Category Archives: Writing

Monday Morning Wisdom #305

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Monday Morning Wisdom #305

“Somebody said that writers are like otters… Otters, if they do a trick and you give them a fish, the next time they’ll do a better trick or a different trick because they’d already done that one. And writers tend to be otters. Most of us get pretty bored doing the same trick. We’ve done it, so let’s do something different.”
~Neil Gaiman

Online Critiquing—Is It For You?

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Online Critiquing—Is It For You?

I used to be part of a wonderful weekly critique group of six very committed members plus a few others who came as they were able. We called ourselves Tuesday’s Children, and we’d been together for decades.

And then stuff happened. A wedding. An illness. Having other things to do besides writing. And our little group slowed down. Some put writing on the back burner. Eventually our meetings dropped their writing focus, and became occasional social get-togethers.

And then Covid happened. And one of our members passed away (not from Covid).

We gathered once on Zoom, and maybe we’ll do it again, but it’s not the same.

You may or may not know this about me, but I hate change, unless I initiate it.

I know, I know—change is inevitable, not optional. The ability to embrace change is critical to our survival. I get it.

Even though I do have several friends I can send manuscripts to, the loss of my weekly group hit me hard. Writing is such a solitary endeavor that my “colleagues” served as my support structure as well as my social circle.

Recently I joined a national writers’ organization (I’m not going to tell you which one), and one of its features is an online critique network. I wasn’t sure how that would work for me, but I signed up for the monthly orientation, one day late, thinking I wouldn’t start until April.

Instead, they included me in March’s email orientation, assuring me I could do the training (and homework) at my own pace.

It’s been a while since I’ve taken any type of class, and I felt overwhelmed. The organization has a certain way they want the critiques performed, in a very particular format. Initially I felt stupid; I couldn’t grasp the fine points. But, actually, as I went along, everything became clearer, and easier. I finished the 5-lesson training and was launched into the large group.

You’re required to do at least two critiques before you submit something of your own. You can submit up to two chapters (or multi-chapter excerpts of up to 2500 words) per week, but you must do at least two critiques for each submission you send in, preferably more. You can expect at least three people to critique your pieces, and if you don’t get three, you can send the group an email requesting enough critiques to equal three.

I read a bunch of submissions before I found one I was comfortable critiquing. Some were not good. Some left me at a loss of ideas for suggesting improvements. But finally I found one that resonated with me, and I dug in. Since then I found a WIP that I really like, and which I’d like to critique every future chapter of.

And then I started submitting my WIP, a middle grades fiction. I only have three chapters done at the moment, but I sent them all in.

The responses were very encouraging. The group has given me excellent feedback and shown me where my phrasing or structure is confusing. They’ve been very kind, and a small group of MG/YA authors asked me to join them. I haven’t committed yet, but I think I might, since I like their writing, and they seem to like mine.

The online critique network will never take the place of Tuesday’s Children in my heart, but it’s a viable substitute for a difficult time. As Covid slows down and gathering with others gets less scary, I know of a local writer’s group (I’ve been on their email list for a year) that I can start attending. And perhaps, in time, I’ll be able to attend a weekly in-person group again. One can only hope.

Now it’s your turn. Do you have an artistic support group or a critique group for your creative endeavors? Would you ever consider an online arrangement? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

Monday Morning Wisdom #304

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Monday Morning Wisdom #304

“Writing is always a process of discovery—I never know the end, or even the events on the next page, until they happen. There’s a constant interplay between the imagining and shaping of the story.”
~Kim Edwards

Creative Juice #236

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Creative Juice #236

Some of these links will improve your creativity; some will improve your life.

Monday Morning Wisdom #303

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Monday Morning Wisdom #303

“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
~E.L. Doctorow

Creative Juice #235

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Creative Juice #235

Things to try. Things to remember.

Monday Morning Wisdom #302

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Monday Morning Wisdom #302

“The character that lasts is an ordinary guy with some extraordinary qualities.”
—Raymond Chandler

Guest Post: Get A Literary Agent With The First 15 Pages Of Your Novel, by Writer’s Relief

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This article has been reprinted with the permission of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. We assist writers with preparing their submissions and researching the best markets. We have a service for every budget, as well as a free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit our site today to learn more.

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Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

Once you’ve finished writing, proofreading, editing, and formatting your book, the next step toward getting it published is to try to get a literary agent for representation. While each literary agent’s submission guidelines are different, the submission strategists at Writer’s Relief know you’ll need to prepare a query letter, synopsis, and the first fifteen pages of your novel—and only the first fifteen pages—to effectively query agents. So it’s vital that your first pages make a great first impression, hook your readers, and leave them wanting more! Here’s how to get a literary agent with the first fifteen pages of your novel.

How The First 15 Pages Of Your Novel Will Help You Get A Literary Agent

Some writers might feel the first fifteen pages aren’t their strongest and would rather submit the entire manuscript. But literary agents know these are the pages book buyers will read first, and it’s important they are drawn into the story and want to keep reading. It doesn’t matter how great the middle of your story is or how clever the plot twist and ending are—if your first fifteen pages don’t intrigue the agent or your readers, no one’s going to keep reading.

Writing Tips For Boosting The Impact Of The First 15 Pages Of Your Novel

Begin with an opening sentence that packs a punch. What do you want your very first statement to communicate? Don’t just set the scene. You can create mystery, incite conflict, or start drama all with your first sentence. Not only will it keep the agent reading, but it will set the tone for the rest of your work.

Introduce your hookThe hook tells us who your protagonist is, what their life is like, and how they deal with the conflicts that arise. Set the plot in motion and give the reader someone to root for and a reason to cheer on this character! Use these first fifteen pages to set the tone for the rest of the story.

Add emotion. Your novel can be cleanly written and grammatically correct, but without emotion, the story will be flat and boring. Readers will want to know how your main character feels about what is happening. The emotional response from your protagonist raises the stakes for your plot, and inviting an emotional response will have an agent invested in your novel.

Establish plot, character, and setting. You want to introduce these elements in a way that will intrigue readers so they’ll commit to reading more. Once you’ve completed your novel, go back and reread your first fifteen pages to see if you need to cut anything out or add in certain details. You may even find yourself completely rewriting the opening pages in order to best bring in your plot, characters, and setting.

Avoid too much exposition. While it’s necessary to include details about your plot, characters, or setting, be careful not to treat the first fifteen pages as a setup or prologue for the actual story. Don’t write paragraphs of telling what your character looks like or what kind of weather is happening—show who the characters are through their words and actions; reveal the weather through its effects on the protagonist.

End the first chapter well. Don’t let the first chapter drag on—find a stopping point that will encourage the reader to continue to chapter two! Introduce a new character, add a plot twist, or leave readers in the middle of a conflict so they are eager to know what comes next.

If you can grab an agent’s interest in the first fifteen pages of your novel, you’ll boost your odds of getting a request to see more pages or the entire manuscript—and of ultimately landing a literary agent. Follow these easy writing tips and you’ll be sure to leave readers wanting more of you and your book!

Question: Tell us the title of a book you think has a great first fifteen pages.

Creative Juice #231

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Creative Juice #231

Enjoy these twelve creative articles.

Creative Juice #230

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Creative Juice #230

Twelve tantalizing articles to spark your imagination this weekend.