Browsing Tag

writing

Tool Time Tuesday: Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS)

Tool Time Tuesday

Every other Tuesday, we talk about the different tools available for writers to make life easier (theoretically 😉 ).

Today’s Tool: The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS)

Platform: browser (and paper!)

Cost: Online: $39/yr ; Book: $60-70

What it does: CMOS is the style bible for fiction (though it’s not all about fiction). Most publishing houses use CMOS rules as part of their house style.

As a writer, knowing the rules and guidelines of writing lets you write stronger prose. It also allows you to decide when it’s appropriate to break those rules and guidelines to their most effective use.

The online version is really simple to use too. It allows you to search within the entire CMOS for whatever it is you’re trying to find. It covers everything from basic grammar and punctuation to citing online sources. In it, you’ll learn that Dumpster should be capitalized, since it’s a trade name (like Kleenex), not a generic name. Didn’t know that, did ya? 😉

But if you’d rather have an in-your-hands version, they also put out a hardcover edition. The 17th edition of CMOS will be published on September 5, 2017, and can currently be pre-ordered either on the publisher’s site or Amazon (links below). If you’re not married to being completely current in your style, you can find the 16th edition for cheaper. The 17th ed comes in at a whopping 1184 pages, so make sure wherever you order it from, you’re getting free shipping!

The online version is currently the 16th and 15th editions (you can choose when you search), but I suspect they’ll update to 17th not long after the hard cover comes out.

Also, here’s something kinda cool. Interested in seeing what the very first edition of CMOS looked like? They’ve got a pdf available for you to check out!

Where to get it: Online Subscription or Paper – 17th edition (Amazon)

Do you use CMOS?

Do you have a writing tool that you absolutely can’t live without? Drop a line to me down below and tell me about it!

Keep writing!

 

 

 

All images courtesy of Chicago Manual of Style.

Travellust & the Writer – A Love Story

Life Stuff, Travel, Writing

Travellust & the Writer

That Was Then

I grew up in a small suburb, well outside of Chicago, IL. If we went into the city, it was almost always to visit my Aunt Barb, my grandmother’s sister, and all the cousins out there. There would be occasional school field trips to the Field Museum or Adler Planetarium, but mostly I stayed in my little suburb. Most of the sites in Chicago I didn’t see until I was an adult and able to travel on my own.

I tried to find a pic of me in Chicago, but couldn’t. So here’s TreeTop Park in Ft. Lauderdale 🙂

As far as travel outside of the Chicago area, most of that was for family as well. I can remember a number of trips to Indiana to visit my grandmother when she lived there, as well as a long drive to Connecticut when she was there also. And, for a long time, we’ve had family in Tennessee, so there were also the occasional trips there. The only non-family vacations I remember was a trip to the Wisconsin Dells when I was thirteen and typical moody teenager. (This was also, incidentally, the trip where I holed up in my room at the cabin and read The Stand, cover to cover. Like I said, moody.)

I’m not telling you all this for sympathy, but to explain one of the reasons I devoured books as a kid. As they are for so many people, they were an escape from a very not-interesting life. I visited London, England, and Derry, Maine. I rode the Orient Express and hid in an attic to escape the Holocaust. I solved mysteries with Nancy Drew and the Bobbsey Twins. As I got older and read more, I sweated in the Congo and helped build Hadrian’s Wall.

Books always showed me the world that I felt I would never see.

This Is Now

I’m significantly older now, of course. I’m settled in a home with my spouse. We’ve lived in this place since 2008. This is the longest I’ve lived in one dwelling my entire adult life.

Vals, Italy

I’ve traveled more — I’ve gotten a little taste of the world that I so desired when I was younger. I’ve been to almost two dozen states, one Caribbean island, and ten countries in Europe (don’t be too impressed; some of them were just drive-throughs!). And the things I’ve gotten to see have been incredibly cool.

The beauty of the world and its people have lived up to my expectations.

I know I’ve been incredibly lucky to have had these experiences. My teenage self would never have thought we’d be able to really go to London, to the Italian Alps, to Amsterdam. But we did, my teenage self and I. And it’s been glorious, seeing things that I’d only ever seen in magazines, or the encyclopedia, or, later, on the Internet.

Experience Greed and This Writer

But it isn’t enough.

Me at Westminster Abbey, London, UK

This year, especially, I’ve been jonesing to travel. I want to see the rest of Italy. I want to go back to London, and I want to see other places in England. I want to hang out in a real pub in Ireland and I want to see the Scottish moors. I want to visit New Zealand and Australia. There are so many places I still want to go. So many experiences I still want to have.

It might make me greedy, but that’s okay. Because I think experiences are all we can ever really have from this world. And time is always running short.

My plan for 2018 is to travel more, particularly overseas. This means that you’re going to see a lot more from me product-wise over the rest of this year and next, from books to classes. I hope that’s okay with you. It also means you’ll be seeing more travel postings from me. More pictures of things I see.

The Quarantine House in Curacao. I’m working on a whole blog post about this place!

I want more experiences to inform my writing and my life. I want to understand other cultures, as much as I can, and live in their spaces, even if only for a little while. I want to see more of our world and I want to be able to share it.


How about you? Do you travel? Where is your favorite place that you’ve visited and why is it your favorite?

 

All images are courtesy of Arjen Jansen.

Tool Time Tuesday: CoSchedule

Tool Time Tuesday

Every other Tuesday, we talk about the different tools available for writers to make life easier (theoretically 😉 ).

Today’s Tool: CoSchedule

Platform: web

Cost: variable; for most: $30/month (annual plan), $39/month (month-to-month)

What it does:

Allows you to send and/or schedule social media across multiple platforms easily and helps you with scheduling blog posts on WordPress.

That’s the short description of what it does. I’ve used other social media platforms like TweetDeck and HootSuite; and they’re great, but I like CoSchedule better. There’s no option for bulk upload, meaning that you can’t just dump all your social media posts into a spreadsheet and upload. But the inconvenience of that lack is inconsequential when put up against all the great features, many of which are not available in those other services.

Calendar view — this is one of my favorite aspects. I can see, at a glance, how many social media posts I have scheduled on any given day, what type they are (one-off posts, social media campaigns, pimping out my blog posts), and which platforms each are on. And if I need to change the date? Simple — drag and drop the scheduled post to a different day. That is so much easier than having to go in manually to each post I want to change and revise the date accordingly.

Social media campaigns — Got a new book coming out? You can create an entire campaign, scheduling social media posts exactly when you want them to go out based on your publication date (or any date you decide). And what’s more, even when what you’ve scheduled has run out, you can go back into that social media campaign and simply add more posts. Another fantastic thing about social media campaigns is that if you move the opening post, all the posts after will move relationally. So if you had set a later post to go up 5 days after the initial post and you move the initial post, the later post will still go up 5 days after, not on the original date it was set for. I can’t tell you how much time this has saved!

WordPress integration — When I create and schedule a blog post on my site, CoSchedule automatically picks it up on the next sync. Or I can schedule the post on CoSchedule directly. It will create the WP post and then give me a link to click to take me to WP to write the post. There’s also a WordPress plug-in that will let you create your social media for CoSchedule right in your Edit Post page of WordPress. Or you can come back to CoSchedule and do it there. However you decide to do your workflow, CoSchedule will handle it.

Analytics — The analytics for the basic plan aren’t particularly robust, unfortunately, but one thing that is very handy is that CoSchedule will show you which of your blog posts has gotten the most traffic and it makes an easy task of creating more social media posts for those blogs.

There are a lot of things I really love about CoSchedule that I haven’t mentioned, like the Headline Analyzer and all media kits and other educational materials. But I especially love the time it saves me. It’s absolutely worth the price.

Where to get it: Check it out at the Coschedule website!

Have you tried CoSchedule? What do you think?

Do you have a writing tool that you absolutely can’t live without? Drop a line to me down below and tell me about it!

 

Stay awesome!

 

 

 

Photos courtesy of CoSchedule.

Why and How to Limit Flashbacks in Your Fiction

Craft of Writing, Writing

What Are Flashbacks?

Flashbacks are breaks in the current story that are written in order to give the reader background information, something from the past, usually for what’s about to happen. Flashbacks are a legitimate storytelling tool — don’t let anyone tell you they’re not.

But like many tools in fiction writing (like adverbs, speech tags, etc), their use should be limited. The more background information you can insert into your stories without using flashbacks, the more skilled you are as a writer.

For me, I don’t consider a sentence or two to be a flashback. A flashback generally is a full blown scene, anywhere from a couple paragraph to pages. A flashback is turning your car around and driving back to the place, versus a quick glance in the sideview mirror.

Why Should You Limit Flashbacks?

The biggest reason to limit your use of flashbacks is because flashbacks pull your reader out of the story you’re telling.

Think about watching a movie with someone. Say it’s the second movie in a series. Would you find it distracting if your friend paused the movie every third scene to explain something from the first movie that he thinks would be good for you to know for this movie? It would probably get annoying after about half an hour. And, what might be worse, is you might be more interested in the stories your friend is telling you, rather than the story you’re watching.

When you use flashbacks, you’re essentially hitting the pause button on the story you’re trying to tell and you’re asking the reader to invest in a *different* story for a little while. Be sparse with this sort of request of your reader. Because the more often they’re distracted from the story you’re telling, the more likely they are not to feel invested enough to return to it.

How Do You Limit Your Use of Flashbacks?

When thinking about flashbacks, there are three things you should consider particularly.

Is it necessary?

Does the reader actually need information that you’re conveying in the flashback? Sometimes flashback scenes are ways for the author to convey things that the reader will already have inferred. Sometimes flashback scenes are included simply because the author wrote it and feels like it should be in there.

Think about what your key pieces of information being conveyed are. And then think about whether your reader actually needs them.

Must it be conveyed at this place in the story and in this way?

When I’m editing, it’s not uncommon for me to see a three or four page flashback where there’s only a single piece of information that’s important. That piece of information could have simply been dropped into the current story line in a sentence or two rather than yanking the reader into a flashback. Again, assess what the key pieces of information you’re trying to convey are and think about where else in the story you might weave them in, instead.

Sometimes, the flashback is important but the placement isn’t ideal. Consider your entire story; is there a better place for this flashback?

Is it?

Are you starting a new scene and rehashing everything that happened since the last scene?

If you’re telling the reader about everything that happened since the previous scene, there’s no reason not to start it from the the end of the previous scene, rather than some time later, then flashing back to what happened in the interval. This bouncing around in time can be confusing for your reader and it’s unnecessary. If you’ve decided that what’s happened between the previous scene and this scene is important enough to be on the page, then it doesn’t make any sense for it to be a flashback rather than simply part of the current story line.

The exception is if the actions between the scenes can be done in a sentence or two (which isn’t, by our definition here, a flashback anyway).

As a note before I sign off: one type of writing where you should especially avoid flashbacks is short stories. Most of the time, there just isn’t enough space in the story to support flashbacks. It ends up being a waste of precious words when you already have a limit as you do for a short story. Of course, it can be done, but as a general rule, it shouldn’t, unless you know you can do it very, very well.

How about you? Do you struggle with too many flashbacks or not knowing whether to include one or not? Comment below!

 

 

 

Unless attributed otherwise, all images are CC0 licensed.

Do You Only Make Your Target Word Count During NaNoWriMo?

Craft of Writing, Writing

Motivation and Procrastination

Some writers have the drive to write even when they’re not at the computer (or the notepad). For some, they’ll ignore most of the rest of their life in order to get their words done. I’m not really like that. When I’m not writing, I forget that I like to write. This is especially problematic for me when I’m in editorial mode for clients, because it’s more challenging to get back into creative mode, which causes me to forget for even longer that I like writing.

My Struggle with BICHOK

As an editor, I advise my writerly clients to get their Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard. You’ve probably heard that or something similar, if you frequent any sort of writer groups, whether in real life or on Facebook or some other social platform.

As a writer, I struggle with this myself. For some reason, I put off writing, as if it’s a chore like doing the dishes (which I also put off! lol). It’s really not until I’m in my chair and actually in the midst of belting out words that I realize how much I missed it and wonder why I waited so long to get back into the chair. And you’d think that when I make this revelation that the next time I have a plan to sit down to write, I’ll remember it and be excited. But no, I still think it’s doing the dishes. *sigh*

My Most Productive Writing Time Period

I was lucky enough to be able to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree at Seton Hill University. During this program, students have a required page count that they are responsible to write each month. This number is decided on in conjunction with the student’s mentor for the semester, so it’s not arbitrary and the student has input in the decision. The common amount is 30 pages per month. There is also a critique group of, usually, two other students to whom a student sends these pages as well. So, at the least, you have three people every month who are waiting for your words.

As you might imagine, the years I was in that program were the most productive of my writing life.

If You’re Like Me…

…you do much better when you know someone is waiting for your work. I think this is a common issue for writers. It’s easy to push our writing off in favor of doing something with the kids, binge watching a few more episodes of Supernatural, reading the new Stephen King book, playing Halo, doing game night with friends, or even *gasp* doing the dishes. Sometimes it seems like we’ll do anything else aside from writing. Even when we know how much we like to do it.

But when there’s someone who’s looking over your shoulder, watching your progress…

Well, that changes everything.

A Tool to Help — AAMP

AAMP is the Author Accountability Mastermind Program. It’s designed to help you by giving you someone else to be accountable to. Essentially, you have your own personal cheerleading drill sergeant. 🙂

Why I created AAMP

At the beginning of the year, I joined the Single Malt Mastermind, which is helmed by Matthew Kimberley, who’s a fantastic sales and marketing instructor in the entrepreneurial space. While I was somewhat skeptical as to whether it would be useful for me, I was happily surprised. Having someone who watched what I was doing, even if he wasn’t directly involved at all, helped in making me much more productive. Knowing I had to write that email at the end of every week helped me keep my head in the game.

How does AAMP work?

AAMP is modeled on Matthew’s program, but structured a little differently and tailored for writers. There are two versions. A semi-automated version and a more personalized version. Whichever version you choose, you will receive an e-mail each Friday with writing tips, tricks, and/or advice. Then, depending on whether you’re a RockStar or a MegaStar, you’ll fill out a survey or reply to the e-mail directly.

RockStars will know that I’m reviewing the survey responses and I send out e-mails randomly to members for encouragement, help, or just to touch base. RockStars won’t get a personal response every week, but may get one any week.

Megastars have a slightly different path. They don’t fill out a survey. Instead, they reply directly to the e-mail and answer three questions. In the early part of the next week, I sent MegaStars — all MegaStars — a personal response.

Whichever version of AAMP you choose, I’m there, keeping tabs, checking in, and cheering you on!

When you can get access to AAMP

AAMP officially launches on August 1. That’s right. Just one week from tomorrow! There will be membership bonuses and a discount for everyone who signs up on Opening Day!

Want to make sure you’re in the loop?

Tool Time Tuesday: Mid-Year Review

Tool Time Tuesday

Every other Tuesday, we talk about the different tools available for writers to make life easier (theoretically 😉 ).

We’re going to do things a little different this week. We’re going to have a recap of the TTTs we’ve had this year. So if you missed one, here they all are:

January

We only had one TTT post in January, because it was a new feature, so Scrivener has this section all to itself! Scrivener is — hands-down — the best writing environment for me, and a lot of other authors. If you’ve found it intimidating, don’t worry. You don’t have to learn everything about it. Learn what you need to do your work, and don’t worry about the rest.

Tool Time Tuesday: Scrivener

February

The spotlight for February was on two of my absolute favorite tools ever: The Writing and Revisions Tracker Spreadsheet by Jamie Raintree and Write or Die 2 by DrWicked. The spreadsheet, if you missed that TTT, lets you track both word count of your draft and/or number of pages revised, not just for one project, but eight! If you geek out on spreadsheets like I do, you don’t want to miss this one!

Write or Die 2 is a fabulous tool that will show you exactly how many words you can write in a given time frame. This can be really important for planning your writing time, particularly if that time is limited. Plus. you can proudly boast of how many words you can get down in an hour when you’re actually writing and not cruising around Facebook 😉

Tool Time Tuesday: The Writing and Revisions Tracker Spreadsheet

Tool Time Tuesday: Write or Die 2

March

March saw a couple organizational tools: OneTab and Aeon Timeline 2. OneTab is great for organizing and keeping tabs on websites you want to read or have handy. Instead of keeping dozens of tabs open in your browser (I’m not the only one who does that, right? … Right?), you can send them all to OneTab and still have access to them later.

Photo courtesy of OneTab

Aeon Timeline 2 is amazing for keeping track of your story’s timeline, scenes, your characters, and the relationships between your characters. You’ll find it really helpful especially if you’re very visually oriented.

Tool Time Tuesday: OneTab

Tool Time Tuesday: Aeon Timeline 2 

April

Duotrope had April all to itself, due to my travel schedule. Duotrope is a subscription site which houses a database of markets, particularly (but not exclusively) for short stories. You can get information on the submission call, deadlines, guidelines, and if enough people have entered their information, how long it generally takes to get a response, how acceptance-friendly they are (or how exclusive, depending on your viewpoint), as well a lot of other information.

Tool Time Tuesday: Duotrope

May

We had another single-TTT month in May. And it was Writing Inspiration Month here. I posted about Ancient Origins, a website that tends to fire my imagination, even if its headlines are a little click-baity. There are a lot of interesting bits about archaeology, history, sociology. And it can fire your imagination to ask, “What if…?”

Tool Time Tuesday: Ancient Origins

Did you utilize any of the TTT tools this year? Got any writing-related tools or websites that you just can’t do without? Drop a comment below and let me know!

 

Stay awesome!

 

 

 

Photos courtesy of Jamie Raintree.

My Current Life: Crashing, Burning, and Horses

Life Stuff

Crashing and burning

I had a super productive early year. From January to April, I worked hard on a few projects that I wanted to get done. I made a lot of headway. None of those projects were writing, but I felt they were really worthwhile.

In April, I did a lot of traveling. In a span of 3 weeks, I had 3 conventions in 3 different states. Two of those were working gigs — I taught at them — the final one I was an attendee. Obviously, when I got home, I needed some time to get back on track, but I struggled. A lot.

I’m still struggling. There are a bunch of things that happened in between. A death in the family, logistics in dealing with a death from last year, family medical stuff, and a sick kitty. None of these are excuses not to get my work one, but they all contributed to my mental landscape.

And I have to face it. When I feel overwhelmed and bogged down, I become avoidant. I procrastinate, put things off, find any excuse not to do what needs to be done. I don’t think I’m alone in this behavior, either. But being in good company doesn’t really fix things, does it?

Getting back on the horse

I’m starting to come out of that funk just now. I can’t say I’m completely back on track, because I’d definitely not. But I have re-evaluated my track and have started aiming my car in that general direction. I’m not quite back in the race, but I expect that will happen soon.

I started my move toward getting out of the crash and burn phase by going back to my therapist. He’s amazing and I had stopped going in February, just because my life had gotten really chaotic and I didn’t really have the extra time to get out there. Then I was just out of the habit. This had been the first time  hadn’t seen him in more than a 3 week stretch in probably 5 years. So that was number one.

Number two was evaluating what I wanted to do. Did I want to stay on the path I was on? Did I want to diverge altogether? So I did some thinking and have made some changes based on that. Might that change again in the future? Sure. Pivoting is important. Being able to shift your direction based on changes in life or your own personal goals is an important part of living life.

As I said, I’m getting back on track, so plan to get the blog going on its regular schedule again. Thanks to the folks who reached out to check on me. It’s nice to know when you’re missed 😉

 

 

 

Unless attributed otherwise, all images are CC0 licensed.

New Idea, Wait Your Turn! 3 Tips for Capturing the New Shiny

Writing

So, you’re tooling along, hitting the middle of your story. Things are slowing down a little bit in your production (because middles are hard!). Or maybe you’re a bit stuck; the words aren’t coming, and you’re struggling.

And then it happens.

That voice.

You know that voice.

We all know that voice.

“Hi! I’m a new, shiny idea! Come play with me!”

What do you do? Your good, steady story is a little boring right now. It might be frustrating you a little bit.

And there’s this beautiful, new, shiny idea right there! It’s just right there! Waiting for you. Winking at you. Telling you how awesome it is and how much fun you’ll have with it instead of your old tried and true story.

The current story was once shiny and new too. But the luster has worn off. It’s easy to want to stray.

What do you do?

If you’re like I used to be, you set aside the current story and dive straight into the new-shiny!

Glorious!

And it is glorious!

The characters are exciting. The story is fun and different than the old thing you left sitting in your other window. You’re learning about the world, about what makes the characters tick. It’s just so stimulating! So sexy!

You’re writing and writing and writing. And soon, you’re in the middle. Things slow down. You’ve learned the characters pretty well and the thrill of discovery has faded.

And then it happens.

That voice.

You know that voice.

We all know that voice.

“Hi! I’m a new, shiny idea! Come play with me!”

What do you do?

I suspect all writers have been there. And it’s fun to work with new story ideas, of course. But if we repeat the above pattern (and I’ve definitely been guilty of that!), we never actually get back to the half-finished stories. We never actually finish anything. And if we never finish, we never publish. If our goal is to get our work out there, then that never, ever happens.

So how do you keep that new, shiny idea but still focus on your current project? I’ve got a couple suggestions.

Write it down

This seems pretty obvious, right? Get the new, shiny idea down on paper. Write as much about it as you need to in order to both get the concept recorded and to get it out of your head. I have an entire Scrivener project that’s just for ideas. (Though I only actually have 4 ideas of my own; I steal the rest 😉 )

Give yourself some time to play with it

Allocate yourself a certain amount of time — an hour or a day — to play with the story idea, engage the characters, write a little bit, whatever. You can wallow in the new shiny as much as you want during that time! But once that time is up, you go back to your current project. Because that’s the priority and that’s the decision you made.

Tell yourself the story

Get out a recorder (your phone, computer, an actual recorder if you are one of the few who still owns one 😉 ), and tell yourself the story of your new, shiny idea. Babble about it. Be excited. Talk about ALL THE THINGS. This is an especially good resource too for when you’re able to come back to this idea to work on it, because you’ll have yourself and your original enthusiasm to help you get back into the excitement of it.

New story ideas are what give us longevity as writers. So you shouldn’t ignore them. They can be hard to ignore anyway, so you must give them some attention. Just don’t lose sight of the overall goal.

Do you have other ideas for capturing those wild new-shinys? What’s worked for you in the past?

 

 

 

Unless attributed otherwise, all images are CC0 licensed.

Tool Time Tuesday – Writing Inspiration Version: Ancient Origins

Tool Time Tuesday

Every other Tuesday, we talk about the different tools available for writers to make life easier (theoretically 😉 ).

Today’s Tool: Ancient Origins

Platform: browser

Cost: $0

What it does:

I love websites that kick start my creativity, that inspire my muse, and spawn ideas. Writing inspiration is a big thing for me!

I ran across this website because someone retweeted an interesting article. And then I got lost down the rabbit hole!

Now, I don’t take everything on this site as gospel. The titles are a bit click-baity and the writing is definitely sensationalist in nature. However, the stories are interesting. I use it as a jumping-off point. I find cool history to delve into, fascinating stories of people and events, fun posts about weird tools and implements.
This isn’t just for historical writing though. If you’re writing fantasy, you can definitely get ideas for how to create your governing system, or events that you can model for your own civilizations. There are some nice articles about unexplained phenomena — these can be the basis of horror stories, fantasies, or mysteries. You can take an old mystery and either modernize it or set a detective story in that era. You could even have that mystery come to haunt us in modern times.

You can definitely find some great writing inspiration here 🙂

Check out some sample headlines from Ancient Origins:

She Met the Devil, Escaped a Dragon, and Survived Several Attempts on Her Life: The Remarkable Story of St. Margaret of Antioch
Tibet’s Valley of the Kings: What Hidden Treasures Lie Within This Imperial Tibetan Graveyard?
The Ancient Kingdom of Colchis: A Legendary Land of Plenty, Conflict, and the Golden Fleece
The Brutality and Delicacy of Samurai Armor: Superior Protection with a God-like Aesthetic

Can you find writing inspiration in those? I can see it without even having read the articles! (But I do want to read the articles 😉 )

Where to get it: Click the linky

Do you have a writing tool that you absolutely can’t live without? Drop a line to me down below and tell me about it!

 

Stay awesome!

 

 

 

Photos courtesy of Ancient Origins.

How to Create an Amazing Critique Group: Ramp Up Your Writing

Writing

Critique groups can be a big leg-up for authors as far as polishing their work before either sending it out on submission or self-publishing it. If you haven’t found a critique group that works for you, consider creating one. I’ve got a few things to keep in mind when creating or looking for a critique group that might help you with getting some compatible folks in your group.

Critique Group or Beta Readers?

Some people don’t realize there is a difference between a critique partner and a beta reader. The main difference is writing.

Critique partners are other writers.

Betas are readers.

It’s worthwhile to have both reviewing your story. They will bring different things to the table.

Writers should bring more of the professional view — how to improve craft issues, such as writing dialogue or description. Readers will bring a more general, consumer-focused view — such as whether the story is interesting, where they lose interest, if the characters are engaging.

Knowing what you’re looking for will help you decide which to utilize at each point in your writing process. I wrote a post a while back about things to think about when picking beta readers.

Find Writers

The first step to finding or creating a critique group is to figure out where the writers are. Meetup is a decent place to find local writers. There might already be critique groups or just general writing support groups. You can find other writers to talk to there about creating your own group.

You can also look for writing organizations in your area. Go to Google and search “writing organizations” <your city>. Attend some of their meetings, schmooze with other authors, and find folks you mesh with (more on that below!).

Also check out the national organizations for genres — RWA, SFWA, MWA, HWA, etc. They often have local or regional chapters where writers congregate.

Finally, you can find a lot of critique services online. Groups like Critters and Critique Circle have been around for years and have established a good base of writers who critique each other.

Choose Your Partners

Sometimes writers who are looking for ongoing critique partners assume that the criteria for choosing should be something like “writes in my genre” or “reads in my genre.” And while this can be helpful, there’s actually a more accurate thing to gauge whether someone will be a useful critique partner. That thing is: do we have similar writing goals?

Someone who is writing only for themselves or their family will not be as helpful a critique partner for someone who is aspiring to become published professionally. If everyone in the critique group is on a similar path, then the comments and suggestions they give will be aimed more at getting your work up to snuff for publication.

© Ben White; used w/permission

This doesn’t mean that someone who is just writing for themselves or family can’t give good contributions, of course. But we’re talking about getting the most bang for your buck. And in this case, you’re going to get better feedback from someone who is on a path parallel to your own.

Something else to consider is which time zones you’re each in. Obviously, if you’ve got local writers in your group, that’s not an issue. But if you find folks online that you mesh with, goals-wise, then time zone becomes important. It’s not easy to get together for meetings with someone who’s 8 hours different in time. Someone will be getting up really early or staying up really late.

And finally, also think about work ethic. Does your potential partner write regularly? Are they focused on their writing as a career or business? This goes back to finding someone who has a similar outlook. If you’re putting out 25 pages in a week and they’re only doing 5 (or vice versa), then there’s going to be a work mis-match.

Discuss & Organize

Will you have your critique sessions in person or online? Or maybe on the phone?
When you get together, will you be getting together for a writing session or to critique each other’s work?
If critique, will you have critiqued the work beforehand and discuss in person, or will the work be read there at the session, then discussed?

These are things to think about when organizing your sessions. Set the rules as the leader or have an open discussion and set the rules as a group. However it’s accomplished, everyone should be on the same page as to expectations, so that all feel included and feel as if they’re both giving and getting something of value from the group.

Act

Once you’ve got your group going, everyone should be consistent with their work. Certainly, life happens and some weeks will be more or less productive than others. But consistency is about showing up — both literally and figuratively. Agreeing to be in a critique group is a commitment. Everyone should honor that commitment.

Give to the sessions what you want to get from the sessions. It’s the old adage of “you reap what you sow.” All members of the critique group should put in the amount of effort they’re looking to receive.

Having a critique group can be a great support for any writer. Hopefully, this post has given some insights into how to find those members of your tribe! 🙂

Do you have a critique group? How did it get together? What challenges have you faced with your group? What are the strong points of having a group?

 

 

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