Thursday, July 05, 2012

Tips for the Catholic Writer/Blogger

1.  Most writing books will advise you to open with a bang in order to seize your reader’s attention.  I open mine with the biggest bang of history:  “In the Beginning was the word.”  As a Catholic tasked with the New Evangelization, remember who you write for (your soul and mine), why you write (for God’s glory, no other), and what you write about…the Word or the Good News.   If you don’t keep that in mind, your writing will wander off, flummoxing the reader that he’s just walked into a secular paperback in the middle of Barnes and Noble.
  As a Catholic writer, your writing has to build up God’s kingdom in this world, otherwise you can just call yourself a writer who happens to be Catholic (nothing wrong with that, but that’s not what we’re called to do in the light of the New Evangelization).   You can quit reading here if you belong to the 'happening' category.

2. Improve your craft. A Catholic writer knows that writing raises his soul to the heights of heaven  (on good days).  So look upon writing as nurturing your soul, cleaning planks out of your eyes, improving your spiritual/prayer life, examining your conscience and increasing your love for God.  Catholic writing is much like reading a book on how to improve your writing.  You’re critiquing on your works as you read the advice in the same way you reflect on your faith as you write.
 If you’re serious about developing your talents, you probably have a bookcase of writing books.  These are some of my favorites.

And if you’ve actually read any of these writing books, you’ll know to use adverbs wisely and adjectives sparingly.  (A rule which I broke in my first novel because I didn’t know it, which goes to show writers are free to grow in their craft.) You’ll also know to be specific with nouns like using “bungalow” instead of “house”, “banana” instead of “fruit,” and “Jack Hill” instead of man.  And that verbs must be vaulting off the pages or cartwheeling through sentences to avoid a flat piece.  Likewise, your spiritual life must be nourished by the Eucharist and holy reading and ascend to the heights of sanctification so that the writing doesn’t level out to a beeping flatline and make of the reader a snoozing victim.
            Hey you, wake up! I’m not done yet.

3.     Now, now, watch your tone.  I know you’re just waking up, but remember that when you label yourself a Catholic writer, you are representing Jesus.  You are His living temple since you receive the Eucharist.  You can be playful, funny, poetic, persuasive, sweet, dramatic, mushy, pious, reverent, kind and loving as these are all facets of Our Lord.   But if your writing tone is violently angry, ridiculing, mocking, snarky, condescending, scandalous, sarcastically mean, hurtful, and uncharitable, you run the risk of representing…someone else entirely.  I’m guilty of getting carried away with tone, so I often delete writings later as I examine my conscience.  If you find my writing tearing up the Body of Christ, please correct me (with the exception of Rednecks and Roadrage because I had to illustrate how my soul sank before Divine Mercy reached it.)

 4.  Watch your subjects, too. (I’m not referring to diagramming.) Sin cannot be glorified or justified.  Just as virtue must be exalted.   (In fiction writing, the bad characters can be bad without crossing the lines of decency.  For more on this, read the Christian Writer’s guide to novel writing.) You can be lion-roaring preachy or rabit-around-the-bush-sneaky, but don’t let the secular world’s opinion of Jesus and Catholicism dictate you into muddying what’s right and camouflaging wrong.   This includes the common temptation to make swearing acceptable.  It’s not.  My wise legal mentor once taught me: “People who swear have no command of the language and are short on vocabulary.”  $#@%&* Curse words can surely be edited out.
         The New Evangelization exhorts us: “Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy. It makes us fruitful, because it expands our hearts in hope and enables us to bear life-giving witness: indeed, it opens the hearts and minds of those who listen to respond to the Lord’s invitation to adhere to his word and become his disciples.”

5.      Don’t stress about non-constructive critics, followers, stats and income.  If you write for God, He’ll be pleased by your heart’s offerings and that’s Who you want to impress before anyone else.  Make it your “job” to love and serve God first and you can be sure He will duly compensate you.  In this life, He will provide you with your needs (Jesus said so).  But in the next life, your reward will be beyond compare.   Let the parable of the generous employer and the phrase “Seek first the Kingdom of God and He will give you your heart’s desires” be your motivation.
 I write for free.  (And my earlier post will explain why.)  I’m trying to imitate the widow’s mite by putting my whole livelihood in God’s basket. Sure, it’s easy to be jealous of others who are racking up royalties or have better-looking blogs, but make this the goal of your writing instead: to make yourself a saint and bring one more soul closer to the heart of Jesus. Don’t bother aiming for fame or fortune of this world.  (PS. Before I blogged openly, I lurked and trust me, many of your writings made it’s way to my heart.)
Roberts Liardon wrote about his near death experience in his book “We saw Heaven.”   He claims that in heaven, the saints go into a library/building of some sort and carry books in and out.  The books are intended for praising God and to impart God’s life.  Some of those books are given to earth but the writer must be “led by God’s Spirit rather than submitting to those desires of ours that oppose Him…the men and women who would bring these books from Heaven must be able to resist the flattering popularity that might come and the rejection by those who won’t understand.”

6.   Speaking of Spirit, you’ve got to pray, sister! Whenever you write, pray to the Holy Spirit that it is God’s message you send out.  Now would be a good time to start consecrating your heart, mind and hands to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. You’d be surprised at how much clarity, organization, and inspiration will dance gracefully with the rhythm of your writing.   
Guide post for the online Catholic: if Jesus and Mary read what you wrote, would you blush with shame?
Go ahead and assemble a heavenly team.  I’ve asked St. Anthony to be my marketing agent.  He’s tasked with finding readers who need to hear the message of the day so I don’t have to promote myself too much.  I also ask him to find me something I need to read so I drift into other blogs randomly.  St. Francis de Sales used to be my patron saint on writing (he being a lawyer and all), but he has yet to seal my EWTN appearance on Life on the Rock so I assume he quit when I quit lawyering.   (He probably has more important things to worry about like the people in the Supreme Court.)  We can share St. Anthony (he’s a wonder worker), but maybe you’ll have better luck with St. Francis de Sales.
I also call on my guardian angel for help with writer’s block, missing words, grammatical questions and edit cuts.  Woops.  This was supposed to be a piece for 7 QUICK Takes Friday.  What happened? Angels must be on day off. On the bright side, if you’ve stuck with me this long, then those tips must be worth a shot, don’t you think?

7.  A solid ending must keep your reader satisfied and in fiction, short enough to keep him hanging around for more.  So I’m just going to close with a tried and tested quote:
“Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always until…


Athanasius contra mundum said...

#5 seems to be my problem. Its often too easy to wonder why no one reads my blog and then look and see that other blogs have many more readers and have been around for a shorter time. I guess that's why envy is one of the Seven.

Nancy Shuman said...

"As a Catholic writer, your writing has to build up God’s kingdom in this world, otherwise you can just call yourself a writer who happens to be Catholic." Amen and triple amen. I thought this whole post was marvelous.

strictlyinkwell said...

I really enjoyed your book 'Sand and Water' but I've one little niggle. You put Rue Du Bac in Ireland, its not, its in France. I think you might have meant 'Knock' which is the big Marian shrine in Ireland.

Anabelle Hazard said...

Thanks Nancy. Mary33's April post gave me the inspiration.
Athanasius, #5 is everyone's problem. I should have marked it #1.
strictlyinkwell, thank you. I'm not too good at remembering geography. See 7 Things you didn't know about Mejugorje, where another reader corrected me on Yugoslavia. LOL. Hope you enjoy the second one, too.

mary333 said...

Anabelle, you make me smile! I have a "heavenly team" too!

As for the rest...I've got my work cut out for me in quite a few of these areas.

Great post!

Allison said...

Really appreciated this, nicely done!