When To Open Your Story Up To Critique

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As always, writing advice is subjective;  do what works for you.

But early on in my writing endeavors, I read a book that changed the way I thought about drafting and receiving critical feedback on my work, so I wanted to share my method…

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What Part Are You Good At?

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I have an important question to ask you writers on this rainy (if you’re in the tri-state area) Monday…

What part are you good at?

Here is my great curse as a writer:

I’m really good at climaxes.

And that’s not just my own personal opinion. My readers tend to agree: “Once I got to the climax, I could not put it down!”

And the weird thing is, I tend to not have to draft the climaxes millions of times, like I feel like I do with the rest of the novel. They come together pretty quickly for me.

But that means there are other parts I’m less good at. Such as: middles.

I’m terrible at middles.

Especially the beginning of the middle. I’m in the middle of yet another first draft and I’m past the inciting incident, which means I’m just now starting the dreaded middle. I’m trying to build the characters, up the stakes, seed in all the important elements for the climax, all while maintaining the voice of the novel, and of course, continuing to up the tension.

It’s hard. And it’s getting … saggy. There’s so much to put in while also so much balance to maintain. Between action and characterization, voice and tension, foreshadowing, but not too blatant foreshadowing … like I said: hard.

I get through it by telling myself it’s the first draft and I’ll fix it later. But it bugs me that drafting the majority of my story is this hard. I wish I could just skip ahead to the climax–and sometimes I do, jotting down these scene and that one in a fit of excitement–but in general I’ve found that if I don’t write in a somewhat linear fashion, that means way more editing later, because things change so much throughout the drafting process.

It could be worse. I could be terrible at beginnings. Beginnings I’m generally considered pretty good at–not amazing at the way I am climaxes, but good. (After several drafts, of course.)

It’s important to be good at beginnings, because no one is going to read on if they don’t like your beginning. But it’s also important to have a good middle. You can lose a reader with a saggy middle. And then it doesn’t matter how amazing your climax is; the reader’s not going to get there if the other parts aren’t up to par.

Some of my favorite writers and books of all time (ahem) have fantastic beginnings, middling middles, and meh-ish endings. Of course, the best books ever are amazing the whole way through. And that’s what I’m striving for: amazing the whole way through.

So how about you? Are there parts you’re particularly good at? Bad at? Do you have tips for me on getting through the middle? I’d love to hear…

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Writing Tip: Read in Your Genre, BUT…

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I wrote about one of the most important writing tips of all a little while ago: the importance of reading in the genre you’re writing in.

But I forgot one big caveat of this.

I’m currently on a YA fantasy book kick, because I’m currently writing the first draft of my first-ever YA fantasy. And it’s been pretty great; I’m now on this amazing book and enjoying every minute of it.

But I found myself doing something not-so-great yesterday.

In the throes of drafting, I was despairing that my current first draft will never be good enough. I have either too much description or not enough, there’s not enough tension, there’s not enough character development, the protagonist isn’t strong enough, etc.

And all throughout my despairing, I was thinking about the best-selling YA fantasy I’m currently reading. Why won’t I ever be that good?!?!

And then I realized: I was comparing my very first draft with someone else’s finished product.

Comparison of any kind when it comes to your work generally isn’t a good thing. Chances are, someone out there will be able to do something better than you, whether it’s writing beautiful sentences, setting a scene, weaving a brilliant theme throughout the brilliant dialogue, etc.

I get it. It’s hard not to make those comparisons. But comparing your first draft to a published novel? Not only is that not a productive use of your time, it doesn’t make any sense. Because that published novel has likely been revised and rewritten dozens of times. And you’re on pass #1.

Feeling like you’re not good enough can be discouraging verging on crippling. When you feel crippled, instead of writing, you’re spending your time despairing over your lack of talent. Don’t do that. If you think you’re not good enough, sit back down and write until you are.

So. Read in your genre, learn from the great writers–but never, never compare your work-in-progress to a published author’s finished work.

Here endeth the lesson.

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