Wednesday, December 3, 2014

First Critiques

Last month I participated in an online critique class offered through Savvy Authors. Instructor--Melinda Pierce. Why? Being a good critique partner is a whole new realm for me. I've edited newsletters and yearbooks, evaluated and scored many pieces of writing (as an English teacher), but no one ever listed points to look for in critting [Melinda's word] your writing partner's work.

Ah . . . sounds so simple? Just point out all the "errors" you find. Easy, peasey, huh? Wrong. Melinda started by listing four points that every critique should be: Positive, Constructive, Specific, and Honest. Good points. No one rewrites for the author; the critter provides positive feedback in a back and forth exchange.

I enjoyed the class and "meeting" the other writers and reading the works they shared. A benefit I hadn't expected was learning more about POV and deep POV. Before this experience, no one had explained the difference between author's POV and character's POV. I get it now! Talking heads is something I've had trouble identifying.

So, I'm ready to find compatible writers who would like to form a crit group. I'm also borrowing Melinda's critting. It sounds so much better than critique.

"Critique" has such a negative connotation. Unfortunately, I've had a fair share of negativity. I've stopped writing several times over the past ten years because of Negative, Deconstructive, Non-specific comments. A good example: "I didn't finish. It didn't hold my interest." Okay. I accepted that. Would have been a better crit if the reader had been specific about why she lost interest.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Last Writes--So Apropos

Last weekend I attended my first Missouri Romance Writers of America meeting. The pre-meeting Coffee Talk guest, Linda Gilman, historical western romance author from Troy, MO, showed us how to use the Zodiac to deepen characterization. Informative. Her handouts were amazing. Visit Linda's website:

Today, I flashed back to the 1970s. Seems everyone I knew back in the Age of Aquarius, was asking "What's your sign?" Cheesy pick-up line--maybe. Great ice-breaker--probably. Major turn-off--absolutely. Did I know enough then to recognize what characteristics might be lurking behind the mask? No, of course not. But, today, as I review the charts and descriptions of each sign that Linda prepared for her chat, I'm armed with a smattering of knowledge which will come in handy if I ever hear that trite "What's your sign?" again.

So now I need to add a reference book on the Zodiac to my collection. Besides checking my trusty Writer's Guide to Character Traits, or The Writer's Digest Sourcebook for Building Believable Characters, Tarot cards, and enneagrams (Are You My Type, Am I Yours?: Relationships Made Easy Through the Enneagram), I can add the characteristics of the Zodiac.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Novel Idea—Reading for Pleasure
[written on April 12]

I spoke with Kim Flores, manager of the Brentwood Branch Library [Springfield, Missouri] and co-chair of the Library’s 2013 Big Read Committee. In her “Voice of the Day” column, April 5, 2013, Ms. Flores
asked readers when they last read a book “purely for pleasure”. My reply is today. I love to read. 

This year’s Big Read focuses on Great Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. Is there anyone in the world who hasn’t read at least one of Poe’s stories or poems? “The Cask of Amontillado”, “The Tell-Tale Heart”, “Fall of the House of Usher”, “Annabell Lee”—the list goes on and on. Each story with its tragic character left a memory. The story I most remember is “Lenore”. Not so much the character (his women were usually pale with dark, troubled eyes and flowing black locks). No, I remember that story for what I experienced at SMS my first year.

When I moved to the Women’s Dorm at Southwest Missouri State College [circa. 1963], I took American Literature I. Poe was a staple. Homecoming weekend, I stayed in [no date] and decided to read. As far as I knew, I was the only person on the fourth floor. [My door was locked for safety.] At one point I left my room for the restroom next door, shivering just a little because the hallway was dark and silent—perfect atmosphere for “Lenore”. I pushed on the swinging door which didn’t move. I stepped back as the door swung towards me. In walked Lenore, he dark locks streaming down her back. I let out a blood curdling scream, which of course, scared the poor girl coming through the door. After apologizing I explained about Poe and Lenore and how much she looked like the character. She didn’t speak to me the rest of the school year. I love to read.

The worst part of my reading for pleasure is wishing I’d thought of that scenario first. Or, kicking myself because I had the idea several years ago but didn’t put words on paper. Then I’m dancing at the masque ball with Red Death or praying for a quick end once the pendulum nicks.

 I have discovered, however, that the more I learn about crafting a good romantic suspense, the more my reading for pleasure is overshadowed by my fascination with how authors create three-dimensioned characters I wish I knew, drop subtle hints foreshadowing outcome which surprise me, or make me wonder if the writer is “showing” or “telling”. Then B’s brain reminds me that I’m reading for fun, not for a pop quiz. I love to read.

And because I dissect every plot twist or character motivation, I forget that I am reading for pleasure. Still, with my brain soaking up the “how to” techniques of my favorite authors, I always enjoy the story and the characters—especially when these characters are leads in stories of their own.