The Critique Circle Blog All things related to the writing craft Getting the best out of submissions and critiques. -- by - 25 Mar at 02:32 3/25/2017 2:32:00 AM “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” – Winston Churchill<br><br>Let’s start with what it means to critique someone’s writing. You may see many definitions of the word but the one we’ll take for our purpose is from the Merriam-Webster dictionary: PREINFORCE: the Proper Care and Feeding of a Good Foreshadow -- by - 13 Mar at 01:12 3/13/2017 1:12:00 AM The art of foreshadowing requires a skill for thinking backwards every bit as much as thinking forward. In fact, to be really effective, the actually event you are foreshadowing should be fully established in all its glorious minutia before you go back and sprinkle in all of the supporting details. The process of adding in those details on a later pass is what I call "preinforcing." Like all good words, it means precisely what it sounds like &#8212; you are reinforcing in advance. Burying clues along the way that do not look like clues. Revisiting the 7-Point Story Structure -- by - 4 Mar at 01:56 3/4/2017 1:56:00 AM I knew I needed to learn how to structure a plot.  I bought several books, but none of them really helped.  There was all of this talk about the difference between a plot and a story, and lists of the classic plots, and so forth.  None of it stuck.<br><br>Then I started listening to Writing Excuses, a weekly podcast hosted by authors Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal and Howard Tayler.  The podcast referenced Dan Wells’ 7-Point Story Structure on YouTube.  Five short ten-minute clips of a single lecture, and I beheld the elusive mystery of Plot! Writer's Block -- What's the Big Deal? -- by - 23 Feb at 00:58 2/23/2017 12:58:00 AM Writer's block is like a forest fire.  Sometimes it's best to let the fire burn itself out.  In places like Yosemite people went to a lot of trouble to put out naturally-occurring forest fires to "save" them, but we have since realized that naturally-occurring forest fires have been burning unchecked for precisely as long as there have been nature, forests, and fire.  Nature adapts; fires are part of the process, letting new growth access to sunlight and other arboreal sciencey things.  It's the whole Circle of Life jazz.  Interfering with it just futzes it up.<br><br>Same with writer's block. How to Critique Diverse Writing: A Practical Lesson in Tolerance and Acceptance -- by - 15 Feb at 00:57 2/15/2017 12:57:00 AM People need to know how to respond to the unknown, how to work past their personal discomfort without sounding like something they probably don't want to be known as—a bigot.<br> The Malleability of Myth -- by - 7 Feb at 00:03 2/7/2017 12:03:00 AM The great tales tend to be open to reshaping. But how far can we go with this sort of adaptation, and still claim to be retelling the original tale? How much stretching and twisting can a given story take before it becomes something else altogether? Finding your Way Into your Character’s Experience -- by - 29 Jan at 00:19 1/29/2017 12:19:00 AM “You can tell nothing... unless you are in that condition yourself.” This quote from author Stephen Crane sounds on the surface like the familiar saying “write what you know.” But underneath it’s really different.<br><br>I’ve read some published short stories and novels that depicted experiences I’ve had myself, but the depiction didn’t “ring true.” It was clear to me that the author hadn’t had the same experience and didn’t really understand it. In other stories, the depiction does “ring true”: I am able to recognize myself in the character, and the author really managed to capture what an experience is like.<br><br>I don’t think the difference is always because the authors in the second group really had that specific experience. I think it’s also possible to write about experiences you haven’t had yourself, or about a character who is very different from you. The Missing Mentor -- by - 19 Jan at 01:29 1/19/2017 1:29:00 AM The wise old mentor is a staple, not only in fantasy, but in all kinds of stories. From a narrative point of view, though, these mentor figures are rather an inconvenience – which is why they so frequently go missing. Finding Your Vein As A Writer -- by - 26 Dec 2016 at 01:13 12/26/2016 1:13:00 AM “My plot is stuck.”<br>“I don’t know what the characters do next.”<br>“What’s the point in writing?” The Life Of Writing -- by - 17 Dec 2016 at 00:05 12/17/2016 12:05:00 AM The secret behind the sentences even just one word we write. How much one word can change the reader's life? How can a story become a hero to a person? Historical Novels - How Accurate Do You Have To Be? -- by - 8 Dec 2016 at 01:15 12/8/2016 1:15:00 AM Destinni paced the floor of her ancestral manor. Did Captain Rick FitzHazard, the only man she had ever loved, swing from the gallows like the pendulum on her father’s clock? Or — she pressed her hand to her lips — had he escaped Cromwell’s hangman?<br><br>Sadly, we’ll never know. But we can be clear about the shortcomings of this English Civil War epic. For one thing, nobody in 1640s England was called Destinni. Being An Author -- by - 2 Nov 2016 at 00:46 11/2/2016 12:46:00 AM I'm excited to start blogging about writing…the in's and out's of the process. If you are thinking about being an author, I hope you find my “writing” blog useful to you. There could be days, perhaps like today, that are meant to give you background only, but there's always the chance it may trigger an idea for you. Writing Tools -- by - 26 Oct 2016 at 06:45 10/26/2016 6:45:00 AM With almost seventy percent of Americans wanting to write, one would think there would be far more tools out there. It has taken some time to find the best.  Let me save you some time and effort. Small Stories against a World Frame -- by - 11 Oct 2016 at 01:22 10/11/2016 1:22:00 AM Ideas are everywhere. You just gotta know where to look. Another approach to storytelling is to tell small stories against a world frame. Are Writing Conferences Worthwhile? -- by - 4 Oct 2016 at 01:26 10/4/2016 1:26:00 AM "Conferences provide a wealth of information, everything from fine-tuning your craft, to getting the details right, to publication and marketing. They are absolutely worth your time and effort, and if nothing else, they reinforce that you are not in this alone." A Circuitous Path to Word Smithery -- by - 27 Sep 2016 at 01:30 9/27/2016 1:30:00 AM Somewhere in my parent’s house there’s a photo album. Most likely there are several. But this one in particular is one of those fancy padded types with a soft cloth cover; white with a floral pattern, pink frilly trim and one of those plastic windows in the front that seems to have lost its transparency over time. In that album there’s a photo printed from honest to goodness thirty-five millimeter Kodak film, and faded to a pre-Instagram, natural sepia. That photo is of a little boy. His lips are pursed in a tight begrudging smile signaling to all that he’d rather not have the camera pointed in his direction. He’s holding one sad red balloon by its string in the muggy warmth of a Washington summer. Building a Conversation -- by - 20 Sep 2016 at 00:58 9/20/2016 12:58:00 AM A dialogue scene has to perform some function in the story, or it shouldn’t be there at all. But it also has to be realistic—it has to sound like the way people talk. It has to flow the way real conversations do. How can we achieve both things together—story function and plausibility? How to avoid angering your readers -- by - 13 Sep 2016 at 00:35 9/13/2016 12:35:00 AM Likely as not, readers won’t blame your characters for the jarring roller-coaster ride of emotion they’ve been on, they’ll blame you, the author. So why risk it? Because who wants to be on a roller-coaster with no twists and turns? There are countless reasons why readers might choose to hate an author, and many of them can be chalked up to poor writing and editing, unrealistic event and characters, too much or too little detail, etc. Here I will discuss the things that writers do on purpose, the plot devices that can make or break a novel. Collaboration can motivate -- by - 6 Sep 2016 at 02:50 9/6/2016 2:50:00 AM I think collaboration at any stage of the process can be useful. It brings a certain level of accountability to the activity, and that's useful. I think, though, the more important aspect is the constant feedback and dialog between peers. Repetition: A bubonic plague -- by - 26 Aug 2016 at 00:40 8/26/2016 12:40:00 AM The problem is repetition. Repetition seems to be the bubonic plague of CC, deadly, contagious and of epidemic proportions. To be damned by its simple existence. Creating Distinctive Characters -- by - 16 Aug 2016 at 04:58 8/16/2016 4:58:00 AM Currently I’m reading a novel in which the characters do not have distinctive features except for their names, ages, races, and their actions in the plot. The plot is well developed, but to me the characters feel flat. The novel is fairly successful—often readers don’t care about characterization if there’s a good plot and fast pace. But many readers want more: they want characters who seem like real people. Pain and Writing -- by - 19 Jul 2016 at 00:11 7/19/2016 12:11:00 AM The first thing to slow the flow of words is the literal pain in the neck which I carry around as a daily challenge. Think of a mild migraine headache which started some five years ago and hasn’t let up since. If I listed all the things I've tried in that time I would double the word count for this post. Let's just say, if you've thought of it, I have tried it. Before The Query -- by - 10 Jul 2016 at 01:04 7/10/2016 1:04:00 AM Lynn Petroski’s excellent post on developing a list of agents to query made me realize there were a few things a writer should consider before starting the process. Knocking Out Your Manuscript With the Pomodoro Technique -- by - 3 Jul 2016 at 00:10 7/3/2016 12:10:00 AM Trying to write a novel but your attention span won't comply? Consider giving the Pomodoro technique a shot. Writing Hiatus - It's Okay to Take a Break -- by - 26 Jun 2016 at 00:04 6/26/2016 12:04:00 AM I have a confession to make: I really haven’t written anything in the past month. I’ve sent out a handful of query letters and received a few rejections so far, but I haven’t worked on any creative writing. And you know what? That’s okay. How to Intensify Your Story's Conflict (Without Being Cheesy) -- by - 19 Jun 2016 at 00:11 6/19/2016 12:11:00 AM In every meeting of the main hero and the main villain, there must be an intensification of the conflict, and the reader unconsciously expects each successive round to raise the stakes, with more on the line, more injuries received, and more suspense achieved. The problem for the writer is: How do you intensify the conflict? 'Moneyball' Movie and The Hero's Journey -- by - 12 Jun 2016 at 00:40 6/12/2016 12:40:00 AM Moneyball is the perfect example of a non-genre fiction story that uses the Hero's Journey, and proof that the oldest tropes are the best tropes. The movie's plot follows the Hero's Journey TO A TEE. (Golfing weather is back, too. Woohoo.) Pronoun Publishing Versus Createspace/Kindle -- by - 5 Jun 2016 at 00:50 6/5/2016 12:50:00 AM Pronoun was announced to National Novel Writing Month winners last November. It is a free distribution hub to Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Apple and Google Play. It’s easy to set up your book with them, much easier than Createspace/Kindle, but... About Literature And Other Demons -- by - 29 May 2016 at 00:56 5/29/2016 12:56:00 AM I've often mused on why people write, what it is they hope to achieve through literature. After quite some reading, I've come to a few conclusions myself. What I'm Trying to Say. -- by - 22 May 2016 at 01:58 5/22/2016 1:58:00 AM The theme of the story should be as solid as the story's plot. If it's not as strong as your plot, then your story can't sustain itself. What you should do is think about what you're going to "say" in your story while planning the story in your mind. For me, nothing's important as what you're "saying" in your fiction. Learning From the Greats -- by - 15 May 2016 at 01:15 5/15/2016 1:15:00 AM Are you familiar with the mantra ‘learn from the greats’? Are you, like me, wondering where all these blog posts sharing this knowledge have gone to?<br><br>I’m sure there are fiction bloggers out there who are doing this, but I haven’t come across them. Have you? (Please share!)<br><br>So, I thought I would give it a shot. If you've ever wanted to know more about technique, this blog may well uncover some secrets you should know. But be warned - this is only part 1. Writers Can Help Themselves Get Lucky -- by - 8 May 2016 at 01:16 5/8/2016 1:16:00 AM This post is about writers who make it, the ones who find the magical combination of timing and the right eyes and whatever else it takes to make it - you know, the writers who get lucky. Writing Habits: The 90 minute Sessions -- by - 2 May 2016 at 01:15 5/2/2016 1:15:00 AM Take at least an hour & thirty minutes (90 minutes) a day to write. Did I hear somebody in the third row say "90 minutes? But I can't spare that kind of time to write my paranormal romance novel in a month with just 90 minutes a day." Yes you can. The case for adverbs -- by - 25 Apr 2016 at 02:44 4/25/2016 2:44:00 AM I would never have believed that it would be necessary to make such a case. But there is a prejudice abroad in CC, one without validity or justification in my humble opinion, one that is applied with confident censoriousness and seemingly never questioned. It is time to make a case for the defence. On the Internet, who knows if you're a dog? -- by - 18 Apr 2016 at 02:43 4/18/2016 2:43:00 AM Anonymity and the Internet is a tricky topic for writers because it can get highly technical. In most cases, if you're asking yourself if your character can be anonymous the answer is 'it depends.' Whether or not your character (we'll call her Alice) can remain anonymous really depends on how badly their opponent wants them not to be. With that in mind, here are some real-world tools that people use to protect their privacy online, and what exactly those tools do. Why I write -- by - 11 Apr 2016 at 03:49 4/11/2016 3:49:00 AM "People often ask me why I’m so determined to write everything down.  What is it about writing that keeps me glued to my desk for hours and days at a time? I had to stop and think. Is it because I enjoy expressing myself with words?  Is it because I have an instinctive talent for writing?  Or is there a deeper reason?   My answer is&#8212;I write because I must." Frequency and Echoes; Redundancy and Repetition -- by - 4 Apr 2016 at 03:56 4/4/2016 3:56:00 AM In the course of critiquing more than eight hundred stories, I've found myself often mentioning four major writing issues: frequency, echoes, redundancy and repetition. Moreover, it has become clear how often my own stories suffer from the same obstacles to clean, clear, concise and succinct writing. Want more crits? Five Tips for Beginners -- by - 28 Mar 2016 at 03:00 3/28/2016 3:00:00 AM It's one of our favourite topics for discussion: how to attract more critique partners. We just love debating all the different reasons, which are many and varied. However, there's one thing most of us seem to agree on more than others, and that is readability. So, once you're out of the newbie queue, how do you turn that cursor hovering into a click-read-and-crit? How to Gather a List of Agents to Query -- by - 21 Mar 2016 at 03:03 3/21/2016 3:03:00 AM I've known all along that I wanted an agent. I know I have to expect to be passed on often enough to need a list of agents to query. And I've heard the old axiom, "Read in your genre, and find the agents of the books you like." I did. That gave me the names of three agents and two are dead.<br><br>But I never asked how to find that list until I needed one. Drama, Drama, Drama! -- by - 14 Mar 2016 at 02:55 3/14/2016 2:55:00 AM What a lot of writers don't understand when starting out is that there is more to it than the mere pedestrian experience so often offered within a story's narrative via mundane, lackluster details. There doesn't need to be boring bits between the exciting bits, and I'm not talking about writing fast-paced action scenes on every page, either.<br>Closer attention to syntax can help deliver on a more dramatic reading experience for the audience. Where the action has lulled, the composition of the sentences can create tension between the words themselves, and set the tone for events yet to come. Indie Publishing: My Success Came Slowly -- by - 7 Mar 2016 at 02:53 3/7/2016 2:53:00 AM I never thought success would happen to me, and to be truthful, I just wanted to see my book in print. When I decided to publish on my own, I thought I?d learned enough from forums, blogs, and books to equal a bachelor?s degree in independent publishing. Still, I felt I was exposing myself as an idiot, that day in 2012 when I hit the ?publish? button on the Kindle Direct Publishing website. Three years later, I think I?ve surely accumulated enough knocks to equal a Ph.D. Taking a Pledge To Write a Crappy First Draft -- by - 1 Mar 2016 at 02:54 3/1/2016 2:54:00 AM The different ways to get your story finished on the first try without worrying about writing rules, and giving an idea of what writers experience after NaNo Omniscient and POV -- by - 23 Feb 2016 at 01:29 2/23/2016 1:29:00 AM The difference between POV and an omniscient narrator. RULES! Rules! ruuuuules! Confused by All the Rules? -- by - 16 Feb 2016 at 00:16 2/16/2016 12:16:00 AM But the most important thing to remember is that you must know the rules before you take the liberty of breaking them. YOUR Secret Weapon ? And Other Tips For Better Book Writing & Blogging -- by - 9 Feb 2016 at 00:16 2/9/2016 12:16:00 AM This applies a little differently to your books. Your book is you, but it?s not. You aren?t a murderer, or a sex maniac, or an alien from planet Zena, but you may have to play one in your book ? and that stuff?s all made up. Four Things To Do With Negative Reviews (And One Thing Not To Do) -- by - 2 Feb 2016 at 00:04 2/2/2016 12:04:00 AM Pop quiz time.<br><br>What do the following things have in common?<br><br>Traffic jams<br>Fish in the ocean<br>The full moon appearing every month<br>Negative book reviews<br>If you answered they are all certain to happen, then you pass! Finding that novel novel idea -- by - 26 Jan 2016 at 00:04 1/26/2016 12:04:00 AM "That sounds like a book I once read." You?ve all heard it and it puts a damper on any enthusiasm you?ve grown for your literary creation. It might be gratifying if they speak of style and execution, but who gets flattered by being told their work is unoriginal? Words - The Writer's Building Blocks -- by - 12 Jan 2016 at 01:09 1/12/2016 1:09:00 AM The most basic element of writing construction is word choice. For the writer to convey his meaning to the reader he must choose his words carefully and use them accurately. Wired for "Wired for Story" -- by - 5 Jan 2016 at 01:11 1/5/2016 1:11:00 AM A review of Lisa Cron's book, subtitled: "The Writer's Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence" Five ways to immediately improve your writing -- by - 29 Dec 2015 at 01:09 12/29/2015 1:09:00 AM Two years ago, I read Jack Bickham?s Elements of Fiction ? Scene and Structure. The concepts made sense but as a new writer, I couldn?t absorb it all. I re-read the book after finishing over seventy-five percent of my novel?s first draft, and I understood more techniques and tools based on this experience.