Monday, January 28, 2019

Three Ways for Writers to Grow a Thick Skin


This week's post is by writer and editor Yolanda Smith. We are excited to have her join the Write Editing team.


By Yolanda Smith

Recently, a client of mine sent a few short pieces for edit work. In her email she said, “I am pretty thick-skinned and appreciate your honest feedback, corrections, and edits.” The most successful writers I know have this trait in common: they’ve developed a thick skin.

Perhaps you were born with a steely personality, but if that isn’t you, here are three practices that will help you form a thick skin:

Separate Yourself from Your Work

You are not your work. Your writing is an extension of you, much like a limb or digit. If one of your appendages were severed—God forbid—it wouldn’t fundamentally change who you are. Writing is personal, and part of our essence leaks into our work, but after we’ve sweated and bled all over the page, our core self remains intact.

A tough critique is not a slam on your personality. It’s an opportunity to learn how to maneuver through criticism, deciding what to use and what to reject. Learn to wield objective analyzation like a skilled swordsman, slicing away input that doesn’t work for you, and keeping the voices that ring true.

Carry Determination in Your Back Pocket

Hold your manuscript loosely, but don’t lose sight of your end goals. Bulldog tenacity is a necessary component of a successful writing career. Fiery determination—and a bucket full of prayer—will carry you beyond hurtful situations. Be aware difficult and dark moments will worm their way into your creative life, but set your eyes on the prize and don’t let go for any reason other than a divine change of direction. Sometimes I write myself a reminder before submitting a piece of work and put it in a prominent place where I can see it when I receive a response: Remember, this acceptance or rejection will not make or break you. You may cheer or you may cry, but both are momentary reactions. Take a few breaths to enjoy your celebration or wallow in your sorrow, then get back to work.

Get a Second Opinion

And sometimes a third and fourth. Early in my current manuscript I worked with a writing coach. She’s a best-selling author and award-winning editor. In other words, she knows her stuff. My novel is historical Appalachian fiction and as such contains dialect peculiar to mountain folk. I took a chapter to a critique group where a few well-meaning writers advised me to scale back the hillbilly idioms. I followed their suggestions. When I sent my next round of chapters to my coach, she asked what had happened to my writing voice. I lost it by following the recommendation of writers barely ahead of me in their craft. I gave too much weight to their assessment and was thankful to get another opinion that felt more authentic to my story line.

Here’s a bonus element for gaining the tough hide necessary to persevere in your writing life: submissions. Submit anywhere and everywhere you can, thereby opening yourself to criticism. You’re bound to find plenty of opportunities to grow beyond the pain, and your thick skin will layer at a solid rate, I promise.

Have you developed a thick skin as a writer? If so, we'd love to hear your suggestions.

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Michelle Meiklejohn, and Stuart Miles.)



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Yolanda Smith enjoys life in the foothills of North Carolina. In a “Yours, Mine & Ours” spin, she and her husband are parents to a combined total of twelve children and grandparents to a growing number of littles. Yolanda serves on her church’s worship team, works as a freelance editor, is a guest speaker at various churches, and writes in the cracks of life. She is currently working on her first novel featuring historical Appalachian fiction. A former member of a legalistic, cultish church, Yolanda is passionate about helping people find freedom in Christ. She is also enthusiastic about reading good books and correcting bad grammar.


You can find Yolanda on the Internet at:





Monday, January 21, 2019

Writing is a Process, Not an Event


By Andrea Merrell

When I attended my first writers’ conference over ten years ago, I was certain my book was ready for publication. It was great. That’s what my family said, along with folks at church. Boy, were they wrong. And so was I. There was much to learn.

Thus, began my journey.

It took a year before my first devotion was published on www.ChristianDevotions.us, then several more years before my first nonfiction book was published, with two more to follow. In the meantime, I attended conferences and became a faithful member of a local critique group. I studied, took classes, read books on the craft, and built relationships with other writers and professionals in the industry.

There were pitfalls along the way—too many to mention—but I kept plugging along. My journey reminds me of a lively game of Candyland with my six-year-old granddaughter. She was almost to the finish line when she chose a card that sent her back to the beginning. “But I don’t wanna go back,” she whined.

That’s how I felt when I had to go back and make serious revisions to my novel. But no matter how many times I said “I don’t wanna,” it was necessary. It was part of the learning and growing process.

Sometimes the writing life feels like two steps forward, then three back. But when you have the heart of a writer—and you know that’s what God has called you to do—you keep on going no matter what. 

We must always keep our eye on the goal, but the key to true success and fulfillment is to learn to enjoy the journey. That means not allowing ourselves to stay stressed out and uptight when things don’t go exactly as we planned or in the time we expected. One writer says that “many of us look like we’re walking a tightrope  instead of a pathway of peace.”

That being said, if you’re called to be a writer, enjoy every moment of where you are on the way to where you’re going. This is important in God’s kingdom, because the destination He has in mind may be very different from the one we envision. We can waste precious now moments trying to rush into the future, ignoring or overlooking the blessings and opportunities that are given to us today.

Here are some wise words for 2019 from Chris Tiegreen: "No matter how stuck you feel at any given moment in life, God has opportunities planned for your future. That’s his nature. Approach this year as a year of open doors. You have complete freedom in God’s kingdom to do that, not because he follows the calendar but because he is always the God of open doors. (He does shut doors sometimes, but always in order to open another one sooner or later to put us in the right direction.) Live with expectancy that wherever you are now and whatever you’ve been through, this will be a year of experiencing his unfolding plans. He loves that kind of faith; it recognizes his goodness and honors his ways."

Remember, winning that contest or getting a contract is not the ultimate goal. It’s only a part of our development.

Whether you’re a newbie or have been writing for years, writing is a process, not an event. We all have much to learn, especially with an ever-changing industry.  But never get discouraged over how far you have to go. Look at each step forward and celebrate every success.

How do you navigate your writing journey? We would love to hear from you.

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Stuart Miles, and Master Isolated Images.)

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Monday, January 14, 2019

The Blessings of Being a Writer


By Henry McLaughlin

Yes, Virginia, there are blessings to being a writer. And it goes beyond multi-book deals, beyond making the bestseller list, beyond movie deals. Few writers attain these lofty heights.

But all writers can experience the blessings of being a writer:


Learning
And not just learning a new skill such as the craft of writing. Though this is crucial. It’s also learning about who we are as individuals. It’s learning patience and determination and perseverance. It’s learning to constructively receive feedback, especially when it’s not what we want to hear. Writing has revealed parts of me I hadn’t seen before. Some of them make me feel pretty good about myself. Others not so much. But incorporating these lessons has made me not only a better writer, but also a better person.

Community
The act of writing is usually done alone, but it does not occur in a vacuum. As we strive and struggle in the craft, we meet and form relationships with a myriad of people who share this journey with us. Non-writers can’t relate to this as well as writers can. It’s like we have a non-verbal language for communicating with each other. These relationships can become deep and meaningful friendships with people who “get us.” People who share our frustrations, our rejections, and our successes. I value my close writer friends who refuse to let me wallow in my self-pity at my self-perceived lack of success. They pray with me, challenge me, and won’t let me quit.

Readers
Whether we write fiction or nonfiction, blogs, articles, or newsletters, we touch readers. And we may never know who we touch or in what way. Some readers have thanked me because my novels brought them closer to God. Others thank me for creating characters who give them hope that they too can change their circumstances.

The call
Many writers will say they are called to write. And not just writers in the Christian market. Writing fulfills a deep purpose in our lives, deeper than just working to put food on the table. For many, writing is more than a job. I know God has called me to write for this season of my life. So I write. I pray over ideas and manuscripts. I pray over characters and plots. I get to paint pictures with words, not a brush. I get to use words to reveal Jesus to my readers through the characters who tell my stories. I need to respect his calling and honor it through what I write and how I write it.

What blessings has being a writer brought you?

(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Stuart Miles.) 

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Tagged as “one to watch” by Publishers Weekly, award-winning author Henry McLaughlin takes his readers on adventures into the hearts and souls of his characters as they battle inner conflicts while seeking to bring restoration and justice in a dark world. His writing explores these themes of restoration, reconciliation and redemption.


Besides his writing, Henry treasures working with other writers and helping them on their own writing journeys. He is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. He regularly teaches at conferences and workshops, leads writing groups, edits, and mentors and coaches.

Follow him on Facebook.