Oct 2, 2011

Critique Partners Network - Update

What did I get myself into?

I have the base platform done on the Critique Partners Network, now I am doing all the extra stuff, like figuring out how to get sample critiques up on the site without letting spammers corrupt my system. How to define info pages into different groups so I can have some be public but grouped, etc.

If anyone knows elgg programming, I'd love some help! I've been doing a lot of php tweaking to get things the way I want them, but a real programmer's help would be greatly appreciated.

I am going to build an agent side tho this network as well, where they can come and post their pet peeves, and what they would like to see critiquers keep an eye out for so not as many poorly written manuscripts come across their desk.

Oh, that remind me, I still need to figure out how to do polls!

I think I should be ready for beta testers by Oct 9th, so if you're interested, let me know. I would love the help.

Sep 24, 2011

Critique Partners Network - Need Your Help

I have found the social platform, finally for designing the Critique Partners Network. I have my domain, and I'm busy trying to pull it all together.

Now, I need some collaborators, or at least opinions.

1. When looking for a critique partner/group what attributes are important to you?

Here' what I have so far:

Looking For: multi-select (On-Line Critique Partner(s), On-Line Critique Group, In-Person Critique Partner, In-Person Critique Group) The difference between multiple critique partners and group is that you meet with your partners separately. They may have other partners you don't, so you aren't a group.

Critique Experience: multi-select (None, Have Some Critiquing Experience - not a lot, Have dabbled in Critiquing, Belonged to Long Term Critique Group, Facilitated Critique Group)

Turn Around Time: (It doesn't matter, ASAP, Once a Week, Every Other Week, Once a Month)

Contact Level: (Whatever works, One pass with editing/critique marks, One pass with editing/critique marks and willingness to have dialog over key points, In-depth work with discussion and rework critiques)

Skill level: multi-select: (Beginner, MSS out to Agent/Publishers - No Luck So Far, Unpaid Publication or Writing Award, Paid Publication in ($) or Paid Writing Award (in $), Agented, Published)

Critique Strength: multi-select:   (story, character, flow, plot, grammar)

Revision Preference: multi-select (WIP, 1st Draft, 2nd Draft, Final Draft)

MSS Type Preference: multi-select (Novel, Novella, Short Story, Non-Fiction, Article, Query, Back Flap, Synopsis, Screen Play, Graphic Novel)

Market Age Group Preference: multi-select (Childrens, Middle Grade, Young Adult, Adult)

MSS Genre Preference: multi-select (Contemporary, Fantasy, Historical, Horror, Humor, Literary, MagicRealism, Mystery, Paranormal, Political, Thriller/Suspense, Womens Fiction)

Thickness of Writer's Skin: (I'm new to this be kind but honest, Just find my flaws - my story and voice are fine, Seasoned Critiquer - have at it, Please be brutally honest I want to get published)

2. Once a member search is done, you will be able to go to the person's profile and see the following:

a. Up to 3 Critiquing Samples (members will choose from a list of 3-5 page writing samples to copy to an editing box on their profile page to critique as an example of their ability and style)

b. The member's 3-5 page writing sample

c. The member's About Me description.

d. A description of the member's work in progress they need critiqued (will allow for up to 3 WIPs)  I am trying to figure out how to link partner names with wip.

e. Pet Peeves (or some other name). For me, I can't work with constantly changing POVs. I can do chapter changes in POV, but every other paragraph or even scenes in the same chapter just throw me off. So that would be my major pet peeve, and I feel if I list it, those who do change POV often won't contact me about partnering up with them. I have a few others, but you get my gist.
3. For Critique Groups

Users can also put out notices to form groups. Groups can be done within our website on Group pages or they can be held outside our website. What we care about is that they find each other.

In-Person Critique Groups can come and post they are looking for new members, or they can do a search on our members by city, state, and country.

4. Honest Factor

One of the hardest part of being a writer is knowing if your work is truly up to par. For those seeking standard publishing, we will offer polls where we put out back flaps, queries, and opening paragraphs to ask the community if they would honestly be interested in the book. I wrote a novel and when I hit the road with it, all I was told is: "No one wants to read about schizophrenics." Now had I known that upfront, I would have still written the book, but the schizophrenia would have taken a less major role. Whether these polls will be followed up by comments is something to figure out. 

Okay, that's it for now. Use the comment section to leave your two cents, or if you want to help me in the program's design, send me an email to my first name at aol.com. Please hook up with my blog to keep track of my progress on building this site. My hope is to have it done by mid October if not sooner.

Read why I'm doing this at my previous blog entry: Critique Partners Network

The other thing I'd like to hear is if you think this is overkill and not needed in the writing community.

Did I mention this website will be free? I am thinking of making it private in that the search engine bots don't hit us so everyone feels more comfortable sharing work on-line.

Sep 20, 2011

Critique Partners Network

One of the things I'll list in that list of odd things about me for the Versatile Blogger Award will be how obsessive I am once I set my mind on something.

In my hunt for critique partners or groups, I appreciated the help from Erin Schnieder over at the YAwesome Writers Writers on the Write Brained Network, for setting me up with a great group of peer critiquers. I have searched for years for a group that would work with me on a peer basis.

It was pretty much luck finding Erin's website and her list of resources. I had done so many Google searches for on-line writer groups and in-town writer groups to join. I did find many, but they were usually closed to new members.

So, I got this idea. What if I created a social network website just about critique partners and groups. A place for people like me to  do look ups for writers based on their writing interests, their writing abilities, and their critiquing abilities. I kept telling myself, I didn't have time for this, but like I said, I have an obsessive personality type and couldn't let it rest.

I spent last weekend looking for social networking platforms that would let me create profile fields we could sort on. What a nightmare. I finally found one, and have been struggling to get it working properly, but I won't give up. I'll figure it out and have my social site up and running in a couple of weeks.

What I would love to know is what other writers would like to see in a site like this. I would love some collaborators. The site would be free to everyone.

I am thinking of adding the following to the site:

Profile lookup based on interests, writing level, critiquing level, whether they are looking for partners or a group, on-line or in-person.

Sample writing and critiquing attached to each writer's profiles

Then as a community work on building honest critiques with polls on back flaps, queries, and synopsis and invite readers to vote as well.

Are you interested in helping design this?

Was Just Awarded the Versatile Blogger Award

Catherine M Johnson made me one of her 15 recipients to receive the Versatile Blogger Award. I'm new to all this blogger networking, so I need to go and meet other writing bloggers to come up with my list of 15 recipients. I'll get that done this weekend. I'll save my list of seven odd things about me for then.

Thanks Catherine.

Sep 13, 2011

Finding The Perfect Critique Partners

One of the benefits of joining all these writing groups on-line is finding critique partners. I just hooked up with a group of four, but am searching for others for more intimate one-on-one critiques that involve discussion as well as line editing. I have created and belonged to many in person groups while working on my adult novels, but found as the facilitator it was hard to get a good critique as people are leery to pick apart the leader's writing.

Even in cyber space, I see a hesitancy, and understandably so. On one critique board, the writer responded to a man's question with such rudeness, I doubt the critiquer will be back, or I, for that matter. Elsewhere, and I admit I have done this myself, there is praise and minor critiques in an attempt to be positive and encouraging.

That's not what I want when I ask someone to critique my work. I want to know how the story reads, if my characters are believable, likable, if my scenes are compelling. Let me know if I am telling when I should be showing. If you question a comment or action that is out of line with who you perceive my character to be, tell me.

I also need to know if I'm not talking to my intended audience. If I'm writing for middle grade and you think I'm dealing with things that won't hold their interest, while it might hurt to hear it, I do need to know that. It's just your opinion, and I, as the writer, have final say in all decisions, but your opinion is important to me. It makes me think and propels me to ask others so I make the right decisions.

Not everyone's critique can help me. If someone who writes and reads romance novels, worries  my language, violence, and graphic imagery is over the top then I have to take that from where it comes. If a literary writer starts cutting up my prose, I just need to smile and not worry. If you tell me you have kids and wouldn't let them read my book, I have to take that into consideration. If you have been studying the MG market and know what sells and what doesn't, then I would be a fool not to listen to you.

What I also need to know is if you would honestly continue reading my book based on my characters, plot, and writing. Most people don't want to hear that. I do. I have written six novels and have been told over and over how great they are, but if that's true then why aren't they published. When I went back to my critiquers and told them what agents said, they agreed. With my latest book, The Talent Collector, this happened surrounding Corbi's relationship with her brother. No one who read or critiqued the book said anything about Matt. When I reiterated what agents said, every one of them agreed and said they had been bothered by that as well. Why didn't they tell me? Because while they were all quick to find grammar errors, and other small stuff, they didn't want to challenge me on the bigger stuff, the important stuff that makes or breaks the book being picked up by an agent or publisher.

After reviewing and critiquing five novels for me, my daughter who is an avid reader told me on the fifth one how much she liked the change in my writing style and that she had a hard time with my previous style where I only used contractions in dialog. Wow, that was huge. What could that knowledge have done for me four books ago?

Critiquing is tough. You never know how much is enough and how honest to be. That is where trust comes in. I have a writer friend whose work I critique and she trusts me completely. I have no reason to say things I don't honestly believe. But I'm tough on her. I question dialog, redundancies, timelines, motivation, and even character names. I ask for slower pacing, more scenes, and deeper motives. There have been times she has gone home and cried over all my marks, not because I was harsh, but because she knows in many instances, I was right and she needs to do a major rewrite. She self-publishes her books (actually I do it for her, she is one of my best friends), and she wants her novels to be the best they can. She's an excellent writer and sells a lot of books, but when writing she tends to get lost in the story. No one else who critiques her work challenges her on her story. I pride myself on the trust she has in me, and I never worry that she will take anything as criticism rather than critique.

At times honesty can hurt, and you might feel defensive or even frustrated and start thinking you'll never get this, but if your goal, like mine, is to get published, then you have to listen to it all with an open mind. You can't own anything in a WIP. If someone trips over a word, change it. If a sentence pulls a reader out of the story, change it or delete it. If they question how something is plausible, then make sure it is. In my current YA WIP, one of my critiquers asked how my protagonist could wish her mother dead. She felt that was very harsh and bitter. In my original opening of the novel, I gave a lot of back story. After a great critique on the first five pages from Carolyn Chambers Clark, I changed that, but now, without knowing my protagonist's past, the hate seems to be out of place. This was a very important critique, one that will make me rework how I handle my MC's past. It will make my story tighter and more believable. In essence, it will help me tell a better story and raise my chances for success.

Praise has an important role in critiquing as well. It helps build trust and temper the negativity felt from critiques. There are always things in someone's story that make me smile, or catch me off guard, or make me stop and ponder. I always mark those. And I like to see them marked in my writing too, as long as they are honest.

The other thing I think is important in a critiquing partner is that we are on the same level in our writing skills and even paths towards success. I admit, I'd love someone published to go over my work, but then when I think about it, maybe I would take what she said too seriously and my writing would become more hers than mine. That's a risk. It's one of the reason I want a true peer to work with. I want to like what you're writing, your style of writing, and your speed. I tend to be a prolific writer, I can critique a full novel in one or two nights. Others are slower and prefer a more laid back partner. I need to work with someone like me. I need someone who will discuss things with me, let me throw a scene back at them to see what they think and who can explain their reasons for heavy critiques. For you to be a good critiquer for me, you'd need to understand my genre even if you don't write it.

I am searching for that intimate critique partner or two who I can learn to trust and who will trust me as I work through my current novel. If you're looking for a partner, don't settle. On-line group work is great for finished work. They find all those little things that will push your novel from slush pile to editors desk, but during that WIP, look hard for that right person or two who will challenge you to be the best writer possible.

Sep 11, 2011

Building a Platform is Work!

This whole building a platform is a lot of work. I have joined groups, written flash fiction, critiqued work of people I don't know, and spent hours trying to get a blog that represented both me and my work--all this weekend!

What has gone through my mind over and over as I've done this and read other writer's blogs and challenges as they build their platform is: when do they have time to write!

One thing I have gained from this experience is enthusiasm for my craft. Writing can be such a lonely endeavor at  times, and supportive as family and friends are, they just aren't interested in reading every story you write. Oh, they say they are, but to get them do it at times boils down to begging. Often, I have asked myself why I go through this year after year, novel after novel, if these books are going to just lay on a shelf (or directory) and no one will get to read them.

Now though, after all the reading and writing of this weekend, this whole platform building project has renewed my hope that there are people around who love to read what writers write and who will critique my work greedily rather than out of obligation. I love that!

So I'm off to gather friends, find a few more critiquing partners and get my two current projects done by the end of this year. I may just write another NaNoWriMo 50K piece as well. I mean, why not. Writing is what I love, it's what I do, and who I am.

Sep 7, 2011

Platform Building Challenge - 200 Word Fast Fiction

Surprise Antagonist 
by Balin Jones

The door swung open and in walked the antagonist of my story. She was grimier than I expected. Older too. I envisioned her more sophisticated and coiffed. This woman had wiry hair that hadn’t seen a comb in months. She wore a week’s worth of tattered clothes, her left eye was sewn shut and she appeared to have just one tooth. I couldn’t fathom how she would carry my story.

The principal looked up from her desk. “May I help you?”

“Heard you were looking for some tension and drama.”

“I’m afraid you don’t fit our stereotype for a prom queen’s nemesis.”

The old woman reached down the neck of her shirts, pulled out a sheet of crumpled paper and handed it to the principal. Three small pills spilled onto the desk and I saw the potential.

“That says I do.”

The principal scanned the document. “You inherited the school?”

“Yup.” She popped one of the pills in her mouth and swallowed it dry. “Sorry, they quiet the voices.”

When the principal clutched the document to her chest and ran from her office screaming, I knew I had the perfect antagonist,at the exact word count before the door swung shut.

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