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Category Archives: Writer
It’s my “Writer’s Twitter” post (every writer should have one). To see what I have to say on the topic please visit my blog at its new location here: http://lizhellebuyck.wordpress.com/
And please don’t forget to subscribe to my blog at its new location. I will eventually stop posting at this URL and will lose anyone who hasn’t “followed” me there. (I would miss you.)
Hello all. Just a quick note. I am moving my blog to http://lizhellebuyck.wordpress.com/. And yes, I did also update my photo.
I thought I would do a post about different ways to find critique groups or critique partners. Just a few things before I put out this list though:
- Unless you know a member of the group already, please only go to a first face to face meeting in a public place.
- Not all critique groups are the same. Some groups have strict rules, others are more laid back. They can differ on the way they critique work and what they critique (my group only does novels).
Here’s the list (from all over the place and not in any specific order):
- There is a great list of online places to find critiques on Brian Baker’s blog here.
- WritonCon has a forum for finding critique partners. You need to be a member, but that is free.
- Forward Motion for writers: http://www.fmwriters.com/
- You can check www.meetup.com to see if there are any people setting up local writing groups in your area.
- Check your local library to see if they have a writing group.
- Some cities have local writing organizations. In Minneapolis we have The Loft Literary Center. Their website has a a page listing groups who are taking new members.
- There is a blog here that’s been up a while. People looking for critique partners can leave a comment with their genre and other info, or read through the comments left to see if they find someone they would like to partner with.
- I’ve heard people say that they found fellow writers during NaNoWriMo “write-ins” and started groups with them.
- Create your own group online via bloggers you know, or at your library.
If anyone has more suggestions, please feel free to leave them in the comments.
I survived my first novel critique!
Ever since I started doing research on how to get published I’ve known I would need to have other writers read and critique my novel. I blogged about it in March here. In the blog I asked when to join a writing group. I got a lot of great advice, but it was Meredith Mansfield whose comment gave me the kick in the pants I needed. She said, “You’re ready to join a critique group as soon as you decide to take writing seriously.”
Thank you Meredith!
So I did join a critique group several months ago and my first critique was Wednesday. There are three main things I see as very important while going through the critique process, so I thought I would share them.
#1 While being critiqued, keep your mouth shut
Remember that the critique is for you to get suggestions on how to improve your work, and the more you shut your mouth, the more time other people will have to give you feedback. Also, it’s tempting to try to defend your work, but remember, if they are good at critiquing, they are only trying to help you. Interrupting them and getting defensive won’t help them get their points across to you.
I have a really hard time shutting up sometimes, but I managed it (mostly) at my critique, and it was really cool! They all just blew my mind! It’s wild to sit and listen to a group of people discuss my novel. They talked about voice and genre, and plot ideas. I loved watching them fight over what each character would or wouldn’t do. So awesome!
#2 Remember that the story is still your own
The writers who critique your novel are giving you suggestions on how they would make your novel better. Keeping that in mind after receiving all of that feedback is important, because at the end of the day, they are just suggestions. The story is still yours, and you can do what you want to make it better.
Note: Keep in mind that any time the whole group agrees on something without even needing to discuss it, this is advice you are better off taking.
After the critique I had tons of notes and my head was spinning. I didn’t sleep at all that night because I was pondering all of the possibilities. The next day I received an email from a friend asking me if I survived my critique. She reminded me that, “they were all just suggestions from creative people who like to make up story lines.” Even though I really liked all the feedback I got, I really needed to hear that. It was good to have someone remind me that the critique is full of suggestions. The story is still mine.
#3 Give the story a break before starting a rewrite
While full of all these new great suggestions, it is tempting to jump right back in and hack away at your novel until there is nothing left. Please don’t! The reason being that you might be tempted to take all of that wonderful critique advice without thinking it through. You need to put it down and have time to sort out what advice will work for you, and in order to do that rationally, you need to make sure you have taken good notes, and then just leave it alone for a while. When you come back you may find yourself a bit more rational, and a lot more picky when you decide which suggestions to take.
I’m sort of glad I get to put this story on the shelf for a while and not think about it. I love it, but I need time off, and distance. So I’m going to let the dust settle and see what I have in a month or so.
Question: What is helpful for you when you’re getting critiqued?
What do I do while I wait for the day of my first critique?
I’ve started working on a sequel.
To tell you the truth, the idea of writing my second novel scared me. I was so free the first time around. I didn’t know any of the rules of the craft. I didn’t care if what I wrote furthered the plot, or created conflict. I wasn’t worried about whether or not the reader could see the characters or the setting. Heck, I wasn’t really aware of the reader at all. While writing the initial draft of my first novel, I just wrote whatever words came into my head. I wrote them fast, and without thinking.
Six rewrites later I am a different writer. I know now that if I write a stupid scene into a draft, I will have to remove it later and may need to fill plot holes created by its removal. I know that the reader needs to love (or hate) the characters. I know that every piece of the story should further the plot or develop character.
I know I have to write another novel. I remember how much fun it was to just let the words flow out. But knowing what I know now, it’s harder to start. I just think of all the rewrites I went through with my first novel (and how many more I may have to do). And I want to make sure that my first draft of this next novel is as good as it can be.
I think that is going to be my main hurdle to writing this sequel. I have to figure out how to let go of all the self editing and rules that I have learned. I have to switch off my rewriter and find the writer in me who will write the story as it comes.
I can’t remember who it was that said first drafts were supposed to be crap. But I have to keep that in mind as I continue. This is great advice too.
Also a note: I never thought I would get here. It feels like just yesterday I started this blog, just started working on editing my first novel. And now, here I am, starting number two! If it is even half as fun as the first one was to write, I will be happy. Here I go…
My first critique is coming soon. So how am I coping?
Way better than I thought I would be, but I’ve had help. A day after sending my novel out to the group I received the best email ever from one of the group members! Oh, did I say ‘best ever’? I meant BESTEST EVER!!! I won’t quote it here, but she finished my novel in a day and really liked it! I got so excited that I almost puked.
(Just almost. Gosh!)
Then I received another email from a different group member the next morning while I was at work. She wasn’t done yet, but called my story a page turner and said she was pretty far. Work was insanely chaotic that morning, but I did take time out to do a little happy dance.
What happened next? I started having visions of getting agented (I am not even querying yet, this part is fantasy) and having my book go to auction. In my mind my novel was bid on by all the big companies. I even got as far as choosing who I would play in my author cameo when it becomes a major motion picture.
Wait a second Liz!!!! Come back to earth!
While reading Kay Camden’s blog in which she links to this blog I stumbled on some numbers which made me want to puke AGAIN. Only not in the good way (hold on, I don’t think there is a good way to puke). After doing the math, this blogger came to the conclusion that only 1 in 15,625 debut novels are published. NOOOOOO! Then I found a figure in the Writer’s Market that said the average someone makes on a fiction novel is around $14,000.
So that brought me back to earth pretty fast. Not only is there a very small chance of ever getting published, but there is also little chance that you will make enough to live on if you do.
Reality sets in.
So wait, then why I am really doing this again?
DUH. I am doing this because I love it. I really truly enjoy telling stories.
And now that I’ve had my first few readers like my novel, I have discovered another reason to write. I am also doing it so that I can share it with other people (who will hopefully love it). Because just hearing that people liked my book was so freakin’ awesome.
The news is not all rainbows and unicorns from the writing group either. I have heard back from one other member of the group. She emailed me to give me her thoughts at the halfway point. She had some great feedback on issues I have and things for me to think about/work on.
I don’t think that everyone in my group will love my story, I’m sure my writing is still raw and new. I fully expect that my critters (even the one’s who liked my book) will rip my story apart and give me tons of advice on how to make it better. I am still very nervous. (Does anyone know where I can purchase some of this “Thick Skin” that everyone is talking about?)
I know that there is still a lot of work to do, but let’s just say that after the thrill of hearing that a few people liked my novel, I am way more than willing to put in the work to make it the best it can be.
When I was looking into the basics of getting a novel published, there was a lot of talk about tweeting, blogging and social networking. I decided to start a blog since it seemed more appealing to me at the time than Twitter (though I’m getting into that now too——follow me——>).
Why have a writer’s blog? For one thing it is a lot of fun to write about the writing process (and read about other writers’ methods and experiences). Another reason to blog as a writer is that I’ve heard that one of the things an agent might do when you send them a query is Google you. If you have something out there that says “I am willing to do the work to help market my book,” they are more likely to respond positively to you. (Apparently it also helps if you have a good story that is unique and written well .)
Blogging has been insanely helpful for me as a new/learning writer. I have only been doing the blog thing for half a year, but so far it has been a great experience. I have been able to learn a lot from my fellow writer bloggers, and connect with some amazing writers.
Do I think every writer should blog? No. I saw Mignon Fogarty, aka Grammar Girl, give a talk at a communication conference a few years ago. She talked about social networking and what a powerful tool it can be. But she also talked about how important it is to have good content if you are going to blog, put out podcasts, tweet, etc., because if you don’t have the time to put in—or the money to hire people to put in the time—to create good content, there is no point. Why should people follow you if you have nothing to say?
So I don’t think that everyone who writes should blog. But I think that anyone who writes, and has a bit of extra time each week to dedicate to good blog content should. I love it when I find new writer bloggers out there who have great things to say about their writing process and experiences.
A few months ago one of my writing buddies asked me about my blog and I put together a list of tips I would have found helpful when I started my blog. In the interest of getting more blogging writers out there, I decided to share the list:
- Always be professional. Don’t rant. Ever. The point is to get yourself out there as a professional in the writing world. You don’t want to come off as a poo head to anyone. You don’t want to burn any bridges.
- Try to look professional. I’ve seen a few blogs out there that have random graphics and fonts that don’t work well together, and I cringe. I don’t always know what looks good though, so I have tried to keep mine simple. I chose a theme that went with a photo I have.
- Decide who you are writing for, and continue to write for that audience. My target audience is anyone interested in the novel writing/editing process, so I only write about novel writing, editing, and all things related to that. A lot of writers stray from this occasionally, but I think it is a good thing to strive for.
- Do your research. Find out where the community you feel comfortable with is blogging before you go through the work of setting up a blog. There are several places to setup your blog so you need to keep in mind that it is a lot easier to follow other bloggers who use the same host you do (and it is easier for them to find and follow you too).
- Decide on a blogging schedule and try to hold yourself to it. I don’t recommend posting every day. The reason being that you should be writing posts worth reading, and that you would want a potential agent or publisher to read. That stuff is hard to come up with every day when you are also writing (and maybe have a day job). I am a once a week blogger myself.
- Follow blog etiquette. This is how you get readers (at least before you are famous). Find blogs you like, comment on them, they will visit your blog and comment on yours if they like it. Possibly they will subscribe to your blog (hooray!). If someone comments on your blog, visit their blog and try to find a post you can leave a positive comment on. If you love their blog, subscribe.
- Announce new posts. You can do this via twitter, facebook, and other social media venues. Let other people know that you are blogging and what you are blogging about.
- I try to comment on people’s comments on my blog, this lets people know you are reading their comments and want to hear what they have to say. (Though sometimes, if I am in the middle of a rewrite, this doesn’t happen.)
- Have fun!
Question: What tips would you add?