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The good, the bad, and the ugly truth about writer critique groups by Patricia Grasso (historical romance author)

image: romanceaustralia.wordpress.com
image: romanceaustralia.wordpress.com

The good news is you joined a critique group. The bad news is you joined a critique group. Critique groups can help make your publishing dreams come true, or they can become your worst nightmare.

Some critique groups have seen all their members published by the Big 5 NY publishers. Others have ended in cat fights. Even worse, some groups have harmed an aspiring author’s confidence and set their careers back.

No critique group is better than a bad critique group.

The Golden Rule is: Leave your ego home and take your manners with you.

Image: www.lisalewistyre.com
Image: www.lisalewistyre.com

The following are common sense suggestions for successful critique groups. The members must trust each other. Those critiquing must give honest reactions. Politely, of course. The writer must feel free to disregard those reactions.

Do not stay in a critique group that is not helping your writing improve. Do not stay in a critique group whose members are nasty and critical. If someone is not adhering to the agreed-upon rules, the person should be asked to leave the group.

The members must agree on practical items. How many times will they meet per month? Where will they meet? Will they bring pages or send electronically? How many pages will be critiqued?

Image: www.writersdigest.com
Image: www.writersdigest.com

Ideally, critique groups should have 4 or 5 members. The group needs a facilitator to keep the group on track. That means keeping the group working instead of socializing.

Do not expect all praise. The members should tell you what did and did not work for them. Members may offer suggestions and alternate views about something. That is their opinion.

There is no correct answer in writing. We only have what works and what doesn’t work. You take what you want and trash the rest.

This is a tough one. Only one person speaks at a time. No interruptions are allowed. When the member critiquing is finished, the next one speaks. Meanwhile, the writer is taking notes on what is said. That prevents the writer from debating or explaining.

critiques-t-shirtRecently, I critiqued chapter one and a synopsis for Lachesis author Claire Gem. I’ve attached her blog on this experience. Every writer who puts her work out there for critiquing should have as good an experience as Claire Gem.

The following excerpt is from Claire Gem’s blog (Claire Gem aka Charlotte Daly – is also a Lachesis Publishing author. Her upcoming release with Lachesis is the contemporary romance “Memories of You”:

It’s really hard for writers to put our work out there, open it up to criticism from not only the public but also from fellow writers. .

Those criticisms you hear whizzing by your ears are not always projectiles of ill intent. Sometimes, they are sacred offerings. Nuggets of pure gold.

Image: madwomanintheforest.com
Image: madwomanintheforest.com

I had a 30-minute, private chat with best-selling historical romance author, Patricia Grasso, after our regional RWA meeting. This was a planned consultation following a sequence of emails. Basically, I asked for her help on my struggling work-in-progress. Pat was hesitant to share her “lots to say” about my synopsis and first chapter. She didn’t want me sad or angry. After assuring her I would be fine, she agreed to sit down with me after the meeting.

I went with some trepidation. As soon as we sat down, she said, “You can use all, some or none of my suggestions. The book is yours so you make the final call.”

Pat criticized my POV switches, highlighting the fact they were confusing to the reader. She suggested some major plot changes that I may or may not use. She pointed out chunks of backstory that need “to go.”

Image: 296 × 211Search by image
Image: 296 × 211Search by image

“You remember that fairy tale where the little kid drops bread crumbs to mark his trail in the forest?” she asked.

“Hansel and Gretel.” I said

“That’s how you add your backstory,” she said. “A few crumbs at a time.”

She questioned my heroe’s flaw. “Have you ever read a romance with a hero with this particular flaw?”

ColdHeartedRake“Yes, I just finished a book by Lisa Kleypas and the hero had that flaw,” I replied.

Pat regarded me for a moment and then said, “You aren’t Lisa Kleypas ”.

What I had anticipated as critical stones thrown on my work-in-progress began to sparkle like gems. I realized this wasn’t an annihilation of my work. It was a diagnosis, by an experienced veteran of the romance genre, with a suggested plan of treatment.

“Here I love these lines,” she said, pointing to two sentences on the page. “You have a flair for comedy. You need to play these up.”

“I write contemporary romance with ghosts,” I said. “Where is there room for comedy?”

Image: www.pinterest.com
Image: www.pinterest.com

“There are no rules that say you can’t have humor in contemporary, even if there are ghosts.” Pat sat back in her chair, tapping the pages. “This is your strength, the part of your voice you need to emphasize. Play up your strengths, down play your weaknesses.”

Pat’s comment couldn’t have come at a better time. I almost heard the tumblers click into place inside my head. Breakthrough. . .

 

Enchanting the Duke by Patricia GrassoPatricia Grasso is the author of eighteen historical romances including the Douglas Series which follows the love stories of the amazing Douglas sisters (Angelica, Samantha and Victoria) in Regency London and the Lords of Stratford Series, Regency historical romances with a fairy-tale twist about the aristocratic families in Stratford-on-Avon. 

Patricia Grasso‘s latest release is Enchanting the Duke. You can purchase it at Lachesis Publishing or on amazon, BN nook, or kobo

Connect with Patricia Grasso online on her web site and on facebook

Like our Lachesis Publishing page on facebook.
Follow us on twitter.

 

blog post, Lachesis Author Guest Blog, Lachesis authors, Lachesis Blog, Lachesis Publishing Inc., romance fiction, romance hero, romance novels, writing craft, Writing good dialogue

Four Books You Need To Read About Writing: by Patricia Grasso (historical romance author)

www.cicsnorthtown.org
www.cicsnorthtown.org

Historical Romance author Patricia Grasso has a BA and MA in English and taught high school for thirty years. So when it comes to writing, she knows her stuff. School’s in session. Listen up students!

Remember your junior high school English class? The subject of the sentence is the most important word because it is what or whom you are talking about. The verb is secondary in importance because it says something about the subject. The same rule applies to storytelling. Characterization is the most important element. Plot is the engine that sends your characters on their journey through the story.

51qOCqd5CDL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_9780805011715_l51ncseVgYzL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Lesson #1: Characterization

You should start from the general and go to the specific. THE COMPLETE WRITER’S GUIDE TO HEROES AND HEROINES (Cowden, LaFever, Viders) gives an overview of sixteen archetypes. Once you have a general idea of the type of character you want, the next step is getting specific. Two excellent books are CREATING UNFORGETTABLE CHARACTERS (Linda Seger) and GOAL, MOTIVATION, CONFLICT (Debra Dixon). Seger’s book deals with defining your character, consistencies and paradoxes, creating back story, understanding character psychology, creating character relationships, writing dialogue. Dixon’s book deals with your character’s goal, motivation (the reasons why he/she must reach that goal), and conflict (both internal and external). Obstacles preventing your character reaching his/her goal creates conflict.

51gul6ggGHL._SX312_BO1,204,203,200_Lesson #2: Plot

Plot is the skeleton of the story. Dixon’s book can be used here because characters drive plot. The most helpful book I’ve found on structuring a book is THE SCREENWRITER’S WORKBOOK (Syd Field). Field discusses the story set up, plot points, pinches, climax, and resolution. He uses examples from famous movies.

Lesson #3: Free Advice

  1. Make yourself a master of the technical—grammar, spelling, punctuation. Editors love clean manuscripts, less work for them. Do NOT rely on grammar or spell check. The best computer is your brain. Do not rely on copyeditors. Chances are you know as much or more than they do. YOUR name is on the book, not theirs.
  2. Getting published requires talent, luck, and persistence. You know the old saying: Winners never quit and quitters never win.
  3. Never stop learning your craft.
  4. imagesYou will feel professional jealousy at one time or another. That’s a normal human emotion. Feel it. Let it go. Forget about it. Finish writing your damn book.
  5. Don’t pay too much attention to reviews. You’re never as good as your best review or as bad as your worst review.
  6. Expect setbacks and rejections. Develop a thick skin (easier said than done) because everyone is a critic.
  7. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER google your own name!!!

BEAUTY AND THE EARLPatricia Grasso is the author of eighteen historical romances including the Douglas Series which follows the love stories of the amazing Douglas sisters (Angelica, Samantha and Victoria) in Regency London and the Lords of Stratford Series, Regency historical romances with a fairy-tale twist about the aristocratic families in Stratford-on-Avon. 

OUR DEAL OF THE WEEK is Beauty and the Earl by Patricia Grasso. (Regency Romance)

GET IT FOR .99 CENTS RIGHT HERE AT LACHESIS PUBLISHING. THIS WEEK ONLY.

CLICK HERE TO BUY.

You can also buy it on amazon, kobo, and Barnes and Noble.

Enchanting the Duke by Patricia GrassoPatricia Grasso‘s latest release is Enchanting the Duke. You can purchase it at Lachesis Publishing or on amazon, BN nook, or kobo.

Connect with Patricia Grasso online on her web site and on facebook

Like our Lachesis Publishing page on facebook.
Follow us on twitter.

authors, blog post, Lachesis Author Guest Blog, Lachesis authors, Lachesis Blog, paranormal romance, romance fiction, romance novels, Time Travel, Time Travel Romance, writing craft, Writing good dialogue

Writing Dialogue: Did You Say Something? by Teri Barnett (romance author)

Author and artist Teri Barnett likes to keep her birds on a wire and out of her garden. This is one of her pieces "party line", 24x24, acrylic on wood, 2012
Author and artist Teri Barnett likes to keep her birds on a wire and out of her garden. This is one of her pieces “party line”, 24×24, acrylic on wood, 2012

I was working in the yard recently, wondering while I weeded the garden, what I was going to write about for this latest blog. The geese were driving me crazy with their honking and I could barely hear myself think. Just as I was looking for something to toss to scare them away, realization took a swipe at me. What exactly were those geese doing? They were talking to each other!

Ah, yes, Grasshopper. It was a Zen moment, and so this story begins. Today’s topic? Dialogue.

Writing isn't just about getting thoughts down on paper. It's about being open to the world around you.
Writing isn’t just about getting thoughts down on paper. It’s about being open to the world around you.

 

 

 

I moved to Indianapolis from Detroit in the early ’80s when I took a job with the airport as an Engineering Tech. I had just started to play around with ideas for my first book. I carried a note pad around with me everywhere I went at the airport. Aside from the fact that I thought it made me look important, it made it convenient to jot down the latest inspired verse that popped into my head. But once I completed my outline and started writing, I was shocked to find out I couldn’t write dialogue. I say I was shocked because at the time I was 21 and you know everything there is to know at that age.

Being a good listener is key to writing good dialogue
Being a good listener is key to writing good dialogue

I put the project in a drawer and went on to concentrate on other things (i.e. having children and raising them). My ego got in the way of my writing and blocked a personal truth I wouldn’t discover for several years – I couldn’t write dialogue because I wasn’t a good listener. At the time, I was one of those people who, rather than listen to what the other person is saying, jumps ahead to what I’m going to say in response. And that’s how my characters spoke. They didn’t have conversations. They talked AT each other and the stuff coming out of their mouths sure as heck didn’t make any sense to me so I knew it wouldn’t make sense to a reader.

People watching is fun and a good exercise for a writer
People watching is fun and a good exercise for a writer

How did I break out of this syndrome? After admitting to myself I had a problem, I grabbed my notebook and spent my breaks and lunch hours sitting in the middle of the airport. While I continued to watch them, I also listened to what they were saying, how they were saying it, what their expressions were. I paid attention to intonation, pacing, and accents. I wrote some things down but mostly I just observed. When I next went to write, I discovered an understanding for all these subtleties I had been studying and it showed in my writing. This didn’t happen overnight, it took practice, but the time spent observing real people took root and developed.

Which brings me to the point of this blog, one as uncomplicated, and complicated, as Zen. By simply shutting the mouth and opening the ears, your characters will come to life and your dialogue will too.

SHADOW-DREAMS-COVER-300x484Teri Barnett writes historical, paranormal, and time travel romance. You can purchase her books  Through the Mists of Time, Shadow Dreams, and Pagan Fire at Lachesis Publishing. or you can purchase Teri’s books on amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Connect with Teri Barnett online via facebook and twitter, and check out her web site.

Like our Lachesis Publishing page on facebook.

Follow Lachesis Publishing on twitter.