How Writing Is Like Exercising

30881166_s

The cell phone alarm beeps me into consciousness at 5:20 am. Yes, it’s o-dark-thirty and I’m waking up to go to spin class. Why? That’s a great question. Every day I ask myself the same thing.

Spinning is the equivalent of being forced to walk uphill for sixty miles, through the two feet of snow, barefoot.

Circuit training is on the days when I don’t spin. Lifting weights is like, well, lifting weights. They’re heavy. ‘Nuff said.

Writing is a lot like working out. I love it, and I hate it. It’s difficult to get started, but I feel much better when I’ve done it. Like exercising, writing is a discipline.

Here are some things I’ve discovered through my writing journey:

It takes time. When I began writing in 2008, I didn’t know ‘come here’ from ‘sic-em.’ I needed to learn the craft, study, and practice. Getting better is a long discipline. As in life, I didn’t put on the twenty-five pounds overnight, so they aren’t going to burn away in a year.

It takes a tribe. There’s a core group of women who go to the same gym I do. We encourage each other when we’re flagging, we nag each other into coming back, we follow up when someone has missed more than a couple of days. A few years ago, I discovered the Inspire Christian Writers critique group that meets in Sacramento. We not only help spur one another to be better writers, we’ve become close friends.

It takes discipline. Some writers like word count goals, others page or chapter goals. I write a little differently. I sit down at my computer almost every night, setting my timer for twenty minutes. When the timer dings, I get up and stretch, or get a snack. Then I set the timer for another twenty minutes. Often I’ll find myself ignoring the timer. When I feel like I’m done for the night, I’m done. Sometimes I only write for that first twenty minutes. It’s the same with working out. Without the drive to get healthy, lose weight, or stay fit, it doesn’t happen with discipline.

It takes a good instructor. My spin and workout instructor tells me when I’m lifting incorrectly. He helps me make subtle adjustments to my posture. He reminds me to keep my shoulders down when I’m on the spin bike. In writing, it’s crucial to read books on the craft. Writing conferences are a fabulous place to learn from the best of the best. Take notes, make one-on-one appointments, and make the adjustments so that you can improve and grow.

How do you stay motivated to write every day? Join the conversation in our comments section.

JaneJane Daly is the author of Because of Grace (Hallway Publishing, Feb. 2015). She lives in Citrus Heights with her husband, Mike, and a very spoiled cat named Phoebe. Jane writes fiction and nonfiction.

 

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.

10 Reasons to Join Inspire Christian Writers

When I was first introduced to Inspire Christian Writers, I was amazed at how they invited me into the fold, encouraging and supporting me in ways I never imagined possible.

During my first meeting as a member, seven writers met around a table, joined by one writer via Skype, to plan and implement a marketing plan for the 2011 Write to Inspire conference.

After brainstorming, sharing tasks, and praying together, we were equipped to serve as one body glorifying our amazing Savior.

Although I could probably list 100 reasons, I’ve narrowed my list down to 10 reasons to join Inspire Writers.

(Reasons 5-10 were adapted from the Inspire Member Benefits page)

 

10. Members can attend free workshops and receive discounts on Inspire-hosted seminars and conferences, as well as negotiated discounts on select major Christian writer’s conferences.

9. Members enjoy free access to the Inspire Lending Library, which includes writer’s resource books, magazines, and CD’s from past conferences.

8. Members receive marketing support, which includes help promoting books and organizing book signings.

7. Members have access to the Inspire Advisory Board, which is made up of leaders in the Christian publishing industry.

6. Members have networking support and will have their personal bio and links posted on the Inspire website.

5. Members are published in the Inspire Annual Anthology, and will receive one free copy of the book, upon publication.

4. Knowing that God created us to grow in community, Inspire members create a nurturing environment of encouragement, support, learning, accountability, and prayer.

3. Inspire members create a sense of belonging and appreciate God’s unique design, investing in   the body of Christ and building-up fellow members as they live out Ephesians 4:16.

2. Inspire members understand the writing journey, much like our spiritual journey, was never intended to be walked alone.

1. Inspire writers can tell you it’s more fun to hone our craft and work to achieve our dreams when we serve alongside gifted writers who honor God, first and foremost, and are not obsessed with competition.

 “As individuals, we have been saved for life-giving relationships within kingdom of God communities, not merely for privatized walks with Jesus. We become our true selves only in community, exercising our gifts and learning to receive the gifts of others.” (Timothy Gombis, Christianity Today, July 2011)

Join Inspire Christian Writers today, and start experiencing the power of a healthy and holy Christian writing community as God molds us into the writers He created us to be!

Join now to become a member!

Xochi (pronounced so-she) Dixon is an author, speaker, and Bible teacher who loves Jesus and digging into God’s Word. She lives in Fairfield, CA with her hubby, Alan, their teenage son, Xavier, and their doggy-daughter, Jazzy. She enjoys amusement parks, baseball games and reading. Currently working toward a BA in Christian Ministry through Regent University, Xochi serves within the Youth Ministry at First Baptist Church of Vacaville. She writes Teen Fiction, Non-Fiction for women and teens, poetry and devotions.

 

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.