Thursday, April 16, 2015

Leave It To Kids to Keep You Humble

Several years ago when I was the secretary at an elementary school, I had an after-school reading club for kids. On a whim, I asked the kids if they knew me. I thought that would be easy to answer since being secretary is a visible position and I’d also written several books by that time.

 “You’re the counselor and Ethan’s grandma,” hollered one kid.

I nodded, “That’s half right. I’m Ethan’s grandma.”

Another hand popped up. “You’re the concierge.”

The what! Perhaps I needed to get out of the office more.

Another hand flew up. Whew! It was a grandchild.

“You are the secretary,” said my granddaughter proudly.

 Even though I was growing wiser, I wasn’t wise enough to end the topic.

“Does anyone know my name?”

Again, I chose a grandchild. (Thank goodness, I had several who went to that school.) I could see he was flustered, since the grandkids call me Grandma Debbie and staff members aren’t usually called by first names. “You are Grandma Smith,” he answered, choosing to use my last name instead of first.

Too late, it dawns on me that I’ve pushed the limits. I tell the class they are not required to call me Grandma Smith. They can call me Ms. Debbie.

Beware: Questions to boost self-esteem can sometimes backfire!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Thoughts Regarding Critique Groups

They Are Necessary

Joining a writing group is one of the easiest ways to discover things you’ve overlooked. That can be punctuation, grammar, or that you’ve accidentally changed the main character’s name! Fresh readers quickly see things you’ve missed.

They Can Make You Feel HIGH and LOW

Critique groups can sometimes be made up of newbie writers. Some read your story and tell you that it’s over-the-top terrific (which feels good), but in your heart you know better. Many give good feedback on punctuation and suggestions. Other well-meaning people pick it to shreds and cause you to wonder if you shouldn’t have taken up the oboe instead of writing.

They Cause You To Analyze How Much You Want To Be A Writer

After you reread your critiques, you must decide which things to listen to, and which to ignore. That can be hard. Many times the advice regarding grammar is correct, but being correct isn’t always what you want. You can lose the uniqueness of your story by making the writing generic. These are all things that you have to consider. 

They Cause You To Think Out-Side-The-Box

Not only will you have critiques that point out you used the word “just” several hundred times, they will also make you aware of phrases you tend to repeat. If you’d like to catch some of these things before they're pointed out by critiquers, you might consider editing software.

EditMinion, like other manuscript editing software, will help you locate common mistakes. Among other things, it highlights in different colors adverbs, weak words, sentences ending with prepositions and passive voice. It will quickly point out words and phrases that are repeated too often.

Pro Writing Aid points out overused words, vague and abstract words, repeated words, pacing, etc. Sticky sentences might be new to you. It will also alert you to those.

AutoCrit and ProWritingAid are two others. I'm not going to attempt to review or list all that are available, but they are worth considering.

 Do you want to keep writing? Do you love it enough to risk hearing negative things?  Can you make only changes that reflect your writing style? If so, I would take a deep breath, find editing software and join a good critique group.

If anyone has personal thoughts on the editing programs or critique groups, I'd be interesting in hearing from you.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A B Cs of Writing

Thoughts to ponder . . . brought on by Writer's Block.

Always keep punctuation under control, since it can stand out and disrupt reading. This is important! Don't forget! 
Be very careful to avoid cliches like the plague. Take the tiger by the tail and think outside the box. 
Characters need to be believable. Avoid exaggeration since it’s a kazillion times worse than telling a plain, boring story.
       Do your homework, which may require outside help. Try to guess the parts of your manuscript that a reader will skip over. (See a psychic if necessary.) Then hit the delete key. Hopefully you will have more than the title left when you’re finished.
Every writer needs to develop a questioning mind. (Why can’t I get an agent? Maybe because I can’t write worth a darn. Why do I have writer’s block? Maybe because the story doesn’t need to be told.) 
Finally, don’t repeat yourself. Trust the reader to understand what you’re writing. Don’t keep saying the same thing, in different ways, over and over. Write it once; don’t keep pushing repetitive thoughts on your reader, since that shows you don’t have confidence in your writing.
 It’s pretty obvious by my posts that I need to head back to the book I'm writing. It was a great story two days ago. Pretty good yesterday. But questionable today.