Better Critiques


Better Critiques

By Rory C. Keel

 

Recently I re-examined a few rules on critiquing other writers’ works. Occasionally I have to do this because I tend to get caught up in the stories. There’s nothing better than someone reading a story to you, right?

First, when you give a critique, start with praise. The most fearful thing about having your work judged is the fear of mean spirited criticism. Find something that you like about the piece, whether it is the overall story idea, plot, character or phrase in the writing that touched a cord with you.

Second, examine the overall piece. Does it make sense? Will it fit within the stated genre or purpose for the writing? What is the plot or premise? Does it have a reasonable conclusion? Does it read smoothly? Does it show rather than tell?

Third, check the details. This is the time to check the facts, note any phrases that seem to be odd or out of place. Mark grammar, misspelled words and punctuation errors.

Finally, critique another writer’s work with respect. Have an attitude of helping them improve their skills, not tearing them down.

Follow these simple rules and you will give and get better critiques.

roryckeel.com

Something to Sit On


Something to Sit On

By Natalie Bright

It’s plush pleather (fake leather) mixed with springy black mesh, arch support, and swiveling arm rests. You can adjust the arm rests out straight for when you write or closer in if you’re holding something to read. The back and seat can tilt either way for maximum comfort. It’s a serious piece of office equipment. It’s beautiful and it’s my new desk chair.

Tools of the Trade

The reason I invested in an office chair is credited to Dusty Richards, SPUR award winning author and president of Western Writers of America. He said, “If there’s anything you remember from my talk, I hope it’s this: buy a quality office chair, because if the writing’s going good you have to stay put.” He explained that he’s logged in 10 to 12 hours straight before and walked away from it just fine. What a great piece of advice. If your back hurts or if your legs go to sleep you can’t keep writing. Something to sit on is an important piece of equipment essential to an author’s office.

The current work in progress is burning a hole in my head. Kids are back in school. Casseroles are put-together and stacked in the freezer.

Deep breath. Begin.

Blank.

My computer screen is blank. Well, it wasn’t blank a minute ago. I had just started reshaping chapter one because I’m making a huge revision for my character’s motivation…and then a blip. No, not a blip. A major, heart wrenching snafu.

Noooooooooo….

Some days, it really sucks to be a writer.

Who Am I?


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

 

Who Am I?

By Nandy Ekle

 

I am a writer. I’ve always been a writer and I always will be. Sometimes I have periods where I cannot write my stories fast enough. The words parade through my head like raindrops in a storm. There are times when I hear the characters talking but my hands pause long enough that the words melt away like snowflakes on a not quite cold enough sidewalk. And then are the days when the characters are quiet.

These days are the reason for my day job. And what is my day job? Well, I’m a writer. I’m part of the correspondence department of a major world wide corporation. Granted, this is a different type of writing than the story telling I do after hours. But it is writing, just the same.

I open a letter from a client and the first thing I have to do is read their request, or their concerns. I notice the appearance of the letter, the handwriting, the typing font, the spelling and grammar. What is their voice? Most of the letters I answer are from the elderly, their family, or attorneys. The next step is to analyze what they are saying. Do they need help, information, confirmation, or do they need to be comforted and soothed?

Next, I try to find out why they need what they are asking for. Sometimes their reasons for contacting our company determines how we will answer them. Then I compose the company’s response.

I’ve trained several people for this job and one of the first things I tell a rookie is that each case is a new story. You have to find out where we are, how we got here, and where we go next. This is why I love to write.

End of Season


Outtakes 164

End of Season

By Cait Collins

I checked my calendar this morning and was again hit by the passage of time. The year of 2014 is speeding away. With September just a few days away, it’s time to review my goals and see how much or how little I have accomplished toward my writing career. I’m further along than I thought, but not a far as I had hoped.

I have completed my short memoir First Love Forever Love. It will be mailed to my beta readers this week. The cover shot has been chosen and a marketing plan in progress. But first, I have to sell it. Therefore, I have a list of agents and publishers to contact. Now the real work begins.

Work on the final edits of How Do You Like Me Now continue. I was told the book would not sell as a novella; so make it a novel. It’s much more difficult to add to a work than to subtract. I added too much, now I have to cut. I hope to have the novel ready for the beta readers early in 2015.

There are unfinished items on my list. I do not have my website set up, nor have I created an author page on Face Book. My blogs have not been moved to OneNote. And I still need to get in my study and clean out boxes and files. But there are still four months left in the year. I, we, still have time to work on those goals. The purpose of goals is to help organize and focus on our writing careers. We may not accomplish everything, but steps taken get us to being published. With that in mind, stay focused and write.

Step-by Step Editing


Step-by Step Editing

By Natalie Bright

The editing process is a never-ending task. For me, the first draft is extremely difficult, and the editing process is fun especially if I’m really into the research and in love with my characters. It’s a satisfying experience to see the story that’s been percolating inside of your head take shape into real words. Here’s the list I keep on my bulletin board for self-editing:

Step 1. Plot structure and character development.

Does the character dialogue ring true with their profile, does the plot make sense, and is the underlying theme carried throughout the story?

Step 2. Remember the 5 senses:

Add description, imagery, sensual details. Check for historical accurateness of dress, food, etc.

Step 3. Read out loud. Revise at the word level.

And there you have it. Three different passes through your finished manuscript, and this works for short stories or novels equally as well. I usually let it sit for days, even weeks in between each step. Sometimes not because I want to, but because of life demands. I’ve never been able to multi-task editing. That’s to say I cannot work on character dialogue and enhance five senses at the same time. You may be able to work differently.

Side Note: I got this in part at a writer’s conference many, many years ago when I first started writing, and have altered it several times since to fit me. Apologies for not giving credit to the speaker who provided these tips.

Cheers, and all the best on your writing journey!

Nataliebright.com

 

 

Exercise


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Exercise
By Nandy Ekle

My list of mood creators used to be pretty big. In fact, at one time I could close my eyes and say, “Okay, characters. What happens next?” And I couldn’t write fast enough. My best ideas came to me as I was driving down the road, or sitting in the bathtub, or laying in bed at night trying to sleep. And usually I would get so excited over the voices and actions in my head I could remember word for word exactly what to put on that paper.

These days, however, it takes a little more romancing to get those words to stick. I’ve got the ideas, but my characters have tape over their mouths. Instead of yelling and screaming for me to write, they just sit in the heap where I left them waiting for me to say, “Okay, how about this?” Then they just look up at me and frown as if to say, “You gotta be kidding.” And of course, this is just a sneer on their faces because their mouths are taped shut.

I have a playlist of certain songs/music that can get them moving a little, but usually when I’m in the middle of something really intense during my day job. And the little imps are so lethargic they usually just tell me in sign language, “Whatever.”

I’ve got a favorite author who, in my opinion, is the pure definition of talent. When I read some of his work, I think about how easy he makes it look. I’m sure I could do that. I have the story. Why won’t my words stick together and sing so pretty like his do.

I’ve got a support group. The Wordsmith Six group, the best critique group, friend group in the world. I’ve got time since the kids are grown. I’ve got computers, paper, pens, pencils, pictures, current events, life problems, life greatness, prompt books, everything I need to write these stories.

But these days the words are more like rocks than bubbles. These days my characters are lazy lethargic mimes.

I need a word gym to get these guys moving again.

Congratulations. You have just received post card from the muse.

View Point


Outtakes 163

View Point

By Cait Collins

 

It is possible to write two novels about the same incident, but from two different points of view. Bothe stories are valid. The hero in the first book is the villain in the second, and the villain becomes the hero. The disadvantages each man perceives regarding his plight are unknown to the other. It makes for interesting reading.

Here’s an assignment. The hero and the heroine have a lover’s quarrel. Write the scene from the heroine’s view point. What started the argument? Who became defensive first? Who initiated the fight? Pay particular attention to her hurts and disappointments. What is she not saying?

Now write the same scene from the hero’s point of view. What is different? What is similar? What is he hiding? Who stands between them? Is he defensive or placating? Can they resolve the issues?

Read both stories aloud. Are the results thought provoking enough for you take the scenes and develop a short story or novel?

Half Price Books



Half Price Books

By Natalie Bright

Voted best bookstore in Dallas/Fort Worth by viewers of WFAA-TV Channel 8, and voted best bookstore in Dallas by Nickelodeon Parent’s Pick, Half Price Books has always been a must stop every time we journey to Dallas. I remember our first experience there many years ago when my oldest was struggling to find reading material that would hold his interest so he could pass middle school Accelerated Reading. His teacher offered to give him credit based on the nonfiction books he read, after she looked them over. Upon the advice of my cousin, I turned him loose in Half Price Books. He discovered the military history section and passed AR that year.

Half Price Books – Flagship- Dallas, Texas

A converted Laundromat was the location of the first Half Price Books in 1972. Stocked with over 2,000 titles from the personal collections of co-founders Ken Gjemre and Pat Anderson, it has grown to stores in 16 states offering used books, music, movies and games. The simple philosophy of offering “a great product at a great price” continues under Pat’s daughter, Sharon Anderson Wright.

A recent trip to the Dallas area to visit family included a stop at the Half Price Book main store. I love digging through stacks of old, dusty books, but this isn’t your typical used book store. It’s clean, modern, and very well organized by genre with clearly marked sections by topic and alphabetized by author. “Preserving and recycling resources and entertainment of every form is our business“, and everything is half the publisher’s price or less.

As a children’s author, I particularly appreciate the Newberry Award section where I can find treasures for a few bucks. Featuring both medaled and honor awarded stories, these classics provide invaluable material for the study of story craft.

Classify yourself as a book hoarder? Bring a few books with you and leave with cash. The Coffee Shop and pastry was a delicious diversion too.

www.hpb.com for more information about Half Price Books.

 

 

Balance


Outtakes 162

Balance

By Cait Collins

 

Have you ever played Jenga? Players take turns removing one block at a time from a tower constructed of 54 blocks. The removed blocks are placed on top of the structure making a taller but less stable tower. The person who topples the tower loses. It’s really tricky and lots of fun. But there is a point. Keeping the tower upright is a matter of balance.

A writer’s life definitely needs balance. We build a tower one brick at a time and often do not realize how unstable the structure really is. We pile jobs on top of family obligations, add social commitments, kid’s activities, friends, writing assignments, social media, deadlines, editing, new creative, submissions, marketing, and pretty soon the house of cards is endanger of collapse. Every layer is necessary, but how do we manage to maintain balance and sanity?

I say we take a page from traditional housewives’ books. My mother managed get a husband and six kids out of bed each morning, fix breakfast, find lost socks, book bags, and homework, get Dad off to work and kids to school before having a cup of coffee. She made lunch, cleaned house, washed and ironed clothes, fixed dinner, cleaned the kitchen, helped with homework. She was the first one up in the morning and the last to go to bed at night. Everything worked. Her trick — planning and time management.

Writers need a plan. A good calendar is a must for keeping track of obligations and deadlines. I prefer a Daytimer, but some of my friends are more comfortable with an electronic organizer. Be sure to note all commitments, and never promise to do something before consulting your “secretary”.

Learn to say no. We get ourselves in trouble when we overbook or take on a project that does not help our work or capture our interest. We regret saying yes, but felt guilty saying no. If no is too difficult, try declining for now and ask for a rain check.

Honor deadlines and promises. Even when it’s difficult to get the job done, failure to keep commitments makes the writer appear unreliable.

Make time for you. A few minutes each day dedicated to yourself clears the head and allows you to be more focused and productive.

Prioritize. If you can put it off until tomorrow, do it. Take care of today, today.

Work hard, but balance work with play. Family and friends miss you when you over do it.

Know when to stop. Creative efforts are not well served when you are exhausted.

Balancing work with everyday life makes a writer more creative and a better all round person. It allows him to focus on the job without sacrificing life.

Half Price Books



Half Price Books

By Natalie Bright

Voted best bookstore in Dallas/Fort Worth by viewers of WFAA-TV Channel 8, and voted best bookstore in Dallas by Nickelodeon Parent’s Pick, Half Price Books has always been a must stop every time we journey to Dallas. I remember our first experience there many years ago when my oldest was struggling to find reading material that would hold his interest so he could pass middle school Accelerated Reading. His teacher offered to give him credit based on the nonfiction books he read, after she looked them over. Upon the advice of my cousin, I turned him loose in Half Price Books. He discovered the military history section and passed AR that year.

Half Price Books – Flagship- Dallas, Texas

A converted Laundromat was the location of the first Half Price Books in 1972. Stocked with over 2,000 titles from the personal collections of co-founders Ken Gjemre and Pat Anderson, it has grown to stores in 16 states offering used books, music, movies and games. The simple philosophy of offering “a great product at a great price” continues under Pat’s daughter, Sharon Anderson Wright.

A recent trip to the Dallas area to visit family included a stop at the Half Price Book main store. I love digging through stacks of old, dusty books, but this isn’t your typical used book store. It’s clean, modern, and very well organized by genre with clearly marked sections by topic and alphabetized by author. “Preserving and recycling resources and entertainment of every form is our business“, and everything is half the publisher’s price or less.

As a children’s author, I particularly appreciate the Newberry Award section where I can find treasures for a few bucks. Featuring both medaled and honor awarded stories, these classics provide invaluable material for the study of story craft.

Classify yourself as a book hoarder? Bring a few books with you and leave with cash. The Coffee Shop and pastry was a delicious diversion too.

www.hpb.com for more information about Half Price Books.