Monthly Archives: September 2011
Every Wednesday I’ll be sharing some hints and tips about how to improve your writing. These are basic things I have learned over the years, from writers websites, published authors and constructive feedback from friends, family and online pals. criticism
There is an argument that fiction writing cannot be taught because it comes from talent alone, it is in your nature to be creative. Whilst there is some truth in that, even the most creative person needs to learn how to use their ability and make the best of their craft.
This week: Criticism can be good!
This weeks topic is about how you cope with criticism about your writing. We’re all critics from the day we’re born but accepting criticism isn’t always easy. How we deal with it depends on various factors from emotional state and stresses to hopes and expectations. It’s easy to be dismayed when reading what you think is a bad review or negative feedback, but it’s worth remembering that not all criticism is bad. When you ask for feedback you are opening yourself up to the real world, one that has largely been ignored because until that point it was just you and your imagination.
We’re all critics.
When you wake up and stare out of the window you make a judgement on the weather. If it’s hot and sunny you critique the few stray clouds on the horizon that may ruin the perfect day. Whilst chowing on breakfast you are critiquing the bread, coffee, cereal etc. Just because you bought the food doesn’t mean you can’t evaluate it. Maybe the coffee is too bitter or the bread a bit bland, either way you are offering feedback, unheard or unshared it doesn’t matter.
We make judgements and criticisms all the time, every facet of out lives is based on these two things. If you think about it they are fundamental in our survival mechanics and allow us to make decisions. When it comes to providing constructive criticism sometimes we fall short of the mark. It’s one thing to criticise a friend’s choice of car or hair style but another to give unbiased and honest feedback on something that really matters, like the story you have been working on.
When asking for feedback/review/criticism you are looking for a list of things:
- Unbiased opinion.
- Constructive comments.
- A balance between the good and the bad.
Let’s take a look at an example of criticism and its different formats.
Rest your light weary traveller. Far you have come along the troublesome path of life. A life filled with rich experiences, of which I hope were a blend of joy and sadness. I am here to usher you into a new place, different yet so very similar to that which you know and love. Before we shift through the veil of grey to the wonder beyond, a moment I beg, for reflection on a life gratefully taken and wisely spent.
You have moved with placid grace, thriving on the volume of youth and accepting the peace of silence.
Without surrendering your principles you strove to remain on good terms with the lights that crossed your own path, bright and dark, colourful and mundane.
You spoke your truth quietly and clearly. You showed respect where it was due and listened to others as they told their story.
To a degree you avoided loud and aggressive lights, for you understood how they could vex the spirit and sap the mind.
By resisting the urge to compare yourself to others, you shunned vanity and bitterness. You were wise to acknowledge there will always be greater and lesser lights than yourself.
Whilst many plans for the future were cast aside in favour of others, you enjoyed your achievements no matter how small or trivial they appeared to others.
You remained humble in your career, an admirable quality in the changing fortunes of time. Your foresight and intuition served you well as trickery and deceit is rife in the world.
All lights strive for perfection, and you have not been blinded by virtue. You were blessed with a life of honour and heroism, unknown may these things be, unrewarded by all but the few or the one.
Your light remained true without deviating from your moral centre. Hand on heart, you were always yourself.
For you, love in all its forms was never a fabrication, nor were you cynical about such a powerful emotion. When faced with disenchantment and doubt you believed love would find you.
The autumn of your life brought subtle changes, you surrendered your youth for wisdom and grace. On your journey sudden misfortune was navigated by strength of spirit, a shield to hold dark times at bay.
And in those dark times of loneliness and fatigue, you resisted the urge to worry about that which you could not control, your imagination and perseverance were your best weapons and most faithful friends.
All lights struggle with discipline along life’s path, for it floats like a leaf in the wind, strong and steady to relaxed and playful. Your sense of right and wrong played in harmony with your good nature and belief system.
All lights are children of the universe, no more and no less than the trees and the stars. Your light shone with equanimity and passion.
The universe unfolds with endless patience whatever your beliefs. Your life was not blinded by one opinion alone and you found your place amongst friends.
You alone had the power to find peace with God, whatever you conceived Him to be. Throughout the noise, colour and confusion of life, you kept peace in your light.
The world is filled with falsehoods, broken dreams and trickery, yet you remained cheerful and optimistic.
Above all you strove to be happy.
And so your final mortal moment fell from you like grains of sand in an hourglass of your life. As we step through the grey veil think of what you have achieved, the lights you have touched with your own, and the legacy you leave behind. Don’t be saddened by your loss, or troubled by the loss felt by those close to you. You will be remembered just as you will remember those who have crossed your path.
So rest your weary light, traveller, and I will guide you to another place that awaits you, one that is equally astonishing as that you leave behind. Fear not, the end is only the beginning.
This short story was inspired by Indigo Spider’s Sunday Picture Press – a challenge to write between 50 and 1500 word piece of fiction using one of 4 photos as a prompt. This weeks prompt was entitled “Lies to see the truth” and came with 4 additional prompts. I loved the haunted statue and the prompt: Maybe lies are just another way of seeing the truth.
Another break from my usual epic story telling mode, I fancied something a bit more poetic, and although I tried to lay it out as a poem I gave up and rearranged it as it is. I try to write poetry but it always looks clichéd and cheesy. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you’ll know I’m rather smitten with a poem called Desiderata by Max Ehrmann. Well this is a sort of response to his words of wisdom, as spoken by a guide taking care of another light crossing from one plane to another.
Excellent picture prompts from Indigo. If you want to join in and write a short piece of fiction clicky-click Indigo Spider’s link above and wrap your imagination around one of the pictures.
Have you ever wanted to write a novel? Is there a story inside your noggin waiting to escape? Well here’s your big chance to let it all out. In November NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) are launching 30 days and nights of literary abandon! You’ll have one month to crank out that novel you’ve been dying to share with the world!
This will be your time to shine!
Yeah right Dave, one month to write a novel, pull the other one.
Seriously, dear blog reader, one month is all you need. I’m going for it, so why can’t you? It took just under 1 year to write my novel, The Range, so I figure I can manage to write 50,000 words in a month, no sweat. It’s going to be just currrrazy!
So what is NaNoWriMo?
That’s a good question! Here’s some basic information to whet your literary appetite:
What: Writing one 50,000-word novel from scratch in a month’s time.
Who: You! We can’t do this unless we have some other people trying it as well. Let’s write laughably awful yet lengthy prose together.
Why: The reasons are endless! To actively participate in one of our era’s most enchanting art forms! To write without having to obsess over quality. To be able to make obscure references to passages from our novels at parties. To be able to mock real novelists who dawdle on and on, taking far longer than 30 days to produce their work.
When: You can sign up anytime to add your name to the roster and browse the forums. Writing begins November 1. To be added to the official list of winners, you must reach the 50,000-word mark by November 30 at midnight. Once your novel has been verified by our web-based team of robotic word counters, the partying begins.
Where: You write wherever you’d like. On your computer, on your iPad, on a typewriter – anywhere is fine, just as long as you’re writing! For a more in-depth NaNoWriMo overview, visit the devilishly handsome “What is NaNoWriMo?“and “How NaNoWriMo Works” pages.
You had me at “Currrazy!” so how do I get my writing groove on?
That’s easy. Head on over to NaNoWriMo and sign yourself up. You can fill out your author profile, check your NanoMail, search for Writing Buddies and get yourself a badge to go on your blog, like the one on the right. There are forums and all sorts of crazy ways to keep in touch with fellow Wrimo’s. There aren’t exactly winners as such, except those who complete their 50,000 words and upload their novel for word count verification before the deadline, midnight November 30th.
You can write what you like so long as it’s fiction, and don’t worry about the quality, just let your imagination take over and worry about all the editing and faff when the month is over. It’s all about the quantity not quality. The idea is to get your novel out of your skull and into the real world. Whenever you’ve written another chunk of your novel simply login into your profile and update your word count. This is where things get competitive, must keep up, must write more, argh my brain hurts, someone bring me a dose of sanity!!
Indigo Spider is in the process of setting up a team of dedicated writing
nutcases enthusiasts to support one another throughout the crazy month. We’ll have a Twitter stream – #nanoteamindy – where you can drop in and share your anguish/tears/smiles/rants and raves so expect plenty of jiggery pokery, japes and general silliness!
I wanna start right now!
I hear ya, dear blog reader, I’m eager to get my fingers dancin across the keyboard. I’ve already got an awesome idea for a story. Here are some ideas to get your brain in gear for November 1st!
Make notes – Jot down story ideas, characters, plots etc. Don’t actually start writing yet, that just spoils the fun, you don’t have to join the Scouts to borrow their motto: Be Prepared!
Grab some inspiration – Be that music, art, a favourite novel, movie etc. I’m preparing a playlist of music to spur me on through the challenge!
Read through the NaNoWriMo website – There’s loads of stuff to read up on the website, get in tune with the challenge, familiarise yourself with the forums. You can even join a Wrimo Region to chat with folks near you. From what I’ve seen some members even get together for a drink or bite to eat and discuss all things Wrimo!
Don’t Panic! – If you think about it, 50,000 words over 30 days is only 1,666 words a day. How hard can that be? Not that hard if you consider how much writing you do every day without realising. Do you send emails? Leave comments on blogs? Write a blog post? Tweet? If you add all that shizzle up yo might be surprised at the word count!
Remember, this is a crazy fun time where you can finally let that novel out! Enjoy it!