Feedback vs Your Inner Critic

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I recently got back in contact with an old friend of mine and it turns out that he is also a writer. Although, he may be slightly more advanced in this area than me (He is attending university for creative writing), it’s nice to talk to someone who knows the struggles.

Anyways, we got to talking and he offered to provide feedback for some of my work. So I sent off my latest short story ‘Running Scared’ that I had also sent to the writing competitions. As any new writer knows, feedback and criticism of your babies can be the scariest thing in the world. More so when you know the person doing the critiquing. The inner critic in you starts throwing their toys out of the pram, demanding to know what you were thinking, and aiming the odd rattle at your subconscious head. After dodging the air bound missiles, you sit waiting anxiously for the email inbox to ping *You Have Mail*.

After pacing backwards and forwards for a few moments and biting your nails into a bloody mess, you finally work up the courage to click open and you hold your breath for the first words that will inevitably be there *Your work is useless, please give up now before you inflict and more nonsense on the world*. All of this was part of my process.

Oddly enough, and to my great surprise, he was rather complimentary about my work. He did include some spelling and grammar issues I missed. And also some things that he felt would enhance the story. As a writer, well maybe just a new writer, you feel rather attached to your work and my initial reaction was ‘How very dare you, my story is perfect. There is absolutely nothing you could suggest that would make it any better.’ After, getting over myself very quickly, I realised that actually, he was right. In everything he said. And furthermore, it helped me open up the story and entice people in. Creating a world where they want to stay and find out what happened. It gave my story more substance and reality, which I strive for in my work.

I sat down and went through every single comment that he had left me and work through all of the things that needed to be addressed. Out of everything, I think I maybe disagreed with one comment, of which I did not include in the story. Call it a writer’s prerogative. After reading it all back, with the changes, I can honestly put my hands up and say that they were all for the better.

I have never actually had something properly critiqued before but after this, I’m inclined to maybe go and find a writing group. Surely my writing can only benefit from the advice and opinions of other writers. Of course, it is up to the writer whether they want to take the feedback on board but it can’t hurt to see what the readership would see from an outsiders view looking in.

What are your views on workshops, writing groups and showing your work to someone new for the first time?

I think I quite like it. Now I am off in search of a writing group!

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Writing Competitions… How do you do it?

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Yesterday, I finally bit the bullet and entered my first two (EVER) writing competitions *Waits for applause*. I bitch slapped my inner critic and pressed the send button before they could get back up again and bring me to my senses.

After searching high and low for some competitions that took my fancy, I noticed that even though most of them are genre based, once finally finding one for your genre, you were then asked to tailor it to a specific entry format. For instance, I came across a Horror short story competition, which wanted the story to be no more or no less than 666 words. Now I can see the irony in that, but it got me thinking. Do I tailor the piece I had already written or do I write a whole new piece?

Cutting a shorty story of 3800 words, down to 666 seemed a bit of a stretch so I skipped that one this time round but I thought I might be able to write something for it in the future. But I found a few that I could send my new story ‘Running Scared’ to, that were more general. This morning I thought I would give the ‘666’ comp a bash but then the dreaded writers block set in and I ended  up staring at a blank screen for more time than I care to admit to *Hides face in shame*. Does anyone else have this problem when it comes to competitions that put restrictions on their stories or do you just smash it out without a second thought?

I must admit, I do not have a vast library of short stories at the minute. I have been concentrating so much on my novel that I haven’t wanted to be distracted from it. But I do love the art of the short story and plan on continuing to build up my arsenal. But my question to you is, do you prefer to tailor your stories to fit the competition or do you prefer to write one specifically?

Writing for a specific competition has the added bonus of building your library much faster than perhaps you would do normally, but then when do you have time to write that all important novel? I guess, like anything, it is all about balance.

Let me know how you prefer to attack the competition side of things and if you have found any particularly great comps to enter. I would love to find new ones to enter.

When does more become too much?

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I have recently been delving deeper and deeper into the Horror/Post-Apocalyptic genre and I have realized that there are more ‘series’ than there are ‘trilogies’ in that neck of the woods. As mention in some of my previous blogs, I have thoroughly enjoyed some of the books I have found and they have left me wanting more. But my question now is when does more become too much?

One book in particular that I have ready seems to have a series of eight books and counting, dealing with the same characters and the many trials and tribulations they face in the now derelict world that they inhabit. Now, I know that when the whole world has gone to shit, there are lots of things that can be explored while trying to build some semblance of a working polite society. However how many of you would read through all eight books? I have yet to come across a trilogy in this genre although I am not saying that they do not exist, merely that they are less common and I haven’t found them yet.

By stretching your story over eight different books, are you in danger of watering down the characters and the world they inhabit or is there simply not enough pages in one book to accomplish everything that needs to be addressed? I, myself, can see my current novel rolling into two novels but I can’t imagine being able to write eight books on the subject without rehashing old ground. Maybe that is a downfall in my writing skills or maybe that is what is warranted for the current idea.

I would love to hear your take on the matter as maybe I am still too new to this to be able to make an informed opinion. The ‘Harry Potter’ series by J.K Rowling ran into seven books and no one even bat an eye, in fact, each and every one was met with a desperate sense of wanting before it had even hit the shelves. Being a Harry Potter fan myself (who isn’t?!), it never occurred to me that having seven books in a series was way too much. I bought and read everyone one, and they are still part of my ‘Library’ collection to this day. Does it depend on the individual stories themselves and the sophisticated way in which the author approaches them, that determines if they are suitable to be made into a series and not a trilogy? I can only imagine the depth of planning that is involved in splitting story lines over ‘x’ amount of books. The attention to detail alone must be so minute, so as not to trip oneself up on something that may have been written in book one and brought back up in book six.

Sometimes I find myself wanting more, and sometimes that want is satisfied. Maybe as I progress as an author and a writer, my prose will elevate to a place where people are still desperately in love with my work and characters in book seven as they were with the great J.K Rowling.

Reviews are the way to an Author’s heart

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Generally speaking, when buying a book (I mean an actual physical book), once completed, I do not go in search of sites to leave reviews for it. Bearing in mind that my general ‘To read list’ consists of authors such as David Baldacci, Stephen King and James Patterson, It never really occurred to me that they would need little old me to leave them a review.

Since acquiring my tablet and getting better acquainted with my kindle app *Grr*, I have found myself reading novels from lesser known authors such as Deirdre Gould and Ryan Cassey. Granted, the lesser known authors populate a genre that the others do not, but I find myself feeling more compelled to leave reviews on Amazon, from which I downloaded them.

Now, I must admit that bar Stephen King, I am new to this Horror genre and have not yet explored the vast corners and works that it has to offer so my knowledge is limited. Maybe the author’s I mentioned are indeed bigger than I seem to think. I got me thinking though. Does the size of the Author’s brand influence you in your decision to leave reviews of their work? And if it does, should it?

I know that as I am a new writer, reviews could mean the difference between life and death for my much loved characters that I have spent countless hours getting to know and exploring. I will no doubt swing from the rafters and declare myself king of the world upon the receipt of my first positive review *Does a little dance*. But if I am not willing to spare a precious few minutes to leave a few kind words on someone else’s work, that they too spent countless hours over, what right do I have to expect the same from another.

Surely, the likes of Stephen King and David Baldacci did not just explode out of nowhere (although we know that the internet definitely a more integral part of the author process that it once was) and they too, must have been desperate for feedback from their peers and fans alike whether it be on the internet or via the hand written word. Even now, they may be repeatedly typing their novel names into Amazon just so that they can read what the general public thought of their hard work. I know I would. As much as we all write because we love it, surely there is a small part of us that also does it because we want to make people happy and give them an escape from their realities. Otherwise why would we bother publishing our works?

From now on, I am going to make a conscious effort to leave a review on every novel I read, be it from an unknown author or one of the all-time greats.

Every Author deserves feedback and I think knowing how much time goes into writing a novel, we owe them that much.