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60,000 words in to a new novel… what month is it?

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October 25, 2016 · 1:55 pm

Top 3 reasons you should be in a writing critique group

As writers, we tend to plunk away at our keyboards in isolation. Even if you write your best work in the middle of a crowded coffee shop, you’re still enveloped in the protective writer bubble of isolation. It’s what shuts out reality and lets imagination reign. This is where the isolation begins and ends.

solitude2

After we’ve fretted and pondered and written and re-written our literary works of genius, and before we let it fly on submissions, it’s time to let an impartial and objective set of eyes take a read. Yes, I know, you’re a brilliant writer, you don’t make mistakes, and your jaw-dropping prose makes other writers gasp in envy. But after the writing is done, the isolation of the writer absolves. Now it’s time for other people to get involved. It doesn’t matter if you have the gift, or that you believe your delicious prose is on fleek (did I use that word right?) your work as a whole could be a structural disaster. Or it may be an inadvertent expositional sermon. Your first twenty pages might read like a grocery list of character traits. A well-written grocery list, mind you, but a list none the less. And you might be able to fool the average reader with your clever prose, but publishers and book editors will see past all of that. They work with Stephen King and Margaret Atwood, remember? So, before you pay a professional to read and/or edit your work, join a critique group with a few other writers. Here’s the payback:

  1. Honest and objective opinions of your work. Writers have a tendency to be blind to their own work, but can spot errors in another writers work a mile away. Focusing on your work with other writers gives you specific feedback, valuable advice, and often creative suggestions that lets you view your work with fresh eyes.
  2. You will grow as a writer. Not only will you be receiving critiques but you’ll also be giving them. As you give and receive constructive feedback, you’ll be training your brain to look beyond the words and into the mechanics of your story. It provides the education and experiential growth that every writer needs to improve. And there is always room for improvement.
  3.  It offers motivation and accountability. Setting regularly scheduled meetings with your critique group offers a certain accountability. Being prepared for your group every week with a new piece of writing can be the kick in the ass some writers need to set the necessary time aside to write.

I would also suggest finding strangers to critique with. They will be the most objective. And the smaller the group, the more opportunity each of you will have to submit your work for discussion. It’s also important to find writers who are on (or about) the same level as you and who are avid readers. As time goes on, your relationship with these writers will become more and more comfortable, but the habit of their honesty and objectivity will already be established. These critiquing partners will become champions of your work in the future.

critique group

And lastly, the most important thing to do before joining a critique group is to let go of your ego. You want writers who will shred your work to pieces and leave you weeping on the floor in the fetal position. (Well, maybe that will just be the first meeting.) If you require constant validation as a writer, get it from your family and friends. Joining a critique group is business. It’s education. It’s a commitment to yourself to become the best writer you can be.

Where can you find these other writers? In local workshops, writing classes, meetups, writing events, online, etc. They’re everywhere, and they need you just as much as you need them. And did I mention that all of this is FREE?

That’s it, there’s no more. What are you waiting for? Go get ’em.

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Lurking people on the internet pays off with Word wisdom

I’m a lurker, I lurk people. I’ve probably lurked you. Sometimes during my lurk-capades I find a little nugget of wisdom that blows my world apart. It’s usually mentioned in some off-handed way that suggests it’s common knowledge. In which case, this post should embarrass me.

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I’ve been using Microsoft Word for some 20-odd years. It’s my go-to word processing application for everything when writing.  It’s handy word-count feature keeps me on track when submitting to journals and contests with submission rules. After 20 years you’d figure I’d know all its secrets.  But no, this morning’s lurk informed me that my word processing application has been quietly lurking me. After all these years it’s been keeping track of every minute that it takes me to grind away at edits. Well played Microsoft, well-played.

word

If you already knew about this little-known feature, congratulations, and where have you been? Tweet this information out immediately! If not, check your documents in File/Properties/Statistics (for Word 2003 or earlier) and Office Button/Prepare/Properties/Document Properties/Advanced Properties/Statistics (for Word 2007 and later.) I promise that Word doesn’t judge. If it did, maybe I’d have known about it earlier. (hint hint @Microsoft, forget Clippy, where’s my AI? I’d like the voice of Spock please, or Gandalf, yes, definitely Gandalf.)

Word: “Um, excuse me Catherine?”
Me: <fingers recoil from keyboard> “Woah… WTF?”
Word: “Yeah, uh, it’s me Word. Can you pick up your pace a bit? You’re slacking this week.”
Me: “What do you mean slacking? These edits are tough.”
Word: “Yes, right, well, you’ve been editing chapter one for 6,586 minutes already and you need to push on if you’re ever going to get this novel done.”
Me: “And what would you know about how long it takes?”
Word: “Well, I don’t mean to brag, but I am a child of Microsoft, and we know everything. Shall I give you the estimates of author chapter revision times in North America?”
Me: <pushes mute button>

editing time

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The Uber-friend Buzz: Candace Bowen Early

When I think romance novelist, I imagine a dazzling woman in a satin gown and white gloves who delicately weaves tales of delicious emotional justice and unconditional love through a ruby-encrusted laptop while sipping champagne and eating bon-bon’s.   Glamorous, right?  Right, Candace?

I tried to find such photos as proof on Candace Bowen Early’s FB page, but there were none to be had.  If glam and glitz go hand-in-hand with romance writing, Candace is hiding it from the world.  What I did find was a down-to-earth woman plucked from the streets of Chicago who wipes noses, attends monster jams and plans to live forever—or at least until the Cubs take a World Series.   

Candace catapulted into a writing career on March 17, 2008—precisely—when she was struck with the idea for her first novel, A Knight of Silence.  Since publishing that novel, she went on to write, Spur of the Moment, (to be published spring 2012), and has finished, Jack of Hearts, which she currently has out for representation.  But she’s not stopping there, oh no.  Take a look for yourself.  http://www.knightseries.com/

I’ve read an interview or two that tells me Candace is the ‘voice’ of historical romance.  Her writing can transport you to another time—leaving the grit of the castle walls on your skin when you’ve put her book down.  Sweet!  Sign me up for castle grit—I’ll take mine to go please.

When she’s not stalking the medieval or hobnobbing with publishers and editors, you might find Candace loitering on a sunny Florida beach with a bag of M&M’s.

Thanks for your friendship Candace!

~uberscribbler

Click the image above to find out how to have your “buzz” posted on the uberscribbler.

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Defiance [dih-fahy-uh ns] –noun: A daring or bold resistance to authority.

I defied nothing at all.

I followed the rules.  I obeyed the orders commanded by the subjective authority and cynicism of naysayers.  I let others dictate my pace and destination. 

And that is just not true to who I am.  

But I’ve been inspired anew and I’ve got a one finger salute ready.

I’m about to defy everything.

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“But now the LORD opened the mouth of the ass…”

Believe what you want.  Just don’t bring it to my door on a Sunday morning — unless you were invited — or come bearing gifts.  And just to be clear — a sampling of scriptures in ‘The Watchtower’ magazine you leave with me is not considered a gift.

Jamie is Jehovah’s Witness — not that there is anything wrong with that.  He has been visiting me on and off for about 5 years now.  He blows in like the wind — always with a friend — dressed to the nines in his black suit and tie.  Under his arm he keeps his good book.  His bible.  His truth.  I have never invited Jamie in — we seem to have a front porch understanding.

We have talked — at length — about his beliefs, as well as mine, and never could two people be more different.  He believes he has the truth.  If he doesn’t spread the message of GOD — as he believes it — then he has failed.  He’s doomed.  I believe religion is personal — that all paths lead to the same destination.    I do admire his tenacity though.  His relentless willingness to convert me — to instill me with “the truth”.  We’ve adopted a sort of fair-weather friendship and sometimes I miss chatting with him when he hasn’t been around. 

This past Sunday he came to me with his ‘book’ and quoted to me from the Book of Numbers — an obscure bible passage about a talking donkey.  I didn’t quite understand his point but his conviction amused me — so I obliged him with wide-eyed interest.  And then it happened.  He came to the passage where he quoted, “Why have you beaten your ass these three times?”, and the child in me giggled uncontrollably with a “you said beat-your-ass” maturity.   Jamie kept reading — although the veins in his forehead pulsed with his frustration and disapproval.

I’m not certain what keeps him coming back.   Am I the ass whose mouth the LORD has opened?  Perhaps.  I have always thought of myself as a Jack-of-all-trades — the truth may be that I’m the Jack-of-all-asses.

~uberscribbler

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Extreme Spirit

I’m a thirty-something, a later-on-down-the-road thirty-something, but a thirty-something nonetheless.   OK, so I used to be a thirty-something, now I’m a forty-something AND a liar.

Much like you, I’m a very busy person.  I am pulled in a plethora of directions by a multitude of people each and every day that I get out of bed.  Which, incidentally, is when it all begins.  A single day has a month’s worth of activity packed into it and lasts, seemingly, about 20 minutes.   I pass strangers on the road, in the coffee shop, and while I’m about my usual business and occasionally I will see one that seems to be … smiling.  How is it possible that they have time for smiling?  And what are they smiling about?  I’m confused, haunted and tormented by their smiles.  But ultimately, I want what they have.  It’s some sort of ‘oomph’ that sets them apart from the struggling, the downtrodden and the doomed.  

Perhaps I just need to rearrange my furniture to be in line with my “chi”, or maybe its much more, like I should be seeing a new age herbalist that will begin with concocting special ‘smiling’ recipes for me that contain eye of Newt and molecules from the Dea Sea, and then I’ll be wrapped from head to toe with spirit blessed rice parchment that will have been painlessly pieced together by nearly extinct rain forest pixies, who will then squeeze their magic tears into my eye sockets each night before I fall into deep slumber.

I may look into that, I believe meeting a pixie would make me slightly giddy, and I haven’t been giddy since I was a twenty-something.  However, I believe the truth behind these smiles is less about fairytale elixirs and more about their resolve.  Their spirits are uncrushable.  Each day is an adventure and their curious minds leave nothing undiscovered.  They are life enthusiasts and their grit for adventure extends far beyond the norm.  Their passion and vigor can be very contagious and after a little more than a brief encounter with one you find yourself on their mailing lists for dog sledding in Alaska and mountain hiking on Mt. Kilimanjaro.  You know these people.

Maybe we should strive to live our lives with just a flicker or a hint of that ‘oomph’.  I, for one, am going to stop scowling at the smiling people and instead remind myself to find the adventure for myself that seems to have found them.  Something fun, something extraordinary, something good for my health and spirit, and something that will make strangers scowl at me.

I’m not much of a team player, I have problems with sharing, control and authority… and I lie, so traditional team sports are out.  I’m far too buff as it is <cough> for free weights, and I bore easily with mindless repetition. 

But… I do know a guy who could set me up for a week in a yurt with a magical chanting goat (I’m on his mailing list) and he claims you just haven’t lived until you’ve sung with a Bovidae.

Look, I’m smiling already.

 

-uberscribbler

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