Finding Critique Partners

Is it just me, or does everyone struggle with this?

I’ve tried joining sites like Scribophile and Wattpad but I’m still searching.

Actually, I did have a wonderful CP a while back and I found her on Wattpad. She was encouraging but she wasn’t afraid to hurt my feelings when it came to something she didn’t think worked. She helped me shape my first novel into something that looked remarkably like a book (with a plot, character arcs and everything).
However, her popularity has risen to Wattpad superstar levels and between writing, taking care of her family, work and ever other demands she (understandably) doesn’t have the time anymore. I get that, and I’m incredibly grateful for all the hardworking and time she’s already given me.

But there’s also this niggling worry. What if that isn’t the reason she’s not reading my work?

You see, I’ve sent the sequel to three people now and non of them have offered any feedback. I know there are a whole array of reasons as to why this could be, but I can’t help thinking it’s because it’s so bad they don’t know how to tell me.

Oh the irony.

I tried to explain that I want to know if they hate it, and that I need to know why in order to improve. And yet still, nothing. Maybe they got bored. Maybe they couldn’t make it past the first chapter. Maybe they just don’t have the time anymore. All of these are fine if only they would tell me.

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Perhaps it’s just me. I’ll be the first to admit that sites such as Scribophile scare me. I’m afraid that I’m not in the same league as the other writers there, but that didn’t stop me from posting. And I got some great feedback but I don’t think it’s the right place for me.

I want someone who will read my book, not just dip into a random chapter and critique my grammar or similes (don’t get me wrong – that is a helpful critique but it’s not exclusively what I’m looking for).

So how do you find a trustworthy, knowledgable CP? How did you find yours?

Currently I’m searching through Goodreads, and I’m trying to stay hopeful, but in the meantime I would love to hear how you found your CP’s!

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Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

The kidlets are back at school!

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That giant wish list of writing I’ve been looking forward to is finally ready to be ticked off one by one, only, Sod’s law has intervened.

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Our house is well and truly marked with a giant Red Cross as I’m suffering with tonsillitis and the two kidlets are taking it in turns to see who can reach the highest temperature.

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Well, what can I do other than rest up, read and watch copious amounts of TV? Exactly.

So here I am watching reruns of Toy Story and dreaming about those quiet moments when I can finally get back to writing.

So close I can almost touch it!

Tomorrow is the first day of the new school year in this household and as sad as I am to see our summer holidays come to an end, I’m looking forward to getting back to writing.

I’ve not had the opportunity to sit and write for weeks and it’s taking it’s toll now. Of course, I have been editing but it’s not the same is it?!

I have my new WIP to work on and having been given some great feedback I’ve decided to take it in a bit of a new direction.

I’m also intrigued to see who made it through to Pitch Wars – I love going through the list and ticking off the books I would love to read. Good luck to all involved, I’m sure there will be more than one ‘winner’ at the end of the ‘wars’.

So welcome to September. Here’s hoping it’s a great month for us all.

Today is a ‘What am I doing?’ day

I’m reading, and I’m thinking to myself, ‘what am I doing?’.

Why did I enter Pitch Wars? Why am I trying to reach that publishing star? Why am I punishing myself?

What is it that compels me to query and pursue competitions like Pitch Wars only to face constant rejection?

Simple. I must be a sadist, right?

But I’m not alone, I know I’m not because every single writer goes through this. And it’s hell.

It’s awful because I need that validation today, I need someone who knows what they’re talking about to pick up a pair of pom-poms and give me a cheer. But sadly, I have to go without because I’m a secret writer.

So today, I’m having one of those days.

Tomorrow, who knows, hopefully I’ll feel better about the squalid pile of festering letters, but for today I’m just going to do this …

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Pitch Wars

I’m sure many of you (writers) will have heard of, or indeed, taken part in Pitch Wars over the years.

(Just in case you haven’t, here’s a link to Brenda Drake’s Pitch Wars info)

In short it’s a Twitter contest that showcases the work of seventy five authors who have worked alongside a mentor to polish up their manuscripts. I should probably add here that each mentor is successful in the world of publishing.
Those shiny manuscripts and queries are then displayed for agents and publishers to come along and snatch up.

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It’s a fantastic opportunity for at least 150 authors to get free advice and help with their manuscripts. But even better than that, it brings the writing community together in a way that offers encouragement and support.

Of course, there is the rejection that comes with not getting picked, but, you’re immersed in a sea of other authors who didn’t make it through so somehow it doesn’t feel quite so personal.

As you can probably tell, I have a great deal of respect for this particular contest.

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I have also chosen to partake, this year. I don’t expect to snag a mentor but I am hoping for maybe a little sliver of feedback. If any of my perspective mentors offered anything in way of advice (directly about my sub) then I’d consider it a win. And if not, well I’ve had a lot of fun participating.

So, to all Pitch Warriors out there, good luck! Can’t wait to see the entries.

Frustrations Gallore

This week has been a challenge. The kids are still on holiday (and have reached the point where instead of playing nicely they’re trying to come up with new ways to antagonise one another) and work has been overly demanding. I’ve hardly had time to think, let alone sit at my Mac and write.

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So knowing that I wouldn’t have time to write, I chose to edit, as this is something I can dip in and out of. It doesn’t matter if I get pulled away and end up rereading the same sentence five times, in actual fact, it helps.

The particular project I’m editing has gone through so many revisions it hardly resembles the first draft anymore (which is a good thing) but it got me wondering … Will I ever reach the point when I don’t feel the need to pick it apart and chance things? How will I know when I’ve passed the point on no return?

How will I know when my editing is detracting rather than adding to my manuscript?

How?

Hello new frustration!

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I’m hoping that it’s just one of those things, that I’ll sit back and feel an ultimate sense of relief and closure … But I’m not holding my breath.

As for now, I’m going to spend the day juggling the joys of housework, entertaining the kids and trying to squeeze in a tad more editing. Still, at least it keeps me busy ūüėČ

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Which way to publishing success?

I have three friends who have pursued self-publishing.

Alys Arden with her gripping Young Adult, Paranormal, The Casquette Girls. Len Webster with her beautiful love story, Thirty-Eight Days. And Angela Stevens with her part thriller, contemporary Romance, Lemon Drops and Love.

I have watched from afar as they have slaved over editing, marketing, design, proofing, etcetera, etcetera, and I have wondered why they chose this path.

So I asked them.

It seems that time¬†was a big factor in which road to take. If you self-publish you can get it done within¬†months of completing your book. Compare that to traditional publishing where it’s common to wait¬†more than six months for an answer to your query and you can see why people¬†choose to go it alone.

I suppose the next thing to look at is money. As a self-published author your returns are a much higher percentage when compared to the offerings of publishing houses but let’s not forget that you will have to pay upfront for editing costs etc.

Interestingly, another answer I hadn’t considered, was fear. One author was afraid of the rejection that comes with the traditional route. She didn’t want the constant set backs that come with each round of “no’s” so she chose to skip that part.

This same author also told me that a successful indie friend of hers encouraged her to go it alone as she believed that unless you were picked up by one of the big five it was a waste of time perusing traditional publishing.

So why then, do people still push for traditional publishing? Maybe because going it alone, from what I’ve seen, is damn hard work. Of course the traditional route is no walk in the park but at least you have people to fall back on. Self-publishing, whilst opening up the door to many great authors who may not have otherwise had the chance to publish, is not easy. You have to become everything from an editor to a marketer whilst still remaining the author.

So, which way to publishing success? Well, that all depends on the author but whichever way you choose, be prepared for an awful lot of hard work.

Distractions, are they always a bad thing?

You would think, given the very short amount of time I actually have in which to write, I would use it wisely. Well, you’d be WRONG.

I know I have a very limited time to get my words down, especially as¬†it’s now the summer holidays and I have two kidlets to entertain and yet I struggle to stay focussed. Some days I sit down to write and I’m lucky if … Ooh Tom Hiddleston.

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See.

And it seems the less time I have, the worse I am at allowing any small distraction eat my time.

Like watching this cutie.

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A couple of months ago I spent a few days spamming a friends inbox with various pictures. Why?

Because I was avoiding writing.¬†Because it was easier to search the internet for¬†good looking men than face the¬†corner I’d written myself into (I hadn’t written myself into a corner at all, I was¬†simply too afraid¬†to write the next few scenes). I used the distractions as an excuse to dodge something I was finding difficult and this is when it becomes a problem.

Recognising the self-sabotage I gave myself an allotted amount of time where I could take a step back and breathe. I allowed myself time away from the work but I started to use my time a little more wisely. I swapped silly gifs and gorgeous men for reading.

After a couple of days I pushed through my self-imposed block and finished up the book but I would have competed months earlier had I just sat and wrote.

But this is life. I’m not paid to write nor do I have to work to deadlines. This is a hobby therefore I can occasionally let distractions get in the way. Yes I would have finished my book weeks before I did had I not messed around, but so what?

I’m writing because I love it. At times it’s hard and I need a break but isn’t that the same with everything? I love my job but I still look forward to my holidays. I live for my kids but when they have a night at Grandma’s it’s amazing.

So how do you deal with the distractions?

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In all seriousness I found Nanowrimo helped. The word sprints in particular. I was able to complete the fifty-thousand word challenge in what was one of my busiest months because I had focus. I had a goal to aim towards. I doubt I could keep that up long term but I took away some very helpful strategies from the experience.

Now when I feel I haven’t progressed as much as I should, I¬†set myself a target for the day/week. Sometimes it’s as small as completing the chapter I’m working on words and that’s just fine. As long as it moves me forward I consider it a success. Sometimes my goal is to edit three chapters before the end of the month.

But¬†again, I am not a paid author, I don’t have deadlines so I tend not to worry too much. Okay, last month I wrote twenty-thousand and this month I’ve struggled to make two-thousand, what does it matter? I’m reading, I’m writing and I’m living.

And there’s the point of this post. Distractions are not always the work of the devil. Some have given me some wicked plot bunnies (thank you Lady Gaga) and some have taken my mind off things for a while. Life really is for living – be that writing three chapters a day or messing around with gifs of cute animals – whatever your choice, as long as you are enjoying what you’re doing then I say go for it.

Of course, this is just my opinion and¬†I’m not talking about people trying to make a living from their writing. I’m talking about people, like myself, who write for enjoyment. Maybe I would have written seven books in the last year without distractions, but I would¬†have¬†missed out on so many other life enriching things. Like this man and his band:

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(Credit to bastillean )

So no, I don’t think distractions are always a bad thing, just try not to let them stand in your way.

Are you a good writer?

 

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I stumbled upon this blog post and found myself nodding vigerously at the screen as I finished yet anoter cup of tea.

I have seen many authors on Wattpad asking for critiques but what they actually want is to increase their read count, they aren’t in the least bit interested in improving their skills. Some have even gone so far as to get aggressive with the person offering advice (after they asked for it, no less).

I understand that it’s hard to have your hard work put down and I know what it’s like, I’ve had my work critiqued many times. ¬†Yes, sometimes it stings, but¬†how can you hope to improve if you don’t know what you need to work on? Of course, subjectivity plays a part but if you have three people independently agreeing on an area they think you need to work on, chances are, they’re right.

So, do you fall under the category of being¬†a ‘good writer’?

Who I am and why I hide behind a screen name …

To start off my blog journey I decided to explain a little about myself and why (for the moment) I write anonymously.

I’m a thirty-something married mum who lives in the heart of Yorkshire in the UK. I have no formal writing qualifications and have never been published (Wattpad doesn’t count) but I love writing. I started writing about twenty years ago – nothing awe inspired or ground breaking (quite the opposite actually)¬†but it was my first step down this road. I dabbled and played, never taking it seriously, always just for fun.

Then, eight years ago I started¬†writing a book. I didn’t know it was going to be a book; I didn’t even have a plot, just a general idea that I chased down the rabbit hole. I followed that little bunny until I had myself an eighty-thousand-word manuscript.

It was a hard time in my life when things weren’t easy. Personal circumstances meant I had a lot of free time cushioned by periods of incredibly high stress and harrowing emotional events. During the quiet times I had nothing to do but think, and as we all know, that’s never a good thing.

So I started to write. I wrote when no one was around. I wrote to escape the trauma of life. I wrote to fill the time. But I did it all in secret.

Why?

At this point, my entire life was being lived without a lot of privacy. Family, friends and my husband as well as all kind of health care professionals were in and out and I had nothing to myself. I didn’t intentionally set out to write nor did I make a conscious decision to keep it quiet but maybe at this point I needed something that was just for me.

And then there’s the universal reason, the one that keeps many writers safely fastened in our closets. Fear. I didn’t want people knowing because I was afraid they’d laugh at me.

My husband is¬†a very practical man who works with his hands. He is not creative (he’s the first to admit this) and so he wouldn’t understand the joy I get from immersing myself in a world I created and playing with my characters. If I told him my characters talked to me he’s have me sectioned (not really but he’d definitely be checking the wine bottle for signs of wear and tear!). The escapism of a good book is foreign to him so how could I ever hope to get him to understand? And truth be told, there are times I know he would throw it in my face. I couldn’t explain to him that the housework hadn’t been done because I got lost in a chapter, not when he’d been at work all day, slaving to earn money, he just wouldn’t get it. So I took the easy way out and I wrote in silence.

Let’s fast-forward eight years. Here I am, older, possibly a little wiser and having discovered the joy of people actually reading my work. I have posted on Wattpad and have enjoyed the thrill of strangers seeing my work.

But I still haven’t really come out of the closet. I’ve made some wonderful friends online (some of whom now know my true identity) and one of those has actively encouraged me to reveal my big secret but something is holding me back.

Now, I’m not as secretive as I once was. Last year on a weekend retreat with my dear old mum I confessed. I cringed¬†as I told her but even worse was when she started reading my book. Thankfully she lost interest after the first chapter or so (it’s really not her kind of book) but still, to suddenly have my comfort blanket whipped out of my hands was a terrifying experience.

Next I got up the courage to give my book to a friend. This friend was supportive and has kept my sordid little secret but even she hasn’t read the manuscript in its entirety. So what could I draw form these two experiences? Well the first is that my giant secret really isn’t that interesting to anyone else and I’m clearly making a big deal over something insignificant. The second, my book is simply no good. Either way, it doesn’t matter because I found the root of my problem – the reason for my anonymity.

I can’t write freely knowing that someone might read what I’ve written. No, I need to security that comes with a protective wall. I can cope with criticism, I can handle rejection BUT it has to be in private.

Too much of my life has been public property and whilst my writing is¬†something¬†I want seen, I’m not prepared to¬†step out of the shadows. So for now, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, he’ll come out when he’s ready.