Archive for the ‘writing’ Tag
Today I’m pleased to be doing a blog swap with Canadian writer and fellow MuseItUp stable mate Chuck Bowie.When you’re finished here, hop on over to his blog to see what I have to say about re-writing.
But for now let’s give a big welcome to Chuck!
Oh, Those Oh-So Predictable Lines!.
By Chuck Bowie
‘Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.’
You’ve had that first sniff at success, be it a completed story or a published novel and now, armed with confidence, you open a blank screen and begin:
‘It was a dark and stormy night.” So far, so good. That familiar ring upon re-reading those six words suggests you’re onto something, so you proceed. The words flow, and you get your thousand words on that first day, and it feels good.
That evening, watching one of those Sunday evening movies, you put on your writer’s cap and analyze each scene as it unfolds. You nudge your partner. “Behind the door is the librarian. She’s gonna be holding a gun!” And Lo! That is exactly what happens. With a tone of admiration, your partner says “I can’t wait until your story is written. You won’t be as predictable as this show, right?” And you nod your head. Of course you won’t.
The next day, you write another thousand words, and by Friday, you have five thousand words in your story. It’s very exciting. On Monday, you begin the day by reviewing the twenty written pages, and you realize something. Those first six words sound familiar, because you’d read them, a long time ago. From someone else’s work. Concerned, you speed through the paragraphs, noting tired lines, too-familiar lines, and ‘lazy’ lines: the ones you wrote because they were ‘good enough’.
Well, good enough isn’t good enough.
With that having been said, do you throw up your hands and give it up? Should you chuck it and start over? Perhaps. But, hidden within the dross, is there a really fine sentence, or line? Does one (or more) of your paragraphs really push your story along? Does one of your sentences, however awkwardly it was constructed, reveal something true about your character, or the scene, or the description?
Well, then. You now have options. You can begin to fix things, cutting lines like a machete through tangled Amazonian greenery. Or you can, of course, always purge and recreate. Might I suggest a third option?
Writing is re-writing, to coin a phrase. But just before re-writing, is the writing part. That’s where you are right now, staring at your twenty pages of not-good-enough work. If your plot is intact, your characters are unfolding, and your setting has been set, keep on going. Make minor adjustments as you travel down this path, but keep up your pace. All too soon, you’ll get to the re-writing phase. Engineers have this expression: ‘First direction, then velocity.’ Let this be your mantra. Get your plot rolling before worrying too much about details you can refine later.
Unless everything you’ve written is derivative, too familiar or just plain old copied from somewhere. This is not good. Shakespeare says there is nothing new under the sun, but this does not give the writer license to take whatever they want and call it their own. So be tough on yourself, once you’ve entered the rewriting phase.
You may recall me mentioning to keep going. And I also noted there’s not much about the human condition that hasn’t already been experienced (and in some way documented). With these in mind, it is absolutely critical to have an interesting story to tell. If it isn’t worth telling, or if it’s been told to death—and by better writers than you and me—then perhaps this isn’t your story to tell.
Writing is hard work. The average book of fiction takes 80,000 words times twenty re-writes totaling 1.6 million carefully studied words. Do not put yourself through this if you aren’t going to commit to the best possible effort. This includes offering the best plot you can imagine, and a strong re-write can help. Do not, above all else, be predictable. Samuel Johnson wrote the most scathing review I ever read. It went like this: ‘Your manuscript is both good and original, but the part that is good is not original and the part that is original is not good.’
Don’t be that writer.
Chuck Bowie writes international suspense-thrillers from his Fredericton, New Brunswick home. His third novel, STEAL IT ALL drops in paperback this fall.
Today I’m pleased to welcome mystery writer Judy Penz Sheluk to the blog.
SJT: So you hail from Canada, like my amateur sleuth. What do you think makes Canadians stand out from other nationalities?
JPS: I don’t know that we do, or perhaps if we do, we’d rather not, preferring to keep a low profile (although our current Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, don’t seem to be particularly camera-shy!)
Canada, and by definition, Canadians, are changing, especially in the major urban centres, which have become very ethnically diverse. Toronto, where I grew up, has changed dramatically over the past two decades. Once quite one-dimensional, it’s now a huge International melting pot. If there’s a food you’re hankering for, you’ll find the real deal in Toronto, from Vietnamese to Indian and everything in between. I’m not sure if that’s so different from any other major city. Probably not.
I think, though, as Canadians we are often compared with our neighbours to the south, and there is a difference. One thing that always makes me laugh is the way we look at travel. A Canadian going to the U.S. will say, “I’m going to Chicago or New York, or Miami or Dallas.” An American will say, “I’m going to Canada.” Doesn’t matter if that’s St. John’s, Newfoundland or Vancouver, British Columbia. I suspect the same would hold true for travel to the UK. A Canadian would say, “I’m going to London or I’m going to the Cotswolds.” An American would probably say, “I’m going to England.”
SJT: When did you first know you were destined to be a writer?
JPS: Destined? I’m not sure if it was destined, but always knew I wanted to write (although it took me years to do anything about it). As a kid, I used to make up stories in my head all the time. I’d have a storyline going on for a couple of weeks, like a TV series, until it came to an end. Then I’d start another one. I always thought everyone did that. I found out later that’s not the case. Part of it is because I was an only child of very strict immigrant parents (they emigrated from post-war East Germany (mom) and then-Yugoslavia (dad) to Nottingham, England, where they met…and then to Toronto in the 1950s, when they married). They were both teenagers during the war, and I think the memories made them a bit overprotective. Anyway, I spent a lot of time in my room, reading Nancy Drew and L.M. Montgomery, and making up stories in my head. Put like that, I suppose it sounds quite horrid, but it wasn’t. I loved going to my room and sometimes I’d purposely get into trouble so I could go there to be by myself. I still value my alone time. I can be social, but I’m happiest in my office, writing stories, my dog under my desk.
SJT: Who would you cite as your influences?
JPS: Agatha Christie had a profound impact on me. I read every one of her books (including her six romances penned under the name of Mary Westmacott) during my teens/early twenties. I always knew I’d want to write a mystery, when I was ready to start writing.
Truman Capote. His book, In Cold Blood, was nothing short of spectacular. In a time when there were no 24/7 news cycles, Capote captured the horrific murder of the Clutter family, and he humanized murderers Perry Smith and Dick Hickock while doing so. I can remember reading it as a young girl and thinking, “Wow, that’s how you paint a picture with words.” I’ve reread it as an adult, and while it doesn’t pack the same punch today (we’re so desensitized to violence), it’s still beautifully written. One of my favourite movies is Capote, starring the late Seymour Philip Hoffman. Hoffman won an Oscar for his portrayal of Capote and it was well earned. If you haven’t seen it, you must.
SJT: Have you always written mysteries, or have you ever ventured into other genres?
JPS: I wrote a few “literary” stories in the early 2000s. That’s when I first started trying to write and started taking workshops. Three of those flash fiction stories were published in THEMA, a literary publication out of New Orleans. I self published the collection on Kindle (Unhappy Endings) earlier this year.
Once I started to write mystery, however, I never looked back. It’s my go-to genre to read, and reading is the best teacher. I also want to write stories that I’d like to read.
SJT: What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?
JPS: I always quote Agatha Christie when I’m asked this. “There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you’re writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.” It’s the best advice I can offer. If you decide to wait for the muse to pay you a visit, you’ll grow old without a single word on the page!
SJT: Tell us about the new book.
JPS: I’m ridiculously excited by it, and it’s gotten some amazing advance reviews. It’s very different than The Hanged Man’s Noose (my first novel, July 2015), which is told in third person, multiple POV. Skeletons in the Attic is told in first person, one POV. Here’s a brief synopsis:
What goes on behind closed doors doesn’t always stay there…
Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville—a house she didn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.
Callie’s not keen on dredging up a thirty-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose the Barnstable family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?
SJT: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
JPS: I love being outdoors. In the summer, I golf in two ladies leagues. Only 9 holes, more because of time than anything else. I’m a runner. I’ve done four marathons, and a bunch of half marathons, 30ks, 10ks etc. These days, I’m not training for anything in particular, so I’ll run 5k three times a week. You can always ramp back up (though it does get harder as you age up!). I also enjoy walking my ten-month-old Golden Retriever, Gibbs. I’d like to get running with him, but his leash training needs to come a ways first. I’ve had Goldens most of my life. I can’t imagine life without a dog (although I would not miss the dog hair). I also enjoy going to our cottage/camp on Lake Superior in northern Ontario. It’s a far drive from where we live (8 hours) but it’s beautiful and a great place to write while my husband, Mike, does his man cave stuff (moving rocks, splitting firewood).
SJT: What’s next for you, writing-wise?
JPS: I’m currently working on the sequel to The Hanged Man’s Noose and hope to have that into the publisher this fall. I’ve also been asked to write a sequel to Skeletons, so that is a priority. And I’m planning a new series, novella-length. Another mystery series, but a bit more light-hearted. To quote Erica Jong, “When I sit down at my writing desk, time seems to vanish. I think it’s a wonderful way to spend one’s life.”
Thank you for having me.
Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, was published in July 2015. Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series, was published in August 2016.
Judy’s short crime fiction appears in World Enough and Crime, The Whole She-Bang 2, Flash and Bang and Live Free or Tri.
Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers and the Short Mystery Fiction Society.
Find Judy on her website/blog at www.judypenzsheluk.com, where she interviews other authors and blogs about the writing life.
Find Judy’s books on Amazon: Amazon UK
(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)
It’s the end of another month already. Where is this year going?
SUFFER THE CHILDREN is being released (well- re-released) by MuseItUp Publishing on 9 August. It’s available for pre-order now.
SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH, the third Shara Summers novel, will be released some time in 2017.
I made a guest appearance on Barbara Ehrentreu’s blog on 24 July debating the merits of e-books v print books. Barbara wants to do a poll on this topic, and it’s not too late to stop by and post your views.
WORK IN PROGRESS
The WIP is really not going well. I am hoping to have something more positive to say next month.
And that’s about it for this month. Enjoy your summer, and I’ll catch up with you at the end of August.
Today I’m pleased to have on my blog once more British horror writer Luke Walker, to promote his latest release.
SJT: Tell us about the new novel, ‘Hometown’.
LW: A small group of friends who’ve drifted apart since the suicide of another friend come back together after they’re all haunted by her in various ways. When they meet in their hometown to try and work out what’s going on, they’re transported to another version of that town. This side of their city is their friend’s grief, anger and pain made flesh. The group are trapped in this hell and the only way out is to find out why she killed herself. At the same time, the wife of one of the characters is searching for him in this world, unaware that someone else is hunting her.
SJT: Setting is always important to add atmosphere to a novel, and the title of ‘Hometown’ suggests that the town itself is a character. Is the town based on a real-life one, or does it come from the depths of your imagination?
LW: Funny you ask as the town did end up feeling like another character the more time I spent writing the book. Geographically and layout wise, it’s more or less my own hometown. I just amended a few bits to fit the story and obviously made it a nasty, frightening place. For the mood and description of the rundown, burned out wrecked city, I was inspired by the look and feel of the film Escape From New York. Kurt Russell isn’t in my book, of course, but that atmosphere is what I wanted to go for.
SJT: Who’s your favourite character in this novel?
LW: I tried not to have a favourite character as it’s an ensemble piece for the most part. Stu Brennan is the guy who still lives in the hometown and the first of the group to be haunted and realise something is very wrong – he might be the character with the most to lose as his wife is in our world, looking for him, and she has no idea of the threat she and their baby daughter face if Stu can’t get out of the underside of the city.
SJT: Which scene was the most difficult to write?
LW: The reasons for the suicide plotline were obviously deeply unpleasant; I had to go dark for that angle of the story, but I wanted to make sure it was all dealt with as honestly as I could and with the seriousness it deserved. There’s plenty of threat, violence, gore and all that fun stuff but the issue of the suicide dwarfs it all, I think.
SJT: What’s next for you, writing-wise?
LW: I’m close to finishing the edits on a new book called Winter Graves. Once that’s done and it’s ready to submit, I’m either going to look at an older book that was published a few years ago by a now defunct ebook publisher and see about doing it myself, or starting a new book involving a family of cannibals in the aftermath of an alternate history nuclear war. So I’m keeping it light.
SJT: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
LW: I work full time and write a lot so there’s not a lot of time to do much else. If I’m not doing either, then I’m with my wife or friends, watching crappy horror films or trying to wade through my ever growing pile of new books to read.
Luke Walker has been writing horror and fantasy fiction for most of his life. His novel Hometown will be published by Caffeine Nights in July 2016 while his novella Mirror Of The Nameless is published by DarkFuse. His collection of horror fiction, Die Laughing, is also available. Several of his short stories have been published online and in print.
He is thirty-eight and lives in England with his wife and two cats.
HOMETOWN can be found on Amazon.
(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)
It’s been a while since I posted anything in this series of posts. Part of the reason, if I’m honest, is a crisis of confidence. When you have no faith in your own writing, you feel you have no right to lecture anyone else.
However, that sort of thinking is unhelpful, and I’m going to come back to that a bit later in the series. For now, though, it’s time to pick up where we left off in the Ten Commandments of Writing. So you’ve written your manuscript, you’ve polished it until it shines, and now you’re ready to send it out into the world. So what’s next? You have to submit it.
Things have moved on quite a bit from when I first started submitting to agents and editors, back in the 1990s. In those days the submission instructions were fairly standard – the first three chapters and a synopsis, with a stamped self-addressed envelope, which involved spending my lunch hour standing in line at the post office to get my envelope weighed, buying return postage to include on the return envelope before sealing up the package, only to have it land on my doorstep a couple of days later in an envelope with my own handwriting on it.
Nowadays most submissions are made by email, but the instructions can vary widely. Firstly, you have more options, because there are far more small presses out there who are willing to look at unsolicited manuscripts, so you are not restricted to submitting only to agents. But some publishing houses might not want attachments in emails for fear of viruses. Some might have old machines that can’t deal with certain types of software so they can only accept submissions in a certain format. Some don’t like fancy fonts. In the old days of postal submissions, everything was pretty much written in courier or Times Roman. I still write all my manuscripts in Times Roman. It has a bad press in the business world these days, but I have a fondness for serif fonts that are clear and straightforward and easy to read. None of this sans serif font business where a capital ‘I’ and a lower case ‘l’ are indistinguishable (and the font on this blog rather illustrates my point!)
Anyway, here is Commandment #8, and it is important: read the submission requirements carefully, and follow them to the letter, and this is about a lot more than ensuring that the publishing house you are submitting to deals with the genre you write in. Are the instructions asking for the first three chapters and a synopsis, or the whole manuscript? Do they ask for a blurb and the first chapter that must be embedded in the email, and do not under any circumstances send attachments? Do they want the whole manuscript, in 10-point courier font, single spaced, using paragraph auto indents instead of tabs and no page numbers? Then that’s exactly what you send.
Read the guidelines carefully, prepare your submission equally carefully, and double check everything before you hit ‘send’. And then, if you’re anything like me, you check your email box obsessively every half an hour until you get a response.
But at least your work will be Out There, and that’s what counts. Good luck!
(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)
I’m a week late posting the round-up for March. But life keeps getting away from me, and I was also in the midst of confirming some news I wanted to report on.
Edits for SUFFER THE CHILDREN are more or less done, and we’re on track for a late spring release. I’m hoping to be able to confirm a release date soon. I’m expecting late May.
And now on to the Big News. I’ve just signed the contract for the third Shara Summers novel, SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH, and am pleased to be able to say that this novel has moved from the WIP section to ‘coming soon’. Although ‘coming soon’ is a bit of a relative term. Publication is estimated at Summer/Autumn 2017. So about 18 months away. I am looking forward to working with my editor at MuseItUp on this one. I have a feeling there’ll be lots of edits on this one, but between the two of us I am confident we can get it into shape.
I appeared on Eric Price‘s blog on 7 March as part of a blog swap sharing writing tips. I was talking about what I learned during the process of writing my first published novel.
WORK IN PROGRESS
I am now working in earnest on the new horror novel, which still doesn’t have a title. I’m referring to it as the ‘urban explorers novel’ because this is who it features as main characters.
There’s plenty to keep me busy here for a while. Catch you at the end of April!
Today I’m delighted to be doing a blog swap with fellow MuseItUp author Eric Price. When you’ve finished reading his post here, hop on over to his blog, where I’m talking about the learning curve I experienced with my first published novel.
WELL, I WON’T DO THAT AGAIN
By Eric Price
When I set out to write my first novel, all I had written were some short stories, a couple newspaper articles, a few lesson plans, and some failed attempts at poetry. I wanted to try my hand at something longer, so I wrote a stand alone novel with the potential for developing it into a series. After several revisions, and a few rejection letters, I did a major rewrite and introduced a secondary character I intended to write as a main character in a future book.
Well, MuseItUp Publishing gave me a contract for the first one, which eventually became UNVEILING THE WIZARDS’ SHROUD. My intent was to take some time off from the world of Wittatun and develop some of the other story ideas first, but my new character, Yara, kept calling to me, and I had no choice but to proceed with her book. After taking much longer than anticipated, it finally became THE SQUIRE AND THE SLAVE MASTER, also with MuseItUp Publishing. Now, as I struggle with the third and (I’m almost positive) final volume of The Saga of the Wizards, A Wizard Reborn, I think I know what I’ve done wrong, and hopefully I’ve learned my lesson.
Anyone who hasn’t written a book would probably think after writing a first draft, revising it countless times, rewriting it, working through it three times with the content editor, another two times with the line editor, and reading over it one last time for formatting before it finally gets published, that the author would have every word of the book memorized. I can’t say I know how it works for other authors, but for me…no, there are so many details about my own book I don’t know. I constantly had to refer to Unveiling while writing Squire, and now I’m find myself checking back with both of them while I write A Wizard Reborn. What did we last see this character doing? How did this character die? What is this character’s brother’s name?
Even if I had one of those photographic memories, a second issue that frequents my pages is some minor detail in the earlier book(s) that really throws the proverbial monkey wrench in the works of my current work in progress. I’m constantly saying, “Why’d I do this?” or “Why didn’t I do that?” If this were a major movie franchise, I suppose I could ignore what happened in the previous volumes and move on with the story I want to write. (*Ahem* Yes, X-Men, you’re one of the franchises I’m talking about.) But since they’re books, I feel the need to make them as accurate as possible. A little planning could have saved me a lot of headaches and time.
Speaking of time, this brings me to my final issue. I never seem to have enough time. In my ideal world, I would have had each book of the series release about a year apart. Two years separated books one and two. Time will tell how long it take book three to see the light of eReaders.
About the Author:
Eric Price lives with his wife and two sons in northwest Iowa. He began publishing in 2008 when he started writing a quarterly column for a local newspaper. Later that same year he published his first work of fiction, a spooky children’s story called Ghost Bed and Ghoul Breakfast. Since then, he has written stories for children, young adults, and adults. Three of his science fiction stories have won honorable mention from the CrossTime Annual Science Fiction Contest. His first YA fantasy novel, Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud, received the Children’s Literary Classics Seal of Approval and the Literary Classics Award for Best First Novel. His second novel, The Squire and the Slave Master, continues the Saga of the Wizards. He is a member of SCBWI. Find him online at authorericprice.com.
(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)
February is nearly over, and it has one extra day than usual this year, with it being a leap year and all. The days are gradually getting longer and it’s now still light when I leave the office at the end of the day. It’s still dark by the time I get home, mind, but you can’t have everything.
On with the news.
No more news on a fixed release date for SUFFER THE CHILDREN, but it is meant to be coming out in Spring. Which means some time in the next three months. I’m expecting it to be around mid-May.
I’ve had two guest appearances this month. The first was on Amy McCorkle’s blog ‘Letters to Daniel‘. The brief was to write a letter to a hero who has changed your life in some way. So I wrote to Stephen King, who turned me on to writing horror.
I then had a guest post on Lay Lalone’s blog about why you shouldn’t listen to your English teacher.
WORK IN PROGRESS
SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH, the new Shara Summers book, is nearly finished! I know I’ve said that a few times, but this time I am confident I’m on the final draft. Now I just want to get the damn thing finished and submitted, so I can get back to writing the new horror novel, which has been languishing in a ‘barely started’ first draft stage for ages.
I’v got a busy month coming up in March, including my first convention of the 2016 season, the Sci Fi Weekender in Wales. Join me next month for the low down on how it went!
(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)
There’s this misconception out there that writing is a glamorous life, and that writers just rattle off a novel and sit back and let the money roll in. This misconception is enhanced by the media, which focuses on writers like J.K. Rowlings, E.L. James and Neil Gaiman, and how much money they’ve made.
It’s true that all of these people have made a good living from writing, but sadly they are the exception, rather than the rule. The BBC published an article in 2014 stating that the average full-time writer was now earning £11,000 a year, which was well down on the last survey done nearly ten years earlier. Significantly, the same article also points out that the number of UK writers working full-time had also dropped quite dramatically – from 40% to 11.5%. Every time I get a royalty statement, I get depressed. If I were to add up all the royalties I’ve received since my first novel got published six years ago, it still equates to a sum that’s less than what I earn in a month in the day job.
I know a lot of writers for whom writing is their full-time job. Most of them have a supplementary income, whether it be their partner’s income, running writing courses, or something else like an inheritance, investments or rental income. Not many of them would describe themselves as ‘well off’. Most are just about managing to get by.
Whatever your reasons are for writing, you shouldn’t be doing it for the money. By all means fantasise about being a full time writer, and maybe you might be able to make it work, but don’t go handing in your letter of resignation to the boss as soon as you get that first novel contract.
So there’s the myth busted about the fortune. What about the fame? There’s a famous quote out there – and I don’t know who it originated with – that says that it takes twenty years to become an overnight success. There are a lot of writers out there, competing with a limited reading public. I have a fantasy that I’ll meet someone at a party one day and upon hearing my name they’ll say, “oh yes, I know you. I’ve read one of your books.” It hasn’t happened yet. Maybe, if I keep on churning out the novels, I might get to that point by 2030. By which point I’ll be almost ready to start drawing my pension!
Write because you want to, write because you need to. But if you want fame and fortune, marry a footballer or a supermodel instead. It’ll be far less painful in the long run.
(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)
It has been some time since I posted one of The Ten Commandments of Writing. I am returning to this series today with the Sixth Commandment – Thou Shalt Heed Thy Critiquers.
I’ve been running The T Party Writers’ Group for over 20 years now. Various people have come and gone over the years. Some people have stayed for a little while and then moved on; others have been with us so long it’s hard to imagine a time before they joined.
Then there are others who came once, for a critique of their masterpiece, who threw a tantrum when one or two members dared to suggest that perhaps this piece needs some improvement, instead of heaping effusive praise on it, and then they flounced off, never to be seen again. Just a tip – don’t be this writer.
The other end of the scale is the writer whose work receives a ritualistic flaying during a critique session, and they get so depressed they shove the work in a drawer and never finish it. I admit that this latter category has applied to me once or twice.
Sending your work out to a critique group takes courage. You have spent months or possibly years on your novel, sweated blood for it, gone through the usual rollercoaster of feeling alternatively like you’re an undiscovered genius or a blatant fraud, and now you have to sit there while a group of people take it in turns to tell you how ugly your baby is.
However, it is something that every writer has to learn to deal with. A common mistake that many self-published writers make is that they don’t get their work sufficiently edited. There is only so much a writer can do with their own work – you get too close to it to see the full picture. You need someone who’s not involved in it to give an honest critique.
That’s why it’s important to have beta readers and critiquers. People who will tell you honestly, and frankly, what needs improving. The problem we have in our group, though, is that for everyone who says ‘I didn’t like your character – she’s bossy and annoying’ there’ll be someone else who says, ‘I love the way this character argues with everyone and stands up for herself”.
There is a balance between listening to all the criticism and not listening to any of it. If you belong to a regular critique group you’ll get to know after a while which writers are on your wavelength, and which ones are genuinely interested in the genre that you write in. If you write cosy crime, for instance, you’ll probably find that the critique from the person who reads a lot of cosy crime is more relevant than that from the person who only reads hard SF.
On the other hand, if there are six people looking at your work and five of them make exactly the same point, it’s worth heeding it.
So this is today’s lesson. Find critiquers. If there is no ‘realspace’ writing group in your area, join an online critique group. Or start a group of your own (well, it worked for me). Once you have found them, submit your work to them and be prepared to listen when they take the time to read and comment on it. And be prepared to get your heart broken, because it’s never easy to accept criticism of your work.
But the only way to grow as a writer is to understand where you need to improve. No writer is beyond editing.