Novel Writing Made Easy

You’ve got a book inside you.  I’m sure of it.  Most everyone does.  The only real question is how badly do you want to pull it out and put it on the page?  I’m no expert, but I’ve birthed a few books now, and I’ve learned a thing or two along the way.  Here are some words of wisdom as you contemplate making the journey:

  • Write what you know.  I guess.  That and/or write what you’re excited about.  I sometimes write outer space adventures.  I’m sure you’ll be shocked to learn I’ve never actually been to outer space.  But you better believe I’m mining my own life experience for snippets of dialogue and satisfying story beats all the same.  Things have to ring true.  Even in outer space.
  • Begin with an end in mind.  I learned a long time ago that a great ending can elevate a story like nothing else.  With the right ending, a bad story becomes a good one and a good story becomes something you can’t stop thinking about.  I’m sure it’s a bit different for everyone, but for me, I need to see the moment that makes it all worth it before I can even start.
  • Find some inspiration music.  The Piano Guys perform the score and NeedToBreathe plays the soundtrack to the imaginary movie versions of every one of my books.  That’s just the way it is.  I don’t know how to explain this one other than to say creativity begets creativity.
  • Set regular time aside to write, and then do it.  I used to write during my lunch hours at work.  Nowadays, my noon hours tend to be booked, so I try to take a vacation day once a month and camp out at the library until I’ve hammered out a chapter or two.  The point is writing takes time (not to mention a whole lot of concentration and energy), so make sure you give yourself the time you need.
  • Keep writing even when the writing is garbage.  I can be a perfectionist.  That means it’s hard for me to turn off the self-censor, but if I do, the output is usually better than anticipated.  And when it’s not, edit is the kindest of four-letter words.
  • If you can make it over the continental divide, you can make it.  Reaching the halfway point is critical.  I pace myself as I start the climb up that mountain, but there comes a point when I’m standing at the summit, say 40,000 words, and I realize everything else is downhill.  That’s when I know I have a real live novel on my hands.
  • Write what makes you happy.  Seriously.  The truth is I’m my own biggest fan.  (My mother is a close second.)  Agents, editors, publishers, and critics be danged.  I’m writing a book I want to read.  Deal with it.

Are you still with me?  Good.  Now I have a confession to make.  I lied.  Novel writing isn’t easy.  I can never make it so.  Novel writing is painful.  It’s plain hard work.  There’s no way around that.  I’m just saying I’m a pretty regular guy who has done it, so you can do it.  If you want to.  Of that I have no doubt.

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True Awards

“Courage; Generosity; Fairness; Honor;

In these are the true awards of manly sport.”

—Hartley Burr Alexander

My kids will never be great athletes.  How could they be?  They’re my kids.  But last Saturday, as my three oldest chattered about the just-concluded first week of spring soccer season, I was reminded of how very much I love sports.

I suppose the genesis of that love is still somewhat of a mystery.  I was an uncoordinated, unathletic child who grew up in a home with sports agnostic parents.  Still, one fall Saturday my younger brother and I flipped on the TV and discovered the wonders of college football on ABC.  My poor parents must have been so ashamed.

Later, my brother and I took to throwing an orange ball through a 10-foot-tall hoop.  We eventually saved our paper route money until we had enough to buy a basketball pole for the driveway.  Then we made our sports-hating father put it up for us.  Dad was such a good sport.  (Pun most definitely intended.)  He didn’t even cuss once while he was doing it.  (For the record, I’ve never heard my dad cuss at all.  The one time my brother made him almost slip remains a cherished childhood memory, but I digress.)

Do sports inhabit too prominent a place in our world?  Perhaps.  Have athletics, in some corners, become a veritable golden calf?  I live in football-crazed Nebraska, so I know it all too well, and yet I love the games all the same.  Why?  Because sports are conflict.  And conflict is story.

There are heroes and villains, triumphs and heartbreak.  There are twists and turns aplenty.  Sports are a journey with a destination unknown and uncertain.  That’s why we play.  That’s why we tune in again and again.

Sports bring us together.  I’m a Nebraska kid who has discovered I can talk to any other Nebraska kid of a certain age and reminisce with ease about the memorable games of my youth.  I probably didn’t know that colleague or co-worker or neighbor 25 years ago, but they were there too – feeling the exact same emotions I was feeling at the exact same moment I was feeling them.

Sports can bring out the best in us too.  A couple years ago, while I was coaching my son’s third grade soccer team, the opposing coach stopped our game in the closing minutes, gathered his team around, and instructed them to let the boy on our team with Down syndrome score a goal.  If you had seen the look of sheer joy on that young man’s face when he kicked the ball into the net, you would never, ever doubt the value of manly sport.

So, I’m not giving up my sports mania anytime soon.  In fact, I’m passing it on to my kids.   At least I’m trying.  There are no athletic scholarships in their futures, but I’m watching them have fun, get exercise, make friends, develop discipline, and discover loyalties.  They’re learning how to lose – and win – with grace.  I think they’ll be better people for it.

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Why I Write

“I have written because it fulfilled me. I did it for the pure joy of the thing. And if you can do it for joy, you can do it forever.”  —Stephen King

When I was a starry-eyed teenager, I set a goal for myself:  Publish a novel or bust.  And do it before age seventy.

In hindsight, I realize I wasn’t going out on much of a limb back then.  At fifteen, age seventy might as well have been 170.  I was giving myself the equivalent of eternity to attain my heart’s desire.

But, oh, how time and space have a way of shifting your perspective.  Now, here I am, age forty, unpublished, and staring down the barrel of it maybe never happening for me.  And you know what?  I don’t really care.

OK, so maybe I do care.  Just a little.  I’d still love to publish with one of those Big Five houses.  That would be a thrill, no doubt.  But what I realize now, what I couldn’t see then, was that more than anything my publishing goal was about validation.  You accomplish this, I must have thought, and then you’ve really, finally made it as a writer.

Well, I’m here to tell you I no longer need validation to justify my journey.  I’ve written.  I’ve labored, perspired, and bled over the page.  I’ve braved rejection, and I’m still chugging along.  I’m already valid, legit, justified.  I’m a writer in every sense of the word, and I’m going to keep on writing, come what may, age seventy and beyond.

I write because sometimes I make myself laugh.

I write because sometimes I make myself cry.

I write because writing is mostly hard work.

I write because those shooting star nirvana moments of inspiration are real.

I write because the characters hatched of my own imagination are dear to me like children.

I write because I want my real-life flesh and blood to know who I am.

I write because I hope to better understand myself.

I write because I’m going where I’ve never gone before.

I write because I can make something out of nothing.

I write because I’m a control freak who wants everything just so.

I write because I finish what I start.

I write because words are beautiful.

I write because words are powerful.

I write because every once in a while nouns and verbs and such come together in a sequence just plain greater than the sum of their parts.

I write because I need to pay homage to the stories that came before me.

I write because it’s the only way to find out what happens next.

I write because feeling close to the Creator of the universe can be as simple as hovering over a keyboard.

I write because I have something to say.

I write.

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Go For Broke

I’m sitting here on a lazy snow day looking at my National Novel Writing Month project from this past November.  (That’s right.  Fifty-thousand words in twenty-six days.  Thirty days in November minus four because I don’t write on Sundays.  Crazy, huh?)  Oh, sure, I have another 50,000 words to go to finish a complete draft, and then I need to polish and revise like crazy.  But you know what?  My initial crack at the first 50,000 words isn’t half bad — if I do say so myself.

So, here’s the opening chapter of Space Corps Academy: A Rocket Rider Story for all of my adoring fans (that’s you, Mom!) — or just if you happen to be curious:

Space Corps Academy:  A Rocket Rider Story

 Act I

Scene I

Go For Broke

Vanguard burst up through the clouds, and J.R. Rider was certain the sky had never been so blue.  He twisted a dial on his computer panel, then yanked hard on the throttle to give the engines another jolt.

“Easy there, partner,” said his co-pilot, Steven Bowman, from the back of the command module.  J.R. gritted his teeth.

“Not a chance,” he said.  The Onboard Computer Drive sounded worried.

“Young Mr. Rider,” the OCD said, “I would advise greater caution.”  J.R. smirked as he gazed into the viewscreen.

“Yeah, what else is new?”  His smirk turned into an all-out grin. “But OK,” he said, “if you insist.”  His fingers flashed across the panel in front of him, and he abruptly flicked off the engines.  The entire ship creaked.  Their ascent slowed, then stopped, and soon they were falling backwards, plummeting toward the Earth.

“Not again,” the OCD said.

“I hate it when he does this,” Steven said.  Truth be told, J.R. didn’t care much for the sick feeling in his stomach brought on by freefall either, but he also couldn’t get enough of the thrill.  Vanguard plunged back down through the clouds, and J.R. kept one eye locked on his computer readouts and another trained on the altimeter.  Vanguard’s downward velocity was increasing with the force of gravity.

“I must inform you, young Mr. Rider,” the OCD said, “safety protocols will require me to automatically fire the ship’s thrusters in 45 seconds.  Forty-four …”

“Oh, no they won’t,” J.R. said.  “Disengage all safety protocols.  Authorization Alpha 1. Execute.”  The computer system audibly clicked.

“Safety protocols disengaged,” the OCD said glumly.  “I really hate it when he does that.”
“You mess this up,” Steven said, “and we’re all gonna to be a grease slick in the middle of a cornfield.” Continue reading “Go For Broke”

The Name Game

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene II

What’s in a name?

Well, quite a bit, actually.  I obsess about them.  A lot.  I pour over sounds and syllables, meanings and minutiae, alliterations and associations.  So it goes.  I just can’t help myself.  A name is sort of important.

Hortense Olivia.

Seifert Baby Number Six is due sooner rather than later, and I can tell you it pretty much always unfolds like this.  I fixate until it hurts, and even then I can’t stop fixating.  Last time, Sara and I tried to curb the pain.  We set ground rules.  No name discussions until one month before the due date.  That probably helped.  At least a little.

Fifi Marie.

Six kids.  Is it just me, or is that starting to sound like a lot?  The trouble is Sara and I have managed to name five children now, which means we’ve already burned most every name we can agree on.  I love my wife dearly, but I’m not sure our naming styles are all that compatible.  Mostly, we take turns lobbing anti-aircraft missiles at each other’s name suggestions.

Bianca Belle.

You want your child to like their name.  You want them to be able to spell it before the fourth grade.  Speaking of grade school, you shouldn’t give your child a name that ensures he or she won’t survive it.  I mean, it’s a jungle out there.  Life’s hard enough.  Don’t start them out behind the eight ball.

Fanny Sue.

There are perfectly good names in this world that just don’t move the meter.  There are other names forever besmirched by having belonged to your arch nemesis in junior high school.  In fact, there are arch nemesis names you hate so much you make your sister-in-law pinky swear she’ll never date a boy who answers to it.  Then what does she do?  She marries one.

Narcissa Joy.

What’s the big deal?  Some of you may or may not have named your children things I wouldn’t wish on my arch nemesis.  But, hey, they’re your kids.  In the end, those kids probably still end up being kind of cute or maybe even a little endearing and then there’s a chance the name doesn’t seem quite so bad after all.  No pressure, right?

Ursula Annette.

So, it’s a lot to think about, and I have.  We might even have a name all picked out.  I’m just not going to say it out loud.  Not yet.  Stay tuned.  The due date is December 26th.

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Gully-Whomper Stomper

“‘But it isn’t easy,’ said Pooh. ‘Because Poetry and Hums aren’t things which you get, they’re things which get you.  And all you can do is to go where they can find you.’” —A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner.

I’m just having fun this month.  Happy Halloween, and enjoy!

Gully-Whomper Stomper

by Christopher “Whomper-Stomper” Seifert


Stomp, stomp, gully-whomp!

Stomp-stomp, gully-whomp!

There’s a gully-whomper monster in your basement who is mean.

He is nasty.  He is vile.  He is totally obscene.

He wakes up in the nighttime when you’re sleeping in your bed,

And he tiptoes up the stairs into a house that’s dark and dead.

Tromp, tromp, gully-whomp!

Tromp-tromp, gully-whomp!

His eyes are spooky-red.  He’s got fangs inside his chops.

The whomper is descended from a wild triceratops.

His snout is scaly-green.  He snuffles and he snorts.

He’s covered top to bottom with some unattractive warts.

Whomp, whomp, gully-whomp!

Whomp-whomp, gully-whomp!

He’ll eat your toes for breakfast and for dinner and for lunch.

He chews them very daintily – then gives the bones a crunch.

Next, he’s sure to wash them down with cups of herbal tea.

Before he goes to eat more toes with gusto and with glee.

Chomp, chomp, gully-whomp!

Chomp-chomp, gully-whomp!

He jumbles up your room.  He messes up your drawers.

He pulls out all your toys and then he dumps them on the floor.

He’ll leave his candy wrappers lying all about the ground,

But if it’s time to pick them up, he’s never to be found.

Romp, romp, gully-whomp!

Romp-romp, gully-whomp!

The guy’s a perfect monster, but he thinks that he is swell.

The half of all his wickedness I couldn’t even tell.

He picks his nose and eats it.  He spills his water too.

He spits his gum upon the floor and sticks it on his shoe.

Clomp, clomp, gully-whomp!

Clomp-clomp, gully-whomp!

Just remember not to worry.  Please do not to be scared.

Your daddy, he’s awake now, and he’s going down the stairs.

He’ll find that gully-whomper, and he’ll punch him in the nose.

He’ll dance atop that horrid whomp in bitter, steely toes.

Stomp, stomp, gully-stomp!

Stomp-stomp, gully-stomp!


© 2018All Rights Reserved.


Wind Chill

by Christopher “The Iceman” Seifert


Huzzah-huzzah coldy brrr.

Coldest night that ever were.

Wore wool socks, long underwear.

Still feels like I’m running bare.

My lips are blue, my face is red.

The heat’s escaping from my head.

I cannot even feel my toes.

Long icicles hang down my nose.

My breath’s a wispy cloud of smoke.

My fingers hurt, and that’s no joke.

I wish I brought my big snow suit,

But I forgot to, darn it, shoot.

I guess I’ll have to go back home,

Light a fire, and end this poem.


© 2018All Rights Reserved.

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The Doppel Gang

“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.” —E. B. White

Have I mentioned I have an evil twin?  No?  I do.  Sort of.  OK, I’m the evil one.  Mike, on the other hand, is actually a pretty good guy.

I met Mike over a decade ago, and we soon discovered we have an awful lot in common.  First off, we share a mutual faith.  Then there’s the fact we both studied journalism at BYU where we each served in our own time as the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.  Later, we both attended law school at the University of Nebraska.  During his time in law school, Mike worked as a law clerk in the office where I’m employed.  We’ve shared some of the same church responsibilities, and the list goes on from there.  We’re exactly the same.  And completely different.  All at the same time.

Unsuprisingly, Mike and I also share a love of the written word.  That’s why I thought of Mike a little over two years ago after reading a book about the fantastic friendship of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien and their Oxford writers’ group known as The Inklings.  There was something inspiring to me about their creative collaboration.  I yearned for a similar experience, so I approached Mike.  We’ve been meeting monthly ever since, sharing our projects and offering feedback and encouragement.  Sometimes we just talk about life.  When Mike moved from Nebraska to Arizona, I figured our meetings were over.  Mike told me we’d keep them going online, but I wasn’t convinced.  I guess he was right, and I was wrong.  It wasn’t the first time.

This year, we decided to try something novel.  We’re working together on a fantasy book.  I think I was the one who suggested collaboration.  I’m not sure what got into me.  I’ve never been one for group projects.  I’m too much of a control freak.  Then there’s the issue of our divergent writing styles.  I outline my stories to death.  I don’t write anything until I know exactly where I’m headed.  Conversely, Mike’s what I’ve heard referred to as a “pantser.”  He’s flying by the seat of his pants as the story takes him on a wild and unexpected ride.  Our partnership has forced me to do a little pantsing myself – something way outside my comfort zone.  We’re almost halfway to a full manuscript, and you know what?  So far, it isn’t half bad.  And that’s just the rough draft.

Face it, the fellowship of anything is a bang-up beginning and an even better ending.  That’s why this introvert, descended from a long line of introverts, is grateful for people like Mike and a host of others who’ve come into my life over the years.  I count it no small miracle that in my short time on Planet Earth I’ve been blessed with some truly wonderful, well, friends.

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