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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Learning Through Critique





Fall is beginning to rear its beautiful head in the Southwest at last but for me, another allergy season has arrived. Every year at this time, I have to force myself to do things due to a pounding head and general lack of motivation. All I really want to do is to curl up and sleep the day away in the hope tomorrow will be better.

And this year is no different on this front as the first day it was cooler, I woke up to the mother of all headaches. Unfortunately, I can’t take any medicine for it because then I will sleep the day away as antihistamines make me groggy and generally a slug. So if I take them at all, it will be at night as then I know I’ll sleep well.

But there is something new to my life in the form of an online and in person critique group. Now, I’ve belonged to crit groups in the past with wonderful results. So when some people from my local RWA chapter wanted to try putting one together, I thought to myself, sure, I need a little motivation and definitely more pushing at this time of year.

The reason for this is as writers, we tend to push and push and push, much like the birthing process and once the project is complete, we’re done, we’re finished, it’s over. We just want to sit back and gaze lovingly at our creation, hoping all will be well. This is exactly where I was as I had written an average of 5k almost every day. In July alone I had logged in over 90K and my brain was fried. I was kaput in a manner of speaking and this funk was lasting more that I wanted it to. So, the critique group looked to be a welcome break.

Now what to bring to the table. I looked at all my projects and the ones I had contracted I usually didn’t have time to push them through this process. So I decided to dust off some old works in progress that had stagnated over the years. Some of these were my favorites as there were three stories with strong Scottish heroes and then a cool science fiction I just loved doing the research on because it was neat. LOL!

Tossing out three of the four stories, I asked the group to give me their opinion on just what I should be working on for this group. The story they chose hands down is one I had set aside after two and a half chapters and two and a half years is lovingly known as Where Is My Underwear. And to be honest, I’m not sure just what made me put it down...other projects maybe...but this story was the one I felt in my heart could be my breakout story. Still, I had set it aside for whatever reason and this group begged me to pull it out again.

Sighing to myself, I brought it out and read every page again, wondering if I truly had it in me to complete this wonderful project. Sure, I have twenty published pieces ranging from short stories to novellas to full blown novels but believe me when I say it doesn’t get any easier with certain pieces. This was one of those because I was not sure I could live up to the promise of the book. Yeah, and I’m not saying this because I wrote this piece but I could feel it in my soul, it was that good. Others had told me it was that good and now my new critique group was trying to convince me of the same. Yet I was having horrible feelings of self-doubt and things almost every author feels at various points in their career. Did I really have the spark to create a great book?

Don’t get me wrong...I think every book I write is great...when I’m writing it. And all of them I have wonderful feelings about but only a few are ones I would call over the top and stellar. I’m a realist and I know when I’m good and I know when I’m just getting by. I also know when I write too fast and too lean, making the whole process much harder than necessary. But this work was so special, did I really want to muck up the works by trying to finish it?

Yeah, you heard me. There are some books we authors never want to finish because then that dream dies. Sure we can get another one by writing another book but sometimes a book is so special we justify not finishing it because of this or a host of reasons. But many times there is never a why. You just stop working on a project and move on.

Almost a full month passed before I wrote anything new on Underwear. I had a new book coming out and I needed to concentrate on getting everything done for it. But soon I was staring at Chapter 3 and going back over everything the crit group had told me and ninety-five percent was wonderful. So I worked on the things they thought needed improvement. Once, the first two chapters were polished, I went back to number three and suddenly, I was seeing it in a new light.

The minor problems were just that...minor...and I had completed nearly 3K in just one day. A new record since my daily average writing total had dwindled to only about 1K. Not only was I back but I learned more and more every time I go to critique. Some days we talk all about passive versus active, others we brainstorm just where to go next or a host of other things but all related to writing. Just last night, I explained things in my story I had yet to vocalize to anyone but me. Those ideas now were out there for them to listen to and digest.

And I know, they will teach me and give me even more feedback than ever. The but the really nice part, this story which is so very special to me will get completed and advance my career in more ways than I ever thought possible. All because I decided to join a critique group.

Now on to the really fun stuff...LOL!

Help me celebrate my new novel, More Than Robotics and get me on the best seller list for September by purchasing it TODAY.

From now until mid-October I am also giving away one copy of a previously released elf book, newest to oldest, in anticipation of this year's Christmas release, An Elf's Love. The giveaway book this week is An Elf’s Desire!!! Also, I will be giving a copy of the first book in my Orchid series, Fluke, to the first person who comments today only! And don't forget to leave me your email addy in today's comment so I can get you your book! It's a double-whammy this week as you have the chance to win TWO FREE ebooks!!! One now...one later!

I know you’ll love both these series as much as I love writing it! Enjoy getting ready for Christmas AND a space ride during the month of September!

All you need to do to be entered is to just comment on my blog, The Many Shades at www.themanyshades.blogspot.com, that's right this BLOG, to get into the weekly drawing. Every Wednesday is my day to post and the contest runs from then till midnight Tuesday for the weekly portion. So come see about all the wonderful promotion opportunities I'm offer fellow authors AND the planned giveaways for all readers out there.

Hope to see you there!

Just to get you even more excited about these FREE giveaways, here's list of the previous winners! See...people really do win...and are enjoying their books right now. This could be YOU!

August Giveaway SiNn
9/2/2009 Annalisa
9/9/2009 quilting reader
9/16/2009 Susan [garysue@dejazzd.com]

See you all next week!!

Lynn

12 comments:

Laura Breck said...

Hi Lynn, I absolutely agree that having critique partners and critique groups - as many as possible - is a fabulous way to inspire your muse!

And I have allergies too. What helps me is local, raw honey! Take two or three BIG spoonfulls daily, and it acts as a homeopathic remedy. The bad part is, you get kind of sick of honey before allergy season's over!

Good luck,
Laura Breck

Gwynlyn MacKenzie said...

Never had a critique group, but would be lost without my critique partner or CP (aka Cattle Prod.)

Online crits don't work for me---too much room for misunderstandings---and there are now writers groups in the area, but I miss the daily walks my CP and I used to share. Still, there is the phone, and we know each other well enough now not to take a comment wrong or be able to argue a point without hurting the friendship.

Lynn Crain said...

Laura,

Critique groups are wonderful! I know I couldn't do without mine.

I had heard that about honey. I am not sure about finding any local...maybe in the next county or southern Utah...but there aren't many bee keepers here.

Thanks for stopping by!

Lynn

Lynn Crain said...

Gwynlyn,

Critique groups are much the same as just having one crit partner. You do become close in time.

Online crit groups can work just like any other group. With us, we post to our yahoogroup and pick up the piece when we can. All crits are done with the help of Word track changes.

You are lucky if you got to take walks with your crit partner. Leisurely walks are a great time to discuss a book or plotting or characters.I've never had that experience.

Thanks for stopping by!

Lynn

Frances Pauli said...

I doubt I could function without my crit group. In person, I've been lucky enough to find a group with such a positive and supportive dynamic that also keeps me on track. For wide spread opinions, I also run stories through Critters.org online.

Finding a place where you're comfortable and productive, is the key and absolutely invaluable.
thanks for the blog

Frances

Lynn Crain said...

Frances,

You are so right about the support you can get with a critique group. I used to be in Critters but for a while the comments weren't as helpful but the organization as a whole is very sound.

Thanks for stopping by!

Lynn

Raine Delight said...

Hi Lynn,

I don't have a crit group per say but I do have some great friends who I trust to show me where I have issues in a MS and let meknow if somethhing just plain sucks. :)

Raine D.

Lynn Crain said...

Raine,

Friends can sometimes be your critique group. And it looks as if yours are working very, very well.

Thanks for stopping by!

Lynn

SiNn said...

I hate hate allergies i have to agree they totally suck specially when it takes for everto get over it and out of the slugish ways of junk


just dropped in to show my support

Lynn Crain said...

SiNn,

Thanks for stopping by! And yeah, allergies suck...I wish I didn't have them...but over the years they have gotten worse.

See you next week!

Lynn

Tamsyn said...

Hi Lynn, congrats on your new novel! I am not a writer but really admire them for the ability to put down ideas into words. Keep writing!

Lynn Crain said...

Tamsyn,

Thanks or the support. Some days I know how amazing it is and others I'm just plodding along!

Hope to see you here next week!

Lynn

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