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Crits, Critting and Critters

I don't often (i.e. try never) do serious writerly blog entries. I'm more of a here's this meme and the weird video I picked up on YouTube, and have a brief insight into my somewhat twisted writing mind, here's why I'm not writing because life has interfered and here is the new way one of my children chose to totally embarrass me in public yet again.

But something happened the other evening that has been playing on my mind a bit.

I'm a great believer in critiquing for others. It helps everyone and its a small way of paying it forward etc. I'm a member of a number of online groups at this stage. Some I frequent more than others, but that's mainly for the gossip! :D

So, I was doing a critique of a novella for a friend. She's a relatively new writer, works really hard and has a lot of promise (coz like I'm the big expert an' all! Yup!). She has done a fair bit of critiquing for me and has been really helpful. All was well and good. I finished critiquing her first draft (which she had warned me was fairly rough) and sent it back to her. I then pm'ed her and apologized for covering her lovely manuscript with virtual red pen and asked were we still friends (Captain paranoia strikes again). We had a good laugh over it and all was well.

A couple of night later she pm's me to essentially ask, was the novella actually awful and were you just being nice? (answer: No. I'm not nice. Ask my hubby!) She had received three critiques on it - one from her regular CP, one from me and one from someone else (two new critters). Her CP and I went through it thoroughly, did the usually and summarized what we found.

The third person tore the piece apart, line by line, leaving her with pages and pages of edits for the first chapter alone! My friend was devastated. It was all complimented by comments such as the critiquer could tell my friend was a new writer because it was all so bad, with glaring grammatical mistakes and plot holes (er, no, not really. And it was clearly stated to be a rough draft) and, my favorite, the critiquer was doing her a favour by being like this as in the publishing world, one needs to develop a thick skin.

Er... Hello? When did being mean become a criteria for critiquing?

Because that is mean.

The thick skin comes from publishers and rejections, not from someone else venting their pettiness on your work. I have encountered this before. It seems like everyone has at some point. The only real solution is to mail back a polite "thanks very much" and never open it again (preferably drop it in the trash). Sure the critiquer could have been having a bad day, but really that should have nothing to do with the story. There's this thing? Called Professionalism? I'm not doing the hand holding, group hugs "why can't we all get along", pom-pom waving cheer squad but honestly - why bother if you are going to be so negative? It doesn't help anyone.

Actually come to think of it I had a similar one with Puzzlebox but I have come to the stage of just shrugging them off now. I tend to ignore them and never ask again. Neither do I offer as I've invariably found that critiquers like this should take their own advice. Main thing to always remember is that it is your story. You're the one telling it so you get to decide what goes and what stays. No one else should tell you what to write. They can make suggestions, but you make decisions.

I got some good advice early on when learning to crit which I think stands to me (from people at sites like Notebored and Liberty Hall, a family of writers for whom I'm like the prodigal son in act one of the stage play these days!)- point out the good things as well as the bad. It's not sugar coating a crit. It's common sense really, to let someone know what IS working for you as a reader rather than just what is not. And that's the other thing. When you give a crit, it's only your opinion. Very important to you, sure, but not necessarily right. You're a reader. Not a God of Literature descending from on high to pass on your limitless divine knowledge of how the written word works.

Yes. I am a bit cross. Did you notice that?

I remember getting crits like this when I started out and to be honest they almost put me off writing altogether. You know the type of things. Little snide comments that actually have nothing to do with craft and everything to do with putting people down. "What's the point of this sentence?", "God, your protag is an idiot!", "Well its obvious that you've never experienced this yourself, isn't it?"  (Yes, these are all paraphrasing a crit I got once and they are not so far from the truth. Can't tell the truth because I deleted the sucker!)

So to my friend, if she read this, as we said the other night - open a bottle of wine, chin up, carry on. To the negative one, my friend is going to prove you SO wrong. And to everyone else sorry for ranting.

What are your experiences? C'mon and share. Make us all feel better. The more bitter and twisted the better. :D


No witty title today!

Well, the receipt for ABNA arrived today, so they have my files and I am in. Around about the 12th November I should hear if the content and format are all in order. If they aren't there will be some severe kicking of myself going on, but there's nothing I can do there now. My husband is so supportive. He's all on cloud nine now as he told me to sub to ABNA as soon as it came up, which I did, and the next morning all the places had gone. Good, good husband, with lots of faith. :D Let's hope its rewarded!

The whole thing got me thinking about submissions and all the rest. My focus has definitely shifted back to novels of late. I keep intending to sub to anthos or particulary markets, but at the same time the broader canvas just seems to beckon. Now I am talking about writing to write, not writing to be published which are two very different things. I'm not big on writing to be published as a rule. The story or poem usually comes off as contrived. We see it all the time at Haruah. The "literary" part gets ignored and you end up with in your face point thumping which really irritates me. I want to read a story, experience something along with the characters, get lost in the lyricism of a beautiful poem. Not a lecture. 

That said, when it comes to anthologies, you need to follow the guidelines. (When it comes to ANY submission, you need to follow the guidelines!) But I have noticed that most of the ones I have looked at recently are actually pretty broad, leaving it to the writer to create, which is what writers should do best.

I really must get back to doing some Flash challenges, or Short Story challenges soon. I need to get cracking on The Wolf's Sister and try to tie it back together after the extremely useful LH crits. Lots to think about there, but it was well worth doing. Thank you to all who looked!  Sorry it was so long.

Moving ahead with To Regain Heaven. Nearly at the end of Chapter 7 now. First crits back in on Chapter 1. Lots to do I guess. If only I could shift the headcold I could stop using it as an excuse! One of my problems with gaging the length is that I write longhand and then have to type it up. I can be MUCH further along with what I have written than with typing (part of the way through chapter 3 I think) because writing is more fun than typing and typing quickly turns into editing. And that way madness lies. 

I was about 7,000 on the laptop. But I estimate about 17,000 longhand (by counting pages, and having an average word per page). Really should type more, shouldn't I?

A lot of people don't like getting early crits on a WIP, but I do. It helps me to gage where it is going and what else I need to bring out in the story. Of course, you really need people to understand that the piece is a very early draft - they type of thing you could only show to those you trust. That doesn't always work I guess, but on the whole I am lucky with my crit group.

I have a couple of pieces out, a couple of things to prepare for sending out, and one or two to go "What am I going to do with this?"

Then Moy Tura. Hmmm.... There really aren't enough hours in the day, are there?

Anyway, enough waffling on for now. There's cataloguing to be done. Yes, in Italian! Yay!

Why bother?

I got a response to crit I did some time ago this morning and it has left me a bit flabbergasted. In it the person takes a suggestion I made (as part of a longer crit) and picks it apart completely to show me why it is wrong beyond wrong and they will not be using it.

Sorry! I thought a crit was a request for an opinion. I apologize for actually giving mine. (Actually, no, I don't.)


Another day of kitchen madness

Ok, so seriously, we are nearly there. Almost. It's mainly just the electrics that are holding us up becuase the guys went to get some bits today and they weren't happy with what was available in the local shop and the others were shut, so it has to wait for tomorrow. But I have a kitchen, with kicker boards and cupboards and stuff. It looks cool.

But you all have to wait with baited breath to see the pictures.

Anyway, I took a fit today and did the flash challenge for the first time a liberty hall. The product was bizare. I'll se what the reaction is from tomorrow on. I also did my crit for the group, but I don't have my sub ready just yet. Hopefully I will get it sorted tomorrow as right now I am going to have a quick round of ablutions and go to bed!

Too tired.


Quick quick, have to write!!!

So this should be a super fast entry - allegedly.

I have crits to do, a novel to edit, a short story to write, another novel to write (oh no, wait that's two) and we're "planning" a family trip out to see the model of the James Webb telescope in Kilmainham. No seriously... here... here

Who says I over-extend myself.

So, very quickly, because I want to and I have no self control. I had a great idea last night of what to write for the Liberty Hall Story challenge - sketched out 3 pages so far. I prefer to write longhand initially, mainly the act itself forces me to think more about what I am writing. As this isn't really a draft, even though it could be the same as what I eventually type, I've started referring to it as a sketch. It's more than an outline. There again, outlines are generally only in my head (bad writer, bad writer). I just never get round to writing them down and when I do I immediatelystart changing them. So yes, I outline, but not in hard copy! :D And yes, sometimes I forget things, but if I do they probably weren't worth remembering in the first place. They'll come back if they are meant to. Can't give you a word count, and couldn't really be bothered working out an approximate at the moment. No time!

So off to crit D's chapters for the crit group. I thought I had done about half, but now I can't find it. See, even my computer (when I can get to it) follows my approach!

Sorry for the splurge.


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