Why Writers Need Critique Groups

Attend a writers’ conference or read a book on craft and you’ll receive this advice: “If you’re serious about writing, join a critique group.”

Critique Group Benefits

The first time I heard this I thought, You want me to let someone read my writing and tell me it’s drivel?  No thanks, I can figure that out on my own.

The truth is, I can’t figure it out on my own. I have blind spots. And I have no way of knowing how others will perceive my words.

Maybe your pendulum swings to the opposite end of the spectrum and you think, I know how to write. I don’t need anyone telling me where to put commas or that my protagonist lacks dimension.

So, why do writers need each other?

Here are some benefits a critique group provides:

Useful Feedback

As writers the only feedback we receive comes in the form of acceptance letters or rejection notices. By the time we receive either, we’ve invested a lot of time, effort and emotion creating our article or manuscript. Critique group members point out our strengths and weaknesses before we send anything out. Then we can fix any problems and increase our acceptances.

I’d much rather hear from my writer friends that I need to work out some bugs in my writing than have it rejected by a publisher.

 

Insight into the Craft

Our writers are serious about learning the craft. And they bring unique knowledge and skills to each manuscript. This results in a steep increase in knowledge and skills for each writer.

I have learned more from my critique partners than I have through books or workshops.

 

Emotional and Spiritual Support

Writing is hard, and often lonely work. Meeting regularly with other writers provides camaraderie and encouragement we miss if we choose to be lone-ranger writers. Our group members pray for each other and our projects.

We commiserate when our work is rejected. And sharing the journey with other writers makes the joys more joyful as we celebrate our victories.

 

Learning About the Publishing Industry

The world of publishing is changing fast. In order to stay up with the changes, our writers stay plugged in through industry publications, blogs, tweets, Facebook and conferences. We share information we gather and help each other understand the big picture and how we fit into it.

 

Accountability

I don’t know about you, but I need deadlines. Meeting regularly with my critique group provides them.

These are just a few of the benefits of critique groups. I’m sure you could add to this list. Let me know how your critique group helps you.

Not in a group yet? You can get connected by submitting a Critique Group Interest Form and one of our leaders will help you get plugged in.

Elizabeth M. Thompson leads Inspire Christian Writers. When she’s not working on nonfiction projects, she can be found pedaling beside or paddling along the American River. She enjoys connecting with other writers via Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

She has an active home which she shares with her fabulous husband Mike, three children, two dogs and a few errant dust bunnies.

Writer Under Construction

When I began to write seriously, I knew I had a lot to learn about the craft. I also knew I would need to grow in my knowledge of the publishing industry. What I didn’t expect was that God would use my passion for writing to build my character. I am His project, even as I pursue my writing projects.

God is using my writing journey to redefine me. And build my character.

Some of the tools in His tool belt are:

 

Harsh Critiques and Rejections

Yes, I get them too. We all do. It’s what we do with them that matters. We can dig in our heels and become rigid or we can prayerfully remain pliable in our Master Builder’s hands. I have to keep my pride in check to remain teachable.

 

Praise

Praise can be such a trap! It is easy for me to begin to think I’m pretty special when people speak kindly of me and my work. God gently reminds me I am nothing without Him. He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3:30

 

Difficult People

As a writer, I encounter lots of people. Writers mostly, and some agents, editors, bloggers, and readers. I love people and generally get along well with others (I have my kindergarten report card to prove it!) Every once in a while God puts someone in my path who grates on me. Usually, these people exhibit character traits I see in myself and don’t like. I learn to love better through those who are harder to love.

 

Waiting, Waiting and More Waiting

The publishing industry moves at a glacial pace. Each step toward publication is painstakingly protracted. I can’t remain impatient and survive as a writer. God is teaching me patience.

 

Fear

As an artist, fear is my foe! But it also is a great teacher along my spiritual journey, showing me areas I need growth, God. My fears of rejection, failure, success, exposure, and obscurity can stop me in my tracks. God uses these fears to remind me that He is greater. He can break their fetters and free me to write vulnerably in the face of them. My job is to bring my trembling heart to Him. And to persevere even when I’m afraid.

Maybe these tools look all too familiar to you. Or maybe, God uses different means to shape your character through your writing journey. I’d love to hear what you’re learning. How you’re growing.

Elizabeth M. Thompson leads Inspire Christian Writers. When she’s not writing devotionals, she’s studying the art and craft of fiction with her Inspire Elk Grove group. She enjoys connecting with other writers via Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

She has an active home which she shares with her fabulous husband Mike, three children, two dogs and a few errant dust bunnies.

Courage to be Still: A Prayer of Contentment in the Wait

By Xochi Dixon

Prayer on the beach

“I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.” Psalm 130:5, NIV

 

Thank You, Lord, for those seasons of waiting through which You reveal Your grace and immeasurable love for us.

 

Help us remember Your sovereign goodness, depend on Your faithfulness of character, and rejoice in Your constant presence.

 

When waiting is hard, remind us that You’re never late.

 

When waiting is wearing us out, show us if we’re trying to do things in our own strength instead of allowing You to empower and equip us.

 

When waiting is lonely, give us courage to be still as You brush burdens off our shoulders and into Your capable hand.

 

Keep our eyes on the glory of the cross when the wait seems endless.

 

Bless us with peace and contentment that reflects our hope in You, not our circumstances.

 

Thank You for loving us too much to rush Your perfect plan for our lives.

 

You alone are worthy of our praise, Abba. We trust You.

 

In Jesus’ name, Amen

What is your greatest struggle when you are in a season of waiting? How has the Lord helped you to persevere?

Michael Hyatt’s Platform Launch Team

Last week I was selected as a member of Michael Hyatt’s Platform Launch Team. Along with an incredible group of writers, speakers, bloggers and other leaders, I am helping to launch his new book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World.

If you are not already following Michael Hyatt’s blog, you really should. He blogs about intentional leadership, productivity, publishing, and social media. He is the Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishing and served as CEO until he chose to step down to pursue his writing and speaking full-time. He generously shares his experience and expertise on his blog and in his book.

Over the past several years, I have watched as Michael grew his platform to over 400,000 monthly blog readers and 122,000 Twitter followers.

When he asked his readers to apply for a spot on his launch team, over 900 of us did. Imagine having 900 people who want to help you launch your book!

Only 100 were selected. As a part of his team, I received an advance copy of Platform, which I read and reviewed on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and ChristianBook.com.

The launch team members have been sharing notes and reviews with each other while we brainstorm ways to improve our own platforms. We are also learning directly from Michael. So far, it has been a powerful experience.

I am getting an education in both building a platform and launching a book. I’m excited about the impact this education will have for Inspire as I implement what I’m learning.

As a writer, you will need to build a platform, too. I highly recommend Michael’s book as the blueprint for creating the platform you need to get your message, your book in front of people where it can minister to them.

Platform will be released the week of May 21st. But don’t buy it yet! Michael is offering seven free bonus gifts valued at $375 when you purchase the book during the release week. I will blogging more about this next week, so stay tuned!

What has been your biggest challenge in building your own platform? What unexpected blessings have come from building your platform?

Elizabeth M. Thompson leads Inspire Christian Writers. When she’s not writing devotionals, she’s studying the art and craft of fiction with her Inspire Elk Grove group. She enjoys connecting with other writers via Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

She has an active home which she shares with her fabulous husband, three children, two dogs and a few errant dust bunnies.

Inspire Member Spotlight: Danie Marie

How long have you been a member of Inspire Christian Writers?

Hmm, tricky question, because I count myself as having joined twice, the first before you had official membership. After about a year in the group, I took a two year hiatus due to working with someone on copy edits for both my short novel and current full length novel. Seeing as how my novel still needs a lot of work, I recently joined again.

 

What prompted you to join Inspire?

Knowing that iron sharpens iron and the value of being in such a group, and how it increases the learning curve, after hearing about Inspire from Chris Pedersen at church, I started attending the El Dorado Hills group facilitated by Joanne Kraft. No disappointment there, Inspire was just what I needed. I’m ecstatic to be back and love the group of gals in our group. But I’ll really miss Joanne!

 

When did you first know you were a writer?

That first inkling came while in Jr. High. My English teacher gave us an assignment to write a poem and I got an A. She posted said poem on the bulletin board for parents’ night. Then in high school, another English teacher had us write a short story, my first. We all had questions about how you go about it, and she said something to the effect, “Take a situation from life, real or imagined, and think, ‘what if’ such and such were to happen, and write a story.”

I got an ‘A’ and not only that, she read my story to the class. I remember Gary sitting next to me asking, “How’d you do that?” I shrugged my shoulders and said, “I don’t know, I just did what she said.”

The teacher urged my parents to get me to take journalism in college. Go ahead and laugh … I had no idea what journalism was. And I had no inclination to go to college. To shorten an already long story, let’s just say, while laid up with a badly broken ankle (a whole month!) in my forties, I felt the Lord calling me to write for Him. Shortly after, a friend told me about a writing correspondence course through Long Ridge Writers Group. I took the test and they accepted me into their program. I’ve since graduated two of their courses.

It must’ve been during the first course that I realized I was a writer. Sounds like I’m talking about the first course of a meal…

 

Describe your writing career high point and low point.

My career high happened at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in 2010. I pitched Kellen’s Hope to Rachel Kent with Books and Such Literary Agency and she asked me to send her the complete manuscript and synopsis. Career low point, when I could no longer concentrate to write due to fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. To learn more about that story, you’ll have to read “What to do with Those Lemons” in the new Inspire Trust anthology.

 

How did you react when you received your first acceptance or publication?

Bubbling over with joy! My first is in Inspire Trust, which just became available. I pray those who read my story (as well as the others stories) will be … well, inspired, encouraged and uplifted by the greatness of our God.

What project of yours is gathering dust?

I’ve heard writer’s say your first novel is trash—good learning ground—but I believe my first story has merit, and with a lot of work, could be publishable.

 

What’s next for you?

I’m still reworking Kellen’s Hope, but I also started a sequel. I’m not sure if I have enough to make it work, so we’ll see. I’m also attending the Christian Communicators Conference this summer in hopes of launching my speaking ministry.

 

What does it mean to you to be a writer?

It’s a privilege, a high calling to write for the Master Creator. Wow! And how wonderful that He not only calls and equips, but the joy I receive in the process. I can hardly find the words to describe how it makes me feel.

I hope to make a difference with my novels by creating a world that reins my readers in and causes them to care about the characters, to evoke emotions that leave them breathless, whether anger, joy or tears—to touch their hearts. But most of all, to tell a compelling story with nuggets of truth scattered throughout in hopes that God will use it in some way to affect them on a spiritual level.

Writing a story that captivates a reader’s heart is a wonderful process, but it takes perseverance, hard work and many rewrites. I’ve learned to love the process. Tightening and finding just the right word, and making a sentence sing, is a joy. And having the Holy Spirit as a writing partner is awesome.

I’ve often come to the end of a scene and didn’t know where to go next. After talking to Him, not more than a few minutes later I have an idea. We serve an incredible God!

 

Was there a book that changed your life?

Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness opened my eyes in a deeper way to the workings in the spiritual realm. I wanted to write that kind of story even before I felt the call to write. My short novel Where Darkness Dwells is along those lines. I also love Oswald Chambers’ devotional My Utmost for His Highest, which brought deeper insight into scripture and increased my faith. It brought more depth in my walk with the Lord.

 

Describe your writing environment. Or better yet, include a photo.

I’m blessed to have two writing environments, but I’ll only share a photo of my home writing space. The other, where I now am, is our condo on Bainbridge Island, WA. I’m sitting at the kitchen table facing the windows enjoying a lovely view on this clear, crisp, sunny day. I love my home space, too. Outside past the patio and grass to the right is our Koi pond and straight back beyond the lawn, above two terraces on the hill, a grand 150 year old black oak rests. We built our dream home, a country Victorian, on 1.2 acres almost ten years ago on a deer trail.

Last week while online, I looked out the window and saw a doe laying on our lower lawn not more than a foot and a half from our porch chewing her cud. It wasn’t until a couple days later I went out to feed the Koi and saw that she had nipped off almost all the flowers on my potted plants, the little darling.

 

What is the best writing advice you have ever received?

Linda Hall, my first writing instructor, said, “Lose the Christian jargon and don’t write down to your readers.” It took awhile before I got what she meant, but I’ve gained a better understanding. I don’t want to lose readers because of Christianese, a language they won’t get if they haven’t been raised in the Church.

You can visit Danie Marie on Facebook or on her blog, Danie Marie’s Musings.