Tag Archives: critique

Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts – February & March 2012

I only have a few links to share in this combined post. Don’t forget you can find more links in the masterlist.

How Not to Write a Rhyming Picture Book

Children’s author Juliet Clare Bell shares her 7 top tips on how not to write a rhyming picture book.

How Not to Turn Readers Against You as an Author of Series Books

This post looks at what can turn a reader off wanting to read the next book in a series (and what will make them want to read the next one).

How to Give Good Critique

A great list of tips to keep in mind when critiquing fellow writers’ work.

Questions You Might Be Asked When Offered Representation

Literary agent Mary Kole gives insight into the questions you might be asked by an agent if he/she calls to offer representation and why the agent is asking them.

20 Tips for Writing the Perfect Horror Short Story

A dark fiction writer gives a comprehensive list of tips for making your horror story more effective.

How to Avoid 10 Common Conference Mistakes that Most Writers Make

10 conference organisers share the major mistakes they see writers making at conferences and how to avoid making them.

Blogiversary Celebrations: Part Four – Contest Winners!

I know some of you have been waiting for this all day. The time has come to announce Peevish Penman’s and my joint blogiversary contest winners!

CONGRATULATIONS TO:

Jessica (@jsubject)

Lisa. B. (@LisaMBasso)

and Monica B.W.

The three winners each receive a five-page critique from both Carrie and myself. If the three winners could please e-mail Carrie at  bzuley(at)yahoo(dot)com or me at thegracefuldoe(at)hotmail(dot)com we can organise your critiques.

Thank-you to everyone who entered and helped spread the word about the contest.

And thank-you to everyone for helping me celebrate my blog’s 1st birthday today. I’m looking forward to another year of blogging and writing. 🙂

Mini-interview + Blogiversary Contest Details

CONTEST NOW CLOSED – Thanks so much to everyone who entered and promoted this contest. Winners will be announced later today (11th Sept 2010 AEST)

In exactly one week my blog will be celebrating its one year blogiversary! By coincidence Peevish Penman is also celebrating her one year blogiversary on the same day (10th September in the US and the 11th September in Australia). To celebrate our joint blogiversary we will be holding a joint contest. But before I give you the contest details I’d like to introduce Peevish Penman (aka Carrie Bailey) a writer, blogger and mom from Oregon. She runs a fantastic Writer’s Zine on her blog and has taken some time to answer a few questions for my blog to launch our joint contest.

1.  Do you have a writing mantra and would you recommend it for other writers?

I use a string of curse words followed by “so write already, Carrie.”  In truth, I try so hard to stay “G-rated” on my zine and other media that it all just pours out other times and has led to my theory on “the conservation of curse words” which states that each individual must use a fixed finite number of them throughout the course of their lifetime.  My “writer mantra” is where I choose to expel all of mine safely and in the privacy of my own home where no one can fine me a quarter.

(GD: I think I will probably explode in an expulsion of expletives on my death bed. 🙂 )

2.  If you had to spend a year writing on a deserted island without any contact from the outside, what would you bring and why?

A generator and S. Michaels aka. @slushpilehero’s laptop.  My signed copy of Ashwin Sanghi’s book, “The Rozabal Line.”  Twenty thousand bags of coffee beans, an espresso machine, and a barista.  Plus, some peanut butter, spoons, and a row boat so I could row over to your island, Jo, and trade for chocolate. And a camera so I could prove to my twitter friend, @soulwindow, that I am not our mutual twitter friend, @ItaliaTrent.

(GD: I’ll trade you a Mars Bar for two spoonfuls of crunchy peanut butter)

3.  So far what has been your greatest challenge as a writer and how have you overcome it?

Typos.  I can’t overcome them, because they’re inserted into my work by gnomes-who excel at html-after I’ve toiled and labored over each piece.  However, I’ve found that if I simply forgo the need to be perfect and hand my work over to other people to edit, they neutralize the gnomes’ damage.

But seriously, there was a point when I used to experience a mild euphoria each time I noticed errors in other people’s writing.  I think it is an important stage many writers go through when they realize that talented writers aren’t great because they’re perfect, but because they’re experienced.

My desire to be perfect used to paralyze me from writing and/or sharing my work at all.  Now, I let the keys fly and worry about the mistakes later.  Lately, I’ve been sending out very rough drafts to people I trust, because the earlier I get feedback, the better my work turns out. Just ask YA writer, Juanita McConnachie aka @WritersblockNZ, she’s seen the havoc gnomes’ wreak first hand.

(GD: I wonder if those are the same gnomes who stole my TV remote.)

Thanks so much Carrie! And if you would like to see my answers to those questions then pop over to Peevish Penman’s blog for my mini-interview.

And now for the contest details…

THE PRIZE:

A critique from both Carrie and Jo for up to five pages of your manuscript. That’s right a total of two critiques for your first five pages. And because it’s our blogiversary there will be not one, not two, but THREE WINNERS! Three people will be getting a critique from both Carrie and Jo.

HOW TO ENTER:

Simply comment on this post (or Carrie’s contest post) with your entries. We’ll be running entries on a point system:

+1 entry for following @gracefuldoe on Twitter (+2 if you are already a follower)
+1 entry for following @PeevishPenman on Twitter (+2 if you are already a follower)
+2 entries if you subscribe to The Graceful Doe’s blog (+3 if you already subscribe)
+2 entries if you subscribe to Peevish Penman’s blog (+3 if you already subscribe)
+1 entry if you tweet about the contest (please include link to tweet)
+4 entries if you mention the contest on your blog (please include link to blog)

Good luck! The winners will be announced in one week on our blogiversary (that’s 10th September in the US and 11the September in Australia).

Write On Con – Writer’s Conference

My critique partner tipped me off about Write on Con and I’m so glad she did. Write on Con is an online conference for writers taking place on the 10th, 11th and 12th of August. It is completely free to attend and all you have to do to register is join the Write On Con forums. This is a fantastic opportunity for several reasons:

There Is No Need To Travel

As someone living in rural Australia (and as someone with two young children) I find it difficult to travel to my closest major city (which is four hours away) to attend writer’s conferences there, it’s just not a viable option for me. And those big awesome writer’s conferences in the US are an impossibility. Being able to attend a conference from my own home, where I can still do the mum thing at the same time, is a great opportunity.

It’s Free!

Even if I could make it to my nearest major city for a conference, the cost for me is also a problem. Our family is just not in the financial position right now to justify my attending a conference (including all the costs of travel and accomodation that would go along with it). So the fact that it’s free is an extra bonus.

Get Critique

You only have to look at the forums to see there will be some great opportunities for working on your craft. Already there is a section open for practice critiques where you can post queries/pages of your writing to be critiqued by fellow attendees. It’s all about give and take. If you put something up for critique, be sure to offer critique to others. Once the conference begins there will be specific sections for query critiques, first five pages critiques, etc. And there will be agents about who may even weigh in on the critiques.

Connect With Fellow Writers

Another section of the forums that is already open is the Introductions section. Through the introductions section and the practice critiques I’ve already met quite a few fellow writers, some of us are even discussing setting up a critique group together. You can also pop by the Twitter roll call thread and include a link to your Twitter page.

I’ve also included links to my Twitter page and my blog in my signature –  a great way to get your name out there, especially if you actively participate.

Hear What The Pros Have To Say

When the conference starts there will be a section where pros will be talking about the industry. I’m looking forward to some great insight.

Classes

In addition to the forums there is also the Write On Con website. This is where all the ‘classes’ will be posted.

I’m really excited about taking part in this conferences and am looking forward to August 10th. For now it’s a great experience posting and critiquing in the practice critique section and meeting lots of new writers.

If you would love to take part in this great opportunity too, here is a link to the forums: Write On Con forums

Hopefully I’ll see you there!

How having a critique partner can improve your writing

Once you’ve finished your manuscript and gone over it with a fine tooth comb, the time comes to consider, “What will readers perceive as they read my book, and, more importantly, will agents/publishers take one look at my work and throw it in the trash?” This is when having a critique partner can be invaluable to your revision process. I’ve recently finished my first couple of drafts and have hooked up with a critique partner. Even though we’ve only exchanged a couple of chapters my novel is already reaping the benefits. Here are a few ways having a critique partner can improve your writing:

1. A critique partner looks over your manuscript with fresh eyes. When you’ve been immersed in your book for so long it can be hard to distance yourself enough from your novel to see the little things. One thing I didn’t notice after my first round of revisions was just how much I used the words ‘that’ and ‘was’ in my writing. I know these are problematic words when overused, but I guess in the course of my revisions I overlooked them. When my critique partner sent back my first chapter with all the words ‘that’ and ‘was’ highlighted I realised just how much I used them.

2. A critique partner has no preconceived notions. As the author of your novel you know your characters inside out, you know the world you’ve created to the tiniest detail and you know the entire backstory of your storyline. Because you know everything about your characters, world and plotline you may unknowingly forget that your readers don’t know what you know and you unwittingly leave out necessary details. A critique partner reads your manuscript with none of the preconceived ideas you have and can point out where your story becomes confusing.

3. A critique partner can act as a beta reader. Your critique partner will read your story as a reader would read it. When I critique I tend to write notes on my first impressions as I read and ask the questions a reader would be asking. This helps show you how your future readers, or more importantly an agent or publisher, would be thinking as they read your work. If your critique partner is confused, you can be sure an agent/publisher/reader will be confused too. If your critique partner tells you a certain scene makes their eyes glaze over, you can be sure an agent/publisher/reader’s eyes will be glazing over too (and you can be sure they’ll be putting the book down).

4. A critique partner can offer you constructive criticism. Unlike a beta reader (someone who reads your work from the perspective of a future reader, ie: someone in your target readership), a critique partner is a writer too, so they will read you work from the perspective of a writer. This means instead of just telling you a certain scene isn’t working, they can actually articulate why it isn’t working.

5. Being a critique partner helps you see flaws in your own writing. Critiquing someone else’s work can make you become more aware of your own writing and your own flaws. You may notice in your partner’s writing a tendency to over-describe characters physical attributes, only to realise you’ve done exactly the same thing in your own novel. I’ve also found that after looking over someone else’s work with a critical eye, when I go back to my own work I retain that critical eye and pick up on flaws in my own writing I missed before. It helps me stand back from my own work.

If you do find a critique partner keep a few things in mind as you critique and receive critique:

1. Be constructive. For example, if you feel your partner’s characters are flat, try to explain why. Remember the point of critique is to help the other person improve.

2. Don’t rewrite the story for them. While it’s okay to suggest rewording a sentence to make the meaning clearer, don’t write the sentence for them. It’s their work, and as tempting as it is to write it how you think it should be written, you need to realise the story is their baby. Imagine how you would feel if they started rewriting your story! Offer suggestions and act as a guide, but don’t take over.

3. Be respectful. I believe in being totally honest when I critique, but there’s a difference between being honest and being nasty.

4. Include the positives as well as the negatives. Don’t forget to tell your partner what is working well in their story.

5. Be open-minded when receiving critique. If you partner up with someone you must be prepared to take any criticism they give you and not take it personally. Don’t sign up for a critique partner if you just want to hear good things about your novel. When I put up my ad for a critique partner I said straight out that I would be honest when I critique and I expected the same in return. If I wanted to hear only good things about my novel I could have easily given it to my sister and had her tell me how much she liked it (because I know my sister is too nice to hurt my feelings, and I love her for it). But I wanted honest critique from another writer, someone prepared to rip my manuscript to shreds, because that is the only way I can improve as a writer. Sure, you might feel like crying the first time you receive critique back on your novel, but once you take a deep breath and remember your critique partner is only there to help you, you can appreciate their honesty and start using their advice to help you create a better story.

One last piece of advice…

In the end remember that your novel is your baby.

As a mother lots of people have given me advice over the years on how I should raise my kids (if you have kids you’ll know what I mean!), and that’s fine, everyone has their own opinion on what works best for them and their kids, but I only listen to the advice I think will work for my kids and disregard the rest. When I was a new mum I was overwhelmed with advice (sometimes conflicting advice) and I felt obligated to take it all. In the end I realised that it was my child and, as much as people were trying to help, only I knew what was best. Once I realised this I was a lot less stressed.

The same thing can be applied to your novel. In the end it is your story and you don’t have to feel obligated to take all the advice given to you. Do what’s right for your novel. And the same applies for your critique partner too. You can give advice and critique, but don’t feel hurt if your partner doesn’t apply everything you suggest, because it is their baby.

If you are looking for a critique partner, here are a couple of links to sites with critique connections (both are for YA/kidlit writers, so if you write outside of those you may have to do a search):

Critique Connection – Kidlit.com

This is where I found my current critique partner. You can either scroll down the list of people who have already posted an interest in finding a partner and e-mail them, or if none there seem like a good match, then post a little about you and your novel and leave your e-mail. Writers here range from picture book writers to young adult writers.

Crit Seekers – YALitChat

This forum is dedicated mostly to young adult writers, but you may also find som middle grade writers too. Scroll through the comments to seeif anyone might be a good match, or post your own comment describing what your novel is about. You will need to join to be able to post (but it’s well worth joining anyway if you write YA).

Many cities also have critique groups. Check out your local library or do a search on the internet to see if there are any in your area.

How has having a critique partner helped your writing? Comment below and share.