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The Help

 

 

 

 

When last we spoke I told you that the new goal was to get help. That goal was identified back in January. One of the best sources of help any writer can find is a really good writers group. Now I googled “writers groups” and Google provided me about 236 million potential hits. I cut that down to a manageable amount by picking a state to focus on and decided whether I wanted an online group. I have tried a few online groups and a couple were okay, but I was really looking for some face to face interaction with people I can get to know and trust. So, I waded through the groups based in Wisconsin and cut the number to five. All were within 35 miles from home and each listing advertised that the group members were trying to get published, a key factor in my decision. With high hopes, I sent out five emails requesting contact and additional information.

Group One Response: The reply email said that she was no longer with the group and that she thought they had folded but I could try to contact a different individual. I received no response from my attempts at the second individual.

Group Two Response: The reply stated that they had over 100 members! and that they were full for people submitting work, but I could come by and offer my opinions. In other words, I could critique other’s work but could not submit anything to get feedback. Reading other work and offering opinions is valuable and can help your own writing, but I was looking for feedback on my work.

Group Three Response:  We are a group of seniors who write for fun and get together and read our work to the group. Better, but not there yet.

Group Four Response: We are a group of writers who are trying to get published. We use writing prompts and then read our work to the group for feedback. Because this group met in very close proximity to me, I decided to attend a few sessions. There are some talented writers in this group with some interesting ideas. However, it was not the critique group I was looking for.

Group Five: On their website, the group indicated that they were a very serious group dedicated to getting everyone in the group published. They were, however, full on membership (10 people). If I was interested in joining, I could apply and if my qualifications were acceptable, they might make an exception, or place me on a waiting list in case a member left the group. I had nothing to lose so I put together a short bio of my writing experience, goals and involvement in other writers groups, and sent it in. I was actually shocked when I received an email requesting some additional information including a sample of my work. Two of their group would critique the sample and provide feedback so I could see what to expect and what was expected of me when I critiqued others. A few days later, I received their “crits” and a writing sample that I was asked to critique. I provided my feedback and was then told that they would present my request, writing sample, and crit to the group for acceptance. There was no guarantee that I would be asked to join at this point. Damn, I’ve been through job interviews that were not this intensive.

As it turned out, I was asked to join and honestly, it has been worth the effort. As advertised, the group is knowledgeable and motivated with eclectic backgrounds and styles which makes for a wide variety of comments on a submission. The crits can be hard at times, but the criticism is directed solely at the writing and not the writer. The result is that I can see a huge improvement in my writing and I have a much better idea as to what my “voice” sounds like. Many of my writing “ticks” (Bad habits) have been identified so I can catch them during revision and as I write future stories. The group”s comments have created a lot of revision work for me, but that is the point of a critique group. I always have the choice to act on their suggestions or not.

I know this is the type of group that I’ve been looking for, and needed to take me to the next level, and ultimately help me prepare my manuscript for submission to an agent. My advice is, If you decide you need a writers group, do whatever you must to find a GOOD one. One that fits your needs.

Goal: Get help. CHECK!

New goal: Finish this revision.

 

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Revision, Revision, Revision

 

 

 

 

There! I’ve added the scenes that needed to be added to complete character arcs. I’ve included “showing” details and cleaned up the timeline. I’ve given the characters depth and conflict. Strong action verbs replaced adverbs and weak phrases. I even think a spell check happened somewhere!

Is it ready to go to beta readers for review? I want to say yes. But, a nagging feeling is telling me to go through it again. I know I could add a scene or two to help explain a few things. However, I’m afraid it might slow the pacing to a crawl and wouldn’t really add to the story. So, I set the draft aside for a month and worked on a different project.

After I had worked on the new story with a different setting and cast of characters for a few weeks, I found myself thinking about my draft in the drawer. From a high level, I asked myself, “Does the story flow well? Are the characters interesting? Are there any holes?”

The next time I opened the laptop (“Drawer”), the draft came up and, starting at the beginning, I read the whole story in one sitting. There were a couple spots where I felt jarred by the dialogue. A couple more where characters seemed a bit flat. I placed comments in the margins and kept going. When I finished reading, I realized I stilled liked the story. Not sure if that is good or bad!

The result of the reading is that I am going to take one more pass at it before I send it out for a real critique. I’ll be hoping for the best but expecting the worst.

 

 

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Where did March go?

I am sorry for being delinquent in my postings. Somehow three weeks have disappeared from my life. Once in a while my other life takes control of my writing life. So, it’s time to wrestle control back and get to the important things in life.

There was some good news since I last visited with you. I have started going to a different writer’s group. It’s very well established with serious writers in my genre. I’m still getting comfortable with the new surroundings so I have made no submissions for critique yet. Though, I will be interested to hear what this group has to say. The other writer’s submissions have been keeping me busy with reading. I’ve also been reading some books by local authors.

With stabilization returning to my world, more fun posts will be forthcoming. We’ll start with something on back stories and there will most likely be a MAVEN update. Another post will discuss game apps and the time sink (Distraction) they provide the unwitting writer.

The snow is melting and the temps are balmy (40 degrees). Spring is in the air. Whoo Hoo!

 

 
12 Comments

Posted by on April 11, 2014 in Other Strangeness

 

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Liebster Award

Cassidy Cornblatt AND Sara Flower were kind enough to nominate me for the Liebster Blog award on the same day! The winning lottery numbers are…..

Translated from German, Liebster Blog means “Dearest Blog”. Thank you Cassidy and Sara. All Blog awards seem to have rules attached to them so here they are for the Liebster.

The Rules:

  • Answer the eleven questions your nominator posed to her/his nominees
  • Write eleven questions to pose to your own nominees
  • Pass the award on to eleven others

Here are my answers:

1. Why are you a writer? Because I already tried to sing and dance! Seriously, I have always been a storyteller. I just decided to go from verbal to written word.

2. How do you come up with your ideas? Keeping an open mind and day dreaming…alot!

3. Where is your favorite place to write? My home office or on the deck at the cabin.

4. What do you do besides writing? I have interests that would fill up a legal pad. However, the ones that get the most of my attention are archery, fishing, knife-making, gardening, and reading when I’m not creating business continuity plans at my full-time job.

5. Is writing a hobby for you or a career/career path? It is a hobby that I am trying to convert to a career.

6. Do you think writers should have to be decent editors of their own work? I believe that I have to do a good job of editing before it goes to my test readers to ensure they can focus on the areas I need help with. The cleaner the MS is prior to them getting it. the better it will be when they finish with it.

7. What do your friends/family members think of you writing? They are supportive and helpful as alpha readers.

8. Do you have any inhibitions when it comes to writing? Yes. Writing sexual scenes are awkward and difficult to get right.

9. What type of main character do you prefer to write/read about? Characters who have had a difficult time with life but have achieved some level of success. They still have major flaws that cause them no end of grief as they tackle the challenges of the main plot.

10. Do you prefer writing or reading? I am leaning toward writing as I get better at it.

11. How often do you write? This is a tough one. I try to write something every day. For sure, I write a few times a week.

Here are my questions for my nominees:

1. What is your favorite POV to write in? Why?

2. What are some favorite objects that share your writing space?

3. What do you do besides writing?

4. Dogs or Cats?

5. How often do you submit work for critique to your writer’s group?

6. What are your favorite books in your genre? Outside your genre?

7. When writing, how do you connect with a character that is your polar opposite?

8. Why do you write in your chosen genre?

9. If you could sit down with a famous author for an hour, one on one, who would it be and why?

10. Do you read more or less than you did in High School?

11. What do you enjoy doing when not at work or writing?

The following Blogs are excellent locations for advice, ideas, and humor. I admire and respect everyone of them. (I have left a few others off this list only because they were nominated with me as well.)

My “Dearest Blog” Nominees are:

http://shannonhowell.wordpress.com/

http://annewoodman.wordpress.com/

http://beanovelist.wordpress.com/

http://scottweberwriter.wordpress.com/

http://lsengler.wordpress.com/

http://coreymp.wordpress.com/

http://4amwriter.wordpress.com/

http://robincoyle.wordpress.com/

http://carliemacullen.wordpress.com/

 
3 Comments

Posted by on September 4, 2012 in Other Strangeness

 

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Cross-Genre Critiques

“I hate this genre!”

Not the first thing you want to hear when receiving a critique.

“But, I loved the story.”

Okay, now I feel a little better. 

I have a great deal of respect for the individual giving the critique so I am willing to hear what she has to say. We all have our likes and dislikes. Variety is the spice of life.

What followed was a very interesting dialogue about genre clichés, knowing who your audience is, and the difficulty of providing a critique outside of your genre. I realized that just because I’m writing for a fantasy-reading audience does not mean everyone that reads my story knows what a couatl is. Or, that a tooled leather jerkin is a piece of clothing. Now I’m not going change these things because the audience I’m targeting will know. However, having a reader from another genre critique your work is very interesting and, in my humble opinion, very beneficial. 

Even though phrases like; “A shock of red hair” or reference to “A dangerous sea crossing with marauding dragonturtles” seem like minor clichés and no one in my fantasy writers’ group commented on them, they drew this reader out of the story. That is not good. I have reviewed the “fantasy clichés” she pointed out and will rewrite the few sentences involved. They seem like minor changes but as I am reminded, the devil is in the details. I think I will add a few more non-fantasy readers to my list of betas.

The other realization I came to, is that it can be difficult giving a good critique on a piece that is written in a genre I am not familiar with. I find the need to concentrate more on specific elements and reread some sections to ensure I’m not missing something. It is becoming easier but it has been a challenge. Overall, I think it has helped my self-editing.

The bottom line here is this, even though you need to be acutely aware of who your target audience is, don’t hesitate to cross genres and sit on either side of the critique table. Whether you choose to take the critique to heart or not is still your choice.

Any thoughts?

 
10 Comments

Posted by on March 29, 2012 in Other Strangeness

 

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