Getting good feedback on your writing is hard. That’s because giving good feedback is hard. In your quest to find a good critique partner, it’s important that you’re able to reciprocate. Giving a good critique is more complex than telling a writer your first reaction to their work, so below are some of the things I think about to give the best, most helpful feedback.
Forget brutal honesty
Often times, writers will ask for brutal honesty. “Don’t pull punches. Tell me the good, the bad, and the ugly,” they’ll say. “I can take it.”
I am a character-first kind of gal. If I'm reading a book with the most intricate, clever plot, but I don't feel like I know the characters, I probably won't get to the end of the story. I don't necessarily have to like the characters. I just have to know them.
Consequently, in my own writing, I can't start on a project until I have a good sense of who my main characters are. Once my MCs have been developed to feel like whole people, they influence all other aspects of the storytelling.
A few years ago, I took a class with Michael A. Stackpole where he outlined five different approaches to creating those whole-feeling characters, and since then, they've framed my characterization choices ever since. Having these methods in your back pocket will help you get in the right mindset when you start planning your next novel.
When I first started thinking about writing historical fiction, I knew that the storytelling and worldbuilding would be completely different than the projects I had undertaken in the past. Since my story was to take place in 1913, I went to the library, checked out a book called Daily Life in the Progressive Era, and plopped down to read. However, I quickly realized that reading an overview was not a great way to immerse myself in the time period. Over the years, I’ve amassed a battery of resources to help get in the right headspace for historicals.
There comes a point in my first draft process, usually around 30,000 or 40,000 words in, where I just hit a wall. I spend thirty minutes staring at a blank page, or I can’t stop my hand from clicking over to an open Twitter tab. When I’m feeling listless in my writing, I am a procrastinator to the extreme, so I’ve started using some interventions to keep me focused.
I have no self control. If I have the impulse to go to Wikipedia, I will spend hours reading about the history of the Boston subway system or the lives of medieval kings. Which is great for building a repository of fun facts for parties (well, my definition of fun, at least), but is not great for getting a novel finished.
You’ve done all the necessary prep work for your novel and are ready to start writing. Ten years ago, most writers would probably pull up a fresh Microsoft Word document and type “Chapter One” at the top of the page, but nowadays, there are a lot more word processing options to consider. It’s a wide world out there, but these are the softwares I use to go from first draft to finished product.
If you’ve participated in NaNoWriMo, you’ve almost definitely heard of Scrivener, which has sponsored the event for years. I purchased my copy of the software with a discount code I got for winning NaNo in 2010, but I have to admit that it sat on my computer unused for a couple years.
On the blog, you'll finds musings on writing craft, book reviews, and general updates on my work. If there are any topics you'd like me to cover, leave a comment!