Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A tip a day to keep the rejections away

Let’s call this a marathon…of words.  I’m going to post one writing tip a day to help you become a better writer.  Some of them you may already know.  It all depends on how far along you are as a writer. 


What are my qualifications?  For several years, I’ve written the monthly Pet Vet column for the Post Bulletin newspaper.  I’ve had articles published in RunMinnesota, DVM360 journal, and The Wagazine.  I’m in a wonderful critique group that meets weekly to tell me everything I’ve done wrong.


Save yourself some time by learning from my mistakes.


Abbreviations are as follows:

MS = manuscript

CP = critique partner

WIP = work in progress




My last blog alluded to today’s topic:  GOOD CRITIQUE PARTNERS ARE WORTH THEIR WEIGHT IN GOLD—NO, MAKE THAT PLUTONIUM.  (Now, I’m not foolish enough to ask what my CPs weigh, but I know I don’t have that kind of money.)


Don’t write in a vacuum—as in, all by yourself, with only yourself to edit, and only your opinions on what works and what doesn’t in your book.  (Unless you’re Steven King or something, and—heck, doesn’t he at least ask his wife what she thinks?)

jack nicholson the shining photo: Jack Nicholson shining.jpg

After you've finally written the last word on the last page of your first novel, you may feel both drained and relieved. "Thank goodness that's over! That took forever!" Sad to say, the "real work" has only just begun. Yes, you've accomplished a lot. Most people only say they want to write a book and never do. But you're nowhere near done.


Have you ever heard the phrase: "Most of writing is actually rewriting"? Rewriting refers to revision. Get ready to revise your MS over and over again. Editing is a slow, tedious process and you'll need assistance along the way.


Enter your new best friends, your critique partners (CPs).

Critique partners are people who you meet on a regular basis (weekly or monthly) who read your material (say 3,000 to 5,000 words at a time, whatever works) and make CONSTRUCTIVE comments on it. 


Someone who says, “This chapter sucks!  I didn’t even read it!” is not a good critique partner.  They need to offer specific examples.  Is the dialogue wooden?  Is the character whiny?  Is the plot full of holes?  They might even suggest how to fix the problem, but don’t expect them to do your writing for you. 


Find partners who want to help both themselves and others.  You want people who know what they’re talking about when they give you advice.  They should be honest, but never rude when what you’ve written really isn’t working. 


Sometimes it’s hard to find such great folks.  I’m blessed with a critique group and several people “on the side”.  (Oh dear, now as I write this, I feel like I’m “cheating” on my regular critique group.  Oh, the guilt.)


Where does one find such great people?  Well, seek and ye shall find.  I started with a monthly writer’s group at the local library and branched out from there. 


My “on the side” CPs are good friends or family members.  One is my eternal cheerleader.  (Trust me, some days I really need her.)  I’m blessed to know some really good editors, both professional and hobby.  Sometimes I just need a fresh pair of eyes on a WIP because my CP group has already seen it a million times. 


Since I write both veterinary and non-veterinary articles, I need people knowledgeable about veterinary care to ask, “Did I miss anything in this article?”  But I also need laypeople to make sure I stay grounded.  I want to reach out to people, not talk over their heads. 


Some people don’t use family members in case they won’t be honest because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.  However, my family has always been MORE than willing to stab each other with verbal knives.  (Haha.  Kidding.  Sort of.)  I’m lucky enough to have a wonderful, brilliant, gorgeous cousin (You know who you are.  And if you don’t, I’ll give you a hint—we’re having lunch on Thursday.) who has even proven to be a highly desirable Beta reader for the other members of my writing group.


I have no experience with this, but some writers found their CPs on-line through writing contests, workshops, or blogs.


What CPs will do for you:

1)      Identify repeat words. 

For example, my CP might say: 

“Ann, you really like the word ‘butthead’. 

There are 12 ‘buttheads’ in this chapter.

To resolve this issue, do a word search.  See what you really need, then change or omit the rest. 


2)      Read your WIP piecemeal to resolve the nitpicky issues with the MS

-          sentence structure

-          chapter endings

-          realistic dialogue

-          past/present tense inconsistency issues

-          plot holes

-          and much, much, MUCH more!


3)      Prepare your MS for Beta readers.

Save Beta readers for when your work is polished, so that they can focus on overall plot and character arcs, not editorial errors.



That’s it—your quickie tip for the day!  Don’t worry if this blog left you with more questions than answers.  I plan to discuss chapter endings, realistic dialogue, past/present inconsistencies and much more later.  Remember, we have 22.2 miles to go in this writing marathon!

See you tomorrow for Mile 4!

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