4 Kinds of Writers’ and When They Share Their Work

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 Win It

  • 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!

What is a Critique Partner?

A critique partner is a writer with whom one shares and critiques work on a regular basis. This process isn’t the same as co-write stories, because the manuscript isn’t written by both writers, but they should have overlapping ideas and motifs.  A critique partner often influences one’s writing in ways beyond the feedback shared because they can be a person one springboards ideas or troubled areas off of.  They have an inherent understanding of the writing process, which makes them able to offer specialized insights others may lack.

It’s common for writers to become each other’s critique partners, where the two writers exchange manuscripts for feedback.  Because the writer is often both the person receiving feedback as well as providing it, this series attempts to cover both sides of the giving/responding to feedback process.

Feedback is Not a Review

  • Whether a writer needs a critique partner or a beta reader, they are a trusted person within a writer’s circle.
  • They speak directly to a writer where a review speaks to other readers.  
  • They should treat a writer’s work with respect.  Acknowledge wins and suggest correction when pointing out areas to improve.
  • If one can’t provide constructive criticism, it’s appropriate to thank a writer but explain the manuscript isn’t for you.  No further explanation is required.

Head Hopping

Chris is writing a novel in the first person perspective and he realized while working on it, that he could not tell his story only from the main character’s viewpoint because there are scenes happening a reader needs to see but that his main character isn’t present for.  

I wrote a book with close third-person narration from the perspective of my protagonist, Roxi, and antagonist, Gerry.  I struggled to alternate perspectives in a way I hope fulfills a reader.  

This past year I read  The Numia Series where Charlie N. Holmberg uses first-person split perspectives to tell her story.  In the first book I found it annoying and unwanted because I didn’t care about or like Rone.  He was not compelling, and his chapters didn’t seem necessary.  In the third book, Rone had his own story, and I thought to myself “have I been reading his junky perspective this whole time because I’d need it in this part of the story?”

So yes, I want to talk about split perspectives.  How does a writer divide time?  How much do you need so a perspective change doesn’t feel random or lazy but thought out?  Do you need to follow a pattern like every other chapter or every other scene?  Is it hard to follow split perspectives or a good shake up? 

Some basic “rules”:

  1. Use chapters to change perspectives, the pause can help to alert readers to a change.  
  2. If one needs to change perspective mid-break use ***** or a similar line break to alert readers when they are switching perspectives aka “head hopping.”
  3. Make the two characters feel like separate people.  They have opposing views of what’s happening.  Don’t just head hop for a better angle on the action, make it a whole different take on what’s happening.  Maybe the characters are so different they don’t even agree on what’s going down in the scene.  

Now onto the tricky things: 

  1. Is it lazy to head hop?  I mean, should writers use a single voice to tell a story instead of “cheating” and using an otherwise unused perspective to give the reader information the main character doesn’t have.
  2. How often does a writer have to head hop?  Can I tell a 30 chapter story and have all the chapters be from a single perspective except for one?  
  3. Does every chapter have to change perspective?
  4. Can I change perspectives mid-series?  Using the Numia and Kingmakers’ War series here.  Could Holmberg have cut Rone’s perspectives from the first two books and only introduced it in the third book when it was relevant?

None of these questions have one simple answer, but I’d like to explore some thoughts in further posts.  Meanwhile, share your opinions.  Do you like a single or multiple perspective?  What voice(s) do you write in and does it line up with your taste in reading?

Bells and Whistles: Habitica for Fantasy Writers

Habitica is a free online site (and phone app because everything is a phone app right now) that allows you to write goals and track your progress.  Like all progress trackers, Habitica gives users satifaction by checking off completed tasks and clearing a dashboard.  More than just checking a box, the site gives the user points that allows them to customize and build a small fantasy character.  Doing dishes or completing a writing goal isn’t just exciting in its own sake, now your little character can level up to achieve better armor or a better attack.  While “gamifying” work can appeal to anyone, I thought the fantasy character nature may appeal to fantasy or scifi writers.

 

There are three styles of habits one can write.

 

“Habits” or goals that a user strives to repeat daily or 2-3 times a week.  They are important but the user doesn’t want to be penalized if they don’t get around to completing these things every day.  Instead the habits will color coat, suggesting how good a person is at completing them but not setting anyone back if they don’t get to an item every day.

 

“Dailies” are mandatory tasks that renew each day.  If you DO NOT complete them, they will negatively impact your little avatar.  This is a more carrot/stick method of goal planning where completing the goals gives your character great bonuses but forgetting to do them too often will lead to your avatar passing out.

 

“To-Dos” are one time, one-day style tasks.  Finishing them is epic, but there’s no set timeline on getting to them and there is no need to repeat the tasks.

 

How I use Habitica as a writer

While I first used Habitica for the “Dailies” section.  Forcing myself to either “put up or shut up,” I find it’s healthier for me to use the “Habits” and “To-Do” sections.  It makes me less likely to micro manage my time or fill up my goal list with things I KNOW I will complete so I can collect the points.  Checking off boxes and making plans makes me feel good and sometimes I’ll make a ton of plans instead of working on anything.  Habitica enables this kind of behavior, so if this is you, beware.

 

I use the “Habits” section to suggest things I like “check social media X for X amount of time,” “respond to 2 people in y forum,”  or “write x amount of words this week.”  Habitica can also be a reminder system.  It helps me remember to focus on general life or well-being items outside of writing specific goals.

Sometimes Habitica is just a tracking system.  If I am trying to decide between projects I wanted to work on, I might create a habit for each book/story and see which one I checked off the most.

 

I planned to use the “To-Dos” to manage all my creative writing ideas, but it’s unnecessary.  I’m excited about all my story ideas and can just keep a running paper list.  I jump into creative projects without problem.  Instead my “To-Dos” fill with ideas for blog posts and suggestions regarding what to edit next.  This way when I schedule time to write up blog posts, I don’t waste time wondering what topics to cover.

 

Overall, Habitica has helped me stay organized and focused as a writer.  While any list could do this.  There is extra incentive to do well when there’s a cute little avatar face staring back at me asking for the next couple points to level up.  I realize this won’t work for everyone, but if you’re in a rut, it might be worth trying.

 

Talk to me!  Do you use any habit trackers in your writing?  Do you use a planner at all or does all structure repel you?  How do you feel about deadlines and goals when it comes to your writing or creative process?

 

Looking for more productivity and planning goodness?  Check out my 2019 Goals Review. I’ve got a post on my 2020 writer’s goals, how I’m tracking those goals, and I have some advise on how to plan a rough draft for aspiring writers.

Goal Planning Advice: Getting Through a Rough Draft

It’s 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 achieve goals. 

  1. 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.”
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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! 
  8. 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! 

Can you trust my advise, see for yourself. Here’s my 2019 goals and my 2019 results.

Looking for more content like this? Check out my 2020 writer’s goals, my 2020 planner system and Habitica, a goal system that may help you track your own progress.

Writing Prompts for Fors Fortuna

Queen of Hearts public domain via publicdomainvectors.org

Introduction: 


This series of posts has simple goals: provide some basic history on a holiday/event from the past and use that history to spring board potential writing prompts and themes. For some, the history on its own will be enough to come up with some story ideas.  For others, I offered some starting points with themes, scenes, and possibilities I see for the holiday at hand.  


Happy writing and please share a snippet or link to your inspired works ^_^ I’d love to read them.

History: 

Fortuna is the Roman Goddess of fortune (both good and ill).  Her name translates to “she who brings.”  The common people and the slaves found her cult appealing because she offered an escape from poverty.  They offered small works of bronze to her in hopes she would “change their fate.”  Her popularity extended to the Middle Ages where Saint Augustine wrote “How, therefore, is she good, who without discernment comes to bother the good and to the bad?…It profits one nothing to worship her if she is truly fortune…let the bad worship her…this supposed deity.” (except from City of God).  

Her popularity preserved her image.  They depict her with a ship’s rudder, a ball or Rota Fortunae (wheel of fate) and a cornucopia.  In ancient times they sometimes represented her as veiled or blindfolded, but these associations where handed over to Justice in the modern era.

Very little lore or worship knowledge remains of Fortuna’s holidays.  I suspect that the popularity of the commoners, that kept her imagery and idea in circulation long after the fall of Roman aristocracy but we’ve lost her rituals and lore somewhere in their oral traditions. 

Fortuna’s rein included Roman leaders.  One of her aspects was the Fortunat Publica (the official good luck of the Roman People).  On April 5th this term meant “everyman’s luck” and how each man has his own access to his fate (male idea).  But it had reaching impact on Roman leaders.  Fortuna in this guise became chance events tied to the virtus (strength of character), so public officials who lacked this virtue invited ill fortune on themselves and all of Rome.  

On June 24th (or perhaps Midsummer), a celebration on the anniversary of her temples’ completion took place.  Followers would float downstream on decorated boats and barges (or walk along the river) from the city to Fortuna’s temple.  When at the temple they would drink, play games of chance and place bets.  Scholars believe this was a holiday filled with mirth and joy.  

As the day closed, followers would row back home drunk and adorned in garlands.  Some speculate that Fors Fortuna was sacred to gardeners and florists.  They would go into market on this day with songs and prayers for Fors Fortuna and those celebrating her day would buy the flowers to decorate themselves, the boats, and her temple.  Minimally, it seems a lucrative time for gardeners and florists.  

Sources: 

Wikipedia org

Britanica.com

thaliatook.com

latinata.com

Writing Prompts

1. We all have lucky habits or superstions that bring good/bad luck to us.  Write a story that incorporates these newer superstions with the older practices of Fortuna.  

2. Luck is an ambiguous term.  Some people believe it’s the capricious nature of life and others believe one “makes their own luck”.  Which way do your characters lean?  Write an event that changes their minds.  

3. What would a character look like with maxed out luck stats?  Would that mean they had good or bad luck?  Would their life be full of extremes?  Would they have a relationship with Fortuna or another luck goddess?  Write an origin.  

4. Are casinos and gambling spaces modern shrines to Fortuna?  Would a day playing poker or roulette mirror the joviality said to happen on the 24th?  And if a casino is Fortuna’s temple and “the house always wins” what does this say about Fortuna and her relationship to her worshipers? 

5. How would Fortuna judge a modern leader’s virtus?  Or any leader’s virtus throughout history?  Does she have a hand in the rise and fall of empires or has she slacked on her duties? 

6.Fortuna’s name means “she who brings,” it’s an evocative start to any story.  What has she brought you or your character?

7. St Augustine makes an interesting implication in his writing regarding Fortuna.  He implies to be a god one must be “good” or at least to be a god worthy of worship one must be “good”.  But Fortuna, like God is capable of good and ill.  She has a code where the ill she offers men comes from their own weakness, much like the God Augustine worships.  Explore this dissonance further in a fictional story.  

8.  In her time, Fortuna was a lesser known, less powerful goddess, yet her name recognition today is stronger than many of the more common gods of the time. “Wheel of fate” is still a common expression.  What themes transcend time and space?  Write a story set in the future, the present, or the past and connect it to far-flung time relatives.  OR connect a theme across species.

9. What happened at the temple on June 24th?  Write “A Day in the Life” story regarding the celebration or worship. 

10. Did Fortuna ever change someone’s fate?  Write a “rags to riches “story.

Enjoy these prompts and looking for more try my post with prompts for Midsummer or Matralia

Churn and Burn

Prismatic gears from Public Domain

My fellow writer Zach Stanfield wrote “Addicted to Torment” where he discusses his struggles to produce a cohesive story.  It’s an interesting glimpse into one writer’s journey and I recommend looking at his personal struggle to get words on the page.  

Like him, I plan to confess my “writer’s flaw”.  

I am the Johnny-types-a-lot of our NAWG group.  If you measure success in words on a page alone, I am the rapid pace rabbit you’ll hound.  I churn and burn words like a binge drinker pounds back shots.  And like all those party people, I care about the quality of the words on the page about as much as they care about the brand of vodka in their drinks.  

So when we come to writers’ group and go around the circle asking “have you written anything?”  

I can say “Yeah I sat down for three hours and pushed out five thousand words, I’m a thousand words away from resolution.” or “I sat down this weekend and wrote ten thousand new words on my novel.”

The looks I get—the surprise alone—I feel like I will turn into Kanye West.  “I am a creative genius and there is no other way to word it.” 


Lol.  I do not want to debate Kanye West’s claim, but I will say my claim to creative genius carries minimal weight.  More words means I have more editing to do than my peers do.  Over half of what I write is scrapped in the second draft. 


Take my efforts in Follow Me: Tattered Veils.  I wrote an 80,000 word first draft.  The second draft is 73,000 words and about half of those words are brand new words I designed for the second draft.  Of  the original 80,000 words, readers may see what 30,000 of them (and those also needed intense edits)?  


This doesn’t count story boarding or deleted scenes. To get that 80,000 word first draft, I have about 30,000 words in scenes no one but me ever read.  I needed to write those scenes, but as the manuscript evolved, I realized they couldn’t serve the story.


I can hear some people saying “You still came out of that with a novel.”  and yes, that’s true, but I would not say the volume of words I string together are why I have the novel.  My determination, my grit, my commitment.  These are things you need to have a complete manuscript.  A willingness to try something, anything, if the manuscript isn’t working.  Looking at elements you thought your manuscript would center on and culling them when it turns out those beliefs are wrong.  You need to endure painful change for the sake of creating the best work you can.  Mass producing a million words to a page will not bring a writer closer to the glorified novel.  


I’ll go further.  Writing in quantity forces me to spend a significant portion of time reading and editing my work.  This is time I could have written other things.  Most of my writers’ group has published a short story and I have not.  One reason for this is my obsession with my novel and my inability to write the right words the first time.  Maybe if I stopped and thought more, looked at the cursor blinking on the page as Zach does, I would realize on the first draft “my novel isn‘t going in this direction and these scenes are superfluous.”  


What I’m trying to get at: all writing styles have pros and cons. Inundating myself and others with heaps of words may look impressive, but it’s more bluster than you may imagine.  


Talk to me.  What’s your writing style?  What are your writing goals?  Give me a writing confession! I would love to hear more about others’ process or their current manuscript goals.

When you Love Too Much

by jxj! the total bastard is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0  sourced from CreativeCommons.org

About a month ago, a man robbed my friend and I.  He wanted our valuables, the only problem was, among my valuables was my laptop with draft components of my manuscript Follow Me: Tattered Veils.  


Jessica, a man had a gun in your face!  He was close enough you could have reached out and touched the blasted thing.   What the fuck is wrong with you that your first thought isn’t for your life, or your friend, it’s for your book,” I imagine some of you may be saying. 


Valid point.  Once I confirmed my friend was unharmed, it was the first thing I thought too.


All my training failed me.  As a kid, my parents drilled me to throw my purse at a robber, run, and scream “Fire.”  As a college student my “Self Defense for Women” course STILL recommended the “throw your purse” step, but they followed it up with a karate chop to the neck.


I never wondered “what would I do?”  I knew I would throw my purse and run.  It’s a joke among my friends, how they would defend me and I’ve always said:

“No I’m running.”

 
“You‘d abandon me,” they tease.


“No, you‘re welcome to run with me.”


Que laughter, Jess is a self-proclaimed coward and not in the least ashamed.


It was a shock to learn that the running part held true, but my primitive brain would not relinquish my manuscript.


What does that mean? Who cares about anything that’s not alive so much they will risk their own safety for it?


I guess I have to add vanity to my list of sins.  I love my book.  I’ve said: “I love it more than life, more than loved ones, more than breathing.”  and believed it was hyperbole, but now I have to face whether this is a core truth about me.  Am I so conceited that what I create means more than life?  What responsibilities do I hold if this is true?  


First, I can’t keep drafts without back ups anymore.  If I can’t trust myself to be sane, then I’ll photograph my handwritten notes, same my written copies to the cloud.  Whatever it takes to secure both my manuscript and my friends.


Second, my laptop will have to stay home or I will review my entrance and exit into public space with it.  Yes, cloud backups are fine, but my laptop is an expensive key piece of equipment in my pursuit of publication.  


Third, can I learn to care less?  I know I can’t control how my brain responds to an emergency.  But the correct answer to “Give me all your money!” is NOT “No, and I will leave now.”  That’s not possible. 


The experience leaves me wondering: what does it mean to love writing or my finished writing more than life?  Do I love it too much?  Is there some program for people who are too passionate about their work I should enter?

So talk to me.  Have you been in a life-threatening situation?  How did you react?  Did your reaction times surprise you?  What did you do after?  Do you ever wonder if you love your creative work too much?  Do you consider it a vanity or conceit to hold the work in such high esteem?  What steps do you take to protect your work?

Addicted to Torment


    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.