Posts Tagged ‘critique’

Surprise!


2011
01.31

I found a lovely little surprise in my inbox today. It turns out our anthology, I Dreamed a Crooked Dream, was recently reviewed on Read All Day, and it was well received! Go check it out, and look at the other books Nina has reviewed. She also reviewed about some amazing baby strollers, if you are interested you can find more about strollers here.

Right problem, wrong fix


2010
05.21

So there you are, sitting in on your critique group as they ravage your piece. You thought it was flawless, yet they will point out this and that, have logic problems here, flow problems there, and show you how your characters are out of character. They make suggestions, and not wanting to disappoint, you rush home and start making those changes as soon as the group is over.

If you’re a writer who has a critique group (or lets ANYONE read your work for that matter), chances are you have been in that situation at least once. I know I have.

A few weeks ago, I lived through that very situation, but instead of rushing home to make the changed, something hit me.

What if they’re wrong?

Okay, so my particular group of critters and friends are all SUPER smart and talented, so they can’t be totally wrong, but what if they are partially wrong?

I pondered the large issue and the accompanying fixes that was suggested. The problem was really small, but would require a major rewrite of one of my chapters. Now I am all for rewriting if needed (trust me, I’ve done my share, and probably more), but what if the suggestions were wrong?

See, I could almost agree with the problem (two of my characters were acting way to relaxed and chummy considering the circumstances), but they didn’t understand that my characters were faking. They were clinging on to “normal” social idiosyncrasies to avoid the death and destruction around them.

I knew why my characters were acting this way… why didn’t the readers?

The more I thought, the more I realized that the situation wasn’t the problem, it was the presentation. I hadn’t sold it properly.

Instead of rewriting the scene and making them act different, I change a few words here and there, then reorganized the sequence of events. It too me all of 15 minutes.

The next week, I submitted the same chapter. Low and behold, everyone loved it! Okay, maybe not love, but they liked the changes just fine.

How could they be so wrong? Well, they weren’t… not exactly. See, this turned out to be a case of what I like to call RPWF, or, “right problem wrong fix.”

See there WAS a problem, but the fix they were offering wasn’t what I wanted, so I toyed with it and came up with a way to fix the issue in a way that I still liked.

All this to say that when you get advice, try to figure out what the root of the real problem is. Consider the advice, and if you think you can address the REAL problem better, go for it! The worst thing that can happen is that your critters still won’t like it 😉

On a completely unrelated note, Ryan and I were trying to figure out the most accurate genre for my wip, and this is what we came up with:

Survivalistic Contemporary Hard Sci-Fi, Pre-Post-Apocolyptic, Yet Still Dystopic Romance Thriller With Short Ventures Into Chick Lit

SCHSFPPAYSDRTWSVICL for short. Yep. I’m gonna claim that as a real genre.

Rejection is a good thing… honest!


2010
03.19

I may sound a little optimistic here, but look what treasure I found in my email today.

Thank you for your submission to SUPER AWESOME MAGAZINE.  Unfortunately, it’s not what we’re looking for at the moment.  Thank you for sharing, and best of luck in the future.

-The Editors
(Chris-  I’d like to commend you for the pacing of the first few pages.  It’s quite eloquent.  Keep working. -SUPER AWESOME EDITOR)
Obviously I changed the name of the magazine and the editor, but other than that, this is totally real! Woo hoo!
While this email makes it easier to see rejections as a good thing, this isn’t a new revelation. Getting published is a numbers game. Sure, you have to actually know how to write, and it has to be interesting, but all things being equal, it’s all about how often you submit.
Every rejection you get is one step closer to being accepted. Start thinking of it this way, and you will actually get excited to see rejections. I know it sounds strange, but seriously, you will.
And, you also need to realize that it isn’t just you. EVERYONE gets rejected. I know someone will comment or email me to prove me wrong, but 99% of the worlds published authors have been rejected… several times. Even the greats like Stephen King, Michael Crichton, insert your favorite author here.
Next time you get a rejection I want you to jump up and down, sing, dance, and email everyone you know. You know why? Because it means you and the best of the best have something in common. 😉

Online Writing Groups


2010
01.23

So as a follow up post, I thought I would talk briefly about online writing groups. For some, there are no local groups they can attend. For others, like me, they want as much input/feedback as possible. Kind of like Johnny Five from Short Circuit, “Input! More Input!”

Anyway, there are several great online critique groups available. The three I frequent are:

Sribophile – A very professional approach to online critiquing. Most of the people there seem to know what they are talking about, and the owner, Alex, is on top of things. The free version works just fine, but has some limitations. For a small monthly fee, you can unlock those limitation, and get more feedback on more works, faster.

Absoulte Write – This site is the big kid on the block. They have TONS of forums and TONS of users. Several published authors, agents, editors, and publishers spend time there. The readers/critiquers can be a bit harsh, but they are usually right.

Review Fuse – Similar to Scribophile, but not quite as polished in my opinion. Great community, though, and another great resources to have your work torn to shreds.

Keep in mind, though, that the people on the sites (for the most part) are unpublished writers, and are simply offering their opinion… no matter how passionate they “offer” it.  I suggest using my method of reading feedback. If I agree with it, use it. If I don’t agree with it, toss it. The only exception is when you see a lot of the same comments. If eight out of ten say that your dialog needs reworking, chances are there is some validity there.

So go out and post your work! If you have nothing to post, make some flash fiction (REALLY short fiction, like 100-1000 words) and post it, just to see what you get back!

Writing Groups


2010
01.20

Tonight, while sitting in my writers group, I got to thinking about how lucky I am. The group of people involved are ALL so very talented, that I would have to be a complete moron NOT to learn something awesome.

Mark my words. If I ever become a well known author, it will be because I joined a writers group.

Which leads me to my next point: should you, or should you not join a group? The answer is (as if you couldn’t figure it out by now)… YES.

There is a trick, though. You have to find a good one. Here are some things to look for while looking for a good group:

1) Size. If thee group is HUGE, you will probably never get your work critiqued. Not to say that there isn’t a benefit from editing and reading others work, but you will never know what YOU are doing wrong (or right) until you get good feedback.

2) Genre. While you can be loose with this one, I think it’s easier to be in a group that writes (or at least a few write) in the same genre as you do. That way, you all are on the same page with the expectations of that genre.

3) Review style. I have been to a group where everyone reads their piece aloud. While I am thankful that they let me through the doors, I don’t understand how you can REALLY critique someone’s writing when they are READING it. It is easy to miss things (and impossible to catch others, like typos, etc.) when you aren’t actually reading it. Plus, the speaker/author can put inflection in his voice that might not be in the text, distorting what a reader might catch.

You really should find a group where people actually share the work ahead of time, then give time to read and edit before the meeting. This, I find, provides the most benefit.

4) Competency. While newbies should definitely stick together and help each other out, there needs to be at least some (although, the more the better) veteran writers. That doesn’t mean published exactly, just experienced. Otherwise, it’s the blind leading the blind.

5) Frequency. The more often the better! Now this, of course, will vary on your own schedule, but once a month isn’t going to cut it. At least 3 times a month, and that’s a minimum.

So, what to do now that you have found your group? Jump in head first. Start critiquing right away. I don’t care if your new and have never written before. All that means as that you are providing the opinion of the average reader… which is GREAT!

As soon as you feel comfortable (or sooner if you tend to be shy), submit something. Anything. Spend some time on it, but this will be your signpost for where you are as a writer… kind of like in school when they test you at the beginning of the year to see where everyone is. You NEED to know where you stand, so you can see where to climb to.

I am currently a member of the Fresno Sci Fi and Fantasy Writers Group, or FSFW. We are currently working on a new site, which I will post as soon as it is up. If you are lucky enough to find a group as good as the one I am in, then do whatever you can to join. Your writing will improve ten fold.