Have Your Writing Critiqued

Lake MI 1Having your writing critiqued by others can be a nerve-racking experience. You must sit quietly while the people around the table read your work and then discuss it like you’re not there. Although the process might be difficult to go through the end result is worth it. They are able to see things you missed or present a better way of saying something that you would never have thought of.

I recently had the first chapter of my novel critiqued by my writers’ group. I nervously sat as they went through my writing. I don’t always change everything the group might suggest. There are times when the way I wrote something is my voice and I leave it as is. Other times I am surprised by things they suggest that I know will make my writing better.

As they were critiquing my story one of the members asked if it was fiction or non-fiction. He asked this because of the descriptions I used.  The group all agreed they really felt they were in the place I was describing.That made me feel good. One thing I learned early was that if your fiction story takes place in a real location you must be true to that location.

My story takes place in Niarobi, Kenya.  I have never been there, but someday someone who has actually been to Niarobi might read my book and say, “I remember seeing that.” It took a lot of research to be able to describe what my character saw when she arrived. It was worth it to get the reaction I did from the group. At times I thought maybe I was using too much detail, but my fellow writers convinced me the details were just right.

I usually wait a couple days before reading what was written about my work. The anxiety has subsided by then and I can read their comments with an open mind. In this recent case they pointed out some sentences which could be written stronger and a paragraph that needed some work. This is great because from their critique my writing can become better.

No matter what you are writing have people read your work who you trust will give you an honest critique. It’s great to hear that your writing is good. It’s also very helpful to hear where you can improve. As writers we are learning all the time how to become better. Critique groups are one way you can become a better writer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Research and More Research

WIM000762.JPGhy in the world did I decide to use a real location for my story? A fictitious place would be so much easier to write about. Oh well, I need an actual site for the plot I’m developing so I must make the most of it.

I am finding that the more research I do, the more I have to keep doing. Not only do I need to describe streets, buildings, scenic views as they really are, I need to know customs, what to wear, what to eat, what should a woman traveling alone watch out for.  The list goes on.

I feel like the road is closed right now. I just want to write my story. However, I know if I don’t pay attention to accurate details my credibility goes right down the tubes. No wonder it takes so long to write a book. I know a lot of research is needed for non-fiction writing. I never realized the amount needed for fiction as well.Therefore I’ll keep studying street maps, looking at pictures online so I can write detailed descriptions, reading guide books, etc. I need to do the construction work to get the road open to write.

Of course, I want to write the best novel I can and if it means I need to spend hours doing research I’ll do it. I do have to admit that I can’t wait until I can get into the meat of writing the story again, but for now I have to bite the bullet and get the research done.

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The Writing Saga Continues

942436_10200539607545673_710765186_nI love Saturday mornings. That is when I have a large block of time to devote to writing. I quickly make my breakfast and get the coffee going, then I sit at my dining room table and begin. Everything is within reach that I need to make the most of this time.

The prologue, epilogue, and chapter 1 are written. My protagonist (Laurel) has arrived in Kenya and is settled in the hotel she will be staying for a couple nights before moving on. I am to a point in the story where I have to stop and do more research before going any further. If my main character is going to explore Nairobi I have to make it real. I need to know the customs and culture. I want my readers to experience Nairobi through my writing, to be able to picture in their minds what Laurel is seeing and doing. I found two great books on Kenya and a street map of Nairobi.

I am thinking the rest of this morning and probably next Saturday morning will be spent on jotting down notes as I read through the books and study the map. I really want to write, but I don’t want to make things up about a real place as I go along. Research is so important to writing, even when writing fiction. When I write short stories there is not much research involved, if any. I can usually draw from personal experience. However, I’ve discovered writing a novel is a whole different ballgame. Thank goodness I enjoy doing research.

Each time I sit down to work on this project I’m filled with excitement, wondering what’s going to happen next, who will Laurel meet, what will she experience. I have my basic ideas, but things I never thought of keep popping up as I write. Writing a novel is hard work, but it’s also so much fun.

As I go along I will be bringing my writing to my critique group to read so they can give me suggestions. They are of wonderful group of writers who inspire and encourage me. I value their input and I’ve seen my writing improve over the years because of being part of a supporting critique group. If you are a writer, no matter what you write, I encourage you to find a critique group to join.

That’s all for today. I must get back to my research. Please leave comments. I would love to hear about the journeys of other writers.

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Writing A Book

IM000893.JPGI am definitely finding out that writing a novel is no easy task. Today I spent almost three hours doing research.  My story takes place in Kenya. Because I’ve never been to Kenya I must find out all about it, at least about Nairobi and surrounding areas. I want my story to be believable. That will take a lot of reading, both from books and online. However, these hours flew by. I was immersed in the information I was finding. I have a lot more research ahead of me before I can really get into the meat of writing my book, but so far this part of writing is quite interesting to me. I always enjoyed doing terms papers when I was in school. This is a continuation of that on a bigger scale.

I’ve heard authors say that your characters will lead you as you write. I am finding this to be true even while I’m doing my research. For example, my lead character is a recently retired teacher. I have started developing a basic profile, but as I was doing my reading today I also discovered some new traits and abilities my teacher needs to have.  The reading I did led me to some sub-plots for my story as well that will tie in nicely with the main plot, pulling the story all together.

I know writing this book will take a lot of time, dedication, and hard work, but I think it will also be fun. Seeing things starting to develop and fall into place already is exciting. My characters are beginning to take on lives of their own. I’m just along for the ride making sure their story gets down on paper.

I will continue to blog about the progress I am making as I go along. I would greatly appreciate any comments and suggestions along the way. I’d also love to hear experiences from other writers about your writing journeys.

 

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I’m Asking For Suggestions

As you can see, this is not my usual devotional blog. I am starting a new venture with my writing. For a couple years I’ve had the idea in my head for a novel. I have decided that 2016 is the year I will seriously begin the process. I have my main characters picked out, named, and know what they look like. I have maps and books about the location of my story. I’ve interviewed someone who has been to the location many times for some feel of the local flavor. I also got a flight plan to the location from a travel agent.

I’ve written the blurb that would go on the back cover giving a brief description of the book (just enough to entice the curiosity of potential readers).  Rough drafts of a few scenes are done.

I now have to read the books and study the maps so my story will be believable, but I would also like to begin writing as I go along. At this point it seems like an impossible task. I have no clue how the story is going to flow.

In reading books on writing I know you are just to start writing and the story will begin to take shape. What I would like to know from those of you who have written novels is: do you just start writing by the seat of your pants; do you outline or set up a story board; do you write significant scenes and then work on the in between stuff to tie it all together? Any and all suggestions/ideas will be helpful since I am a novice at this.

I am excited to begin this journey. I’m a member of a great critique group who I know will give me support and help me improve the writing as I go along. I am also very nervous. Those negative thoughts keep popping into my head saying this is a waste of time. It will never be published. However, how do I know it will never be published if I don’t try? Deep down I know I am supposed to write this book otherwise the urging I have inside about it would not be so strong.

So today is Day One of this adventure. Please comment with any insight you can give me. Periodically I will give updates on how the process is going. Thank you in advance for your support.

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Don’t Dwell On The Past – Look Ahead To The Future

2015 is done. There were good and bad times for me. My oldest grandchild got her driver’s license. My youngest had his first birthday. I received the news that another grandchild is on the way. My daughter got a teaching job she loves. My son got his Associates Degree and a job offer. The not so good times included an uncle and a cousin going to be with the Lord. My hot water tank sprung a leak. I found out I owed $400 to the IRS that I was not expecting.

I’m sure every one of you reading this can make your own list of events (good and bad) which took place in 2015. God has something to say to us about looking back:

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.”    Isaiah 43:18

God does not want us to focus on what might have been or the mistakes we’ve made in 2015. Instead He tells us to have a fresh look at what’s ahead:

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”    Isaiah 43:19

Therefore, look at 2016 as a new start. God has plans for all of us. I’m not saying to expect everything to be rosy. We will still have our struggles. But we can prepare ourselves with a new vitality and hope of things to come from God.

Make it your New Year resolution to be more open to God’s leading for opportunities and to cling to Him during difficult times. It’s a new year, a fresh beginning. Make sure this resolution is one you will keep throughout all of 2016.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Bees and Salvation

BeesWhile washing my hair I heard the kids yelling outside. That was not unusual so I continued what I was doing. Then the yelling progressed to screaming and I knew something was wrong. I wrapped a towel around my head and rushed outside. The sight horrified me. My son had whacked a beehive with a long branch. Underneath stood my daughter literally covered with bees. I pulled the towel off my head and began using it to get the bees off of her. I wasn’t worried about getting stung. My whole attention was to save my daughter. I saw her in trouble and didn’t care what pain it might cause me. I had to save her.

God looked down and saw that mankind was in trouble. Our sinful nature was leading us to death. Something had to be done.

“For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him.”   I Thessalonians 5:9-10

Jesus suffered on the cross and gave His life willingly so we would not have to feel the wrath of God. We were dying in our sins. Jesus died instead, therefore giving us life eternal. He jumped in to save us without dwelling on what that action would cost Him.

As parents we protect our children no matter what happens. We’ll do everything in our power to save them regardless of the consequence to us. We make sacrifices so they can have a good life.

Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us. He suffered torment and death to save us. The result – He rose again and we are given the opportunity to accept the gift of life He freely gives. He saved us.

Have you accepted this gift of salvation from Jesus Christ? Have you experienced being lifted out of the trouble and utter helplessness sin causes? Now is the time to open your heart to Jesus and let Him save you.

(The result of our bee experience – I ended up with at least three bee stings, which I didn’t feel until later. We couldn’t tell if my daughter was stung. She survived with no physical or emotional affects.)

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What’s The Most Powerful Weapon Christian Writers Can Use?

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Everywhere we turn battles are being fought. Various wars are taking place around the world. Political parties clash with each other. Street gangs fight for their territories. Battles rage within families.

Another battle is being fought which we do not always see, but we know it’s happening. That battle is the spiritual one engaged with Satan. The ultimate war has already been won by God through Jesus Christ, but Satan doesn’t appear to realize it. He continues launching attacks on us, trying to get us to turn from God.

In Ephesians 6:10-17 Paul tells of the protection God has made available to us to fight these battles. We have the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation. We are covered from head to toe with this mighty armor.

Then in verse 17 Paul lists the only weapon we need, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  Satan has no defense against this weapon. This was demonstrated when Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness. (Luke 4:1-13) Three times the devil tried to get Jesus to worship him and three times Jesus quoted Scripture. Satan had no response and he left.

Everyone can avail themselves of these pieces of armor and the strong weapon God provides to combat against Satan. Writers use words everyday to reach people. Christian writers have The Word and therefore can take a major role in the spiritual warfare. We can take the word of God and get it out to the masses. Our writing can bring the strength, peace, and healing of God to millions of people.

As writers we are God’s instrument to do His work. The sword of the Spirit is in our hands. We know how to make an impact with words. Let’s use the weapon at our disposal in a mighty fashion, defeating the devil with every word we write.

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Is Worldly or Heavenly Wisdom The Inspiration For Your Writing?

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When I began writing I did it with the selfish ambition of wondering how much money I might be able to obtain. Realistically I knew I’d never be a Jerry Jenkins or Beth Moore, but I harbored some envy toward what they’ve accomplished. I thought it would be wonderful to have at least a couple books do well or have magazines want my short stories.

“But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”    James 3:14-16

I needed an attitude adjustment. After a few years of struggling with rejections and not being satisfied with my writing God changed everything. The light bulb came on and I understood what God wanted me to write. My whole thought process switched gears. I began writing devotionals.

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; the peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”     James 3:17

What a change came over me! I began experiencing satisfaction with what I wrote and the writing process became joyful. Also, doors opened for my writing. I started a blog. Then I was asked to do the devotional every Thursday for The Writing Show. I had a devotional published in Halo Magazine, my church requested five devotionals for a prayer guide, and I was invited to be the speaker at a woman’s retreat held at my former church.

I received no monetary rewards from any of these opportunities, but I gained so much more. Writing is fun. But, most importantly, I’m reaching people with the Word of God as evidenced by new followers almost weekly on Twitter and Linked In. I set up an author page on facebook (Devotions by Lorraine) and I’m beginning to get followers there as well. I’ve even had Satanists write comments which opened up new doors to witness by responding back to them.

When we listen to God’s leading the wisdom we receive is pure and sincere. From it good fruits grow. All envy and selfish ambition fly out the window. We are able to focus on our writing because we know God is in control and His way is best.

Examine your writing life. Are you enjoying what you’re doing? Is the wisdom you’re following from earth or from heaven? There is a big difference between the two.

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Worry, Worry, Worry – What Good Does It Do?

Lake MI 1In two years I will be the age to retire with “full” Social Security. The problem is the amount of money I’ll be getting is around half what I’m bringing home now through work. I will be able to add about $200 from my 403b each month, but that still is not the take-home pay I’m used to.

I worry about needing to down-size. I worry about how much rent will I be able to afford. On top of that add on insurance premiums, utilities, groceries, etc. It is getting more difficult for me to deal with yard work and snow shoveling so I need to go someplace where someone else does those things.  But will I have enough money to make the move?  Will I have to still work at least part-time to make ends meet?

Worry, Worry,Worry

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”    Philippians 4:6-7

The Apostle Paul is telling us we are not to worry. Instead we are to bring those worries to God. What does worrying get us anyway?

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”    Matthew 6:27   (words spoken by Jesus)

Worrying gives us nothing but stress, headaches, and ulcers. None of us need those things.

What we need to do is put those worries into God’s hands. Then we should concentrate on what we can do today. None of us have a clue what will happen tomorrow or in two years. For me that means I can work on decreasing my bills and spending, and I can start weeding through my stuff, getting rid of what I don’t need or haven’t used in years. One day at a time.

What is causing you anxiety? Have you brought it to God? Begin with Him, then do what you can each day trusting that He will give you peace regarding the rest.

Worry and anxiety vs Peace from God.  What sounds right to you?

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