Writing in a Bubble

During the time I wrote The Brevity of Roses, I was a member of four different writing groups. Only two were briefly simultaneous, and only one group lasted through submissions of the whole book. My point is that many eyes viewed at least parts of the book while I wrote it. With my novel in progress, the situation is far different. I’m writing in a bubble.

Only four or five people have read the first draft of the opening chapters, less than 6,000 words. I planned not to show any of it to anyone until I finished and edited it once. Now, I doubt the wisdom of that plan. I think that’s partly why writing this book has been so difficult for me. I miss the encouragement. Ideally, a writer should be so confident in their story idea and execution they don’t need cheerleaders.

Yeah, someday …

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about writing a book as a committee project. I had written far ahead of whatever chapters I submitted for feedback. But I needed to hear that someone was interested in reading more, so I wouldn’t give up when the writing got difficult.

I also needed to know the story “worked” for someone besides me. Recently, Heather Simone blogged about seeking feedback on a rough draft. She decided to send the first draft of her current novel out to betas, as she said, “All in hopes that I wouldn’t have to waste time double editing.”

I’ve always claimed to love editing—but that may be because it’s never involved major revision. I’m sure I won’t like it much this time if my beta reader feedback sums up as, “Start over.” Or even worse, “Maybe this one should be stuffed in a drawer.”

Each writer chooses the method that works best for them. Some writers have an alpha reader, someone who reads the first draft, maybe as they complete each chapter. Some may have more than one alpha, which would be more properly termed a small group of first-string betas, who give feedback on an edited version, which is then re-edited before being sent out to a larger group of betas. Others write, edit, and polish before seeking any feedback.

I know, now, I don’t like writing in a bubble. I would like to have an alpha reader. Barring that, I definitely need a small group of first-string betas.

Your turn: Which method do you prefer? And do you let anyone see your rough draft?

Eventually, it always comes back to writing

So, yeah. I’ve been writing. As soon as I finished the first draft of one story, I started another. Now, scenes from my next novel are playing in my head. It’s a bit distracting, but I’m not going to drop everything and open that novel file yet. These little previews are just the Muse letting me know she’s working on it.

So, yeah. I’ve been writing. As soon as I finished the first draft of one story, I started another. Now, scenes from my next novel are playing in my head. It’s a bit distracting, but I’m not going to drop everything and open that novel file yet. These little previews are just the Muse letting me know she’s working on it.

Still, it’s hard to be patient with the story collection project, when I have a novel waiting. I have a couple more stories to write, and then, as I get feedback on the lot, it will be editing time. Recently, I received valuable feedback from someone I’ve never worked with before. She wrote seventeen comments on a story of less than seven hundred words! I had to laugh because that’s the way I critique. I think we might work well together. 😉

In other news: Has the weather this season been unusual where you live? We’ve been dry most of our rainy season, but finally got a good drench a couple of nights ago and then again last night. It’s been so warm and sunny, my peach and nectarine trees were set to bloom, and now the rain has brought a chill back to the air. Has anyone checked the earth’s tilt lately? I know my equilibrium’s off.

You all probably know that Adele won six Grammies Sunday night. Well deserved, in my opinion. I saw a link to an analysis of why her song “Someone Like You” is such a tearjerker. Though the song doesn’t quite make me cry, I do get chills at moments when I listen to it, so this analysis sounded reasonable to me. Now, if only I can figure out how to apply that “appoggiaturaa” thing to writing highly emotional scenes.

And there you go, I’ve brought the subject back around to writing again, so I think I’ll go do that. You go do something you love to do too.

Whence cometh thy critique?

In the last few days, I started three different blog posts and finished nary a one. Obviously, I’m out of touch with my brain right now. I spent two afternoons working in the garden, so it could be an allergy effect. In any case, I have nothing particularly witty or profound to say at the moment. (But I do sometimes, don’t I?)

In the last few days, I started three different blog posts and finished nary a one. Obviously, I’m out of touch with my brain right now. I spent two afternoons working in the garden, so it could be an allergy effect. In any case, I have nothing particularly witty or profound to say at the moment. (But I do sometimes, don’t I?)

I am working on both a novel and some short stories. Oooh, I just thought of how Demetri Martin writes with both hands at the same time. Wouldn’t it be cool if I could type on two keyboards simultaneously—one for the short story and the other for the novel chapter? I could be as prolific as Joyce Carol Oates. Not as good a writer, of course, but equally prolific. (Forgive me, I’m writing this with a headache.)

ANYWAY, I’ve been wondering how I’ll get critique on my works-in-progress. I no longer have access to a live critique group, and I’ve never been able to work up enthusiasm for joining online groups where I know no one—or more importantly—know nothing about anyone’s writing skills.

That led me to wondering how you all get feedback on your work. Do you seek it from one, a few, or many? Do you prefer live groups or virtual? Have those preferences changed over time? If you’re in a group, how does yours work? Specifically: How often do you meet? Do you read aloud? Do you receive the work ahead of time and critique at home, so you only discuss it at the meeting? How many members do you think is optimum? Do you critique all lengths of work?

What say ye?

Image © Drawing Hands by M. C. Escher, 1948

Writing feedback, how much is enough?

Well, I guess this means I’m blogging again—more or less. I spent my time off thinking, and reading, and traveling. Now, I’ve returned to writing. Though, obviously, I didn’t write a real blog post for today. I just have questions for you.

Well, I guess this means I’m blogging again—more or less. I spent my time off thinking, and reading, and traveling. Now, I’ve returned to writing. Though, obviously, I didn’t write a real blog post for today. I just have questions for you.

Once upon a time, I wrote a novel. At the time, I belonged to a critique group with about fifteen members. After several months, I left that group for one of four because the smaller group could work through a book quicker. A few months later, I also joined a group of seven or eight, but that didn’t last. Now, with my foursome on hiatus, I’m not sure how I’ll get the needed feedback on the stories I’m writing.

Maybe some of you are supremely confident in writing solo, but except for what you read on this blog, I can’t imagine ever submitting, or publishing, something without it being critiqued, edited, beta-read, then edited again. That’s why I’m curious how you all go about getting feedback on your writing.

  • Where do you find your help?
  • Are your critiquers all fellow writers? (I presume you incorporate non-writers at beta-read stage.)
  • How many people do you involve for the initial feedback?
  • Do those answers depend on the length of the work?

Please share your method with me.

Reading between the lines of reviews

Sometimes I read a bit of writing advice and get myself all a dither. This week has been one of those times. I read something the other day about the importance of understanding what readers like most about your writing, so you can play to that. Since I’m writing another novel, and I’d like it to be better than the last one, that sounded like good advice to me. Then came the questions.

Sometimes I read a bit of writing advice and get myself all a dither. This week has been one of those times. I read something the other day about the importance of understanding what readers like most about your writing, so you can play to that. Since I’m writing another novel, and I’d like it to be better than the last one, that sounded like good advice to me. Then came the questions.

Do I know what readers liked best about The Brevity of Roses? And isn’t there a related question—what did readers like least? What if the novel I’m working on right now, includes too much of what they didn’t like and too little of what they did?

So far, the reviews of that novel have been positive. That’s nice, but it’s also unfortunate. I’m happy about good reviews, of course, but I know many more people have read Brevity than have reviewed it. Some have let me know privately that they enjoyed it, but many many others have said nothing, publically or privately, since reading it.

I’m left to wonder. Did they hate it? Did they throw it across the room in frustration? Were they bored? Did they not even finish reading it? Did they laugh—when I didn’t intended them to? Do they regret wasting their time and money? Or maybe they loved it, but it didn’t occur to them to let me know in some way. Silence is maddening. It’s also unhelpful.

At this point, the bulk of Brevity’s reviews were written by fellow writers. I suspect the reviews from most of my writer friends are just as biased as those from my non-writer friends. Maybe more so because writers sympathize. They know the value of good reviews, not only to boost sales, but to boost a fragile writer’s confidence. But they also know how to write, so when I read my fellow authors’ reviews, I try to read between the lines. What didn’t they say, and does that point to what they didn’t like?

I know. I know. I’m supposed to be writing for readers, not other writers. But is there a writer out there who doesn’t want the respect of her peers? OH … wait … aren’t I supposed to be writing for ME? If I write what I love, won’t my readers love it too?

But wait … what if all those silent readers did hate my novel? And what if all my good reviews really were written out of sympathy? Maybe NO ONE really liked it. Maybe I’m a terrible writer. Maybe NO ONE will buy my next book. OH … wait … if that’s the case, I can write anything I want. It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters anymore. Maybe I should turn off the computer and take up knitting instead.

Yeah, it’s been one of those weeks so far. But tomorrow (Thursday) I get to celebrate my anniversary with teppanyaki, so things are looking up.

How’s your week going?