The Page a Day Writers Group

Posts Tagged ‘critique partners

Are you doing anything May 8 through 15? This is last minute notice, but if you’re a writer, you should know the Writers’ Retreat

Me at WRW

Me at WRW

Workshop (WRW) has a few spots left for the upcoming annual event that will change your life. This year, it’s being held at Purple Sage Ranch, just outside of Antonio, Texas.

Here’s how it works: A fabulous professional editor, agent, or bestselling author gives a workshop. Then everyone goes back to their rooms and uses their shiny, freshly acquired new tools to write or revise their butts off. Then you share in whole and small groups to give and get feedback to revise some more. The pros also view your work to give direction to take your writing to the next level. With all this guided practice, you and your fellow WRW writers provide some of the most amazing feedback in critique groups anywhere. Another bonus is the connections you make with writers from all over the U.S. and often from other countries, such as Belgium and Australia.

And there’s partying along the way for those who wish to join in the fun.

When you rejoin the real-world after your week-long reprieve with awesome, like-minded, creative people, WRW adds you to the list serve. WRW participants since 1987, many of whom are successful, published writers, post news and personal events through the site, available to members only. Any alumni may participate in any conversation. I’ve made friends through the list serve and on Facebook that I’ve never met personally.

Purple Sage Ranch: Home of WRW 2014

Purple Sage Ranch: Home of WRW 2014

The 2014 instructors include: bestselling thriller author Grant Blackwood (Briggs Tanner Novels, Fargo series with Clive Cussler), Literary Agent Mary C Moore (Kimberley Cameron agency), YA and romance author Emily McKay (The Farm, The Lair), writer/editor Les Edgerton (The Bitch, Hooked), director and instructor Jason Sitzes, co-founder and author Gail Provost Stockwell.

If you’re a writer who is ready for an intense upgrade in your craft, your understanding of the publishing industry, and the how-to of marketing your work, don’t miss this chance to become the writing professional you want to be!

If nothing else, you owe it to yourself to check out this amazing writers’ experience, so here’s the link: http://writersretreatworkshop.com/events.html

 

Happy writing!!

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Never mistake activity for achievement. —John Wooden

It’s true. I used to confuse motion with action. As long as I was busy in the motion of writing a novel (taking classes, attending workshops, reading how-to books), I thought I was getting closer to my goal. The reality is, while I was in the motion of writing, I wasn’t truly engaged in the action of writing a novel. The possibility of producing an actual book was slim. I liken it to constantly going to the grocery store buying the ingredients for a delicious cake, but never actually baking it.

I was happy — highlighter in hand — with my nose in the latest or time-tested how to write books. I garnered every tip, idea, theory and tidbit imaginable. And I read every writer’s blog. Actually that last one may have been what saved me.  Thanks to a post from James Clear, I learned the folly of my ways.

Don’t get me wrong. It is important to learn about writing. The knowledge I’ve gained through my critique partners is invaluable. But after gathering ideas from other writers, wannabe writers, editors and agents, there comes a time to put all that learning to the test – or in my case – to the page.

I talked a lot about how hard it is to write fiction. Anyone who would listen, heard my lament. It is a much tougher task than writing a magazine article, where the challenge is to uncover the facts and put them into a readable prose.

One my critique partners, Sharon C. Cooper, called me out on my penchant for hovering around the idea of writing a novel . “You’ve taken more classes than any other writer I know,” she lovingly said. “Girl, you need to start writing.” Those words hit home. I got the message. I needed to stop preparing to write and start spending my  time getting words on the page.

Bum glue, butt-in-the-chair, chained-to-the-computer. It all amounts to the same thing. A writer writes. So get writing.

–Claire Yezbak Fadden

Representing the Page A Day Writers Group, I asked author Cara Lockwood to share some advice, insight and reality about writing and publishing your book. Lockwood has written nine novels in several different genres from chick lit and romance to fantasy and teen fiction. “I Do (But I Don’t)” was her first book to reach the USA Today bestseller list.

She grew up in Mesquite, Texas and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, majoring in English. After college, Lockwood spent four years as a newspaper reporter, working insane hours for next to no pay. “My overly excitable editor sent me running anytime the police scanner went off,” she recalls. After being sent to cover a grass fire on her 25th birthday, Lockwood realized journalism probably wasn’t for her.

Lockwood started working for marketing firm and took advantage of her evenings to write fiction. “That’s when I started writing ‘I Do (But I Don’t).’ A year later, I finished it, thanks to the help of my friend, Shannon, who wouldn’t let me slack off and kept asking me for chapters,” says Lockwood. And that’s how I became a writer. Except that it still feels weird to say, ‘I’m a writer.’ I keep expecting to wake up tomorrow and have to go cover another grass fire.”

Claire Yezbak Fadden

Why do you love writing fiction? Hate it?
I love writing fiction because I get to make everything up as I go along. This is also why I hate writing fiction, because I’m flying by the seat of my pants nearly all the time. I do write an outline when I start a project, but inevitably, I end up straying from it. It always seems like a good idea at the time and then a bad idea later when I’m trying to write my ending! 
 
What authors have influenced your writing style?
I have many authors I admire. But, in terms of the ones who have really influenced how I write, I’d have to say Jane Green,  Marian Keyes and Christopher Moore.  They write with humor and heart.
 
What’s an average writing day like for you?
I make myself write at least a page every day. Some days, I feel like I’m banging my head against the keyboard just to finish the one page. Other days, I can write fifteen or twenty pages easily. It really just depends on how inspired and how focused I’m feeling. It’s also depends on how close my deadline is. Deadlines are great motivators.

You credit your friend Shannon for not letting you slack off when you were writing your first novel. How are read-and-critique partners so important to ultimately getting published?
I call read-and-critique partners “writing cheerleaders” because in many ways they are. I think it’s essential to have a writing cheerleader to help you finish. Whether that’s a friend or a professional editor or a workshop teacher, it’s so important to have someone inspire you to keep going during those times when you lose confidence and are thinking about quitting . Writing is a solitary pursuit for the most part, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need some connections to help us keep going.
 
Please share the most valuable writing advice you’ve ever received.
I think William Faulkner was the one who said “Read everything.” I think the way you learn about writing is by reading. I truly believe that. You can learn something from every book you read – even if it’s a bad one. Even now, I find myself inspired by writers I read. Writing is a process and I am always learning new things about voice and character development and just turns of phrase. 

“The publishing industry runs on trends and what’s “hot” and sometimes your story might fall into this category and sometimes not. You just have to keep trying. You never know when luck will be on your side.”

 
What is the best way for an unpublished writer to find an agent?
Well, I found my agent back in the pre-Twitter/Facebook days.  I think dinosaurs were literally roaming the earth (and hardly any of them had cell phones). This was before the invention of the iPhone (or iPod, for that matter). In terms of finding an agent today, many of them are online.  It’s easier than ever to connect with them. Unfortunately, this also gives them new venues from which to ignore you. It used to be that you could just send a query letter and wait and wait to hear back. Now, you can send tweets and emails and letters and still not hear back!

But, I think the best thing to do is compile a list of agents you’d like to approach. You can find them online or in directories (once upon a time, they used to publish lists in big paper directories, but I believe you can that online these days) or at writing conferences. Find out how they accept queries. The vast majority do not want to see your whole manuscript unless they ask for it. Remember, agents are literally inundated with submissions of up to hundreds a day. That’s what we call the slush pile. Most agents want the “elevator pitch,” which is basically how you would tell someone during the course of an elevator ride the summary of your novel. If the agent likes the pitch, they might then ask to see the next few chapters or the whole thing.

When you go in search of an agent be prepared for rejection – both actual “no’s” and just silence. Do not take this personally. Sometimes, it’s a matter of luck. The publishing industry runs on trends and what’s “hot” and sometimes your story might fall into this category and sometimes not. You just have to keep trying. You never know when luck will be on your side.

How many queries did you send out before you landed your agent?
I sent out nearly a 100 queries before I found an agent to represent me.  Of all those query letters, I mostly received silence back. I had two interested in reading some sample chapters and three others who wanted to read the whole thing. Of the last three, two offered to represent me.

Many writers turn to books like Steven King’s “On Writing” for advice. What “how to write” books have you found valuable?
You know, I don’t read as much about writing as I do talk about it. I have a group of writer friends and we discuss writing regularly.  I also just read everything I can get my hands on, paying special attention to bestsellers. I’m always trying to analyze why a book has been successful. I think reading prose is the best way to learn about writing prose.

What’s the biggest mistake new writers make in preparing their manuscripts?
I think the biggest mistake new writers make is lack of editing and copy-proofing. Nothing turns off an agent or editor more than a messy manuscript with typos. These days, both agents and editors expected a perfectly polished, ready-to-publish novel to land on their desks. Most agents and editors simply don’t have the time to edit first-time novelists. They want something that’s literally press ready. That’s why it’s more important than ever to make sure your manuscript is in the best possible shape before you pitch it to anyone.
 
What are the benefits of hiring a professional editor to review their manuscript?
I think today it’s more important than ever. Agents and editors expect to see a polished product, and if they decide to take a pass on your story, then having an edited manuscript puts you in the perfect position to self-publish.
I also am a firm believer that every writer needs a good editor. In my career, every single one of my novels has been made better by a good editor. The fact is that every writer loses perspective when writing a novel. An editor helps you gain new insight and new perspective into your work and can really help you take it to the next level. The editing process isn’t always painless, but in the end, it helps make for a much stronger story.

What type of editing services do you offer at Edit My Novel?
I offer several editing packages from editing the first few chapters to intensive line-editing of an entire manuscript. With every edit, I will send an editorial letter outlining big-picture issues like character development, plot pacing and marketability. My services are about more than just copyediting. I offer a complete editing experience. For those writers who aren’t sure about how the editing process would work, I also offer a free sample edit. Your first page (or 500 words) are on me.  To find out more, head to http://www.edit-my-novel.com/Services.html.
 
 

Other writers have given a sneak peak into their writing world. Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird, Stephen Kings’ On Writing are two great examples. Janet Evanovich pulled the curtain back in her book, How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author.  Recently though, my writing buddy, Sharon recommended The Accidental Bestseller by Wendy Wax.  Touted a a great summer read, the story moves at a fast pace and I was quickly engaged by the four main characters — all published novelists.

Kendall, Faye, Tanya and Mallory meet at a writers’ conference with wild hopes and dreams.  They stay in close contact and as the years pass, they each become published, some to greater acclaim than others. Then of course, life steps in to mess things up.

Layered within this compelling story, are insider views of how the publishing world works–from a variety of POVs: the midlist writer, the best-selling author, the agent, the editorial assistant, the overbearing editor.

You won’t feel guilty taking a break from pounding away at your novel (the first one or the 50th) to enjoy this summer read. I’m crediting my time toward those 10,000 hours Malcolm Gladwell suggests are necessary to become a world-class expert — in whatever your chosen field.

 –Claire Yezbak Fadden

I’m fortunate to have two critique partners who pour over my work with a commitment to make me a better–and published–novelist. The three of us have been on this journey for a couple of years now and I know how valuable it is to have writers I trust comment on my work.

I often think of Randy Pausch’s words in “The Last Lecture” when he refers to a football coach who cared enough to keep on him to make him better. After a particularly tough practice an assistant coach told Pausch why criticism is a good thing. “When you’re screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, that means they’ve given up on you.” My read-and-critique partners never give up on me. And I’ll never give up on them.

 “When you’re screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, that means they’ve given up on you.”

When I spend time reading their pages, I want it to be of value to both of us. I’ve learned the more I critique, the better I get at it and the more my own writing improves. (Funny how practice always makes perfect, just like Mom said.)

There is a big difference between critiquing and providing a line-by-line edit. If I see glaring grammar, spelling or punctuation issues, I’ll comment, but GSP is not the focus of my critique.

I’m spending my energies determining if the story world works.

Is the tension in each scene enough to make me want to turn the page?

Does the pacing of the book feel right? Not too fast, not too slow?

Am I asking myself, what will happen next or are things dragging along?

Do I care about what’s happening to the characters? Am I invested in the outcome?

Are there enough visual images? Are there too many? (As far as I’m concerned that’s just as bad.) Do I want to skip sentences, paragraphs, entire pages?

What information you look for when you receive critiques from your critique partners? What information to you supply?

–Claire Yezbak Fadden


Who are we?

The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!

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