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While I'm sure everyone wants to lose weight, get a new job, find love, and other such things, as an aspiring writer, I sought to derive a few choice selections to hopefully bring focus and further success to becoming a published author. To that effect, I have created the following resolutions:
Again, just a few quick resolutions to get the year started off right. Hopefully, I can find time to also lose 10 or 40 pounds also!
While I don’t claim to be an expert, after receiving critiques from fellow writers and editors for nearly a decade, I feel I have a pretty good handle on what critiques to give credence to and which ones to ignore.
By ignore, I don’t mean dismissing the critique partner or disregarding the entirety of their comments. Most critiques cover a variety of points, so I rate each individual criticism on its own merit. Otherwise, I risk missing out on valuable feedback or never being able to keep a critique partner.
But there are definitely signs that can help filter out the good from the bad.
Note: The article assumes the critters you work with have a good understanding on the topic of writing/crafting a good story. If you feel a critter lacks good understanding, I suggest leaning toward rejection.
When to lean towards REJECTING the feedback:
Intentionally intentional. If you feel you have a good handle on this whole writing thing and you intentionally introduced something that generally makes critters go wild (such as: passive writing, adverbs, unique structural/grammatical choices, etc.), then it’s probably safe to ignore a critter when they send up the red flags. If multiple critters jump on that bandwagon, it might be time to lean toward giving the feedback credence.
Fable frauds. Unless you are surrounded by critters that live in your story's genre (Science Fiction, Fantasy, Noir, etc.), you will field comments from those who live in other genres. Now, it's an absolute benefit to have critters from all walks of life, including those whose genres are different than your own, as it often provides perspectives that you wouldn't find among your own kind. That said, be very careful when someone outside of your targeted genre tries to tell you something is wrong because "it's not what they’ve seen" in your story’s genre. Especially when they explain how the story "doesn't work for them" as they simply may not appreciate or relate to the genre you are writing in, let alone truly know how to write for those seeking the genre. If you've studied up on your genre (typically by reading A LOT of what's published), then trust your gut to know what flies and what doesn't in that space--at least, when facing someone outside of that circle.
Demeaning douchebags. If someone is critiquing you (you are terrible at X) versus the story (the story needs work here), then it’s likely the person isn’t focused on helping your story to be the best it can be, but instead is using this as an opportunity to feel better about themselves. This, of course, is the lowest form of douchebag known to authors (at least, in my humble opinion).
There is one exception here. If the comments come from someone you know and trust AND their writing knowledge and experience is solid AND they very respectful with their feedback. Then it's OK for them to offer critiques about you as an author. But again, only if it’s meant to help! Examples of what I feel is respectful:
You tend not do well in developing [the scene, characters, etc.] in your stories. For example, [cites several examples in your work]. I think you should really focus on learning more about this. Here are some handy [books, articles, suggestions] that could help.
Something like the above would go a long ways with me as it shows true effort to help me as an author. But again, I wouldn't necessary buy into everything a single person is saying--even one you know and trust--as they are but one voice. At minimum, use your own mind to decide if the comments have merit. If you can't decide, seek out the opinions of others who you trust.
When to lean towards ACCEPTING the feedback:
Reminder: If you do something intentionally, then it probably overrides the below.
Authorial agreement. If you get feedback that you agree with, then it's likely a good fit for your story. Fairly obvious statement, sure, but it's worth mentioning that your greatest assessment tool is your gut. If it's telling you the feedback is worthwhile, then go for it--even in the face of other critter comments.
Grammatical gaffes. Misspellings, comma mistakes, apostrophe misfires, misplaced modifiers, run-on sentences, poorly constructed paragraphs, boring sentence structure, and so on are commonly flagged and are often worthwhile to correct.
Vocabulary vomit. Repeated words, using BIG words when smaller ones will do, overusing a thesaurus, inappropriate or ineffective word choice, and so on. For skilled writers, word choice is often intentional. But that doesn't mean words aren't up for discussion. If your goal is to craft the most interesting and beautifully written story possible, be open to opinions on word choice. The right word at the right time is a thing of beauty!
Authorial addiction. All authors have a voice that is unique (at least, for the most part) to the individual. Unfortunately, authors often have addictions or ticks that ride upon their voices. Examples include: overusing a word or phrase, weird or overdone metaphors, always having the characters doing the same thing (for instance, my characters tend to suck in deep breaths A LOT!), starting scenes the same way, and so on. Ticks are often hidden to the author, sucking the life out of the story, until someone comes along and helps to pluck them out.
Note: Highly suggest you add any uncovered ticks to your editing checklist, that way you know to look for them later.
Character crisis. To the best of my knowledge, the majority of fictional stories have characters in them. If these characters fail to elicit an emotional response from the reader, the story will suffer. As such, pay close attention to comments regarding character depth, development, goals, and so on to ensure this critical component doesn't flop in your story.
Factual flops. Logic failures, inaccurate sciences, presenting busted facts, etc. Be sure to research the topics you write about and do your best to present a story that cannot be poked through like a wet napkin. If your target audience loves science, then you have better make sure your material covers those bases. If your readership devours history like a ravenous pack of...well, history nerds, then make sure you don't misfire when injecting specifics into your historical fiction.
Dialog debacles. Stilted, lifeless, flat, and other critical comments towards dialog should be taken seriously. Dialog, in my humble opinion, breathes a whole lotta life into a story and if it fails, your story will likely fail with it.
Structural snafus. Issues with major structural components can sink a story's ship faster than a torpedo. Pay special attention to comments on story/scene openings, conflict or tension concerns, point-of-view problems, pacing issues, themes, poorly timed infodumps, plot holes, etc.
Clarity confusion. Are your critter friends complaining that they can't see the picture you are attempting to create? Do they get lost where your characters are or what they are doing? Has the plot done so many twists and turns your readers are upside down and facing backwards? As an author, you should seek to create clarity for every element in the story (except for intentional misdirections, of course) or you risk the reader losing interest or getting so confused they put down the story.
Stylistic stymies. Telling where showing is better or vise versa, poorly executed symbolism, cliches, flat tone, etc. While a lot of this is opinion driven based on others view on style, it’s definitely worth noting if more than one critter points out the same concern as it may ring true for the general audience.
Ultimately, it's your choice as to what feedback you listen to and what you choose to ignore. I often use the Rule of 2 (no, not the Star Wars/Sith doctrine!): if at least two solid sources provide the same feedback, then give the feedback extra consideration. This includes the author's mindset as well. If an author hears something that they agree with, then I strongly urge them to go with it. Your own instincts are often the best assessment tool you will ever have at your disposal.
Many studies suggest a large number of people have a desire to publish a story (one such study even suggests the number being over 80%). However, an equally large number of people often feel they don't know how to get started, let alone have the skills or knowledge to take a story across the finish line of publication.
NOTE: When I mention "publication" in this post, I am referring to traditional publishing, not self-publishing. That said, I feel the concepts and information in this post applies to both and encourage you to read on regardless of your stories final destination.
If so many people want to write books, how come there aren't billions published each year?
There are many "reasons" why so many stories go unwritten and, sadly, the reason often comes down to a general lack of focus or allowing inaccurate perceptions to derail the story.
I am (un)happy to say that I used to be one of those poor souls above:
1. I’m unhappy because, looking back, I wasted SO much time (often because of lame excuses) that could have been spent towards the craft that makes me happy.
2. I’m happy because, unlike those who never get started or have quit, I have recently been able to focus and have seen real progress as a result!
That’s not to say that I have been able to devote unlimited hours towards writing, nor have I found some shortcut or secret to making it all happen instantly. To do anything great, a person typically has to put in a notable amount of time and effort, which often requires some sacrifice. And like many of you, I have a full schedule -- demanding full-time job, a family, side projects, friends, etc. -- all of which steals MANY hours of my "free" time.
While those things are still present, I can honestly say I no longer allow myself to use them as excuses not to write as I once did and I firmly believe balance can be struck between sacrificing for one’s art/craft and living a demanding life also.
So… how does one do this?
The answer, sadly, is it depends. There are so many factors impacting people nowadays and I feel it’s impossible to make a blueprint for success that will fit every individual. However, I feel there are several key factors that do fit the majority.
But rather than write another generic “top ten ways to publish a story” or “5 stupidly simple tricks to writing a book” article (of which, the Internet is pilfered with), I thought it would make more sense to just give you an idea on how I’ve gone about things, what I’ve learned, and ultimately, what I suggest for anyone getting started.
SO LET’S GET TO IT!
1. READ: You'll see this time and again from those who have come before you. If you want to write well, you must read -- a lot. I suggest reading several stories that are similar to your own, ideally from authors you enjoy. Read it as a writer, not a generic reader. When you see something that works or doesn’t work for you, TAKE NOTES! This will go a long way towards making the writing process easier and your story publishable.
2. DOCUMENT YOUR IDEAS: First things first – you probably have at least one idea, if not a hundred. What got me started on the writing path is my creative mind crafting up dozens of “great” story ideas. In fact, I have story ideas exploding in my head all the time (just as I'm going to bed, of course!) and so it became crucial to capture at least the essence of the idea in some sort of tracking log.
NOTE: I use a spreadsheet application, with each line covering the basics of the story idea: type of story (flash/short/novel) – Brief Summary (often log line, more on this later) – Detailed description (which often contains a short scene) – Status (eventually, you’ll need to know if you’ve started writing, revising, or sending out the story for publication).
3. GET SERIOUS: No more excuses! Set a writing/reading schedule and stick to it. Go with whatever works within your life at this time. If the only time you have to give is an hour a night, or a couple of hours each Sundays, then go with it. But don't break from the schedule! If you treat this like side hobby, you'll likely never treat writing as anything but a passing fancy – and thus, NEVER FINISH!
4. LEARN THE CRAFT: Take time to find blogs to follow (like this one, of course!), grab a good “how to” book or three (ex. On Writing by Stephen King), scour the Internet for learning materials (there are LOTS of them), and/or, if you can swing it, take a class somewhere (not that I think this is necessary). Do whatever you can to build your writing prowess.
NOTE: I am only suggesting you get started with this versus waiting to write until you feel you are some sort of expert. After gleaning a couple of great resources and taking down a lot of notes, I feel you are safe to get started on writing your story. Just don’t stop the learning. Set aside time to hit up blogs or other learning content regularly.
5. (OPTIONAL) START WITH SHORT STORIES: So many authors start with short stories (like the aforementioned Stephen King). The benefits to starting with short stories include:
- Keeping it short: Short stories teaches you to keep things concise. New writers tend to bloat their work versus taking the time to make sure each word counts. This is crucial in the short story realm, considering most publications like short stories range of 3000-7500 word range.
- Faster feedback: Knocking out a short story can be done in a few hours. This allows you to get feedback on what works and what doesn’t from your critique partners, beta readers, etc. This faster feedback loop will greatly speed along your growing skill sets and set you up for better success when you start your novel. (at least, IMHO)
- Recognition: Since you can produce short stories much faster, you will have more opportunities to submit them to more publications and contests over writing a single novel. This can lead to you earning credibility and marketability when you go to write your novel. Win a big enough contest and the publishers may come to you versus the other way around!
NOTE: Now, if you are against short stories and solely want to focus on writing novels, you can absolutely do so. This is just something that has worked for me. Had I stuck with just writing a novel, I wouldn’t have the knowledge or skill I have today as the feedback loop is too focused on just a single story line.
6. CHOOSE AN IDEA: Once you are ready to put pen to paper, to write your story (whether short or novel length), make sure you are PASSIONATE about the idea. If you’re not totally enthralled with the idea or you’re simply trying to make money (example – just writing for a "hot" genre), then chances are good you will fizzle out before you even come close to finishing.
To kick things off, I think it’s a good idea to come up with a "log line" in which you cover the main theme of the story. This will help you keep the story on track, as well as serve as potential marketing material for when you need to pitch the story. Example: Two lovers, each from different social classes, fall in love aboard an ill-fated sea voyage. (ie Titanic)
As far as what constitutes a "good idea", the key for me is to have an interesting character(s) and overall plot, a solid beginning/hook, a good inciting moment, and a rough idea for the ending before getting started.
NOTE: If you are pantser (more to come on this), you likely only need a good overall concept to get started.
NOTE 2: Once you have an idea, do a little digging and see if it’s unique. Chances are good that someone has written a story similar to yours (at least, in theme, world, plot, etc). But don’t fret! Most “originality” comes from taking old ideas and making them new again. Just be sure to write your story with a unique angle or in a new light, and I’m sure it will come out just fine.
7. WARM-UP: Create yourself a checklist to prep yourself before you start each writing session. The checklist will serve as a reminder and get you warmed up before you go to work, which should make your initial writing stronger. This checklist will change as you write, morphing into whatever tips or tricks you need at the time to make your writing the best it can be.
8. HOW TO WRITE: You have a decision to make on how you want to write. Are you going to take the pantser approach (someone who writes without planning, just letting the story come alive with every word/sentence you write) or take a plotter’s path (someone who plots out the milestones or structure before starting) – or some hybrid of the two?
If you're a pantser, then set a schedule for writing and stick to it! For the plotters out there, use the Internet -- there are MANY articles online on how to do plotting/structuring.
Now me, I consider myself a hybrid. I line up the high-level milestones/plot points. Next, I create some small character profiles, covering major personality or physical traits. Then I put a little thought into world building. Afterwards, I get started with the writing! Then I start writing.
NOTE: None of this prep work is fully fleshed out as the full-on plotters often do. There’s just enough info to get me started and keep me heading in the right path. Some plotters spend HOURS on end detailing out their story structure, plots, characters, worlds, etc. and I am sure it probably helps to make the first draft pretty solid. However, I am a firm believer that I’ll have to rewrite my first draft at least 5-6 times, if not MANY more times, and so spending all that upfront prep time seems like a waste. Plus, I feel it stifles the creative process as stories often morph as I write them, requiring me to be flexible to create the most interesting story possible.
9. FINISH THE FIRST DRAFT: I DO NOT RECOMMEND revising as you go. I know some authors do this and are successful at it. But in working with other writers, and from my own experience, I see this leading to writers getting stuck in endless revision loops. The "i gotta make it perfect before moving on" mentality nearly led me to stop writing all together, as I couldn't seem to get past chapter 3 without going back and changing chapters 1 and 2 in some way.
NOTE: Accept that your first draft will likely be crappy and that the most important thing is to get it down -- THEN REVISE AFTERWARDS! Outside of writing savants, the truly great author's tend to be truly great editors and their stories tend to find their way more often in rewrites than from the first draft. In short, don't get stuck trying to make the first draft perfect.
10. LET IT REST: Once a first draft is down, put it on the shelf and start a new story (another short story, perhaps). For novels, I suggest letting it sit for 3 to 6 months before starting the revision process. This will help avoid demotivation (which for me comes by having to slog through the same story for months on end after all the time it took to write the thing in the first place!), allows me flex my creative muscles in a new direction for a time, and then come back to the first draft novel with fresh eyes (which allows me to see all sorts of things I wouldn’t likely have caught if I was still “too close” to the work).
11. REVISE IN REVERSE: Once I come back to it, I edit in reverse, starting at the end and going back through my notes to the beginning. This way, I incorporate the newest ideas first versus revise in some older idea that may get superseded later by a newer idea.
12. GET FEEDBACK: After a revision or two, you may want to think about recruiting some help/feedback to ensure the story is on the right path. I suggest you get feedback from other writers versus from friends, as fellow writers will help you with the major concepts (plot, character dev, world building, etc) that non-writers don’t realize to look for. Use your non-writing friends as BETA readers.
NOTE: Consider joining or starting a critiquing group – one that focuses on your intended story genre. This will help accelerate your learning curve on how to write.
13. MARKETING: When you feel your story is gaining momentum (often after it’s gone through a critique group or friend at least once and they are raving about it), and you’ve settled on the major plot points, characters, theme, etc.) you may wish to begin your marketing campaign. This can range from networking at writers events/conferences, creating an author's website, using social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc), participating in online groups, follow book reviewers’ blogs and comment often to build a relationship with them, start a writing blog, etc.
NOTE: There are so many options here, as well as so many articles on how to do all of these things. In general, I would recommend starting at least a few of these things in advance of your book being ready to pitch – that way you have some kind of presence established that you can use as motivation for someone to accept your submission.
14. EDITING: Once you’ve put it through your critique friends and have finalized your own edits, I highly recommend finding an editor to put your story through its paces. A good professional editor will find issues and make suggestions that you and your critique friends will just not find. To me, this is a necessary step no matter if you self-publish or not, as it will only make your finish product even better!
15. SEND IT: Once your story is done, it’s time to send it out into the world. This may involve self-publishing, or pitching to an agent or publisher (which you can find via many resources online to help you with all of these scenarios).
NOTE: If you go right to the publisher, just be sure to follow all the submission rules you find and then send your baby out into the world.
16. PATIENCE AND FAITH: Now, it’s time for you to have a little patience and faith that it will find a new home to grow in! But don’t wait to hear back. Start something new! The fact is that the majority of first-time novelists do not have much luck in getting their debut novels published (outside of those who self-publish). Publishing houses are just too strapped for time or budgets to take risks, which often leaves a lot of new authors on the outside looking in.
It's not impossible to get in the door, but just don't get your expectations so high that a rejection undercuts your determination.
Note: Submitting is the most agonizing experience a writer will face (IMHO) as the chances are REALLY good you will be rejected… OFTEN! Most famous authors tout dozens, if not hundreds of rejections before their stories are finally accepted. So when you get that first rejection, take heart in knowing that you are in damn good company, then send that story out to the next target!
If your story never gets published, don’t take it as some sort of failure. Accept that you’ve gained a tremendous amount of experience, all of which you can put to good use on your next story. And as with most things in life, anything worth doing is not often easy, but boy-howdy it's a great feeling when you do finally succeed!
There you have it, a look into one author's experience and suggestions on how to get started and how to finish. I hope this information helps you in some way. If you have any thoughts or ideas to share, please leave a comment or like this post.
If you stuck with the article this long and still have some life left in you, please take a moment to swing by my author’s website or Facebook page and leave a comment. I’d appreciate the visit!
As an aspiring writer, I have collected what I feel is my fair share of rejections (count is now up to 48 on 8 short stories...ouch!). The rejections used to be canned, with ZERO personalization or any acknowledgement the story was even read. But as time progressed, I started to receive a hand full of rejections with a few kind words, and even some pointers on what did and didn't work for the publisher.
While it sucked getting a rejection, I knew from my research that this is pretty typical for new writers exploring the traditional world of publishing, that it's going to take a number of rejections (which sadly, is looking like far more than 48 for me) and the value of those rejections improve before the first publishing credit is finally earned. So I took heart knowing I was "progressing" and kept sending out the stories to other houses.
Until one day, one of my stories got noticed!
Back in April, I was ecstatic to learn that one of my stories had pierced the front lines of a publisher's defensive front (ie Slush pile readers), then wait with bated breath as it inched its way up the beach front and through an extended series of heavy fire (ie Suggested edits by a line editor, then managing editor, then senior managing editor), before finally coming face-to-face with enemy's final, and most heavily armored fortification... (ie The chief editor).
Sadly, after seven months of waging war, my story fell before its objective could be reached. (ie It was rejected by the chief editor)
Now, I could use this late process rejection to fuel my deeply rooted insecurities about myself or my writing, or try to write off the publication as not knowing their heads from their rear ends, or find some way to deflect blame, accountability, etc.
But I am happy to say that my focus has only been on the continued progress in my career. While it's disappointing the story didn't find its forever home, I was finally able to go through the process of working with a publishing house and its editors (free of charge), and it was thrilling!
Yes, it's back to the drawing board (ie Sending the story out to others), I take heart that my career is progressing and that elusive publishing credit will hopefully be right around the corner!
So while you should never "count your chickens until they hatch," I also think the moral of this story is to avoid seeing this kind of situation as a failure, but instead, see it for what it truly is... PROGRESS!
If ever there WAS a word that caused a whole heap of consternation within the writing community, it most definitely is the word "WAS." A lot of time and effort has been spent focusing on whether or not this little word (and its variants (wasn't, were, weren't, etc) and others like it (looking at you: am, is, are, being, be, been, etc) are truly the bane of the publishing world or whether they are completely justified showing up within the beauty of our prose.
In this author's opinion, the answer is a frustrating: It depends.
There are all sorts of reasons to be wary of the WAS, including but not limited to:
Research the subject and you'll get ALL sorts of hits on the debate -- for example:
Ultimately, the word WAS and others like it are perfectly good words and have a place within fiction. Dialog aside (in which normally anything goes), I attempt to apply the same logic to these words that I do to any other word I place within my work:
If a sentence contains WAS/WERE/etc and it hits all of the above, then I say it's good in my book. If not, then I suggest seeking it out and replacing it with gusto!
It basically comes down to making sure the words you are using are intentional (to steal from my critique buddy), that you put some thought into whether or not WAS (or any word) is appropriate versus just being lazy and using a word because it's considered OK by language teacher standards.
Your readers do not want a language lesson, they want to be entertained -- so make your prose pop and do it intentionally! Even if some of the word nerds decree your work as "bad" because it had a specific word in it... like WAS.
And there you have it — one person's perspective on the great WAS debate. I hope this information helps you in some way. If you have any thoughts or ideas to share, please leave a comment.
One of the more common first person themes I have seen within my writer’s group is the overuse of pronouns (I, me, my), with “I” being the biggest offender. This theme is really noticeable when the pronouns come at the beginning of multiple sentences within a given section. For example:
I was so hot that sweat poured down my face. I ran across the street to the hotdog stand. I asked the vendor for a bottle of soda. The moment he handed it to me, I guzzled it down so fast that I barely tasted it.
Pronouns, when overused, tend to draw too much attention to the character (as in: HEY, LOOK AT ME AND WHAT I AM SAYING, DOING, ETC!) versus focusing on the story unfolding before them. They are also guilty of carrying a lot of filter words, as if the reader needs to be told who is doing the seeing, hearing, touching, etc.
To combat the overuse of “I” at the start of first person narrative, you can often just cut it out:
Want a challenge? Write down 600 words of first person narrative and only use 3 pronouns. (And don’t cheat by writing 600 words of scenry!) If you can incorporate dialog, actions, scenery, etc and not overuse pronouns, you are well on your way to being an effective first-person writer – IMHO.
And there you have it — a few ways to limit the overuse of “I” and other pronouns within first-person perspective. I hope this information helps you in some way. If you have any thoughts or ideas to share, please leave a comment.
If you stuck with the article this long and still have some life left in you, please take a moment to swing by my Facebook page and leave a comment. I’d appreciate the visit!
A great story often requires great characters, or, at least, one great character. Great characters come in many shapes and sizes, colors and creeds, and, more importantly, carry a range of depth and dimension.
So how does one create great characters?
Below are a few things to consider when trying to create an unforgettable character:
And there you have it — a not overly simple, yet effective way to create unforgettable characters. I hope this information helps you in some way. If you have any thoughts or ideas to share, please leave a comment.
In an earlier post, I offered up thoughts on how to being your own writer's group. To run a successful writing group, it's this author's opinion that you should created and stick to an agenda.
To be clear, I don'd advocate for creating an overly detailed agenda, one so full of life-sucking bullet points that it feels more like a business meeting than a creative meeting of the minds. In stead, I suggest developing a framework to keep everyone on task and moving the group forward, to prevent any one person or subject from swallowing up the entire time.
Below is the agenda my own writing group uses:
WHAT TO BRING:
- If you are a new member: Come a little bit early (ten minutes or so) in order to get the quick scoop on the group, what to expect, get help with logistics, etc.
- Existing members: Bring a positive, creative attitude and something you wish to share with the group! (Note: My group shares all writing electronically before the meetings and we utilize tablets and such to review content during the meeting)
AGENDA: (2 hours)
Introductions of new members or unfamiliar faces. Ask the following questions:
- How long have you been writing? critiquing?
- Greatest challenges?
- Been published?
- Favorite style of writing?
Discuss general meeting logistics:
- Message boards
- Keeping the submissions board clean
- Using the Submission Sheets within Google Drive
- Updated Writing Rules document
Creative Round Table hour (details below)
Critique Sharing hour (details below)
Creative round table: 1 hour
Each member will have an opportunity to request specific feedback or ask for brainstorming to overcome some roadblock they are facing. Example: “Several members offered written critiques that indicate my ending is not very strong. What do you think about this alternative ending?”
-An author will receive feedback from anyone willing to provide it, as time permits.
-If the meeting has few attendees, then a full group creative session may occur. If the meeting has a larger number of attendees, then multiple groups may be formed (randomly using a coin flip or some other random generator).
Rules of engagement within the creative round table:
- Each author will have an opportunity to ask for feedback towards a given topic of the author’s choosing. The time allotted will vary, depending upon the number of people in the group. For example: 1 hour / 6 people = 10 minutes per person.
- Fellow members are encouraged to offer positive suggestions or thoughts on how to provide what the author has requested—this can and likely will come from brainstorming across the group.
- Extreme care should be taken BY ALL to prevent any subject or idea from spiraling into some form of negative critique session—either about the story itself or any suggestions offered.
Critique sharing: 1 hour (OPTIONAL)
Each member will have an opportunity to receive specific feedback regarding work submitted in earlier meetings or shared otherwise. Basically, each critter will offer thoughts THEY WISH TO PROVIDE in order to spur dialog (to see if others share or disagree on the merits of the crit):
- A member will receive feedback from anyone willing to provide it, as time permits. The time allotted will vary, depending upon the number of people in the group. For example: 1 hour / 6 people = 10 minutes per person.
-If the work group meeting has few attendees or the numbers of attendees with work to critique is low, then a group critique session may occur. If the work group meeting has many attendees or the numbers of attendees with work to critique is high, then multiple groups may be formed (randomly using a coin flip or other random generator).
Rules of engagement on Critiquing:
- Each critiquer will provide an overview of their feedback on the writing (either what worked and what didn't) - doing their best to keep things short and to the point. The goal is to explore what is raised and to help the author strengthen the work. Extreme care should be taken BY ALL to prevent any subject or idea from spiraling into some form of negative critique session—either about the story itself or any suggestions offered.
- The author will not attempt to defend or rebut the critique. If the author disagrees, they should indicate that while they won't likely incorporate it, they still appreciate the idea and effort.
- The author may ask questions for clarity and/or offer facts that the critiquer may have missed (but only to determine if those facts were not apparent enough to the critiquer vs to challenge the ideas raised in any way).
And there you have it -- a simple, yet effective framework to keep things on task, to keep them positive, and to get everyone an opportunity to participate!
I hope this information leads you to forming the best group possible. If you have any other thoughts or ideas to share, please leave a comment. IN A FUTURE POST, I will more content used by my group as possible templates you can use for your own needs!
If you stuck with the article this long and still have some life left in you, please take a moment to swing by my author’s website or Facebook page and leave a comment. I’d appreciate the visit!
What is an author’s cheat sheet?
In my humble opinion, an author’s cheat sheet is a short document, one that can be read in five minutes, which covers topics germane to improving the author’s writing.
Now, I’m not talking about something generic to the craft of writing (for example: http://orig08.deviantart.net/ff65/f/2013/249/8/3/fiction_writer_s_cheat_sheet_by_ripleynox-d5rbhow.jpg)
No, I mean something specific to who you want to be as a writer, what angles or topics you need to focus on in order to improve – both in the short and long term.
What should you have in your cheat sheet?
The short answer is whatever areas you feel you need to shore up. The key is to identify and document the areas you struggle most in as a writer.
Maybe you’re not so good at conveying emotion (body language and such), or perhaps world building is a weakness. For some, overuse of pronouns (such as overusing “I”) or failing to randomize sentence structure or sentence beginnings is the problem. For others, falling into passive writing is the trap, or even over-writing (ie purple prose/waxing eloquent).
You can also utilize your cheat sheet as a running journal of sorts, to cover key points or events you wish to either reference or write down later as the story progresses.
A good cheat sheet is one that evolves and changes as you change as a writer. Keep it fresh and focused on what you need in the moment. You could even have specifics about the story you are writing currently, to make sure you don’t forget something critical.
What do I have in my cheat sheet?
At minimum, I cover my writing ticks (such as having characters “drawing in deep breaths” over and over) as well as not feeling the need to showcase every movement of a character’s body (like I’m detailing a marionette routine). I also keep short passages about key points about the story I am writing, especially cool ideas that I wrote down during previous sessions to be included in the future.
My cheat sheet morphs every time I write, especially when I end a writing session and need to document an idea to cross in the next session. The cheat sheet serves as a regular reminder that I have plenty of room to grow and, if I truly wish to be a success, that I need to keep focused and work on my craft.