Learn how to enjoy having your work critiqued by Sherry denBoer

via Sherry denBoer Author

Learn how to enjoy having your creative work critiqued might sound like an impossible assignment, but, in my experience, releasing the dislike or fear is about mindset.

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog post, the value of creating relationships with critique partners, I remember the jitters that came when first handing off a manuscript for critique.

Like most things precious to us, we don’t want to have our work dissected, altered, and criticized. We want it to remain whole, unchanged, and pleasing just as it is. And sometimes, we believe that our creation reflects us; so, critique it, and you critique us. We don’t enjoy hearing about the parts of our creation, and thus about us, the creator, that might need improvement.

But why are we so fragile about this? I can only speak for myself. Maybe you can relate.

When I first received a critique of the first draft of my manuscript, the many red markings in the margin (or wherever they fit) rose from the page like warning signals of personal failure. Even when I told myself I’d be okay with whatever came back to me, those pages of red markings were difficult to digest… at first. The next day, after I’d slept on the comments, interestingly, I felt differently about them. One or two of the comments immediately stood out; their improvement to my work was undeniable. If one or two comments made that much of a positive difference, what might all the rest do?

And just like that, I transformed from a wounded ego to an eager creator once more-more excited about my project than ever.

Instead of fearing failure or personal judgment, I experienced renewed excitement about my manuscript, and deep gratitude for the person who’d taken the time to read it, and the care to comment so generously.

My mindset had changed. The critique experience became thoroughly positive; it became a lesson in which I quickly found great value. I was now excited to contemplate and evaluate each thought or suggestion given to me. I moved through each comment with care and consideration. For each critique provided, one of the following occurred:

  • I accepted a critique suggestion outright;
  • I used the clear misunderstanding of a critique remark to change a manuscript description, plot element, character intention, word choice, or another such manuscript-related component. Each change brought a noticeable improvement;
  • Each change brought a noticeable improvement. I reworked a critique to better suit the intention of my manuscript;
  • I altogether discarded a critique.

Sometimes, well… I’d say, most of the time, we’re too close to our work to see objectively where it needs improvement.

Here are a few examples of errors or omissions we can too easily miss:

  • Words that don’t convey the meaning we intend;
  • Improper use of pronouns;
  • Improper use of tense;
  • Repetition of phrases or words or overused expressions;
  • Use of clichés;
  • Misspelled words;
  • Holes or gaps; the missing bridges that connect the plot or scene structure;
  • Creation of a character who lacks depth or isn’t relatable to the reader;
  • Inconsistencies in the timeline or other details.

In time, handing a manuscript or some other heartfelt creation over to a peer for critique becomes easier. We,

  • Move past worrying about being judged and get back to the business of producing the best creation we can;
  • We see the remarkable value in each critique—even the critiques that at first seem too heavy-handed or harsh;
  • Each remark becomes a path to improvement of creation and craft.

To enjoy having your creative work critiqued might sound like an impossible assignment, but, in my experience, releasing the dislike or fear is about mindset.

This is a guest post by Sherry denBoer and you can read the original version here.

You can also find Sherry on Twitter.

If you would like to publish a guest post on here then please do reach out.

Weekly Ramble #144

2022 has been an incredibly busy year but also quite rewarding. Last weekend saw the final performances of my 4th play which was very well received. While it is wonderful to receive great feedback it is just as wonderful seeing performers take on my writing and have a great experience with it. Some of them doing this for the first time, will probably never look back.

Not so long ago, it was me up on that stage and after choosing writing as my primary thing it gives me wonderful satisfaction to see performers enjoying themselves and even having that all-important moment when they know that performing is for them. Its even like they have found their calling and that is the resultant of art sometimes. Most creatives eventually have a positive experience which draws them back to creating and over the years I’ve had my fill.

My journey has been a series of chance encounters with creativity with each one building towards my love for writing and telling stories. Long may it continue because this writing machine never stops.

Guest Post: Music to Write By: Motivator or Procrastinator? By Emma Jordan

Introducing author Emma Jordan who talks about music and writing…

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

As an indie romance author, I love making all my own writing decisions, from series concept to book marketing and even the actual writing bit. Who wouldn’t?

But what I REALLY love is deciding what music to play, whether I’m:

· Researching an idea;

· Creating a Spotify playlist of my novels;

· Creating an Amazon playlist to inspire me on car journeys;

· Distracting myself from writing;

· Tidying my CDs;

· Taking a break from writing;

· Avoiding editing;

· Celebrating self-publishing a book;

· Trying to write character arcs.

The rhetorical question is: do I play music to motivate my writing or to avoid writing?

A little of both, as any graduate historian will conclude.

I’ve included music in all three of the romance novels in my series, Love is Everything (across all musical genres):

Everything, Except You – four decades of country music and 80s film themes;

Everything and Nothing – seventies rock and classic rock;

Everything For Her – 90s pop and Latin music (this is the book I’m currently, musically, distracted from);

Even my Christmas novella, Everything This Christmas, includes Christmas songs (and films).

You know when people say they’ll listen to anything?

I really do, I’ve seen New Kids on the Block and Andrea Bocelli live shows – not together, although that could inspire an intriguing book one day. I’ve spent five days at a country festival that I had to be dragged away from, I RockFit to Rammstein and I’ve seen Muse perform 12 times in six countries (don’t even get me started on combining travel and music).

I even volunteer to write music reviews and interview musicians for Lyric Magazine, because I love sharing my love of songwriting and storytelling.

I’ve always loved music. I grew up in a music-loving household. We didn’t have much, but we had cassettes. I remember 13th July 1985 as a 7 year old, standing in the lounge in front of BBC One and yelling to my Mum, ‘It’s On!’ just as Live Aid, the first charity concert, was about to kick off 12 hours of live music (including Paul Young. Swoon).

As a teen, I took babysitting jobs based on the person’s cassette collection, and if there was a twin deck I could record from. As an adult, and parent, I need live shows as much as my daughter needs to read (proud mama moment; she’s book-obsessed). Perhaps my gig obsession is not for the reason you think. I’m deaf in my right ear, which probably explains my addiction to live shows (front and centre if possible) I need to feel the music. It also makes for great writing inspiration when I hear something completely different to what’s actually being said. Talk about Four Candles.

I absolutely can’t wait for live shows to resume again, so that I can convince myself, ‘I’ll write on the train’ when I actually mean I’ll listen to artist’s music all the way back home, reliving the show, drifting to sleep with a huge grin across my face.

What do you listen to when you’re supposed to be working?

Romance writer Emma Jordan hangs out on Twitter and Instagram (as well as Spotify and Amazon’s KDP reports) and loves to connect with readers and potential-readers.

To celebrate the 1st book birthday of my second romance novel, Everything and Nothing, all readers can add this to their #TBRPile FOR FREE before the end of Friday 16th July 2021.

Weekly Ramble #116

Since 2018 I have read and reviewed 120 independently published books. The pillar that holds my authoring and blogging brand together is reviewing other authors books and to begin with it drew some very favourable results – blog follows, new readers, author friends and even sales for my own works. Those things drove me initially because they are good things for me but then I realised slowly that I wasn’t just doing this for me.

While I would never ever consider myself some kind of hero for reviewing books, I now do it for greater reasons than just personal gain because in all walks of writing it’s the ‘everything else’ after that makes this whole thing worthwhile. Some of these things can come unexpectedly and that might be the true power of writing. Over those years and books reviewed I’ve forged a level of trust from you and from a wider social media following all driven by a desire to make authoring and writing better. As independents in this social media age we are representing future generations of wordsmiths who will enter this arena someday, an arena where gatekeeping is slowing diminishing, it will probably never go away fully but we can at least improve things. Amazon have given anyone a platform to publish, but it is our responsibility to make sure it is represented well. These days you don’t have to be ‘someone’ to get any type of acclaim in writing. While agents and big publishers look to hold on to how things were, times are changing for the better. Anyone who has written something can now be successful instead of someone else deciding that.

Authors reviewing fellow authors books makes the indie scene better for everyone. I have said time and time again that reviewing others’ works will also help you but don’t expect a direct return, don’t feel entitled because you reviewed a book and want something back because ultimately what you’ve done will benefit us all – you’ve made this journey better for everyone.

Weekly Ramble #93

Pick a project and start editing. That’s my motto for the start of this year and that’s what I’m currently doing. The self help guide book is shaping up and also growing in detail. Although I only drafted it back in August, that’s a long time in this world, things have moved forward, lessons have been learned in abundance and this train of authoring and blogging is not stopping.

It’s a good time to be busy and to get lost in projects because out that window, much like the last ten or so months it’s just doom and gloom. The UK is going into another ‘lockdown’ imminently and well for me nothing much changes. Work, home, work and then home. In between that reading, writing and blogging. I’m staying in, much like last year and for probably the duration. I’ve said before that lockdown equals opportunity and so that’s what I shall seize. As much as things are bad, while I’m at home, I’m safe and I take solace in that.

While this year has started in one place, twelve months is a long time and everything is still to play for….

Busy folks get things done and that’s just what I am… hope you are all keeping busy and staying safe….

Weekly Writing Inspiration #14

It’s Friday again and so with that in mind let us celebrate with some moderate to light humour in the form of partially inspirational but always fun memes…

The nap is and always will be an institution for me…

I feel as if only certain generations will get this one…

YouTube are really grinding my gears at the moment with the double advertising and then being torpedoed with built in sponsors….

Isn’t that all of us? And if you didn’t get the memo, wear a mask!

2020 has been a pretty awesome voyage of discovery in both reading and getting to know some of you. Long may this continue…

Inspirational writing moment of the week comes from this wonderful review posted by awesome blogger and big time supporter of my stuff Nicole from Mullen Crafts – a blog that you totally should follow and support, go now….

I reckon the trick is to not have a day off. I don’t think there has been a day where I haven’t been doing something bloggy or writer for a long time…

Okay I went there, but it’s true, damn true…

Well I don’t think it gets better than a duck in a hat so that is where I shall hang my hat and finish this here post. Thanks for tuning in, see you in the next one!

Weekly Ramble #84

Winding down… only kidding, I wouldn’t know how. Lee Hall is only Lee Hall if he is writing. Third person narration aside (because I am nowhere near notable enough for that) I’m going to keep going – the results were too goo not to…

Normally by this time of the year it’s the off season for me. I’ve spent the last 9 months writing and fashioning all of my efforts into promoting the 6th book release to worthwhile results. Now I would normally look to calm down into what is supposed to be a rest phase. Until after January I usually spend these winter months playing around with experimental writing projects, theatre writing and perhaps some initial drafting. Not this time as this isn’t our usual year.

I’m near enough most of the way through that guide book I might have mentioned once or twice. It’s turned out well and will be around 30,000 words of relaying experiences from everything that’s brought me to 2021 in writing. It’s an attempt to capture what it takes to be an author and blogger in the social media age – something I’ve got some experience in after nearly 7 years or so. From selling books effectively to blog subject ideas, there should be something for everyone looking to either blog or author in the social media age.

My hope is to be able to pass on something worthwhile and also to steer the literary world in a better direction through persuading more indie authors to review books from their peers. Trust me when I say this whole deal turned a massive corner when I started offering reviews for indie authors. It’s fostered connectivity and the right kind of engagement. Reviews are something authors can never ever have enough of and so that presents an unlimited amount of need for them – something that I have stumbled into and made myself a name with. To convince the world your intentions are genuine will sell more books than anything else, I shall share more in the guide book coming soon. Watch this space and until then you can expect more book reviews along with other writing related content including another promo of my Ghost romance for Halloween!

Weekly Ramble #74

I’m starting to embrace and enjoy the semi lock down lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong, I miss people, I miss gatherings, I miss the opportunity to have conversations but many of the lifestyle elements right now I am enjoying. 

It’s a case of embracing what is good in a shituation. That’s what this is and for so much bad that has come from this, it’s also been a huge opportunity to take on things that I wouldn’t normally take on. In the beginning I got myself back into booze nearly every night. Drinking for me has always been a vessel to good times and so I leaned on that perception to have a ‘few’ every night and for a while it worked as a coping mechanism. We all know that’s a slippery very short term slope and especially so for the health situation and of course the scales which I quickly became unhappy with.

The lock down was something that began to piss me off, no matter what I did and so my mental health took a hit for a small time but I’m pretty damn good at getting my ass up off the ground. I took one big look at myself and said ‘I can do more with these days’ and I’m lucky enough to have a work that has continued to pay and employ me, just on a different basis. I have to attend work for two shifts every 6 days, day time or night time.

For someone who’s been held down by the excuse of work for pretty much everything I eventually crawled away from that because of all this time I now have. I’m getting up before 9 every day, I’m eating clean, I’m exercising every morning and then leaving my afternoons to write and read. This is the best shape my schedule has been in for a long time. It’s like being semi retired and I’m doing stuff I’ve always wanted to do. Maybe finding the best out of a bad situation is really the best way any of us can cope…

How are you coping right now? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s talk about… writing – The First Draft…

Let’s talk about writing and specifically the process of writing that first draft.

Personally there is no full proof blue print to teach someone to write. You have to find that within yourself but I can sure as hell talk about it and hopefully pass on some ‘wisdom’ about the craft. If you tuned in to Twitter recently you may have seen my recent thread that 4 people probably read all about that first draft.

It’s easier and relatable to think of writing in a way that everyone can. So for this post, we are going to use the analogy of cooking to represent writing that first draft…

Drafting a book 101 – The Omelette Analogy

So, you’re hungry and it’s approaching lunchtime. You have a hankering for an omelette…

* Translation – you have an idea and want to write a book. 

For a while you’ve been thinking about what you want to put into this omelette and you have some ideas. Do you have the ingredients? Do you have long enough in your lunch break to pull it off? Is there is decent frying pan in the kitchen. Do you even have a kitchen?

* Translation – you have some story ideas that could link together to make an entire book, and you’re set on a genre. Do you have enough ideas to run the course of a book? Do you have the time in your schedule to dedicate to writing. This will need to be a regular time nearly everyday. Do you have a laptop or a working computer? Do you have a dedicated writing space – I wrote on my bed for 4 years, ask my back about it… 

You’ve got several eggs and various other ingredients (ideas) some you know work and others that don’t but you figure ‘what the hell, this art and I am an artiste’. You grab the frying pan (laptop or notepad), make some time and start cracking eggs. You set the heat to medium and begin to mix..

*Translation – you’ve answered most of the questions above and dive in! 

Even though you’ve never cooked an omelette of this kind in full, you are getting a feel for the process and are learning by doing. This is probably the way I found my chef’s voice (writing voice) by spending hours upon hours of cooking (typing).  

*Translation – you’ve probably dabbled in some kind of writing before. A short story here or essay there… 

You then omit some ingredients (story ideas) because there are too many things going on at once hence disrupting the overall flow of things (the story) and so now you pour the mix into the pan. Of course you haven’t greased the pan (know what you’re really doing yet) but go with it and set the heat lower..

*Translation – although things might not have fully formed, you see the potential in your own work – its important to encourage yourself in the early stages because this is solitary effort. Nobody is on the sidelines cheering you on, nobody probably knows or ever will appreciate the time you put in to get better and make a story better…

Things start to shape up pretty well and you grab a spatula to shape the omelette into what omelette’s look like (you’ve read books, lots of them and know what they look like…) although at this point you should be concentrating more on the eggs (story) really being cooked… (you may even go back a few pages and do some editing) 

You move to flip the omelette although it’s stuck to the bottom of the pan but you persevere and manage to flip the thing although it breaks up and is partially burnt. Basically one hot mess…

* Translation – you realise writing is hard, this is where most give up but you persevered no matter how ugly it looks and somehow you’ve dedicated the time to completing the first draft…

You take a bite and although you probably wouldn’t serve this up to anyone else, you like it, and you can see some potential. But a first draft is many things, telling yourself the story, the foundations or even the skeleton of a dream. 

For those who persevere with their dream they know things aren’t fully ‘right’ so they continue to go back and change a few things such as the heat level of the pan, what gets used to grease it, the quality of eggs and ingredients. Some of these can be worked on, but only the cook who wants to cook the omelette can do it on their own accord by carving their own path… 

And so I hope you are still with us and that analogy didn’t quite clog up the brain. Drafting a book is just the first step and I hope you can see what I did in comparing it with cooking. This is just like making an omelette and much like you need the tools to execute in the making, you’ll need the same for writing.

Thanks for reading…

Does your writing process compare to something relatable like cooking? 

 

The night workers lament

The night worker is paid for their time but the currency is sleep. For every shift they work they are for the night to keep. 

The entire world has gone to bed and then there’s us, the night worker’s who keep the place running, our appetite in tatters, our eyes tired and our bodies weary.

Keep the lights dimmed. Let the Coffee, tea and sugar keep our systems running.

Is there another soul out there? Sometimes my eyes play tricks, guess that’s just the fatigue or perhaps something else..

Torchlight down corridors and hallways that lay silent. Did the door behind just open? A vending machine, my beacon of light, don’t swallow my change, I need this, alright.

Time seems to crawl and I’m feeling adrift. I’m just waiting for the light to give me just a little lift. Find any way to pass the eternal time. All of this just for the extra dime.

Early morning sky brings that light, my stomach realises and comes back my appetite.

Soon we’ll go home past the ‘normies’ who work all day. While I’ll be in the dark trying to drift away.

Sensitive to light and tired for days. But I’ve always got plans, always.

I guess I like it but sometimes need to vent, for this truly is the night workers lament.