As a writing community, I believe we need to help one another. There doesn’t need to be a competition or an unfriendly or unhealthy antagonism between us. We are people who share a love of the written word, a desire to share our stories.
When one of my writer friends introduced me to one of her writer friends, I was happy to join and jump in to help.
When I heard he’d become a finalist in the Chanticleer Awards, I knew his book would be a great success.
It’s a detective, sort of mystery, sort of noir of old. I think Hitchcock would have loved it. The baser of our human needs and selves sometimes win out and cause us larger problems. Where exactly was Kelton when a school shooting took place in his very own classroom?
Wracked with guilt, he wants to find the shooter himself.
Released just this week – the writing is tight and the topic is contemporary – The Lone Escapist is available on kindle and in print. Audiobook to follow.
How do you get your book to become a finalist? to win an award? – Read Dan’s and find out!
“‘Dad Shining’ is a terrible name for a story.,” said a certain someone.
I replied, “The Chicago Tribune must have liked it. They’re going to publish it.”
I worked on “Dad Shining” for some time, not quite knowing what the ending needed. Then it struck me:
We grow up not really understanding our parents or why they do the things they do. When we become adults, if our maturity doesn’t lend itself to that understanding then it should lead us to empathy.
We can’t possibly know our parents challenges in the same way we comprehend our own. Therefore, we must let things go, forgive, and move on. (Whatever that forgiveness means to you. Don’t be tortured by the past)
My father passed four years ago this month. The story “Dad Shining” was published two months before he passed. (For which, I’m happy.)
It’s not a story of my father, nor of me. But it is a story of a child coming to some sort of peace with himself and extending compassion to the father he never quite understood.
(A little trivia for you – the cover was taken in Virginia where Poe’s mother is buried)
I received a few rejections recently which made me sort of giggle.
One story was called “Friends, Lovers, and Liars” and it’s about all of the above. I originally submitted it to a journal who had a call for “Deception of all types.”
In the response I received, it seemed I’d offended the editor. “This isn’t about Deception. I don’t know how you think it was. It doesn’t fit our call at all….” And he went on for a few more lines.
The story, later published in Pilcrow and Dagger, follows a main character who lies to the husband who is cheating on her, she helps a friend get a job by fudging some truths as reference, and discovers her sister can’t keep her stories straight. It’s all about deception. But something in it struck a nerve with the editor and it was rejected.
The next story is “Mirrors” and is about two sisters and their family; however, it does carry a supernatural element.
It was suggested that I make it more terrifying because it wasn’t frightening enough. Fair enough critique if I indeed was attempting to write horror, but I wasn’t.
I do appreciate the more personalized responses, but when we read others’ works we should make certain not to put our own issues or agendas into their work. That is what makes us good readers, good critique partners, and good editors.
The story belongs to the author, and while we can offer suggestions for improvement it should be to better the story they want to accomplish – not change it to suit our own preferences.
Rejections need to be appreciated. Sometimes they offer valuable information and tell us we need to do more work, and sometimes they miss the mark and we thank the editors – appreciating the time they took to respond at all! – then sit back and enjoy this crazy writing journal we’ve chosen.
There’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.