by Tim Suddeth
2020 is racing to an end. Most of us would be quick to say, “Good riddance.” Hopefully, prayerfully, 2021 will bring back more of a sense of normality, maybe with a dash of peace and compassion for others.
Let’s make that two dashes.
The COVID pandemic has burdened many of us with a new feeling this year, guilt. Probably not a new feeling for most of us, but COVID seems to have brought its own supply.
The holidays are here with their traditions and gatherings. Thanksgiving is the day each year that my family drives to the mountains to enjoy a whopping big dinner with cousins. My eighty-seven-year-old mother says that she did this when she was a child. I have gone every year, except for one or two because of health, for all my fifty-nine years.
This year it’s cancelled.
Family gatherings, musicals by churches or communities, parades, plays. Many of these are going to be cancelled or drastically cut back. Then you have to deal with either the guilt of going and risking exposing someone to the virus or the guilt of missing out on some of the holidays.
No matter how you choose, you still feel guilt.
Maybe, this will; be for just this year. A mere blip in the years of our lives.
But it has been a long time in the present.
Here are some of the books I’ve been reading.
Great Stories Don’t Write Themselves, by Larry Brooks, came out in 2019 and is his latest book of writing advice. In it, he gives benchmarks for writers to use in developing and improving their novels. He begins by helping us consider our idea and premise, then describes how to determine if they are meaty enough to last for a whole book. Then he walks us through the structure of a novel, how it is organically shaped. He tells what the reader expects at different points along the story and how we can meet and exceed their expectations.
The writing community has separated a battlefield between those who plot out their stories before they write and those who just jump in and trudge their way through to some type of an ending. In Great Stories Don’t Write Themselves, Brooks come down strongly on the plotting side, but agrees that both ways work.
I think most people are somewhere in the middle. When you start on a hike, or on a trip, you usually want to know where you are going, with maybe some stops along the way. That way you can be sure to get enough gas and pack any supplies you might need. Your destination may be a drive to the mountains, or to certain barbeque place in Black Mountain.
With my five books, each one has had its own process.
Like Brooks says, no one is going to care how you wrote your story, how many character sketches you used or how drafts you went through. They are only going to care if they were able to lose themselves inside your story.
The Power of Less, by Leo Babauta, is another book on the benefits of not flooding our lives with more; more stuff or more activities.
He talks about the importance of simplifying. That running faster and faster on a hamster wheel isn’t going to get you anywhere. Spending all of your energy to do more isn’t the best way to meet your goals. That takes focusing, planning, and goal setting.
His tips are pretty generic and commonly heard by all of the simplifying gurus out there. But this is a good reminder to watch out for all the extra things that are constantly sneaking onto our schedules and into our lives.
Over on my new blog, Opening a Mystery, you van find my review of the last mile. David Baldacci’s The Last Mile is his second in the Amos Decker series. It will be interesting to see where he takes this detective and whether he will continue to work with the FBI. One thing’s for sure, I’m glad he’s on our side. (You can get the link here.)
Hope you all are enjoying your reading. If you have a particular book you are reading you would like to recommend, leave me a note in the comments.
And happy holidays.