On Critique Partners, Part 1

I’ve seen people say some pretty harsh things about crit partners. Yes, when you have crit partners that are a bad fit, they can damage your story and your writing. You don’t want those and if you feel stifled, move on.

However, if you think all crits are bad or unhelpful, then you don’t know the purpose of critiques or how to accept them. That sounds harsh. Sorry, not sorry.

The first rule is that you will have CPs you trust implicitly and you will have CPs that you take some of their advice and discard the rest. However, you never argue with a critique. If more than one person says there is an element to your story that isn’t working, you should look at it with a critical eye. Either way, you thank them for their feedback and then you move on.

The problem with arguing with a critique, that something is explained later or it’s really okay because their motivation is real and true, is that you can’t argue with a reader. Best-case scenario, they get to that section of your novel and they’re pulled out of the story. You do not want that. Worst-case? Your book becomes a wallbanger.

If there are questions the CP is asking or suggesting, then maybe you’re not giving enough information at the right time. That’s an easy fix. A few lines peppered in. It is not a reason to have a meltdown.

Bottom line, there are some bad crit groups out there. We’ve all been part of them. The vibe is off, people are mean with their feedback, or they start lecturing you about writing rules. Leave those groups because you can’t grow as a writer there.

There are also awesome groups that encourage you and help you become a better writer. Is it easy? Hell no. Does the feedback hurt sometimes? Yes. This is your beloved story and it’s no fun when someone says it isn’t working for them. But if it’s a solid group with good writers who build you up? Don’t run. Do some introspection and ask yourself why you’re so afraid to change your story. You know what they say—you have to murder your darlings. Sadly, they don’t lie.

Come read Landra Graf on April 29th for part two!

P.S. Be sure to check out our Heart-Shaped Glasses Facebook group because today I’m giving away a free book from my to-be-read pile. You have to comment to win, so come join us on Facebook!

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

On Writing: Music to Get You in the Mood

Hi, all!  Jennifer here.

In case you ever wondered, I do create a musical playlist for every book I write. It’s one of the first things I do when I begin plotting. It helps me get a certain sense of the tone for my book–meaning, setting, my characters motivations or backgrounds and even how they fall in love.

Will they fall in love quick and cute or more thoughtful and deep? All that kind of depends on the music I choose.

I have a music app called NAPSTER (formerly, Rhapsody). There I can discover new music and if I think it’s a good fit, I’ll add it to my playlist. Sometimes I knowingly search for certain songs because of titles that go with scenes in the book.

In my book, Fiancé by Fate, I knew I had to add “Superstitious” by Stevie Wonder (because my heroine is extremely superstitious) and “Boston” by Kenny Chesney because the story takes place a majority of the time in Boston. 🙂

For the new book I’m working on, I happened to find a lot of WONDERFUL music while watching The Vampire Diaries on Netflix. The music is a little deep and emotional, but I feel it fits the mood, particularly with my hero. (He has a traumatic past.)

Here are a few songs that made the cut on my recent book playlist.

I hope you check out them out, because they’re my personal favs:

  1. All We Are” by Matt Nathanson
  2. Belong” by Cary Brothers
  3. Echo” by Jason Walker

Until next month, happy reading (and listening)!

Jennifer

PS. If you’re on Facebook, my friend, Leigh Fleming – Author has a new release coming up!
Stop by April 4th (today!) for giveaways and excerpts! I’ll be there 6:15-7pm EST (giving away autographed books and a fun bookworm coffee mug!)

 

 

 

About Jennifer Shirk

Jennifer Shirk is a USA Today bestselling sweet romance author for Montlake and Entangled Publishing who also happens to be a mom, pharmacist, Red Sox fan, P90x grad, and overall nice person. Check out her latest sweet romance: BARGAINING WITH THE BOSS.

Novel Settings

At the moment, I am plotting a book. If you’ve read my books, you know I don’t get excited about the typical setting for historical romance, the London ballroom. I love the lesser known places, the slightly wild and occasionally remote–Durham, Northumberland, the Lake District, Yorkshire, the northern coast of Maine. That’s where my heart lies.

The first book in my new series is set in the 1850s in Kendal, Cumbria, the southernmost gateway to what is now Lake District National Park.

Kendal Castle, which I visited in October. (HSG’s very own Nina Croft used to play in these ruins when she was a child.)

So when plotting the second book, it’s been fun to peruse maps and the web for an even wilder and more remote spot, isolated, in a crumbling castle within which is hidden treasure beyond price. These are my contenders:

The Isle of Skye (off the west coast of Scotland):

Isle of Skye. By John Allan [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

An as-yet-undetermined location near Hadrian’s Wall:

Hadrian’s Wall between Housesteads and Once Brewed (fabulous name!). By Michael Hanselmann (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 County Powys, Wales:

Looking through one of the remaining walls of Castell Dinas Brân towards the north east. Source: Wikipedia.

Lundy Island, off the coast of Devon:

Four Celtic inscribed stones from Beacon Hill cemetery, Lundy. By Grantus4504 [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0, from Wikimedia Commons.

The Yorkshire Dales:

Swaledale. By Kreuzschnabel (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0, GFDL or FAL], via Wikimedia Commons.

I might come up with something entirely different in the end–it’s often more fun (and okay, easier) to look for settings than to actually write the book. 🙂

Writers: how do you come up with your settings?

Readers: What kinds of settings do you like the most? Civilized cities, or natural places? Glittery ballrooms or spooky castles?

And which one do you think I should choose? I’ll give away an ecopy of one of my books–your choice–to a randomly selected commenter!

 

About Marin McGinnis

A lawyer in real life, Marin McGinnis feeds the more creative part of her soul by writing Victorian era romance and mystery. She's spent almost half her life in a tree-lined, unabashedly liberal suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. She's been married to the same great guy for over 20 years, and has one teen-aged son. They all live together in a drafty old house with their two standard poodles, Larry and Sneaky Pete. While her very first book will languish under the bed, the next book, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next two books, Secret Promise and Tempting Mr. Jordan, are also available from Wild Rose Press. Marin currently serves as President of the Northeast Ohio chapter of Romance Writers of America and is hard at work on the next book. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

The Writing Blahs

I had a rough January. My grandmother passed away after a long battle with dementia, my mother was in the hospital for the first 25 days (she’s doing much better now), and my daughter had her baby 8 weeks early due to pre-eclampsia (mama and baby are also doing very well). My brain, my energy, my heart–it was elsewhere.

And I had self-imposed deadlines to meet. Those may seem unimportant, but they’re just as important (to me) as “real” deadlines. I suspect many of you understand. Unfortunately, my writing output began to slow to a trickle. I was in that dreaded middle of a story, before you top the hill, when it seems like there are a million bad words behind you and a million new words to go. I had the writing blahs.

I asked the wonderful ladies here at HSG for advice and they, to a one, suggested reading a good book. I haven’t taken their advice yet, though I tried, because I just can’t seem to turn my brain off. When I do read, I have writer-brain. “Oh, nice hook,” or “I see what you did there.” I’m going to persevere, even as I try to reach my writing goals daily.

I did some research (because I certainly wasn’t writing) and came up with some great quotes and articles I thought I’d share with you.

From Lydia Sharp on Writer Unboxed:

There are times I must immerse myself in research, or pull out an old story and do line edits, in order to refresh. This is the result of a right brain/left brain imbalance. The scales are tipped, and equilibrium can only be achieved by adding to our noncreative side. Fact begets fiction.

From Carly Sandifer on One Wild Word:

If you’re tapping out your sentences on your computer, pick up a pen or pencil and write by hand in a notebook. For that matter, some people enjoy typing on an actual typewriter.

I’ve done this plenty of times in the past, but deemed it too slow for my higher output. I’d cut out the middle man (I thought), but maybe sometimes you need the middle man to negotiate a treaty between you and your brain.

This great post (which is more about writing blogs) from Henneke Duistermaat at Smart Blogger:

Feeling a little frustrated?

Well, let it out.

Before you start writing, curse like a sailor. Get angry. Be emotional.

Write something you’re passionate about. Have a good rant. Don’t worry about going too far.

There’s worse advice out there. After all, if you’re writing flat, your reader will be able to tell. Maybe move on to a particularly moving scene?

What’s you best writing advice for defeating the writing blahs and getting past a block?

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

My Lists Have Lists

Resolutions as such, just don’t do it for me. It’s just another list. If your life is like mine, it’s already full of lists. Right now, I need a list to keep track of the lists, and no doubt there’s an app for that. And I have so many time saving apps I don’t have time to use half of them.

One of my many lists involves my writing goals for 2017. Yes, in spite of the fact that I often hear the whooshing sound of a self-imposed deadline as I see it in the rear-view mirror, I still have goals. And I still believe they are attainable. And no, this is not a good way to build a writing career, but it’s authentic.

For the past several months I’ve been working on simply being consistent. That sounds easy. If it were easy, we’d all be living our dreams without effort. Life is good at curve balls and often they can derail the best of intentions.

Right now, I’m dodging curve balls and showing up. And doing the work as best I can. Sometimes it’s not as much as I planned, but it’s something. So, I cut myself a little slack, and consider the progress. Rather than simply quit or lose focus because I didn’t reach that big goal yet, I’m concentrating on I what I have accomplished, not what I haven’t.

And you know what? I don’t feel so derailed. That’s been a big one for me. It eases the frustration immensely. It also really helps the motivation factor and keeps the writer’s block at bay. Instead of thinking, ‘I’ll never get this book written’ I’m changing my self-talk to ‘Look what I managed today. I’ll get this book written!’ I confess, I’m cautiously optimistic about what I may be able to accomplish this year.

Do you have any tricks to keep the motivation humming along?

About Sutton Fox

Sutton Fox has been published by Lyrical Press, Gypsy Shadow Publishing and wrote a bi-monthly column for an auto racing magazine for several years. She traded life in Bluegrass Country for life in the Windy City in a home she shares with The Man, a lonely cat, and her beloved dog, Lucy. When she’s not working the edj, you can find her writing or spending time with her extended family.

2017 Goals by Julie Jarnagin

The Passionate Critters have been in planning mode this week. Everyone has been sharing their goals and dreaming about the year to come. It has been fun to see the similarities and differences in how we’re planning for 2017, but we all have the same hope – to have a healthier, happier, more productive new year.

Here’s a few tips I’ve collected from seeing the goals of our group:

  1. Decide how to break it down: Some people have set monthly or quarterly goals. Especially as writers, it’s hard to plan for November and December now. So many of us have set early goals that we’ll look at again later in the year.
  2. Balance: Most of the goals have a balance of personal and professional goals. We all included writing goals (because we’re a writing group), but many of us also set family and health goals too.
  3. Realistic but big: We all have big dreams, but we also try to keep our feet on the ground. Several of us have day jobs, young kids, and other big responsibilities outside of writing.
  4. Keep it simple: My plans consisted of only a few bullet points because too many goals tend to bog me down. I want to keep the most important things top of mind.
  5.  Having friends to encourage you is key: We’re lucky to have a group of encouraging ladies to cheer us on. Share your goals in the comments, and we’ll cheer you on too.

Do you have reading goals for the year? My goal is to read 100 books in 2017. Join my in the Goodreads reading challenge. https://www.goodreads.com/challenges/5493

My Latest:

Engaged by Friday

From a USA Today bestselling author Book 4 in the Matched Online series

Can a fake engagement lead to lasting love?
After her boyfriend dumps her instead of proposing, Mary Beth wants nothing to do with her ten-year high school reunion. Especially because if she shows up without a date, she’ll lose a bet with her high school nemesis. Christian is too busy with his camping equipment startup to date—until his sister sets him up online. The chance connection could help his business—if he agrees to Mary Beth’s dramatic request that he pretend to be her fiancé. But when make-believe becomes something more, they must decide if this new love can last…

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About Julie Jarnagin

Julie Jarnagin is a multi-published author of inspirational romance. She grew up in a small Oklahoma town where her family farmed and ranched. These days she lives in a not-so-big city with her amazing husband and young son who tolerate all her nerdy quirks. Julie earned a B.A. in Journalism / Professional Writing from the University of Oklahoma and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. www.JulieJarnagin.com

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