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Louise Gouge 

Louise GougeFavorite Bible Verse:  Psalm 47:4 -  “He shall choose our inheritance for us” (a testimony to her belief that God has chosen a path for each believer. To seek that path and to trust His wisdom is to find the greatest happiness in life.)

Then Came Hope, Civil War Trilogy Series #2
Louise Gouge

 Louise Gouge: Advice For Aspriing Writers

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Every artistic career begins with a dream, a longing to communicate some internal vision to other people through an art form that flows naturally from the gifted artist, whether singer, instrumentalist, actor, dancer, painter, sculptor, or writer.   But no matter how native the talent within the artist, the means of conveying that vision must be developed.   Each type of artist must grasp the tools of the trade and learn to wield them with skill.   This is as true for the singer as it is for the pianist, for the sculptor as for the dancer.   For the aspiring writer, five tools should be acquired on the way to establishing a satisfying career: language competency, genre expertise, research integrity, a teachable spirit, and a love of the creative process.   This is especially true for Christian writers, because what we do is not for our own glory but, rather, for the glory of God.

 

It may seem redundant to say that a writer must be competent in using language.   However, I have found that many of my students have reached college level without proficiency in basic grammar.   This is also true of a man I met at a church I frequently visit.   When he learned that I am a published author, he sat down to talk about writing.   He had discovered an important biblical truth that had changed his life, and he wanted to write a book to share that truth with others.   A noble ambition, to be sure.   I encouraged him to write that book, because that’s exactly how I got started, through the prodding of a friend.   Yet I had two concerns.

First, he readily admitted that his grammar and communication skills were poor.

Second, he planned to self-publish as soon as he got the words on the page.

Not exactly a winning formula if he expects his message to be accepted as credible.   Still, each time I saw him, I asked about his progress.   Slow, he said.   But over time, he managed to finish the manuscript.   In all candor, I urged him not to rush to self-publication.   Instead, he should hire a copyeditor to correct any grammar errors.   Credibility, I reminded him.   If he can’t make sense in what he says, who will understand his message?   In our last conversation, he said he had indeed found someone to polish his language before sending it to press.   I wish him the greatest success with his book.   He was passionate about his vision, and he took the necessary steps to achieve success.

 

Had this man wanted to write a novel, I would have added another admonition:

acquire fiction expertise specific to his genre.

Say what?  Can’t I just write my story?

Not if my goal is getting published.   Editors don’t buy just any book.   So, what’s to know?   This is a process with many steps.  First, I suggest that aspiring novelists do the same as nonfiction writers: write the book.   Get everything down on the page.   Along the way, read books on writing.   Understand what makes a good story in your chosen genre.   Understand the market for that specific type of story.  

When I finished writing my first novel, I took a creative writing class, and then went on to earn a creative writing degree.   This is not necessary for everyone, but it was God’s plan for me.   I applied what I had learned to my novel, and it was vastly improved.  

I also attended writers’ conferences and learned what was happening in the Christian writing market, specifically fiction; more specifically, Christian romance.   More tweaking of the manuscript.   Back to another conference.   An editor liked my book, and it went all the way to publication.   My first published book!

In the process of writing that book, I researched every little detail for fear of being found out as a fraud.   My hero was a professional football player, and I knew very little about football.   I watched an entire season of my chosen team’s games on television and read everything I could find about them to help me write accurately.   Then, in one of those wonderful experiences when I knew God was directing me, I met an actual retired pro player.   He not only fixed my play action (inserting his own SuperBowl MVP play, which he confirmed by showing me old, yellowed newspaper reports), but he gave me invaluable information about the behind the scenes life of these gridiron warriors, from personal lives to professional hierarchies.  

Since that exciting experience, I have been in love with research.

In graduate school, as I was writing my thesis, Ahab’s Bride, I dug out every possible detail in my college and local library.  Then I visited my settings, New Bedford and Nantucket, to get more details.   The libraries, historical societies, and accredited tour guides helped me tremendously.   When I completed the book, I asked one of the Nantucket historians to read my book for inaccuracies.   She corrected errors and then endorsed the book, a rare honor for me.   Since then, I have visited some of my other book locations when I could to gather facts.   But when I can’t travel, I use the Internet and contact local experts. These people are always willing to help a writer.   Again, I have asked accredited authorities to read and correct my manuscripts.   Each one has saved me from embarrassment in one way or another.   Further, sometimes I find discrepancies among my written or Internet sources.   That means I have to dig deeper for confirmation or leave out a questionable tidbit that might have been fun to use but historically inaccurate.   In the meantime, I have a wealth of information at my fingertips, and I never tire of learning new things.

 

When a writer is passionate about her vision and has grasped the intricacies of her genre, she may have difficulty being teachable, especially if she has attained a certain level of competence in language and research, perhaps by way of a college degree.

At a writers’ conference, seated near an intelligent, unpublished young man, I listened with interest as he lamented not being able to find a particular historical point that he wanted to use in his novel.   Somehow he would have to change that plot point. Immediately, two valid sources came to my mind as a solution to his problem.   Before I could finish explaining the first one, he interrupted to inform me that, no, it was not possible.   He had checked it thoroughly, and that was that.   Now, as a college professor, I see that same attitude from time to time in certain students, the ones who generally end up with a C or lower in the class.   As with them, I must chalk it up to the young man’s not being teachable.   Fine.   I have had my own share of hard learning experiences.   Like me, he undoubtedly will have to learn the hard way not to shut down potential sources of knowledge.  

To be teachable requires a degree of humility.  

I know many things, but I don’t know it all.   After all, even earning a Ph.D. does not make a person omniscient.   I may doubt what another person says, but I can listen.   Maybe I’ll be surprised by what I learn. 

My firm belief is that God grants each of us a gift to use for His glory.   And in the process, He wants us to enjoy ourselves.   I love being a writer.   I would write even if I were not published because it would provide healthy exercise for my mind, emotions, and spirit.   Further, Psalm 47:4a says, “He shall choose our inheritance for us.”   To me, that means God has a plan for me and for my writing.   My job is to be faithful to learn my craft, exercise my gift, and keep a teachable spirit.   He will take it from there.

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Web Resources for Writers

There are many web sites with great information for Christian writers. Below are some that you might find helpful.

 

  • American Christian Fiction Writers
  • Christian Writers Fellowship International

  • The Christian Writer's Manual of Style
  • Writer's Digest
  • Writer's Market
  • The Writer's Magazine
  • Christian Writer's Market Guide
  • ACW Press
  • Writer's Edge (Manuscript Service)

  • More Author Tips

     • Words of Advice: Chris Fabry

     • Writing Advice: Maureen Lang