The Critique Circle Blog All things related to the writing craft Openings, Hooks, And All That -- by - 12 Jun at 03:18 6/12/2018 3:18:00 AM We all strive to write first sentences that are good enough not to cause a readers to snicker. But if it exists, a first sentence that convinces a reader that the author is a great writer and that the book is worth reading has eluded my radar; just about every opening sentence I've seen was nondescript, even though the paragraphs they began were sometimes spectacular. That is why I decided to devote some time searching for a genuine hook and also to try and answer the question, Does anyone who can write a good opening paragraph really need to fret over hooks? <br><br> Finish What You've Started -- by - 14 May at 03:14 5/14/2018 3:14:00 AM For the past three days, I’ve inched away from my notebook and pencil after writing up my latest chapter a few days ago. Aphantasia and Writing -- by - 30 Apr at 02:01 4/30/2018 2:01:00 AM Close your eyes. Picture a beach, or a scene from one of your favourite books.<br><br>For most of you this activity involves seeing an image. Some will have hyper-detailed images in front of them, others will run a wide spectrum of “image quality”. I see black. Character versus Characters -- by Jon Goff - 15 Apr at 00:36 4/15/2018 12:36:00 AM I've read books where I've been taken up and down on an emotional roller coaster of triumph and despair, and feel exhausted, but good at the end of the book... Each writer must choose themselves what they want their writing to accomplish. Are you writing simply to titillate or shock? Are you writing to make people question their preconceptions? Are you writing to be edgy and push the boundaries? What is it you're trying to accomplish? The Big Brawl! -- by - 31 Mar at 00:51 3/31/2018 12:51:00 AM Conflict can come in many different forms. From Michael Keaton battling his substance abuse in Clean and Sober to the battle between the Caped Crusader and the Ultimate Hunter in the DC Comics/Dark Horse Comics crossover Batman vs Predator. Whichever way you put it all drama is conflict, it stands in the way of the protagonist accomplishing his goal. But it doesn't have to be limited to a single conflict: it comes from within and without. The protagonist might have to face obstacles that are arranged for him by his opponent and from within himself. Is my Critique truly a Critique? -- by - 17 Mar at 01:40 3/17/2018 1:40:00 AM The suggestion to write this came from a fellow critter after we discussed a revised version of his wonderful story. It had been posted on CC three years ago. The six critiques he received didn’t convey much about the story and, though he didn’t say it, were disheartening. That is not to say there wasn’t useful advice, it was just so difficult to unearth. Working With an Editor (parts 1-5) -- by - 3 Mar at 00:16 3/3/2018 12:16:00 AM The difference between professional critiques and those by fellow writers sharing the trenches with you are important.  Fellow writers in groups or with whom you swap chapters or manuscripts are often motivated by the promise of receiving a critique in return.  The natural state of most writers is to want to receive feedback on their own writing rather than give feedback on someone else’s.  For most writers, giving feedback is the cost you pay to get feedback. Which means that most of the feedback you get from fellow writers could be tainted by the expectation of something in return. Inward Journey of a Critter -- by - 21 Feb at 00:48 2/21/2018 12:48:00 AM Over the past few months I have the opportunity to observe writing as a form of self-expression, and to understand the stylistic preference of each writer as a reflection of their psyche. Source for Creating Characters: Yourself. -- by - 9 Feb at 00:33 2/9/2018 12:33:00 AM When creating characters for your stories the greatest challenge is making them "real". Personality traits. Flaws. Character tics. Take your pick. But did you know you can add something really cool to your characters...Yourself. Story submission simplified and a few other changes -- by - 31 Jan at 00:55 1/31/2018 12:55:00 AM We've recently made some changes to the Critique Circle website we want to tell you about. Please feel free to discuss the changes in the thread. The Master Contriver -- by - 20 Jan at 01:25 1/20/2018 1:25:00 AM Some stories—especially comedies—include a character who seems to have the job of making sure everything comes out right in the end. We can call them the Master Contrivers. A Contriver naturally falls into the niche of the benevolent uncle or aunt—a kindly older person who isn’t typically a player himself, but an enabler of other characters’ fulfillment. In a comedy, it’s reassuring to have someone around who can be trusted to untangle all plotlines to a happy ending. My Reward for Being a Critter -- by - 6 Jan at 01:19 1/6/2018 1:19:00 AM At the end of every year, I have a tradition of looking back to see what I have done, the steps that I have taken, the joys and pains that I have experienced, etc., before I close the year and welcome the new one into my life. On the strong recommendation of a good friend, I joined Critique Circle late this year. If I were to summarize in one word what I have gained from this platform, I would say growth. How To Survive a Writer's Workshop -- by - 27 Dec 2017 at 00:33 12/27/2017 12:33:00 AM Yes, the time is upon. As we lay in our beds at night pondering the weight of the soul and perhaps how we'll surivive the dreaded writer's workshop in the morning, may I be of some assistance? The 5 Commandments — How To Digest and Utilize Constructive Criticism -- by - 15 Dec 2017 at 00:12 12/15/2017 12:12:00 AM Even the thickest-skinned writer will admit that criticism isn’t always easy to take in good spirits. For the newbies, it can be a soul-tearing, heartbreaking process that leaves you questioning why you ever picked up a pen. Another Successful Journey -- by - 4 Dec 2017 at 00:10 12/4/2017 12:10:00 AM It was just over four years ago I began a personal project and successfully brought it to fruition. With every word typed I pondered over what it might mean to others. I questioned how they would connect, or how they might view the project. But I forged forward, and when the last word was written, I knew the real work was about to take place…editing. NaNoWriMo for Newbies (and Newbies at Heart) -- by - 23 Nov 2017 at 06:32 11/23/2017 6:32:00 AM A tepid glass of generic "wisdom" to help propel you into NaNoWriMo with grace and style. Don't say I didn't warn you. Strangeness -- by - 14 Nov 2017 at 00:34 11/14/2017 12:34:00 AM One of the specialties of science fiction and fantasy is to evoke a sense of strangeness. In dealing with the alien, the cosmic, that which is far away in space or time, SF can make us feel we are encountering something that passes the limits of our knowledge or understanding. This isn’t as easy as it looks. Ten Good Reasons to Try NaNoWriMo This Year -- by - 31 Oct 2017 at 02:30 10/31/2017 2:30:00 AM Think NaNoWriMo isn't for you? You might be surprised. It's flexible and will help you develop great writing habits. Learn to take the heat (or get out of the kitchen) -- by - 23 Oct 2017 at 00:45 10/23/2017 12:45:00 AM I used to say that when it came to criticism I had thick skin, but after five years of publishing, it’s become downright leathery. As it should be. Anyone whose work is reviewed or critiqued on a site like this must decide which parts to ignore and which to take to heart.<br> Science and Swordplay -- by - 8 Oct 2017 at 01:11 10/8/2017 1:11:00 AM Since advanced weapons are available in much science fiction—the famous "ray gun" is iconic—it’s surprising how often a fight comes down to the humble, and archaic, sword. Some examples show us how this is justified in a science fiction context, and why authors and readers may be fond of swordfights. Fun Places to Find New Stories -- by - 20 Sep 2017 at 01:10 9/20/2017 1:10:00 AM When I speak to other writers, one of the first questions I ask is, “Where do you get your best story ideas?” Time and time again, my mind is opened to new avenues, like the man who was inspired by war stories at his grandfather’s deathbed, or the young girl who never met an animal whose story she didn’t want to tell.  Improve Your Writing... -- by - 12 Sep 2017 at 01:12 9/12/2017 1:12:00 AM There are three courses of particular notability that will boost anyone’s writing knowledge, even those who are more experienced. <br><br><a title="" href="" target=cclink>Literature of the English Country House</a> may seem, on the face of it, only for those with a taste for classic literature, but you’ll be mightily surprised how much insight this course gives you into the deeper meaning of words and creative writing techniques. The Magic Hourglass: The Writer's Quest -- by - 6 Sep 2017 at 01:07 9/6/2017 1:07:00 AM The glass has been shattered, and the sand has run out. So, fellow writers, hear me out. Stop looking for the bauble that will make time flow within your palm like a river. It doesn't exist. It never has. Narrative and Journalism -- by - 22 Aug 2017 at 02:06 8/22/2017 2:06:00 AM Journalism is about real people doing real things. Often, those real things take them years to accomplish. For instance, I just finished an article about a woman who did some rather groundbreaking cancer research. She has been studying the same thing for over 20 years. That is the kind of dedication that makes journalistic narrative work. Persistence. Meta-reading -- by - 8 Aug 2017 at 02:06 8/8/2017 2:06:00 AM Ever find yourself approaching the end of a new book—and you realize there’s no way the author can tie up the plot in what remains of the novel? It’s that moment when you realize: we’re in for a sequel. But the story alone hasn’t told us there will be a sequel. Rather, we’re drawing on something outside the text itself—our knowledge of how much of the book remains—to tell us something about the story. We can call this process of drawing on outside information “meta-reading.” The Quintessence of our Techne: Spikes vs Poppy Petals -- by - 24 Jul 2017 at 00:34 7/24/2017 12:34:00 AM "The story is the king," people say. "The word is the queen," I say. Down with this tyrant king! Long live the queen! What a Rip Off! -- by - 10 Jul 2017 at 00:07 7/10/2017 12:07:00 AM This post comes from two things. First, the experiences of other writers who been accused of biting other writers. Second, serious thinking on embarking the writer's path. How Large Is Your World? -- by - 27 Jun 2017 at 00:06 6/27/2017 12:06:00 AM A story may tell you it covers vast distances—but the reader’s or viewer’s experience doesn’t always bear that out. Travel time, difficulty, and variety govern how we perceive the size of a world. Naming Your Baby -- by - 13 Jun 2017 at 01:09 6/13/2017 1:09:00 AM Naming your book can be harder than naming your first born. For a child, you can go to sites like Behind the Name or Baby Names; but besides the occasional random title generator you might stumble upon, there is no easy way to slap a good title to your writing.<br><br>          This is the part where I say, “Or is there?” The use of simile, metaphor, hyperbole, personification. -- by - 30 May 2017 at 00:54 5/30/2017 12:54:00 AM Are metaphor and simile becoming less frequent used in modern writing? It seems to me that they are, but is it merely a trick that my memory plays on my mind? I remember this being a subject at school when I was about twelve years old. Is this subject still taught, or is it considered old fashioned and not worth teaching the modern pupil? The Dark Hero -- by Jon Goff - 15 May 2017 at 00:49 5/15/2017 12:49:00 AM I have often heard it said that it is the job of the artist to hold up a mirror to society.  I suppose I have never agreed with that philosophy. It’s rather like holding a mirror up to a fat person so that they are constantly reminded of their weight. Regardless, the trend of deeply flawed heroes has become more prevalent in books, movies, and television. The science of motivation -- by - 4 May 2017 at 01:58 5/4/2017 1:58:00 AM Like many writers, I have trouble getting motivated. Usually this problem manifests when my obligations mount, and my time does not feel my own. When I do manage to tackle an item on my to-do list, a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction spurs me on to the next with renewed determination. Getting the best out of submissions and critiques. -- by - 25 Mar 2017 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 2017 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 2017 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 2017 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 2017 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 2017 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 2017 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 2017 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.