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.
I join the annual Goodreads Reading Challenge each year, sometimes I succeed, but other times I miss by a book, or maybe two. This depends on how busy my life gets. I’m sure you can agree. As a writer, reading is an integral part of my education. Reading new genres, authors and styles gives me, not only ideas, but the ability to dissect the plot, characterizations etc. This can be done with movies too. This year, I am on track with my reading, probably because there have been no events to plan or attend apart from virtual ones. I would love to see your challenge statics if you want to share them. Here’s mine:
Review: A delightfully imaginative story that envelopes the reader into a magical world of imps, elves, forest and aquatic creatures. There is good tension throughout and the reader is propelled to read the next chapter.
My current read is one I received from another giveaway contest. When Robins Appear by Densie Webb.
What are you currently reading? Why did you choose that specific book?Have you won a book giveaway – which book(s)?
I think I am a romantic at heart, but also I love the idea of relationships because I truly believe that these are the essence of humanity. How people react to each other is like dancing, and the twirling of the steps can be hypnotic. I want to create worlds and lives that reflect these beautiful steps.
2. Which comes first – character or plot?
Sometimes its just the concept or idea, sometimes I can envisage a face or the feeling of a character. For me, the process doesn’t always start logically, but it pulls out and unravels like threads of silk. From there I weave it into a fine thread and make it into a story.
3. Are you a plotter or a panster?
Pantser – 100%! I have tried to plot, but I find it more difficult than just letting the words reveal themselves to me. Obviously with a trilogy I have a base concept of where the story is heading, but even them, the plot can change as the story develops.
4. How does the terrain, history and unique characters of Australia affect your writing?
There is a lush and yet arid beauty in Australia. As if when it was created, multiple worlds fought over the same space and so you have long stretches of sparsely filled desert like sands and plants, followed by fields of wheat, green fields and forests, and then long golden coasts. Its such a pleasure to discover new places and spaces that feel untouched by anyone else.
5. Can you tell us about the Eyre Writers Festival?
The festival was formed a few years ago as a way of engaging local writers and authors with the greater community. Not only do they offer some amazing guest authors and workshops, but they support local writers to engage in various forms of writing through their sessions. For me, its been an absolute joy to be surrounded by such talent and meet some best selling authors and learn their secrets.
6. Did you find anything surprising when writing the magical stories?
Always! The beauty of magic is that there are no limitations or hindrances. If you can imagine it, then magic can make it happen. How wonderful!
7. How was writing the paranormal romance different from your other narratives?
There is definitely a greater freedom in paranormal romance, because what you write can include elements of the ‘unreal’. You can have magic and other world abilities, that realistically are not possible in a general romance. So I have greatly enjoyed paranormal romance, and have many ideas and plans for more characters and worlds in this genre going forward.
8. How do you come up with your novel titles?
I would like to say there is a methodical process to it, but there isn’t. Sometimes I focus on the plot line to generate ideas, but largely I rely on general concepts. For more than one book, I already have the name of the book I just haven’t uncovered all the plot yet!
9. Where do you love to write?
Anywhere and everywhere. Coffee shops can create fabulous characters as you absorb the hum of the visitors around you, but a library brings forward fabulous ideas and worlds. So I try and move around and write in lots of different places, because I think they all bring their own benefits. If I had to pick just one, it would be a special writers retreat location that I go to with other author friends as often as time allows. I think the collective imagination takes hold and brings forward beautiful writing.
10. Can you tell us about your newest novel?
My next novel is The Heart of Nowhere, which is due out in October. Its the second book of a trilogy and brings the next part of the story forward. A Town Called Nowhere was the starting point, which introduced my two key were-panther characters – Dru, a famous race car driver escaping his notoriety and Nicci, a lone were-panther running from her past. They form a new pack in Nowhere, an abandoned town in remote Australia. But they soon find that they cant outrun their history or their destiny. For the second book, there are lots of action scenes which I hope will keep the readers on the edge of their seats!
I just want to thank my readership for their active and avid support. They are what keep me writing!
VK Tritschler is a native New Zealander/Canadian, who is now residing in Port Lincoln, South Australia. She had been a member of Eyre Writers (an established author and writers group) since 2010 and has been an active writer since youth. The Secret Life of Sarah Meads (Chic-Lit) was her first published book and utilized her background as a mother, woman, and degree in Psychology. Her novels include Magic and Mischief – Vital Impetus (Paranormal Anthology), The Risky Business of Romance (Romantic Suspense), and Trade Secrets (Rom-Com) and A Town Called Nowhere was released in April 2021.
We are all feeling the repercussions of isolation, social distancing and lack of ‘normal’. It has affected everyone in a multitude of ways. For writers, who are normally ‘isolated’ in their writing life, there has been a change in atmosphere, inspiration, alone time and creativity. (Or lack thereof).
Whatever your normal routine, be it the impact of family at home, remote working arrangements or lack of access to resources, we can adjust.
Here are a few tips to try (or not):
One of the best options I have found is a virtual writing time. A group of us ‘meet’ on Sunday’s for a couple of hours. And although for the most part, it is a silent meeting, knowing we are connected helps with motivation and makes us accountable. We share what we will be writing at the beginning of the meeting and then summarize what we achieved at the end.
Outside time – this is vitally important to refresh the mind and body. It can be a walk, a bicycle ride and a hike. Whatever, works best for you within the confines of the social distancing parameters.
Writing space changes. It sounds odd but even a reorganization, a new arrangement of objects, a vase of flowers – can make all the difference. Maybe write in a different area of the house.
Reserve writing time. Make a commitment to write for a certain amount of time each day. As we all have favourite times of day to be creative – this can be before everyone gets up, when they are all asleep or maybe a time when you can be alone in the house. Don’t add to your stress by putting a word count on this time. It can be to write, of course, but also to plot, edit, note down new story ideas or even read some research.
Enter a contest. This idea will either spur you on or not. To create something new can be a good way to engage your Muse. Even if you decide not to submit your work, it is a great way to spark your creativity.
Writing prompts are also a great way to refresh the writing brain. There are a lot of sites and books available on the internet. Try a few, whether they are images, word collections or story starters. You never know where they might take you. Again my local writing group has prompts every Saturday, if you want to try. Link: https://www.wfscsherwoodpark.com/our-blog
What have you found to help your writing during COVID19?
I attended a creative workshop a couple of Saturday’s ago held by my writer’s group, The Writers Foundation of Strathcona County. The topics were POV and plot lines. We had several warm up exercises and an explanation of the various POV types and the variety of plot structure methods. Then with a timed exercise of twenty minutes, we had to write a short story using those techniques but with a title and a genre picked from a bowl. My title was Clue of the Painted Hand in a children’s book style. Although the last couple of paragraphs were added later, I think I did pretty well to have characters, plot, and a beginning, middle and finally an end!
Clue of the Painted Hand
Daisy pulled at her mother’s hand as they entered the library. It was her favorite place. Books let her escape to other worlds and made her feel less lonely. An only child, Daisy looked like a mini replica of her mother – blonde, brown eyes and slim -the only difference was the flower shaped birthmark on her right cheek. The reason she was called Daisy.
As usual there were lots of people in the library browsing book shelves and she saw a small huddle of younger children were listening to story time. Daisy felt too old for the short picture book stories and felt proud her reading age was ten years old, more than her real age of seven. She surpassed most of her school class mates in reading.
She looked over to see her mother talking to a friend so made her way to the book shelves in her favorite section – mystery adventure. Daisy loved jigsaw puzzle when she was younger, solving the patterns to create a whole picture. Now it was the same with stories. She would figure out the answer to the clues in the narrative before the end, most of the time.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor, Daisy ran her fingers across the book spines reading the titles. If one interested her, she took it out and read the explanation on the back. One by one she piled up books beside her. She could take out ten books and always finished them before the next Saturday. One book pulled another off the shelf and Daisy dropped them on the floor. As she lay down to grab one from under the shelf her fingers encountered another book shoved under the wooden base. After several tries she prised a dusty old book from under the shelf. It was an old book, its cover tattered and dusty. Daisy used her sleeve to wipe the dust off the cover. The title was immediately interesting – Clue of the Painted Hand. Oh this looks good, she thought. Turning the book over and opening it, she realized there was no library stamp of barcode. How long has it been there? Looking side to side, Daisy felt a real thrill – a book I can keep! A shiver of excitement and guilt went through her young body. No-one would know, she could put it in her coat pocket without anyone seeing. Her curiosity could wait no longer; opening the first page a map covered the first two pages. As she traced her finger over the markings and named streets, she recognized one – Hampton Avenue, where she lived. How could a book hidden under a shelf have a map of her town?
“Daisy, are you ready to go?”
Her mother’s voice startled Daisy and she quickly put the book in her pocket before picking up her selected library books. With the books scanned, they returned to the car. Daisy kept her excitement to herself but raced upstairs as soon as they arrived home. Now I can read the clues and find whatever treasure there is. It only took an hour to read the book. It told the story of an old Jack in the Box made by a master toymaker, who lived in the town many years before. His shop sign was a painted hand. This particular Jack in the Box had a musical mechanism and a doll instead of a jack, which popped up. Daisy read the clue, traced the map’s tracks and realized the location of the box was in the play ground behind her house.
She walked through the back garden, through the gate and counted steps just like the map said – one, two, three – until she reached twenty-five steps. Standing beside an overgrown old fountain, she pulled ivy and weeds away. The instructions said there was a secret detail to push in sequence. Daisy brushed away dirt and old leaves to find the stone carved like a bunch of daisies. She pressed the first petal it did not move, then another. Gradually, she discovered the petals that did move and marked them with a thumbprint. Now how do I press them in the right order? She sat down cross-legged and looked at the stone decoration. It was a posy of daisies, the stems long and disappearing into the weeds. Maybe I should pull these weeds out as well. Her thought propelled her into action. The flower stems were encased in a stone vase decoration with faint lettering on it. After rubbing the grime off with her sleeve, the words were clearer. A riddle! How exciting.
I’m at the peak
Then to the right
Follow me to the base
And reach to the left
A final center will release
Daisy read the riddle three times then pressed the loose petals, top, right, left, bottom and center. A grating sound alerted her to something moving. The vase shape pushed forward to reveal a void. Sitting in it was a dusty square box. With nervous excitement, Daisy pulled it out of its hiding place and wiped it clean. She knew her mother would be upset with all the dirt on her clothes but the treasure was worth it. Gently, she wound the handle on the side of the box until the lid burst open to reveal a beautiful blonde doll, head to one side holding a book and smiling. Music started to play and the doll’s head moved side to side just like if she was reading. This is so beautiful, she looks a little like me. Blowing gently she rid the doll and its book of a layer of dust. That’s when she saw the title of the book – Daisy the Adventurer. It is me! How can that be? Another mystery for me to solve but maybe I will need mother’s help. With great care, Daisy pushed the stone vase back into place, pulled the ivy and weeds back over the fountain and walked home cradling her treasure.
I hope you liked it.
Which plot method do you think I used? Story map, Story Flow Chart or Story Mountain?