Nothing New Under The Sun? Then Head Underground!

Okay, so you don’t need to suffocate yourself by burying your head in the sand, but do you ever get tired of the ‘same old thing’? Sorry, this article won’t help you win the lottery, or forge a new identity, but it may change your perspective (somewhat . . . maybe?) on the mundane. Checkout some new names for everyday things!

 

Elevator

Elevators can become Ascension Cabs. Of course, they’d have to install new signs in every office and public building.

 

goat

Are goats really just Organic Lawnmowers? Much lower carbon footprint!

 

candy

Candy or Fat Pills? Sorry, but they’re not good for you.

 

People Hives

Are skyscrapers just People Hives?

That’s all for today. See how the ordinary can be re-branded to brighten your day?

 

Should you have your writing peer reviewed/critiqued?

Please welcome my special guest, Jessica Dejong! Today, she’s blogging about a very important, and potentially intimidating, topic that all authors must contend with: Putting our hard-earned words and stories on the examination table for others to dissect.

Without further delay, here is Jessica.

In short, the answer to this question is yes. But it depends on who is peer reviewing your writing; someone other than yourself and, preferably, not just your close friends and family.

You can study writing all you want, but you’ll never perfect your story all on your own. You’ve got to show it to someone else and let them tear it apart, constructively, and friends and family can’t always do this, either. It’s time to send your writing to someone else.

It’s scary, I know—downright petrifying. You’re afraid of what the critics will say, what they won’t say, what they might not understand. But that’s the point, and it’s not the only thing reviews can do for you. This post is about my recent experience with peer reviews on a website called Critique Circle. I hope you find it helpful!

Finding Tough-love Critics

There’s only so much we can do for our own stories. Having been immersed in them from the very beginning, it can be hard to separate ourselves from them. We can’t see all the mistakes, don’t notice all the confusing bits or the places where we overindulged by adding a bit too much description or by letting our characters ramble on for too long because we like them.

Up until recently, I depended on my family and friends to be my beta readers and critics. But, since they knew me and my insecurities, I was always afraid they were being too easy on me. I thought their ideas of me, as a person rather than as a writer, might affect the way they interpreted the story.

I’d already known, for quite a while, that I’d need to go way outside my comfort zone and send my writing to other people, preferably those who didn’t know me well. It was a terrifying reality, but with the book I’m currently writing (well, revising), I needed some in-depth commentary. I wanted it ripped apart like an editor for a publishing company might do. So, I turned to complete strangers. People who didn’t know me, my insecurities, who would have no qualms about tearing up my story. In other words, I went to the internet.

My First Time with Critique Circle

Like I mentioned above, I joined an online critiquing group called Critique Circle—a site I’d recommend to anyone. I’ve received so much great, specific advice.

I started out by giving a few critiques. Then, drying the sweat from my palms, I sent in the first chapter of my WIP (work-in-progress) novel.

It wasn’t a perfect chapter, but it was an important one. First chapters always are, since they need to introduce the main character(s), the plot, and the overarching conflict, to name a few things.

So, I waited for the queue my chapter was in to come up. It was five long days of nervous energy, all building up to that first day of critiquing. In that time, my insecurities went crazy. I was afraid I’d done it all wrong, that once people read it, they would no longer respect me as a writer. It wasn’t a fun thought, I’ll tell you that.

Then the day I’d been both dreading and anticipating came.

The Beauty of Critiques

As it turned out, my insecurities were unjustified (it seems they usually are, but here I am, still worrying). Within a few hours, I already had a critique for my first chapter. By the end of the week, I had eight of them.

Everyone was helpful, and although there were a few things repeated by the eight critics (to be expected, of course), much of what they were saying was unique to them. It can be a little confusing since you can’t be sure what’s personal preference and what doesn’t actually work (though the critics usually try to point out what might be just their preferences), but the reward is thoroughly worth it.

They gave me advice on pacing, characters, dialog, grammar, and sentence structure. They were nitpicky, and I loved it. Everything they pointed out made sense to me. I know I’m gushing, but it was a great experience. I learned things I could never have gleaned from books or blogs on the craft because it was personal. It was intensive and intimate. And yes, it could be a bit harsh at times, but that’s one of the best parts. If you want to share your writing with the world, you’ve got to have a thick hide. The people at Critique Circle (the ones I ran into, at least) were just nice enough to keep me from raising my fists and demanding a better critique (so to speak), but blunt enough to thicken my skin a little more.

Growing as a Writer

It’s incredible how much a person can grow as a writer, even in the span of a week. Not only have I learned about my own writing through receiving feedback, I’ve also learned from giving it (I find it’s a lot easier to find mistakes in another person’s writing than your own!). But knowing where other people make mistakes in their writing has shown me where I might be doing the same. I look at my own work with a more critical eye now when I’m revising, and even that has made a huge difference in my story.

I’ve become more aware of my weaknesses as a writer, as well as a few of the things I’m getting right. It’s a lot of work, writing and reading critiques, then revising your story to get rid of any weak writing, then applying your new insights into your future writing. But as writers, we know that story-writing was never meant to be easy, that it requires a lot of hard work and some amount of sacrifice, and in the end, it’s worth it. Having my writing critiqued has shaped my story into something tighter, deeper, and more alive, and I doubt I could have gotten it to this point on my own.

Support Among Fellow Writers

The point is, we don’t have to do this alone. We learn from each other, and critique circles/peer reviews are the most personal and intimate places to do so, in my experience. Just don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. We have to eventually. Find a group of writers, or start your own group. It doesn’t have to be online. Many communities already have a group that meets regularly.

Sharing our work with other writers who struggle with the same issues is about the safest, most understanding way to begin. It’s also a great place to find and to give support, which is something we all need.

Thanks for reading, and best of luck with all your writing endeavors!

(Ps. You can find me on Critique Circle as Writerjess)

About Jessica:

Jessica DeJong is creative writer, nature-lover, and introverted bookworm.

To learn more about her writing, read her posts, or subscribe to her monthly email, please click on the link below.

jessthewriter.com

 

 

 

 

The Beauty of The Forgotten

There’s beauty in the abandoned. The overgrown pathway can offer more treasures than the sidewalk. The steady beat of your footsteps on a dirt trail are drum beats, announcing an imminent encounter with adventure!

Who knows what you’ll find?

waterfall

Decay can nourish splendor!

flowers

The neglected can house a wonderful new friend!

oldmanhouse

Where will your feet take you today?

 

 

“Oh! Deer!” . . . or . . . “Oh, deer.”

 

Quick! What do you see in the photo above? Is it just trees and grass? Wait, what is that in the background? Are there two shapes that do not match the flora? Are they an illusion? Sasquatches on their knees, looking for gopher holes?

Continue reading “Oh! Deer!” . . . or . . . “Oh, deer.”

Oh Yah! I’ll show ya!

A short example of the “show, don’t tell” technique used in writing Angry little boy

Jackson Cruz scratched nervously at the bed bug bites that covered his torso. The cigarette burn scars, Jackson had never held a cigarette, on the back of his right hand stretched as it squeezed the grip on the nine-millimeter pistol. The bank employees and their customers simultaneously cringed. Jackson squinted up at the security monitor on the wall and noticed that he was standing in front of the height chart fixed to the door jamb. His spiked hair poked his vertical dimension up an inch. I wish. 
Things had gone way too far! The money from the last two bank robberies was buried near a beautiful lake located miles from this overpopulated, crime-ridden cesspool. It rested in the exact spot where he hoped to build his dream home. Nature called to him. He preferred the company of animals to humans.
Growing up, he’d been the runt in a family of six boys. The whole brood, including mother and stepfather had been crammed into a two-bedroom apartment owned by a slum lord. Things hadn’t worked out. Even blindfolded, he could still make a sleeping bag out of old newspapers and plastic bags that would see you through a snowy winter’s night. In his later teens, Jackson worked sporadically, he was still picking wood splinters from his hands.
This was supposed to be his last “job.” The clock on the wall indicated 9:30 am. The bank should be nearly deserted. Instead, he was sharing oxygen with a dozen customers, plus four staff. He should have just bailed.
The cause of the unexpected company escaped him, until his eye caught the tear away calendar at the service desk. How had he missed such an obvious fact? The calendar declared that today was Friday, July 1. The last business day before the holiday weekend. He should have been alerted by the unusual number of American flags hanging from businesses and porches as he drove up here in the Mustang that was now parked less than a block away, its tampered ignition wires hanging out from the steering column. The broomstick with the leg straps had been discarded in a nearby bush.
Everyone is right! I am an idiot! Jackson began to grind his knuckle into his temple as punishment. The knuckle fit perfectly into the raw flesh.
“We have you surrounded!” An amplified voice came from outside, somewhere near the front door.
Jackson kissed the cross on the necklace that hung around neck. Nanna had given it to him for Christmas when he was a child. It’d always fit perfectly. There’d never been a need to lengthen the chain. He knew, that at this very moment, she was watching him through a hole in the floor of Heaven, and her heart was breaking.
The only solace for him now, was that he wouldn’t be returning to the grimy root cellar he shared with his brother. But then again, if he didn’t do something quick, the rest of his days would be spent looking through iron bars.
Lying on the floor, only steps away, a woman who looked to be in her seventies clutched a Louis Vuitton handbag to her chest. On her trembling wrist was a plastic band covered with glued-on sparkles. A poorly shaped heart, cut from construction paper with the crayoned words I luve u, was fixed off-centered on it.
It was “do or die” time.

clue

This is a short example of show, don’t tell. Good books should be full of this writing style. Though to make the story more realistic, it may be necessary, at times, to include jargon that is exclusive to members of a certain occupation, social group, or time period (I apologize if I have forced any readers to consult Google). The usual goal is to include clues that most people today can easily identify with.
You can be sure that someone else burned Jackson with the cigarette, since he’d never even held one.
Being the runt of six brothers, he was probably bullied. When things didn’t work out, he became homeless. Probably for awhile, since he could make a bed out of newspaper blindfolded. We know he lived in a northern city because he’d survived snowy nights out there.
He eventually found some work in what was most likely construction (splinters in his hand).
Obviously, he’d hot wired the Mustang. The broomstick and leg strap contraption needed to reach the pedals, tells just how short he is. The fact that his childhood necklace still fit him indicates that he is also very slim.
He is self deprecating and self abusing. Everyone is right! I am an idiot! His knuckle fit perfectly into the raw skin of his temple – he’s done this many times.
The fact that he lives with a brother shows that he has reconciled with at least one member of his family.
The presumably wealthier and older woman lying on the floor? Take a wild guess who made that bracelet for her.
It was “do or die time.” I’d say that woman’s day is about to get a whole lot worse.
There are also a number of other clues that are contained in this clip. Can you spot them?