This month we had a bonus meeting (5th Friday of the month). But you may have missed us at the library today. It was a chilly morning and buses were running late so we took a detour, holed up at my house, wrapped up in blankies, drank cups of tea and had a hot lunch. With out brains thawed, we spent our bonus meeting day on critiquing, discussing upcoming writing courses and events. Next week is back to our normal schedule.
Tag Archives: critique
The discussion this month was Spec Fic Chic’s upcoming anthology. Things are happening. We now have a name, a design for the cover and a growing list of stories to showcase our members’ work, including science fiction, fantasy, steampunk and suspense.
This month’s critique featured a delightful time-slipping fantasy short story, for possible inclusion in our upcoming anthology. Discussions centred on description, symbolism and word choices.
August meet-up was not at the library, due to my convalescence and no-drive status for a few more weeks. We should be returning to the library by the end of September.
Yes – that’s how it is! Get the right feel – for a lazy moment, the sentences should reflect the ‘feel’ of that moment; where the character is in a moment of fight, flight, or freeze – show it through their actions, reactions and events. Setting is part of that event; rhythm of sentences reflect the POV passage through that scene.
Long, lazy, slow sentences are at risk of putting a reader to sleep; sentences that follow the same structure line after line are worse – the reader will never get a feel for the words. Music has rhythm, words have movement and music and light and smell and interactions (action-reaction; cause-effect), and story has ebb and flow and metaphors that don’t get cross or lazy or expositional.
Today, we discussed a lot of pieces:
A short story that was trying to impart a moment of departure from this world. To ensure interest, intersperse deep internalisation with action and events; make something happen.
Short – the fear of the dark, and how to best present how the character finds the moment of redemption/change through the response to normal, everyday moments of joy.
Short – when crossing the line between ‘them’ and ‘us’ and how to ensure there is a line, and the line is clear and distinct, but the story defines the pieces where what really happens, what was really there, is real. It is real, isn’t it? The thing in there? Excellent touches of humour and denouement.
Short – wolves and moons and when the changes happen and don’t; who can see the clues? Good suspense, good thrill.
Viola – rapid paced scene of intrigue.
Stair – where and why and how to instil a fear of the inevitable. What is the moral? And how does she fear the consequences of her actions?
We discussed a lot of things (always do), and even with different genre writing, styles and voices that vary from post-modern to pre-medieval, and the diversity of starting and ending points – we learned a lot. About our own work, about how we use the work of other people to improve our own work, how to push ourselves to produce better work each time, and how to help (push) our other members to do the same – all of us.
Life is short, story is life, put them together to impart a little journey through life into each and every story, each and every character, and each and every theme.
We are all story, and we want you to read ours. Bon appetite!
A full basket of stories:
- Update on Ms Hem and her antics (steam punk)
- Men go mad under the influence of manipulation (steam punk)
- Movement across the desert in search of water – and dragons
- What’s down there? Held over ‘til the next critique
- Companions we don’t really care for – also held over.
The first discussion was Ms Hem. The story is in fragments of plan, outline, scene/s sequences, and research requirements. A lot of discussion on what level of research is required, specifically for steam punk readers. Detail of certain things is expected, however, other things can be glossed over, particularly if they are a lead in to something that comes later, or have been mentioned before, or are not relevant to story.
Discussion on requirements of scene and POV: when to break a scene, how to prepare for scene change, segue (flow), and cause and effect. It may be good to leave a reader hanging for a moment to build the suspense, to magnify the conflict, but the opening and closing of those little moments are very important.
The second discussion is a follow-on from the previous submission in a steam punk novella (a jolly good show, chaps!). The main discussion revolved around (yes, revolved is the appropriate word) how to use a word to imply a feeling – and the use of metaphors that follow the flow of the story, and stay within the bounds of the metaphorical confines (don’ mix ya metaphoricals, laddy). The story unfolds in a manner that hints at the right things in the right places, causes the reader to check over their shoulder (just in case), and to look askance at people they thought they knew (well, story-wise).
The third discussion tried to get more of a feel of the distinction between internalisation and dialogue – how would a person speak in their own mind about their situation, and whether they would waste breath on someone who is giving them the . . . willies. How many characters need to be active in a scene to bring to scene to life? How many characters does the main char have to interact with in order to give the full impact of the scene? How much of the setting needs to be overlaid onto the main character’s (or should that be through) senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste – and emotions).
We also discussed printed book requirements – what looks good, what doesn’t; cover requirements, text elements, page colours, fonts. It’s a minefield, and that doesn’t include how to ensure the formatting the writer puts forward doesn’t get changed by the auto-formatters!
Short stories – several shorts were discussed and a plan laid out for critique of the ones at the stage of completion (awaiting final critique or final proofread). Short stories can be more difficult because the same requirements of story are held within fewer words, within a tighter structure, but must still lay out a full engagement.
And because this meeting was extraordinary (the blue moon), we’ll be back again next week, to discuss Structure (what is it, and how do we make it work best for this story?).
Several items came up for this meeting – diversity of the nature only a writer would understand:
- Fragments of story and how they fit together to make an outline; preparing the conflict and how it flows; why characters do what they do; and why they want the things that encapsulate the story conflict.
- A short story that had already gone into publication prior to the meeting (NDE No. 2).
- Ongoing story of steam-punk characters, gadgets, and nefarious plots.
- Author bio – need to get back to that one, but it is a necessary item in the bag-of-tricks, just like the press package, or marketing package, in case things like:
Photographer arrived exactly on time, prodded everyone into various locations and situations, snapped and snapped and snapped until he was happy with his loot (got snapped in the process – and liked it!).
Leader Messenger News – story on SpecFicChic – should be out in the next couple of weeks.
The critique issues:
POV character responding to the things around them: the concept of cause and effect. If the POV character doesn’t respond overtly, the reader expects something internal. POV is powerful, and internalisation (in the right place and time) can be the tool of power to show distinctiveness, distress, duress – or on the opposite spectrum, it can demonstrate arrogance, ignorance, distance from the issues. Sometimes we think the writer has last say, but it is the character – who else would behave this way in this situation but the person in it? That’s the point we need to reach – let the character show us exactly how the moment works through their senses, through their thoughts and actions and most important of all – through their words.
And next year, we’ll be putting dialogue back on the toolbox list – it is a necessary item to not only learn, but to keep learning, to keep in mind for each and every thing we write where we expect people to speak (dialogue and internal thoughts, as well as internalisation – which isn’t thoughts, it’s the POV character) – anyway, it’s a tough assignment, and it will be back.
A special thing this month – five Friday’s – a blue moon month.
To celebrate, we will be having a second critique Friday on 29 April.
This seems to be the time of year when people are busier than usual, when things unexpected and dramatic (and horrible) can happen. Be on guard – be prepared to protect your soul, your loved ones, yourself. From the Ides of March to the end of March – gird your loins (does anyone know what that really means? I can imagine holding both hands in front of my privates and giving the Marilyn Monroe face of shock (I love that scene).).
It sounds silly, but it’s true. From about a fortnight before the equinoxes, there are ripples in the lives of most people. Why? Are there dark forces that are able to get closer to their targets at this time? I sure don’t know, but I have noticed. Has anyone else noticed? Is the writing at this time of year more shadowed, more dense, darker, more terrifying?
The stories (from WIP’s) critiqued this week both centred on shadows and darkness, fear and loss. To enable the reader to feel that context in the way we (the writer) want them to, we need to ensure the story is deep in character, told as if the reader is wholly involved and connected to the character. We understand, because that’s what we wanted when we were the readers, isn’t it?
Is that what readers still want? I do.
We were a bit short this week, one person protecting an ill friend, one protecting herself from illness, and another off to seek employment in these tough times. A person could write a story about these things, couldn’t they? The drama of survival of body, mind and soul in a heartless, fast and relentless world of pursuit (do we ever catch what we pursue?).
We also discussed the hellish road of e-publishing, e-marketing, the issues surrounding getting our anthology ‘out there’ and the genre that would be appropriate – so many things to consider. This is the ‘business’ side of writing. The ‘job’ is to create the product (good enough to inspire someone to look at it more than once) and the business is getting that product out to the people who will or would or want to make use of it, buy it, enjoy it.
As a writer, I hate the business side of the job, but it’s necessary. Traditional publishers are not the route for most writers any more – they can pick and choose and keep a stable list of horses (whoops! writers). For the rest of us, no matter how good we are (or think we are), we need to understand the business side and allocate enough time to enable our product to support the prospect of going back to the job we love.
When our books come out, please enjoy, please comment/offer review. We need you, the reader, to be the other half of our journey in this world of story. And we want to know what you think.
Success! We all managed to be in the same place at the same time.
This week we concentrated on a short story and an early draft of a historical novel – both from the same group member. The short story was a science fiction tale involving time travel and archaeology. We delved into show don’t tell, carbon versus silica based technologies and the ideal word count range for published short stories for possible inclusion in our future anthology.
It is intriguing to watch each story evolve through various drafts and edits. We are all looking forward to reading the final draft!
We also had a show and tell, from another group member – the steampunk/gaslamp fantasy novella paperback, Doctor Jack and Other Tales, now available to purchase online.
Finally we discussed our anthology project. We have decided quality is better than fast tracking. Our current plan is to work on several short stories over the next twelve months and aim for possible publication in late 2016.