Posted in Articles, Writing Tip of the Day

Analyze that Quote: Ray Bradbury

Not only can we learn things about the world around us, but we can also learn about ourselves from certain quotes. Since writers work with words for a living, oftentimes their written quotes hold a weight to them and wisdom that we can draw from.

Any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as writer.
– Ray Bradbury

This is a quote that appeals to me personally, because I believe in the results of hard work. What I think this addresses, and in a most brilliant way, is the difference between having a gift and passion. Some people are gifted at art, at music, at writing, or even at science, math, anything. Not that work takes no time, but their genius springs forth even in rudimentary stages, and oftentimes doesn’t require the disciplines it would from most others.

However, same as with any gift, it can be used or squandered. There are many writers who have a gift and potential to be great, but either have other priorities, or don’t care to pursue. Or, don’t have the discipline of one who’s had to work at it for a long time.

On the other hand, anyone can learn a craft, given enough time, work, and passion. Those three factors are of vital importance, because otherwise, it’ll be another abandoned pursuit. The people who achieve their writing success via hard work rather than a natural gift of it though have the tools developed to make a career out of it, because they’ve formed the necessary disciplines. A career requires regularity, not writing when the ‘muse inspires.’ Try that excuse with a boss at your day job and watch you get laughed out of the place.

While that might take some of the romantic whimsy out of writing, I do think it’s a valuable quote for people in the field, because those who are determined and passionate, those who have their goal in mind, will utilize it to further their agenda of continuing to hone their craft and write until they become truly great.

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Posted in Articles, Writing Tip of the Day

Analyze that Quote: Ernest Hemingway

Everyone has an opinion on how to write, and those of us who do so tend to place value on our predecessors who have found success. However, one thing I’ve found to be true is that people and their processes are different. So today, we’ll analyze Ernest Hemingway.

It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.
– Ernest Hemingway

Most folks have read at least one Hemingway book in their school career. Mine was The Sun Also Rises. So, part of what comes into play when analyzing the writer’s advice is also their background.

This particular quote however, I find to be sound advice, from a practical standpoint. It can be taken in several manners. First and foremost, if your learning is showing in your writing, then obviously it hasn’t been polished enough. Hence the quote cements the importance of honing your craft before pursuing publication, as well as the importance of a damn good editor.

The other manner this quote can be taken has to do with psychology of how people work, and would also fit Hemingway’s cut and dry, practical perspective on things. People aren’t ‘wow’ed by your hardship until you’ve found success. Not to say that you won’t have your support–some are lucky enough to have devout friends and family by their side while they scrape their way up to a reputation. However, the average passersby, the normal reader doesn’t care about that.

In fact, the general populace doesn’t go digging through the filth to find a gem, so in essence, Hemingway’s quote can have quite a different message.

“Let them think you were born that way.”

What better way to create a name, a reputation, a legend, than to play on the public’s ignorance of craftsmanship and present a solid front? You wouldn’t go to a job interview and talk about all your mistakes, would you?

Everyone makes them, and everyone has hurdles, but I think the true gem in this quote is the underlying subtlety of the drive for success. Instead of bemoaning your hardships, you keep working until you present that polished, published front, of the writer you’ve worked so hard to become.

Posted in Sneak Peeks, Writing Tip of the Day

Letter to Poisoned Apple

This is included in the book, at the very end–a love letter to the joy of rewriting–and getting it right this time.

***

Poisoned Apple holds a dear place in my heart, because I recreated it from the wreckage of one of my earliest manuscripts I wrote. My earliest works were my exploratory phase where I learned the basics, but trust me when I say, it wasn’t salvageable. I stripped the story down to the barest elements and rewrote everything, from characters to the ending. I wanted Neve to be goth with a bitter attitude and cynicism that stemmed from her bad past. And I changed Brendan around completely, from a sweetheart, to someone damaged as well, because I didn’t think Neve could relate to someone entirely good and whole considering how shattered she began and becomes through the story. The story that bloomed from that old manuscript became so intense for me and one I completely fell in love with. So, here’s to hoping you enjoy reading Poisoned Apple as much as I enjoyed writing it and to other writers out there: writing is never a waste—the important themes and stories will always find a way to surface.

Posted in Writing Tip of the Day

How To Beta-Read

This is something that’s useful to anyone who’s getting themselves involved in writing. While there are a million different ways to critique, it’s important to know which ones actually help and which ones just waste time.

Step One: Finding a Beta Reader

The first place most folks will go is family and friends. While the occasional family member or friend may be well read, and might be astute in offering a good critique, it’s good to get an objective perspective as well. I’ve used the Absolute Write forums, as well as groups on Goodreads. Be forewarned, if you’re going into these groups asking for readers without establishing yourself, it may not be looked upon kindly. A better bet would be to offer to swap. I’ve almost always done beta swapping, and to be honest, I’ve learned just as much from critiquing others’ works, as I have with their critiques on mine.

Step Two: You Found a Reader/Swap, Now What?

It’s really easy for time to slip away, and I’ve had a lot of failed swaps due to one person not prioritizing the time, including myself. This is essential. A lot of times, setting up a schedule really helps, like every Monday you’ll swap 3-5 chapters. This is my favorite way to swap, because if your critique styles don’t end up meshing, or you’re having a tough time getting through the story, you can always back out after one turnaround. When you agree to swap entire manuscripts, it can be overwhelming, but it’s also rough if you end up not working well with each other. I learned the hard way, and it was the first and last time I swapped full manuscripts–I did a detailed critique on this guy’s entire story which turned out to be a sort of hard sci-fi I just wasn’t into—and when I got my critiques back it was minimal…barely anything at all. Lesson learned.

This is the step that most people can get stuck on. It can take several tries to find a reader/swapper willing to go the whole way with you. It’s definitely a commitment. The positive? Once you find folks worth working with, oftentimes they’re willing to swap in the future.

Step Three: Critiques

First, be honest about what you like. If you’re not into romance, you’re probably not going to offer a great critique on a romance novel. If you hate sci-fi/fantasy, please steer clear. Once you’ve bypassed that hurdle, the next step is the actual critique.

There is such thing as a bad critique. Just because you have an opinion, doesn’t mean it’s helpful, or has merit.

I’m all for hard critiques–this isn’t a gushy Kumbaya circle of happy feelings, and I’m not saying to treat everyone as if they’re a precious glass statue. However, telling someone, this sucks, or I don’t like this, isn’t helpful. Think about it logically–what can they take from that? Nothing. In fact, if you’re a writer and you’re handing out those style of critiques, you may want to examine your skill with communicating via words. What IS helpful, is identifying why you don’t like something. Is a character coming across as unlikeable because the author has him snapping at everything? Are parts of the story boring? Why? Sometimes it can be a lack of variety in the dialogue/description/action/introspection mix. Other times it could be a scene that doesn’t further a character or the story along. It’s okay to call out issues, but you need to give reasoning behind this.

On the flip side, the peppy cheerleader can be just as frustrating. ‘Everything is perfect!’ might sate your ego for a little while, but it won’t make your story better, and that’s what we want. Really, the main reason why friends and family as critique partners can be tricky, is because a lot of them fall into that category. They want to support you! Or, you may run into a situation where someone is new to writing and genuinely doesn’t see anything wrong with the manuscript. After a swap there, you’ll end up frustrated, because you know there are things to be fixed, but no one’s calling them out to you.

The balanced critique partner is the best–or at least my personal favorite. I love when a critique partner will point out their favorite parts, but also rip apart what they didn’t like. For folks who are starting out, this is kind of essential, because a lot haven’t developed that thick skin yet and honing in on what they’re doing right helps them continue to progress in a positive direction.

Head spinning yet?

Once the critique’s done, if you’ve made it to the end with your beta reader/swapper, a wrap up is often nice. I personally like to do an overview of the plot as a whole and appreciate when a beta reader does the same for me.

Step Four: Go Get Another One

What? You just spent all that time getting someone to read it, and now you have to find another person?

Yeah. A lot of times I’ll get two contradictory pieces of advice on a section I’m not sure about, and it takes that third critique to tie-break , at least for me. Plus, after a couple of views on it, the major issues will stand out that much more, making it easier when you go in and do your big edits.

Is that it? Well, I could go on for hours about the subject of beta-reading, but those are the basics.

Go forth and critique!

Posted in Writing Tip of the Day

Writing Tip of the Day

Too into the character’s head? Sometimes you need to back out.

 

I delved into one of my old manuscripts because I’m rewriting the story into something different, using concepts, characters, etc though. But man, I didn’t realize how AT LENGTH I used to go on about what the character was thinking. She’d be giving her whole life story through her head, triggered by looking at a freakin’ shoe.

Not necessary.

Internal thought’s what brings a deeper emotional connection to the character–definitely important. But just as important are their actions, what they DO. So next time you’re ready to explain their entire life’s tale through the thoughts in their head, pull back and parse. Consider, are they really going to have the time to muse on this?