If you’re a writer of any kind, at some point you’re going to reach a point in your career where you will find yourself in need of a critique or have to give one yourself.
I have been part of intense writing workshops and consistent monthly writer groups for many years. Each experience has had its positives and negatives, but one thing remains true. As writers, we need constructive criticism to grow.
Lately, I have been pondering what makes a good critique partner. What can we do as writers to lift each other up while also giving constructive feedback? I’ve come up with three key points that I try to focus on when giving critiques.
First and foremost, you have to be honest about the work you are reading. Sure, that might sound simple, but sometimes things get in the way of telling the truth.
For many of us, we pair up with our friends as critique partners. This can be complicated. If you happen to come across work that you don’t think is all that good, it can be hard to be honest to a friend. In my experience, I have always made sure to make it clear that I was honest feedback. As previously stated, writers need constructive feedback to grow, therefore, you’re really doing your friend a favor by being honest. If we just sat around stroking each others egos all say, we wouldn’t get very far.
In my personal experience, I will never forget the time I went to a week long workshop. I was 100% torn apart. Did it hurt? Yes. Did it make me grow? More than any other workshop or group I have been a part of.
With that said, don’t feel like you can’t praise each other! I have read work before that was practically perfect in every way and I proudly told them so! For every two things you say that might be a little difficult to swallow, try to throw a positive in the mix. As in most cases, balance is key.
I have been part of groups before when people go in too hard. They ignore positive feedback and find it to be useless. In reality, it’s just as important to give some positive feedback as it is to be honest. We aren’t trying to beat each other into the ground here.
Remember the workshop I mentioned earlier? They had some strict rules about balancing negative feedback with positive. It helped to balance the process. After about three days of adjusting to a real critique environment, I saw the light. Once my group noticed I was trying to improve and letting my ego go, that’s when the real magic started to happen. Which leads me to my next point…
All in all, the previous two points don’t mean anything if you aren’t open to it all. I’m not telling you to believe every single critique you get, because there will be times you disagree. The beauty of feedback is you can take what you need. You are still in control of your writing. Try and take the time to be open and to thoughtfully digest your critiques. On the other side, be open and thoughtful when you are giving them too.
We are all in this together. Creative souls unite!
Tell me, what do you think makes a good critique partner? Tweet me your thoughts @AWritersWay. Thank you for joining me here today. You can look for a new post next Thursday.
Tis the season for hot chocolate, Christmas music, and writing sessions. The past two months have been quite intense as I juggled my day job and a hefty list of writing goals.
However, I am happy to report that I am right on track to finish my second draft this coming Friday! I don’t know about you, but I think the Christmas season kept the pep in my step! That, and a ton of coffee.
After that, my draft will be sent to a few trusted writing partners for critique! All in all, I’m feeling quite positive about the journey ahead. 2019 will be filled with writing pitches, query letters, and hopefully some MAGIC will happen.
I wish you and yours a very Happy Holiday Season! I’ll be back in the New Year with some awesome new blog posts (on a regular blog schedule because ya know…that’s one of my goals for the new year!) See you in 2019!
This week’s post is meant to declare my writing goals for the next two months along with talking about a very interesting topic that came up the other day over lunch with my writer friends. Here’s how it happened:
We gathered among mac & cheese and made vows to be the very best “accountabilibuddies” (translation: accountability buddies) we could be over the course of the next two months. (Yes, we extended our NaNoRebel goals all the way until the end of December) We reviewed what our goals would be and how we hope to achieve them.
With the looming first week deadline fast approaching, inspiration came up, and the idea of sparking the right kind of feeling to sit down and write. This expanded into the topic of travel plans. My good friend leaned over and said, “I should just go there, right? No big deal!” We all laughed together, because while it would be wonderful to hop on a plane and travel to a different country, it’s not always doable.
So, I posed the question…”How can we get you there without getting you there?”
That is the challenge, right? For many of us, our inspiration comes from far off lands. Even if we are writing about a fantasy world, chances are we gathered inspiration from some real life location. So, what do we do when we can’t abandon the ship of our real life to set sail for unexplored territory? After all, we can’t all be Sasha Alsberg…
IM GOING TO SCOTLAND IN DECEMBER AND IM SO HYPED! Christmas + Scotland + #Projectred research = heaven 😍
…even though sometimes I would really like to be! Have you seen her awesome hair? Her color-coded bookshelves?
So, I got to thinking. What could we do to get there without getting there? In times where I want to feel my setting, I mean really try to FEEL it, I try to turn to the five senses. Maybe all of these aren’t achievable, but here is what I have been mulling over these past few days…
Start with a character if you can. I really like to put myself in the shoes of characters when possible. Then try some of the following:
Taste: What would the people in your setting eat and drink? They’ve come home after a long day and it’s time for dinner. What would be on the table?
Touch: Is it hot where they are? Maybe it’s time for a trip to the sauna… Is it super cold? Well, we have been getting down to the low 30s in NJ lately. Perhaps it’s time for a late night stroll.
Smell: I am a candle addict. Chances are, it doesn’t smell like “Puurfect Pumpkin” in the setting of my book, but somehow it still fuels the inspiration.
Sound: This is one I absolutely swear by. I have soundtracks for every character in my story, along with many soundtracks for different types of scenes. The thing is, there are soundscapes for everything these days. Head on over to youtube and type in “Busy street sound effect.” You’ll get a ton of results. The possibilities are endless. Oh, and don’t forget to crank it up! Immerse yourself! (Forget about the neighbors.)
Sight: This is kind of self-explanatory. This is where we stare at pictures of the places we want to travel to. I like to change my desktop to a certain location that I’m working on. Every time I see it, it reminds me of certain details I’d like to include. I also highly recommend vision boards! Just because you’re not going there today or next week, you might still go some day! Make a beautiful collage of what you want to see when you’re there one day.
I guess we could all chip in on a magic carpet if this doesn’t work…
…and last but not least…my NaNoRebelRevisionGoals!
November 1-4: Chapters 1-3
November 5-11: Chapters 4-6
November 12-18: Chapters 7-9
November 19-25: Chapters 10-12
November 26-December 2: Chapters 13-15
December 3-9: Chapters 16-18
December 10-16: Chapters 19-20
December 17-23: Chapters 21-22
Thanks for joining me here today. Tweet me your thoughts @AWritersWay. You can look for a progress update next Thursday!
At the end of July, I began my Revision Adventure. Since then, it’s been quite an interesting experience. I have to say that when I began this process, I thought that I would get the same kind of feeling I did when I was writing this novel. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve edited and revised projects in the past, but it has been quite some time. I forgot about the complex nature of revising and how in some ways, it is more difficult to navigate. While I thought that I had the right formula to get through an initial revision, I discovered it needed some adjusting.
I’m happy to report to you today, that I made it through. It took some altering of time based goals and a lot of contemplation about how to make realistic progress at a decent pace. After a period of discouraging thoughts, I turned back to the main source of inspiration for the novel that I began with a year and a half ago. Luckily, that was the ticket. I realized that now it is more important than ever to give myself credit for any bit of progress I make. New goals are okay. The only thing that matters is that I hang on to the passion that I put into this project, keep my characters close to my heart, and move forward!
Let’s face it folks…revising and editing a novel is hard! I have now reached a headspace where I am enjoying the process once again and in turn getting very excited about how this novel is turning out. It feels good to be here, but at the same time I know I had to go through that tricky period to get where I am today. As writers we are always learning and always growing. It’s a beautiful thing.
Thanks for joining me here today. Tweet me your thoughts @AWritersWay. Remember, you can join me here every Thursday for new posts!
It’s been a month and a week since I finished the first draft of my novel. Since then, I’ve had a rough time adjusting to my revision schedule. I’m only about ten pages in after all this time. With that said, I’ve been pretty good about not beating myself up about that. I’ve been taking some time to read more and to also distance myself from the novel a little bit.
…but…as soon as I began to desperately miss my characters, I knew it was time to get back in the swing of things. One thing that I wanted to share that I did do during the last month is finally work on my world map. It’s something that I didn’t know I would ever end up doing, but it turned out to be a really fun exercise. All of these places obviously live in my mind in great detail, but to put them down on paper was something I never thought I’d explore.
How did I get started, you ask? I turned to Pinterest, of course! I scrolled through tons and tons of pins with great map making tips. While I was scrolling, I came across a very funny suggestion made by someone making a D&D map. They suggested using pasta…
Yep. You read right. Pasta. (not cooked) So, I got to thinking…this is kind of smart. Really any kind of small dry objects would work. I also saw it done with dice! I mulled the thought over for a few days and ultimately decided that pasta was for me. I am 50% Italian after all…
This is what the process actually looked like…
I glued down some paper and broke out the noodles…
Dumped a bunch on the paper…
…and ya know…spread it out a little until I liked the shape!
After that, I lightly penciled around the shape and messed with it…A LOT!
What was cool about this process was, it was a great way to get started. Once I felt more comfortable with shaping the outline of the map myself, my confidence grew. I started to grab some more paper and sketch some more!
After a few weeks of tweaking things, I’m just starting to add in some locations, trees, mountains, etc. It’s been fun! Take a look:
Those white blobs are names I can’t share yet, but at least you have an idea of where I’m at. As you can see, it’s VERY different from my original pasta inspired shape. But that’s kind of cool, right?
I hope that you’ll take this fun exercise and put it to use in your own writing life. Sometimes it’s just fun to take your characters, your worlds, your ideas, and express them in different ways.
All in all, I’m feeling happy to be back in the swing of things. (That includes, blogging EVERY Thursday for you!)
Thanks for joining me here today. Tweet me your thoughts @AWritersWay.