Monday, February 23, 2015

Thoughts on Critiquing from an Inspirational POV with Patricia Reece Krugel

Critiquing in Faith

Patricia Reece Krugel
ACFW - Scribes 218

Recently, while mulling over the aspects of writing an article on critiquing, I recalled the blessings I had received. These were unexpected blessings that came as a direct result of pouring over other writers’ chapters. It was from examining the efforts of others that I received more knowledge on how to improve my writing—skills I would need if I ever wanted to effectively labor for the Lord.
I sat down at my keyboard to write that article. It occurred to me, then, I really hadn’t thought that much about the technique, since I somehow managed to do a reasonable job.
After starting several drafts, struggling each time to explain what transpired, I realized the only way to tell this was to forget about coming at it from a cerebral perspective. I should write about the process. So I did, and here it is.
I downloaded a chapter, selected “Review” on the menu and clicked on “Track Changes”. The easy part behind me, I started to work through the chapter, looking for what didn’t seem to flow or make sense to me. At the same time, I attempted to track the contents for any unfinished thoughts or actions.
As I read, something surprising happened. I lost my place and fell into the chapter, unable to hold the complete story in my memory, thus making it impossible for me to single out what could possibly help the writer. Unwilling to give up, I started over and crawled through that chapter until I could point out what didn’t seem to fit for me, the reader. It wasn’t easy, or quick, but I stayed at it. A defeating spirit of fear attacked with thoughts such as, ‘You can’t say that. You’ll hurt their feelings’, or ‘You’re not accurate.
Finally, though, I did finish. I had poured over that chapter for just over two hours.
My penchant for small details had surfaced, too. A trait that drove my husband to the point of eyeballs tipped up, whites showing. This became especially so, when I acted on that little voice inside my head—the one that said, ‘You’ve got to tell that writer every little detail. Don’t overlook a thing.’
Would the small details of all those remarks twang the nerves of the person receiving my critique? I didn’t know, but I had to be truthful with the writer. Reason insisted I should leave something for others to comment on; however, that urge to cover it all surged through me.
A willingness to help kept me bent over my keyboard. I found that I would need more time than I could spare to fulfill my obligations unless something changed. I worked to absorb the chapters more quickly, while I still tracked the details. After a while I managed to cut my two hours down to less than one.
I developed a routine. 
  • First, do a read-through while I made notations. 
  • Then lay the chapter aside until later—in some cases the next day. 
  • Finally, go through it again, checking to see if the previous remarks still applied.

Soon, my life settled into a daily struggle to write my own good story while I worked to stay up with completing my partners’ critiques.
I learned important things during those years. One significant discovery was that critiquing the work of others made me a better writer.
The instruction books that lined my coffee table, lay around my writing room, and inhabited other areas of my home, were just one way of learning the skills needed for good writing. When I critiqued another’s work, I gained more experience with the organization of narrative and dialog, as well as how to use timed, effective beats.
I cannot point to any one person or manuscript as an example. Still, critiquing a variety of genres while continuing to work on succeeding chapters by the same writers, brought a better flow to my own work. I found my words and ideas fit into my manuscript more easily than before I had joined a critique group.
Another thing I found was how important the Lord was in my struggle to critique, as I took my burdens to Him. “But…but, Lord, I didn’t mean to say it like that. Did I hurt their feelings from marking so much that I thought needed an improvement?” The quiet response resonated in my spirit. I was to always be honest in my opinions.
Occasionally I would go back to review my critiques, after they went out, just to be sure I was satisfied with the job I’d done. This was especially good if I didn’t have any communication with the person after that, although most writers send a thank you. Then, once in a while,  the Lord would convict me on a callused response or an unclear or hastily written remark. When that happened, I contacted the writer to more fully explain my remark. Through all this, I found a kinder way to make my comments.
It took me awhile to mature in my writing experience. Slowly, I learned to follow the Lord’s instructions on what to focus on—what was important.
God didn’t speak directly to me, but to my spirit. I understood so clearly that I had a responsibility to His other Christian writers. Were they under attack from the author of confusion, the great deceiver that comes to wreak havoc on the Lord’s writers? I didn’t know what was going on in their lives, so I worked to soften my responses—a kind of diplomacy I didn’t have before, if you will.
Every so often I go back to the Lord with my uncertainties. He places that desire in me to discount feelings or thoughts of inadequacy. Simply do the work and enjoy it, as I learn.
It has been ten years since I joined the craft of writing, and almost that long since my discovery that I work for the Lord, not myself. I still marvel at some of the things I experienced under His patient, guiding hand. 
No one should ever write alone. I think we must open our hearts and talents to help others. After I become a published author, I’ll consider myself under assignment, taking my instructions from the great author, Himself.
When I shall come under attack from the deceiver as I write on the front lines for my Lord, and I surely will, I will receive exactly what I have sown into my efforts. No one has ever picked grapes from an apple tree, no matter how much they desire a cluster. If I want patience with my work, I should be patient while critiquing the work of others. Regardless of how many times I point out an issue. Who knows, that person may learn by rote—repetition. If so, they have a difficult enough time already.
One problem for me was POV. How could I critique a writer’s work if I didn’t understand that, myself? I was sure no one ever suffered like I did, trying to master that elusive skill. But, largely from working with critique groups, I finally did learn. Then I wanted to do cartwheels as I shouted that I now understood. If you have just started to write, spend some time in the trenches critiquing manuscripts. You’ll receive skills that you need.
There is one important thing that the critique process has made clear to me in the years I’ve struggled to write. God is good. He doesn’t call anyone to write without providing what they need to be successful. We are required to learn. If we don’t we won’t progress. But He will send people to us with suggestions or other things we need to move forward. As long as we are faithful to write, He is faithful to help us.
It’s my firm belief that a writer is not blessed with a story only to have it not succeed. It may be, in fact; that what we’re writing isn’t necessarily what we’re called to write. That story stuck in our craw, the one we feel He’s put in our spirit, could have been put there as an exercise in learning how to write. The big one that we write could be yet to come. We have to trust Him in all we do, believe that He will do exactly what His word says, because in the end we can only do it through Him and expect to be content in our work.
When I work for the Lord, I hold my position. Chapters that irritate me in a read-through cause me to double down in prayer when I critique them. If you feel you’d like to improve on your critiques, then ask the Lord to help you. Roll up your sleeves, put away your doubts, and get started

God is the giver of all good things. If He intends for a writer to succeed, they will.
                                                         Copyright 2015 
                                                       Patricia Reece Kriugel

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Romance of Redemption

A Romantic at Heart

Intreat me not to leave thee… ~Ruth 1:16b

 I just finished refreshing my way through the Book of Ruth after a long absence from that portion of the Bible.

You remember Ruth and Boaz…the beautiful romance of redemption.  To me it is one of the most beautiful love stories God gave us in His Word.  I am a romantic at heart, anyway, but there is so much in this book that reaches deep into any person’s heart.  

Boaz (the hero) was a man of honor—a man who greatly loved the Lord God. Boaz served God with all of his heart. He was not a priest -- just a regular man. He did not  have a pastoral ministry. He simply loved the Lord, and it showed by nearly everything he did.

The way Boaz represented his family was respected by everyone.  He stood for something.  When men stand for something,  as Boaz did, it usually means they are standing for an important issue for their lives.  Maybe they don’t necessarily consider their lives as types of Christ, but when I look back at Boaz, I realize how he could be considered to be that very thing.  

Boaz was several years older than Ruth, (the heroine of this book). God showed no concern for that. He chose Ruth so she could bring a fresh sparkle to Boaz’s life, and, boy, did she. Boaz brought to her life a joy and refreshing. 

What better hero and heroine can there be than that?

When Ruth lost her husband back in her homeland, she needed solidarity from another area so she went to a different place to get it.  Where she came from, she had no one to whom she could entrust her life.  She also knew little about God.
It’s interesting how she could have easily turned around; she could have gone back…but she didn't.  Ruth listened instead to the spirit speak to her heart, and by doing so, she became obedient to God's call . Because of her obedience to God, when Boaz entered the picture, she saw God's better way. 

From the minute Boaz spotted Ruth coming and taking her place in his field, he was drawn to her as well. It didn’t matter to him she was a foreigner. The moment his eyes focused her way, he was impressed. Doubtless, he saw more in this young woman than meets the natural eye.  
We come to see how God knew what was going on between those two. He knew what they would do before they did. He obviously wanted Ruth to leave the land she came from and go to a distant land just so she and Boaz would meet. 
Just think. If Ruth had not been obedient to God -- if she hadn’t gone to Boaz, it would have changed the entire course of history.

I wonder how willing I would be to leave the things I am familiar with for the will of God in my life even if I had no idea where it might lead. 
Ruth showed me she was not only willing she was loyal, compliant, faithful to follow through. In the 10th verse of Chapter 3,  it showed she was also eager to accept God's choice for her. She showed this by immediately accepting Boaz’s hand and proposal. A man she didn't even know.
Ruth showed her trust in the Lord here too. She listened to Him speak to her heart. she followed through with His direction as taught to her by her former mother-in-law.

How often do I show my trust in God in all things?

As Ruth and Boaz became one we find that later she became great grandmother to the famous King David, who by lineage takes us right down to the Lord Jesus Christ. What a great example both were in showing all of us how important it is to be obedient and willing to trust the Lord in all things. I couldn't think of a more perfect ending to a love story, could you?


The Book of Ruth -- Truly a Romance of Redemption!

I See God in the Thorns n Thistles 
Shirley Kiger Connolly