked to for projects I have in mind that, and when the manuscripts are finished, I’ll fire them off to them because I’ve done the work to see what the agents represent (read the books they’ve sold to what businesses). I hire editors for my work (except the last novel, because we were rushed to get to print). I know which publishers are out there, what they like to publish, and I subscribe to industry news so that I know names of acquisition editors and movements in the industry.

I’ve demystified the process of publishing. I think you should, too. *warning. Novel writing, putting words on paper, or inspiration, is so transcendent that there is an entire category of how-to-write books right next to religion.

Oh my goodness, I love this stuff.


TWEETABLES


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