Quote of the Moment

"What's Past Is Prologue." - William Shakespeare

Friday, January 28, 2011

Born to Write

After years of not doing so, I have finally changed my scrolling marquee. Born to Write. That's my new shtick, and the marquee may remain unchanged again for many years ahead.

Why "Born to Write"?

I was clearing out some old e-mails in my inbox last week, and I came across a couple I had saved from back in 2002 and 2003. There was a reason I saved these e-mails--to remind myself that no matter what, there are other people who believe in me. These e-mails were from my undergraduate advisor (truly more than that, as he allowed me to get away with writing fantasy for assignments in his classes) and in response to applications I had sent out to creative writing graduate programs. I was in quite a miserable state after a couple of rejections.

Well, one sentence in those e-mails struck me again as I read it. He told me: "We both know you were born to write."

It's hard for me to put into words how much I appreciated his support and how his words still touch me. He's right, though--I was born to write.

That sentence was followed by, "Just follow the path best you can through this forest." And that path led me to the Writing Popular Fiction program at SHU, all those years ago (and yes, now I'm back in the program to snag that F). I'm still on that path too. Once in a while the trees close in and I wonder if they'll swallow up the trail, but they don't, and I keep moving.

What does this all mean? That I was Born to Write, of course! So, I'm continuing to slog ahead and push forward. It doesn't matter if I ever get a novel published because that's not going to stop me from writing. I'm going to write until my body grows cold and then is nothing but ashes on the wind.

And I hope, one day, I can touch another writer as I've been touched, to tell someone else that they were Born to Write.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Online Critique Workshops

As mentioned in my previous post, it's beneficial to give and receive critiques, no matter what stage of writing you are in. Sometimes it's difficult to find the right place to exchange critiques, though. You will have to test groups yourself to find a good fit for you.

Below is a list of online critique workshops. It's by no means comprehensive, and many of the links lean towards science fiction, fantasy, and horror, as those are the genres I am more knowledgeable in. Sometimes you can find critique partners via writing forums as well.

Online may not work for you--search for critique groups locally as well, or start one yourself. I found my critique partners through my M.A. program (we exchange via e-mail, but I've met them in person during the residencies or retreats).

Also keep in mind, if you form a local group you are likely to have people with many genres--this is not necessarily a bad thing! We can learn a lot from critiquing outside of our genre as well. OK, on with the links:

Critique.org - This includes the Critters workshop. Recently, many new workshops have opened for a lot of genres. No cost. If you have questions about how it's run, feel free to ask me, as this is the one on the list I actively belong to for short story critiques.

Hatrack Writers Workshop - This one is off of Orson Scott Card's website, hosted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury. The information I read does not state it is genre specific. No cost.

Online Writing Workshops - Currently only have a SF/F/H workshop, but have had general fiction and romance in the past. First month free. $49 per year. Yes, they charge, but I know they have been around a long time - it could be worth it for some people (at least you get a month free to test it out).

Critique Circle - Another big one that's been around for a while. All genres. No cost.

Other Worlds Writers' Workshop - F/SF genres. No cost.

Coffeehouse Select or Casual Critique Communities - Looks like all genres. No cost.

Short Story Writers' Group - Only short stories and poetry. All genres. No cost.

Science Fiction Writers Workshop - Speculative fiction only. No cost.

Fiction Writing Brainstorming & Critique Partnership - This is a fledgling group on Facebook, but it has a lot of potential! All genres. No cost.

Some writing forums where you may be able to exchange critiques or find critique partners (there are countless forums out there, don't be shy to use Google):

Absolute Write Water Cooler
Forward Motion for Writers
Author Nation

NEXT UP: Born to Write!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Critiques = Invaluable

Any past Tips & Prompts can be found on my website: Writing Tips & Prompts.

Writing Tip #2 - Critiques = Invaluable

If you want to improve your writing, there is nothing more valuable than receiving feedback on your work. No, not something like "your writing sucks" or "this is great" - constructive criticism, tips and suggestions on how to improve in various areas of writing like characterization, plot, story, and even grammar.

A lot of critiquing is subjective. Not everyone will suggest the same things, but not every reader will read your story or novel and see it the same way. So, you'll need to pick through the comments and decide which ones you think will work the best. It's another good reason to get feedback from more than one person. Likely if everyone says to change a certain aspect, you better pay attention and change it!

Receiving feedback isn't the only way to see what you need to improve on, though. Critiquing for others is just as important. By noticing things in the work of others, it brings perspective to your own writing.

Many times when I'm critiquing, I find myself giving feedback on the things that I am working on or things I have finally learned to fix in my own writing. And sometimes when I notice a bump in someone else's work, it's the first time I realize I've been making the same mistake.

No matter how much you write, how many times you put words to paper and spin stories, nothing will ever be perfect. I don't think anyone ever grows out of needing feedback from other writers. You will improve, though, and you'll be able to look back at an old piece of writing and say, "I've gotten so much better!"

The sky's the limit, right? What limit? ;) Critique, ask for critiques, and know that you are doing so to shine and sparkle up your writing a little more each time.

NEXT UP: Links to online critique workshops.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

An Eighth Color in the Spectrum?

What is the color or magic? Octarine, of course! "It was alive and glowing and vibrant and it was the undisputed pigment of the imagination, because wherever it appeared it was a sign that mere matter was a servant of the powers of the magical mind. It was enchantment itself. / But Rincewind always thought it looked a sort of greenish-purple" (136).

The Discworld is a world that is flat and rests on the backs of four elephants, which subsequently are standing on the Great A'Tuin, a turtle swimming through the universe. This simple image, which opens The Colour of Magic, sets things up for the humorous immediately, and Terry Pratchett doesn't disappoint. This is an older novel, and the first in a long series, but I still think it deserves yet another look at it, simply because I love it (I'm not alone in this).

Rincewind is a wizard of sorts. The truth is, the only spell he knows, but doesn't actually know, is one of the eight great spells that lodged itself in his brain. Of course, this spell left no room for any others, so Rincewind was kicked out of Unseen University, and no one knows which spell took up residence in his mind. The first tourist, Twoflower, ever seen on the Disc attaches himself to the unfortunate wizard. Twoflower seeks adventure, the eternal optimist, quite the opposite of Rincewind. Can't forget Twoflower's Luggage, made of a magical wood--it follows him about, running on dozens of legs. Yup, a box with legs and attitude. Did I mention it eats anyone who threatens its owner?

The adventure ensues, and Rincewind and Twoflower are dragged all over the Disc. Fire and flood in the city of Ankh-Morpork, an ancient monster in a forgotten temple, an upside down mountain where imagination brings dragons to life, and near death at the Rimfall, where the water tumbles off the edge of the Disc. Fantasy and humor all rolled up into one. Love it. I know, I said that already, but I can't say it enough.

The Colour of Magic is split up into four sections. It's like four novellas combined into one novel, which makes it nice to read in small chunks, since each section feels like a completed story. If you're looking for something short and humorous to read, this novel is a good start. The only unfortunate thing is that it ends on a cliffhanger. Literally. Perhaps that was the point, though, to add yet another bit of humor by playing off that particular literary device. The good news is, The Light Fantastic continues the antics of Rincewind.

This time, I restrained myself from giving away any spoilers. I will mention that the second section, "The Sending of Eight", is my favorite. You can easily dive into that part of the book without reading the first bit. Heed this warning, though--once you start reading, it'll be hard to stop! Especially once you come across Death (some of the Discworld novels are centered around him as well, great fun).

Want to hear Terry Pratchett talk about The Colour of Magic? Click Here!

Pratchett, Terry. The Colour of Magic in Rincewind the Wizzard. Science Fiction Book Club Edition, 1983.

NEXT UP: Benefits of Critiques