Posted in Editing, Writing

8 Reasons Why Joining A Critique Group Is The Best Decision

A few years ago I remember posting on my blog seeking a writing group. I was looking for something online because I was working full-time and going to school full-time.

I knew a writing group would help me with my writing, but I didn’t know where to start. I had no idea where to look for such a group.

The day after I posted something on my blog about it, my dad ironically found an article in the newspaper. Our local library was putting together a writer’s critique group. Kris and I looked into it and we joined immediately.

We’re still part of that group to this day and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

8 Reasons Why You Should Join A Critique Group

I’ve always heard pros and cons about joining a writer’s group, but I’ve found it to be more helpful than harmful. So, here some reasons why I think every writer should join a writer’s group.

1. Editing Skills

When I first joined my writer’s group, I was taken aback at the feedback I received. When I read their pieces my thought was, “Wow! This is really good!” I liked all the stories and I wanted more. I didn’t really have too much to say because I couldn’t find any mistakes.

But there are always mistakes. There are always opinions. What did you like? What didn’t you like? I’ve learned a lot about editing over the past few years I’ve been part of my group. I know the right questions to ask and know what to look for when reading someone else’s work.

2. Writing Skills

Just like editing, you learn a lot about writing as well. As you read the work of your fellow writers, you’re looking at different writing styles and ideas. You learn from one another to help with your own writing process.

3. Inspiration

Stuck on something in your writing? Feel like something isn’t working out or you have writer’s block? Ask your group members for their opinion on what you should do next. They’ll help generate ideas and then you can pick and choose and try out the different ideas because deciding what to do next.

4. Socialization

Writers aren’t the best at being social. Having a group of writers is great because it gets you out of the house and gives you social interaction with other humans. Not only do you find a great community of writers, but you’ll also make new friends as well.

5. Promotion

Have a blog? Share it with your group. Finally getting that book deal? Throw a party with your group. Your writing group members are most likely your first fans. Plus, you can bounce promotion ideas off of one another as well.

6. Self-Confidence & Thick Skin

When I first joined my group and submitted my first piece I was nervous. I’ll admit, there was a sick feeling in my stomach when people told me what they liked and what they didn’t like about my work. Taking criticism is hard to get used to. However, there will be people out there who absolutely love your work and there will be people who think you’re a terrible writer. Everyone has their own opinions, their own tastes in books.

Your writing group will be honest and help you along the way. Through that, you’ll gain thick skin in taking criticism as well as gain self-confidence in your own work.

7. Motivation

Sometimes it’s hard to keep writing. Having a deadline to submit something to your group can either help or hinder that motivation to write. For me, it usually boosts my motivation to keep writing. I want to keep up with the members of my group and I’m also excited to share what my novel has in store for them next.

8. Writing Time

We all complain that there’s not enough time in the day to get our writing done. Having the deadline of the group will help with that. In a way, it’s kind of like homework and you end up making sure you find the time to get that writing done.

Are you part of a writing group? What are your thoughts on it? Let me know in the comments below!

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Posted in Interviews

Meet Anne Goodwin, Author

It’s my pleasure to welcome Anne Goodwin to my blog!

Anne Goodwin, Author

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a book blogger and author of over seventy published short stories and two novels in the genre of literary-commercial / accessible literary fiction. I’m interested in themes of identity, mental health and how the past influences the present, but mostly I aim to write fiction that people will want to read. My first novel, Sugar and Snails, about a woman who has kept her past identity secret for thirty years was shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize. My second, Underneath, about a man who thinks he can resolve a relationship crisis by keeping a woman captive in a cellar, is published this week.

How long have you been writing for?

I’ve been secretly scribbling since early childhood, but have been writing seriously – by which I mean editing in response to feedback – for about fifteen years. I had my first short fiction publication ten years ago and my first novel almost two years ago.

What is your writing process like?

A chaotic mélange of dazzling insights and hard slog.

Do you have a writing routine? If so, what’s a typical day like for you?

I don’t have a routine, but I do have a sense of what’s most productive for me. When it works well, I knuckle down to whatever on my mental to-do list most fits my mood. Other days, I’m either overwhelmed by a surfeit of ideas or constantly distracted by Twitter or the need to hang out another load of laundry.

What motivates you to write?

I suppose it started as an attempt to make sense of things I couldn’t talk about, either because they were too painful or because, in my family of origin, freedom of thought was discouraged. For many years, when I was concentrating on my career, I wrote very little fiction but now it’s an extremely enjoyable addiction. I fear my head would burst if I didn’t somehow get the chatter of my characters out of my head! And, of course, it’s lovely now that I’m building a supportive band of readers who like my stuff.

What was the first thing you did when you found out your book was being published?

Mmm, check it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke?

Are you currently working on anything new?

I’m always working on something. It’s still a long way to go but I’m hoping the mess of disjointed scenes about a brother and sister separated for over fifty years while she’s in a mental hospital will eventually come together well enough to be my third novel. I’m also assembling a collection of short stories around the theme of identity to fill the gap before my next novel’s ready.

If you weren’t a writer, what would your career be?

I worked for twenty-five years as a clinical psychologist and, even though it’s a good few years since I left it, I still perceive that as my “proper” career. When the weather’s good I sometimes think I’d like to have done an outdoor job, but when it’s pelting with rain I’m extremely satisfied with the paths I’ve taken.

What is the easiest part of writing for you? What is the hardest part?

Generating ideas, creating characters and finding situations to put them in comes much more easily to me than plotting. Perhaps that’s why I tend to defer it, except in a fairly loose sense, until the other aspects are fairly well established. The other difficulty is excising those overused words, which is where an editor will hopefully come to the rescue.

What’s one thing you learned through writing that you wish you knew before you started?

That it takes so much longer than you’d ever imagine to develop the skill to write well! Perhaps because I was older, and well-established in a career that involved some writing and publication, I completely underestimated how much I had to learn. I might have enjoyed those early years of trying and failing much better if I’d been less focused on getting published.

What is your favorite book or genre? Is there a special book that made you realize you wanted to write?

I like to read literary fiction with some kind of marginalised characters and emotional depth. While I read a lot as a child, I never gave much thought to the person who was doing the writing! Rather than inspiring me to write, most of my favourite books have made me think I couldn’t, because I’d never be able to do it as well. However, a big favourite from recent years is A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Know what you want to achieve and what it will take to get there. For example, if you just want to write for yourself, go ahead and enjoy it, but if you want to write for publication be prepared for a lot of hard work and disappointment. If there’s anything you’d rather do instead, do it!

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Just to draw readers’ attention to my blog tour and that there’s a pre-publication Kindle reduced price offer (£1.99 / $2.48) on Underneath AND on my first novel Sugar and Snails for the next couple of days.

About Anne Goodwin

Anne Goodwin’s debut novel, Sugar and Snails, was shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize. Her second novel, Underneath, is scheduled for publication in May 2017. Anne is also a book blogger and author of over 70 published short stories.

Connect with Anne: Annethology | Twitter @Annecdotist

About Underneath [Release Date: May 25, 2017]

Underneath by Anne Goodwin

He never intended to be a jailer …

After years of travelling, responsible to no-one but himself, Steve has resolved to settle down. He gets a job, buys a house and persuades Liesel to move in with him.

Life’s perfect, until Liesel delivers her ultimatum: if he won’t agree to start a family, she’ll have to leave. He can’t bear to lose her, but how can he face the prospect of fatherhood when he has no idea what being a father means? If he could somehow make her stay, he wouldn’t have to choose … and it would be a shame not to make use of the cellar.

Will this be the solution to his problems, or the catalyst for his own unravelling?

Buy the Book:
Amazon UK | Amazon USA

Check out the Underneath Blog Tour!

Underneath by Anne Goodwin Blog Tour

Posted in Short Story Sunday, Writing

Short Story Sunday 161: Memories

Short Story Sunday: "Memories" | Flash Fiction

            When you’re having a good time with friends or family, that’s all you think about in the moment. You’re having fun; you’re having a great day. You never realize that you’re actually making memories.

Sophia stood in the middle of the cemetery wearing her black dress, the same outfit she wore just a year ago to Camille’s funeral. She held onto her black clutch with her arms down in front of her. Her head was bowed as though she was saying a silent, sweet prayer, but she wasn’t thinking about anything at all. Sophia just read the gravestone over and over again in her head.

Camille Maria Andrews, 1990-2010. A loving daughter, sister, and friend.

Sophia shook her head at the dates. They were having a wonderful time that night, but neither one of them had any idea that one of them would wind up six feet under. They were young and stupid… Really stupid.

Sophia blamed herself for what happened. Her other friends and her family tried to convince her otherwise, but she knew they were just trying to be nice. They pitied her and didn’t want herself to go through life believing she had killed her best friend since kindergarten. Even though Sophia didn’t directly kill Camille, she might as well have. She just only wished that it had been her because Camille didn’t do anything wrong.

Being a year older than Camille, Sophia had turned 21 excited that she was able to legally drink. Neither one of them had ever taken a sip of alcohol underage before. When Sophia had her first taste of a cold beer, she licked her lips not believing that she had been missing out on so much for the first 21 years of her life.

She wanted to go out and celebrate her birthday with friends, but Camille wasn’t allowed to drink. She didn’t want to drink, either. Camille knew it was a bad idea. She was patient enough to wait until she was 21.

“But I can’t celebrate my birthday without you!” Sophia had whined.

“You and I will go out together this weekend. It’s not a big deal.” Camille had said.

“It is a big deal. I’m 21-years-old now. I’m an adult. I can drink. This is a big one and you should be there with me.” Sophia had continued to argue and whine causing a few eye rolls from Camille.

“Fine, but I’m not going to stay late.” Camille had finally given in, like she usually did whenever Sophia complained.

Sophia cheered and handed Camille a fake ID. She had already contacted a guy from their high school and had one made for her. Camille was angry with Sophia for doing that. She didn’t want to break any laws.

“I’ll go to the bar with you, but I’ll just order a soda. I don’t need that.” Camille shoved the identification back at Sophia and turned to walk away.

Sophia tucked the card into her purse. She respected Camille’s wishes, but she wasn’t about to leave it behind. Just in case.

Camille was the designated driver for herself and Sophia since she wasn’t allowed to drink and therefore didn’t plan on drinking. Yet, Sophia took it upon herself to order two beers when Camille went off to the ladies room to freshen up.

When Camille came back, Sophia pushed one of the bottles towards her.

“I’ll drink both, but please just have a sip. You won’t regret it, I promise.” Sophia had explained.

Camille rolled her eyes. “Only because it’s your birthday. But if you drink both of these beers, that would make three for you. So you’re all done after these two, okay?”

Sophia nodded eagerly. She had been willing to make any kind of deal with Camille since Camilla had been willing to come out to the bar with her and to even take a sip of beer.

Of course, Camille loved the taste so much that she ended up drinking the whole bottle herself. Before she or Sophia knew it, they had both drunk a lot. Camille was confident that she was sober enough to drive the both of them. Sophia kept getting sick and couldn’t tell the difference between up and down, so she definitely couldn’t drive let alone be able to tell Camille that she too was too drunk to drive.

So they left the bar with an underage drunken Camille behind the wheel. Neither one of them ever saw that guardrail on the side of the road coming.

Sophia closed her eyes and thought back to that moment, but she couldn’t remember it. She only knew what the nurses and police officers had told her. Sophia tried to remember, but all she could think about was when she woke up in the hospital two days after the accident. Camille had already been pronounced dead.

Swallowing a lump in her throat, Sophia sniffed back some tears. She couldn’t believe that it had already been a year. As she stood in front of Camille’s grave, she had no idea what to say. She wanted to apologize, wanted to talk about what has been going on since she’s been gone, wanted to let Camille know that she missed her dearly. But no words would come out.

She didn’t like her birthday anymore now that could barely remember her 21st birthday. The only thing she remembered from it was that her best friend died.

“Happy birthday to me,” Sophia muttered. She dreaded this birthday since it marked a year and Sophia knew that she would dread her birthday every year for the rest of her life.

She blew a kiss to Camille gravestone and headed back to her car with her head bowed.

Sophia had never had anything else to drink after that day. It didn’t feel right since it was the cause of her friend’s death all because of her.

She didn’t think it was fair if she continued to drink and live while Camille would never get the chance to turn 21.

Words: 1,006

I hope you enjoyed this story! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Posted in Book Reviews, reading

Underneath by Anne Goodwin

Underneath by Anne Goodwin | Book Review

Title: Underneath
Author: Anne Goodwin
Published: 
May 25, 2017 by Inspired Quill
Genre: Psychological Thriller
How I got the book: I received a free digital copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

He never intended to be a jailer …

After years of travelling, responsible to no-one but himself, Steve has resolved to settle down. He gets a job, buys a house and persuades Liesel to move in with him.

Life’s perfect, until Liesel delivers her ultimatum: if he won’t agree to start a family, she’ll have to leave. He can’t bear to lose her, but how can he face the prospect of fatherhood when he has no idea what being a father means? If he could somehow make her stay, he wouldn’t have to choose … and it would be a shame not to make use of the cellar.

Will this be the solution to his problems, or the catalyst for his own unravelling?

My Review:

rp-first-thoughts

I read and reviewed Anne Goodwin’s debut novel Sugar and Snails and enjoyed it. When she contacted me about this thriller, and I love thrillers, I was excited to give it a shot.

rp-plot

We follow the first-person point of view of Steve, a man who buys a house and tries to get his life in order. He meets Liesel and they hit it off right away. She moves in with him and together they decide how they should use the cellar. The cellar is used for a few reasons as Steve tries to fix it up. It isn’t until Liesel gives him an ultimatum: They have kids together or she leaves, that Steve decides to use the cellar as Liesel’s own “home.” He doesn’t want kids, but he doesn’t want to lose Liesel.

It’s an interesting premise for a story and I was intrigued by it. However, it was pretty slow-going in the beginning. Nothing really happened until 150 pages into the story and, at that point, there were only about 100 pages left. Still, we did get flashbacks into Steve’s childhood which showcased how he grew up without a father and potentially why he never wants to be a father himself.

rp-characters

The characters were developed well. I felt for both Liesel and Steve and their own inner problems. Liesel wanted kids after her career didn’t work out and Steve just wanted a simple life with the girl of his dreams and it took a sudden turn for the worst.

Liesel was a go-getter from the beginning. When she decided she wanted something, she went for it as best as she could. This included Steve, her career, and then wanting kids. I loved that about her, but since we were in Steve’s head, I knew that Liesel could do better than him. Still, they had a cute relationship with one another.

To be honest, I couldn’t relate to Steve that well. I didn’t care for him as a character, even though he was the main protagonist and antagonist. I sympathized with him for his childhood, but that was about it. There was just something about him that turned me off from him.

rp-writing-style

The story is told to us in parts as opposed to chapters, which isn’t a bad thing. However, there were no timestamps or dates to indicate where we were and when. Time jumps were used an extra space in between paragraphs and flashbacks had a page break, but that was it. This made it a little confusing to read, but the author does write well regardless.

rp-overall

This was a good read, but I do wish the timeline was a little clearer and I felt more for Steve. Still, it was interesting, especially the ending. It makes you wonder what actually happened and whether your interpretation of the book was real or not. In that sense, it was cleverly written.

Underneath by Anne Goodwin gets…
3 Stars3 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quote:

“You’ve got to be prepared to fight for what you believe in.” –Anne Goodwin, Underneath

Underneath by Anne Goodwin comes out May 25, 2017. Preorder the book today!

Buy the book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Posted in Editing

How To Radically Revise Your Novel

Radical revision is a term to revise or rewrite your current draft. It’s a tool to help your reimagine your story.

This is a method I learned in school when I was working on my English degree. I’ve kept the notes these past two years because I found it to be helpful and a pretty cool method. It didn’t seem so at the time because it was homework, but I do think it helps.

How To Radically Revise Your Novel

What does radical revision do?

The point of radically revising your novel is to try something new, something different you wouldn’t normally do. Rewrite your current draft in a new way and see which one works better.

It may or may not work, but you’re experimenting, getting to know your novel and characters at a deeper level, and you’re practicing new forms of writing.

In a way, I guess you could look at this as a hardcore writing prompt.

Radical Revision Styles

1. Voice/Tone and POV Changes

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’ve done this before. I’ve had to rewrite my entire mystery novel manuscript to be in the viewpoint of a different character.

So, try rewriting your novel using a different voice or tone for a character if something isn’t working out. If your protagonist isn’t the right fit to be the main character, rewrite in a different point of view.

Test it out by just rewriting one scene or chapter. If it seems to work, go farther with it. It will give you a new perspective on your novel and give you more insight on your characters. You’ll learn a lot about what you’ve created, trust me.

2. Time Changes

Is your novel written in present tense? Try writing in past tense.

Write the novel using flashbacks and flashforwards, allowing plot info to sprinkle about here and there.

Tell the story backward. Start at the end and work your way towards the beginning.

Change the overall time period. See how your characters cope and change.

Changing the time and the way you convey the story can show you a lot about your plot. You’re looking more in-depth at your plot and zeroing in on certain aspects of your novel. Something that isn’t revealed until the end may be revealed earlier. And that could change the entire story, which may not be a bad thing.

3. Layout

Writing a novel? Try writing it as a script. Try writing a chapter as a poem.

It’ll give a brand new look to your manuscript allowing to challenge your mind and possibly switch around some ideas. Plus, writing scripts calls for bare-bones dialogue and quite a bit of description as direction. Switch things up and focus on one over the other and see what happens.

In Conclusion…

As I said earlier, these are kind of like big writing prompts. Still, if you have the time, and you feel as though there’s something not right with your story but can’t figure out what, try rewriting it using one of these methods.

It can’t hurt to try and you’ll learn something new about your novel and also about yourself as a writer.

BONUS

I only mentioned three radical revision styles above, but the notes I have list a few more. I listed the three above because I find them to be the most challenging and straightforward way of rewriting. Still, I thought I’d add the other two methods in case anyone was interested.

  • Genre Change – Turn your story into a fairy tale, short story, recipe, or letters. Or, change the overall genre, turn it from romance to mystery to anything else.
  • Art Piece – Tell your story using pictures or write songs about it.

Is this anything you would like to try? Have you tried it already? Let me know in the comments below!

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Posted in Editing

How To Find A Great Beta Reader You Can Trust

Finding beta readers isn’t as hard as you would think. They’re everywhere as long as you know the right places to look.

But before we go into where you should find your beta readers, let’s talk about the characteristics you would like your beta readers to have.

Because, of course, you want to have the right beta readers on your team, right?

How To Find Beta Readers You Can Trust

Your beta reader should…

  • Be your targeted audience. For example, they should have an interest in the genre you write and be the appropriate age.
  • They aren’t afraid to say what they think. They shouldn’t be afraid to tell you the truth about what they think of your book. If you have a beta reader who has absolutely no problems with your book, chances are something’s not right.
  • They’re not close friends or family members of yours. People close to you will have a tendency to bend the truth a little bit. You want someone who knows what they’re doing and, like the previous point isn’t afraid to speak their thoughts.
  • They’re readers. Find beta readers who read a lot. They’ll know what to look for, know what they’re doing. Bonus if they consistently read the genre you wrote.
  • They’re writers. This isn’t a must, but it helps. Writers understand writing like no one else does.
  • They’re brand new to the manuscript. If someone has already read your book, don’t ask them to be a beta reader. They won’t have that element of surprise or that, “what’s going to happen next?!” feeling.
  • Ideally, they’ll have a good grasp on publishing. They’ll know what makes a book a good one.
  • They have extra knowledge on the topics of your book. For example, if you’re writing about mental illness, ask a beta reader who has knowledge in that field. If you’re writing in a certain location, ask someone who’s been there or lives there. They may know things you didn’t.

Well, then! Now that we’ve got that out of the way…

Where do you find these kinds of beta readers?

  • Writing groups. Join a writing group whether it’s online or local, whether it’s a place where writers hang out or critique each other. You’ll make new friends and find a lot of things in common, including your manuscripts.
  • Workshops and conferences. Again, attend workshops. Most writers there are in the same boat as you. Make new friends and help each other out.
  • Social media. Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook groups, other blogs, etc. Writers are everywhere. You just have to strike up a conversation.

How do you get them to beta read for you?

  • Create real friendships. Writers need other writers to survive. Don’t go up to a stranger and say, “Hey, we’re both writers! Will you be my beta reader?” Be genuine. Get to know them, as a writer and as a person. You can help each other out, but you can also just hang out as people together and have a good time.
  • Offer something in return. Don’t find beta readers for the sake of helping yourself out. Beta readers do this for free so it’s only common courtesy to offer something in return. This can be offering to beta read for them when the time comes.
  • Ask questions. You want to know that they’ll be the right fit for your book. Ask they’re general interests, what they typically read, etc. Then you can decide together whether your book would be the right project for them.

In Conclusion…

Finding beta readers is easier than it seems, but it doesn’t go without working hard.

Just keep in mind that you’re not only looking for a beta reader, but you’re looking for a new writer friend as well. It doesn’t have to be strictly business all the time.

How have you found your beta readers? Are you looking for some now? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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