Saturday, December 28, 2013

In the Footsteps of the Inklings: Some Thoughts on Critique Groups

I’ve been wanting to write this post for over a week now. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten much writing of any kind done lately. The new notebook that I have continued Raiders’ Rise in sits near my bed, begging me to use it and reminding me that Chapter 21 is almost done. But things keep intruding. I just finished this awesome trilogy by Pamela Aidan called Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman. It managed to draw me away from my writing more than once. If you like Pride and Prejudice, I would highly suggest it to you. And then there was Christmas shopping, present wrapping, errand running, and, of course, Christmas. Oh well. I did write a book for my little brother as his Christmas present, so, technically, I have written something.

Anyway, now that my life is updated, let’s move on. I’ve been thinking a lot about critique groups and partners over the past couple of weeks, thanks in part to this post and its follow-up on The Writers Alley, an awesome blog full of neat writing tips. And, in considering the idea of a critique group, I thought of the Inklings. For those of you who do not know, the Inklings were a club started in the 1930’s in Oxford, England by J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. It was composed of several writers, along with a diverse set of Lewis’ friends. They met at “The Eagle and Child” tavern or in Lewis’ rooms at Oxford to discuss any number of topics, including writing. Though it was not a critique group, per se, I still draw some thoughts from the Inklings.

  1. Members of a critique group should be friends. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were close friends before they ever started the Inklings. Tolkien helped bring Lewis back to Christianity. And, as mentioned, most of the members of the Inklings were Lewis’ friends. His doctor, lawyer and brother all attended the meetings. Many of the members had fought in WWI, like Tolkien and Lewis. What this says to me is that they would have had a healthy respect for each other and a genuine desire to see good come to them. While I know it’s possible to critique someone’s work without being close friends with them, I would think that, with an ongoing endeavor, friends would understand you and give their advice in love.
  2. Honesty is required. J.R.R. Tolkien read many excerpts of The Lord of the Rings at meetings of the Inklings, and C.S. Lewis, in particular, was quite brutally honest about his opinion. In fact, the two often disagreed on each other’s works. But they were looking for the best way to improve the writing of the other. In fact, Lewis wasn’t always tough on his friend. If I remember correctly, he was moved to tears by “The Choices of Master Samwise”, and he told Tolkien that. Honesty – though honesty cushioned by praise is recommended – is essential to a good critique partner/group.
  3. You don’t always have to talk about writing. The Inklings discussed topics as varied as their members. They had many interests that bound them together. And I think they benefitted by not being so pinpoint focused on writing all the time. Sometimes the best thing for writers is to talk about or do something completely unrelated to their profession.
  4. Successful writing requires opinions besides your own. The very point of a critique partner or group is that more than one opinion can be fed into a work. Honestly, the impact of someone’s input can’t be measured. But just imagine, for a moment, what Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia might have been without the critiques of the Inklings. Tolkien and Lewis were both literary geniuses, but would their stories have impacted the world the same way if they hadn’t been a part of the Inklings? No one could truly say. Yet I think the Inklings must have been integral to their writing, if only in morale. I know that my writing certainly benefits when I get others’ thoughts on it.
I used to be part of an online writing forum where I was able to engage and receive critiques. It was rewarding for me to help others by giving input, and gaining their thoughts was extremely helpful for me in writing my first book. This next year, I want to look into finding a critique partner or becoming part of a critique group. What about you all? How do you view critique groups/partners?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Faith–Trusting God in Everything

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1

If you’ve spent much time in church, then you’ve probably heard this verse before. It’s one of those things we quote regularly and put on home decorations. The concept is so integral to our lives as Christians. Faith. Such a simple word. Yet we continually forget to apply it.

I have a copy of Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, and, though I’m bad at reading it consistently, I’ve found a great deal of wisdom within its pages. Today’s entry pointed me to the verse I quoted above. Well, after I read it, I continued to read on through the rest of the chapter. It’s really an amazing passage of Scripture. It goes through the patriarchs, detailing their acts of faith. And, honestly, even though I know all these stories, the recounting of their faith is remarkable! Abraham wandered for years, trusting in God’s Promised Land. Moses’ parents trusted in God to protect their child from Pharaoh. Moses’ faith freed a nation from slavery. Rahab hid two spies, trusting that God would save her.

Hebrews 11 is like a breathing, chanting proclamation of faith and God’s power. It’s awesome! And reading it jolted me with energy. Lately, I’ve been rather lackadaisical about trusting God. In the back of my mind, it’s been a “Yes, I trust God.” But I haven’t been applying it. My faith has been missing actions.  And I’ve missed the excitement and certainty that faith brings.

Sanctus Real has an excellent song that inspires me to have more faith, and so does Kutless. I’ve posted both of them below.

The other thing that really caught my attention during today’s Jesus Calling entry was this:
“Spend time allowing My Light to infuse your dreams with life, gradually transforming them into reality. This is a very practical way of of collaborating with Me. I, the Creator of the universe, have deigned to to cocreate with you. Do not try to hurry this process.”
Well, I don’t know about you, but this immediately made me think of my writing. God gave me all the stories that are welling up inside of me. He infused me with the ability to put words together in a pleasing manner. He is the Author of both my story, as a whole, and of the stories I create. Yet I don’t always let Him in to co-create with me. How can I be achieving the best story if I’m not letting the Designer of that story work through me?

This has been poking at me a little bit recently, anyway. But now I realize that I can’t be the storyteller I’m supposed to be without God’s involvement in everything. This isn’t my show; it’s His. And I have to trust that He knows what He’s doing. Writing is one of my dreams, but I can’t hold onto it with a tight fist. He will fulfill in His way and His time. I just have to trust.

What about you? Are you living your life with faith? And are you giving Him your dreams to fulfill as He sees fit?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

You Know You’re a Writer When…

In general, I don't do tags, because, while there are some clever tags out there, I don’t think they fit the vision I have for my blog. It's hard for me to enjoy them when they refer to books and characters I know nothing about. So, if I’ve been tagged by one of you and haven’t followed through on it, I apologize. I'm sure you had fun with it, but I don’t see it as something for me. 

However, I came up with a fun idea (at least in my mind) recently for a tag, and I wanted to share it with all of you. I have a couple of aims with this. 1) I’m hoping that it will be a good way to increase traffic on multiple blogs, and 2) It should increase the feeling of community among those of us who are writers. I’ve seen and participated in many of these lists before, but I’ve never seen it as a blog tag.

So, without further ado, I present: “You Know You’re a Writer When…”
  1. You must link back to the blog on which you first found the tag. This will hopefully accomplish the increased traffic that I mentioned.
  2. In your post, give 4 to 6 things that you do that are pretty unique to writers as a breed.
  3. You can’t use the same things as someone else as already posted. Get creative, people!
You know you're a writer when…
  1. You maintain that your characters consistently do things you didn’t plan. Non-writers usually look at you like you should be on your way to the insane asylum for saying this.
  2. You choose to write while your favorite TV shows are on. NaNoWriMo  increased my tendency to do this.
  3. You get some inkling of a plot idea from nearly everything anyone says.
  4. You’re tempted to induce various emotions in your loved ones just to figure out correct descriptions for those emotions.
  5. You draw characters, places, clothing and maps even when you have very little artistic ability. Drawing clothing from Raiders’ Rise was one of my distractions during NaNo. *sigh* I’m not terrible at maps, though. Hehe.
Feel free to do this even if you’re not tagged.

Now, I’ll tag:
Liv at
Leinad at
Jag Swiftstorm at
Jake at
and Rayne Speryll at
Go forth and indulge your eccentricities, my friends! Winking smile

Writing Quote