I’ve found it useful over the years to get feedback on my Christian fiction from those who don’t believe as I do. Some writers may have similar beliefs, but not the same. Others might have opposing views. Either way, how they react is helpful.
If a non-Christian doesn’t “get” something spiritual I wrote, is it the general concept that’s a stumbling block? I’ve had a non-Christians say, “Believing in God is like believing in Tinkerbell.” That person won’t understand my character’s reliance on Him. Or was I too “churchy” in my writing? I can’t change someone’s basic beliefs, but I can make sure that what I write is as clear as I can make it. Or a Christian from another background may point out where I’m being too specific to my local body’s interpretation of scripture.
We’ve all read the stories where the characters are “too good.” Or they spout Bible quotes for every situation. Real people aren’t like that. Even the “best” Christians I know have flaws and aren’t a living Bible reference book. We need to give our characters flaws and make them believable. Let them make mistakes, too. This all helps them be relatable.
But what if you don’t know where to start to get feedback? First, search for Christian Writer organizations/groups in your locale. If there is one, visit the group’s website and meetings. They may offer critique hookups. Check secular writing organizations in your area, especially if you write in a specific genre such as romance, sci-fi/fantasy, or children’s writing. You may find national groups and then look for local chapters. Meeting others has been the best way for me to get involved with others to exchange critiques.
If you can’t find a writers group, or the one in your area doesn’t work for you, check out online groups. Here’s a few I’ve found with the caveat that I cannot vouch personally for or against any of these:
Christian Women Critique Partners and Beta Readers on Facebook
Christian Writers finding-a-critique-group.html
One I’ve joined recently on Facebook is Christian Writers Support Group.
(Earlier this year I wrote another post on finding critique groups. You can read it here.)
But back to the why of getting feedback. I’m seen too many writers who say, “God told me to write this story/book.” They seem to think that means not working on what they write. Learning craft, editing, revising, feedback, and more revising are all steps on making our writing the best it can be so we can honor God with the finished product.
Why did you decide to become a writer?
I met a scriptwriter after I graduated high school who inspired me to write for television. The first script that I wrote was for a Christian television series. This was in the mid-80s. Back then, as you can imagine, there weren’t very many places to submit a script like that. In the early 90s, a friend suggested that I try writing my stories as books instead. I called my writing a hobby for about 25 years before I had the courage to submit to a publisher.
Do you have authors who inspired you to write? If so, whom?
I remember when I first started writing, I read books by Catherine Marshall, Robin Jones Gunn and Robin Hardy. I have memories of finishing some of those books and feeling inspired to keep writing!
What genre(s) do you write and what made you choose it(them)?
I write inspirational romance and I don’t feel like I chose it as much as it happened to be where my writing fit in. For me, it’s just how the story comes out.
What kinds of classes, workshops, organizations, groups helped you learn the craft of writing?
Most of my learning has been through reading and online resources. Since it’s only been a few years since I started treating writing as more than just a hobby, I’m still discovering all that’s out there!
Do you belong to a critique group? If so, how often do you meet?
I do not, but I would love to find one!
Tell us about your first publication experience.
I submitted my story, Season of Hope, to Clean Reads on my birthday in June of 2016. In September, I received an email with a contract attached. It was a moment I’m sure that I will never forget!
What’s one tip you’d share with other writers? It can be a practical how to tip or an inspirational/encouragement tip.
I think my best tip is to keep writing because you love it and because you know you have stories to tell. It’s so easy to get sidetracked or discouraged. Just make up your mind that you’re going to keep telling your stories.
Please share your most recent book title and the opening line.
Season of Deception
Amanda Jarvis watched the numbers above the elevator counting downward, her vision blurred by tears.
Buy Link: http://a.co/0uzL7B7
Sara Jane Jacobs lives life Coram Deo* along the Emerald Coast of Florida with her cat, Selah (and Selah’s adorable offspring, Colby, Jack and Tuesday). She enjoys being with family and pretty much anything that involves the great outdoors. One of her favorite ways to relax is spending the day with her grandsons, Noah and Elias. She lives a short drive from the beach and considers frequent trips to put her feet in the sand a necessary part of routine health maintenance.
*Notes from SM Ford:
I had to look up what Coram Deo meant—“in the presence of God.” Nice, huh? Here’s a link to more info about the phrase: http://faithsunansweredquestions.blogspot.com/2010/02/coram-deo.html
I love the description in Sara’s bio about “frequent trips to put her feet in the sand a necessary part of routine health maintenance.” I don’t live close enough to the ocean to do that often, but agree.
It can happen when life is very stressful, or as recently when I read three really great books in a row. Two authors were young. One was so young she had success before I even started writing seriously. Or when both things—stress and comparison—happen at the same time. The thought hits me, maybe I should quit writing. Sometimes, it’s followed by voices saying things such as, “You fool. Why did you ever think you could do this?” Or “Shouldn’t you get a real job?”
On the down day (or period) my thoughts go to negatives such as the royalties on that book aren’t doing well, that agent hasn’t responded on the requested material, the other agent rejected the requested material with no comments, none of my high school teachers ever encouraged me to be a writer despite good grades in English, etc., etc. etc.
On a good day (or period) I counter those thoughts. This book may not be doing very well, but the next one will do better. Publishing is a very subjective business—it’s not finding every agent who loves my stuff, but one. My high school teachers didn’t encourage me to do anything. Someone who had that encouragement was very fortunate.
But God has been very good to me. I may not be a very successful writer monetarily, but every single time I think about quitting, I get encouragement. This time, it was two things:
One, a writer whom I’d worked with before contacted me yesterday and asked me to critique some of her work. She paid me my asking rate before I finished my edits and letters. Doing the line by line editing and offering advice reminded me of what I do know. I can help other writers.
Two, this morning I woke up to a messenger notice from another writer friend. She didn’t know I was down. The image used in this post came from her with no comments. If you haven’t read the text on the image yet, go read it now. (And here’s where it’s from: http://kriscarr.com/blog/inspiring-prayer-for-trailblazers/. You’ll see two bonuses if you follow the link: a video and downloadable wallpaper.) Isn’t it perfect?
Yes, life right now is stressful. Yes, there are better writers out there than me. But we each have our own path and I must do the best I can. How about you?
Why did you decide to become a writer? I started out by wanting to chronicle real life events, so one of my first published memoirs was a short story about learning to cook from my mother. Once some of my short stories got published, I got bitten by the writing bug and just had to move on to writing novels.
Do you have authors who inspired you to write? If so, whom? I grew up reading LITTLE WOMEN and the ANNE OF GREEN GABLES stories. They were so real and full of heart with real-life family relationships.
What genre(s) do you write and what made you choose it(them)? I feel like I’ve found my niche in funny MG, historical YA and historical romance. My stories are about families, relationships, and the main characters having to overcome obstacles, and sometimes deal with difficult people, to try to fulfill their hopes and dreams. So, while fictitious, my stories tend to mimic real-life.
What kinds of classes, workshops, organizations, groups helped you learn the craft of writing? I took college level writing courses when I was first starting out. I’ve also depended upon countless critique partners to help me hone my craft. Reading books about writing hasn’t hurt either.
Do you belong to a critique group? If so, how often do you meet? I’ve been in several online critique groups where each person submits a chapter a month.
Tell us about your first break into print experience. I entered a contest in a magazine and my short story was one of the finalists so it was published in the magazine and I got a small payment. I think I photo-copied the check and I still have a copy of the magazine from back in 2000.
What’s one tip you’d share with other writers? You must be in it for the long haul and be patient with yourself as you make mistakes and grow as a writer. Very few authors got where they are quickly. It is a process. Sometimes a very slow process. It’s like becoming a trained athlete or musician.
Please share your most recent book title and the opening line.
Oops-a-Daisy, my humorous MG, was just released on September 5th.
“Okay, so I was standing in the middle of a television studio about to shoot my first commercial. Woohoo!”
BIO: Melody Delgado has been a published writer since 2000. Her recent novel, ROYALLY ENTITLED, won a 2017 Readers’ Favorite award in the category of Historical Christian Romance. It is the first book in the Brides of Brevalia series. Her humorous middle-grade novel for children 8-12, is the first in the series called The De La Cruz diaries. She lives in Florida with her husband and children where she enjoys taking long walks along the beach.
Melody’s website is http://www.melodydelgado.com and you can find her on twitter at https://twitter.com/Melody_Delgado_
Pleonasm, defined – the use of more words than necessary to make a point.
You may recognize some of these redundant phrases and combinations of words that I find vexatious. They may annoy editors, too.
“Fiction novel” – um, a novel is fiction, so this is like saying “frozen ice cube.” Conversely, a melted ice cube thins my soda.
“Nonfiction article” – since an article is by definition nonfiction, why add the redundant adjective? I’ve seen true story, which makes sense as the word story is more ambiguous.
“Unexpected surprise” – aren’t surprises unexpected intrinsically? If they were expected, they wouldn’t be a surprise.
“Past history” – isn’t all history by definition in the past?
“He thought to himself” – who else can he think to?
“She said to me” – if we’re the only two in the conversation, who else would she say it to?
Here’s a list of more pleonasms, http://www.wordfocus.com/pleonasm.html, but if you have some favorites that bug you, feel free to share in the comments.
Overused cliché – clichés by nature are overused phrases.
You can find lists of these so I won’t go on. But what about these types of sayings?
Oxymorons - figures of speech with apparently contradictory terms
“Authentic replica” – how can it be authentic if it’s a replica?
“Invited guest” – it’s more interesting as an uninvited guest.
“Cash money” – I’d find it easier to simply say cash.
“White milk” – of course, it’s white! But I know people used it to differentiate from chocolate milk. Plain milk would make more sense if you have to have an adjective.
Here’s a fun site with lots of oxymorons. Although, I don’t agree with all.
And these aren’t usually considered oxymorons, however, do they really mean what we want to say?
“I honestly think” – what? Usually you’re dishonest?
“To be honest” – ditto.
“Frankly” – ditto
Anyone know what these are called? Or is oxymoron good enough?
Overuse of “As”
My critique group calls me the “As Nazi” since I notice when this simple two letter word is overused. Sometimes, writers simply need to use “when,” “while” or “and.” Other times, rephrasing the sentence is better or we might break the one sentence into two. I think we want to show things happening simultaneously, but since one can’t read both sections of a sentence simultaneously, how often is it needed?
See how tiring it can get:
I petted the cat as he jumped up onto the afghan in my lap. As he kneaded the blanket, I pushed on his body so he’d lay down. As the waves of contentment oozed from the cat as I petted him, my dog whined with jealousy. As my husband walked into the room, he laughed. “I’m the servant,” he said “and you’re the petter.” As if to prove his point, the dog pushed her muzzle under my arm. I petted her with my left hand as I petted the cat with my right.
I might have gotten a bit excessive with my “as”es in this example, but when I’m critiquing stories or guiding students, I often see an overabundance.
Overused Words Specific to the Writer
There’s a well-published writer that both my husband and I read. This author’s favorite verb is “eased.” If there was a way to count how many times it was used in his novels, I’d find that interesting.
Do you notice overused words in a body of work? If so, share the words—but not the author—in the comments.
And if there are other writing overages that irritate you, I’d like to hear about them as well.
SM Ford writes inspirational fiction for adults, although teens may find the stories of interest, too. She also loves assisting other writers on their journeys.