Tag Archives: Writing

I Got Nothin’

I asked a therapy client if she had anything in mind she wanted to talk about for our session. She said, “I got nothin’.”

Me too.

It’s Friday, and I’m trying to keep to a blog posting schedule of something new every Friday. But today I’m two days away from sending my first novel to a contest. All I can think about is my revision—what I have to do yet to get it as good as I can—the culmination of over a year of very hard work.

I haven’t thought about ironing, weeding, cleaning house, or much of anything in the last several weeks. I have managed to get a few loads of laundry done, cooked now and then, and remembered to feed the dog. My poor husband has really picked up the slack I’ve dropped. Fortunately, he thinks doctored frozen pizza is a real meal.

Writing a novel has been an incredible process. When I finished the last round of revision, it was hard to close the binder and be done. I already missed the people. I missed my blue editing pencil—how weird is that!

Since I got nothin’, here’s a link to a clip worth watching: “J.I. Packer’s Advice to Aspiring Christian Writers”.


Maybe next Friday I won’t be such a single-minded, blithering idiot, and I’ll be back in the real world—and I’ll have somethin’.

© Cristine Eastin, 2012

Writing Believable Characters

Author Jon Hassler wrote brilliantly. I haven’t finished devouring his work, but Rookery Blues, The Dean’s List, and North of Hope are set in small-town northern Minnesota where people cope with life. Obviously, people cope elsewhere, but crafting a fascinating story about fascinating people doing not much in the middle of nowhere takes skill. No wonder Hassler taught creative writing. He was a master.

In my opinion, one of the reasons Hassler’s work crackles is that he creates extraordinarily believable characters. I picture him writing with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the bible of mental health diagnoses, propped next to the keyboard.

To create real, consistent—believable—characters, it wouldn’t be a bad idea if writers really did that—familiarized themselves with the criteria from the DSM-IV.

It’s jarring if a character does something we just know people like that don’t do, because we know these people.

Read the descriptions for: Personality Disorders, Mood Disorders, Eating Disorders, Substance Abuse, Adjustment Disorders, Childhood Disorders, Cognitive Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Impulse Control Disorders, and Psychotic Disorders. That will get you started on drawing real-life people and their problems, remembering the continuum factor.

Writers love to get characters into trouble and watch them squirm to see what happens. The process and outcome of coping should usually ring true to a character’s personality, whether it’s reactions to trouble of the character’s own making, or events or actions of others. A narcissist is unlikely to be overcome by a wave of altruism, unless it’s self-serving. A hoarder, chronic worrier, or clean freak is unlikely to ever be free of all obsessive-compulsive behaviors or anxious thoughts. A character who’s basically OK before a seriously depressing event occurs is likely to have the resources to cope and be relatively OK again. And eating disorders aren’t about being thin, though the client may protest too much, they’re about emotions and control.

There was a time when I railed against diagnosing my psychotherapy clients, but I did it because third party payers require it. I’m resigned that we’re stuck with the medical model and insurance companies. (And if I continue down this particular bunny trail, I’ll start foaming at the mouth.) Diagnosing has its point, though, in that it gives therapists a framework within which to understand and treat people.

Diagnostic categories can also be the basis for putting flesh and bone on our fictitious characters.

© Cristine Eastin, 2012

Point of View, My Aching Back

I’m writing a novel. Well, isn’t everyone? Yes, pretty much, I think everyone is writing a novel.

But—let’s talk about Point of View. I’ve wrestled with it in this novel. I tried to get fancy and mix it up: first person for this, third person for that, limited, unlimited. Frankly, it was a mess, though I still insisted I liked the way I’d written it. I had justification for everything.

After enough feedback to “stick with one point of view” I finally got the message. Tip: listen to your reviewers!

Sooo, I started slogging through revision.

I got most of it rewritten into third person limited, but I was still hanging on to my darling (those things you can’t/won’t/hate to give up)—first person for flashback scenes. I insisted those scenes just didn’t work in third.

Then—drum roll—all was made clear. Of course it worked. Not only did it work, it was much better. The critics were right.

My angst lifted, and I happily dug into revision. Can you say “happily” and “revision” in the same sentence?

Yes, it makes me very happy when I read a better novel—that I’ve written.

Do you have any Point of View writing experiences or tips to share? I’d like to hear them.

What Sort of Christian Writer are You?

Good question. Not unlike the question I get sometimes at work: Are you a Christian counselor? My answer: I’m a Christian who counsels. (Actually, I prefer psychotherapist.)

Francine Rivers helped me answer the writer question: I’m a Christian who writes.

Here’s an excerpt from her website.


Are you going to be a “Christian writer” or a Christian who writes?
What’s the difference? A Christian who writes may weave Christian principles into the story, but the work can stand when those elements are removed. A Christian writer is called to present a story that is all about Jesus. The Lord is the foundation, the structure, and Scripture has everything to do with the creation and development of the characters in the story. Jesus is central to the theme. If you remove Jesus and Biblical principles from the novel, it collapses.

If you are going to be a Christian writer,
it is essential to study Scripture. Immerse yourself in God’s Word, and the Scriptures will flow naturally into your work. The Bible is filled with God’s wisdom, and His Word will transform you as a person and as a writer. The goal is to have the reader experience God’s Truth through story – to challenge, convict, encourage. The purpose of Christian fiction is to whet readers’ appetite for a close relationship with Jesus.

Sage counsel.

© Cristine Eastin, 2012

New—Photo Gallery

I’ve added a new page—Photo Gallery.

My father was an avid amateur photographer. Like father, like daughter. Dad even did his own black and white developing.

Dad was like a squirrel—anything bright and shiny got dragged into his nest—so I got his hand-me-down cameras as he bought new technology.

I’ve enjoyed taking pictures since I was a kid.

For a long time I felt like I was seeing our trips through the lens of a camera, always going for that best shot. I thought maybe I should stop that and enjoy the trip more. The solution was to buy a happy snapper camera. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that camera, but I quickly ran up against the limits of its creativity. Back to the digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera. I rediscovered that seeing a trip through the lens of a camera was a big part of how I enjoyed the trip!

How does my photography pertain to my writing?

Places I’ve been, experiences I’ve had, people I’ve known—grind it all together—and out comes a story.

Hope you enjoy the photos. I enjoyed taking them.

© Cristine Eastin, 2012

Writers, Keep the Wind in Your Sails

I’m not a sailor, but I’ve been in a sailboat many times with people who are. One thing I’ve learned about sailing is that if you don’t keep the wind in your sails, you don’t go anywhere.

Writing is like that for me.

In case no one has told you, revision is harder than writing the rough draft – at least I’ve found it to be so. When writing the rough draft, it doesn’t matter what you write, just that you keep writing. But suddenly, in the revision, it matters a great deal.

Sometimes I waver on the edge of paralysis with fear that I won’t get it as good as I can. Certainly I’m terrified that I won’t get it as good as it needs to be to appease that scary monster, Publishing.

Then I write to my friend, Cathy, and she buoys me back up – i.e. “See how it feels.  If you don’t like it, go back to you original approach.  It’s your child, after all, and you don’t want it to become someone else’s.” And I’m running fast again, almost heeling over, I’ve got so much wind in my sails.

My readers have been a comfort and a challenge to me. My brother-in-law, Gary said,  “I don’t think I would have read it all the way through.” Yikes! What does he know? He’s a guy, and I’m writing for women! But Gary was right. I determined that no one would say that again – if I could help it.

Lastly – though this is really first – I go to the Creator of the wind. If I’m writing for the Lord, funny how it goes much better if I remember to pray.

© Cristine Eastin, 2012

On Your Mark—Get Set—Go!

Go? Go where?

With this launch post I’m off and running in the blogosphere, but I’m running blind. What’s a blog?

Everything I’ve read and everyone I’ve listened to says a writer must have a blog – so, I now have a blog.

Here’s my plan.

I’ll be writing about writing – what I’m doing, what I’m learning, and questions I have. If I get brave, I’ll post excerpts of my debut novel that’s in revision.

I’ll write about psychology. That’s my area of serious expertise since I’ve been a psychotherapist in private practice for lots of years. Writing and psychology need a good marriage. Characters need to be believable. I think we’ve heard that.

For example – a well known movie features a mentally ill character. At the end, love conquers all, and he’s projected to get all better and live happily ever after. Sorry, but for the particular illness and the severity level at which it’s portrayed, the prognosis for happy ever after for this guy isn’t great. And the ending falls flat.

Hopefully, I can help you draw believable characters with insights into psychology and human behavior.

I’ll write about Christian faith. If I hide my faith under a bushel basket, it’s no good to anyone but me – the assumption being that I’m hiding there, too, either in miserliness or cowardice.

And I’ll write about travel. I’ve been fortunate to see some interesting and lovely places, and I’ve taken photos I’ll share.

I finished reading a novel recently, and I thought, “So what.” I didn’t like the protagonist. I didn’t care about her, even if she got in serious trouble. I disliked her so much, I didn’t care if she got out of the trouble. It’s not a good thing if our readers say, “So what.” With that in mind, I hope this blog will count for something – that you’ll get something for your time, and so will I.

What I hope YOU get from my blog.

Information. Challenged. Fun. Expand your blog community.

That’s what I hope for, too.

One of the things that has just knocked me out the deeper I’ve gotten into this writing community, is the generosity of some of the writers I’ve encountered – and I mean big names. I took a chance and emailed a couple of the biggies with a question. They answered personally! That meant a lot to me. It helped me keep the wind in my writing sails. Sharing and caring – that’s what it has to be all about.

So, if you like what you see here, please bookmark my site and join the party. Pass it on to your friends, and let’s have a BIG party!

© Cristine Eastin, 2012