Monday, April 29, 2013

Critiquing Feedback TMI

Ever wish you could call out, "Do-over" and it would happen? My niece asked me to critique her first chapter of a novel draft she completed. She had never taken a class or other helps; she just did it. For that I applaud her. She had the drive to complete the task, believed in herself, and went down the learn-as-you-go road. The girl has some talent, too, and I'm proud of her.

I find critiques and revisions stimulating. No, really. Deciding to give my niece the benefit of my "experience", I critiqued everything that popped into my head--both good and not-so-good. My gently-worded comments included tips and teaching treasures that might be nice to know--one bite at a time. I think I stuffed her with information overload! We learn better line upon line, don't we? Ack! I hope I didn't give her a stomach ache.

What kind of feedback do you give? Do you dish it all out (with no mean intent), praise only what's good, or something in between? I'm learning that all critique audiences are not created equal. Maybe I shouldn't always be zealous to "rip it apart" when someone asks me to do that.

Your thoughts and/or critique-related horror stories are welcome.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Revisions Are Like a Fresh Coat of Paint

We bought a house recently and I'm working on some improvements. Purple may be a pretty color but the rest of the exterior paint is gray. I figured the side gate would look nice in pale gray, especially since I had some on hand. What do you think? Nice, huh? Looked like an easy enough project to tackle. Ha! Everything takes longer than we think.
First I noticed the lower left board wasn't nailed on. Second, the whole thing needed a wipe down--dusty. Then there's the regular prep work of taping edges and so forth. One coat wouldn't cut it when going from dark to light paint. It was a job alright, but I like the results.

Writing is like that. It takes longer than we think, we find things that need fixing or polishing, there's prep work like research, and one draft won't cut it. But any story worth telling is worth telling well and the effort put into it makes us like the results much better. Spruce up that manuscript with all that it needs to become fresh and clean! The results are worth it.
Have a great week!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Writing - It's Tough Stuff

Some days are just hard. That's life and we work through it. 
My critique group fizzled out, I had an expensive dental issue, and I'm on crutches for a knee problem. Without a crit group deadline, I didn't write anything new this week. But I did critique somebody else's project and I count that as writing time. The physical problems are fixable and temporary. I'm choosing to look on the bright side and keep things in perspective because the alternative gets me nowhere but grumpy. Grumpy people are unproductive. How do you deal with it when life hands you a harder time than usual? Writers have to be tough. Are you tough?
Writers spend months or years on their first manuscript only to have it ripped to shreds. Then they spend another chunk of time revising once they see what the alpha readers agreed needed to be fixed. I've heard this gets easier and faster with experience but to get that experience, one has to tough it out. Are you up for it? Did I hear a, "Bring it on!" out there? Good for you!
The thing we need to remember is that not only do we feel a sense of accomplishment when we work toward those goals, we get this shiny, finished package in the end that we created. It's kind of like having a baby. (Feel free to skip that analogy if it doesn't work for you.)
So, what I'm saying here is that there will be days, perhaps weeks, that are hard and you may not accomplish much, but there will always be another chance for a good day around the corner. If you have the passion and drive, keep going! I'm rooting for you.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Using Humor

I heard from a few of you that were disappointed last week. Yeah, I wish it were true too. Next time I announce a publishing contract I won't be crying wolf. It was the best joke I could think of for April Fools and apparently hit its mark. 
Speaking of jokes, how do you add humor to a manuscript? Even text books have been known to insert a humorous illustration or story example to accompany information. Readers appreciate an appropriate amount of humor to spice up less lively narration or change the mood. Here are some ideas. Don't forget to let me know what has worked for you, or mention a humorous moment you've enjoyed from a book or movie.

1. Add a comical sidekick. This one is classic because the amount of humor is typically pleasing. Ramòn, the comic-relief guy in my contemporary YA suspense, is a younger neighbor who gives advice from experience beyond his years or else knows how to fake it. 
2. A misunderstanding can become comical. Think of old "I Love Lucy" episodes.
3. Cultural, age, or situation clashes can be seen as humorous when the embarrassment is not transferred to the reader. Sometimes it feels good to laugh at a character--especially when deserved. 
4. The voice of the scene or character is written in such a way that humor oozes from it. The author has mirth bubbling from the corner of his smile and it translates through the fingers or pen. He may laugh out loud himself as the hilarity flows (just as an author may cry where a reader cries).
5. Dialogue is a great place to manifest humor. It can be what a character says, how she says it, an amusing accent, or sneaky internal thoughts. Play with it and rewrite what doesn't work. Then the joke won't be on you. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Exciting News!

The most exciting thing happened to me this week. I heard back from one of the publishers where I submitted and they want my story! It's the most amazing feeling. It finally happened--I'm getting published! All my time and effort spent is validated in the eyes of professionals and not just people who know me. I'm so happy! I'm also pulling your leg. Sorry, I couldn't resist the American day of playing the trickster when the first of April falls on my blog-writing day--especially when you might know I've recently submitted. Still hoping for some good news.

On the serious side, have you fellow published wannabes ever pictured such an event happening to you. You should. If you can dream it, you can become it. I believe it is important to see yourself in your mind's eye in successful situations as a way to build confidence and motivate yourself. Have fun with a little success role playing today and have a happy April Fools Day. If I had you going there for even an instant, or if you have a great trick you've pulled, leave me a comment. Thanks.