Post-Crit Review

So…

the contest entries are back in hand, or you’ve received your crit partners response to your newest chapter.

What you have before you is your precious manuscript covered in red remarks.

What happens now?

Well, besides the usual initial response of throwing the paper across the room, blurting out something unkind, screaming into a pillow, or devouring large quantities of chocolate- after the storm has subsided there are a few things to consider.

The first thing I do (after the initial shock has worn off) is PRAY.

I believe that God has called me into the world of writing fiction, therefore these words/stories are important to him. If I’m receiving valuable feedback for those stories, I want Him to guide the critiquers comments and my reaction.

Next – I reread the comments and sort them into categories:

– comments made by one judge (or only made once) versus comments made by more than one judge (or repeated several times by the critiquer)

– Categorize comments: grammatical, plot, characterization, dialogue, other

Usually at this point I need to pray again. Prayer for my reaction, for how I interpret those comments, AND for the story God wants me to write in view of those comments. Sometimes it’s okay to step outside the box, but other times we need to be aware that people with more experience are trying to help us along the writing journey.

Then I will start taking some of those comments and modify my work.

What do you do with those critiques?

Self-Editing and Scene Goals

I’m reading Self-Editing For Fiction Writers, recommended by Patti Lacy.

It’s very good.

And is causing me to go back through my pages to see where I can make things tighter. Show more than tell, use more action verbs.

Those sorts of things.

But one thing I hadn’t really considered was working each of my scenes around a central goal.

For  example, I have three scenes in the first chapter of The Thornbearer. Well, after a hearty critique by Patti – I now have three scenes in my first chapter. With some helpful prods from Patti and some faithful toe-crushing, education from SelfEditing For Fiction Writers, I’ve come up with goals for each of the scenes in my first three chapters…I think. (It’s me and Patti in the pic to the right – at ACFW. Isn’t she cute 🙂

Have you ever done this?

I’ll show you how I have mine set up. I’d love to see how you set up your goals, or learn ways you come to a goal for a scene. Remember, each scene serves the purpose of moving the story forward.

Chapter 1

  1. Get out of America (Ashleigh’s POV)
    1. Ending hook: Sam is coming too
    2. Keep Sam from coming (Ashleigh’s POV)
      1. Ending hook: Letters, Michael onboard?
      2. Get on that boat with Ashleigh – and sort out his feelings (Sam’s POV)
        1. Ending hook: Lusitania threatened. Feelings for Ashleigh?

Chapter 2

  1. Prove to Sam she is not a child (Ashleigh’s POV)
    1. Ending hook: “Maybe you do not know me or my sister as well as you think you do?”
    2. Make amends for his behavior…realization a change in his feelings for her  (Sam’s POV)
      1. Ending hook: Confrontation with Michael 

What about you?

Encouragement From Green Gables

I’m feeling sorry for Anne Shirley. Or I’m feeling LIKE Anne Shirley when she dyed her hair green.

Almost.

I’m borderline ‘depths of despair’ with my writing, so I’m taking a moment to sympathize with Anne and bellyache to cyberspace.

Ever been there. Life takes over and writing…well, it drops into the depths. Gone. Nonexistent until an unforeseen future time when everything else slows down a little.

So…all those stories in my head, have to wait.

Ever been frustrated by that? Lost in the shuffle of reality, tough critiques, dulled creativity, or NO time.

What do you do to inspire creativity?

Motivation?

Hope?

Well, besides the three BIG words I try to remember (Patience, Perseverance, & Prayer), I thought I’d share some inspiration from Anne of Green Gables.

Five ‘Finds’, A ‘Write’, and a ‘Look’.

FIND TIME TO EMOTE!

 

Yeah, express my emotions. That can take various forms, but I find that just singing, talking, or praying really loudly in my van while I’m driving down the road works for me. When I have five minutes, I’ll jot down my feelings into my journal. There’s just something about getting out the frustration with pen and paper that helps me bring things into perspective.

(Plus, writing about it allows me the opportunity to use it later in my novels 🙂

FIND A LISTENER

It sure makes me feel a whole lot better when someone will just listen to my whining and frustration. It happened recently with Patti Lacy – and what an encouragement she provided. It was a down-in-the dumps week, when writing was as possible as full-night’s sleep with a newborn. I just needed to spill my heart to someone who ‘got it’. Not that my mom and my hubby aren’t good listeners, but a fellow writer ‘gets’ what nonwriters can’t.  It was such a relief and comfort.

 FIND A MOMENT TO BE CRAZY

Laughter and silliness can knock a foul mood out of the way about as well as chocolate. Looking for just a few minutes to have fun, laugh, eat chocolate, laugh, eat chocolate…oh wait, I’m stuck… play Wii with my kids, read jokes, watch a romantic comedy, look at family pics, going ice skating (when you’re naturally clumsy) – all of those things loosen up the tension and help those feelings of frustration dissipate.

 FIND SOMEONE WHO LOVES YOU

A good hug goes a LOOOOOOONG way. It supports the ‘good listener’ idea that somebody cares about me even when I’m not my ‘cheery’ self. That I can be genuine and grumpy, and still be loved. The depths don’t seem to be as deep when I look at it from the arms of someone who loves me.

 

 FIND INSPIRATION

For me, inspiration is EVERYWHERE. But when I shake off the sad-cloak and open my eyes to what’s around me, REALLY open my eyes, there are new ideas waiting to be explored. And, God will provide the time to write them. Daydreaming is a great way to pull myself out of my own gloom and jump back into the God-given realm of creativity. Just considering what God can do with only his Word or His fingers, it should spark awe and creativity – and a jolt of reality.

He’s in control and it’s okay.

Psalm 8:3

3 When I consider your heavens,
   the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
   which you have set in place,

What is man that you are mindful to him?

Mankind that you care for them?

Sometimes all I have, and all I really need, is a few minutes alone to meditate on Him and His love. The story He’s writing in my life in this very moment, clears up the fog self-doubt and frustration conjure up inside my spirit.

WRITE WHEN YOU CAN

When I realize 1-5 and put things into perspective, then my depths aren’t quite so deep anymore and I stop. Think. And realize I can only do what I CAN do. So…

I write when I can. In the nooks and crannies of my life. At stoplights. In carline. For ten minutes before bed until my eyelids won’t stay open. During my lunch break.

God’s called me to this amazing writing world – and He’ll take whatever I can give.

He sees my heart and that’s a BIG encouragement.

 LOOK HEAVENWARD

Everything else falls into place when I get my mind off of me and in the write…er…right place.

On Christ.

Somehow, for His own good pleasure, He’s given me the desire and (hopefully) talent to write. He hands out the talents.

He also hands out the timing.

I just need to remember it and use my talents (whenever I can) for His glory.

Basically in EVERYTHING I do, do it with my whole heart for the glory of God. I really have no reason to despair – EVER!

We have an eternal hope and a God who has placed us in time-cramped, or frustrating, or heartbreaking places  because…

He loves us – and knows exactly what we need to make us more like Him. For our good.  Even the yucky stuff.

WOW!

I’m humbled.

In fact- just ’emoting’ through this post has helped me feel a whole lot better and put things into a proper perspective.

Does life get messy sometimes? Do you ever fall flat on your face in the muck of self-doubt? Are we discouraged and frustrated sometimes? Do we desperately need a rescue from ourselves or the pain sometimes?

Yes. Yes. Yes. & Yes.

And lucky us, Our Heavenly Father’s provided just that – pulled us out of those murky depths of despair and given us eternal hope.

 God places our feet on His mountain. From a God’s-eye view, all these troubles are very small and His love is extraordinary.

A true inspiration.

Contests – and how writers survive them

I started entering writing contests in April 2009 and within the past (almost) 2 years, I’ve filled out about fifteen different contest forms. Some responses were good. Some were not. And some just hurt me like  a kick to the gut.

But like a masochist, I sent out more.

What have a learned through this process?

Becoming a published author is not for the faint of heart!

These critiques build my endurance, toughen my hide, and help prepare me for the tougher critiques (and possibly reviews) ahead. It’s kind of like those Braxton Hicks contractions before labor. Either they help your body prepare for the massive pain of childbirth, or they give you a false sense of security about how little pain you are going to have 🙂

Critiques are a bit of a litmus test to your writing readiness – and the more I expose myself to the instructive critique of others, the more I prepare my heart for the publishing world.

Ciphering out truth is a wonderful teaching tool.

After the initial shock and near-trauma, digging through those critiques for truthful nuggets of insight can make you a better writer. I ‘see’ patterns of bad writing habits, I’d never seen before. One critique said my heroine wasn’t likeable (gasp) – so I broke apart the character to figure out what might bring her more to ‘life’.

Those comments made me reevaulate my story – and make it STRONGER!!

Fact and Opinion are NOT the same thing

Judges are people too. They have a favorite genre they write or read, varying perspectives, and personal opinions. All of those things play a part in the critiques they give. Weeding through the comments to find what areas you might need to work on is a big deal – especially if you want to grow as a writer.

I’ve found that if more than one judge mentions the same thing, then maybe I should take a honest look at that particular piece of my story. But if only one judge makes a comment, which seems more renegade to me, then I’ll read what they have to say – measure it against the other comments and my own understandings, check with a crit partner, then make a decision from there. Some things are fact, but some things are opinion. I am the one (or my editor) who has the final say.

Purpose matters

Why do we enter contests? The answer to that question really  makes a difference on what you’ll get out of them. If it’s to win that cute little pendant…well, that’s certainly something.

If it’s to be published –  that’s a BIG goal, but in all actuality publication through contest entry is not in high percentages. But…

entering contest to get your manuscript in front of editor is still a FABULOUS idea – and gives your name exposure.

 If it’s to learn and grow as a writer- you’ll almost always achieve this goal from contests.

I want to become a better writer. Contests have helped do that in so many ways. I’ve won a few along the way, but the best part has been the process of improvement from my first comments to the ones I’m expecting at the end of this month.

Laughing at myself, or not taking myself too seriously is an important goal

Yes, we send our precious little stories out into a cruel world – but no one forces us to. My granny used to say “Advice not asked for is advice not wanted.” – but when we enter a contest, we’re basically ASKING for advice. It may not always come in the form we expect, but we can learn from many of the comments we receive (not all).

And having a good attitude about it, PLUS placing the whole situation into perspective helps. I had to do this so I wouldn’t keep getting upset about the comments. This is one small piece of your writing in one very small part of your life.  Laughing, learning, and looking ahead help manage the disappointment that negative comments can bring (plus LOADS of good chocolate – NEVER underestimate the power of very good chocolate)

What have you learned from entering contests? How have you grown as a writer?

For fun – here’s a little contest song to the tune of the Beverly Hillbillies 🙂

Let’s listen to a story ‘bout a brand new writer’s plot

When the promise of a novel and a dream is all she’s got

So she sends away her ‘precious’ on a crazy contest spree

With the hopes of fame & fortune, and a load of cash money

Blind, she is

Delusional

Round the bend

Well the first thing ya know, tons of judges have their say

And the dreams she had expected didn’t turn out quite that way

Said her characters were shoddy, and her plot just wouldn’t fit

So the poor deluded writer wants to just rare up and quit.

Mad, she is

Throwing stuff

And burnin’ things.

So when homicidal tendencies have left the author’s head

And  the mention of the contest doesn’t have her seeing red

She can learn from those before her, who have made it into print

That the writer’s journey is a marathon and not a sprint.

Time, it takes

Perseverance

And lots of chocolate

Life- Edited

This week I hired someone to do a line-edit on my work-in-progress, The Thornbearer. It’s always a bit unnerving to become vulnerable to someone else’s critique, offering my infant-manuscript to be sliced, diced, and redressed (just kidding, actually she was very kind).

But the truth still remains. I paid her to edit my work. I paid her to provide constructive criticism. I paid her to point out my weaknesses. (I can think of a few people who do all those things on a regular basis and dont’ get paid one cent 😉

Did it sting?

Sure, especially since I thought my writing was pretty near perfection.

Did I want to throw my work in the trashcan?

Momentarily, because of the overwhelming task of fixing it and feeling like I’d NEVER get things right – but then I swallowed down my orange-sized pride and dug the manuscript out of  the rubbish pile.

Did I want to ignore it?

Yes, and actually I did for a little while, but chocolate made everything better 🙂

Did I mention I paid for this? 😉

But she was encouraging too. Shared my strengths as well as my weaknesses. Told me that it’s a good story with great potential.

She’s a good editor, to the point, but in a kind way. I appreciate that. She didn’t cut any corners, sugar-coat my weaknesses, or try and smooth over the rough edges. How would I improve as a writer if she did that? She was only doing her job, and the things she suggested – I NEEDED to hear.

If I choose not to listen to valuable instruction, I’ll refuse to grow as a writer….

and as a person.

It’s a lot like the Holy Spirit.

Until Christ comes to live in our hearts, there is no editor of our soul. We choose what’s right in our own eyes. We write our own life-scenes and hope for the best.

But then the Holy Spirit shows up. The soul’s internal editor. He’s consistent, faithful, honest, and waiting with his metaphorical pen to right the wrong sof our heart’s story.

The warmth of his comfort wraps around us in our trials, the strength of his assurance spurns us forward into the next day, the faithfulness of his love encourages us to be honest and to run to the Father with our soiled pages of life.

Does His correction sting?

Sometimes it does, especially when we dont’ want to change our ways or we are particularly guilty. After all, we do think we’re pretty perfect 😉

Do we ever want to throw in the towel and say, “I can’t do this?”

Yep, but it’s all about His faithfulness – not ours. He holds us, He helps us, and he’s the one who provides the pen for us to rewrite the attitudes of our hearts. We WILL fail, but we never fall so far he cannot pull us out of the rubbish bin and into his embrace.

Do we ever want to ignore him?

Um…duh! Who wants to hear criticism? But He’s persistent and keeps reminding us of the stories He wants to write with our lives.

In fact,  our stories have  already been edited in full. And the cost?

paid for by Jesus.

He took our mutilated, ripped, and filthy rough draft and gave us His copy instead. He put OUR names in His book. As the Holy Spirit continues to edit our lives, the pages of our story have already been cleaned up and placed within the Book of Life.

It is finished.

And it’s a BEST SELLER ,all because of Jesus.