A Raw Pearl: Poem on Writing

Here’s a poem on writing by Inspire’s own Dee Aspin. Enjoy!

A Raw Pearl

Writing a book is nothing less,

Than a personal spiritual mystery—

A fantastic discovery.

We write—words flood and tumble out,

Sometimes from a million directions;

Like rivers

Into a sea, splashing…

Onto our keyboards.

From the depth of our being,

Waves of thought,

Streams of memory,

Tides of times–

Crashing, churning in our minds,

Wash upon a beach

And recede—revealing

A written page.

Full of faces and moments,

Sights and sounds;

And we are powerless

To stop a move of God.

We can only silently, prayerfully sit

And watch and participate

In wonder—

As the form emerges,

like a pearl

forms painfully,

between two shells:

the raw covers,

the rough draft,

of our manuscript.

© 2010 Dee Aspin

Critique Etiquette

by Sue Tornai

Successful critique groups use proper etiquette.  All of our Inspire Critique Groups use the following guidelines in our meeting:

When you submit a manuscript for critique

  1. Self-edit and rewrite until your work is as good as you can get it before submitting it to the group. E-mail your best effort to the group three days before the critique meeting.
  2. Limit your word count to 1500 words maximum.
  3. Include your name, title of manuscript and page numbers.
  4. Use a standard font in a minimum 12 point size.
  5. Double-space your manuscript.
  6. Prepare your manuscript as if you were submitting it to an agent or editor.

For Those Giving Critiques

  1. Always begin and end with something positive or encouraging.
  2. Offer suggestions for repairing things you think need changed, being sensitive and gentle. (“Speak the truth in love.” Ephesians 4:15)
  3. Don’t talk about commas, spelling, etc. Mark, but don’t mention.
  4. Offer constructive criticism on clarity, not style.
  5. Give both general and specific feedback. Be as constructive as you can.
  6. Resist the temptation to mention something that has already discussed.
  7. Feel free to say nothing.

For Those Receiving Critiques

  1. Have thick skin. Understand what you are receiving is given in the spirit of love.
  2. Accept critique graciously. Ask for clarification if needed but avoid defending your work.
  3. Except for obvious errors in grammar, all changes are up to you.
  4. Realize there is always room for improvement.
  5. Express thankfulness.
  6. Critique others’ work if you expect critiques. If you are new, critique for comprehensiveness and clarity.
  7. Feel free to say nothing.

The Treasure of Critiques

One of the most valuable benefits of Inspire Christian Writers is the critique group. It is the heart and soul of Inspire because it allows each writer to develop their writing skill via the sharp pencil and keen eye of fellow writers in the group.

Inspire Christian Writers critique model works like this:

1. Manuscripts are submitted several days ahead to all writers meeting at our preferred critique location (check the critique calendar for groups meeting in your area).

2. Each writer provides a thorough and thoughtful critique of submitted manuscripts using Track Changes in Word or making hand-written notes on the manuscript.

3. In addition to getting the written inputs, critiques are verbally delivered at the meeting.

What a pleasure it is to help a fellow writer tweak their manuscript, learn more about the nuance of point of view (POV), tighten up the wording, provide clarity to a confusing passage, and catch the nuisance typos and wrong words. Overall giving a manuscript a fresh look.

After a critique group, I gather the copies of my marked-up manuscript and carry them home like treasures. Yes… that’s right… treasures. Treasures that help me be a better writer. Attending weekly critiques has greatly improved my writing skills. I have gained improvement by the following:

  • My own work being reviewed
  • My critiques of other’s work
  • Listening to others critique a manuscript
  • Reading the work of other writers

So if you write, I recommend you get thyself to a critique group post haste. Then watch your writing soar. You’ll soon experience the treasures too.

Set Your Characters Free

Ever just want to grab your protagonist by the shoulders and scream, “Who are you?”

It happened recently, one of those fabulously brutal critiques in which a friend labeled the darling of my story a cardboard cutout. The advice from my writing group, “Find out who she is before editing further.”

So I asked Hannah. Several times.

She hid in the shadows of my imagination and refused to speak.

I cried out to God, “Help me understand my character.”

In the quiet echo that followed, I knew God intended something deeper. Yeah, that’s what happens when you throw up double-meaning requests.

After several months of writer’s block, a friend suggested a great book on temperament traits, Please Understand Me II, by David Keirsey. I started by taking the Keirsey Temperament Sorter. I’m a Guardian. I took it again, on behalf of Hannah, and discovered she’s an Artisan.

No wonder she didn’t possess the depth of character she deserved, our opposing behaviors vied for plot reactions. With a bit of study on my part, Hannah came into focus. To the point that she now objects when I try to force her to respond in a way contrary to her personality. Blessed freedom–for both of us!

One by one, my other characters demanded emancipation. With a virtual revolution on my hands, I delved back into the book to discover more personalities, and their interplay.

I retook the test for a character development workshop, quickly, without thinking. It registered Artisan. Am I spending too much time in Hannah’s head? Or could it be God, setting me free to experience the character He’s designed in me?

Expand Your Ministry by Writing Devotions

by Sue Tornai

Most devotions are written on assignment but The Upper Room is a publisher that accepts freelance submissions. Have you considered expanding your ministry by writing devotions? The Upper Room sends me a beautiful letter upon acceptance of my devotions with this paragraph in it:

Just think: Over two million people in more than 100 countries will read or hear your witness. To put that in perspective, if a preacher addressed a congregation of 2,000 new people each week for twenty years, that preacher would still not have addressed as many people as will read your contribution in The Upper Room. It is a remarkable privilege to be able to declare the “marvelous works of the Lord” (Ps. 9:11) to so many, and we appreciate your willingness to let us use your work. From the French radio broadcast of your meditation in Africa to its printing in the tri-lingual Japanese/Korean/English edition in the Far East, you will speak to God’s people and encourage them in faithfulness.

I am inspired by this opportunity and I hope you are too. Follow this link to writer’s guidelines for The Upper Room. The Upper Room will publish as many as nine devotions per year by one author, but don’t send those all at once. A good discipline to get into is to submit three devotions every three months.

God bless you as you write for His glory.

Do Your Characters Want to Steal the Show?

Invite the characters of your present work into a room and ask them who the most important person in your novel is.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

If all their hands shot up at once, if some bounced off their seats, if you heard someone shout, “It’s me! It’s me!” You’re on the right track with character development.

I knew I was in trouble the first time I tried this. One viewpoint character tentatively raised her hand. The other two looked around, shrugged, and half-heartedly nodded assent. The rest of the characters grumbled about why I wasted their time calling a meeting. For a moment, my novel teetered on the brink of plot without substance. Then from way in the back, came a spark of hope. One little boy from a distant chapter—whose only job was to get the main characters from point P to point Q—sprang onto his chair, with hand bobbing up and down, he hopped and bellowed, “Pick me! Pick me!”

So, how do you get all your characters to show that kind of enthusiasm?

That question drove me to buy a book—okay, several books—and go on a character study binge. Within a few months, the cast of my novel breathed distinct, vibrant personalities. And I discovered quite a lot about my own temperament in the process.

In this unique book, Brandilyn Collins shares seven secrets used by method actors to steal the show. For each of the actor’s techniques, she provides a practical adaptation for writers, and plenty of examples from classic and contemporary fiction.

Following the lessons in her book will not only grow your writing as a novelist, it will bring life to your non-fiction work as well.

Raise the curtains on this amazing book when you’re ready for your characters to take on a life of their own?