As writers we are constantly second guessing our writing. Is it descriptive enough without too much exposition? Is that character’s personality clear? Does my action scene work? Are my character’s developing? There are many and varied queries as we write. To enable us to grow as writers, we need constructive critique from people we trust.
Here is a list of who you should ask:
Experienced editors and writers.
2. A writer in your niche.
3. Someone who has read your work before.
4. Your writing group.
When asking for feedback be specific in what you are asking, rather than say “let me know what you think.”
Here are a couple of examples of questions to ask:
Do you get a clear idea of the genre?
Can you relate to the characters?
Do you understand their motivations?
Does it have a good beginning/ending?
With specific scenes name it and then ask a question in relation to it.
Does the story flow?
Were the characters reactions to situations believable?
Was the story predicable?
What surprised you?
Which part was your favorite?
Remember feedback should be taken as constructive critique. You may not agree on their viewpoint, but use it to see your work in a different light/perspective. It is your work and you tell it the way you want.
Today I am sharing the first paragraph of a ‘on the back burner’ work in progress. It is the result of a National Novel Writing Month challenge, a couple of years ago. I am unsure if it will ever become a fully fledged novel, time will tell. I would welcome any feedback on this excerpt.
Do you ‘see’ Jess?
Do you get an idea of her background, her personality?
What genre do you think it is?
Would you read more?
Coming to University – Part One
Jess sat hugging the hot coffee mug in her hands, she may have looked relaxed and happy, but inside she was in turmoil. Her eyes scanned the many pedestrians walking back and forth on the sidewalk outside the coffee shop. Willing him – the one -to appear out of the crowd. Tall, blonde and athletic her first real crush, well as she called it – a grown up infatuation – not like the silly childish crushes, when she was at school back home. Here at university it was so different. She had independence from a worrywart doormat of a mother, who pushed her towards any ‘suitable’ young boy. “Make the right choice now, Jessie, and you will be happy. Don’t make my mistake and go for the ‘cool guy’. Her mother always whispered this advice least her distant and unemotional father heard. Jess tried to elicit more information from her mother on the subject, but it was always brushed aside.
The thought of the three of them eating in silence every evening meal at the dining table made her cringe. Jess once ventured to ask to eat in her room, mainly to escape the uncomfortable atmosphere; it was met with a horrified look on her mother’s face and a rage exploding from her father, which so terrified Jess she vomited there and then. This, of course, made the matter a hundred times worse. Her father stormed out of the room; slamming his study door so hard it propelled two pictures off the hallway wall. Her mother visibly shaking went into clean up mode immediately, running to the kitchen and filling a bowl of hot water and grabbing several rags to ‘save’ the carpet. Jess stood frozen in place, the vomit drying on her dress and chin as tears ran unbidden down her cheeks. It wasn’t until her mother pushed at her leg to reach a splash of vomit that either realized the other’s presence. “Get in the bath, Jessie and put that dress in the sink.” Having an instruction gave her body permission to move. She climbed the stairs, stripped and sat in the bath as it filled with water. Deep inside a switch turned, she needed to escape this house and find real love, someplace where people loved each other and were happy. At the time, at the tender age of eleven, she could only dream and secretly plan, but as the weeks and months passed, her escape route gradually formed. Her art teacher told her she had a real gift and after several conversations between them, they managed to find a grant-funded course for Jess in a university several hundred miles away. For Jess the distance was heaven sent almost as much as her teacher’s ability to get the grant on her behalf. With no costs to pay, her parents could not refuse Jess attending.
She announced her entrance into the university over another silent dinner table the day of graduation. Her mother looked at her wide-eyed, but Jess could see relief there too. Her father paused putting a mouthful of food in his mouth, looked directly at Jess and said, “Make the most of the opportunity.” He then continued eating, no good luck, and no congratulations – nothing. Later, her mother came into her bedroom and hugged her. “You will find someone wonderful Jessie, I am so happy for you.” Even then, her mother did not divulge any information on love and life or relationships, leaving Jess with a hope nurtured in her chest that she would indeed find love, a true love. Someone who made her happy, talked to her, listened to her, and gave her a wonderful life.
Thank you for participating.Your comments will be helpful.
Thank you to everyone who has joined in this month’s conversation on genre. We have indeed covered all aspects of genre from writing it to marketing it.
Today’s question is: How much of your ‘personality should you put into your narrative? In other words do you, or should you, utilize family memories, personal history or ‘local’ knowledge to create a realistic tale?
Some genres may not readily seem to avail themselves to personal input but even sci-fi or fantasy has interactions where you need to think what reaction a character would have in that situation.
I am excited to read your thoughts on this question. Please click on the post headings & then scroll to the comment section.
Last week’s responses:
biancarowena As a ‘pantser’ I tent to write whatever I feel and see in my mind’s eye, then edit later. This makes for a lot of editing, as compared to planners. I know how time consuming reconstructing a story can be. So I’d personally recommend knowing your genre before writing the story, and sticking to it. Publishers what to know how to categorize your story. It’s not to limit you but to help them know who your target audience is. They know which genre is in demand and are looking for specific things. If your genre is too vague or you don’t stick to one then your book is less marketable, in a publisher’s view. I think for the sake of not having to rewrite your entire story (if your genre is not clear or shifts), it’s best to know your genre before delving in, and sticking to it.
When I was writing my book I was calling it historical fiction as it was based on a true story but with some fictionalizing. When it was accepted for publication, my publisher changed it to non-fiction, based on a true story. What happens with that in bookstores (not the independents), is that the book is shelved with research, resource, history and since my name begins with W it is on the bottom shelf near the floor and is crowded out by the other larger resource books. Browsers never see it, and anyone looking for it has a difficult time finding it. The next time I write a book I am using my maiden name that begins with M.
I tend to follow formula and am happy doing so. However, if well written, the unexpected can work well. But if not handled with care, can be a book you want to toss into a wall.
This week I have two events. Firstly, tonight I will attend a meeting of the Diversity Committee, who are co-hosting an event with one of my other organizations I volunteer with, the Arts & Culture Council. The event is a celebration of Canada’s 150 but also to bring the artistic and cultural diversity of our locality to the public. There has been a hive of activity to bring together numerous groups and individuals for this event and it is logistically demanding. Luckily with so many volunteers assisting in this venture the workload has been spread, making it easier to cope with. We are on countdown to 11th June for Heritage Day of Strathcona County.
My next event is on Tuesday, which is the regular meeting of my writing group, the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County. I always look forward to these meetings not only because it is fun to exercise a writing prompt, I create and hear the responses but to share my work and get valuable feedback as well as network. There are a few core people that never miss the meeting but lots of ‘new’ and ‘irregular’ visitors as well so we never know how many people to expect. Sometimes it is five other times nineteen. It makes the evening a lot of fun.
Do you attend a regular writing group?
What format does it take?
From April 5–9, over a dozen Canadian writers will gather for the ImagiNation Festival at the Morrin Cultural Centre in Quebec City, QC.
The 18th Annual North Shore Writers Festival happens April 7–8 at North Vancouver City Library in North Vancouver, BC.
Book Cover GritLit
The fantastic gritLIT Readers and Writers Festival takes place April 7–10 in Hamilton, ON; the lineup is yet to be announced. UPDATE HERE: http://www.gritlit.ca/
Disabuse – definition: to be free from mistakes or false beliefs.
We are all familiar with the editing stage of the writing journey. In some ways it is harder than creating the story in the first place. Reading our work out loud is a good way of not only finding errors but also discovering if our voice is strong.
Listening to how the sentences and dialogue sound is a great way of identifying mistakes but also the tone of our work.
I use my writing group as a sounding board when I read my work out loud. If you are not already part of a group I strongly suggest you find one and join. Ensure that you are not only comfortable within the group and its members, but also that the format and the group’s mandate is favorable. My group, The Writers Foundation of Strathcona County ensures everyone is treated with respect and critique is favorable and kind in its presentation.
Obviously some people are uncomfortable sharing within a group setting so ask people you trust to hear your words. Having a candid response will be helpful.