Do You Need a Critique Group – Or Something ELSE?

Yesterday I cooked brunch for writer friends Jim Sorenson and Sage Walker. (That’s me in my Orchid Throne apron that the amazingly talented Minerva Spencer made for me. Isn’t it awesome??)

We sat in the grape arbor, listened to the bluebirds feed their nestlings, and talked all things writing. It got me thinking about critique and what we need to improve our work that ISN’T critique. Come on over to the SFF Seven for more. 

First Cup of Coffee – June 7, 2019

If you’ve been waiting for the second Sorcerous Moons compendium, books 4-6, it’s out! Also talking about reviews and why authors shouldn’t try to improve craft by reading them. And updates on my broken contact lens.

Does Your Family Read Your Books?

We have high winds today and Jackson is feeling the fever – here he is trying to climb the portal post. Spoiler alert: that’s as high as he got.

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is whether our spouses or close family read our books. I always find it interesting how widely this answer varies among writers – from those who cowrite with spouses, or rely upon them or close family to critique, to those whose families don’t even know they write. Come on over to find out more!

Crit Partners vs. Beta Readers

P1012997This week’s topic in the Bordello is critique partners (CPs) – why we do or don’t have them.

It’s surprising to me that, while many aspiring and newbie authors use CPs, it seems like many authors gradually grow away from them over time. Particularly if they are working with editors. Also, more and more these days I hear writers refer to “beta readers” more than CPs, which I think indicates a few trends. 

Anyway, read more about it on the group blog!

Ducking the Spanking

One of the things I love about this house is how the sunset fills every window. I don’t often take photos from inside the house, but I thought I’d try. Can’t get all the windows very well, though.

Hmm. Maybe I need a panorama card for my camera!

Writers tend to have funny conversations. If overheard, they might sound quite alarming. Discussions of how best to kill people, how to dispose of the bodies, argument over what kind of childhood trauma is the most scarring. For writers of the smexy, it can get particularly interesting. Especially when you’ve worked with the same critique partners (CP) long enough to have shorthand references.

The other day, I told one of my CPs that she was ducking the spanking again. No, not like when we were kids and hoped mom and dad would forget about the promised punishment. This referred back to a story she wrote, with BDSM elements, where the prospect of a spanking was held out for most of the story and, when the moment arrived, she glossed it.

Voodoo Bride knows about this. There’s nothing worse (for readers like us, anyway) to be promised a sexually intense situation that never materializes or is glossed over. The whole point of something like a spanking scene is that it’s intense and difficult and puts the characters into an extreme situation. It’s a very human and polite tendency to back away from tremendously fraught situations like that.

However: this is the story gold.

So when I read my CP’s story and felt like she’d created a very tense, difficult scenario and then defused it by making it not so bad after all, I could tell her she was ducking the spanking and she understood right away.

Now, I’m not saying you have to include a spanking scene, metaphorically or literally. If you don’t want to go there, don’t. But, if you include something like that, then follow where it leads, into all the dark, twisty, intense shadows.

If you’re going to have a spanking, make it a good one.

Aaaandd on that note – you all have a great weekend!

Messages in the Wind

The Buddhists have this idea that every person you encounter has a message for you. If you learn to listen, the theory is, you’ll know what path to follow in life.

I think there’s some truth in this.

I also think the people who thought this up lived in a much smaller society where they met only a few hundred people in their entire lives. That’s about two minutes  on Twitter. Do I think every person on Twitter has a message for me that will illuminate my life’s path?

Oh no no no.

That actually sounds more like a Jim Carey movie than the road to enlightenment.

So , the point is, you have to be discerning and know which messages to listen to. The crazy guy preaching on the subway? Probably not. Your well-meaning senior colleague offering advice on keeping your job “in this economy?” Hmm. The family member throwing the word “selfish” at you because you’re not doing what they want you to? Uh, definitely not.

As with many aspects of life, it comes down to considering the source.

The other day one of my writing buddies wrote a post about taking critique. She mentioned a scene that five of her six readers/critique partners loved and one hated. Because she didn’t want a sixth of her potential readers turned off, she made revisions. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this. Except that I thought I probably would not have made the revision, had it been me.

Now, I’m not saying I think she was wrong to do it. There may be a deeper level to this in that the comments of the “hater” resonated with her and that’s what really drove her to make the change. Very likely she trusted the source.

Trusting the source becomes key. When your best friend gently takes your hand and tells you that the lipstick you’re wearing makes you look like a plague victim, if you trust her, you know she’s looking out for you and not cutting you down. When a stranger comes up to and offers a piece of information that answers the question you’ve been asking in your head, trusting that is an act of faith in the world.

I think that’s what the Buddhists were getting at.