When signing up to be a critique partner, it’s important to consider where in process a writer may be and tailor the advice to where they are and what their goals are. Today we’ll go over 4 kinds of writers I’ve discovered and some characteristics that may help us dig deeper into where they are coming from.
The Share and Share A Like Writer
In process with a first draft.
May be excited to share something.
May be stuck and looking to bounce ideas.
May still be working out the characters/concept/elements of the manuscript.
Probably has minimal editing or polish—and is not in a place to receive major refining feedback
The First Draft Sneak Peek
The manuscript has a beginning, middle, and ending.
May have a vague sense of short comings in the work and need help pinning them down.
May have an acute sense of short comings in the work and need brainstorming to correct.
May be “too close” to the manuscript and seek the distance of fresh eyes.
The Middle Draft In It To WinIt
The 2nd or the 72nd iteration of a work. Writers have completed major story building aspects of a manuscript and are working on polish.
Major structural edits are complete. The order of the manuscript and all the major scenes are settled.
Character arcs are set and ready for review.
The Hybrid Writer
May or may not have a complete manuscript.
The manuscript has some level of polish and revision, but the writer is not able to move on yet, they are in a seeking or consideration process.
Most easy to identify this manuscript because of it’s inconsistently applied polished some section will be in progress, others will be a first draft stage, while other sections may appear as a finalized manuscript.
What do you think? Do these groups cover all the different kinds of writers you know? Are there other traits your recognize or other details you think critique partners should look for?
Stay tuned and next week we’ll go further in depth with suggestions for what to critique or not for each of these stages of writing!
A beta reader doesn’t have to be a writer. They evaluate a manuscript strictly from a reader’s perspective. They may earmark an area of concern (like a critique partner) but they may lack the toolkit to help suggest corrections. It’s best to give a beta a middle draft or final draft for evaluation, since this will be closest to the product readers consume and they provide an early view of how a larger group of readers will react.
Critique partners, as fellow writers, are available to help trouble shoot during more phases of a writing process and are able to better evaluate what the concern areas might be along with solutions.
easy to say “I want to write a novel” or “I want to be a blogger” or even “I
want to grow my following” and it’s much harder achieve these goals. Today, I want to talk about how to set and
Have a clear image of what a successful end would look like. Today’s end goal will be “I want to complete my first draft.”
Create a deadline. For example: “I want a rough draft at the end of the year.” My “big goals” are always end of the year goals. Thinking ahead more than a year makes me sad and anxious. It’s too big and there are too many places where the plan could go awry. You have to find your own large goal sweet spot. Maybe you’ve got what it takes for the five-year plan or maybe you only want 30-90 days.
Create goals and timelines for each chunk. You might use your story arc to create these goals. Like if you have a three act story, you want to spend 3 months writing the intro 4 months writing the middle and 5 months writing the back third. Or you might break the book by chapters and decide to write 2-3 chapters a month. Personally, I use straight word counts, but everyone will have their own organization.
Identify any stumbling blocks in achieving your goal. I can type about 1,000 words an hour once I get into a groove. What holds me up is research.
Create a way to move around the “hard parts.” To succeed in my plans, I need to limit my research or mark-up areas where I’ll need to verify or detail out in a second draft (if I even keep whatever scene it is). Besides that, I need to set a timer when I start researching. No more than 45 minutes of impromptu studying. Any more time needs to be scheduled and accounted for.
Schedule time to meet your goals. I can’t write my rough draft every day. Instead, I’ve scheduled time each week to write and I stick with a weekly word count goal. My goal is 3,200 words a week. To reach my goal I’d only need to write about 2,700 words a week, but I’m setting up a safety net with a larger goal. This way if my story is longer than I thought or if I fall short some weeks, I could still finish my project.
Actually block out the time you plan to use each day/week/month and keep a reminder near you. Trying something new? I recommend that at first you give yourself double whatever the amount of time you think you need. If that’s too much time awesome!
If double the time doesn’t complete your task, relax. Your experience is normal, don’t be discouraged. I recommend backing off your yearly goal and just spending a month recording your process. How far do you get in each writing session? How long are the sessions, are shorter or longer spurts better for you? Are there times of day that make writing easier? Use this self-knowledge to create a more realistic plan and goal for you. Remember if at first you don’t succeed; you just need a different plan!
While most Kindle Unlimited authors are independent authors, there are a lot of wonderful traditionally published writers too. Charlie N. Holmberg is one author offering her work through Kindle Unlimited and winning the game.
I found Holmberg through Followed by Frost a take on the Ice Queen fairy tale that borrows elements of the original fairy tale while creating a new story. Her lyric descriptive writing and the characters she explores through her writing drew me in.
Later that year I read Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet and thought to myself “this style is a lot. it reminds me of Followed by Frost.” Turns out Charlie N. Holmberg wrote both. Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet is my favorite of all of her works to date. It takes the fun elements and themes in Followed by Frost and brings them to their largest showcase. There are several fairy tale character references. Marie explores some same territory Smitha did, though the characters approach the themes from two different personalities. At the core of all the action is an emotional and ethically based.
This year I’ve returned to Holmberg’s work and read Smoke and Summons and Myths and Mortals. Her writing continues to grow and evolve in ways I appreciate. These worlds hold the same completing characters but the live in a unique imaginary world that’s well thought out. Holmberg fleshes out the world and magical system in a way that feels seemless and effortless to readers (though the writer in me knows how hard it is not to shove in an exposition dump). Myth and Mortals ends with a cliff hanger I did not appreciate, but I enjoyed the whole so much, I’m looking forward to Siege and Sacrifice.
Holmberg is a fantasy writer to keep an eye on and I’m not the only one who appreciates everything her stories offer. Disney picked up the rights to Paper Magicians.
Unlike other pics for my Kindle Unlimited Series, Holmberg has her share of attention and some may ask why I highlight her. Truly, I enjoy her work and perspective. I see a lot of what I’d like to do in what she’s doing and I think our writing goals are similar. It’s hard not to look at someone succeeding in a way I want to and not mention her.
Take Aways from Charlie N. Holmberg’s Success:
1. Pretty and descriptive elements of a work can be a successful stylistic choice. Often readers and writer discuss how today’s market is over-saturated and we need to jump into the action right away. This suggests short prose that lack a singing quality, but Holmberg balances movement and description. Write out the description for the first draft and look to the second draft to balance pacing. The market doesn’t require brusque hops from action to action for success.
2. Traditionally “feminine” characteristics and emotional story lines work in fantasy writing. When readers/writers think “fantasy” genre we often think an epic scale battle and escapism. Holmberg’s works create personal emotional investment and often lack an epic “world in peril” element. The characters’ worlds are at risk, but the universe will be fine if these characters die or fail. There’s a market for emotional small scale fantasy, there may even be a demand for it.
3. Everything doesn’t have to be “sexy” or sexual in someway to create tension. Something I love regarding Homberg’s works is the way she can build tension without ever resorting to sexual tension. Yes some of her characters fall in love and face the traditional “do they love me back” dilemma but it’s never overblown. The characters set this controversy aside when mortal peril intervenes. They confront attraction when it keeps them from meeting their goals and they either embrace a relationship or move past rejection. Relationships in her books feel real, organic, and warm, not an element existing to drag out the plot.
4. Using fairy tale references in a work appears to either be popular or to help bolster a works attention or not hinder the work’s ability to reach a large audience. As a writer who uses a lot of myth and legend in my writing, this encourages me.
5. Take your time and perfect your story. Holmberg is very open regarding how many stories she queried before getting traction with “Paper Magicians.” The first or second book you write might not be the one, if you publish traditionally. For indie authors it’s more a message of “don’t be disappointed if your debut novel doesn’t break records.”
6. Have a posse of like-minded writers to bounce ideas off of. Holmberg is part of a Deep Magic e-zine that looks to create “clean fantasy.” Working together with other writers to keep your themes out in the public eye will help find like audience and also is a great service to other writers in the same genre. If you’re an Alabaman local, might I suggest our North Alabama Writers’ Group Meeting?
How many times have I heard someone gushing over their own prose? It’s vomit inducing and leaves me self conscious for most of my day.
I’m not talking about jealousy of another writer’s work, no, I am talking about the real envy that comes when someone seems to enjoy writing. I always took a small measure of comfort in the belief that all writers are masochists.
Setting aside personal time, staring at the blank screen then counting the number of blinks the cursor makes before you type in the next vowel felt necessary.
Then, all of a sudden, I’m confronted with johnny types-a-lot whose sparkling grin,stretched ear to ear, becomes the ultimate slap to all my masochistic endeavors. This wasn’t a tormented soul that gets up every morning, resurrected, to hoist themselves on that black and white cross.
Confronting that early in life sort of gave me the writing jitters. I clammed up at the keyboard, wondering if my pursuits were flawed, or if I was working against something that was innate in others.
Could I be doing this all for the wrong reason? Was I addicted to an aesthetic, a lifestyle of the sagacious old writer in twill concentrated on each pen stroke?
I hate twill, however, I love to be “tormented.” I sought that tortured artist motif and used it as a crutch to avoid my responsibility as a writer. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean I am unfettered from the struggle of writing, but at least I identified the thing that keeps me from producing. It is so easy to give in to the thrill of production and a day or nights work with actual atrocity. I could be alone in this, but if by some chance you feel this way, I’d advise taking a stronger look at the way you approach coming to the keyboard.
Can mitigating martyrdom help eak out a few more paragraphs? I have been approaching the whole thing in measures. I always want to get a certain number of words for each sitting. If I go over or under, then that is not a loss of my time. The real loss is when I sit on my hands and bemoan my own tortured time plugging away at my latest edition of “Zach, tortured auteur.” Now, I use a simple mantra, “find my time, find my place, find my mindset then write.
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.
Rick Polad shared What’s in a Name? It inspired me to create my version. And since we both admit we’re crap at creating names (well he struggles, I admit I’m crap at it), I figured I’d steal his title to keep with the theme…because I don’t want to waste time creating another title not because I couldn’t.
It’s content that matters right? Except if your title or name sucks, no one will ever get past it and into all the good stuff, which can leave writers stuck. Even people good with names, can feel stymied by the pressure applied to first impressions. Bland titles that don’t search well in Google or Amazon.
I have a few thoughts. First don’t use character names that start with the same letter in a single story. I know Polad speaks about using Rose and Rosie as two different character names in the same work. I’m thrilled it worked out for him. As someone with dyslexia it wouldn’t work out for me as either an author or a reader. Those two names read the same on a casual glance. Figuring out the characters are separate and keeping them separate would slow my reading down to a snail’s pace. I might need to make notes. So don’t make your characters’ names so similar please.
I go one further and try never to use names that start with the same letter. People skim, they don’t read anymore. I don’t want to confuse anyone kind enough to read my work with names that tangle different characters together into one person.
I also suggest using one name for a character. I’ve read a lot of books where halfway through characters develop nicknames that are either shorten versions of their full name (i.e. the author tired of writing the full thing out) or the character develops a random pet names. It’s annoying to keep track a bunch of different names. Use one name even if it’s not the real name have everyone call him Snake or whatever. There is ONE seriesofbooks where the author used nicknames to her advantage. In it she has the main character name those around her after their predominate traits. It works because it helps us get to know her main character and because the main character’s insistency on these nicknames ends up forcing other characters to adopt them. The nickname that uses the character’s defining trait becomes how everyone addresses the guy formerly known as Bob.
I’d like to tell you not to make the name ridiculous, but I use outrageous names all the time. What I will say is that it’s a balancing act to make names unusual and other names more standard. Consider when a name might be too on the nose or when one person has a unique name in a sea of bland.
And Now Helpful Resources: First is Behind the Name If you’ve got a theme, this site will fill your queue with potential names. You can search through meanings, country origins, and genders when hunting for names. All of this can be a sly nod to a reader or something meant only to tickle the author. My second favorite site is the Fake Name Generator. Ashley, in writers’ group, gave me this site and now I’m sharing the love. Identity genorator offers “believable” if you are looking for that living in the real world vibe. Fill in the specifics you have and let the site give you the rest. It’s an interesting creators’ tool.
*Edit 11/7/18 I just found Reedsy has a interesting detailed name generator that offers names for Villains, heroes, mentors, and side kicks. Or names specific to fantasy races, or names bases off of certain languages. I still prefer Behind the Name, but Reedsy’s resource has too much possibility to exclude.*
Next I recommend a writers’ group or series of peers. Ashley gave me a name for one of my characters and she let me know another’s name isn’t “too on the nose”. Having outside feedback is key to getting into a potential readers’ mindset.
Last, when all else fails, I bang the keys of my computer and see what rises from the gibberish. I like grabbing scifi names this way. Talk to me. Do you have trouble creating names for people and places? Do you have tips, tricks, or favorite sites to help? Any other thoughts on what not to do when naming a place or person?