Read Like a Wordsmith

wordDon’t read other words like a critic looking for the good, bad, and ugly. Read to discover what the author did well and how they did it.

This is reading like a writer, like a wordsmith.

Atwood says she will only review something if she likes it. She is not a critic and won’t write a bad review.

One of my friends told me he won’t even write a bad yelp review. He says, I praise those who deserve it, but it’s not my place to criticize.

I thought this was a great idea.

If you feel you must say something to alert other readers, then be honest and specific, but do add at least one good thing about the book, story, movie, service etc.

 

Critique Partners

critiqueisnotscary.jpgThere’s nothing more helpful than having someone read your work and give you the fresh perspective needed to improve.

Recently, my writing partner found a tiny mistake, despite having others read it, reading it aloud, and checking, rechecking, and re-editing it a thousand times. So helpful! I would have been embarrassed had it gone out with that small spelling errors that even spellcheck didn’t catch.

HOWEVER, there’s one thing that’s troublesome about critique groups or partners. The one who does not actually want the advice. I’ve worked with people who, every time I commented on their work, responded by explaining what they’d planned, meant, thought they wrote. They felt they accomplished what they wanted to do and didn’t plan on changing a thing. In other words, they’re weren’t listening. Why they even brought the story to the group, I have no idea. Perhaps they thought the story would be endlessly praised.

Ladies and gentlemen, some praise is necessary and warranted. You may have heard the sandwich method of response. First, say something positive about the work. Next, suggest and improvement. Finally, end with a positive.

In my classes, I actually students to say at least three positive things about any piece of work before we launch into the “room for improvement.”

Showing others their work is exceptionally hard for some people.And there are always good things to be said about any attempt.

But a good critique is learning to be open to hearing what is being said. Respond not with denial and deflection, but consideration of the comments received.

When I’m reading or editing, I ask the writer’s purpose and hopes for the piece. This helps me focus the response a little better. I also discuss the critique so I can be more specific with their desired outcome. Therefore, I do try hard to take into consideration the writer’s ideas.

After the last group with the writer who spent the whole time denying and explaining rather than listening, I avoided responding to that writer. A good critique is work. Not listing to other’s ideas will not win you friends and improve your work.

 

Read

We’ve heard that we should read aloud to ourselves. And we absolutely know this works. We are able to hear our mistakes, rewrite and hear it a different way to see if it sounds better.

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But how many of us actually do it?

Back in the day (as my students say), copy-editors and writers read the work aloud with one another or within a group to catch mistakes before publications. Some critique groups do this as well.

When I read aloud, it sounds the way I think I want it to sound. It helps me to have someone else read it to me while I’m reading it on the screen.

This is what I suggest. Microsoft word has a setting that will read the text to you. I’ve found this incredibly helpful.

There are a number of programs if you don’t have microsoft or can’t stand the monotone.

Some writers record themselves reading the story, then listen to it while they reread in order to catch mistakes.

Let’s be honest – we all make mistakes. And to be more honest – it doesn’t look good in publication. Unfortunately, I’ve sent things out with mistakes. Fortunately, I’ve had some great editors (and publishers) who called my attention to these errors.

 

The Writer’s Support System

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Maybe it’s me, but I doubt I’m alone in this: A writer’s support system sometimes seems a shaky and insecure. Some people do not understand, others say ridiculous things, and some are even jealous of our steps forward.

Finding a support system is an active and ongoing endeavor. People move on, they step back, and we need to keep moving forward, be unwilling to let negative people and comments to hold us back.

Don’t be afraid to move on. It doesn’t mean you have to cut contact with everyone or even anyone, but you certainly want to keep those who are positive supporters of your in the forefront of your mind and heart.

Sometimes, we feel very alone. Writing is a solitary act, but we don’t have to live in a bubble. Make contact through writer’s groups, online and in person. Meet other writers at conferences or critique groups and stay in contact with them. Join a book group, we need friends.

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Photo Credit: Noreen Lace / Here in the Silence

 

The Journey…..

journey.jpgWriting a novel is not a destination; it’s a journey. It’s the hardest journey you will take with unclear signs, narrow paths, tricky u-turns, treacherous cliffs, an occasional dead end, and a steep road toward the end.

You will come out of this ragged, weary, exhausted, and wondering what it was all for. But then, your newborn book materializes before your eyes and you see it was all worth it.

A Tribute to Poe on his Birthday

January 19th, is the 210th anniversary of Poe’s Birth.

poe4Although many people are content with the reason of Poe’s continued relevance in our society is the stereotypical tortured artist.  There is no doubt he was tortured, and for reasons of which we are all familiar; he was an orphan who lost every women he ever loved.

His battles with alcohol, I believe, are highly exaggerated. But it makes for a good story. I’m not saying he never drank – he drank to excess plenty of times, he may have officially been an alcoholic as we understand the word today; however, it was not a constant. There were many years through his marriage to Virginia that he did not drink or drink to excess. Before his death in 1849, he’d joined the Sons of Temperance Movement – to get people to stop drinking.

The reason Poe has remained relevant throughout the years is his work touchespoe our deepest fears and deepest desires. He has continued to inspire other writers

 

 

 

 

 

poe2and artists of all types.

 

 

 

 

 

 

He wrote far more than what we, today, consider horror. He wrote essays, literary analysis, investigative pieces. He wrote about street paving, Stonehenge, and he was inspired by what he read in newspapers.  Berenice and others were inspired by stories of grave robbers in local papers.

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The famed portrait of Edgar Allan Poe was taken three days after his suicide attempt in 1848.

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And, Eddy, my imaginative fiction, was inspired by that suicide attempt. He bought two bottles of laudanum on a cold winter night meaning to do himself in. He’d lost Virginia and felt he had no one. (Laudanum contained opium and derivatives of morphine and codeine.)

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For Poe’s Birthday, I offer an excerpt from the novella:

   He stumbles from the pub, slips, and falls on the iced over bricks of Boston’s November streets. Save for the muddled voices beyond the closed door, the street is quiet as his body thuds to the ground. His breath billows in front of him as he gasps and grumbles and struggles to his knees, then his feet, to regain his drunken balance.

   The gaslamp on the corner offers a wavering yellow glow for the struggling figure on the lonely winter night. Thin strands of hair blow in the chilled breeze; he runs his hands over his head, straightens himself before he pulls at the sagging overcoat and tugs it closed.

     Remembering the tinctures of laudanum pried from the chary pharmacist, he hurriedly shoves his hands in his pockets, retrieves the bottles.

   His heavy breath mounds in front of him and, for a moment, he can’t see; then the luminous cloud of brandy scented air dissipates. The medicines are intact. Relieved, he stuffs them back in his pocket and buttons his jacket.

   “Edgar,” someone calls from the corner; the noise from the pub trails the swarthy figure out until the door slams to a close behind him. “You alright?”

   Edgar waves him off without turning around.

   The thick shadow chuckles as he staggers in the opposite direction.

   The winter is freezing cold, but the snow hasn’t endured. Small white crystals pile in corners and fill the air. The icy rain soaks him before he reaches his chamber on the second floor of the boarding house. The room is small, impersonal, but warmer than the street. An unlit lantern shimmies on the desk as he unsteadily seats himself, glances out the window.

   A barely discernable outline disquiets the otherwise muted darkness on the corner of the street below. He knows it’s the black dog that’s stalked him his whole life. Suddenly angered, he shoves himself forward, pushes the unlit lamp aside and topples the ink jar.

   “Get outta here, you wretched creature.” The incensed command lost in the night.

      Recovering the secreted bottles of opium from his coat pocket, he sets them side by side in front of him. Unsteadily he tugs the lid from one and snorts in a single gulp.

For More Posts on Poe – click this link.

To get the book at 3.99 – this weekend only – click this link.

To get the ebook at .99 – today only – click this link.

 

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Much love and luck.

 

Create an Intention Board

Visualization, scientists believe, is important in achieving what it is you desire.

If you’re concerned about an interview – picture it first

Concerned about completing an assignment? – visualize it finished!

What do you want to happen in the near future?

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Sometimes these are large goals – end result goals, and that’s good. We see the big picture. What about the little picture?

  • Cut pictures out of magazines (old school) or collect images, text, videos from online and make an intention board for the next few months.

This deals with a little bit of realism. If you’re not writing and you choose a photo of you at a book signing, that’s the end result. Perhaps keep that photo, but put it on the larger board.

  • Right now, make an intention board smaller. If you’re not writing and you’d like to write more, place a photo of a person sitting at the computer or typewriter. Imagine what else you want there. You a steam cup of tea? A tray of snacks? Your cat purring at your side? Make this an enjoyable experience. What needs to be there to make this as enjoyable as possible.

I’d love for you to share your results in our newly formed group: Writing 365. Join us!