Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What's the point?

I’ve discovered that a successful writing journey includes joining groups, networking, conferences, workshops, and classes. Being a people person, joining groups is easy for me (except there is a fee involved to join most groups). I love the camaraderie, support, encouragement, and yes, even the critiques.

Last Saturday six of us CWOWers (Christian Writers of the West, local chapter of ACFW) joined together to read aloud five pages of our current manuscript or WIP. Reading aloud was a suggestion from literary agent Steve Laube at a mini-conference we all attended in January.

First of all, these ladies are delightful and diverse, especially diverse in their writing genres. One does YA, one does mystery and espionage, one does suspense with a bit of horror, the other does biblical fiction, and one does historical romance. I like to think I do transformational fiction. Now, if any of the dear six from Saturday are reading my blog, that is my take on your genre. If I got it wrong, forgive me. With only five pages to glean from, it’s what I grasped.

My point to this is: What’s the point? If we aspiring writers go to such meetings or groups, what do we want to accomplish. If we get defensive or resent someone’s critique of our work (no, that did NOT happen at this meeting), then what’s the point of our participating in such groups?

When I had time to assess and analyze all that had been said, I grabbed my laptop and began to implement some of the ideas and suggestions I’d received from these ladies at the meeting.

And that, my fellow writers, is the point! Don’t get defensive! Analyze, research, and ask God to enlighten you as to what will improve your craft. If improvement comes in the form of criticism or rebuke, don’t take it personally. Hard to do? Of course. Writing, our WIP – work in progress -- is our baby, our creation, our heart and passion. Everyone should love it like we do, right?

Wrong! But don’t give up. Believe in yourself, follow your heart. And may God be with you and guide your thoughts and ideas.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Why Do I Write?

I subscribe to two different literary agents’ blogs because I think they’re great. One is Steve Laube and the other is Chip MacGregor. As a writer or an aspiring writer and if you’re not currently reading their blogs, I suggest you do.

Last week Chip MacGregor had a blog titled, “Why Do We Write?” It was in response to a question someone sent in. His answer, and I’m quoting from his blog: “Okay, this may surprise you, but I believe most new writers basically want to get published so that they’ll be famous. They want that thrill of holding up a book with their name emblazoned on the cover, show it to their friends, leave it on their coffee table, maybe peruse a copy at the bookstore and casually mention to someone in the aisle, “You know, I wrote this.” I think most new writers are seeking fame and encouragement, that they believe validity and meaning will arrive out of publication. They see fame as offering a measurable amount of worth and competence.”

Hm, I thought, as I scratched my head and then chuckled. That about hits it precisely on the head. I wanted to write! I needed and yearned to write. I imagined instant fame and accolades. I mean, after all, God was laying it on my heart, He was calling me to write. I was as sure of that as I’d ever been about anything. If the Creator of the universe had His hand in it, of course I would be famous.

When that didn’t happen, I was disappointed, discouraged, and doubted that I’d ever heard from God. But I had written a book. I was convinced it was a pretty good book. So I self-published. Nothing wrong with that, but my writing craft was far from perfected. But I did it!  My book is out there, with all the writing flaws that make editors cringe. But I still believe my story is a good story. I happen to love it.

Let’s all admit it, we do want to be famous to some degree or other, if only it’s to be recognized by our family and friends as having talent. I have hopefully reached the place where I just want to touch people with my writing, to move them to tears or laughter. I had to give it all to God, to release it to Him. All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe it all to Him anyway.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Writing That Happy Ending

Besides my love of reading and writing, I am an avid movie buff.  I like romance, comedies, political thrillers, mysteries, and historical dramas. In the movie, Atonement, a main character is a thirteen-year-old girl, Briony Tallis played by Saoirse Ronan.  Briony is a young, fledgling writer, and the actual movie is portrayed through Briony’s telling.

It is a story of young, passionate love between Briony’s older sister, Cecilia, played by Keira Knightly, and Robbie, played by James McAvoy.  Briony and Cecelia live a life of wealth and privilege in a grand mansion, and Robbie, although well educated, is the son of the family housekeeper.  Briony has a crush on Robbie, and because of her jealousy, she accuses Robbie of a crime he didn’t commit, irrevocably and tragically changing the course of several lives.

Through the struggles and heartache, it seems the story will eventually have a happy ending.  I breathed a sigh of relief that all would end well for the young sweethearts.  Then an older, mature woman, Briony, confesses to the travesty of her false accusation, and you realize the story does not end happily for Robbie and Cecelia EXCEPT in the story the now well-known writer, Briony, gave to them in a novel she wrote about them. That was her atonement to the young sweethearts she had destroyed.  In her writing, she gave them the happy ending they should've had.  And my apologies right now if you haven’t seen the movie, and I’ve spoiled it for you.

As writers, we have the power to take words and transform them into anything we want.  ANYTHING WE WANT! We can take circumstances and experiences of our own, or those of people we know, and tweak and twist and turn it into a best-selling novel.  What awesome power at our disposal!

 Go, my writer friends, and let your imagination and creative juices flow!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

No, I Won't Write Your Life Story!

No, I will not write a book about YOUR life story! Do it yourself. I get questions all the time about how to get published, or I’ve even had a few people ask me if I would write their life story!

Uh…no! In case you didn’t understand, let me repeat – NO!  Besides, I am a far cry from being an expert in the field of writing.

I listened on the phone for an hour last night to someone relating their personal life experiences to me. This is an acquaintance, and not someone I’m close to. I kept wondering if I could just hang up and pretend we had lost the connection. (I’m sure that violates some Christian code of conduct, so I didn’t). But while murmuring, “Uh huh, yes, okay, hmm,” and a hundred other mundane things to assure her I was listening, I did not find anything unique or appealing in her story.

Finally, I informed her I had to go. I had to do this for my peace of mind. I probably would’ve hung up, except I kept thinking of my daily prayer time when I get to the part of, “Oh, God, use me. Make me a blessing. Make me sensitive to Your Spirit, and help me to see people as You do. Give me a heart of love and compassion for others.”

Yep, I pray that all the time. Be careful what you pray for because God takes your prayers seriously and literally. Having said that, at the conclusion of the phone conversation, this person finally got to the point of the phone call: “Will you write my life story? I’ve lived an amazing life with all the things I’ve been through.”

Hm, let me think about it! Actually, my answer was quick and to the point, an emphatic no. When she kept trying to talk me into it by relaying more tidbits from her life, I finally said, “Listen, I’m currently working on three novels. I refuse to start something new. I pray about what I write, and I can tell you for certain that God is not nudging me or laying it on my heart to write your story.”

She was disappointed, maybe even mad or upset with me. I told her to write her own story. No one else will have the passion to share her life story like she will. Everyone has a story, and perhaps yours should be in print. If you feel that, be kind to others and don’t insist a writer do your job for you.

Enough said!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Sharing Truth As a Writer

As a Christian writer, I am first and foremost a Christian. As long as my Christianity is as it should be, all areas of my life will be affected – my life as a wife, mother, brother, sister, daughter, friend, neighbor, co-worker, and as a writer.

God wants truth to be told, and truth can be told as we write fiction. As writers, whether we write fiction or non-fiction, what message do we want to convey? What do we want readers to see and feel from our writing? More importantly, how does our writing portray God, Jesus, Christians, and faith?

Everyone has a different message God has laid on their heart as a writer. I deal with tough issues as I write: abuse, divorce, adultery, molestation, abortion, gossip, unfaithfulness, to name a few. And these things all happen within the church! Yikes, you may exclaim – you mean Christians aren’t perfect? If you find that hard to believe, you haven’t been in church long enough.

I have good news! In the midst of all that, GOD REIGNS! That is my message! That is what God has called me to do as a writer. Bad things happen to good people, to Christians. Good people, Christians, do bad things! Does God stop being God because of that? Absolutely not!

Most television, movies, and writings – unless faith-based – portray Christians as psycho-babbling, bible-thumping, scripture-screaming, judgmental, bigoted morons.

God wants truth told! Let me repeat that: God wants truth told. He is the originator of truth. In His Word, He lays it all out there: the good, the bad, and the ugly! I want to show God’s heart in the midst of suffering and failure. He is compassionate, and He does grieve over the tragedies and suffering of His children, even when it is of their own doing.

God is calling writers to share the truth of His nature, the truth of how He wants Christians to behave, the truth of how He can restore, the truth of His love for mankind!

Share that truth!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Our Voice In Writing

For those with pets and small children/babies, you’ll know this is true. Babies, small children, and pets respond not so much to the words we say as to the tone of our voice. In a voice that’s soft and sweet, I can call my dog or baby an idiot, ugly, stupid, say how much I hate them or any number of hurtful things, and baby and dog will respond with smiles, coos, wagging tail, slobbering, etc. My tone of voice conveys something entirely different than the meaning of the words spoken.

On the other hand if I speak in a loud, angry, and grating voice, it doesn’t matter if I’m saying, “You’re so cute, I love you, you mean the world to me.” My tone says otherwise.

When we write, we have a certain tone or voice in what we want to convey with our plot or story. It’s like a scary movie when the music builds to an ominous crescendo, we know something is about to happen. Our story should be building to a crescendo, and perhaps several crescendos throughout the story. It’s what keeps a reader turning the pages.

There is another “voice” involved in Christian writing. If you are a Christian and writing fiction or non-fiction Christian material, or if you are a Christian just writing in the industry, we should be listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

In 1 King 19: 11-13, it talks of God being in the still small voice. When I think of a still, small voice, I imagine that I have to hush and be quiet so that I can hear. As writers, we can become so loud in our busyness, that we don’t even hear Him. Invite Him as a partner in your writing journey. He longs to anoint what you write.