Tuesday, May 29, 2012

getting critique is tough

I had a frustrating critique group meeting last week. We had agreed that every critiquer could talk without interruption on their turn and the author would wait until the end to talk. Suffice to say, it was chaos: questions, interruptions, discussions, etc. And we ran over our allotted time frame. :( Recall my tips for critiquing: Critique 101.

I also got the impression that some of the authors did not totally grasp concepts such as point of view or genre. That's fine. We all have to start somewhere.

I was quite surprised when a couple of the group members quit after the meeting. It just goes to show different people perceive things differently. I thought we were a group of authors working together and trying hard to improve our craft. Clearly, some members did not have that same impression.

I am reminded of how difficult it can be to get critique, especially if you aren't experienced at it. I've been trying to write seriously for over a decade and have gotten a lot of critique in that time. It's still tough to hear your work, your baby, isn't working for readers. But, I've learned how to deal with it. Carefully consider what your critique partners have to say--they are trying to help you, after all. Accept some suggestions and reject some.
The bottom line is: you don't have to listen to everyone's advice. It's your work.
Good luck with your critiques!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Advice from Gaiman

I'd meant to post the 2011 Nebula Award Winners as I am wont to do. So here they are:
  • Novel Winner: Among Others, Jo Walton (Tor)
  • Novella Winner: ”The Man Who Bridged the Mist,” Kij Johnson (Asimov’s Science Fiction, October/November 2011)
  • Novelette Winner: ”What We Found,” Geoff Ryman (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, September/October 2011)
  • Short Story Winner: ”The Paper Menagerie,” Ken Liu (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March/April 2011)
  • Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation Winner: Doctor Who: “The Doctor’s Wife,” Neil Gaiman (writer), Richard Clark (director) (BBC Wales)
  • Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Winner: The Freedom Maze, Delia Sherman (Big Mouth House)
Congratulations to all the winners! Read more about it over at SFWA.

But speaking of Neil Gaiman, in the meantime, I got very distracted by his May 17 excellent commencement address at The University of the Arts. Here are the bullet points:

  1. When you start out on a career in the arts you have no idea what you are doing.
  2. If you have an idea of what you want to make, what you were put here to do, then just go and do that.
  3. When you start off, you have to deal with the problems of failure.
  4. I hope you'll make mistakes. If you're making mistakes, it means you're out there doing something.
  5. While you are at it, make your art. Do the stuff that only you can do.
  6. So make up your own rules.
  7. So be wise, because the world needs more wisdom, and if you cannot be wise, pretend to be someone who is wise, and then just behave like they would.
Check out the entire thought-provoking, encouraging speech here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Plotting has been kicking my butt the last week or so. My critique partners have knocked one too many holes in my plot so I finally have to do a big revision before I can move forward. Writing is hard. :(

www.learner.org (and elsewhere on the internet) has some good tips for plot. The following elements need to go into a plot:

  1. Exposition is the information needed to understand a story.
  2. Complication is the catalyst that begins the major conflict.
  3. Climax is the turning point in the story that occurs when characters try to resolve the complication.
  4. Resolution is the set of events that bring the story to a close.
My problem (in novel-length) fiction is I need to keep making the complications greater and greater for the protagonist, until she reaches her dark moment--when it looks like she may not survive (literally and/or figuratively). I tend to give the protagonist a problem and then she solves it, and then she gets another problem and solves it, etc.
Hhm. I need to put on my thinking cap...

How do you come up with a good plot?

Good luck with your writing!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

a sale

I just signed a contract for a short story sale. W00t! :)
I actually wrote the story for my last writers' workshop in my (Seton Hill University!) M.F.A. progam. I did set out with the perverse goal of initially tricking the reader into thinking the protagonist was unsympathetic--when in reality she was on a mission to save the world. An additional challenge I gave myself was to have the protagonist not actually do anything, but hopefully have the reader still empathize with her in the end. I do think this is a somewhat unexplored topic in SF: What happens to all those intrepid world-savers when their missions fail or they are unable to complete them?
So, notice, I attempted to write a story fraught with less-common ideas/concepts.

Workshopping the story was interesting. Many in the group didn't like it too much. But, I did get many helpful comments which helped to make the story better. (Thank you, workshoppers for your help! I appreciate it.)
The tale of this tale points to a very important point: writers need input from other writers. :)
Good luck finding your perfect critiquers/workshoppers!

I'd like to point out an additional factor in my success here: perseverance. I submitted this story to several markets unsuccessfully. But I believed in it so I kept on plugging, despite rejection after rejection. Writing is difficult, but selling can be even more difficult.

Good luck with your selling efforts!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Gaiman interviews King

In case you don't get the UK Sunday Times magazine, Neil Gaiman was kind enough to repost Popular Writers: A Stephen King interview. Having one of this era's best writers interview one of this era's best writers is a treat. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

just write

Do you ever feel like time just gets away from you? I sure do. Yesterday I used up all my writing time on a non-fictional project. Now I'm left with seven days to write three new chapters. (Yes, I should have started them a week ago, but I was behind because I went out of town for a few days.) Yikes!

And it gets worse. I'm a pantser, so I have no idea what's going to happen next. And, apparently instead of writing them, I'm blogging. :)
Thus, I'm sorry to say that's it for today. I have to go write.

You, too. Get writing! :)

Good luck.