Blood & Holy Water – First Draft Done!

It only took me nearly TEN years and multiple first attempts, but Blood & Holy Water has a completed first draft! It feels fantastic!

PLUS I feel it’s the best first draft I’ve ever written. This story I wrote with the help of a critique partner (who I found on GoodReads) that went through each chapter as I wrote it – helped me with plot holes and grammar issues as I wrote… Which left me with a First Draft I’d actually show more people.

I started June 26th with the actually writing and finished today… 41 days to 60K. Not bad, but this novel practically wrote itself (it should have, I had 10 years to think about it!)

Next step: August 15th I’m participating in a novel swap though Scribophile where we swap novels with 3 others writers. I haven’t participated before, but we each will end up with three critiques on our novels. There’s still time to sign up (it’s free) if you need a read through of your novel. There are alpha reads and beta reads.  I have 10 days to zip through what I wrote one more time and make sure it’s ready for the swap.

Also, here is the first chapter of Blood & Holy Water if you’re interested.

Thank you for following my journey!

–Joy

Blood & Holy Water Cover

 

Week 2: Camp NaNoWriMo – Critique Partner

CNW_Participant[1]

I just finished Week #2 of Camp NaNoWriMo and things are smooth sailing.  I’ve finished 28,100 words of my 31,000 words goal.

On GoodReads, I stumbled upon an ad for a critique partner. A fellow writer was looking for a partner to read each chapter of her novel as she finishes it (Work in Progress). What pulled me in was her characters were similar to mine for this Camp Nano. I jumped at the opportunity to have some feedback on the novel as I wrote it.

This is an entirely new concept for me. I’ve never shared a work in progress before. My first drafts… Or rather, draft zero, is typically terrible. A complete embarrassment that I won’t even show to my mother. Maybe this one is too, but I’m still sharing it and using the feedback to make it better. I believe that when I get to the end, I’ll have the best first draft I’ve ever written.

My palms sweat and my heart flutters before I share each chapter – both from fear and from excitement. I really like having feedback on the plot before I write a 50K+ novel and have to rework the whole thing.

Plus it keeps me going. I don’t think I’d be 28K into the novel already if I didn’t have someone eagerly waiting to read my next chapter. So even if it’s not perfect, I still click “share”.

We’ve been using Google Docs, and I’m really enjoying this program for critique partner/feedback. It handles comments really well and you can go in and see exactly what your partner changed in their story based on your feedback.

How is your project going, and what have you been doing to stay motivated?

www.ProWritingAid.com — A Fantastic Resource

As I’ve been working more and more with beta readers, I’ve been referring some authors to the website http://www.prowritingaid.com for some editing / writing style help.

Screenshot (15)

On this site, you can paste up to 3000 words of your writing for free and it will give you a detailed analysis.  I urge you to try it out.

I’ve been using this site for a while though, and had forgotten how overwhelming it can be.

When I first discovered http://www.prowritingaid.com I felt I needed to fix EVERY suggestion it made.  This was impossible and I didn’t always agree with all of them.  PLUS it took me HOURS to fix a few thousand words.

Now, I pick out the sections that are the most helpful to my writing.

I made a quick tip sheet for one writer I’m working with, and I thought I’d share it her for anyone else who feels overwhelmed by the site.  Your style may be different and this tips sheet may need to be tailored to you.

Here is an example of what the report looks like:

Screenshot (16)

ProWritingAid Tips

Here is each section and what I use/don’t use. I hope this helps make it less overwhelming. I definitely don’t follow everything they say. I skip more than I change.  I also tend to run a section through the program with each revision, so more and more get fixed as I keep going with the writing process.

Also, once you change a lot of these things, you will pick up on them in your writing and avoid them. This makes future writing projects easier to edit and your writing cleaner overall.

Tips:

  • Overused Word Check: I only worry about the words marked in red, and then I only change it if they are easy fixes or the amount they list to remove is about half of more. (i.e. if it says, “remove 5 out of 9 occurrences” I focus on this word.)
  • Writing Style Check: This is a great section. I don’t do everything suggested, maybe just half of it – and only if I agree and it makes sense.
  • Sentence length Check: I skim it for the really long sentences, but sometimes still end up leaving them.
  • Clichés and Redundancy Check: I don’t care about clichés, I tend to like them in my writing (I know, that’s wrong.), but I do look for redundancies.
  • Grammar Check: I go through all of them, but skip a lot of the suggestions. Again, only if I agree and feel it will make my writing stronger.
  • Sticky Sentence Check: This is a really neat idea, but I completely skip it. The amount of work it would take me to rewrite everything into more meaningful sentences is beyond my writing skill level/desire.
  • Plagiarism Check: Skip
  • Repeated Phrase Check: I fix repeated 4+ word phrases. I think these get repetitive to the reader. I skim and fix the easy 2 or 3 word repeated phrases – or ones with high counts that there is an easy alternative.
  • Dialogue Tag Check: I skip, but I don’t tend to use a lot of dialogue tags.
  • Repeat Check: This is tedious, but I do find value in skimming through it. If there is a unique word that is repeated, I change one of them. I still end up missing repeats though that beta readers point out.
  • Paragraph Length Check: I just look at the items in red.
  • Corporate Wording Check: Skip
  • Dictation Check: Skip
  • Vague and Abstract Words Check: Again, this is long and I probably should focus on it to make my writing pop, but the time I’d need to devote to this, I skip it.
  • Eloquence Check: Skip.
  • Transition Check: Skip.
  • NLP Check: Skip.
  • Complex Word Check: Skip (but I don’t write with a large vocabulary.)
  • Pacing Check: I glance at the blue bar. If there is a lot of white, I take a look at my writing style. There is probably a lot of tell and not show or I need to break up paragraphs some, or throw in some more dialog.
  • Homonym Check: Skip
  • House Style Check: Skip
  • Consistency Check: I skim through this as I tend to make consistency issues with UK vs US spellings and inconsistent capitalization/hyphenation.
  • Alliteration Check: Skip
  • Pronoun Check: I skip, but I probably shouldn’t – but again, this would be a lot of work to fix.
  • Thesaurus Check: Skip
  • Combo Check: You may be able to pick your favorite ‘checks’ from above and make a custom report, but I haven’t played with this.

What preliminary editing tools do you use?

 

Read (& Critique) to Write Better

Early in my journey to learn how to write fiction, I filled my stories with the huge no-no’s such as…

  • Telling versus Showing
  • Stiff Dialogue
  • Too Many Adverbs
  • Passive Sentences
  • Lack of Description

I’d have people read my stories and point these things out. I’d fix the one instance, but I didn’t understand what they meant and how to fix it in my entire story and was blind to identifying them in my writing.

Then I began to critique other’s writer’s stories and it was like darkness lifted and felt my writing improved. (Though, I still struggle.)

I’ve read many stories still in their rough draft.

There is nothing like reading pages and pages of adverbs to realize how they slow down the story’s pacing and make the sentences feel clumsy.

Or having the story told to you instead of the author showing you what’s happening, making my mind wander and have lack of investment in the characters.

And then when you find a FANTASTIC example and tell the author exactly what they did right.

In education, this is called the teach-back method.

I’ve always heard that writers need to also be readers. This is true, but I argue, writers should be readers and give critiques. Reading both STRONG writing examples and still trying to point out the issues (that may not even be there) and reading writing that has struggles equally will help polish your talent.

In my opinion, all writers need to be readers and help others grow their skills. Not only will this improve your skills, but will also help the entire writing community.

Happy writing!

What are your thoughts?

–Joy

pen_writing-pad

I Love Beta Readers!

I mean it so much, that I’m going to be redundant: I love beta readers!

Wow. My three beta readers have completely IMPRESSED me!

I write so people find enjoyment in what I’ve written. I write to share ideas and thoughts with others. I write because it’s fun. Well, it is fun, until I find myself in an endless sea of a single task. Here is how my novel has gone so far.

  • I’m so frustrated with my OUTLINE. I wish I could just figure out the climax.
  • I have so much more to do on my FIRST DRAFT, when will I be finished?
  • REVISING is so tedious. How did I write this piece of crap anyway?
  • Who truly knows how to EDIT? Grammar? I must have slept through that class.
  • But BETA READERS? I LOVE THEM! I LOVE THIS PROCESS!!!! I’M IN NO HURRY TO FINISH THIS STEP (for once). BETA READERS bring the fun back into writing! That is, if you are willing to listen and take their feedback as constructive.

So back to my three beta readers. They are amazing. Each one of them have been spending so much time helping me turn my strung together plot and half-baked characters into something with feeling and meaning.

What amazes me the most, is many beta readers do this for nothing in return. Purely out of the goodness of their heart. It really makes me all warm and fuzzy with hope for humanity.

I have beta read and it is fun! I’ve critiqued some great stories that I’d never have read otherwise. I’ve helped authors (I hope) identify plot holes and character flaws. PLUS, I’ve given encouraging feedback.

I urge you all to try beta reading. If you’re at all interested, you can find an author who is looking for help and answer their ad. Start here: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/group_folder/220415?group_id=50920

Happy reading and writing!

–Joy

 

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Who Would Read My Writing? (Part 2)

Last week, I posted: Who Would Read My Writing? (Part 1). As Part 2 of this post, I’m sharing my experiences in utilizing a few online resources for obtaining beta readers of my work. Most of my experience has been with short stories and I am just recently branching out to obtaining beta readers for a novel length work.

Of note, if you plan on traditionally publish a short story or novel, you need to be careful not to post your work in open domain – such as on blogs, Wattpad, or online forums. (I learned that the hard way with some short stories.) The below options only allow registered users to read your work, which protects it so the traditional publishers don’t freak out.

I’m using the terms critique and beta read interchangeably here.  There are differences between the two:  (Critique partner is a fellow writer and a beta reader can be a reader or a writer.  A critique is more thorough where a beta read is supposed to be a readers perspective on the story.)

WWW.CRITTERS.ORG

I’ve been using this free critique forum for a while now with good success. For short stories, I get a ton of critiques (my last story received over 20 critiques.) This is great… BUT there are two major problems I have:

  1. It’s REALLY hard to sift through these for the comments that matter. I’m guilty of taking everything written in these critiques and changing my story to make the critiquer happy. What happens then, I fear, is my story loses its meaning. I start with a 700 word piece of flash fiction and when I’m done it’s over 2000 words. (And sadly, this has happened to me THREE times this year already!).
  2. My biggest issue: when I make a stupid grammatical error and it is pointed out over and over again. I wish I could go back and revise it before others read it, but with this site, you can’t. (I believe you can do this with Scribophile)

So with Critters, you need to do about one critique per week, and in exchange, you get to put your work in the queue. It usually take about 3-4 weeks for your writing to make it to the top of the queue for review. Then, the members have a week to provide feedback before your writing leave the queue. Of note, Critters has multiple forums for many different genre’s – my experience has only been with the Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror forum. The other ones don’t have as many members.

Now for novels, Critters says you can post sections through the usual queue (as described above), or they will do a request for dedicated readers (beta readers).  I tried this ten years ago by posting my first novel (which by the way, was TERRIBLE and is in a drawer. I’m still working up the courage to revise it into something readable.) I didn’t obtain any beta readers this way (they probably read my first chapter and ran the other way). I’ve beta read one author’s work and he says he normally obtains about 4 readers of his novels through Critters.

WWW.SCRIBOPHILE.COM

Then, I recently discovered Scribophile. I just started dabbling in it and LOVE IT so far. You earn credits by doing critiques and once you have 5 credits, you can post a 3000 word or so piece of writing. You can post a short story or chapters of your novel. I like this because you don’t have to wait for your work to enter the queue and you don’t have to commit to a critique a week – you can just do as many critiques as you need to “pay” for your piece. The hidden gem with Scribiophile though, is a novel swap group I joined. You team up a few times per year and swap novels around (no critique credits needed). It appears you end up with 4 critique of your novels (in exchange for doing 4 critiques of others work.) If you can’t wait for the novel swap, you can request dedicated readers through this group as well.

Now that I have a novel that is nearly complete, I’m in need of beta readers. So what will I do?

First, I’d like one person to read it to point out the obvious plot holes and other issues before I hand it over to others.  I’d hate to have the same problem pointed out over and over again. I was lucky and found someone on the Goodreads Beta Reader Group

GOODREADS BETA READER GROUP

There are four options on this site.

  1. Ask for a beta reader: Post a quick summary of your work and wait for someone to reply. I’ve been stalking this site for a few weeks now and it appears to be hit or miss if you have any takers. There are a lot of people offering paid services, but there are definitely some legitimate volunteer beta readers as well. (I want to publically thank them right now for doing this. WOW! There are so many good people in this world!)
  2. Find someone to swap your novel with: Pretty self-explanatory.
  3. Pay someone to read your writing: There are plenty of ads for those that will read and provide you with detailed feedback for a fee. Some are real cheap… $20-30. Some are more expensive… $125. BUT still much less than an editor – but you’ll probably still need one of those someday.
  4. Answer a post for someone wanting to beta read for free. I just did this yesterday and hopefully it all works out.

I imagine there are plenty of other fantastic options out there. (Hey, I wrote almost 1000 words on just 3 of them!)

So, how do you all get feedback on your writing?

I’d love to hear.

–Joy

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Who Would Read My Writing? (Part 1)

Getting feedback on your writing is like going to the dentist:

Yeah, a scary dentist with huge fingers and bad breath…

Where you find out your X-rays are out of date and they usher you in before you can protest. You cut your cheek on the bite plates, then they point out your cavity. No, wait! Not one, but five cavities! Oh, and by the way, you also need a root canal. BUT the good news? They can fix you all up in an hour — you just need to wait in the crowded waiting room and let your anxiety take over.

An eternity later, you find yourself in the sticky vinyl chair enduring the needles, drilling, scraping, and bleeding gums. You tell yourself that it’ll be over soon and you’ll end up with a much better smile.

For me, the process of receiving feedback on my writing is like visiting the dentist. Like the smile you leave the office with, the story you produce from the feedback is invaluable. As I’m nearing completion of my writing/revising/editing portion my novel, Love, Lies, & Clones, I’m trying to sort out the best way to get a few beta readers and some initial feedback. There are lots of choices:

  • Online vs. in person
  • Strangers vs. acquaintances
  • Paid vs. free
  • Writers vs. readers

Online Vs. In Person

Well, this may be obvious. Online gives you more anonymity, but in person gives you more of a conversation and ability to ask questions. I think it’s really a matter of what your options are where you live and what you are most comfortable with.

Online options like critique forums (www.critters.org , www.scribophile.com , etc.) are great resources. I’ll discuss these more in part 2 of this post (coming next week).

In person ideas are a local writer’s group or hitting up your circle of friends and family. I’ve thought about putting out a Facebook post: Is anyone willing to read my novel/story/etc.? I imagine, I’ll get a taker or two.

Strangers Vs. Acquaintances

Another matter of personal preference. I personally feel a little odd asking a friend or family member to give me their honest feedback. I feel it puts them in an uncomfortable situation if they didn’t like what you wrote. (So, I’ll probably never write that Facebook post.) Plus, there is the “mother effect”. I’ve given my writing to my mom and she always says the same thing. “It’s great! I liked it! Keep going!” As nice as this is to hear, it doesn’t help further develop the story or improve my writing ability.  I feel strangers are a good choice.  They don’t know me and aren’t afraid to be honest — keep in mind though, some of them can be brutally honest and you need thick skin.  (Not like me who quit writing for nearly 10 years after my first experience with a critique forum.)

Paid Vs. Free

Who doesn’t want everything free? Getting a quality reader for free takes some leg work and even if you find someone, they may not even complete reading your piece to give you feedback. I think that’s why there is a growing community of beta readers who charge to read your work. Prices between $25 to $100 seem to be common. This doesn’t seem like a lot, but now if you want a few people to give you feedback, it adds up. Especially if you then fix some issues and want to try again.  I can see some value if you can find a quality/legit paid beta reader for an initial read through before asking for more people.  I may do this, but I don’t know yet.

Writers vs. Readers?

I really think you get much different feedback from a fellow writer opposed to a reader only. Having BOTH read your work seems to be the most helpful. A writer will point out how you can make something better, but might also derail you from the intention of the piece/paragraph/scene by giving you suggestions on how they would have done it. Readers are great for giving you believability, plot holes, and pointing out the boring parts. I know that many writers are also readers, but the difference is interesting when it comes to feedback on your writing.

* * * *

So, for me…. Due to geographical location and my little bit of social anxiety, I enjoy having a stranger read my writing for the first time and gravitate towards internet resources. Stay tuned for part 2 of this post with a focus on different online resources for critiques/feedback. It should be posted next week.

How do you like to share your first draft?

I’d love to hear your thoughts of strangers vs. friends, online or in person, free or paid, or writers or readers?

As always, thanks for reading!

–Joy

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