#BeBold Sharing Critical Content

image from openclipart.org from J4p4n

“I think it would be therapeutic for me to write a post for our blog where I tear the shit out of movie x.” Zach said.  

I smiled and nodded, happy he planned to contribute to our NAWG blog.  

“But would a negative post benefit our blog in the long run?”  I wondered.  

Another group member and I resolved we would keep our blog a positive constructive place.  Then again, Zach is our resident curmudgeon, if anyone can get away with a grouchy post, it’s him.

As I‘ve been viewing more content, I keep coming back to wondering if critical content is part of a healthy blogging habit.  And if “negative” or “rant” content has a place, what’s the correct ratio to add it into a blog?  Should ever blog or blogger share all opinions whether negative or positive?  Am I as positive as. I portray, or is that a persona shown for approval?   Even in some of my perky posts, on the edges lingers this acknowledgement of themes I don’t like.  

Today there will be no dodging the question.  Should we blog critical, negative, snarky, or tea spilling posts?

The Concerns

-Being seen as petty/mean/opinionated/loud/aggressive/bossy

-Being seen as a person who views writing as a competition and your review as a way to tear down the competition

-Risk of hurting the feelings of another human being

-Burning through the community’s goodwill for you

-Bringing you own work forward for scrutiny as you’ve scrutinized others

-Making an error or oversight in your analysis could cause you being on the end of critical content.  Or you may see your own oversight, go to adjust your post and learn you’ve created an audience not open to evolving opinions.

-Negative attention is still attention and if a book/technique is damaging, you may choose not to mention them at all so you don’t accidentally drive sales to something you don’t support

-Closing venues for conversation and becoming a place to come bash an idea

-Crossing the line and getting personal in an attack (and this is NEVER) good.  

-Depending on what you don’t like, risking the chance you’ll stand in the company of other opinions you find offensive or wrong

The Pros

-People love drama/controversy.  There is a reason videos and posts labeled “spilling the tea” or “throwing shade” rank so high and it’s because everyone loves to watch a fight.  

-As Zach said, rants are therapeutic

-Sometimes critical or negative reviews are a person’s truth and I believe authenticity is more important than being nice. 

-Others can misinterpret silence as approval and I don’t want to support something I didn’t like.

-Bringing critical opinions forward presents a whole and balanced person.  Not someone full of eternal praise

-A negative element of an otherwise good work should be called out.  A person can love something that isn’t perfect and acknowledging flaws is part of a full discussion

-The things I didn’t like may help a crowd of people who like those elements find a new favorite.  What I didn’t like might be something you love about a book

The Outcome 

This conversation is more personal than the other #bebold articles because I present as a positive person.  Get to know me better and I’ll spin out into a rant on X or Y and I like to think it’s funny.  People laugh, whether from the shock of me going from sunshine to dark in a blink of an eye or because I have a strong delivery, is hard to tell.  The thing is, I like to read a room before sharing, and you can’t read a room in the internet.

Unlike the “silence is approval school” I’m from the “if you have nothingnice to say, then say nothing” school.  I’m sensitive to even small gestures of disapproval in others and worry over their reactions if they find out I don’t enjoy their favorite show.  In the past, I’ve compromised under the guise of kindness.  I post all reviews to Goodreads but don’t make blogs from bad books.  Recently I’d considered writing a bottom 5 books of 2018 and dismissed the idea.  Three of the books were from a single author and it struck me as excessively mean spirited to single out an author this way.  

 I’m dipping my toes into critical reviews while blogging.  First, I wrote a post on why I stopped reading Daily Science Fiction.  It’s not mean, but it expresses that I didn’t like the site or most of the stories on offer.  My 2018 book year in review shares both positive and negative thoughts on books.  Even then, most of my critical feedback revolves around non-fiction books that present bad/dangerous science.  I feel like giving them lower scores is a public service.  Do your research world!

  I wrote a critical review on a writing class I took.  There I spoke out because I’d paid money for the class.  If it had been free, there would be no post. The posts gathered the low end of average views.  

Currently I’m brainstorming a series of posts called “Writing Cliches” where I discuss overused techniques in genres and why they bother me/what else you can do.  I think it will be snarky fun with a goal of helping writers avoid played out scenarios and offering other ways to move the story. 

Should you write a critical post?  I don’t really know.  

  I love reading critical posts where the writer explores what worked, where they suggest how idea x could come across better, or where they pitch a “better” story.  Occasionally, I even enjoy a certain level of mean snark.  That said, I’m not comfortable with the format.  Even as I enjoy consuming some of this style of content, I prefer to create the helpful, glass half full kinds of posts.  More than the other posts discussed in this #BeBold series, I suggest moderation.  A few critical posts go a long way after all.  

Looking for more like this? Try the other #BeBold posts “Posting Metrics” and “Sharing Fiction for Free

New Year’s Resolutions: Would a Writers’ Group Help?

 

image from openclipart.org by j4p4n

Welcome to January’s resolution time!  Two weeks is enough time to reflect on 2018 and decide what you might want in 2019 right?  That’s right, I’m talking writers’ goals!  It’s that fun and dreaded time to commit to completing story X, writing Y amount of words a day, seeking and learning from critical feedback, improving weakness C in your writing, ect.  What’s your writing resolution(s)?


It’s been a year since the North Alabama Writers’ Group posted in this blog, and I opened our first post with New Year’s Resolutions.  It seems fitting that 365 days later, I offer a reminder that a writers’s group can help you reach those goals.  

Why Join a Writers’ Group?  


People join writing groups, classes, and programs for many reasons.  I think the two primary reasons to join/meet is:


-Improve writing.  We are looking for someone to suggest skills and styles we don‘t have.  We may need proofreading.  We are looking for others to help us past writer’s block.  Or maybe we just need another person to tell us we’ve “jumped the shark” or lost reader’s interest. 

 
-Motivate us to keep writing.  A constant struggle whether a hobby or full-time is to keep writing and maintain commitment to the one project.  We may love that work as we’ve loved nothing else in our lives, but it is difficult to keep working on it and striving for completion.  Whether you struggle in the first draft or the second, there is a point where you think “I can‘t do this, no one will see what I’ve done as I do and that‘s the best gift I could give my creation”.  A group either through feedback or encouragement helps us get through this struggle of sorrow and ambivalence.  They help push us.  


A third, perhaps lesser reason to join a writers’ group is to become part of a community.  Writing is a lonely journey.  It’s nice to get together and speak to others who have the same struggles and maybe the same thought process.  

Are There Different Writers’ Groups?


Yes.  Some exist to work together on group projects.  Other’s give out weekly assignments, like a class, and they ask everyone to produce something from a related theme.  Still others are more open and each writer pursues their own project, sharing as they are ready.  In some writing groups, no one shares any work at all, they gather to commiserate over the process and perhaps hold brainstorm sessions for each other.

Can one writers’ group accommodate all these different goals?   

Maybe?  In the North Alabama Writers’ Group we struggle to balance differing expectations of our growing group.  It’s hard because all writers go through periods of low creativity.  Writers also have varying temperaments and accommodating everyone at one meeting can be a challenge.  

To help with some conflicting desires, sometimes it’s good if a larger group breaks out into sub groups.  We do this at meetings when those who would like to take part in our blitz round robin break off from other writers who would prefer to discuss their own ongoing works.  
We always allow time for those who want to read their recent works aloud to share, but we force no one to read out loud.  

We have multiple online spaces.  Google document sharing happens between writers looking for more structured commentary.  This blog is a space for general writing conversations and topics we may not always explore in the face-to-face meetings.  Our Facebook group allows for link sharing in a less formal format.  

That’s great, but this post should tell me how a Writers’ Group helps me reach my goals!  

A good writers group wants to support each of their writers goals and ambitions whether it’s a hobby or it’s something the person is seeking to pursue professionally.  While balancing different levels of expectation and production is difficult, it’s important you take the time to get to know the people in a group and see if what they are offering will help you in your process.

Do you leave filled with creative energy and the desire to write?  Does the group’s feedback present new avenues for you in your story or future re-writes?  Are you able to co-author works with your group or perform a writing exercise at your meeting that helps get your process started?  Does the group link you out to other writers, editors and publishers and can you grow through networking and differing perspectives?


I can‘t promise that all writers’ groups will help a writer.  And I won’t promise that the North Alabama Writers’ Group is a good fit for everyone, but I would encourage all writers to find a group/person that supports and drives them forward.  You may have to create the content in solitude, but you don’t have to travel through the whole journey alone.

Looking for more like this? Check out: “Stuff I Love About Writers’ Group: Pitch Sessions” or our About North Alabama Writers’ Group page.

My 5 Favorite Reads of 2018

2018 was a wonderful reading year. I beat my goal of 36 books by about 10. 17 of these books were nonfiction and not eligible to make this list. Out of 30 books, these are the top five fiction reads. Starting from least favorite to most treasured read.  For an in-depth look at my 2018 reading check out Books Read in 2018.

image from Goodreads.com

5. Traitorborn–  Has everything I like about “Hunger Games” in it but tells the story in a fresh, compelling way.  My favorite aspect of this series is that there are not “good” characters (at least from my perspective).  Most of the characters, our hero included, have a piece of the solution for their dystopian society and they are also holding on to part of the problem.  It’s refreshing to have a complex group of characters I can empathize with some times and despise other times.  Where so much conversations happening around me are polarizing, it’s nice to read a book that reaches for full open conversation and understanding, without surrendering one’s agency.   For more on this series check out my Kindle Unlimited post.

Image from Goodreads.com


4. Dragon Ridden– Don’t let the cover fool you, this was just fun and well written.  There isn’t any messaging in it, it’s just an immersive fantasy read and sometimes that’s enough.  Pure escapism, a well-developed fantasy world distinct from earth, and a cast of well-rounded characters.  It’s enough. For more on this series check out my Kindle Unlimited post.

image from Goodreads.com


3. End of Days– Dark, thoughtful work with a great balance of action and tense “waiting”.  Left me wondering about the conclusion all the way to the end and it leaves just the right amount open ambiguity to make me think about it for days afterward but still find satisfaction with the close given to us.  I’m sorry “Traitorborn” is on its second book while “End of Days” is a complete series because I think if I could compare the conclusions of both books, it may flip their positions on this list.  Still both books are wonderful.  Sold to young adults but they hold positives for all age groups.  

image from Goodreads.com


2. Card of Chaos–  Complex, excellent execution, everything I look for in the retelling of classic fairytale/folklore.  It begins with humor and ends in affection.  I like how the author draws the reader in and connects us with this strange if familiar world.  Loved the beautiful scenes, the deep philosophy and the language.  It may be my second favorite book of the year, but it’s my first recommendation to others.

image from Goodreads.com


1. The Book of Etta– Enjoyed every second.  I know this is a polarizing book because it explores gender roles, what gender is, and whether sex and gender can be two separate things.  The beauty of this book: it can explore the internal struggle being genderqueer/trans/gay/bi ect  often brings and ignore all the political bullshit that’s happening in our own world.  Here we can enjoy a human vs self moment.  We can see all the factors in the book which exacerbate the struggle and rail against them without hating our own culture.  Sometimes the call to action in a book can cut short a person’s thoughtful introspection, but The Book of Etta lacks this baggage and I’m beyond grateful.  Where the first book took a premise, I didn’t feel was true but expounded on it in a way that pushed me to read on, Etta felt right from the first words.  I knew Etta, I’d been Etta, and I sometimes still am Etta.  I knew Flora and have been her too.  Heck, there was a part of me that felt like I’d been Alma before and that I knew her.  The beauty of this book is that it allowed me to feel and it allowed me to celebrate so many aspects of who I am as a person.  Everyone will have a different time reading it.  But, it’s the jewel of my 2018 reading list.  


Happy New Year!  What were your five favorite reads of 2018?  Was your reading list similar?  Do you have any recommendations for me?  What are your reading goals for 2019?   

January Open Calls for Submission Round Up

Jan 13th 

Grump Old Gods: 3,000-4,000 words “We’re looking for stories about mythical Gods who are waning, reborn, retired, or otherwise AWOL from their assigned post.”  speculative fiction pay is royalties

Jan 15th 

Electric Spec: 250 and 7000 words “speculative fiction elements. We prefer science fiction, fantasy, and the macabre, but we’re willing to push the limits of traditional forms of these genres” pay is $20

Would But Time Wait (New England Anthology): 4,000-6,000 words “Ulthar Press is seeking original, unpublished short stories for an anthology of folk horror with New England ties, scheduled for release at Necronomicon-Providence in 2019. For the purposes of this project, we are defining folk horror as horror literature in which the present (in the story, not necessarily current day) collides with the history, folklore, traditions, and psychogeography of a region. The term “folk horror” came to prominence in describing a subgenre of film represented best by the “unholy trinity” of Witchfinder General (1968), Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) and The Wicker Man (1973). In general, themes include:” pay is $75 flat

Slice Magazine: up to 5,000 words “The theme is “Birth.” All submissions during that time will be considered for Issue 25, which will be released fall 2019.” pay is $250

Outlook Springs: Flash and short stories “Send us your weird, wobbly wordwork: fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. See genres for specific submission guidelines,”pay is $10 for flash and $25 for short stories

Jan 18th

Superior Shores Press: 1,500-5,ooo words “The Best Laid Plans, which will include stories of mystery and suspense with an overarching theme of “the best laid plans” pay is$25 flat fee

Jan 20th 

War of the Worlds : Absolute War: 4,000-20,ooo words a lot of details on this but basically looking for same universe as “War of the Worlds” a different take on the invasion or prep for the invasion pay is 5% gross profit

Enchanted Conversation: Fairytale, Folktales & Myths: up to 2,000 words “explore the different aspects of love set within the fairy tale, folktale, or mythic templates. Work can either be re-tellings of established stories or use original characters. Be bold, traditional, lyrical, or experimental in your storytelling and enchant us with stories set in a variety of locations around the world and time periods from ancient to modern.” $10 flat rate

Jan 27th

Monsters Out of the Closet-Gothic: length varies “From haunted manors, repressed secrets, and horrifying leaps of science and faith—this episode celebrates the tradition of Gothic literature and film.”  pay varies based on length but is at least $.01 a word

Jan 28th 

Our Write Side: Steampunk short stories: 3,500-10,000 words “Steampunk began as a literary genre loosely inspired by the real or imagined cultures, events, and technologies of the Industrial Era. It can take various forms, from an alternative history, to a dystopian future, to a complete fantasy world untethered to our sense of time and space. In more recent times, Steampunk has leaped from the pages of books and into people’s lives in the form of special events, elaborate costumes, and dedicated “sports.”” pays a percentage of sales