Thursday, June 26, 2014

Give it to me Straight

Writing groups and early feedback - does it help or hinder your process? Why?

If you asked ten writers about their writing process, you’d get fifteen different answers. What works for one writer won’t necessarily work for another, and after having written more than a dozen complete manuscripts myself, I’ve learned that what works for me once, might not work for me again.

Yes, writers can be fickle, finicky creatures with a dependence on coffee and/or bourbon.

However, one thing that remains constant in my writing process is my need for feedback. It’s easy to slop some words down on the page, thinking that I’m saying one thing, when in reality, my work is being interpreted in an entirely different manner (hey, it happens!). I need to understand how my story is coming across to readers so I know if I’m on the right track.

The most beneficial way for me to do this is by participating in a critique group. I give them my words, then sit back to see how they go over (not always so well, I can assure you!). I can find out what works and what doesn’t. Is the plot believable? Are the characters behaving consistently? Is the pacing right for the genre? Do I have ten characters whose names begin with J? Have I dotted all my t’s and crossed my i’s?

Writers can be too close to their work to be able to give it an impartial evaluation. I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting my work “out there” without first sending it through the gristmill that is my critique group. It’s a very valuable—and crucial—part of my writing process.

Without a critique group, I’d be just another writer pounding away at his keyboard, mired in self-doubt. Instead, I’m just another writing pounding away at his keyboard, mired in self-doubt, with a critique group to keep me in line.

(This entry is “simul-posted” on Criminal Minds.)


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Wise Words for Writers

What three tips would you give to a new writer to help them along their journey?

This is Giving Advice to Writers Week on the Criminal Minds blog, so, first, to recap:

On Monday, Meredith advised writers to:

1) Write a lot.

2) Be patient.

3) Become part of the writing community.

I agree wholeheartedly.


On Tuesday, R.J. advised writers to:

1) Never look back when writing (to prevent getting bogged down in re-writing).

2) Throw something unexpected into the story, if you get stuck.

3) Immerse their characters into their surroundings, when describing their settings.

More excellent advice.


Yesterday, Tracy advised writers to:

1) Get independent feedback and join a writer’s group.

2) Remember that rejection isn’t personal.

3) Keep writing, no matter how unmotivated you may be (or how much Pinterest might be tempting you).

I couldn’t have said it better myself.


Now it’s my turn to pontificate, which is difficult because my esteemed blogmates have mentioned some very helpful hints. However, I shall dig deep and give some advice not yet delivered.

So, writers, heed my words:

1) Read a lot. Not only do you have to write a lot, I believe you have to read a lot, too. Don’t stick solely to your preferred or favorite genres, but read in a wide variety of genres and styles. The more you read, the more well-rounded you will become.

2) Take a writing workshop (or two). Learn from someone who’s done it before. Get a look inside the meatgrinder (steel yourself first!) as you critique other workshoppers’ pages. Getting your own work critiqued will help build rhino hide, which so important for writers.

3) Go to conferences and conventions. Talk to other writers to get a glimpse of their writing process. Form a support network. Meet potential critique partners. Learn about how the craft of writing and the business of publishing relate to each other. Develop your drinking abilities in the bar.

Here’s a “bonus” piece of advice: Learn accounting and the principles of financial investing. You’re going to need that knowledge to properly handle the windfall that comes with being a writer! (Well, all my nuggets of advice can’t be winners.)

Now, go forth and write!

(This entry is “simul-posted” on Criminal Minds.)