Thursday, June 25, 2015

Are You Being Tossed About by Every Writing Wind?



by Henry McLaughlin @RiverBendSagas

Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Ephesians 4:14 NLT

In my small group recently, we were discussing critiques. One member had submitted to the same national contest two years in a row. After the first year, she took the judges’ comments to heart and revised her manuscript. The second year, the judges’ comments were the exact opposite of the first year. It’s amazing sometimes how two people can read our work and give us contradictory advice.

Another of our members is an experienced writer, but new to writing fiction. A critiquer told her the first chapter had too much dialogue. Our member voiced she needed to rewrite the chapter. Turned out the critiquer didn’t write fiction or read very much fiction.

This paraphrase of Ephesians 4:14 came to mind. As writers, we will no longer be immature and insecure. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of critique. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us into writing their way as the only way with rationalizations so clever they sound like rules and doctrine from on high.

We need faith in two things when we write.

One is faith in ourselves, in our writing, in knowing we are answering God’s call to write. Like spiritual faith, our writing faith is developed over time as we study the craft through attending workshops and conferences, through reading books on the craft, and through applying our faith by sitting down and writing. And rewriting. And rewriting.

The other area of faith is in discernment. We need to believe God gives wisdom and insights to judge potential critiquers and critique groups. We need to trust he will create divine appointments with the right mentors and coaches, with those who will teach, encourage, and further our growth as writers. We also need to have faith he will help us examine and weigh the critiques we receive, to separate the wheat from the chaff, to pick out what really helps our story and our craft and to cast aside the rest.

Someone once said the art of writing is putting the seat of the pants in the seat of the chair. And this is true. But before this comes another step: Putting the knees of the writer on the floor before God to ask his direction and plan. If we can’t do the physical act of kneeling, we can all do the spiritual equivalent of time in meditation and prayer—quiet time with him.

How do you handle negative critiques? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Don't forget to join the conversation!

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Henry’s debut novel, Journey to Riverbend, won the 2009 Operation First Novel contest. He serves as Associate Director of North Texas Christian Writers. Henry edits novels, leads critique groups, and teaches at conferences and workshops. He enjoys mentoring and coaching individual writers. Connect with Henry on his blogTwitter and Facebook.

14 comments:

  1. This is a wonderful post. I have noticed in my very short time of writing that publishers and editors are so very different in there taste of writing. I pitched my book 4 times at the BRMCWC one was not interested at all; the other 3 had various positive reactions. I love what you said about prayer. I would be lost if I did not pray. I would not be writing if I did not pray. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

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    1. Thanks, Cherrilynn. The longer I'm in this writing thing, the more I find I need God every step of the way. After all, this call to write is his idea. I might as well let him drive.

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  2. Authors need to research the contests they enter, and those running the contests need to have separate categories for fiction and nonfiction with appropriate judges. That's one of the reasons I like ACFW. It's for fiction writers, so all the contest judges are fiction writers.

    However, you will still get conflicting results sometimes. Fiction, especially, is subjective. I coordinate a genre category in the Genesis contest (for unpublished fiction writers) and I see the scores that com in. In most cases, the scores don't come close to each other. There is nearly always one lower than the others or one higher than the others.

    This is part of this gig called writing. As an author, you have to realize that. Then you take what profits your writing and toss the rest. :)

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    1. Ane, thanks for the great insights and advice.

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  3. Excellent and interesting application of Eph.4:14! And I like your paraphrase of it as well. This whole writing business, like any other calling, takes much faith and prayer. Ultimately, we answer to HIM alone! Thanks for a great post, Henry!

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    1. Hi June.
      Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad the post blessed you in some way.

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  4. Great post. As always with critiques and contests, we need to pay attention to recurring themes in the suggestions. But much will always be opinions and preferences. I just got my Genesis scoresheets back. I made the semi-final but not the final. I had 6 grades ranging from 60 to 99. What do you make of it? Some people will like your story and some won't. But I saw a recurring theme. The manuscript I entered is difficult to categorize. That's good for me and for my agent to know for pitching purposes, and it's becoming clearer I might have to break into publication with my new manuscript and then later fight for this one.

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    1. Hi Patricia.
      You raise a good point. We're not going to please everybody. But it's an excellent practice to review the feedback we get for commonalities. If several people are seeing the same thing, it may be something we need to address.

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  5. Thank you for the encouragement!

    I understand the need for faith in God. As CherriLynn said, without it, I'd be nowhere.

    Faith in myself... that's more difficult. I appreciate your taking the time to define that a little more clearly for those writers like me.

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    1. Hi Carrie.
      I'm glad the post was helpful to you.

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  6. Thank you, Henry. This is truly one of the best posts on writing I have ever seen. Blessings to you! :)

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    1. Thank you, Andrea. I appreciate the compliment. As a preacher friend once said, "If it was good, it was God. If it was bad, it was me."

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  7. This post was exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you especially for the reminder that the knees of the writer need to be on the floor seeking God's direction before we begin to pound those keys. I am taking this to heart.

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    1. Thank you. I'm blessed that you my words touched you in some way. I pray abundant blessing on your writing.

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