Getting Critiqued

Last week I had a new experience that, as many new experiences are, was both thrilling and terrifying.  No, I did not get to ride a new roller coaster at Cedar Point.  (In fact, due to my interesting condition, I was reduced to the Ferris wheel and Sky Ride this summer.)

No, I’m talking about having someone who is not related to me read my writing.

Several months ago, a fellow blogger was running a Kickstarter to fund her trip to a writer’s conference in Iceland.  One of the perks she offered was a critique of the first chapter of the donor’s WIP.  This sounded like a perfect opportunity for me to get some feedback on the draft of a fantasy novel I started for NaNoWriMo last year.

I was so elated when I won NaNo last year, I figured I would be able to channel that energy into a second draft this year.  However, when I started re-reading what I’d written, I really started hating it.  It did not seem at all like the story I’d had in my head.  The prose made me cringe, and the tone was all wrong.  I didn’t want to look at it, much less edit it.

So I figured I should really take this opportunity to get a fresh opinion in the hopes it would give me some direction for where to go next.  I didn’t really end up having any anxiety over it at all.  I already knew there were things wrong with my text, so I was actually eager for someone to tell me what exactly was wrong so I could fix it!

And that’s exactly what happened.  Sara wrote me a nice list of comments with her first impressions, things she was confused about, etc.  The most important comment she gave me was that my very first scene lacked tension.  There was nothing to hook the reader in, and nothing to foreshadow the larger conflicts of the later story.

She also mentioned a lack of visual cues for worldbuilding.  Although I implied a setting based on ancient Rome, I gave no physical descriptions of characters, buildings, etc.

As far as the writing, one of my goals is to re-read some of my favorite historical fantasies by Guy Gavriel Kay, who is kind of my “model” author for this story as it was heavily inspired by his works.

So this first chapter critique turned out to be a good experience for me.  I definitely feel more inspired and up to the task of revising my story now.  Letting others read your writing is always difficult, but hopefully it will get easier with time and practice.

 

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Victory!

Winner 2016 - Web Banner

OMG you guys I’m so tired, and I’m going to spend the next month putting my life and my blog back together, but…I DID IT.  I won NaNoWriMo for the first time by writing over 50,000 words on my novel during November.

My novel, which is currently going by The Gladiator and the Goddess, is definitely not done.  In fact, the third act is virtually nonexistent, but it is a complete, readable text, which was really my goal.  So I’ll put it aside for a month and come back to it next year.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that winning NaNo was the hardest thing I have done in recent memory.  I am totally drained.  It got a little easier as I went along.  In previous NaNos, I’ve struggled to write more than a few hundred words per day; this time I found I was able to do about 1000 easily.  Of course, I was still behind the whole way, so this last week I really had to put a lot of time in.  Nothing like an upcoming deadline for motivation.

nano2016
Can you tell I’m a procrastinator?

When I tried to validate, I was still a few words short due to differences in word count methods, so I quickly added an extra paragraph that looked like this:

More words words words words la la a an the small words are better I think omg I’m done and Spotify stopped I need more kpop la s an the pull the dk ahf etih aien I need a hundred more words, how could the owrd count be off by that much yikes oh well I’m still going to win so whatever and opefully in January this will make me laugh a lot. So tied need sleep. Almost at one hundred more words more words the best words tremendous words so great I know all the best words much owrds so wow very write ok I’m over one hundred now thanks bye

Yup, that’s the thought process of a NaNo winner at the end of the month.

I hope you all had successful writing, too!  I look forward to reading them someday…after some editing. 🙂

ETA: I also accomplished my goal for the month by attending two local “write-ins” with other people in my area attempting NaNo.  We’re the Akron region and we have a Facebook group if you are local and want to join.

Also, my soundtrack for the month varied from Pines of Rome to the sounds of my husband playing Overwatch.  I did create a Spotify playlist for NaNo K-pop music that was my most frequent listen; check it out here:

https://open.spotify.com/user/scifijunkie21/playlist/0oj9pVqL6WEAeIqpD7JJQ9

 

Ash and Team Excerpt #4

This month I’m sharing excerpts from my WIP from previous NaNoWriMos, working title Ash and Team.  It is inspired by the Mi’kmaq-French Cinderella story called Oochigeaskw.

Dramatis Personae:
  • Ash (our Cinderella character)
  • Azula (her older sister)
  • Team (our “prince,” an invisible spirit)
  • Meg (his older sister, our narrator)

Out of sight of the village, she broke into a skip, reveling in her new found freedom.  Once inside the forest, she greeted the trees as she walked among them.  “Hello, fir,” she said, touching their trunks she passed.  “Hello, hickory.  Hello, birch.”  She grinned as she felt them respond.

She heard footsteps and the occasional splash of water through the trees ahead of her; someone was standing on the bank of the creek at our meeting spot.  Ash picked up her pace so as to not make me wait any longer.

But when she entered the clearing it was not me she saw.  Team was standing with his back to her, tossing stones into the creek.

She just couldn’t seem to stop smiling today.

Continue reading

Ash and Team Excerpt #3

This month I’m sharing excerpts from my WIP from previous NaNoWriMos, working title Ash and Team.  It is inspired by the Mi’kmaq-French Cinderella story called Oochigeaskw.

Dramatis Personae:
  • Ash (our Cinderella character)
  • Azula (her older sister)
  • Team (our “prince,” an invisible spirit)
  • Meg (his older sister, our narrator)

There was indeed an alcove in the side of a tall rock formation, not big enough to be called a cave, but large enough for two people to stand comfortably and not get their feet wet.  The overhanging rock above their head jutted out several feet, casting a shadow on an already grey day.

Ash caught her breath for a minute as they listened to the rain come down.  Team’s skin was still wet from the river and the rain, and the beads of water caught what little light there was and reflected it straight to her eyes.

“You know, you can barely even see your scar in the dark like this,” Team said suddenly.  “I noticed at the wedding, too—”  His eyes widened and he broke off as he realized what he was saying.  “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t say things like that, I forget…”

She shook her head, although her hand had already risen to the right side of her neck.  “It’s okay, I know you didn’t mean anything.  This is from an accident when I was young.  I don’t talk about it much.”  She was looking out into the rain.

“I’m sorry,” he repeated gently.

“It’s okay,” she said, and she meant it.  She still had butterflies in her stomach, but with Team, a lot of things that should have felt embarrassing, somehow…didn’t.

There was something she had meant to ask him, and now she forged ahead.  “So, why haven’t we ever met before?  I mean, I’ve lived in this village my whole life, but I don’t remember you from before…”

“Before I ran into you?”

She smiled sheepishly.  “If that’s how you want to put it.”

“Well, there’s an easy answer to that.  You may have grown up here, but I didn’t.”

“So you did come from another village?”

H nodded.  “Yes.  A few years ago.”

“Why did you move?”

His face was drawn as he looked out into the rain.  “There was a…a sickness.  A lot of people died.  My parents, too.  So my sister and I, we came here.  Like a fresh start.”

Ash felt rather bad she had asked.  “I’m sorry about your parents.  I lost my mother, too.  When I was very little.  She was sick, too.”

“I’m sorry.  Do you remember her at all?”

“A little.  Father says that my sister is a lot like her.”

Team shook his head ruefully and chuckled.  “My sister is nothing like my mother.”  His tone grew more thoughtful.  “I remember she sang a lot, and she told me stories.  She was always smiling.  Just being around her felt…warm.”  He hugged his arms to his chest.

“She sounds wonderful.”

“She was.  It’s good to remember her.  I don’t want to forget.”

They listened to the rain for a minute until Team spoke again.

“My sister, though—she’s more like my father.  More practical.  It’s really thanks to her that we survived after my parents passed.”

“What’s her name?”

That flustered him for some reason.  “My sister?  Oh, I don’t think you’d know her.”

“Are you sure?  What does she look like?”

Now he just seemed baffled.  “Um, well, she has long dark hair.  In braids.”  He pantomimed, as if that would help.

Ash couldn’t help smiling a little.  “Does she really.”

“What?” He threw up his hands in mock surrender.  “I don’t know the kinds of things you girls say.”

“Well, how would you describe me?” she said.

He started at her for a second, then narrowed his eyes.  “Is this a test?”

He looked even more confused, if that was possible, when she started laughing.

Ash and Team Excerpt #2

This month I’m sharing excerpts from my WIP from previous NaNoWriMos, working title Ash and Team.  It is inspired by the Mi’kmaq-French Cinderella story called Oochigeaskw.

Dramatis Personae:
  • Ash (our Cinderella character)
  • Team (our “prince,” an invisible spirit)
  • Meg (Team’s older sister, the narrator)

“Did she say anything about me?”

I willed myself not to roll my eyes and continued to scrub a bowlful of roots in my spot just outside the wigwam.  “She did.”

“Well?”

“Well, what?” I said without looking up.

“Well, what did she say?”  He was practically buzzing in anticipation.

I gave him a look.  “I am not going to tell you.”

“Come on, Meg!  Was it good? Did she say she likes me?”

“Team, it would be unfair to repeat–”

“Ha ha!  She did!  She absolutely did!  She likes me!” He started dancing around in a circle, arms in the air, hooting and grinning like a maniac.

I have always hated how he can make me smile when I’m trying so hard not to.

“She said nothing of the kind!” I hissed, barely holding in my laughter.  “Would you kindly calm down?  It’s a good thing you’re invisible because, frankly, you’re horribly embarrassing!”

He stopped jumping around at least.  “Can I come with you next week?”  He could undoubtedly see that I was about to refuse, because he continued: “Please, Meg?  I can’t be with her around other people; they’ll think she’s crazy. Just give me a chance to talk to her again.”

“Well, if I understand correctly, Team, you have not told her you are in fact the invisible spirit, whom half the girls in the village want to marry, God only knows why.  Don’t you think she’ll be a little suspicious when you just happen to show up at our lesson?”

“Did you tell her I’m your brother?”

“She knows my brother is the spirit, but not that it’s you.”  I finished cleaning the vegetables and looked up at him.  “If you want to stop all this convoluted nonsense, there is an easy solution: just tell her who you are.  You’ll have to eventually.”

He frowned. “I thought you said I shouldn’t tell her.”

“No, I said you shouldn’t tell her yet.  But now she’s actually met you, and she’s been handling all the spirit powers pretty well.  I mean, it’s going to be hard for your relationship to progress if you are omitting certain key information about yourself.”

His furrowed brow meant he was thinking.  You will understand why this concerned me if you will but recall that one time I saw him wear a similar expression, and subsequently he came up with an idea to get every girl in the village to come to our wigwam, for the purposing of finding one girl he had talked to for a total of two minutes.

A thought occurred to me.  “Team.  You didn’t…throw things at her did you?  Tug on her hair?  Anything like that?”

“Ummm…”

“Oh, for Heaven’s sake!  Team, you are a grown man.  There’s no need to flirt like you did when you were fourteen.”

He just shrugged and grinned, his universal answer to anything.  “Well, it worked, didn’t it?”