Tag Archives: critique

Published Author Forum Video

I attended a Published Author’s Forum at Greater Fort Worth Writers Group back in March 2016. Here is the video clip of my portion. I had a lot of fun sharing my journey and interacting with other writers. There’s some useful pieces of advice for those of you who are interested in writing and trying to start your own journeys. If you want more information, come join one of our meetings, or send me a message on my Contact Me page. Enjoy!

Click here

4:22 long

 

Time Flies and Priorities Change

Time is flying by, even more so that I have a definitive timeline to get this BlurredClockmanuscript finished. My deadline is BBDD. Before Baby Due Date.

With that comes a massive priority struggle. Between my son’s schedule, gearing up for the baby (and picking out a name!), as well as finishing this manuscript and critiquing a friend’s manuscript, blogging has fallen off of my priority list. Not a great first posting for 2014, I know.

But that doesn’t bode well for an author trying to market a recent release. I can’t devote that much time to social media or blogging, because I selfishly would rather focus any free time on writing/critiquing. Come mid-March, free-time will be a fond and distant memory (much like sleep). Writing will become ‘that thing I love, but I need to take a shower and 2hr nap today.’ So the stories in my head will be stuck on the rear-burner. Along with my blog.

BabyandStorkBut I want you all to know that I won’t be going away completely. I promise I’ll still be here. Albeit, a much more tired, ragged version of myself. It will take me longer to respond to emails and hop onto Facebook/Twitter. But I WILL respond. Priorities will shift (they kinda have to!) but I know this blog will still be here when I’m ready.

More importantly, I’ll still try to market AUDREY’S PROMISE as much as possible and attend those treasured conferences and events (between feedings!). RWA National is a major one for me, particularly since it’s in Texas this year. At some point, I’ll have my first book signing!

In the meantime, I follow several blogs that will more than make up for my lack of presence. Feel free to follow these folks and fill your brain with inspiring knowledge and entertainment!

Greater Ft Worth Writers 

Author CA Szarek

Author Kimberly Packard

Author Scot Morgan

The Creative Penn

Nathan Bransford 

Short Story Round Robin- Ultima Storm

I’m sharing the Greater Ft Worth Writers’ blog link for this kick-ass short story Dark_stormround robin. Our group is given a genre (science fiction, this time) and the first member,  a superb writer Matthew Bryant and good friend, wrote the first two pages of the story and titled it ‘The Ultima Storm.’ Then another member writes the next 2 pages, and so on and so on. I wrote the third section. Here’s the fifth, written by my good friend and stellar author C. A. Szarek. Go back and read it from the beginning if you can.

This was a lot of fun, and the story keeps getting better and better!! I LOVE this group!

 

Improving Every Day…

As much as query rejections get me down, my husband reminded me to step back and look at where I started in my writing ‘career’ a few years ago. And honestly- not to jam on my own piano like Sir Elton John or anything- but I’m freakin’ proud of myself.

A few years ago, I had no other friends or connections in the writing industry, my bookshelf was practically empty (except for college textbooks I wanted to hang on to- yeah, I was that sad!), and a half-completed story in an obscure file on my computer that I’d started in my teens.

Now I have 3 ½ completed manuscripts on my computer, a half a dozen short stories, 80 blog posts, a writer’s conference under my belt, three full bookshelves (and several drawers full of books), and a whole group of writer friends who UNDERSTAND ALL OF THIS and WHY IT’S SUCH A BIG DEAL!

But not only that, my writing has grown so much, just in the last 2 years alone. Trust me- any writer who is brave enough to go back and read what they wrote when they first started in this business will tell you how much they cringed. Some may have even crawled under the table afterwards. Or started a bonfire and roasted marshmallows over them.

I know a lot of this improvement is directly related to the awesome partners I have in my critique group. Some of it’s from reading other books (both in and out of the genre I write), but mostly my critique buddies. And I’m not talking about the kind of critique partners who tell me ‘good job. Keep going.’ I mean the ones who are honest. Who push me to do better. Call me out on the crap, the lazy descriptions, the evil adverbs, the passive sentences or the unrealistic characters or scenarios. And what’s more, put up with me.

When I email them chapters to read through, or vent about something, or ask stupid questions (contrary to belief, those exist), they’re still my friends afterwards and will still read my work. Likewise, they’re still my friend when I rip their chapters to shreds (because I’m trying to make their work better, too. I promise- I’m not out to be a witch just for grins.)

Cheers

So I raise my rum-and-coke to you, my friends. Thank you.

I’ll keep improving every day, with every manuscript that’s still stuck in my subconscious, it’ll get easier and easier to swallow rejection until that one moment where I get ‘the call.’

Then my thanks will be more than just a rum-and-coke toast, but an acknowledgements page.

And a signed copy. 🙂

Finished My Rough Draft

Major milestone, people!

After plotting for 2 months and writing for 5 months, my first draft is complete on novel #3.

*Commence happy-dance, ala Steve Carrell*

Happy Dance

Couldn’t be happier! And it’s about 3 weeks ahead of my goal I set earlier this year. That never happens. It’s about 70,000 words and I know I have several scenes I need to add/adjust (I’d like to be closer to 80,000 words), but I’ll take care of those during revisions. But how often do people reach this milestone?? I feel like I need to celebrate with a bottle of wine or something! Coffee isn’t enough of a celebratory drink.

Once I’m done with my hurrah cocktail,  I need to get back to work. I’ll set the first draft aside and work on my second novel’s revisions. That one needs a crap-load of fixing! Which means, I’ll need to pass that through my critique group. I love their ideas, and above all their honesty. I also need to write the query letter and synopsis for the second novel (which I’m sure I’ll also send through my friends). Hopefully I’ll be ready to query that one to agents and editors starting around May.

But weeks like this make me feel so justified. I accomplished something.

I’ve Become A Writer… Smile

My husband can definitely tell I’ve become a writer.  It’s bugging the hell out of him. A little.

As a writer, we’re taught several ‘rules’ that we can’t break if we want to be successful. First, avoid adverbs.  If you’ve used an adverb, that means you didn’t find the right verb. Go back and do it again.

Secondly – and this is what my husband has been suffering from – repetitive phrases are a no-no.

My hubby works from home a few days a week and spends the majority of his day on conference calls. (Exciting, I know, but he loves his work and I’m grateful.) So I overhear some of his calls, and more specifically his responses. And the more I learn as a writer, the more I pick up on the ‘rule breaking’ in my husband’s conversations.

Granted, my husband isn’t a writer, and probably none of his coworkers are either. So maybe they don’t notice it as much as it bugs me.

My husband has 3 phrases that he uses constantly. Not just two or three times a day, but more like 2 or 3 times per conversation.

~Long story short…

~At the end of the day…

And the most overly used phrase:

~In my perspective… (or From my perspective…)

Each of those phrases by themselves aren’t a problem. But the fact that I hear him use them so often every day, it’s become a tick under my skin. So I pointed it out to him a few weeks ago.

Clearly, it doesn’t bother him. He thinks I’m nuts.

And habits are hard to break. Since I pointed it out to him, I swear he’s been using them even more often. My parents heard us ‘arguing’ about this the other day, and now it’s become a family ‘joke.’ (B and I hardly argue, but we can have spirited, fun discussions. And by ‘joke,’ more like it’s something everyone in my family is waiting to see me smirk when he uses them.)

I wonder what ticks my husband, and family, see in me, now that I’ve become a writer. What new behaviors or phrases do they see me using that irritates them? Critiquing their emails? Being too picky when proof reading my husband’s homework? Throwing a book across the room when I think the editing is horrible? I’m sure I have several.

But at the end of the day (smirk), I’m glad they could put up with me before, and continue to put up with me today.

Long story short (smirk), it’s official. I’m a writer because I’m bugging my family. Just makes me smile!

Mr. Perfect or Bad Boy Hero

I think everyone will agree when you’re reading a novel, any genre, if the hero is too perfect- or seemingly flawless- it’s boring. People like to have main characters with flaws. Sometimes even bad streaks. It’s the same thing with writers. When you’re writing a character that seems too nice or perfect, it’s boring.

I found that out with my previous manuscript. My heroine’s love interest seemed too perfect. And writing scenes with him in it was tedious. So now I get to have a fun time putting a few bad boy streaks in him. But I’ll start those fun revisions next year (a whopping 3 weeks away).

I’m having a blast writing my third manuscript. Mainly because the ‘hero’ in the story is hardly a hero at all. He starts a lot of the conflicts, has some unsavory ‘flaws’ and lives his life in a much less than charitable fashion. If I’m having this much more fun writing the story, I’m hoping my critiquers will have more fun reading it.

But this brought a big question to the tips of my fingers.

How bad is too bad before readers start to hate him? Before they throw the book across the room and refuse to read any further to see the redeeming qualities?

I think much of this depends first on the time period in which the book is set.

I believe Middle Ages and early Renaissance time period grants ‘heroes’ a little more wiggle room in the good/bad department, due to the harsh living conditions and necessity to live against the elements and endless bandits roaming the lands.

But for contemporary time period, what are some of the big No-No’s for heroes? I’ve heard several agents and editors say infidelity is the #1 Anti-Hero characteristic. Not necessarily promiscuity, but if the ‘hero’ is in a committed relationship or your intention to have the main characters end up together, infidelity is a major turn off.

Cruelty to children and the helpless is probably another big no-no. But how far can a writer go in ‘evil-ing up’ her hero?

I’ve perused a few sites trying to find what most others find as acceptable flaws, versus ‘too-much-to-handle.’

http://www.writing-world.com/romance/heroes.shtml

http://www.booklaurie.com/workshops_flaw2.php

http://fmwriters.com/Visionback/Issue9/Romance.htm

http://mysteryminx.com/intellectual-battlefield/heroes-hunks-and-perfect-men

But what do you think? What ‘flaws in a hero would make you toss the book across the room? What is your boundary between hero and evil?

Thick Skin For Hire

Every writer, particularly published authors, know that the publishing industry requires a thick skin for anyone who dares enter their dominion.

I thought I had a fairly thick skin before I even started querying my first manuscript.

*insert cackle laughter here*

Now, I know I don’t have nearly as thick of skin as I should, but I definitely have grown a few dragon scales to protect my vulnerable side over the last two years.

I think joining a kick-as* critique group has definitely helped. Also following editors and agents blogs/twitter/facebook and reading their responses to people’s queries also has helped.

I received my first round of major revision suggestions from my critique partners this past weekend and have let their thoughts percolate in my brain. I’m so glad I’ve grown thicker skin. Because now, I actually want that kind of advice. I need to know where they got lost in the story, what didn’t work for them, and realize its not that I suck and should give up writing. They are not flaws in my personality and I’ve dared exposed the weak points in my inner psyche. It’s areas of the story and characters in which I need to fix.

Or perhaps we’re thinking of it backwards. It’s not that people need to grow thicker skin, or regenerate thicker bone. It’s that we need to shed the vulnerable self-conscious layer of invisible shields we humans use as a self-defense mechanisms.

Get rid of your insecurities. Get rid of ridiculous thoughts that whatever suggestions others say is a ding in your personality, or interpretation of ‘they don’t like me.’

Shed everything down the most base level, where we can actually improve on the inconsistencies in our writing. That’s when we’ll notice the biggest difference on our writing style/skills.

So throw your skin out the window and let the air rejuvenate your writing. Completely open yourself up to improvement.

All right, manuscript. Get ready for rejuvenation. Dive in!

12 Steps for Writers Anonymous

Hi, my name is Susie, and I’m a writer.

It’s been 3 hours since I’ve written anything. And a good 3 weeks since I’ve written fiction. I know I’m breaking the rules by writing this very post.

I admit I will always be addicted to writing and feel a pull inside my soul to put a pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. But I need to be constructive, productive, relative, and any other ‘–ive’ that’s necessary to make my life- and writing- manageable.

I trust in a higher power, greater than myself, to restore my sanity after moments of writing and the lunacy that it sometimes ensues. I willingly turn my will, life, and pen over to the care of that higher power. The all-knowing muse that has my fingers continue to race over the keyboard.

I need to bring closure to my writing life by apologizing to any critiquers, editors, and agents, whom I may have snapped at for rejections or poor reviews. It came from an ignorant and bad place inside me, that I’m constantly striving to improve. And I’m sorry they were the targets of my negative energies.

I need to thank those who’ve supported me and believed I could be better, improve, and build upon my skills with a positive focus. Encouragement is essential, and I’m grateful for them.

I’m grateful for the sun, the moon, the air, light, food, chocolate, and a working charge in my laptop. But more importantly I’m grateful for my husband, my son, my parents, my brothers, my friends, my peers, my neighbors, and anyone else that has put up with my crazy antics and habits as a writer. Including writing snaps at midnight and the light that keeps others up, putting lunch or dinner on the table an hour late, or emotional breakdowns when scenes aren’t going right and I have to backtrack. I know I look like a toddler throwing a tantrum during those times, and I’m grateful they haven’t shoved me in a corner for a time-out. I’m grateful my time-outs involve a Diet Coke and a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup.

Sorry, Caden.

I apologize for the days I haven’t bothered to change out of my PJ’s and forget I’m not wearing a bra under my t-shirt and haven’t bothered to comb my hair for my trek to the mailbox, and thereby scare the neighborhood children playing in the street.

I’ve always been ready for the higher power to remove the bad habits I employ as a writer. I’m ready for Him to remove all adverbs from my vocabulary, instill an enduring sense of ‘show, don’t tell’ in my imagination, and remove a constant need for coffee in my nervous system. I ask the higher power to remove these short comings, and just allow my first sale to happen with the next ring of my iPhone. And let that sale be a six-digit paycheck, so I no longer have to suffer through the pains of my shortcomings.

I will continue to identify when I’m wrong, when my writing isn’t sufficient or entertaining enough, and believe that those I’ve hurt will carry on believing in me, and read my work. More importantly, I will continue to acknowledge when an editor or agent just doesn’t get my work, and the loss of a sale is on their shoulders, not mine. I will continue to try and reach the same level as James Patterson, Stephanie Meyer, and even JK Rowling, even though I know my writing has the potential to be better. And I’ll continue to pray for the higher power’s will and knowledge to teleport into my fingers and write the international bestseller that will put my addiction in a place where it is no longer insanity, but ingenious.

For the world will be a better place when I acknowledge my weakness, and force others to read it.

Chomping at the Bit for Critiques

Critiques are probably the most terrifying part of a writer’s life. They can be brutal and heart ripping, like someone saying your baby is ugly and should never have been born. Defensive natures kick in and you feel like lashing off someone’s head with a butter knife.

But I’m weird. I already have a beautiful son that no one would dare say is ugly. And even if they did, I wouldn’t care. I know my son is beautiful. But as far as my manuscript goes, I’m chomping at the bit for critiques. Because I’m sure it’s a bit ugly. Parts of it are probably downright Medusa-like.

I finished the first draft of my manuscript several weeks ago and sent it out to my critique partners, writing groups, and even submitted the first chapter to a few contests. I’ve heard back from a few, but I’m really waiting for responses from others that I know I want to hear. In a way, I want them to be brutal. I need them to be brutal. If I’m doing something wrong, I need to know about it. How else am I going to learn and get better at my craft?

My biggest weakness is waiting. Patience. I don’t have much of it. Apparently to be a writer in this new and evolving industry, you need at least some of it. I probably look like a bull-dog with a smashed face gnawing on the leftover dog bone from last year as I struggle with the last remaining ounces of patience I have left.

Sure, I have others things to do while I wait. I’ve already plotted the next book, written a few blogs, worked on the newsletter for my writers group, and not to mention throw in there take care of my son, house, family, and organize his birthday party. But I really want to start completing the revisions on my manuscript. Because I want to send out query letters by January. I know the revisions will take time- they always do. But they need to be done! And how can I do them without my precious critiques?

Well, I’ve done my ranting for the day. I’m off to go wait some more.