Sunday, December 20, 2009

Best Version of Twelve Days

I finally get back on track with blogging everyday, only to be felled by some weird virus. Heck, if Cthulu produces as much mucus as I have in the last four days, I can understand why he's in a dark mood.

Here's a cool version of The Twelve Days of an Urban Fantasy Heroine's Christmas by the ever-talented Jaye Wells.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Golden Rules of Judging

One of the reasons I love talking to Nancy (current friend, former critique partner) is the myriad topics we can cover in a long lunch.

One of the things we did discuss was constructive criticism. We've both had experiences with folks who . . . Well, let's just say they didn't follow the Golden Rule.

Since I'm entering judging season (there are two contests I volunteer for every year around this time), I'm going to list my Golden Rules of Judging Writing Contests.

1) Treat the contest entrant with respect at all times.

2) Don't judge a genre you are unfamiliar with or your refuse to read recreationally. You're not doing the entrant any favors.

3) Find something the writer has done really well and praise it.

4) If the manuscript is not close to professional readiness, limit criticisms to the three major things that need improvement.

5) If the entrant seems to have used a word or concept improperly, LOOK IT UP before making a comment. You may be wrong.

6) Don't count off for the one typo found in the manuscript.

7) Flag that one typo and suggest the entrant fixes it before she starts submitting to agents or editors.

8) Never, EVER, make personal comments about the entrant. Only focus on the writing.

9) Suggest, don't command.

10) Give the entrant feedback on what affected you as a reader. That's part of why the entrant shelled out her hard-earned cash to enter the contest.

To all writers I'm about to judge, I salute you.

Monday, December 14, 2009

When Good Critique Partners Go Bad

A couple of weeks ago I had lunch with my friend and former critique partner, Nancy.

Yep, that's right. Former critique partner. And still a friend.

I hear so many stories about folks whose critique groups implode, either through mismatch of personalities, callous behavior or downright nastiness. In most cases, folks stop talking altogether.

Here's a clue - it takes adult behavior to make a critique group work. It takes even more adult behavior to recognize when a critique situation isn't working and handling everyone's feelings with finesse.

In our case, Nancy and I had such opposite writing styles and genres--hers is light, innocent young adult and mine is snarky, violent urban fantasy--that we weren't really helping each other. And we knew it.

This doesn't mean we don't encourage each other, commiserate with the rejections and cheer on the baby steps toward publishing. It just means we can't give the hardcore feedback the other person really needs to grow as a writer.

So we take pleasure in each other's company occasionally while dissecting the latet bestseller over lunch.

Okay, we also drool over Taylor Lautner's abs.

Don't tell our husbands.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Stuck in the Mud

Sometimes the words don't flow. Sometimes they come out in a muddy trickle and are absolutely crap. Sometimes they hiccup and gurgle and refuse to some out at all.


Maybe it's because the well's going dry. It's been overused. Or maybe proper maintenance hasn't been performed on the plumbing. Maybe there's a break in the water line.

In my case, I think it's a little of all of the above. If you want to make it in this business, you have to take care of the writing equipment. I don't mean your computer or writing chair or dictionary. I mean your body. Your health. Your soul.

A lot of my normal care slid to the wayside in the wake of some personal things hitting the fan. And I forgot what's really important.

Until a friend's situation reminded me. She has a family member facing a pretty awful surgery out of state, and her regular pet sitter was unavailable. I volunteered to watch her darling pups, but I told her she's actually doing me a favor. I'll have her house to myself.

On my day off.

And I know a little rest, relaxation and ball playing will restart my stuck pump.