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Writing and World-building Bit By Bit

A finished novel, especially if it’s published, lends credibility and worth to the entire plodding process. But in the middle of the process, especially if the novel isn’t guaranteed fame or publication — isn’t it difficult to see the point?
| Mar 1, 2011 | No comments |

“Minas Tirith. City of kings.” And here is the model of the White City so wonderfully portrayed in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings — especially the final book of the greater book, The Return of the King — and also shown in the Lord of the Rings film series.

Actually, this isn’t the work of the New Zealand effects house Weta Workshop at all. Instead it’s a replica model assembled by artist Patrick Acton. He took three years putting this together, using (as his website says) 24,000 small wooden blocks to form Mount Mindolluin, and to comprise the White City itself, about 420,000 matchsticks.

And one of his previous projects: a replica of none other than Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series — upon which this design, for the film series, was based.

Acton’s matchstick version of Hogwarts has been sold to an attraction in Spain called “The HOUSE OF KATMANDU”. By the time the final building (the Clock Tower buidling) was finished it had taken Acton nearly three years to build, and it contains over a 602,000 matchsticks held together with 15 gallons of carpenter’s wood glue. Hogwarts is Acton’s largest matchstick model to date.

Whew. Just whew.

Of course now that these models are complete, they look fantastic. But imagine the constant, repetitious, plodding labor required to design the thing, cut the matchsticks to size, apply glue, lay them in place, make sure it stays, make sure it looks right, then repeat hundreds of thousands of times. Though the construction process is just as much Art as seeing the finished product, surely the process often doesn’t feel like it.

Authors can empathize. A finished novel, especially if it’s published and seen by many, lends greater credibility and worth to the entire plodding process.

But in the middle of the process, especially if the novel isn’t guaranteed fame or publication — isn’t it difficult to see the point?

Might all this writing and world-building often seem only like wasting time? As if doing mere busywork? Cleaning the same closet day after day? Practicing the same song on a musical instrument? Using tweezers to move a dirt pile? Re-writing the same sentence/paragraph/chapter/book over and over? Debunking the same wrong ideas on the internet, over and over and over?

Last month I’ve felt that way several times. And I’m wondering if others — really, how others — may empathize.

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Esther
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>>Might all this writing and world-building often seem only like wasting time? As if doing mere busywork? Cleaning the same closet day after day? Practicing the same song on a musical instrument? Using tweezers to move a dirt pile? Re-writing the same sentence/paragraph/chapter/book over and over? Debunking the same wrong ideas on the internet, over and over and over?<<

Makes me think of The Phantom Tollbooth–but then perhaps you meant it to?

This is a good post. Makes the point. Makes the reader realize the point for themselves. Makes it by asking questions (like bad boy Rob Bell) and doesn't go on ad nauseam trying to explain itself.

Would love to see more of this.

E. Stephen Burnett
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Check last week’s $#@£₣! my Christian fiction doesn’t say, part 1, which similarly offers a lot of questions but not so many answers — and, like the above, not meant as rhetorical questions, but actually because I’d like to know others’ thoughts!

Rebecca LuElla Miller
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Stephen, I think I can relate a little to what you’re saying. After all, I’ve been laboring for years writing a series that seems all wrong. Male protagonist when the Christian fiction industry prefers females; adult fantasy when YA fantasy has found a toe-hold; epic fantasy when editors are looking for urban or dystopian fantasy; a series of four books that don’t work individually when series stand-alones seem to be preferred, especially from a debut author. Add to that the fact that I quit my day job before I knew writers weren’t supposed to do that!

But here’s what I cling to: I’m convinced God wants me to do this. To what end, I don’t know.

I heard a great half-message (to be continued tomorrow) on the radio today from Alistair Begg. His text is from Luke, specifically when Jesus who had been teaching from Peter’s boat, told him to put out to deeper waters and drop his net. Pastor Begg points out that Peter was the professional fisherman. Why should he listen to a carpenter? Especially when He told him to do something all good fishermen knew was unproductive — dropping the (just cleaned) nets again when Peter and his crew had been at it all night and come up with nothing, going to a part of the sea that shouldn’t provide any fish (deep rather than shallow), going at a time of day that was all wrong (noon rather than night or early morning). But Peter, after stating the drawbacks, said, Nevertheless, because You ask me to …

It’s that point that I want to rest in. There are days it’s not so easy, but I can turn to Scripture for encouragement. All the waiting and wondering so many faithful believers exhibited!

We’re starting a sermon series on Jeremiah and Pastor Dan pointed out that Jeremiah knew two things going into his years as a prophet — God called him, and no one would listen. Now that’s a tough gig to have! Nevertheless, if God asks me to …

Becky

Bethany J.
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Bethany J.

I can certainly empathize. I started a YA science-fiction trilogy almost 6 years ago, and I’m still revising. Revising, revising, and revising. Because it’s never good enough! At this point I almost hate the thing (at present I don’t even want to look at it – ugh). The friends who really like it don’t understand my drive for continual improvement (“Just publish it already!”) and the friends who see its flaws don’t really like it. I think all my previously loyal fans are as sick of it by now as I am. 🙂

It’s hard! And the hardest part is wondering if it’s worth all the hard work and time I’ve thrown into it for the past 6 years of my life.

But when I’m tempted to despair and declare, “What a waste,” I have to stop and remind myself that nothing in my life is pointless, because God has ordained it for a reason. Even if this book never makes it into print, even if I never complete it, He was using that time in my life for purposes of His own, and it was not just a “waste”. Maybe He even used it in the lives of friends who have read the book! In fact, I know He has used it in at least a small way, because one friend once told me that my main characters and their relationships inspired her to greater godliness. Even if that is the only good thing that 6 years of hard labor brought forth, it will have been worth it!

And I have hope that, if I press onward, more good may yet come of this project, which right now feels so dead to me. 🙂