Thursday, 25 March 2010

Juicing up on the Treadmill.

I'm trying to be good. The treadmill is behind me currently littered with dog toys. This is a sure sign that it hasn't been used for a couple of days. But I should be using it because it's good for me. When I am feeling not too hot about my writing it's because I haven't stirred up all the good brain juices that do their considerable best at making me feel better about myself... and as a consequence, like my writing.

Maybe it should be renamed what this machine really is.

A dreadmill?

Friday, 5 March 2010

When in doubt. Google.

We are so lucky in today's world of writing and writers to have the tool called Google. I used to forget it and run through my library of leather Encyclopaedia Britannica and other publications. But having finished my Securement of Greggie Donald and more recently a Regency for the anthology, I found Google so invaluable.

(Why is invaluable a word that really means valuable but as an in- word it sounds so negative???)

However, I don't rely on Google for everything. I have an extensive reference libary and in my research projects, I must say I do love my books. They sit there in physical support, hard facts and reliable. I can find things I wasn't looking for but are good to know.

But don't forget you have the internet source. It's easy enough to forget you can use that just as it's easy enough to use.

There are language dictionaries and dialect disectors. There are converters and let's face it...

if you are bored editing, then there's time to waste and waffle away the time until you get guilty enough to return to the task at hand. What is that?



Thursday, 4 March 2010

Critiquing and the art of being positive.

When I first joined a critique group, I was like a bull in a china shop. I didn't have any training for such a task and it was a frightening experience. But what really makes a good critique.

I am an author with a history in childhood publishing. It is my creating career in picture books both writing and illustration where I did learn, quite instinctively, to craft a world, a believable and credible entity, and a suitable one for an early childhood learning experience. I was learning without knowing it about GMC (Goal, Motivation, Conflict = Wants, because, but). I learned the story arch in a very tight situation where words cannot be wasted and illustrations cannot be mere reflections of words but actually meaningful for little the enrichment of fresh, growing, curious minds.

In my decision to jump the fence or grow up a little bit, and start writing for adults, I did it alone and innocent. Locked away in my author's tower, where Repunzel would let down her golden hair, I tap, tap, tapped away on the keys releasing characters onto the pages every day. Magical grown up people who would become my obsession and my friends.

So when I typed THE END I ventured forth into the big world and on my clumsy walk I discovered the concept of a critique group and so the story began.

I remember those early days. And what I learned in my trip through critiquing was that it is an art, between diplomacy and honesty - and a genuine desire to be helpful.

The reason I am reflecting on this is a meeting I went to yesterday. It is a network of authors which meets regularly each month to support, discuss, boast, complain, analyse and just be friends in this often rather lonely pursuit of getting published (and staying published). Yesterday at this meeting it was mentioned that a session by a panel of supposed professionals went hell-for-leather after the authors they critiqued. They were harsh, rude and took their roles as literally as possible, destroying already fragile sensibilities and that a lot of resentment had been generated in their wake.

So what makes a good critique? A good critique can only start with a good manuscript. It is not a one-sided endeavor. It is not fair to expect somebody to come up with the goods if the author hasn’t. This means that an author must basically present their best effort, in order to obtain appropriate feedback. It is not only fair but courteous. If the manuscript is not up to scratch then it isn’t a critique that is expected but should be relabeled ‘Help Wanted’ and conducted on this basis.

The critique then will be begin with a thorough reading. Looking for clarity and understanding, and flow. You should look through the m/s with encouragement in your mind. Concentrate on the positives which will expose the negatives automatically. Praise should be part of it. “Love this” can make an author feel buoyant and good. The critique should be on the lookout for ‘show not tell’, and probably also suggestions on rewording the odd sentence or two.

The trust between the critiqued and the critiquer should be very high. And not every manuscript will be identical to the next. And not every critique effort will be a compatible one.
And finally I think the self-confidence of the writer in their craft is probably important as well. This is the ability to sort out what suggestions to take on board, and what you will disregard.

It all, in the end, boils down to mutual respect.