Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Taste of Heaven

Last night I got back from the One Year Adventure Novel summer workshop, and I must say that it was beyond anything I'd hoped for. And I was hoping for a lot. I had gone last year, and knew how great it was. At first when it started, the size (twice as big as last year) made it feel less personal, and I didn't like that much.

But wow, in the end I was blown away. Last night, only hours away from saying goodbye, a group of us sat tightly together in a "rice grain" formation and prayed for over an hour, during which time more people continued to join until there were several rings of us. What I felt during that was something I'd never experienced: I could actually feel the Spirit of God among us as we wept and prayed together, really feel Him. We closed by singing four stanzas of Amazing Grace.  It was the most amazing thing ever.

And as we prayed, I thought, This is what heaven must be like. Such deep, caring love for one another, together in a community unlike anything I have ever experienced -- a community of young people united by a passion for stories and a desire to use that passion to further the kingdom.

Even in church I have never felt this close to heaven, and until last night I hadn't realized what a perfect community could even look like. OYAN is not perfect, of course, but it is beautiful and I'm convinced that there is nothing like it in this world.

I've been longing for heaven a lot recently. Last night that longing was rekindled yet again and I was left with a burning desire to use my gift to reach out, to show people the Light, to bring as many people into this incredible, loving community as I could.

And I intend to. I have a new goal with my writing.  At the workshop one of the speakers talked about establishing "normal" in your story world before wrecking it. "Normal has been established; time to wreck it" was repeated several times last night, and could serve as a motto for many of us. We do not want to be normal. We know what normal is: it is the ways of the world. We are called to be different. We are called to be salt and light. I've never felt that like I do now. I've never been so excited to have that calling.

The theme of the workshop was "Bigger on the Inside." And while that had multiple meanings, Mr. Schwabauer, the OYAN instructor and the man who started this all, pointed the spotlight on one particular meaning. God is much bigger than we are. And His Spirit lives inside us. As Christians, we are bigger on the inside, and we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

All things. Wow.

I'm a huge apologetics guy. I love it. I love learning how to defend the faith. But none of the arguments that I've ever learned and none of the proofs have ever made me as sure of what I believe as the events of last night did. And I've never been this passionate about it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Procrastination and Other Writerly Stuff

I’m really good at procrastinating. In five days I’m leaving for a writing workshop in Kansas, and my goal is to finish the current revision of my book by then. I’m over halfway through, but I’ve still found some pretty good ways to procrastinate. Sunday night I went to an evangelism training course thing. Last night I helped my dad and a friend start building a storage cabinet for the church. And tonight I’m writing this blog post instead of my novel. I’ve even got plans for tomorrow night, and Friday as well.

So here I am, listening to Switchfoot and writing about procrastination instead of writing what I really should be writing right now. But there’ll be time for that later.

Actually, this isn’t a post about procrastination, so if you saw the title and were hoping I’d have some great advice for you, sorry to let you down. All I can say is just do it. It’s what I keep telling myself.

And I will. Right after this.

The real purpose of this post is to put something that’s been bothering me for a while about revision down on paper (or pixels). Here it goes:

My writing friends are probably familiar with the phrase “kill your darlings.” For those who aren’t, it should be made clear below.  Anyway, as I said, I’m currently in the act of revising my novel -- my 137,000 word, 620 page novel. Now that might sound impressive until you hear that a lot of that is unnecessary to the story -- and I mean a lot. In my first pass through, several chapters have been chopped nearly in half. A lot of what I’m cutting out is fluff that I’m glad to see go, because I can see how the story improves without it.

But there are other scenes that are also unnecessary to the story, that I really, really like, that I’ve also had to cut. Why do I like them so much? Because I love the characters the scenes are about. I have tons of scenes where nothing happens, where the characters simply interact, and I like that because it was the characters that originally drew me to this story, not the plot. Even now I don’t care for the plot all that much.

Now,  character interaction is fine, to be sure; but as it is the reader would be bored because she’s been reading for several pages and nothing’s happening. Because I have plans for this novel that require it to be read and judged, I’ve had to cut down on these scenes. And it hurts.

Something else I’ve had to trim (chop) are the descriptions.  My book is told in first person by a man who, for the sake of brevity, I will simply describe as the monster of Frankenstein.  As far as he knows, he never existed before he woke up with a scientist telling him he was the first “human robot.” Because of this, everything the protagonist sees is with new eyes. He sees things like trees, mountains, sky, skyscrapers, cars, for the first time.

I saw a great opportunity here for vivid, even unique descriptions. And I still have that opportunity, but to a smaller degree than I first thought. Long paragraphs describing things that we are already very familiar with gets boring after a while, even if it’s all fascinating to the character who’s never seen anything of the kind before. So these descriptions have shrunk for the sake of pacing.

The result of all this is that I feel like I’m losing what I loved about this story to begin with: the character development. When I go back through for a second revision I want to insert some of it back in, more intertwined with the action of the story so that I can still have the characters without sacrificing the pacing. But for now, I’m swinging a hatchet and wincing as the blows fall. While I know that in the end my story will probably have benefited from the surgery, right now I can only see what I’m losing. Until I send off my finished manuscript to the judges, the rough draft may well be my favorite.

I’ve spent 43 minutes on this short post. Time to get back to work.

Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, kill your darlings....

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

To Turn Back Time

I mentioned in my previous post that in the next post I would be peddling a friend's movie. The friend is an OYANer -- which means, for those of you that don't know, that he is a member of a writing community I've been a part of for a while -- and the project he is directing is a short film called To Turn Back Time.

“To Turn Back Time” is the story of John, who has just graduated college, when he wakes up one morning to discover that his long deceased father is alive. After getting to know his father—something he’s longed for his entire life—he discovers his dad’s presence isn’t the only thing that’s different. The rest of his family has changed too, along with his own ability to help his girlfriend Alyssa through the death of her mother.  In the end, he’s faced with a terrible choice: to stay in the world where his father lives and lose the man he’s become, or give it up for the sake of the love of those around him. 
The story of “To Turn Back Time”  is intensely personal to writer / director, Keifer Lucchi, who lived through the death of his father at the age of seven. As memories and buried emotions started to resurface, Lucchi allowed himself to deal with what had happened for the first time in his life, and the story for “To Turn Back Time” was born.Lucchi has felt a call to make the movie since its inception, as a memorial to Michael Lucchi, the father he never got to know. Lucchi also wishes to create an emotional offering to all those who have lost loved ones, and who may still find hope even in the pain and death, while creating a story that will allow others to stand by and support those who’ve gone through something similar. 
But he’s already not the only member of the cast and crew to share a personal affinity to the story. 
Christina Espiritu, the actress slated to play the part of  John’s girlfriend, Alyssa, witnessed the death of her own mother, Melissa Espiritu, to cancer just over two years before principle photography. Christina’s experiences were eerily similar to what Alyssa experiences in the film, which is dedicated to her mother as well. It’s our honor to have such an actress on-board to bring life to a character that represents so many who have lost loved ones in a similar way. 
By the grace of God, so much has already come together toward this film. During the pre-production process we’ve already been blessed in so many ways! However: the time has come for the final pull before production can begin, and to really get the ball rolling we need $10,000. 
We need money to rent and purchase top-of-the-line film equipment to make this idea a reality. We need your help and support to make this possible.

You know what I'm going to say next, don't you?

Like they said, the crew has to raise $10,000. They've raised over $3,700 so far, but they have twelve days to raise the rest. If you're interested in this project and would be willing to donate, that would be awesome. If you can't or rather wouldn't donate, then you can help support them by 1) praying for the cast and crew and that they would raise the money they need, and by 2) spreading the word. OYANers, I'm looking at you. There are at least three OYANers that I know of involved in this film -- please support them by spreading the word.

For more information, you can check out the project's website. To donate, click here.

Please be praying for this project.

Friday, April 6, 2012


So this is how it begins.

I, Justin Ferguson, have returned to the land of Blogger. I say returned because a long while back (at least three years ago, if I remember correctly) I was once a citizen of this land. But I decided that I wanted to explore other lands in the vast world of Internet, and so I abandoned my home in Blogger and became a traveler, exploring distant lands until finally I have returned and staked out a new property, and with me I bring riveting tales of adventure.

In other words: I had a blog, got bored with it, dropped it, spent all my Internet time on other sites, and have now made a new blog which I hope to fill with more interesting posts than I did with the last one.

So this is Justin's Blog 2.0, or version Beta. What is the purpose of this blog? To be brief, it's a place for me to write about the things I'm interested in, whatever those things happen to be at any given time. One thing you should know about me (and probably already do) is that I'm a writer -- a fiction writer, hence the blog title -- and it's been an interest of mine for a very long time, so posts relating to that may be frequent on this blog. Maybe. I don't intend to give out much information on my writing projects on the internet, so we'll see. At the very least it will probably be the common thread throughout this blog.

What else might I post here? Thoughts on books I've read and movies I've seen, songs I like, profound philosophical treatises (i.e. ramblings) on whatever happens to be on my mind, peddling for a friend's movie (coming up next), and perhaps the occasional look into what's going on in my life. Occasionally. I personally don't find my life to be exciting enough to write frequently about. (One of the reasons I write about other people; fictional characters are so much more interesting.)

I believe that's enough for the first post. Cue the dark, dramatic music.

"So it begins."