HOW TO CRITIQUE YOUR MANUSCRIPT

On Victory Crayne’s website, a complete version of, How to Write a Critique is available. This site has many wonderful ways to improve a writer’s writing skills.  I critique my own writing, using this form. I find it essential in developing better writing skills.  Go to Victory Crayne’s website for more ways to improve writing skills or just brush up on the great writing skills you have acquired.

http://www.crayne.com/howcrit.html

Opening

Do the first few sentences or paragraphs of the story grab your attention? Do they present the protagonist’s main problem? Remember how you judge a book or story when you first see it in a bookstore. Don’t we often base our decision to buy or not buy upon those first few sentences? Did this author grab your attention fast enough?

Conflict

By conflict, I do not mean lots of slam-bam action. Conflict is “The mental or moral struggle caused by incompatible desires and aims. That is the kind of conflict that makes stories vitally alive.” – Ben Bova in “The Craft of Writing Science Fiction That Sells”.

Is there emotional conflict WITHIN the main character? Between the main characters? Emotional conflict is part of what gets readers interested. For example: love vs. loyalty; greed vs. duty; fear vs. desire; revenge vs. self-doubt. Is there enough conflict between the characters? Is it expressed through action, dialogue, attitudes, or values? Were the characters sufficiently contrasted? Or did they seem to be totally satisfied with their roles? Did they have the potential to transform each other?

Plot

Was the main plot clear and believable? Did the main character have a clearly defined problem to solve? Did you feel by the end of the piece that this problem was solved or did the character become resolved to live with it? Were you able to determine the time and place of the story quickly enough? Did the story start at the right place? Did it end at the right place in the plot? Are there scenes which do not seem to further the plot? Were there too many flashbacks, which broke your attention? Was every subplot useful? Did it add to the overall story or did the author seem to stick it in just for complexity?

Pacing:

Did the plot/subplots move fast enough to keep the reader’s attention? Resolution of conflict: Did the conflict and tension in the plots and subplots come to some reasonable ending? Or did the author leave us hanging, wondering what happened? When you finished, were there things that you still felt needed to be explained? If the author did leave some conflict unresolved, did they indicate somewhere that future stories are pending?

Setting

Is there enough description of the background in the story to paint a picture that seems real enough for the reader? Did you feel that you were transported to ‘that time or place’? Was there too much description so modern readers might tend to become bored? Was the description written with clichés? Did the author use good enough names for people, places, and things? Names help set the tone for a story. Were some names of people hard to keep track of? Did some names seem inconsistent with the character? Were the names too stereotypical.

Timing

Is the timing and order of events in the story consistent? For example, did John drive his new car on his vacation in chapter six but it wasn’t until chapter ten that he bought it?

Characterization

Did the people seem real? Or were the main characters stereotypes or one-dimensional cardboard characters? Were the facts about the characters accurate and consistent? People do not exist in a vacuum. They have family, friends, a job, worries, ambitions, etc. Did you get a sense of enough of these, but not too much, for the main characters? Did you get a good picture of the culture, historical period, location, and occupation of the main character? Did you get enough of a sense of paradoxes within the character? Enough of their emotions, attitudes, values?

Backstory: Were you distracted by too much background information of a character at one time? Did the author seem to dump a lot of information on the background of a character in one or two long speeches, or did we learn about that character here and there in smaller pieces? Did the protagonist undergo some change in the story? Does each chapter/page have enough sensory description? Can the reader easily sense what is happening physically to the main character? Were there enough words of sight, sound, touch, smell, or taste? If the story used a person as the antagonist (villain), did they seem real too? Or did they seem so evil or one-sided that they were more like ideal villains? Did they have some redeeming qualities too? Did the villain seem to be a hero in their own mind?

Dialogue

Did the words from the mouths of the people in the story seem consistent with their personalities? Was there too much or not enough dialogue, in your opinion? Usually writers err on the side of not enough dialogue. Did any character tend to talk in long monologues?

Were you able to sense the conflict, attitudes, and intentions of each character in their dialogue without the author telling you of these directly? Were you able to detect any exchange of power that is sexual, physical, political, or social? Did the dialogue seem easy to speak? Can you ‘hear’ it? If it sounds unusual, you might suggest that the writer try reading it aloud. Does each character have their own speech rhythm, accent (if necessary), vocabulary, and even length of sentences?

Point of View

Was a given chapter or section written from one person’s point of view? Are there too many points of view in the story? Did the story skip around between the first person or third person point of view (POV)? Were the changes in POV signaled clearly?  If the story was written in the third person POV, as most stories are, did the story stick with the omniscient (all knowing) POV, use a limited POV (where we don’t know everyone’s motives except by clues from their words or actions), or did the author mix the two? Did the author’s choice seem right to you?

Show versus tell

When in the POV of a character, did the author describe what his/her senses showed, e.g., sight, sound, smell, touch, taste? Or did the author just tell you the dinner was very good? Did the author describe exactly how the people acted? Was there too much abstract language where specific details would have made a greater impact on the reader?

Format of the text

Was it easy to read or were the paragraphs too long or the lines too long (not enough margin)?

Would it help to put blank lines between paragraphs? If the piece is to be read on a computer monitor, adding a blank line between paragraphs will make it much easier for your critics to read. Note: when you submit the final version to print publishers, it is best to adhere to their manuscript format (no blank lines between paragraphs).

Grammar and spelling

Was the English readable? Were there too many grammatical errors, misuse of punctuation, run-on sentences, etc.?

Did you point out any typos or misspelling? How many times have you missed that in your writing because you passed over it without seeing it? Were there so many such errors that they made reading the piece difficult for you? Did the author use too many exclamation points (one of my weaknesses)? Were there any cliches in the narrative? For example, I once wrote “fruits of mother nature” and “thoughts burning in his mind”, both of which are cliches. In dialogue cliches are okay if the character would speak that way.

Style

You may wish to comment on the style the story was written in, e.g., humorous, wordy, sparse, literary, homespun, technical, etc.

 

 

SPECULATIVE FUTURISTIC INSPIRATION

SPECULATIVE FUTURISTIC INSPIRATION

Creative Writing Prompts by Melissa Donovan, https: http://www.writingforward.com

Get inspired by the future. How would people in the Middle Ages respond to a television? What would someone from the 1700s think of a helicopter? What would a person from the early twentieth century think of a computer, or more specifically, the Internet?

They would think these things were magical — either illusions or genuine supernatural occurrences. They might even believe the persons yielding the magical objects were witches, wizards, or gods.But you and I both know that’s not the case. Televisions, helicopters, and computers are all very real, and thanks to modern technology, most of us have access to them.

We humans have a tendency to believe that we are at the apex of knowledge — that right now, we know as much as we ever will. As much as we love fictional, futuristic stories, we tend to think of them as fanciful. Sure, a great writer or a skilled filmmaker can help us suspend our disbelief for the duration of a book or a film, but sitting in your living room on an ordinary day, it all seems rather unlikely, doesn’t it? People bouncing around in time? Fighting intergalactic wars in outer space? Come on.

But if you stop to wonder what our world will look like 100 or 1000 years in the future, these fantastical ideas don’t seem so crazy. What incredible inventions will be developed over the course of the next millennium?

Asking questions about the future is an excellent way to generate ideas for speculative fiction. Let’s Take a Trip to the Future Let’s do some thought exercises to flex your imagination. You’ll need to envision what the world looked like in the past, what it looks like today, and what it might look like in the distant future.

Use these questions to spark ideas and then write anything you want: a poem, a story, a personal essay, or just a short scene. The goal is to engage your imagination, remove barriers that block all the possibilities, and open your mind.

Medicine

Some of humankind’s greatest achievements have been in medicine. We now use all the technologies at our disposal to diagnose, treat, and prevent illnesses — from pills and vaccines to X-rays and MRIs. From a device as simple as a stethoscope to one as complex as microscope, we’ve made wellness possible in ways that couldn’t have been imagined a few hundred years ago. What is yet to come? How will health care change in the future? Will we walk through a machine that scans our bodies to detect any possible ailment? Will there be a heal-all pill? And for each advance we make, will another new devastating disease rear its head?

Travel

Advances in travel are awe-inspiring. There was a time when humans were limited to travel by foot. Then came the wheel, which made the cart possible. Later, ships carried people across water. Eventually, trains made high-speed, long-distance travel possible. Next, the airplane. Then, spaceships took us higher and submarines took us deeper. Where will we go next? Will intergalactic travel ever be possible? What about teleportation? Time travel? A thousand years ago, it’s doubtful most people believed traveling to the moon was possible. Where will we go a thousand years from now?

Personal Technology

Technology has grown rampantly in the past few decades. Since the 1970s, almost all households in developed countries are equipped with more than one television, stereo, and computer. We can store an entire library of books, movies, and music on a device that fits in the palms of our hands. Two hundred years ago, if you wanted to talk to someone, you had to go to their house. Fifty years ago, you had to find a phone and dial their number. Today, you reach into your pocket, pull out your device, and press a button. How will personal technology advance in the next 100 years?

Have Fun!

It’s not easy for everyone to imagine things that don’t exist yet. It might help if you can summon your old history lessons. If you can conceptualize where we’ve been and contrast it with where we are now, you might start getting ideas about where we’ll be at some point in the future. Run with your ideas, even if they seem crazy, absurd, or impossible. The purpose is to let your imagination run wild and to have fun.

Once you’re done, come back and tell us what inspired you. What did you write? Was it fun to explore the future? Will you keep writing?

How to Give Your Narration Flavor

How to Give Your Narration Flavor is certainly a way to add life and personality to each of your characters. Great Post!

A Writer's Path

by Andrea Lundgren

Readers frequently talk about the style or narrative flavor of authors they enjoy. They’ll say, “That sounds like something __ wrote,” or “This reminded me of ___” or “The tone of that was flat.” But sometimes, we authors we sometimes don’t know what gives us our writing voice. What makes writing sound different or interesting and engaging?

Our voice is really the flavor that is distinctly ours. It’s like the spices that make Italian different than French or German cooking. They may have similar topography or features; in certain portions of those countries, there may just be an imaginary line between one part and another, to where the climate, soil types, and weather are identical. Similarly, our writing might be similar to that of another in genre, plot elements, and character types but yet be unique because of the “spices” we employ.

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21 Do It Yourself Tips on Writing!

21 Do-It-Yourself Editing Tips by Melissa Donovan http://www.writingforword.com, July 4, 2017

*proofreading and editing

*Tips for Editing Your Own Work.

*The human mind is a funny thing; it likes to play tricks on us.

For example, when we proofread and edit our own writing, we tend to read it as we think it should be, which means we misread our own typos and other spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes as well as problems with word choice and sentence structure, context, and overall readability.

Do-It-Yourself Editing Tips

Here are twenty-one do-it-yourself editing tips that you can put into practice for polishing your own writing:

  1. Proofread and edit every single piece of writing before it is seen by another set of eyes. No exceptions. Even if you hire a professional editor or proofreader, check your work first.
  2. Understand the difference between proofreading and editing. Edit first by making revisions to the content and syntax. Then proofread to check for proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
  3. Use the Track Changes feature in Microsoft Word when you edit. This feature saves your edits. You can then review the changes you’ve made and approve or reject them.
  4. Step away from a piece of writing before you proofread it. The longer the piece, the longer you should wait to proofread it. Let a novel sit for a few weeks. Let a blog post sit overnight.
  5. Before proofreading and editing, run the spelling and grammar checker. Then run it again after you’re done polishing to check for any lingering typos. However, don’t count on software for spelling and grammar. Use it as a fail-safe.
  6. Read your work aloud. Pronounce each word slowly and clearly as you read and check for mistakes.
  7. Proofreading should never be a rush job. Do it s l o w l y.
  8. Don’t review your work once and then send it out into the world. I recommend editing until the piece reads smoothly and then proofreading it at least three more times.
  9. At the very least, proofread until you don’t catch any more errors.
  10. Read the piece backward so you can see each word separately and out of context.
  11. Look up the spelling of proper names as well as scientific and technical terms that you’re not familiar with to make sure you’re spelling them correctly.
  12. Don’t make any assumptions. If you’re not sure about something, look it up so you can fix a mistake (if there is one) and learn the correct way.
  13. Don’t forget to proofread titles, headlines, and footnotes.
  14. Pay attention to the mistakes you’ve made in your writing. You’ll find that you tend to make the same ones repeatedly. Keep track of these and work on avoiding them during the initial writing process in the future.
  15. Choose one of the many style guides and stick with it. This will make your work more consistent, and you’ll have a trusty resource to use when you have questions about style and formatting.
  16. Start building a collection of grammar books and writing resources so when you do run into questions (and you will), you have access to reliable and credible answers.
  17. If you intentionally let grammatical mistakes slip through, do so by choice and make sure you have a good reason. It’s okay to break the rules if you know why you’re breaking them.
  18. Pay attention to formatting. Use the same formatting on all paragraphs and headings for a professional level of consistency. Learn how to use these features in your word processing software (in MS Word, this feature is called Styles).
  19. Proofread when you’re fresh and wide awake. Proofreading doesn’t go over well when you’re tired or distracted.
  20. Proofreading and editing can be tedious, so break up your revision sessions by doing other tasks that help you clear your mind: exercise, play with the pets or kids, go for a short walk, or listen to some music. Try to avoid reading or writing during these breaks.
  21. Make it your business to develop good grammar skills. Read up on grammar or subscribe to a blog that publishes grammar posts (like this one) to stay up to date on proper grammar.

Some people love the proofreading and editing process. Others despise it. If you’re into grammar, the mechanics of writing, and polishing your work, then proofreading and editing will be easier and more enjoyable for you. If not, just look at it as part of your job — something that goes along with being a writer. And once you’re done proofreading and editing, make sure you get back to your writing.

 

 

 

Adventures in Writing:  The Complete Collection

8 Ways to Convince Book Bloggers to Review Your Book

8 Ways to Convince Book Bloggers To Review Your Book

Book bloggers actually do want to review your book! But we don’t have a lot of time so when you forget to include vital information or don’t follow the submission instructions, your requests end up in the trash bin. Here are 8 ways to convince me—and other book bloggers—to review your book:

via http://www.bookdaily.com/  There’s no reason to pile on and make your request email an epic read – that’s your novel’s job. When approaching reviewers keep your request on point. Give each blogger exactly what they ask for – no more, no less. Remember, we get lots of emails and the easier you make it for us, the greater your chance of acceptance. Here’s what should always be included.

1. Reviewer’s name: Guess what? You may have to read through the blog a bit to find it. Check contact information. Read all the way to the bottom of submission guidelines. It’s there. Now address your email to an actual person. Don’t write a generic salutation like To whom it may concern, Madam, Sir or other nonsense. Personalize it like Hi, D or Ms. Bale. Start requests using a smidgen of professionalism.

2. Your name: State this in your first sentence and again at close. Something like My name is Wendy Woman, author of Windy Woods, and… Sign off with Sincerely, Wendy/Ms. Woman. You get the drift.

3. Book title: Again, include this in paragraph one similar to the example given in #2.

4. Word count: If your request is for an eBook, include word count. If for print, reference page count. Reviewers need to have an idea of the time investment required.

5. Genre: Thriller, Mystery, etc. In a world of crossovers and sub-genres it can be difficult to classify your novel’s niche. Try and focus on the main thematic element. Is it something taking place in a galaxy far, far away? Science Fiction is for you. A post-apocalyptic world? Dystopian. Who done it? Mystery. Fast-paced, high stakes? Thriller. Even if your novel has elements of romance, action, or mystery classify it under one main heading then choose the underlying classifications to further identify it, such as Romantic Suspense – a romance novel with elements of suspense. As a reviewer if I’m told a novel is thriller, then I expect a fast-paced read. If it ends up plodding and drags my review will reflect this perceived negative due to deviation from the genre’s norms. But if this same book was referenced as a fantasy, I’d expect a more character-based journey and the slower or uneven pace would fit. Therefore my review would not perceive this as a negative. Simply put – KNOW YOUR GENRE – and know it well.

6. Time frame: If you have a hard date for reviews (release party, tour, campaign), tell a potential reviewer up front. Otherwise, don’t even mention time frame in your email. If a hard date is the case, always give a minimum of two months lead time. This allows reviewers to decide if they can meet your deadline. Don’t email two weeks before said date. We may not even get to your request within that time. Conversely, if you are like most authors and have no established date by which you need reviews, don’t say anything about a time frame. Referencing you want a timely review goes back to the slap in the face moment mentioned earlier. We try to make reviews timely – but timely to authors and timely to reviewers are very different. Authors are happy when reviews are posted the following week. Reviewers are happy when we post the following month (or two, three…).

7. Book blurb/synopsis: Sell reviewers on your book. Make it sound like something we’ve gotta read ASAP. Don’t do the lazy thing and simply provide a link. Copy/paste description/synopsis/blurb into the email body. Make it easy for reviewers to take a chance on you, an unknown indie, to want to read your novel.

8. Subject line: State Review Request or Book Review. Don’t get all flowery or funky and make the email subject line long and convoluted. Anything longer won’t show up in a condensed line anyway.

***

See? It isn’t difficult to compose a concise request detailing a novel’s basics. You don’t need to write another manuscript to get your point across. You don’t need to brow-beat reviewers or blow sunshine up dark places. You don’t need to denigrate or puff yourself up to get a point across. If reviewers want more simply go off submission guidelines – follow reviewer guidelines first and foremost.

Otherwise, lean on the side of KISS – Keep It Simple, Silly!

WANT TO SHARE THIS TIP? TWEET THIS:

🐦CLICK TO TWEET🐦 #Authortip from @BookDailycom: 8 Ways to Convince Book Bloggers To Review Your Book by @DABale1 http://www.bookdaily.com/authorresource/blog/post/1966703 #amwriting #writerslife

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: In her previous career, D.A. Bale traveled the United States as a Government Relations Liaison, working closely with Congressional offices and various government agencies. This experience afforded her a glimpse into the sometimes “not so pretty” reality of the political sphere. Much of this reality and various locations throughout her travels make it into her writing.

She dreams of the day she can return to visit Alaska.

You can find out more about her on her website www.dabalepublishing.blogspot.com and on Twitter

5 TED Talks Everyone Should Have Already Watched — Kopitiam Bot

(Source: dollarsandsense.sg) #1 The Secret Of Becoming Mentally Strong (Speaker: Amy Morin) “Good habits aren’t enough. It only takes one or two small habits to really hold you back.” Amy Morin starts off by sharing how everyone has a friend that seems to have a perfect life, and how we kind of don’t like that […]

via 5 TED Talks Everyone Should Have Already Watched — Kopitiam Bot

Why We Search for Authenticity in People!

Authenticity is the practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” – Brené Brown via http://www.powerofpositivity.com

Psychologists correlate the attractiveness of authenticity to three things: (1) We believe that people who are authentic are more trustworthy; in part because they’re truer to themselves. (2) Genuine people often possess a sense of individualism and firmness, which we admire. (3) Remaining true to oneself requires courage, strength and tenacity – all qualities that we find appealing.

With that in mind, here are 10 signs of authentic people:

They Speak Their MindAuthentic people are confident about their opinions and perspectives – and share them with confidence. Their thoughts are also well-constructed and, when prompted, are conveyed with both firmness and civility.

They Realize the Unimportance of Material ThingsWhile authentic people may enjoy certain things, they certain do not base their happiness off of them. Furthermore, they do not judge an individual by what they have and do not have. Authentic people focus on a person’s character, not their bank account.

They Relish in ExperiencesGenuine people realize the impermanence of life and try to live it fully. This means experiencing what people and the world has to offer – and they make every attempt to do so.

They Set Their Own ExpectationsAs apparent by now, authentic people are highly individualistic; they do not seek the “approval of others” and never will. Their beliefs, ideals, morals, and value are self-acquired and applied.

They Are Active ListenersGenuine people exemplify the “two ears, one mouth” axiom. Active listening is listening without anticipating one’s response. 100 percent of their focus is on the speaker and nothing else. (Was the person you thought of earlier an active listener? Please share!)

They Acknowledge Their Faults and MistakesIt takes tremendous fortitude to admit to your failures – and authentic people have plenty in reserve. They know their weaknesses and mistakes; but what really differentiates a genuine person is they take necessary action to correct them.

They Take Personal ResponsibilityThis one really doesn’t need to be said, but here it is. Authentic people are hold themselves accountable to what they do and don’t do. They are very responsible for many reasons, including the self-empowerment and pride that comes from being answerable to themselves.

They Make Their Own WayGenuine people are not a “sit back and wait” group. They find a way to make things happen, regardless of the sweat, blood and tears required. Further, the path they set for is their own – something that requires grit, determination, and… self-reliance.

They Aren’t Scared of FailureHow many of us would love to say, “I’m not scared to fail”? (Raises hand and nods head.) Part of being a truly authentic person is acknowledging the possibility of failure, looking it in the face and not blinking. Whew…easier said than done.

They Aren’t at All JudgmentalPerhaps of all the wonderful traits listed, this last one may be the most admirable. Genuine people can wholeheartedly and honestly accept individuality precisely because they are different. Authentic people are often very smart – and are able to see right through the pointlessness of preconceived expectations and human stereotyping