Thursday, September 28, 2006
Last week (or has it been two weeks already?) Donald Maass began his intensive just as he did the last time I attended. He stood before us and said, "Write down the name of a person you admire."
The first time I attended his intensive, I wrote down the name of a woman writer friend. This past time, I wrote down the name of a male writer friend: Jerry Jenkins.
Then Don said, "Now write down the qualities about this person you admire." I wrote he's humble and yet committed to excellence.
Then Don said, "Write down the first moment you saw this person exhibiting this quality . . . and figure out how you can have your character exhibit that exact quality." I don't know if this is the first time I saw Jerry exhibit humility, but it's the one I remember most. I wrote: "At the Christy dinner, when Jerry won the award Christian novelists desire most, he sent his editor up to accept it. I wouldn't have even known he was in the room if his editor hadn't told us what he'd done."
You'd almost have to be living in exile not to know that Jerry wrote the mega-best-selling LEFT BEHIND series. But you may not know that apart from that, Jerry is one of the most prolific writers I know, writing for children and adults, writing in fiction and nonfiction. He's also a devoted father and husband, the sort of man who really places his wife and children as a priority. Perhaps I admire him for that commitment most of all.
Jerry knows his strengths and weaknesses, and he writes to his strengths. He's not a fussy, flowery writer, but his prose is powerful and succinct. He makes writing look easy--so easy, in fact, that some folks take him to task for his writing skills, but I'd dare them to do what Jerry does in as few words. The popularity of Jerry's books proves that he's reaching the masses, and it's obvious that God is using Jerry's work in an amazing way. If only we could all do as well.
Jerry is also such a good writer that his work is often cited by Sol Stein, guru to all kinds of novelists, and Donald Maass, who quoted from one of the Left Behind books in his "Writing the Breakout Novel" workbook.
Jerry's success has inadvertently reminded me of the "turtle on a fencepost" lesson. What's that? Simple: when you see a turtle on a fencepost, you know that someone put him there. And you also know that the turtle is in a vulnerable position. It's easy for folks on the ground to throw stones at the turtle, and there's not a lot the turtle can do about it.
God placed Jerry in the position he's in. I've watched Jerry on Larry King, Fox News, and dozens of other television shows. He's faced some of the toughest reporters in the biz, and he always responds with Truth, grace, and humility. I don't envy his position, but I'll do my utmost to support him in the place where God has put him.
Just so you'll know--LOL--I'm not up for a position with any of Jerry's organizations and I'm not hinting that he should endorse my latest book. I just truly admire and respect the guy as a Christian, a writer, and a professional.
Now . . . how do I make my character exhibit that same humility in the first chapter? Won't be easy.