These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.
Thanks for your feedback on the Vilfred piece, Jan. Yeah, my writing is all over the board: nonfiction of many sorts, inspirational fiction, romantic fiction, humorous fiction, and yes, fantasy. The character Vilfred the troll has been with me since I began writing. Someday, it might just turn into a full-length story.
It's the same with my reading preferences--all over the board. But I do love fantasy. One of my favorites is CS Lewis' Till We Have Faces, which is more like a retelling of mythology. My daughter read this series called The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which was like Wizard of Oz mixed with Alice in Wonderland, high off Mad Hatter's tea. I loved this book. It was so imaginative, with continuous and delightful plays on words. (Hey, you might like this book, too). This is another type of book I would love to write someday.
Having just bombed out on this week's challenge, Jan, reading your "Yellow" entry made me once again bow in awe at your ability to construct a story. I can't imagine why it missed out on any rating, except perhaps the sensitive subject of race. There was only one reference to yellow- the "fresh butter" dress that may have contributed little to the story. Minor, for sure. But on topic? Absolutely!
I think my entry for "Sizzle" may be exhibit A for trying to be so original that I went off topic. Even though the prayer touched on something that I was experiencing at the time, I guess I overreached. I'd love your feedback on topic relevancy and anything else. It's a shorty.
Not an Easy Prayer
Let me not shrink from placing my hopes and dreams on the hot coals of surrender and watch them sizzle and evaporate. If that’s what You demand of me, I will not try to put out the flames.
Help me to run from any thought of avoiding the fiery trials that purify my soul. Remove my every desire to search for a way out. May obedience consume me.
Give me the grace to cast my fleshy desires into infinity’s blazing furnace, to listen to the crackle and pop of pride and discontent as they shrivel under fire; and rejoice in hearing You say, “Well done.” Show me how to throw my anxieties and resentments onto the altar of sacrifice and let the flames burn away their influence in my life.
Teach me how to transform the stones that I would throw at others into flints of fire that reduce my unforgiving spirit to smoldering ashes. Let me take Your hand and walk boldly into the Refiner’s fire where I am changed from what I am to what You want me to be.
No fire escapes, Lord, until I am as pure gold.
E-Book - Retirement Lane - How to Celebrate Life After 60
I write even when I think I can't, because I must.
I love to write. Nothing escapes the crush I have on the written word. I'm hooked on words!!
"Let words bewitch you. Scrutinze them, mull them, savor them, and in combination, until you see their subtle differences and the ways they tint each other." Francis Flaherty
Lillian, I'd have given this a strong mark for the "on topic" criterion. It certainly couldn't have been written without the concept of "sizzle," and the concept is revisited in different ways. In addition, the imagery and the metaphor are well done.
My favorite hymn of all time contains the lines:
The fire shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.
Very similar sentiment to your piece, which was written without cliches.
Jan, I didn't have to re-read your first linked story to recall how impressed I was with how you wrote for the topic. The term "high-yellow was all I needed to hear to bring back memories of how your entry affected me. BUT... rereading it in context of this lesson, I noticed how often you refer to the topic in offhand ways. It's almost like a foreshadowing of the attitude the new bride is about to encounter. Her dress is "the color of fresh butter"; her groom's mother wears a "yellowing lacy shawl", Mrs. Montgomery's "filmy and jaundiced eyes" ....
I can't really imagine this story without "Yellow", (and believe me, I've been trying for five minutes).
I hadn't read your "River" devotion before, and I'm SO glad you linked to it! I'm amazed at how you managed to pack so much story into the word count. Regarding the topic, I'm wondering if "River" is more of the backdrop for your story rather than the central theme. But as I ponder more, I wonder -- if the "backdrop" - the scene, setting, and circumstances were different, would the story have the same impact? My conclusion is "No". My only "red ink" would be the last sentence. In my very humble opinion, it doesn't seem to fit... or I'm missing something.
I also remember your advice to throw out the first 5 ideas (but I remember it as the first 10) and I do just that. Or I go back and see if I can turn one of them on its head and inside out to creatifiy it. I think I did that well in my "Empty Nest/Retirement" entry. One of the "throw away" ideas was "our retirement home". I started thinking "what if...", and ended up writing my highest ranking entry ever! #2!
http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=31784
And on the other end of the scale is my "Don't try to walk before you learn to crawl" story. I was SO disappointed that most of the commenters said they didn't see the topic at all. I guess I tried way too hard not to be obvious.
http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=20849
LOL, Cat--when I re-read that piece before posting it here, quite a few things made me cringe, and most of all, I cringed at that horrible last sentence! You've got a good feel for "not quite right."
Just re-read these, Cat, including my comments the first time around. I remember the "Retirement" one very well; it made quite an impression on me then as a depiction of depression, and the last few paragraphs still made my heart seize a little bit when I read it again today. Needless to say, that's the kind of "on topic" that I like: it wasn't ABOUT retirement, but it couldn't have been written without it.
As for the other story--I must have read it before, because I commented on it, but it didn't stick with me the way the first one did. And to tell the truth, I still can't see the topic in it...eek, sorry. I'm glad you were willing to share this one, as an example of being so far outside of the box that you lose sight of the box altogether.
To my list of topics I like, please add "quotations." I find those to generate lots of ideas for me.
And I must admit when I first read your piece about the river, I was new to the challenges, and I was so awestruck by your talent, I almost gave up trying!
A merry heart doeth good like a medicine...
Facebook author page: Verna Cole Mitchell
He Cat! Good to see you around again. I read this, and even with my "analyze things to death" I can barely see the topic, and that was actaully, just now as I was typing this. I really didn't see it as I was reading it. Were you trying to get the point across that the MC wouldn't be able to recover until someone showed her what was wrong? If that's what you were going for, I think I'd have made it a bit more obvious. Maybe even have her in a treatment facility, but refusing to cooperate. Then have someone, a nurse, perhaps, point out that nothing can be done until she realizes there's a problem. Something like that.
I also find it somewhat humorous that we both bombed on the "topic" category the same week, but for opposite reasons.
Isaiah 40:30-31 (NIV)
And just to bump this back up to the top of the list--are there types of topics which you really dislike, or which you don't particularly understand?
I'm so glad I can laugh about it now, because I still see the topic - I think it's so obvious to me! She wanted to lose weight and be thin, but instead of going slowly and carefully, she ran full steam ahead to get to her goal as fast as possible. And it backfired....
I did a lot of research on anorexia for this story - it's causes, effects, and the warning signs to watch for - and I guess my zeal in writing about the result of her walking (going to weight-loss extremes) before she learned to crawl (a responsible diet & exercise plan) completely overshadowed the underlying cause..
(Can you imagine how many times I edited that "red ink before I got the nerve up to post it? )
Well, sheesh. It makes perfect sense to me now.
Silly girl. I meant it when I said I could take criticism. I feel funny about always posting my own links, putting them out there as if I'm some Super Writer. I just know how to find them, and I don't want to go wading through archives for other people's examples for my lessons, and then have to ask them permission to post them.
So criticize without fear, m'dear!
I was so excited when I learned that you were going to go through the judging criteria for the writing challenge. Being new to this, I just don't have a feel for which entries are going to do well and which will do poorly.
I ordered two feedback reports from Deb and found them incredibly helpful and well worth the money, but I know that she is terribly busy, so I haven't requested anymore.
Your lesson has helped me to see this from a judges perspective. Thank you!
I read your examples and was powerfully touched by both (in very different ways.) I'm glad that you started with topic, because that's where we start when preparing for the writing challenge. You've given me a glimpse into your own mind as you take a topic and make it your own.
Both of your entries are dependant on the topic, but oh so fresh!
My FaithWriters profile: RachelM FW member profile
Jan, I really appreciate this lesson and all the good advice. I read your story about the river and believe it was on topic. The river was essential to the story and was part of the story in three different instances. I usually try to Google the topic or look it up in the dictionary to get some ideas. I'm still quite new to the Challenge so don't know too many topics that were used. At this point, I would say I like one word topics the best.
Here is a link to one of mine that I knew was stretching the topic. The topic was "Bark is Worse that His/Her bite. I just couldn't think of anything else for that topic and I just wanted to write something every time. Now even though I write something, I don't always enter. I want to force myself to at least try. http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=46927 Thanks again for these lessons. LaVonne
Vonnie, thanks for being willing to share this link. I think you're right that it's pretty weak for the topic. "His bark is worse than his bite" indicates a person who seems on the surface much more dangerous than they really are, and your character is not really dangerous at all.
But what I do appreciate, so much, is your eager spirit, and your willingness to learn, to stumble, and to keep on going. That will get you far on this site, and in your life.
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