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Archive for March, 2010

Critiques

In addition to working on the query and synopsis for BLOOD WILL TELL this week, I’ve also been busy with more than my usual number of critiques.  I try to have some critiques going most of the time, but sometimes it’s feast or famine. 

There is no single thing that has improved my writing as much as giving and receiving critiques.  It’s not the easiest thing in the world to get used to having someone actually critique your work.  These are, in a sense, your children.  Now somebody is telling you what’s wrong with them and where they fail to meet expectations.  Initially, the desire to defend them can get the better of you.  But, ultimately, you have to learn to listen, sift through the critiques to find the gems, and go back and fix those stories until they’re as near perfect as you can make them.  Besides, it helps toughen you up for those inevitable rejection letters.

Having other writers critique your work is invaluable.  Writers notice things that other readers might not.  A reader might notice that your prose doesn’t seem to flow.  Another writer will tell you that you’ve written too many short choppy sentences, that you’ve used said bookisms, or that you’ve used too many adverbs.  Critiques are also worth their weight in gold in helping you find those sneaky holes in your plot or the times when your characters just aren’t acting like themselves. 

But, perhaps even more useful than having your work critiqued is critiquing someone else’s work.  It’s very easy to be too close to your own work to see those things, sometimes.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve started to write something in a critique and suddenly realized that I had done the exact same thing somewhere in my writing. 

So, if you want to learn to write better, join a writer’s group, either online or in person.  Critique and put your own works up to be critiqued by others.  There is no substitute.

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Wow.  It’s been a few days since I last posted.  That’s because I’ve been working on the query and synopsis for BLOOD WILL TELL.  And, let me tell you, compared to writing the novel, this part is work.  It’s necessary, but it’s nowhere near as much fun as writing a story.  So, once I convince myself to tackle it one more time, it’s best not to allow too many distractions.

BLOOD WILL TELL actually came incredibly easily.  The first, rough draft just flowed.  For the most part, the revisions weren’t much more difficult.  But now it’s time to do the hard work.

Imagine you’ve just spent several months of your life writing a novel in something around 100,000 words.  You’ve created characters and a world, crafted the plot, built conflict, and brought the whole thing to a satisfying ending.  You’ve had people you trust to tell you the truth read it.  And revised based on their critiques.  You’ve polished it.

After you’ve done that, the next thing you have to do is retell that story in 1,000 words or so.  And you’ve got to try to make it interesting, because this is one of the tools to help you sell your novel.  You can’t just summarize the plot like a book report.  It has to have character and conflict, just like the novel.  I’m still fighting this one. 

Oh, and if you think the synopsis was fun.  Now you get to do it all over again–in about 250 words for the query letter.  Except for that one you don’t want to give away the ending.  I’m on the sixth revision to this version of the query letter.  There were two versions before this that went through similar revison processes only to be discarded.

I would so much rather be writing the murder scene for SEVEN STARS.  But this is part of the job, too.  It can’t be avoided.  And it has to be done the very best I can, because otherwise, no one will ever get to read BLOOD WILL TELL.

 

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