A SLIGHT CHANGE

YouI know I said we’d do a little more in the critique process area, and we will, just not at this time. I have had this word, “PASSIONS,” floating around in my head and cannot shake hard enough to let the letters fall to the floor. No, I do not do resolutions for the new year. Why? They are of no use. If after day 1, of the new year, I screw (oops, pardon) up, then I feel the whole year will be that way. New Year’s Resolutions set people up for failure.

Now, let us take PASSION. Passion grabs you at any time, any place and any year. SO, WHAT ARE YOUR PASSIONS? First let me ask you, “What turns you on?” The second question is “Why aren’t you doing this?” Think on these questions for a while, before you answer. Turn yourself inside out and look at the choices you have made.

All of us have gifts and they get buried. Now is the time for you to get a shovel and see what gifts you can dig up. Sure, a good job and a paycheck are comforts in our environment, but you do have choices out there. Look at things that have the deepest meaning for you and see if there is an opportunity for work in this area. You need to deepen your gifts.

A thought about gardening hits. A nice yard with plenty of flowers and shrubs or a veggie garden. But, your yard is small or you live where you have no yard. OK. Check within your area for community gardens. You get your passions satisfied and meet other people.

You love to read and could sit all day with books around you. Share this passion by reading to children at your local library or starting a book club. Your passion gets filled and overflows into a child’s life or new members of a book club.

Think outside the box.

Put these passions down on index cards and look at them every day. If one does not fit, look for a different avenue, a new choice or decision. Then you find one that does fit, and you soar to new heights. You will find yourself getting closer to working with your passions.

If you are a writer, remember that every writer faces fear and failure before that one golden moment of publication. Why do we continue? We are filled with the PASSION. PASSION. PASSION. of putting words on paper.

But, one words drives all of us in search for our PASSION….PRACTICE. PRACTICE. PRACTICE.

No more resolutions, just grab your PASSIONS and hang tight. You will find your match. If you want to share, please write down five passions and how you plan to work these into your lives, starting now. No sense waiting until the New Year.

Happy Passion Hunting and let me hear from you.

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A SIMPLE CRITIQUE PROCESS

ImageOkay, you are now in a critique group and what’s next? There should be a simple process of critiquing for the group. Here are a few to consider:

RULES OF CRITIQUING

(1) Never critique the author. Always critique the work. (2) Find what is right in each piece as well as what is wrong. (3) You do not have to like a story to give it a critique. (4) Real people write and real people have feelings.

RULES FOR BEING CRITIQUED

(1) Listen. The person speaking has take time to read your work and wants to help you find ways to make it better. (2) Wait until everyone has finished their critique before making any comments. (3) Do not rebut. Explain only if necessary. (4) Take notes. (5) Everything can be improved. (6) Be willing to make changes only if YOU think it would enhance your store. Remember you are the author.

CHECKLIST – THINGS TO LOOK FOR

Here is a list and in my next blog, I will go into detail: PLOT- CHARACTERS – ACTION – DIALOGUE – BACKGROUND – OVERALL STORY – THEME – GRAMMAR – DETAILS – SPELLING – WORD CHOICE – WHAT DID YOU LIKE ABOUT THE PIECE – WHAT CAUSED PROBLEMS AND WHY – FINAL COMMENTS

You can go into as much or as little detail as you would like or listen to what the author wanted critiqued. Sometimes, the author will ask for certain points in their story critiqued. Then you know what to look for and not a general critique.

Now you begin your work for critiquing: (1) Read one story at a time, as if it was the only story you needed to critique. (2) Write down your impressions as a reader. Was the story captivating? Did you enjoy reading it? Did the story hook you at the beginning? (3) Try to give feedback on what could be changed. Identify the weaknesses and offer some constructive advise to the author that might lead to improvements in the story. (4) Give examples of improvements, if possible. (5) Praise. We all need encouragement and pats on the back to keep plodding ahead. (6) Identify the strengths in the story. (7) Focus on the story, not the author. (8) Critique as you want to be critiqued.

This should get you started and points to ponder.

CRITIQUE GROUPS – ARE THEY FOR YOU?

9776003-audienceWe have all heard horror stories about critique groups, and there are some difficult groups out there. Yet, critique groups exist and thrive. Why? As writers, we need feedback on our work from other writers. Family and friends are not a true test of our writing.

Check libraries, other writers, writer groups and online for groups in your genre. It is a good idea to stick within your genre. If you write fiction, stay with fiction; if you write romance, then find all genres of romance. One is sure to be your match. Some genres cross over, especially in the YA groups. Mystery writers have their own groups, which include thrillers, spy and espionage. Non-fiction groups deal with more facts than fiction. As a fiction writer may feel out of place dealing with facts rather than raw imagination.

If you have long work hours, a weekly group might present a problem. Try a small group, 5-6 writers. Then everyone can be critiqued each time. A monthly group might be too far between reads. Remember, if you are in a large group, you may not get your story critiqued every time. Do not hesitate to ask about their processes. Online groups may fit your work and writing schedules, but there obstacles you must address. These include not seeing the people in the group. How do you know if anyone has published or is this their first attempt at writing. You need to ask the right questions at the beginning.

These are choices you, as a writer, have to decide. There is no right or wrong decision. You may have to try several groups and do not hesitate to try many. This is your writing and you want peers of the same genre to assist.

Once you find your critique group, your writing will improve. Also, in critiquing another person’s work, you are in a learning process. Try a group out. You just might find the ONE group for you. Or, there could be three of you that form a good fit, as long as you take these critiques in a professional manner.

Let me hear from you about your process for finding your group. I’d love to get your point of view on critique groups.

Over the next couple of weeks, we will discuss Rules of Critiquing and Rules for Being Critiqued.

Happy Hunting.

HOW IS YOUR MIDDLE?

write and booksNo, this is not your waistline, your love handles or your mirror view. This is the middle of your novel.

We all have questions, problems and sags in the middle of our story. The story is there, the characters have their dialog down great, but something is missing. We know the beginning of the story and how the story should end; what about the middle?

This can be a rush, where we want to write everything in a hurry and get this part done and finished. Or, we have a tendency to string out every moment, detail and end up telling the reader instead of showing the most intricate parts of the novel.

Before any change or revision, read your novel again in your own voice. What? After six revisions, I know my story almost word by word. This is why you should pick up your manuscript, sit before a mirror or stand as if you were at a conference ready to read your book. No cheating.

As the middle stretches before you, the words get harder to read. You stammer and start over. This is okay. Mark on your manuscript where this happens and continue your reading. OOPS, didn’t I say the same thing a few pages ago, and mark the spot. Keep reading and keep marking. Soon, you realize some of your sags in the middle, but read more. You may discover even more sags.

After the reading is complete, your work just begins. Compile a short sentence or two about each chapter. Then you will know what each character is doing, where the action takes place, and then you see where the sagging starts. And, you can capture the intimate parts of the book and the timeline.

Are there areas you can delete and move the middle forward without telling the reader? Ouch! I know the word delete hurts, but a middle that sags is worse. Now, you have re-worked the middle, read again and again. Do the changes make your characters shine and come alive. If not, return to the sag and determine what you can do.

Maybe the middle just needs a gentle massage. If you can cut out the telling and redundancy in the middle, maybe the ending can be lengthened. Sometimes, we rush through the story and the ending. If you show detail throughout your story, your ending will hit you full force.

Check the ending again. Can you give more to your reader? Show the reason for the triangle or give a glimpse of the killer. Extend the ending to bring the reader to a fulfilling read.

Make certain your reader closes the covers of your book satisfied and able to smile as a tear slides down a face. Then, you have done your job as an author.

Remember to “Check your middle.”

STILL HAVE CREATING PROBLEMS?

Book CaseAll the free-writes, morning pages and the walks helped, but did not get you motivated. Okay, we’ll try something else – READING

Look at the books in your home library or go to the library (a walking trip) and look at books you cannot remember reading. Pick one of the classics, and here are a few to start with:

Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (which is now a new movie) – Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the  Vanities, John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, Caleb Carr’s The Alienist. You can also add poetry to the list, such as: Sylvia Plath, Margaret Atwood and Emily Dickenson.

Read the words of great writers and in a different time. Look at the words, the descriptions and find yourself back with the characters on the page. Reap all the sensations and record how these make you feel in your notebook. What? Okay, run, grab your pages and start writing.

Another avenue to push the creative button is MUSIC. Look over all your CD’s and then fixate on the ones that mean something to you. What did you listen to on your first date? Your first sock-hop? Ooooops, age telling.Where were you and who were you with? What about the Junior, Senior Prom? Then you see an Elvis CD and you rush to change the track. Age doesn’t matter as Elvis sang to everyone. Sit back, relax and let your mind carry you round and round on that CD. Put your pen on the paper beside you and scribble your thoughts, your imagination, friends you were with and feel the music take you up, up and away.

Have you ever thought about volunteering for a storytelling project at a library close to you. If there is a special class, go and study the storyteller and the children. Kids are more aware of stories and characters than ever before. Watch their faces, their hands and their smiles. Also keep close attention to frowns. See which characters bring silence to their voices or start a big “WHOOPEE.” You are getting valuable feedback. Got your book near you? These are things you need to jot down NOW, as the memory of these kids are quick to appear and quicker to disappear.

Now, go home and make up your own storytelling. You remember something you noticed in the grocery store, or the hardware place or even at the gas station. Write in your notebook or on your keyboard. Just get your excitement from your mind to your fingers.

Write and make certain your words convey the emotional side of your writing. It may look gibberish, but you know that special event in your life. Now, put this into your character’s life and watch the pages dance.

Sing while you work and be happy with your writing.

CREATE – NOW!

An IdeaWhat? I have to think and think before I can create.

You are a writer, right?

Yes, but what does this have to do with creating?

You have to train, train and keep training.

Even if you have the position of a ‘gopher,’ you have to learn new ways to go for this and go for that.

But, you are a writer. You need to generate ideas or your story will go stale and never appear, even in your head. Look at all the things, yes things, around you. How creative can you get tying shoelaces. Go for the small ideas and make them gigantic.

Look at newspapers, magazines and small free mags in your city. Is there something you see that looks out of place. Check it out. This makes you stretch your imagination and gives you more ideas. You see a story about a special jewel. What makes this so intriguing? Could this jewel be part of your next suspense story? Where did you find it? If you are into romance, where did your lover get this expensive stone, when he does not even have a car? When he slips it on your finger, does your stomach do flops, your heartbeats race, or do you take it off and throw the ring down on the floor.

Your imagination is in full-throttle. Do not waste a second, and remember to take your notebook and pen with you on the way out of your door. Whatever your chose as the holder of your scribblings is your choice. I love a steno pad. Why? I can write on one side, turn the whole notebook over and write on the other side. Makes everything more interesting.

Observe what is around you: sights, sounds and smells. Each leaves a different avenue for you to travel. Do not use your computer or smartphone. No, get your body outside and walk different streets, stop in unusual stores, check out unique restaurants and look for a park.

Now, you have a few ideas in your head; put these down on your word document any way you want. They become pages of ideas and writings. Before you get too excited, look at what appears on the pages. Did you color your imagination with cliche’ tags? Look again at all of your writing ideas and delete the cliche’ words. Insert new thoughts, new ideas and new ways of writing the old standby words.

Change your pace: speed up your words or slow down and watch how the sentences change the entire store. Stop and read some of your favorite authors. Look at how they shorten sentences to make the pace faster, and then turn around and lengthen the sentences to slow the reader down.

Angry? Maybe your character is so mad you cannot show these actions. Make your sentences choppy with no real answer. Sad? Lengthen your sentences and expose your reader to an unhappy lifestyle. Paranormal? Let your character soar to another planet, one of which the partner has no idea of existence.

These are just a few ways to zap into creativity. In a few days, we will tackle more avenues for your creativity to hide and pop out at a moments notice.

Practice getting your creativity out of your head and onto the paper or screen. Get yourself out into the world. Look, see, pretend and soon you will have no problem to grab creativity by the hands full.

Go. Get started – like now.

Enjoy the hunt, Patricia

Write Your Life Away

9776003-audience“Why should I do that? I want to have a writing life.” Yeah, me too. Yet somewhere in the back of your mind strange thoughts emerge. What about Natalie Goldberg’s flash writing. Then, Julia Cameron sparked up her ‘morning pages.’ More and more, I am resisting these concepts of writing.

I remember writing morning pages and one morning where I wrote forever with only one simple sentence – I do not know what to write. I do not know what to write, and this continued until the alarm screamed at me. The clang brought my mind from a state of, who knows what, to an alert status and thousand of thoughts flowed through my brain. I tried to jot some down, but my daytime job called me from the depth of my abyss.

When you sign up for Na-No-Mo-Wri Month, you need the skills of speed writing, flash writing and no censor is allowed. This means, you start out with the pen on the paper, fingers on the keyboard and you do not stop for any errors, spelling mistakes, whatever else your mind tells you or Windows suggests.

There is no right or wrong. Your mind and your fingers are one of the same. You are flying on high with new ideas, new thoughts, new feelings and you have NO time to stop and  examine what you have written. This is a go with the flow. In NoNoMoWri, you only keep track of the word count, and then at the end of the month, put all your gibberish away. DO NOT LOOK. Hide your work for a month. Then take a fresh new look. You will be surprised. In among the misspelled words, no paragraphs, no commas, no periods, you see, no make that read, the beginning of a story you wanted to write, but couldn’t. Why? your censor got in the way. Without, and we’ll call it him, your Muse had the lead on your head, heart and hands.

This is no contest, except for you as a writer. Take 15 minutes out of your day, preferably in the morning when the mind is still not quite awake, and you feel the creative juices begin to flow. You have a story, but nothing seems to connect. Thoughts flow by each day and you ignore them. Now, in this state of free writing, you want to address these issues. Is he gay is he straight; or does she have a secret lover or a wandering spouse? Whose baby is she carrying; her husband’s or her lover’s? Does the whole town know or is she just imagining the stares and cold shoulders?

STOP. Get up and walk around. Do some chores. Indulge yourself into another cup of java or tea. Run the vacuum. Just get moving.

Then free write for another 15 minutes. Do not look at what you wrote, but start with what is in your head. You are the creator of these words. Listen to what your character(s) want. Can you provide these avenues? If not, what dark side of the street can you take them.? Play with your characters. Take them in unusual places and watch how they react. Would this make a good diversion in your book?

STOP – and put the pages away in your safe place. If you have time, do this process again for another 15 minutes. This time, use different characters. These could be your secondary characters or a minor character, who just might make a big impact in your story. Funny, you never thought about this.

Then STOP, really stop. With all the pages hidden for the day, take your thoughts and mind over what you have discovered. Do you feel a new life in your story? Do some characters need more work or did you find a minor player, who could change the whole story? Are there images that keep sticking into your thoughts? Visualize. Think, Ponder. Replay again and again.

In a couple of days, pull these pages out and read from beginning to end. Is there a new story? Did you change the old story? Is the old story still prevalent, but some new character adds spice? Look over your words. You are the captain of your story and you hear yourself shout,”Full Speed Ahead.”

Enjoy your free writes. They can impel you to greater tight stories and what a wonderful feeling – the censor played no part as your fingers flew across the page or the keyboard. You will always feel great when your characters tell you their story.

Keep the censor in a locked drawer. Keep your muse on your shoulder and fly with free writing.