Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, October 18-22, 2012

Go on the road for a few days and the Great Stuff (and laundry) starts to pile up. So much that I’ve decided to put out a bonus Great Stuff post tomorrow. (The laundry’s already taken care of.) Today I’ll focus on articles on craft and the writer’s life. Tomorrow will be all business. Here we go.

CRAFT

I’ll confess right up front that I’m no fan of writing prompts and exercises—I’m BUSY, dammit!—so when Jane Friedman posted 3 Steps for Using Prompts to Writer Better & Get Published by Gabriela Pereira (@DIYMFA), I was a bit dubious. OK, more than a bit. But Gabriela’s approach is practical: use writing prompts to build writing stamina through practice, improve your skill at specific techniques, then apply what you’ve learned to a project. If you’re not sure about using writing prompts, give the post a look and the suggestions a try.

Characters’ emotions are at the heart of fiction, so David Farland’s (@davidfarland) Surprising Emotions: How Will Your Character React? on The Bookshelf Muse immediately grabbed my attention. Even better, his article offers three surprising (to the reader) ways of presenting emotion. The surprises are having the character: under-react, over-react, or react the “wrong” way. Used with care, these reactions will reveal something interesting or important about a character, and readers are always up for that.

James Scott Bell’s (@jamesscottbell) Baloney Advice Writers Should Ignore on The Kill Zone shouldn’t just raise a smile—or an out-loud laugh—it should clear away the fog of bad (or at least questionable) advice that gets handed out to new writers. Check out his five bad pieces of advice and the counterexamples that prove them wrong.

CRAFT AND LIFE

I decided to use that subhead because these next two pieces live on that boundary between a writer’s craft and his or her life.

Anna Elliott (@anna_elliott) gets us started by Exploding the Perfect Writer Myth on Writer Unboxed. We’ve all run into it, probably, particularly from non-writers: the belief that a writer’s words come out as perfect pearls perfectly strung the first time we put them down on paper or screen. HA! Worse, of course, is the new writer who believes that’s what he’s just done. That’s a painful critique group meeting! But the flip side, as Elliott points out, is that nagging, secret belief that we should produce those perfect pearls each time. That’s why, she says, it’s so important to love the revision process.

So you got the darn thing DONE and it’s out there in reader-land. KM Weiland’s (@KMWeiland) thoughts about How to Tell if Your Book Is a Success on WORDplay center around each writer’s personal definitions of success and failure. Her 14 questions just begin to scratch the surface of the topic, focused as they are on ratings and money, but they’re a place to start the conversation—one that’s good to have before that book comes out.

THE WRITER’S LIFE

Dr. Rita Hancock (@ritahancockmd) addresses preventing a problem that many writers have to deal with: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome on WordServe Water Cooler. She covers the symptoms, diagnostics (which don’t sound like any fun at all), treatments, and most important, how to prevent the condition in the first place. Hint: it has to do with sitting position, arm angles, and keyboard height. Sound complex? It’s not. Check it out.

Finally, Harvey Stanbrough (@h_stanbrough) suggests 12 Ways to Make Your Critique Group Effective. Twelve may sound like a lot but a few are one-time-only actions and the rest become automatic parts of how the group runs quickly. Practical and effective.

That’s all for today. What Great Stuff have you found? Share it in the comments below.

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2 comments on “Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, October 18-22, 2012

  1. Susan Trombley says:

    I checked out Harey’s list and it seems to make a lot of sense, however I have to disagree about not having the work in advance.

    When I read something the first time, I don’t feel that I can be very helpful in critiquing the work. When someone else is reading it aloud to me, I’m even less effective, even if I’m following along on my own copy. I can usually capture the minor grammatical errors or misspelled words but often I need time to sit back and think about what I read before I can provide the really important feedback. Time is simply too short in a two hour meeeting to do this effectively.

    I craft my responses based on raw impressions that take more than a few moments to gel. Often it takes several attempts for me to pin down exactly what I think could be done to make the work stronger. I do all this in the comfort of my own home, with plenty of time to think it over rather than in the pressure cooker of a time-constrained meeting. I would hate to see that change for our group.
    I think its easy to forget that the readers are under as much pressure as the writer in communicating effectively. We want our critiques to be useful otherwise we’re wasting our time.

    That being said, I second, or third or whatever, reading the ‘final’ manuscript aloud to yourself, although I usually don’t bother in the earliest drafts. It is useful to help a writer catch the surface mistakes. I just don’t think it catches the deeper issues as well as a slow, thoughtful digestion of the work does.

    And WHY am I rereading this comment looking for adverbs! Argh! I’m mentally highlighting them as I look over the text. Ha! There was even one in that last sentence. Adverbs are going to haunt my nightmares, I swear. 🙂

    • I agree with your disagreement, Susan. I co-founded the Cochise Writers in part because what Harvey described is the way another area group worked (and still does) and I had the same problems as you. If we just read a page or so of each work out loud, that should be enough and will maybe finally convince some of our doubters of the value of doing it before sending the work out. 😉

      As for your deeper issues/surface issues thought, I think an out-loud reading can help with the deeper issues if you’re reading a full chapter, say, rather than just a scene. “Can help” isn’t the same as “will help” but it’s worth trying. The point is to use every tool in the toolbox that is helpful. Sometimes that means trying many before settling on the few that work best.

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