‘Chasing Slow’: great title, helpful book

Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten PathChasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path by Erin Loechner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The title was irresistible and was happy to promote this book up my reading shelf. This was the first time I’d come across Erin Loechner who is evidently famous in lots of places for her interior design (in the sense of homes, rather than souls. Though she’s not bad on the interior design of souls either.). Here are the pluses and minuses for me:

The pluses:
* Beautifully designed and very often beautifully written
* A personal life-story, nevertheless it’s crafted well enough to connect her story with ours and is stimulating and thought-provoking.
*It’s an enjoyable, fresh, challenging read.

The minuses
*I found the beginning (?more about hope, ambition and dreams) more interesting than the latter half of the book (more about the challenges of rearing a toddler and for me a bit more been-there-done-that)
* It’s about a blogger reflecting on her blogging life, which as a blog itself contained a lot of reflecting on life. Shades of someone looking at herself looking at herself looking at herself in two facing mirrors. In this sense, it’s quite millennial in its enthusiastic self-analysis, but that’s refreshing for a boomer like me.
* There are some lovely aphorisms in the book, but I got a little worn down by the sheer mass of cutesy one-sentence solutions by the end.

I certainly don’t mean to be harsh. I liked this book, and its writer, a lot and will recommend it to others. Bit more cutting would have made the diamond shine brighter.

** I picked this book up for free as an Adavanced Review Copy. There was no obligation to write a review, still less a positive review, but it’s a good book. **

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At the smell of coffee

We Christians, especially us evangelicals, are very keen on programmes and courses. It sort-of suits our desire to package things. And we all of us like to receive pre-packaged things, whether it’s a ready meal or story. Life would be impossible without them, especially the Western consumer lifestyle.

I can’t help feeling something has been lost though.  This is God we are packaging, the Ultimately Unpackable. I suppose it’s good to always have something in the freezer that you can bring out when necessary, a gospel ready-meal, systematically covering the basics of Christian truth. A reader myself, I like a book, even though it’s a packaged summary, because it’s at least a start. (I’ve even written one for just that purpose.)

But the danger with a power-point-type presentation of the gospel is like every other power-point you’ve ever seen, it passes through the mind without ever being internalized. All the boxes are ticked, you’ve had the training, but in another way none of the boxes have been ticked. 

Jesus told stories which were totally incomplete accounts of the gospel. He probably had many reasons for this (not being stoned to death in a religious hothouse might have been one). But his stories are like the smell of coffee. They set you off on a hunt for the source.

Life is Short. Enjoy ur Coffee.

Does our love for the pre-packaged make us compartmentalized in  our thinking? Identikit in our practice? Unnatural in our growth? Interesting.

Storytelling 101: 6 marks of a beautiful book

Yesterday I finished the first draft of The Sump of Lost Dreams, the third book in my comic novel trilogy. A fantastic feeling after several years’ gestation.

The three books are about, in turn, the presence, the power, and the persistence of grace. These themes are stripped of all Christian language, deeply buried under layers of comedy and fantasy and nothing is brought to a conclusion. skinny latteThe books are supposed to be like the smell of coffee or fresh bread: fun in itself, and setting you off hunting for the source.

They’re part of ‘slow mission’ because (a) they’re  my ‘thing’ and  everybody’s ‘thing’ has to fit somewhere and (b) because we can’t live on bread alone; we need stories like we need protein.

Re-writing: a checklist

reading waterHere (for my reference mostly and because I’ve got to put it somewhere) is my checklist for when I come to re-write the first draft. It’s my best thoughts on what makes a fine novel.

  1. Premise. Does it drive the book? Are any parts of the book extraneous? Does the premise resonate though the book, even if is not stated explicitly? Is it moving? Does it move me?
  2. Background. Is it consistent? Accurate enough?  Does the chronology work? Do seasons pass? Special occasions happen?
  3. Plot. Is it believable? Organic? (one thing develops naturally from another)? Is it taut, pulling the reader along or does it go slack in places? Is it satisfyingly tied up or are there loose ends or dead ends? Does the tension in each scene rise and fall away like a wave?
  4. Characters. How well do I know them? Do they have distinctive voices? Do they change? What would strike the observer about them? Are they operating at full capacity? Are they struggling? Do they get somewhere?
  5. Texture. Is the dialogue funny, terse, unexpected? Is the writing unobtrusive? Do descriptions drag? Do the eyes skip over parts?
  6. Overall. Does it delight? Move the heart? Grip? Make people late for appointments? Force them buy it for others? Compete with Netflix and Sky Sports?