Archive for the ‘critique groups’ Category

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

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Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!

The January 4 Question: What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?

I have a love/hate relationship with the writing rules.

I was jagged up by the rule “show don’t tell” for years. I see this as a great cautionary tale for up-and-coming writers. Don’t let the rules limit you. As they say, learn the rules then forget them or else the writing can become stilted.

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The great writer, Ursula Le Guin said, ‘Thanks to “show don’t tell,” I find writers in my workshops who think exposition is wicked. They’re afraid to describe the world they’ve invented.’

When I was coming up as a writer, I took on board every rule I heard until my writing had turned into literary cardboard.

Other control freaks will understand. We take the rules to heart. I followed the rules to the extent that all creative spark in me became squashed. I didn’t have any fresh material for stories. I felt blocked. I wasn’t enjoying the creative process anymore.

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One critique partner at the time said my sentences had no flow and were the rhythmic equivalent of ‘riding over cobblestones on a horse.’

I had a very kind old Indian writer patiently explain that ‘a story is like a room in need of decoration.’ He said, “While your stories are good there isn’t enough furniture.’

Part of my coming up and finding my feet as a writer came from letting go of the rules or at least holding them at a decent arm’s length. I had to give myself permission to experiment again, in order to free up again and feel the inspired feelings take over.

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My writing hero, Kate de Goldi, has said the reason she writes is to chase her lost childhood Eden.

Exactly.

Childhood is eternally enshrined in my mind as the time in my life when I was the most wild and free. It is to that state I seek to return through my writing, and to help the reader see, feel and experience. It is that place I sought to go in the books I read as a child. It is to those ‘special shaded places’ I return to in the books I read as an adult.

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Can I find the secret shaded places through the window of the rules? No. Though it’s helpful to know what’s what when it comes to editing! I think this is what Stephen King meant when he said, “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” For me, my initial writing process, or what Joy Cowley calls ‘the genesis project,’ happens best when I shut out what the world has to say, via rules or otherwise, and surrender to wherever the muse wants to go.

If I have writing resolutions for 2017, it is to get my second book finished! And, to let myself be even more free with my writing this year, to be more wild. I want to feel I can explore, unfettered, the unique way of writing fiction which works best for me. And, I love that this particular process is an ever-unfolding road. It will never be finished. I’ll never reach the end of learning how to write.

The goal is ever to find my stories in my way, on my own terms.

What is your New Year’s Writing Resolution?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. ~ Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

 

 

You just have to accept that it takes a phenomenal amount of perseverance. —J. K. Rowling

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*Feel Resistance

Back in 2015, I projected I’d have the second book in my Chronicles of Aden Weaver series, out by Christmas, 2016.

By mid-September of this year, I began to worry. ‘The Sasori Empire’ would not be ready for Christmas. I knew I hadn’t sweated over the story enough, yet. It hadn’t caused me to lose a few pounds in sheer, gruelling, nose-to-the-grindstone, all-hours-of-the-day-and-night hardship, yet.

The story still had a long way to go.

‘The Sasori Empire’ needed to continue to battle through the torture chamber of editing at my kitchen table, and to undergo at least one or two more journeys through “the grinder” of critique.

At first, I felt intense resistance to the thought of admitting defeat, if I delayed publication. Essentially, it meant I’d have to admit I was wrong. The ego resists being diminished like the dickens.

*Step Back, Breathe

Looking back, I realize, my head must have gotten a bit swelled over self-publishing my first book, ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta.’ After thirty years of writing fiction and ten years creating this series, it’s not so surprising. In my enthusiasm at becoming a published writer, I imagined my pace of production would somehow magically increase. I’d be pumping out the novels at the rate of one a year, like the greats. But, no.

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 I had to eat a dose of humble pie and admit that the sequel would not be out in time for Christmas. Using the initial artwork supplied by my nephew, Si, I made up a poster to announce the delayed date for publication, on social media.

*The Theory of Randomness

Recently, a friend drew my attention to quotes from The Drunkard’s Walk, a book by Leonard Mlodinow. The wonderful quotes reminded me to look at the bigger picture.

‘There exists a vast gulf of randomness and uncertainty between the creation of a great novel and the presence of huge stacks of that novel at the front of thousands of retail outlets (paraphrased). A lot of what happens to us – success in our careers, in our investments, and in our life decisions both major and minor – is as much the result of random factors as the result of skill, preparedness, and hard work.’

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https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/2278900

This theory reminded me that there is no need to rush anywhere with my writing and my stories. Hard work alone, will not influence the outcome. I should savour the scenery along the way. It helped me to take the foot off the accelerator.

*Release

Once I decided to let go of this year’s publication date, I felt better. It was like a weight lifted off my shoulders. I knew that in terms of well-being, it was the best thing I could have done. I was ‘back on track’ with my own timing again. Whew.

I settled back into more reasonable writing hours. I began to sleep better. I was “nice mama” again, and able to be pleasant to other shoppers at the supermarket.

It was as simple as giving myself permission to quit pursuing an unrealistic goal. Despite my initial resistance, I embraced a new goal. I can do the work that needs to be done, on my own terms, in my own timing, while enjoying life along the way. Imagine that!

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*The “Mission Statement”

One of my writing mentors, Jill Mitchell, is a big fan of “mission statements” for staying on track with our goals.

This is mine:

I always strive to create story in some form. I flow with life as much as possible – therefore, I can change, my goals can change. However, I’m essentially always moving forward with my evolution, learning my craft, becoming a better writer, delivering a better story experience, and as long as I stay true to the creative muse flowing through my fingertips, I’m on track. I am successful.

*Persist!

My goal of putting out the second book in the series will happen, when the time is right. The goal is still there, it’s just farther in the distance. That’s okay.

Leonard Mlodinow posits that random factors act in our lives. ‘That’s why successful people are almost universally members of a certain set – the set of people who don’t give up.’

This adds weight to the wisdom in the idea of persistence.

I persist. What a great mantra – I’m adding that to the list.

When your goal’s a moving target, the best thing you can do is stay the course! 

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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To write simply is as difficult as to be good. – W. Somerset Maugham

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

 

 

 

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insecurewriterssupportgroup

Wednesday is time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

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The wonderful writer and the guy behind the successful blog, The Write Practice, Joe Bunting said, ‘No one is born a writer. You must become a writer. In fact, you never cease becoming, because you never stop learning how to write. Even now, I am becoming a writer. And so are you.’

Three chapters from the book I’m working on, had come back from critique, and one comment in particular came up again and again. Show it. Don’t tell it. This is basic, fiction writing 101. Yet, this is what the process of critique is for. By showing your prose to third parties for evaluation; you discover blind-spots. In my case, there have been seemingly endless ways and times in which I have told when I should have shown.

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I haven’t abandoned my earlier stance, my stated belief in the value of a good “tell.” I still feel the same way. Telling gets such a bad rap these days. I still align myself with the bestselling author, Lee Child, who once famously said, “I’m a storyteller, not a storyshower.” Me, too, Lee!

In her essay, ‘On Rules of Writing, or, Riffing on Rechy’, popular author Ursula Le Guin cautioned against the commonplace writing advice, ‘show, don’t tell.’ Says Le Guin: ‘Thanks to “show, don’t tell,” I find writers in my workshops who think exposition is wicked. They’re afraid to describe the world they’ve invented.’

However, too much exposition is like pepper in a meal, too much will spoil the dish.

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‘Adjectives and adverbs are rich and good and fattening. The main thing is not to overindulge.’ Says Le Guin. So, while telling is vital, the technique must also be leavened by lots of hearty showing.

I found a number of places in my story, ‘The Sasori Empire,’ where judicious tweaks along these lines elevated the material by miles.

Here’s an example:

On the long walk from the HAFH library back to their quarters, Aden pondered the news of the Forbidden Time.

I rewrote the opening paragraph:

On the long walk from the HAFH library back to their quarters, Aden recalled how they’d managed to get into the library. In his mind’s picture, he again stood peering at the framed page, which proclaimed the news of the Forbidden Time. His heart beat faster.

It’s a slight tweak and yet, it improves the whole flavor. Truth to tell, I’m constantly surprised and delighted by the power of the show.

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I’m editing my novel, The Sasori Empire, and yet rather than cutting words out, I’m adding words in. We coined a new term for it, “aditing.”

The thing is, we all know we have to show not tell most of the time and yet, for some reason perversely, it’s quite hard to do. Maybe we could work an 80/20 ratio on this.

Having acknowledged I needed to show more areas of the book, I have continued to wade through each chapter, like a “tell” seeking missile. I locate static areas on each page to break down and expose.

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These areas of telling are really just momentary lapses of attention on my part, when I was originally writing the rough copy. With the help of my critique partners, we find more dark corners like this in my story all the time, areas badly in need of illumination.

The best ways to “show” parts of your story is to think as if you’re in a movie and tease apart all the elements that make up a scene, action, dialogue, and rendered thought.

Herein lays the real value of showing. It gives us detail, context, a sense of place. These things influence our sense of the stakes, whether we care about the story and the characters enough to keep reading.

How about you? Are you creating something? Editing? Writing? Aditing? Let us know, and share the pain!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Now let’s write our brains out passionately and with minimal reference to grids and rules. Let’s write from a love of the art and the heart of fiction.” ~ PJ Reece

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

I’ve committed the big “no-no” – multiple viewpoints in junior fiction.

I didn’t start out wanting to break the rules, it just happened. I’ve always written stories for children. I’ve always written them from the traditional single point of view. No dreaded head-hopping for the younger reader here.

Everyone’s heard the horror stories of authors who wrote books for young readers with dual points of view, being cited for their foolishness in the media. I remember reading an article in a children’s literature magazine a couple of years ago, where the critic said it was a pity the story was written from two different viewpoints, because this had “alienated potential readers.”

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The general attitude towards head hopping junior fiction is roundly and rightly frowned upon.

I had no intention of deviating from this rule. Why risk dividing the small number of readers I might be fortunate enough to attract?

Then, in 2005, after attending a couple of weekend workshops with Kate de Goldi I started writing an epic-length story, the Chronicles of Aden Weaver,

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A few years after this, I went to a writer’s class led by the wonderful author and columnist, Lindsey Dawson. One afternoon, I stayed behind after the session. I told Lindsey the essential elements of my story and asked her opinion on how to improve it.

Lindsey went up to the whiteboard. She drew an image which she said had “just come to her.” There were three different strands of helix spiralling up around a central column. Lindsey said that the central column was the plot and the strands circling it were the different characters’ story threads. And she encouraged me to think about the lives of the secondary characters.

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I went home that night, I picked up my pen and started writing. To my surprise, the stories rushed out. Almost as if the other characters had been bursting to tell their sides of the tale.

Then, I wove the new story threads in and out of the old story thread, and it came together in a unique and interesting way. Did I dare show this mutant baby to the rest of the world? I knew they would come out and beat it to death with sticks and clubs.

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When I worked on the first book in the series, ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta,’ my critique partners made it clear they did not believe head-hopping worked in junior fiction. I agreed, but what could I do?

Hoping for reprieve, I asked another friend who is an author for his opinion. He said, ‘Shifting POV is generally frowned upon, since the last thing we want is a confused reader.’

Although I wished to be able to adhere to the principle of single pov, I simply felt compelled to stick to at least two ‘heads’ for Book one. I couldn’t make the complex tale work otherwise. I knew I was treading on dangerous ground. Yet, I published my book anyway. And I expect to be lambasted for it at some stage if anyone beyond the circle of my friends ever reads it.

Currently, I’m writing the follow up in the series, ‘The Sasori Empire.’

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At the outset, one of my critique friends suggested that I try writing the sequel from Aden’s point of view. ‘It’s much better because you allow the reader to have the experience of reading the story through Aden’s eyes. There will be more tension and surprises this way especially for your younger target audience.’

I agreed a hundred percent. So with the rough, raw material for book two, I went through the entire manuscript and changed it to a single ‘head.’ Only problem was, I felt as if all the life had been sucked out of the material.

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Deflated, I went to my friend, kiwi author, Donna Blaber, to ask her opinion. Donna is a traditionally published author with 30 books to her credit. She knows her stuff. And she’s familiar with this series, having helped me out by being a beta reader with book one. I told her what I had done with changing everything in book two over to Aden’s pov. And I sent her (on her request) two chapters illustrating the changes.

I waited anxiously for her response.

Two days later, Donna emailed. ‘My thoughts are that the second book should follow in the same vein as the first book, otherwise I think it will be confusing. Save the different style for your next story/series. I (sometimes) give little regard for the so-called ‘rules’ because I believe they are there to be broken. However, in saying that, I think consistency in a series is important.’

I cannot even tell you the relief! This is what my gut instinct was trying to tell me. And don’t you love that freeing type of thinking? I was inspired.

It’s hard to explain. Even though I personally would prefer not to be the author of this Frankenstein: this multiple pov, anthropomorphic, fantasy fiction for ‘tweens, I am. It’s what the story wants. I shall have to take my lashings as they come.

What story wants, it gets. The dreaded, hoary-breathed, two-headed gargoyle of multiple viewpoints is what this story demands. That’s all I can tell you!

Has your story ever taken you where you didn’t want to go? Ever taken a risk and gone against conventions?

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Keep on creating!

See you in the funny papers,

Yvette K. Carol

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Your intuition knows what to write so get out of the way. ~ Ray Bradbury

The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write, and draw, and build and play and dance and live as only you can. ~ Neil Gaiman

Ultimately, you have to be your own North Star. – James Preller

When you’re a writer, people always recommend you join a critique group. I remember, senior writers used to suggest I join one when I started out, and now, many years down the track, I recommend the same thing to others. But, why?

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1: It’s that right-minded support that lifts us onwards.

One time, at a writing conference, a new author got up for her acceptance speech. Upon receiving a prestigious award, she said, “I wouldn’t be standing there without my critique group.” I remember thinking, does a critique group make that much of a difference? The year was 2011.

At that stage, I still hadn’t found the right group that felt like a fit, so the benefits of the critique group had failed to impact on me. Critique groups were an enigma I didn’t properly understand for the first few years of my attempts to participate. But then, I held a lot of my work back, and only submitted short pieces I was experimenting with rather than committed to. I didn’t trust the process enough at that stage to release into full immersion.

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I started the networking group, “Writing for Children,” through Kristen Lamb’s, Wanatribe site, in 2012, and started to make friends with other writers. We were an instant mutual support system. They felt like family. Through the connections I made there, I met amazing author, Maria Cisneros-Toth. We both wrote for the same genre (Middle-Grade to Tween) and because trust was established, I shared with her my actual primary work-in-progress, ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta.’ That was the first time I surrendered fully to the critique process.

Right away Maria embraced my world and my story. Maria told me in no uncertain terms that I could write and she believed in me. Boy, that was just the injection of faith in myself I needed. I set to work with gusto. My confidence blossomed. And later, our critique group of two grew.

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2: It’s working together side-by-side on our stories that builds relationships.

Having a functioning critique group is about having a live support mechanism. A member of my mailing list asked me how I managed to get a supportive network around me. I said you can’t sit back and expect people to come to you; you’ve got to go out and meet them. It’s just like when you go to a party. If you stand in the corner and don’t talk to anyone, you’ll be miserable. The onus is on you to make the first move. Go to social media hubs, like LinkedIn, and Goodreads, and Google+, and participate in conversations on message boards. You soon meet people. You start give-and-take relationships. You treat people the way you want to be treated and friendships naturally grow.

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3: The critique group’s variety of viewpoints and opinions act like a small test group representing the viewing public.

With my story, I had done a lot of “world building,” yet I had lived with the story for such a long time, that a lot of facets of this world were familiar to me and made perfect sense. Showing this unique imaginary realm to my critique group was the first real litmus test. That was when the questions began. Why this? How that? I realized very quickly that in a number of areas, more explanation was needed, more clarity, and in some cases, new solutions.

This slice of the reading community giving you feedback, can be the difference between an idea working in the real world of the reading public, and not. You soon find out what works and what fails, and you get precious feedback on everything.

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4: Giving critique to others hones our own writing skills.

Of course, at the same time, you’re giving critique too. When I did my first course in critiquing children’s fiction with Kate de Goldi, in 2007, Kate told all of us, in no uncertain terms, that learning to critique was as important as the writing. It was a skill we needed to practice, she told us. Learning to pull apart other people’s fiction editorially would hone our own fiction.

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I have come to feel a truly vast appreciation for the benefits of critique. I know what the new author meant when she said in 2011, that she wouldn’t have been standing on that podium if it weren’t for her critique group. I can say my book, ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta’ would not be sitting on my bookshelf if it wasn’t for mine.

Do you have similar stories to share of your amazing friends, or your supportive critique groups?

 

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Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Revision is a personal thing, and it’s easy to become confused with too much input. You have to decide who to trust, but never just blindly do what you are told. Ultimately, you have to be your own North Star, while trying to understand and internalize the things that your readers might be responding to.” ~ James Preller