• Brainstorming

    The Art of Brainstorming: Knowing how to find the nugget!

    I love to brainstorm OTHER writer’s work!

    I always say I’m the idea lady. You don’t like that idea, I’ve got another one. You don’t like that one? Let me reach in my back pocket and toss out another one.

    It’s easier for me to come up with ideas for other writers because I really don’t have that much invested in it other than I want my friends book to be the best that it can be.

    The only problem is that I can be seriously overwhelming. Brainstorming with me is not for the weak of heart. Casey has learned hone me in by asking me questions, which forces me to pull things in nice and tight. We enjoy brainstorming both in person/on phone, or in email. The nice thing about email is that you have a record of the conversation.

    But it’s time consuming.

    The nice thing about in person or on phone, you get to see the shiver moment.

    But unless you record it, you might forget it.

    As my friend Stacey Wilk learned, when you brainstorm with me, you need to say, “Jen. Just be quiet for one minute.”

    Brainstorming is a talent. Really it is. I’m good at ideas. I’ve got a million of them, but that can be a weakness because I can take a story and toss it off in a million directions, getting lost in the details…because its not my story. My mind doesn’t see it any certain way.

    The key to a good brainstorming session is to tell the other writer your expectations AND to always remember it’s YOUR story. Just like with critique, you need to find the nuggets that make sense for your vision and goal for your book.

    If your the one giving ideas, remember, your job is to help the other author find that sweet spot. Help them muddle through all the unanswered questions that they need the answers for before they can start writing.

  • Critique

    I want a divorce! I can’t critique with you anymore!

     

    First off, there are ways to help prevent a critique situation from getting to the point you’re walking away angry.

    It’s called communication.

    And communication is a two-way street of talking and listening. In my last post, I mentioned some critique situations that, while they were good for a while, wound up ending with hurt feelings, or anger, or in some extreme cases, loss of friendships.

    Why?

    Lack of communication and misconceptions regarding perception and reality.

    In a critique situation, you’re responsible for clearly stating your needs. And your needs, from critique to critique can be different. I have asked Casey to read just for plot. Or to look at one character in particular. I’ve asked to only look for when I’m being lazy with passive voice. I’ve asked her to look at all three.

    It’s Casey’s responsibility to tell me if she can do that or not. And in the time frame I need.

    It’s my responsibility to tell Casey if something is bothering me in her critique. Or to ask questions about something I don’t understand. Or even go back to her and ask for more suggestions. It’s up to me to tell Casey if I’m feeling neglected. Or if I don’t feel like she’s giving my work the attention it needs. I can’t expect her to read my mind.

    Casey and I have a unique critique situation because it’s not just about reading each other’s work. It’s about helping the other at all levels of our writing career. It’s about brainstorming plot. Character. Discussing career decisions. Conferences. This blog. The Boxset. Future writing projects together. It’s not one-demential. That said, I still need to make sure I’m telling her how I feel about the critique part of the relationship.

    But there are times to call it quits and to me it’s pretty simple.

    When you either no longer can give your partner what she needs/wants or you are no longer getting what you need/want AFTER you’ve discussed the issues.

    But you HAVE to know the issues because wants/needs go back to my rule about perception and reality. I could really think I’m giving Casey exactly what she wants and she could be sitting on the other end going, bitch, don’t you ever listen to me? I told you I wanted it this way!

    Then the question becomes: Did she tell me? Did I choose to ignore? Did I misunderstand? How long has this been going on?

    No relationship is without it’s disagreements, fights, and problems. But you have to decide how important is that relationship and what can you do to fix it? If anything.

    There is a fundamental problem with critique relationships. Writers are notoriously filled with ego on the one hand and horrible insecurity on the other. I often worry Casey will get mad at me when I’m so brutally honest about something. And, I’d be a liar if I didn’t think damn, I’m smart, now take that correction!

    When I think either of those things, I need to step back and adjust my thinking. A tall glass of wine usually helps. LOL. But I’m being serious. Not about the wine. When either ego or insecurity is ruling your critique process, it becomes toxic…to the other person.

    So, when I’m contemplating pulling back my thoughts, I have to think to myself, is this going to help Casey? If, I’m thinking I’m right and she should listen to me, then I need to pull back and again, ask myself, is this going to help Casey?

    Because it’s not all about me. Actually, it is but only when she’s reading my work.

    So, when do you call it quits?

    When you’ve done everything you can, but you still feel like shit every time you see an email from your critique partner.

    Actually, call it quits before that. That way you can remain friends. It’s like a TV show. Go out on top. LOL.

     

     

  • Critique

    It’s Not You, It’s Me. No, Really…It’s You.

    Okay folks, so here comes the hard part.

    Breaking up.

    Or knowing when to break up.

    Then actually following through.

    No one likes having to end a relationship. Whether it’s with a friend, partner, family member, and that’s no different for a business relationship. Actually, the stakes might be higher for a business relationship…because all of your mutual colleagues and acquaintances in your business world could be watching.

    So…are you ready to break up?

    There are a few signs that it’s time to call it quits with your critique partner.

    1. They’ve become complacent and their advice is no longer helpful leaving you still feeling stuck – Remember when I talked about making sure you don’t become complacent? If you missed it, you can find it HERE. We talked about those issues that you will see over and over in your partner’s writing that you might glaze over because they’ve become familiar. I suggested you make a list of those things so you can continually check yourself to make sure you’re not missing them in critique. Think of it as upkeep. Keeping your tools of the trade at their optimum level. Would a chef go into a kitchen with a dull knife? Nope. Keep your brain sharp. Keep your critique fresh.

     

    1. You’re starting to see too much of your books or ideas in their work – This is a touchy one. And seriously, it happens. It happens often without the writer even realizing it. So don’t rush out there assuming your critique partner is a thief. Life usually isn’t that dramatic, despite the fiction we write. Hell, for Jen and I, I’ve gone and written a story line similar to hers without having ever read her story beforehand. There are no real new ideas in this industry. There’s individual voice and creative spin. Fact of the matter is, if you give a group of authors a handful of elements they must use in a story, they will all come up with wildly different stories despite the common elements. Also, if you’re writing fast like Jen and I do, you may forget you saw a detail in your partner’s story and it can creep into your words. If it’s a super important idea or a unique element to your voice that creeps in…mention it. I can’t reiterate enough, especially if it’s voice. Especially voice. Because you’re their critique partner and if your voice is creeping into their work, muddying up their unique voice, it’s going to cause a problem with their readers. This is part of what you should be doing as a critique partner. And yes, I know approaching this is awkward. You know how easy it is for ideas to bleed into writing? Jen and I had a conversation on the phone where she used the term passive/aggressive…and no, I’m not going to tell you who we were discussing, lol. Next thing you know, passive/aggressive is in her next chapter…two or three times. Nope.

     

    1. There’s no more give and take and one side is feeling resentful for always critiquing and never getting anything in return – Okay, I think Jen is trying not to swallow her tongue reading this. Why? Because she turns over a lot more to me than I do to her. Well, right now I’ve had some other life stuff slow me down so that’s to be expected…and no, I’m not resentful. After all, I just sent two chapters to her to work on as she’s flying to Greece. Yup, I’m poaching on the 30th anniversary trip overseas…and I’m not ashamed! Sorry Mike!

     

    1. They steal your idea or work – I don’t mean mistakenly drifting into your voice or that little nugget of something I spoke about above. I’m talking you’ve plotted with them or you’ve told them about a golden idea you have for a book or series and next thing you know, they’re writing it. Or you see full blown lines that are almost identical to lines you’ve written. That’s betrayal. There’s no talking this one out and moving past it. Be done. But tread carefully with the breakup in this case. Keep it private. See advice on how to do that below!

     

    1. If you’ve let things about your critique partner irritate you without speaking up to the point where you spend more time thinking about those irritations than doing your own work – Jen, stop it. Again…not you, lol. If you’re someone who avoids confrontation, this is likely going to happen to you. And confrontation is too strong of a word in my opinion. Confrontation to me is often stern and hostile. But if you have a hard time speaking up, it’s likely because you view difference of opinion, or any discussion addressing something that’s bothering you to the offender as confrontation. If you’re at this point, you’ve done this to yourself. I would advise you to try to address it first in case you can move past the hurdle. If you can’t, it’s time to end it because anything weighing that heavy on your mind that it’s bleeding into your life is no good.

     

    1. If you’re nurturing seeds of resentment and are unwilling to address them or have let them fester too long to save the relationship – This really goes with the above…only this is for those of you who have fiery tempers, you know how you are, *Casey raises her hand* and you planned to address something, didn’t get to it in a timely manner, and now you feel like the time to address it has passed and instead it festers. Just like above, you’ve done this to yourself.

     

    1. If your partner has begun lashing out at you in critique or is displaying signs of jealousy and you are unable to talk it out – And let’s be honest here…if they are behaving like this, it’s going to be really tough to talk out. Maybe impossible. You should still give it a shot, but tread carefully. This is a sign that ego has drifted into a relationship where it has no place. I’ve been in a relationship like this with writing partner in the past and I let her have it. I mean, I thought we were both adults and I was blindsided by the venom she unleashed and the way she twisted my words. In that moment, any trust I had for her vanished. Just gone. And there was no way to get it back. In that case, there was no salvaging the relationship. More about how this breakup in just a minute!

     

    If you’re having issues with any of the above, it’s imperative that you address them when they crop up. The first order of business in this relationship is to always discuss anything bothering you or that’s not working for you. If you don’t address those issues and they fester causing you to break up with your critique partner, don’t think you can place the blame solely on their shoulders. You have a responsibility to the relationship/partnership to use your words and address issues before they have a chance to explode and take the relationship/partnership with it.

    So, you’ve done all you can, but it’s time to go your separate ways…so what do you do?

    Remember what you like about each other – You’re both going to be navigating this writing world. There’s no reason why ending the critique relationship has to end the friendship or cause bad feelings…well, within reason. As long as you’ve addressed issues honestly, in a timely manner, even if they don’t work out, there should be no ill will. The book world may seem huge, but I assure it’s not. You’d be amazed by how many people know who you are and how many people have talked about you. Give your former good partner some good things to say about you.

    If you sabotaged your own critique relationship by avoiding confrontation or harboring feelings of resentment, learn from it – Don’t hold it against your partner and end things amicably. Take a hard look at yourself and the part you played in the breakup so you can make sure you don’t make the same mistake with the next partner since good critique partners can be incredibly hard to find. Maybe it’s not like finding something as unique as a unicorn, but it’s definitely up there with finding a bra so comfortable you can sleep in it while it also props up your girls so they look great in everything, including a V-neck.

    And finally, a few things to consider if your partner’s behavior is so heinous that it torpedoes any chance of maintaining a friendship – Ahh, yes, we are back to my situation. Yes, I found her behavior heinous, I’m sure she would disagree. Did I handle things badly? Yup, there were things I could have done way better. Unfortunately in my situation, I thought we were close enough that I knew what would be okay with her. Without going into detail, I can tell you I based what I did off of what we had done in the past, not realizing that she would have a problem with it since she hadn’t thus far. Should I have asked? Absolutely. I just didn’t realize because we had never set the parameters and were applying the rules of our friendship which came first, to our writing relationship. Colossally bad idea BTW! Even if you’ve been friends for years, set the parameters of the business relationship. Agree how you are going to approach the relationship so neither of you can accidentally step out of bounds and ruin the underlying friendship.

    I can offer you one last tip to think about in the event that you break up in a way that permanently ruins the friendship…remember when I mentioned that the writing world although big, is small? People know who you are even if you don’t realize it? I’m sure you are friends on Facebook with your critique partner. I’m sure you follow each other on Instagram, Twitter, etc. DO NOT RUSH TO UNFRIEND OR UNFOLLOW YOUR FORMER PARTNER/FRIEND.

    Yes, it warrants shouting at you. I can’t stress this enough. It’s most important in terms of Facebook where it’s so easy to see mutual friends. My former partner unfriended me on FB unbeknownst to me right away. How did I find out? I got four emails the first day.

    Four. Freaking. Emails.

    Four people noticed on the very first day I was unfriended that we were no longer connected on FB. Actually, more than four, unless it just so happened that the only four who noticed happened to also have no qualms about nosing in on the situation and sending an email.

    What does that tell you?

    It should be telling you that people are watching. They either are brave enough to contact you and ask, or they’ll speculate behind our back. Hell, maybe both. So always consider how you handle your breakup and make sure you do it in such a way that both sides can continue on quietly without having others intrude.

  • Blurbs,  Critique

    Blurbs: A Necessary Evil…but When? Before or After?

     

    I hate blurbs.

    I hate them with the searing heat of a thousand suns.

    When I started writing, there was a rigid notion that blurbs should be no longer than 150 words, if you were a rebel and willing to push it, 200, and they had to conform to a three paragraph format. Her, him, them. Or Him, her, them…whichever worked. Quite literally the only real freedom was in whether or not to feature the hero or heroine first.

    Then, as I tore my hair out while trying to conform to that style, I noticed an up-rise of fearless indies throwing caution to the wind and flipping their figurative middle fingers to the accepted conventions and going for it.

    Suddenly dynamic blurbs of all varieties inundated the book world. We had short blurbs, long blurbs, fragments, first person, third person, one word declarations…wow!

    It was literally the one stop candy shop of blurbs. It didn’t matter what your taste was, there was something out there for you from bitter dark chocolate to tart sour patch candies and everything in between.

    I tried to break out of the mold. Dammit, I wanted longer blurbs, but everyone in my author groups, my tight circle of friends, those who had traditionally published or were currently traditionally published gasped at the idea. “You can’t do that!” they said.

    Well, why the hell not?

    I thumbed my nose at anyone who told me I can’t and instead did what I wanted. And it was incredibly freeing.

    You know, as long as I could write them AFTER I wrote the story.

    And then I was writing so fast I needed to have blurbs ready before the story was finished.

    *blink—blink—blink*

    What do you mean I need to have them first? I’m a pantser. I don’t even know how it ends, hell, I’ve written stories where I’ve forgotten to give my hero and heroine last names until the very end. Now you want me to wrap up the basics of their story in a neat little bow?

    No.

    *Stomps foot—flips the bird*

    It’s just not the way my brain works. Oh, I can write the blurb first, but it’s going to be a steaming pile of poo and my story is going to go on so many different tangents that the underlying premise no longer resembles what I’ve been forced to put down on paper.

    This goes back to my having the perfect first chapter. Look, logically I know I can go back and edit the first chapter. But it’s my framework. And the thought of building something on a foundation that’s not set, with rotting boards, rusted nails, and leaking windows is enough to set my heart racing while panic floods me from head to toe.

    Since I don’t know my story, even condensing a story idea in 250 words is nearly impossible. It’s like trying to plot a whole book in a just a few words when I still don’t know my characters. I get to know them as I write. I start to think about their life situations and put together how based on who they were raised to be and who they choose to be influence the here and now.

    I sometimes don’t know a whole lot about my characters until I’m a chapter or two in. I work them out on paper. Here’s an example:

     

    “Well, well, well, now who is that?” Lavinia asked, an appreciative grin forming on her 1980’s red lips.

    Blair followed her gaze, and her lungs seized on a gulp. “What’s he doing here?”

    Lavinia’s drawn-on eyebrows disappeared under a poof of bleach-blond hair dropping low over her forehead. “You know him?”

    He pushed away from the hood of his sleek, black, luxury whatever the heck it was car that might actually be just as mysterious and exotic as the man now walking toward her.

    And so far out of her price range, it made her heart pinch.

    “I’m not sure anyone really knows Evan,” she murmured as her mouth ran dry at the sight of him.

    Black dress pants, probably designer from the sheen and quality cut, hugged his thighs as he strode toward her with one hand in his pocket and the other flexing at his side.

    Tension radiated from him, but Lord help her, she didn’t care. She’d known from the first moment they’d met when she’d spilled her cup of spiced tea at her favorite coffee shop that he was something different.

    He’d been polite, with those Clark Kent, square-jawed looks and dark-framed glasses designed to make the wearer look scholarly, but in his case, they only made her fingers itch to slip them from his face so she could get lost in the warm, amber depths behind them.

    Fire and ice.

    Cool and detached on the outside, but those eyes—God, those eyes told a whole different story.

    An elusive tale likely no one would get to the bottom of.

     

    This is chapter 2, page 17. Chapter 1 was in his POV and still I didn’t know who he was. Evan had already been in three other novellas as a side character. When the time came to write him, I hadn’t a clue who he really was, or what made him tick. I knew with all of the others even when they were still secondary characters.

    The scene above was my “aha” moment. The reason I didn’t know who he was went right to the basis of who he was as a character so his being a mystery, even to me, worked!

    So, how on earth am I supposed to write a blurb before I do the above?

    Wanna see what happens when I try?

     

     

     

    See…a hot mess! It’s okay, you can agree with me. I already know.

    I struggle to narrow it all down. I find halfway through writing the actual book that my characters do not look anything like what I’ve outlined in my blurb. And worst of all, as a pantser, I find I’ve boxed myself into conformity and I struggle to let my characters drive the story because I’ve already committed them to a certain reality.

    What I have learned, if I figure out how to do a rough outline, I might have a chance…but who are we kidding? I’m probably not going to learn hot to do a rough outline.

    Because I’m stubborn.

  • Critique

    My Wings May Be Tired, But They’re Never Broken

     

    I could go on and on about how critiquing makes me a better writer. There are the obvious things like:

    • The more I critique, the less mistakes I make.
    • Having someone to call me on my bullshit keeps me from being lazy, taking shortcuts, and shortchanging the reader.
    • Allowing someone to repeatedly pick apart my work makes it so I can take criticism easier.

    Blah, blah, blah…

    But there’s one thing that outshines all of the little things. Having a critique partner I can bare all to allows me to spread my wings and fly.

    Writing is changing at a rapid pace and faster than ever before, especially with the explosion of indie publishing. Language is evolving. The hard fast rules are breaking down and writing is morphing into something driven by voice first, and all of the other facets coming in at a distant second. There are voices emerging that are so distinct, rules fade into oblivion. The reader is so sucked in, they’ll forgive almost anything.

    Not that I suggest you ditch the rules all together…but we all have to admit, there are books out there that are absolutely brilliant that would have been cast aside to a slush pile not twenty years ago because they took liberties with the rules.

    Because of that evolution in language, voice, and rules, we can take more chances than ever before…and having a critique partner spot you while you take that chance makes all the difference in the world.

    With Jen by my side to review my work, I’m free to take liberties with words, structure, technique, and rules because Jen is my safety net. She’s going to make sure I don’t fail. She’s the first person to see where I’ve stretched my wings and taken a chance. She’s the one who will tell me if I’ve lost what little is left of my mind and need to reel that shit back in. She’s quick to recognize if I’m pushing the boundaries, but missing the mark, and she’s eager to jump in right alongside me to help me tweak those chances I’m taking.

    Not going to lie, she’s kind of my idea dealer, too! She’s got the goods no matter when I need a fix. My own little plot genie. When I’m staring at chapter three and have no freaking clue where the story is going, she pulls out ideas, and she keeps throwing them at me until something works. I don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t have her there to say, “You don’t like that idea? I’ve got another one!”

    I can grow because she nurtures that growth. Sales numbers, stellar reviews, bestseller’s lists, and die-hard fans are all great, but they are the end result. It’s the person slogging through the shit with me during the process that propels me forward and makes me strive to improve each and every time.

  • Critique

    Foundations, Self-Doubt, and the Boom-Boom!

     

    First off…good morning everyone. I’m sitting in Jen’s kitchen in her slammin’ condo in Jupiter Florida alternating between blissful contentment because I’m here writing all the words and flashbacks from living in the oppressive heat and humidity of my Florida years I couldn’t wait to leave behind when I moved in 2009.

    I know, I know, palm trees, warmth, and the ocean nearby. I should love it.

    Here’s some of the tropical pretty I’m sitting in the middle of…

    But I’m a northern girl. I grew up in Vermont. I live in Maine. There are four seasons there… instead of hot and hotter like they have here. I live just off the ocean now…but I don’t melt sitting on the sand. The water is so cold that you don’t get used to it, you just go numb after five minutes so you don’t mind the cold anymore and your nipples are so freaking hard they can cut glass.

    So…I’m tolerating the heat and trying to keep my bitching to a minimum while I finally get some words down.

    These ladies are helping…Stacey Wilk, Jen Talty, and Chelle Olson!

    Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty of today’s subject.

    First chapters…the bane of my existence.

    My kryptonite.

    The reason I lie awake at night.

    The thing that makes me flip my computer the bird, adopt semi-permanent resting bitch face, growl at the keyboard, pace on my postage-stamp size section of floor behind my desk, find all kinds of boring shit on Facebook utterly fascinating that I have to explore even if it means I lose hours, and finally, what makes me want to avoid my crit partner like the damn plague.

    Yes, I have to fight my urge to avoid Jen.

    Why you ask?

    Because every time she talks to me she says, “Okay, love you, gotta go, and hey, send me shit.”

    Send. Me. Shit.

    Nope. I can’t send you shit.

    Now I know she doesn’t mean shit literally. She’s not calling my first draft shit, but in my head, despite not being written, it’s shit.

    Problem #1:

    My first resistance is the rush of my insecurities as a writer coming to the forefront and kicking me in the figurative teeth. It’s the fact that I’m a pantser for the most part writing on a deadline. It’s my needing to at least know the bare minimum about my chapters and characters, but having nothing but a dark, looming void before me. It’s about me forcing myself to write linearly when I’m not a linear writer. Because when I’m writing novellas, writing out of order is not nearly as effective.

    I started out writing long books. And I have every intention of getting back to those books, but for now, I’m writing shorter works. These shorter works are so much harder. And that’s where I have a horrid problem with first chapters.

    I want perfection in the first chapter before I send it to Jen.

    Okay, so I know it’s just me. I know I’m picky. I can go back and rewrite, add in the nuggets I didn’t get in the first time, but I just don’t wanna.

    I reread that chapter at least fifty times before Jen ever sees it.

    My first chapters have to have all the elements to set up the other 8-10 chapters to come. They are the foundation by which the story stands. I’m totally fine with letting my ugly hang out in every chapter after. I’ll let my freak flag fly, but never in chapter one.

    Of course, this also means that when I send that chapter one to Jen, I’m convinced it’s the best thing ever written. There couldn’t possibly be a typo. No missing words. My characters have been set up just right and there’s no annoying back story or info dumps.

    Then she sends it back with fifty or so track changes.

    Well, fuck.

    Aaaannnnnnd I’m back to flipping off my computer screen.

    So that’s my first problem with the first chapter.

    Problem #2?

    The duh factor.

    If you see Casey writing, you can practically hear it. The “duh” of a woman looking at the blank screen and saying, “What do you mean I need to just make shit up? There has to be more to that. It can’t be that easy.”

    It is that easy.

    And it’s that hard.

    Anything that involves any sort of world building like creatures or lore in paranormal/fantasy or even if it’s contemporary/suspense and I’m coming up with an agency/company/network/business, I stall.

    I mean, I stall like a middle-aged woman’s metabolism as she suffers from menopause, scorching hot flashes, and a thyroid disorder.

    Jen, well, she’s a whole different animal. She’s a ball of wild abandon and just makes shit up. She’s confident in her ability to just put the right terms together and create something all hers.

    I love that about her. I hate that I can’t. I hate that I examine everything to death. When I found the name for Aegis, I researched words that had to do with protection and shields. I toyed with the idea of putting two words together, but nothing ever sounded just right.

    In other words, I wasn’t confident in any of it.

    The first step is admitting you have a problem, right?

    Hi, I’m Casey. First chapters, invented terms/names are my weaknesses. I don’t know if I’ll ever get out of my own head long enough to get better at them. And that’s okay.

    Pssst! You know why it’s okay?

    Because I rock the boom-boom.

    Sex.

    All. The. Sex.

    Yup, I’m not afraid to admit it. My chapter one tells me at least 75% of what kind of sex my characters will have at the 50-75% mark of my book.

    Because I’ve agonized over that first chapter, I know what my characters weaknesses are, I know what’s holding them back, and I know how those qualities have to play into how they come together.

    I don’t have words that I won’t use. If clit, cock, or cunt fit (Jen’s three C’s), I use them. Even if the words are something I don’t use in real life, it doesn’t matter. I have to ask myself what the people I’ve created would use. I let my characters weaknesses and their POV’s drive the language. I’m a voyeur, in a non-perverted way of course, playing out their growth in the most intimate of ways. In this I need to do them justice, but they lay it all out for me. It’s less about my head and more about what my characters want me to see.

    I remember to weave the transformation of emotion and the bond building through the words so the scene doesn’t turn into a mechanical sex pamphlet.

    In order to do this, I throw away any ideas I’ve been harboring of hot sex. I can’t tell you how many writers I’ve met that have this idea in their head of a hot sex scene that they want to write, so they do, and it never quite sounds right.

    It’s because it’s not right…for those particular characters.

    You can’t force it.

    Some writers will try to force it to work because they don’t want to let the idea go.

    Well, technically, I can put a pair of size five undies on my ample ass, but it’s going to look like I tried to squeeze twenty-five pounds of shit in a five pound bag.

    And the fact that I did will show.

    The key to writing stellar sex is that it’s not personal preference. It’s what will be the hottest sex for your characters dependent on their wounds, emotions, what’s happening around them, and how they connect with one another. The minute you’ve accepted that, you’re halfway there!

    Join us Monday where Jen will give us her wisdom on first chapters and the boom-boom and she’ll do it all from sunny, hotter-than-hell Florida!

     

     

  • Critique

    Show your pretty to your readers, your ugly to your critique partner, and always learn from both!

    There is a bit of controversy out there in writer critique land if you should be giving your critique partner your best work or your first draft. The answer to that is not whether one is right or wrong, but what one is looking for in a critique, what one wants to give in a critique, and what one believes will best serve them. I also think, the answer come in where you are in your writing career and the development of your craft (which is always getting better). Casey and I will cover that in another topic soon.

    When Casey and I first met. We both came at this critique thing with each other wearing protective gloves. This is because we both had bad past experiences. Those experiences helped us shape the critique process we have now. Neither of us wanted a line edit. We didn’t want proofreading, although we’d say, if you see, feel like fixing it, go for it! We also didn’t want smoke blown up our skirts. We wanted honest and real.

    Last week Casey talked about taking care of what you have and not becoming complacent as a critique partner.

    Every time I get a critique back from Casey I get excited about finding out all the things she found wrong, or that could be better, or that I missed an opportunity, where I can amp up the tension, make a reader care, whatever. If I ever got a crit back from her that had a comment or two, a few fixed typos, and tells me I did a good job.

    She’d be fired.

    No joke.

    Of course, the few times (okay, maybe once in the last, I don’t know, two years) I’ve gotten a critique that had very few critical comments. I immediately picked up the phone and said, “WTF? There has to be something wrong with this bad boy.” To which she replied, “It was a real shocker to me too, but other than that one area, I thought, damn girl, you rock.”

    Trust me, the next one that came back, I saw so much red I cried tears of JOY! See, I like editing and rewriting. It’s my favorite part of writing. I’m that weirdo that HATES drafts, except first chapters, but I digress. I’ve never thought I’ve gotten anything “right” on the first try. I shine in second and third draft. I layer in second and third draft. Though, because I focus on action and dialogue, I often miss little opportunities, which is why I need Casey to constantly show me where I can amp up the tension and emotion. Without her, I think my books would be a bit flat.

    Her post last week talked about taking care of what you have and not becoming complacent. Now let’s look at what Casey does…one thing she has a tendency to do is give me way too much information in a short period of time. I’m overwhelmed. The reader might be overwhelmed. She might have a reason for doing it, but if I don’t keep pointing out when I’m bored, or she’s beating me over the head with something, or I’m lost in the detail and not the story, or I’m starting to skim, not carrying much about what she’s writing, then she might not know where she’s mucking up. Thing is, almost every time I tell her this, she’s like, well this person or this thing is important because of XYZ. Okay, but there is NO NUGGET that makes me care. You have not planted that SEED. Give that to me! And she always finds it usually by doing two things. Tightening where she can, giving the reader only what they need in that moment, and finding that one little bomb that says, you need to know this. But poor Casey is stuck with me giving her comments like this.

    Or, I often toss a bunch of questions at her about what I’m reading. I don’t have to have the answers because you have to remember, she might want me as a reader to be thinking all this stuff. Or it just might be, okay, I don’t HAVE to give the reader all this right now and it goes back to what does the READER HAVE TO KNOW RIGHT NOW.

    Now, some of you might be thinking, God, Jen, you’re mean. Or geez, Jen, why are you airing CASEY’s dirty underwear out there. And I want to make this clear. The reason why I’m giving you examples of my critique of Casey is to show how I’ve come to know her as a partner and how I help her make her writing better. Basically, calling her on her shit. And her calling me on mine. Not only do you have understand your partner’s voice in draft mode, but you have to understand how you critique. It’s essential that you’re working on their writing, not projecting your own into.

    Another thing to consider is to be assertive in what you need. There have been times when I’ve said to Casey that I really need you to look for certain specific things. It’s not because she’s not doing it, but it’s good to restate your needs.

    Also, when writing something that is a little out of my comfort zone, I will ask her to focus say emotion or character development.

    And here is another thing to consider, sometimes we focus on what WE do in our writing and not what THEY do.

    If I’m told often enough that I have a specific bad habit, I will start to notice it in everyone else. It’s part of learning who you are as a writer.

    I think Critiquing in DRAFT MODE is an important concept because too often we focus on the mechanics. The Oxford comma. The word WAS. We’re not line editing. We’re not really even being developmental editors. We’re doing a stream of conscious commentary on a writer’s draft. Understand, that the draft may go under many edits after that. I’m just seeing Casey with her pants down.