Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Tips for Writers from Lady Wisdom (Proverbs 9)

by Linore Rose Burkard 


It struck me on a recent reading of Proverbs 9 where Wisdom is personified as a woman, that we can learn a thing or two from her with regard to writing and marketing.  For instance, check out how Lady Wisdom spends her time.

I. She builds herself a house.
 Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn her seven pillars. Pro.9:1 
                        Can you picture a house with seven pillars? It's a mansion!


Seven Pillars--Solid Supports
Application
It takes forethought and planning to build a sturdy, impressive dwelling. 
Likewise, to write well we can't hastily throw together a bunch of words and call it a novel. We must work at it, putting into place the foundational pillars of plot, structure, story movement, and so on. Seem obvious? Perhaps, but read on. Wisdom has a lot more to  show us. 

For instance, about those pillars. How did she get them? "She has hewn them." To "hew" is to "strike forcibly with an ax, sword, or other cutting instrument; chop; hack." (You can see where this is going, can't you?) 

To hew a pillar she would have had to use force and strength; and then discard the pieces that didn't fit, that didn't add to the beauty or style of what she wanted in the finished product. 

No matter how difficult it was to write our novel, that's only one part of hewing the pillars! A beautiful work depends upon a weather eye to recognize the unsightly pieces that don't belong.  We must spot them and continue hewing! Cut, chop and hack until the finished shape is just what we meant it to be--or even better. 

So we work hard to make a proper building of our book, because that is what Wisdom does.

II. Notice she didn't hire someone else to build her house? She built it herself. 

Application:
It's great to have editors and critique partners, but we must do the real work of writing before we ever share that work with anyone else. We must build it ourselves.

There's More
The pillars are great to have in place, but the work's not done. Wisdom didn't rest after hewing her pillars. She "prepared her meat and mixed her wine." One translation says she "slaughtered" her meat.

Ever see a slaughtering house? It's not pretty. It's where they separate the meat from the offal, discarding excess fat and yes, the guts of an animal. You got it: More cutting and chopping going on! Here's where you may have to cut your heart out, fine-tuning your manuscript with further edits. Get rid of the fat, the excess, the portions you particularly love but which do not further the story.  And of course, leave no unmentionables--the truly bad spots of writing--behind.

You can have no pity when you're slaughtering something. Either you slaughter the thing cleanly or you've merely injured it, causing a whole lot of pain and suffering. So we slaughter the beast that is of our own making--the very thing we have hewn out and created! We cut, chop, get rid of every last bit that doesn't belong. 


And why? Because if we leave waste behind it will rot and spread its nasty odor all over the finished work. (If you can't smell it, don't worry, your reviewers will!) So be ruthless. Slaughter the thing. Then you can have some fun mixing your wine, adding spicy little details that add nuance or depth; getting in that little nugget of truth you almost forgot but which adds the ring of authenticity to your dialogue or message.  

What! Still More?
(It's amazing, isn't it, how much we writers do to bring a finished work to publication!) Wisdom understands. After hewing the pillars, slaughtering her meat, (the substance of what she has to offer) she goes on to "set her table."  

This is a beautiful way of saying she is now ready for guests. 
In fact, she EXPECTS them. She knows that a solid, impressive house with good food and wine is appealing to people. For us, that means keeping our reader in mind. Writing a book our reader will love. That's how we prepare our meat and mix our wine.

But how do we get the guests to come? Does Wisdom help us here?
She does!

"She has sent out her maids, and she calls from the highest point of the city."

Application:

Once Wisdom is ready, and only then, does she send out her maids—now is the time to hire hands—to get out her message. She doesn't sit back and expect the guests to magically appear. (This is not a case of, "If you build it, they will come!)" Wisdom isn't passive.  She goes purposefully to "the highest point of the city." Why? In order to reach the greatest possible number of people with her message.

Wisdom, it turns out, is no slouch.

Translation: Advertising works! (Large corporations don't spend billions on it for nothing.)

Don't have any maids at the moment? Hire them. Your maid might be a professional publicist, or, as in my case, 1,000 postcards to a targeted audience with information about my book.  By "sending out my maids" my reach was magnified 1,000 times. 

And what about "calling from the highest point of the city?" In the old days when there were less news sources, it was vastly easier to locate this "high point." But now, as niche markets take the place of general audiences, we need to go to the highest places in our niche. Admittedly, this can be tricky. But that's what Wisdom does. If you try a large venue in your niche and are turned away, try others. If you get closed doors, knock elsewhere. It is actually more effective to find the "high place" (the blog, news source, website, etc.) within your niche than it would be to broadcast your message to everyone, anyway.

Wisdom doesn't try to reach everyone. She has a target audience.


 "'Let all who are simple come in here!' she says to those who lack judgment."   
 Her target audience is "the simple," and "those who lack judgment." But notice when she has their attention, she doesn't merely make an announcement. She doesn't say, "Hey, I've made a great dinner! I cooked for hours!" ("I wrote a book!")

No, she gets right to the core message, the one her audience needs. 

Application:
Don't waste time and energy trying to reach everyone. Tailor your message to your niche and then find the "high point" from which to call. When you call, show the benefits of what you've got, just as Lady Wisdom does:
                       "Leave your simple ways AND YOU WILL LIVE."  
What benefit have you got? Can your book move someone to tears? Change a life? Provide needed information? Be like Lady Wisdom: Identify who needs the benefit you've got and then send out your maids and find the high places. Then, and only then, shout it from the rooftops!



Linore Rose Burkard is best known for historical romance novels with Harvest House Publishers, and now writes YA/Suspense as L.R.Burkard. Linore teaches workshops for writers with Greater Harvest Workshops in Ohio, is a mother of five, and still homeschools her youngest daughter—preferably with coffee in one hand,  iPad in the other, and her feet up. Keep up with Linore by subscribing at either of her websites. (Click on her name, above.)    

5 comments:

chappydebbie said...

What a great way to explain this. A lot of good stuff here.....Sharing.

Anonymous said...

Finding it very intriguing -- since on my screen there are NO words. LOL Very clever of you, Linore, to give us hidden message to try to decipher. Sort of like a cyber-treasure hunt.

But I have found, if I highlight the white space, letters appear. Too fun. Now I shall go read them!

Mary Kay

Linore Burkard said...

Blogger doesn't like me, lately, Mary. It keeps playing tricks on me. Sorry about that! I wonder if most people are having that same experience of a blank screen? Mine came through fine. Weird. Thanks for letting us know.

A.M. Heath said...

A friend of mine passed this link to me this morning, and I'm so glad she did. I loved it! Proverbs 9 is one of my favorite chapters so I really enjoyed the tailored message. And you've done a wonderful job at making the connection. Bravo!

Linore Burkard said...

Thanks so much, A.M. I get my best columns during morning Bible reading!