Posted in Craft of writing, fiction, Writing, Writing exercises

Revision: Ways to Improve my Writing

REVISION 

Editing a paragraph from my book-in-progress illustrates the kind of work entailed in revision. This is the “line edit” kind of editorial work that I do on an ongoing process with my writing partners and for myself.

MY NOVEL. “Her steps were tentative. Fiona wasn’t sure she could avoid the captain’s anger at her again, if he showed up. The anticipation of viewing the sky with Jacob who always looked out for her was a new emotional territory. She followed him.”

What’s wrong with it? It is overwritten and yet now completely clear. Often editors consider this purple prose. Furthermore, it does not articulate my meaning as well as I want. Not a good thing. So, how can I correct it?

Change #1 Passive to Active Voice

Passive voice can usually be found in a sentence by looking for “to be” verbs, like “had been” and “would get to be,” or “was” and “were.”

I use the passive voice in two sentences. When I edit the sentence, I use an action verb and it reads more vividly and sounds more natural.

EXAMPLE #1

  • Her steps were tentative.
  • She stepped toward Jacob tentatively.

EXAMPLE #2

  • Fiona wasn’t sure she could avoid the captain’s anger.
  • Fiona wanted to avoid the captain’s anger.

Change #2 Replacing nomalizations to actions

We nominalize a word by taking an action and making a noun for it. When we do that, we make a static “thing” of something (anger and anticipation), instead of a living, breathing “action” (getting angry and anticipate). These two examples show up in my paragraph. I’ll show you how I changed them to make the sentence more vibrant.

EXAMPLE #1

  • She wasn’t sure she could avoid the captain’s anger if he showed up.
  • She wasn’t sure she could avoid him getting angry at her again if he showed up.

EXAMPLE #2

  • The anticipation of viewing the sky with a man who always looked out for her was a new emotional territory.
  • Fiona anticipated new emotional territory if she viewed the sky with the man who always looked out for her.
  • Fiona did not know what to anticipate if she viewed the sky with the man who always looked out for her.

Change #3 Increase clarity and the way it read naturally  

EXAMPLE #1

“…if he showed up on deck.” This phrase indicates his actions, not my main character. The focus should stay on her. So I edit it to read, “…if he saw her again.”

EXAMPLE #2

  • Fiona did not know what to anticipate if she viewed the sky with the man who always looked out for her.
  • She also did not know how she should act standing next to Jacob watching the night sky. (It took four tries to improve this sentence to see what I more clearly wanted to say. And it had nothing to do with anticipating.)

EXAMPLES #3

  • She followed him.
  • She decided to follow him to the bow anyway.

EDIT FOR IMPROVEMENT

I can make revisions in many ways. You would likely make them differently than I have. But you can see the process and how we improve our writing incrementally over time.

First draft: “Her steps were tentative. She wasn’t sure she could avoid the captain’s anger at her again, if he showed up. The anticipation of viewing the sky with a man who always looked out for her was new emotional territory. She followed him.”

Improved draft: “Fiona stepped forward toward Jacob. She wanted to avoid Captain Best getting angry because if he saw her again there could be trouble. She also did not know how she should act standing next to Jacob watching the night sky. She decided to follow him to the bow anyway.”

 

 

Posted in Craft of writing, fiction, Travel Writing, Writing

Conduct Research for Scenes in Your Fiction

via How to Research a Location You Haven’t Actually Been To

This blog post above by fellow writer, Helena Fairfax, has been wonderfully helpful to me in writing my novel set in India and on a ship in the Pacific and Indian oceans.  As an example, I wrote a scene in the book of slaughtering a sea turtle for eating aboard ship after watching a YouTube by today’s Aboriginal Australians.

Read the scene below from my book in-progress, Salwar Kameez. I’ve added a few notes to the reader to be able to grasp who the characters are in the scene, because it is out of context for you.

SCENE from BOOK on Butchering a Sea Turtle 

Next morning the cook, Paddy approached the aquatic turtles in the livestock watering tanks where he housed them for the voyage. Fiona joined the others to see how the butchering would go. She stood behind the crew circling the tank Paddy had selected.

He smiled at Fiona (the main character, who’s a horsewoman and only female aboard ship) and said, “Sure you want to watch this?”

“Sure.”

“It’s pretty bloody.”

“So is birthing a colt.”

In his sing-song Irish lilt, he said, “Dyin’ ain’t as romantic as birthin’.”

“I’ve watched hogs slaughtered. I want to see how you do it with a turtle.”

Paddy winked at her and said,“Okay. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Fiona assumed his smile indicated he expected her to fold in the midst of the slaughter.

She was ready.

Frederick, Paddy’s steward and the ship’s stockman, asked, “How ya gonna do this?”

Paddy said, “With your help.”

“Me?”

“Yep, you. Come here; pull the monster’s front foot over the edge of the tank. Get it to the point so I can take a swing at his neck. It can’t draw back in its shell if a foot is outside the body.”

Paddy wielded an ax; whopped it once, twice, then three times until the head drooped from the body. But he had to whack him multiple times to cut through the cartilage that surrounded the neck. Then he manhandled the neck, the size of a newborn calf, by wrenching it round and round, twisting it to sever the neck bones. A final wallop broke the last vestiges of the neck to separate the head from the body.

That done, Paddy nodded for others to join him in lifting the body out of the tank. Several sailors stepped forward to drag it out and onto the deck. Scully, the slacker, stood back arms crossed without offering help, looking queasy.

Paddy narrated the process as the curious crew looked on, as he reached into the turtle cavity and started pulling entrails. “Some parts, we won’t eat. I have to pull the lungs, intestines, and gallbladder.”

With his arm inside the turtle up to his elbow, he seemed to know which organ he was reaching for. Turtle legs flailed at Paddy as the nerves continued to work, though he had severed the brain from the sea creature’s body. The large intestines slopped onto the deck, blood pooling.

Fiona had cooked entrails of a chicken, but these intestines here were as big around as a man’s leg. The odor escaping from the orifice was fishy smelling, unlike a chicken. However, blood holds a distinctive smell all its own. Though Fiona expected the mess made on the floor, the length of the bowels surprised her.

As Paddy reached the attached and continuous reel of guts, the small intestines narrowed into a smaller roll, the size of a man’s bicep. The tube became smaller to that of a man’s wrist by the end.

Shipmaster Best pointed to two of the crewmembers and then overboard. The two men sloshed the coiled heap into the ocean, leaving a trail of blood.

She heard retching behind her and turned to find the no-good Scully giving up his breakfast overboard. His pallid face registered embarrassment, as laughter broke out among the crew. He moved down the railing and away from the action without leaving the deck.

Paddy reached into the opening with his knife and slashed skin around another organ. He held it up in his hand, showed it to the group, and said, “This is the gallbladder. I take it out of the cavity to make the cut.”

He reached in again and pulled out a beating heart.

He said, “The heart will beat for a while like its nerves keep working. I’ll cook it and I’ll eat it,” he said with a flourish and arrogance. “That’s my call as butcher and cook.”

“It’s mine–I’ll eat it!” Jeff, the young upstart, bluffed.

Paddy taunted, “No, I get it. You don’t want it—can’t eat. Not man enough.”

“I’ll eat it right now, beating and blood red,” offered another weathered sailor, Wesley.

Each man weighed in on eating the throbbing heart. A fight for the sake of their manhood erupted. The slight-bodied Frederick backed out of the fray and joined Jacob, the peacemaker to watch the tangle of fists.

Captain Best stepped into a mass of arms and legs flailing about. He picked up Wesley by the seat of his pants and tossed him to the side. He landed on his tailbone, stunned. Then Best struck Lars in the kidney to hold him at bay. As Leo lunged from the floor to defend his brother Lars, Best set his fist square upon his jaw. The shipmaster’s job was to outsmart and/or outfight the men aboard ship. Best picked them off one by one.

For once Scully, the troublemaker, did not start this ruckus.

After the commotion calmed down, Paddy returned to his task. He inserted a mean looking eighteen-inch knife into the turtle’s underbelly. He cut through an inch-thick, tough shell until he could cut no farther, then took a mallet and tapped it around. He instructed Frederick, his student now, to lift the belly shell as he continued to cut. It required muscle and time.

After that, Paddy proceeded skillfully to cut the meat from the skin, butchered big chunks of it, and placed them on a large plank to cook later, saving the shell in which to stew the meat. The procedure took the better part of the morning. Paddy and Frederick perspired through their clothes, wiped sweat from their foreheads, and rinsed their bloody hands repeatedly in the turtle’s tank. The three smaller turtles would meet their fate another day.

The men came and went between their chores all morning. Fiona tended the horses with Jacob and Scully, as usual. She and Jacob returned to the butchering scene every little while; Scully moped from a distance after the nausea today.

Scully mumbled to Fiona, “Don’t think I’ll want turtle tonight.”

Fiona, on the other hand, relished the idea of sea turtle for supper.

Paddy cooked the turtle slowly in a huge kettle, shell and all, all day long. He created a broth in the caldron of onions and dried mushrooms. The evening meal was a new experience.

Fiona said, “M-m-m. An odd combination of flavors. It tastes a lot like beef,” she chuckled as she added, “but with a fishy taste.”

Jeff said before he had taken his first bite. “That makes no sense!”

Wesley weighed in, “But she’s right.”

Jacob, Fiona’s sole ally, added, “Of course it tastes like fish, it comes from salt water.”

 

Posted in Submission of writing, Submitting for Publication, Writing

Payoff when Submitting for Publication

For the last six months, my writing has been on hold.  On July 20, 2017, I almost lost my left middle digit to a fungal infection that a doctor deadened and lanced. Two days later, it was black—dead, not simply bruised. Doctors’ cautionary comments did not use the word, amputation, but they hinted at it for a month.

My writing life was on hold. Or so I thought.

Up until that time, I had continuously submitted stories and essays for publication or competition in contests. I learned that when writing dwindles or comes to a complete stop, my publication life can continue.

The Tally

I submitted eleven times this year in hopes of publication. Nine submissions were rejected, but two were accepted. While one is still pending, another chance to publish came unexpectedly.

Timing: Before the injury and talk of amputation

Late June Marfa House’s romance anthology entitled, Love is in the Air, published one of my finest pieces of fiction, “The End of Island Life.”

Timing: During treatment to avoid amputation

A previously published essay, “From Ugly Duckling to Howling Wolf,” was chosen from an earlier Story Circle Network anthology. This year the Network created a new anthology, Inside Out: Women’s Truths, Women’s Stories: Stories from the Story Circle Network with selected pieces pulled from several years’ worth of past anthologies.

Timing: Toward the end of treatment to circumvent amputation

By late October I could proficiently type with nine digits. So I submitted an essay to address my writing life interrupted in a 1000-word article, “Finger Gone Rogue; Novel Gone Mute.” The Story Circle Network accepted the piece for their annual online anthology of women’s voices for members only.

BONUS: In hopes to make something useful come from my tragedy, I wrote a letter to the editor of my local newspaper in early November about the unpredictability of health issues and the need to sign up for health insurance. (This was not in my “literary tally.”)

SUMMARY: Four 2017 publications = one before the injury + three during my injury and recovery (+bonus letter to the editor).

   The Payoff

The point? The payoff of continuing to build a repertoire of my work in various places with different audiences?

If we have been faithful to our work and to building a writing résumé, it continues to work for us, even when it appears our writing life has been stalled for reasons beyond our control.

Posted in Craft of writing, fiction, Writing

Does my novel pass the Bechdel-Wallace test?

I just learned about the Bechdel test (or Bechdel-Wallace test, as Bechdel prefers to call it to credit her friend, Ms. Wallace) from Andrea Lundgren’s recent blog post. This test requires in fiction or movies that 1) two women be present and named 2) talk to one another 3) about something other than a man.

I do find it intriguing to ask this question as I write my first novel about a young American unconventional horsewoman in the early 1900s. I have created as a part of the plot that Fiona, the main character, travel to India. There she interacts on various topics with her host in Calcutta, Amita, who becomes both friend and mentor to her.

Topics they discuss vary about Christianity, Quakerism, and Hinduism to questions about the social mores expressed in public Indian erotic art. The two women broaden their dialogues to include the value of education for women to the psychological foundations of women to chart their own adventures.

I am pleased to know my novel passes with flying colors. Fiona and Amita are “stars” in this regard.

What about your fiction? Does it pass the test, too?

I bet it does. And good for you if it does!

Posted in Craft of writing, Writers' Groups, Writing, Writing Groups

Writers are often INFJs or INFPs, based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

Lauren Sapala, the author of The INFJ Writer in a recent blog post, writes there is no coincidence that many writers are INFJs or INFPs, which are terms for the personality types in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

The types are a four-part combination of four spectrums of likely thoughts, actions, behaviors that generate a personality type. These types are used to better understand ourselves and others, to improve communication between different types, and to work more effectively. But the types should not be used to label or box people into narrow definitions of self or others.

There were four possible pairs of personality traits:

  • Introversion (I) or Extraversion (E)
  • Intuition (N) or Sensing (S)
  • Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
  • Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)

These four sets of dichotomies create sixteen personality types. A brief description of each can be found at The Myers-Briggs website.

INFJ and INFP are closely related because three of the indicators are the same INF.

Isabel Briggs-Myers, the daughter of Katherine Cook Briggs (the co-founders of the indicator index) says,

Good type development can be achieved at any age by anyone who cares to understand his or her own gifts and the appropriate use of those gifts.

Read Lauren’s insightful blog post to understand the increased likelihood that you (and I) as a writer will be an introverted (I), intuitive (N), and feeling (F) person who leans toward perceiving (P) or judging (J).

I found Lauren Sapala’s blog post useful and insightful. I also have her book. Check it out for yourself.

Lauren Sapala states,

It wasn’t until I started coaching so many other Highly Sensitive People (who are also highly creative people, empaths, and intuitives) that I realized there is a very good reason so many of us have turned to writing as a lifeline.

Posted in Craft of writing, Writing, Writing exercises

BUILDING TENSION

A WRITING EXERCISE THAT HELPS BUILD TENSION

Open your thesaurus; go to any letter in the alphabet. Pick words from that letter that prompts questions that may help you think about your characters, plot, setting, dialogue, actions, emotions, and especially tension. Then for every word, develop a question that can push you deeper into your story, hopefully building tension in your book, story, or scene.

MY EXAMPLE

I chose the letter “D,” because desire is the beginning of all tension. Your character wants something—whether it is an external goal, like the inheritance, the murderer, or a lover; or an internal motivation, such as confidence, freedom, acceptance, or maybe to be understood by someone. Desire can be dampened, dangerous, delayed, or denied. (Yeah, I’m leaning heavy on alliteration, but just in this one blog.)

See, I’m just playing around with words. Being playful is the heart of the creative process. Also, you can think of it as a working exercise in which you can use random words that will take you to unexpected, and yet productive, powerful places in our writing.

Here are the ones I pulled and the questions I drafted for each. The queries provide me tips, hints, and techniques that in turn give me ways to access new ideas for my novel.

Dilemma:  What kinds of problems can I generate for my protagonist, Fiona?

Discord:  Where can I create relationship issues between characters that make the story more complex and intriguing?

Draw (either stalemate or attraction): How can I bring in mistakes or misunderstandings that generate a stalemate? How can I illustrate the first attraction between characters and then continually enhance that attraction over time?

Denial = What element(s) in Fiona’s life can I deny her to thwart her primary desire, to gain acceptance from others when she’s unconventional?

Dream:  How do I articulate Fiona’s dream or desire through action and dialogue?

Disaster:  What natural disaster is logical and reasonable based on the setting and environment to add depth, complexity, and tension to the story?

Disappointment:  How can I express disappointment through body language in various characters?

Danger:  What dangers might my characters encounter that will force them to know themselves better?

Dire straits:   What situations could I develop within the plot that create emotional tension and make characters have to fight for what they want?

Dogged problems:  What problem(s) won’t go away; and therefore, continue to frustrate and inhibit Fiona in the pursuit of her longing?

Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go. — E. L. Doctorow

FIND YOUR OWN PROMPTS

Replicate the exercise, or use my example as a launching pad. Plunge in and find the questions you need to answer for your story or scene. It can aid you in writing fiction, your memoir, a story, or a difficult scene.

What kind of success or struggles did you have with this approach? I’d like to hear from you.

 

 

Posted in Craft of writing, Memoir writing, Writing

A writing exercise for insight into your memoir’s main characters, you

BACKGROUND for the EXERCISE 

“The stranger at the heart of my journey is me—transformed.” — Joseph Dispenza in his book, The Way of the Traveler (p. 97)

Dispenza suggests in his book that the people we meet in our travels can serve as mirrors of ourselves in what we portray to the world. Or these folks, whether strangers or not during our adventures, may contain qualities that we lack and wish we had. For our memoir, this is one way to gain insight that we need to write a more textured and full-bodied story of our life. So try this.

How to conduct the EXERCISE 

Recall memorable folks from your travels. List three or four with names or descriptions, if you don’t know names. Then write characteristics of each. Examples might include; interesting, odd, cavalier, smart, engaging, irritating, or rude–whatever comes to mind. This recall gives us a picture of ourselves objectified in the outside world, or it provides the “something” we wish we could call ours in our inner world. Now can you use these characteristics of yourself clarified as you write your next scene or story from your life and/or travels?

This recall gives us a picture of ourselves objectified in the outside world, or it provides the “something” we wish was ours in our inner world. When you identify what these characteristics are from viewing the characters you encountered, now can you use these clarifications of yourself when you write your next scene or story.

In my memoir, At Home in the World, I encountered a pastor in Hawaii. As a seventeen-year-old girl, I saw him as intelligent, culturally insightful, and eager to share what he knew with me and other summer missionaries that were more than half his age. His tutelage grew out of his caring for others. He cultural take on the world was crafted from his Christian background.

Passage from my book, At Home In the World 

I write about him, “Dr. Shiroma, as a Japanese Christian is an enigma. As a pastor, he is over-educated. He carries his history, culture, and language with him, yet he lives in another country with a history, culture, and language that have been antithetical to his own. Christ’s love has found a way around all that and claims it all.

“… He explains what happened to the Japanese post-WWII, tracks the trials of Hawaiian statehood, and illuminates interracial marriages that created an amalgamated Hawaiian culture. I learn words I may never get to use, like miscegenation and mulatto. …

“At times in my life there is a person that produces little chinks in my thinking, so a glimmer of something new can break through. Dr. Shiroma shares his well-knitted theology with us, as if we were his spiritual and intellectual equals. He uses analogies nimbly. More synapses in my gray matter, more connections in my white matter. The world is deeper and wider with his explanations, my senses more open to what is in the world, and my heart more open to mystery.”

REWRITE

Because I did not have this exercise available to me when writing my memoir, I did not make the most of this encounter with Dr. Shiroma. Here is what I could have done with passage and created a more nuanced memoir. (Maybe I’ll rewrite it.)

“At times in my life there is a person that produces little chinks in my thinking, so a glimmer of something new can break through. Dr. Shiroma shares his well-knitted theology, as if we were his spiritual and intellectual equals. He uses analogies nimbly. The world is deeper and wider with his explanations, my senses more open to what is in the world, and my heart more open to mystery.

“Time spent with Dr. Shiroma opened my eyes to the diversity of the world outside of my small Arkansas town. I felt my heart open to the history of the Japanese in America. I felt the reality of different races intermarrying not as a problem, but a way to minimize our differences. This cultural idea, contrary to traditional views, shaped my future self and view of the world. I left Hawaii with an understanding of myself as a global citizen. Not as a Christian set apart (as some would have wanted it), but a Christian committed to making the world more open and compassionate.”

See how studying a significant person on one of my travels, helped me see myself more deeply? Something I might not have been able to do without insight from the exercise.

Have you tried something similar with simlar or different outcomes? Are you willing to try this and share your results? Let us know.

 

Posted in Craft of writing, journal writing, Travel Writing, Writing, Writing Myths

Writing Myth

Myth Bluster: I cannot write worth a hoot!

This is what we often tell ourselves–what I call myth bluster or misconceptions about our writing. And sometimes others imply it by their lack of interest in our work or a comment that sounds and feels negative to us. We must believe in ourselves and our ability to improve over time. Here is what we need to be thinking instead to bust previous myth bluster.

Myth Busters: If I write, I am a writer. If I don’t write well, I can learn to write better. Work makes wishes come true.  

The truth is it is all a matter of perspective. We can tell ourselves a different story about our ability to write, and then start making progress. So put pen to paper or fingers to keys. Start writing what is on your mind or in your heart.

I’ll be offering some writing prompts in the near future. I hope they will be useful to you.

Here is another myth buster to previous thinking or myth bluster:

Practice does not make perfect; practice makes possible. 

Comments from anyone?

 

Posted in Craft of writing, Writers' Groups, Writing, Writing Groups

Start your own Writing Group

START A WRITER’S GROUP

I have been a member of multiple writing groups since the early 1990s. Each one differs with advantages and disadvantages. Each time someone joins or drops out, it changes the dynamics. If you know you have thin skin, be willing to grow thick skin; or forego this until you do. It is not for the faint of heart. Knowing what you want out of a writing group helps you start one that meets your needs and desires.4men1womanblog

FIRST ASK YOURSELF THESE QUESTIONS 

  1. Do you need to learn to write first, before you start or participate in a writing group? If so, take a class or workshop, read and study the craft of writing, and/or just write.
  2. Do you want a group to edit your work only, analyze your work (plot, characters, and pacing), and/or to discuss the writing process? Are you willing to do the same?
  3. Can you find writers who offer you the same feedback for which you are looking?
  4. Do you work best in one-on-one pairs, small intimate groups of 3-4, or larger writing groups? I have found 8-12 is max for a dynamic group that allows time for all.
  5. How often do you need to meet in terms of your personal writing schedule? Can you draft enough writing to meet once a week, every other, or once a month?

MEETING APPROACH: Example #1

  1. Some groups have a leader that organizes and moderates the group time. Usually that is someone quite experienced and published. Members simply bring a copy of their manuscripts for each group member that cover 2-5 pages, perhaps a scene, or a short chapter.
  2. Everyone reads his or her own work aloud. If the writer wants to hear their work from another voice, then another member reads it.
  3. Reviewers then offer suggestions on editorial comments on grammar, spelling, and punctuation. They provide what works in the piece and what does not work. They can also explain where they became confused or lost.
  4. Advantage: This particular way of running a group requires less time, by giving on-the-spot feedback comments.
  5. Disadvantage: Writing group members do not have in-depth time to review and reflect on the writing, so comments are usually limited to surface responses.
  6. Writing level: This specific approach is useful for experienced writers who do not need as much feedback and are skilled at writing and know what in a piece of work. They can offer feedback promptly.3women1guy

 MEETING APPROACH: Example #2

  1. There are groups that meet once a month or every other week to give them more time to write and more time for readers to review each other’s work before the meeting.
  2. In one case I have been part of a ‘leaderless’ meeting. We each took responsibility for different things that needed to be done.
  3. A group I belonged to years ago met once a month. Here is how it worked. For example, during the month of December each writer brings sufficient copies of their chapter to distribute to each person. During the coming weeks, we read and comment in writing on the manuscript. At the following meeting in January, we would take each manuscript and make our comments, explain why we made them and discuss issues of point of view (POV), pacing, character development, and other big picture issues. In that same month, we distribute next month’s work for review. We handed the manuscripts that we marked up to the writer for his or her revisions.
  4. Advantage: This gave us extensive feedback on a broader scale of what is happening in a novel or essay, and how to address the issues. We included edits, as well as the movement, rhythm, and pace of the story or article.
  5. Disadvantage: In this setting, we did not read our pages aloud, so we missed hearing our words, which often lets one hear awkward words or phrases, or missed words. During a month between meetings, so we could forget where we were in a story.
  6. Writing Level: This approach gives inexperienced writers and reviewers time between meetings to read, study, ponder, and decide how to reply to the writer. Inexperienced writers grow quickly into more experienced writers and reviewers.

FEEDBACK APPROACH #1: 

  1. The next example comes from my friend and mentor, Sheila Bender. You can signup for her newsletter at WritingItReal and consider membership. The 3-step feedback process proves to be productive for most any writer and reviewer.

Step #1: Identify the “Velcro” words, phrases, or sentences that stick with you in some way, that resonate in a good way. The purpose of this step is to give the writer positive feedback on what is working.

Step #2: State the feelings that the writing creates in you from mad-sad-glad to anxious-afraid-relieved. This report tells the writer whether she has achieved what she set out to achieve. It lets her compare the reaction the reader has to what she hoped to create in the reader.

Step #3: Inform the writer what questions you have after you have read the scene or chapter. Tell him what left you wanting to know more. Share your curiosity about unanswered questions with him. This allows the writer to know if he needs to flesh out the scene more or if he has overwritten it and needs to pare it down.

2. Advantage: This example provides objective feedback that keeps comments less personal and more focused on the writing.

3. Disadvantage: It requires reviewers to think deeply about the story, which may require more time and effort.

4. Level of reviewer: Anyone reading a scene or chapter is able to offer their opinions on these 3 items. It empowers inexperienced reviewers that they have significant input into another’s writing.3guysblog

FEEDBACK APPROACH: Example #2

This example is taken from a workshop instructor, Karlene Koen. I took her course, That Damned Novel, through the Writers’ League of Texas summer retreat in 2014. Her process is similar to but slightly different from Sheila Bender’s approach. Answer the following three questions to provide feedback to a writer about his or her work:

  1. What did you like about the scene or story? (I would add, what did you not like about it and why? That’s the key, “why.”)
  2. What do you still want to know?
  3. Where did you get lost?

Answering these 3 questions has similar advantages and disadvantages to Bender’s approach and requires little experience as a reviewer. There many other versions and adaptations of writing groups, but this overview can get you started.

I can sum up my advice after twenty-five years of working in different types of writing support groups. Some have worked for a while, others have lasted years. But when one is still not viable, it is better to end the group than carry on in misery. If you are the only one unhappy, leave respectfully and gratefully for what it has given you. 

  1. You can mix and match the meeting and feedback approaches.
  2. Comments and recommendations always should be about helping each other grow as a writer.Constructive criticism is the goal.
  3. Writer, remind yourself often: Don’t take it personally.
  4. Reviewer, remind yourself often: Don’t make it personal.
  5. Feedback is about your writing, not you. It may feel personal in that someone is trying to help you specifically related to your writing.
  6. For the writer to defend or explain his or her work, wastes time and is not the point. It is best for the writer to listen and take notes. As creator of the work, a writer is free to disagree and can choose to use or not use comments offered. Own your work.
  7. Everyone in the group should be actively writing. Equity in giving and receiving feedback is crucial to the sustained health of the group.
  8. Groups often need a leader to organize and moderate the meeting. I have been part of a successful leaderless group, in which all members took responsibility for the meeting. You must decide on the right person for the leader.
  9. Help your fellow writers when they read your work.
    • Always double-space your work so others can edit between the lines.
    • Number the pages, so the group can reference page and paragraph when discussing it.
    • Put your name on the submission – it should be obvious why.

Now, what has been your experience with writing groups? What has worked? What has  not worked for you? Please share your experience with us.  

 

Posted in Travel, Travel Writing, Writing

Memoir – On Sale for the Holidays

Reduced Price 

My coming-of-age, travel memoir, At Home in the World: Travel Stories of Growing Up and Growing Away, is on sale.

For black Friday and through the holiday season, I have reduced the price for the paperback from $16.99 to $9.99.

During the gift-buying season, I have reduced the price of the Kindle version from $4.99 to $2.99.

Signed Copies at Kerrville Market Days, December 3

me-sellingsigning-booksPick up a signed copy for yourself or a friend for $10. You can find me at Kerrville Market Days, December 3, 2016, at the Ag Barn on the Kerr County Fairgrounds. I’ll be signing and selling them from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. I hope to see you there.

Consider buying a copy of the book in print or Kindle version

  • For a girlfriend
  • For a young mother raising self-reliant kids, especially girls
  • For a young woman, coming-of-age herself
  • For an older woman who has been an adventurer and will enjoy the adventures of a kindred spirit

My Biggest Fans

Although the story is about a young woman’s travels alone and with others, some of my biggest fans have been men from my high school graduating class. So don’t forget to buy it for the men in your life as well.

Paperback for $9.99

Kindle version for $2.99

Thanks for buying my book. I sure hope you or your loved one enjoys reading it.