Saturday, January 25, 2014

Challenge Yourself: Critique Groups

I had a try-out, of sorts, for a local critique group today.

That probably makes it sound weird. It wasn't. They invited me to their group to see how they work, then asked me some questions at the end (and I got to return the favor). Overall, I think it went well, and I hope they invite me to join. It seems like a good group. The process, of course, got me thinking about writing groups and critique groups.

How many writers out there are members of such a group? What benefits do you get from it? In turn (and more importantly, in my opinion), what do you bring to the group?

The group I might be joining comprises writers who write in a variety of genres. I think that's better than a group dedicated to one particular genre. (YMMV on this one; I acknowledge that it's personal preference.) I've mostly written mysteries for the last few years. In that time, I've also read a lot of them. However, the publishing world is populated by people who love all genres, and those who challenge genre conventions. Reading works that differ from what I would normally pick up exposes me to a wider variety of styles, word choices, scene structures, etc. Every genre has its conventions. If I read something for the group that takes my outside of my reader comfort zone, if you will, then I think that ultimately benefits me as a writer.

There should be something to learn in every book or story we read. That includes the ones that are outside our usual preferences. If we challenge ourselves as readers (and critiquers), then I think that expands our bags of tricks as writers.

Consider joining a critique group. You might find yourself challenged, and that's a good thing.

Happy writing.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Happy 2014

It's 2014. Do you know where your stories are?

Hopefully, they're on your pages, e-pages, or on a bookshelf somewhere. 

In my last post, I talked about setting realistic writing goals for yourself. It's common for people to come out with all manners of New Year's resolutions around this time of year. I'm only going to share two of my writing-related goals here (for now).

1. Update my blog more often. Ten posts in 2013 is not enough. I'd like to update this at least biweekly, and potentially more often depending on what I have to say.

2. Have something published. This would include the traditional route or self-publishing. I've written a lot. I've revised a lot. I need to get off my hindquarters and get something out into the marketplace. That's a goal, and a strongly-worded one. Feel free to word them as strongly as needed to motivate yourself. Curse at yourself if you have to. Whatever works.

We'll check in on these goals (and maybe some others--remember, you need to write your goals down or they're just ideas in your head) throughout the year. For now, I want to leave you with a quote I saw today.

"If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it." — Elmore Leonard
Formal writing is for college papers and nonfiction. People speak colloquially. Dialogue shouldn't be stilted. Your narrative should sound natural, not . . . well, not "like writing" as the great Elmore Leonard said. 

I hope everyone has a good 2014. What are your writing goals for this year?