Doing BETA Better

jr creaden

experimentNow that I’ve had some minor successes with my beta swap model, I’m ready to bring it back online and share the process. My Role Play – Beta Swap.

By role-playing as agents, publishers, and editors, we learn something in play that we learn otherwise only by making publishing mistakes.

oopsMost new writers make these mistakes, and it’s normal. It’s also one of the things that makes successful publishing such a slow process.

If you’re like me, you don’t want to spend a second of writing time wasting anyone else’s time.

Our mistakes = the slush pile. Rejections.

Self-publishers’ mistakes become the reason it’s so hard to stand out among the sea of other self-published mistakes.

snowflakeSo how do we make it easy for agents to make that full manuscript request, to believe in us and advocate for us?

How can we make it easy for buyers to say yes…

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NaNoWriMo 2016 Blog & Social Media Hop

I spotted this tonight & figured some of you might be interested.

Raimey Gallant


Welcome fellow Wrimos! If you’ve read even one article on book promotion, you’re familiar with the term “author platform”, which is basically your marketing reach. It’s how you’ll promote your books, especially online. The bigger your platform, the better.

So, let’s build our platforms together! Add your blog and social media pages in the form below, and I’ll send it out to every participant at the end of NaNoWriMo 2016, so we can follow one another’s pages.

UPDATE: We have 330 participants so far, which means 330 engaged people who will follow back many of the accounts you add to this form.

The form will close on November 30, and the hopping will happen in December.

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NANOWRIMO 2016 & Other evil things in life.

So on October 31st I ran across something online which reminded me of the NANOWRIMO event. Having little knowledge of this evil torture, I signed up for it. For those who don’t know, it stands for National Novel Writer’s Month. For some inexplicable reason, someone decided to pick November for this annual event. I suppose if you’re a teacher interested in getting students to write more, November works okay. However, for those of us who have to deal with the impending holidays, it sort of sucks.

The idea of NANOWRIMO is to write a fifty thousand word novel in a month. Again, this perplexes me since 50K is short for a novel and a little long for a novelette. It’s a weird size. It works out to about 1650 words a day. A reasonable goal for any single day, but for some people, it’s a little hard to do that consistently for thirty days. Since I normally write every day, I’ve found this goal to hurt me at times. Before this event started, I would happily tap out three thousand or more words at a single sitting, but now I kinda give up when I hit my 1700 for the day.

Then there’re the days when I struggle for words and end up feeling guilty if I don’t make my goal. In the past when I hit a wall, I used the time to go back and review or edit areas that needed flushing out. The NANO mantra is not to do any of that. This is supposed to be a rough draft, and I shouldn’t be wasting my time with edits. Meh. Screw it. I’ll do what I like. You don’t control me.

But I struggle on. When November 1 hit I was about 46K words into my current novel, and since the goal for this one is someplace between 82K and 87K I figured I’d just carry on and keep track of my daily progress. I’m now up to 72K and fighting for that neatly-wrapped-up-in-a-bow finish which we all seek.

On the plus side, the NANOWRIMO website has a decent forum section, and you can add writing buddies to your profile, so you’re able to get encouragement or swap ideas. My buddies have been a little on the quiet side but that’s okay, everyone is busy. Also, the #nanowrimo & #nanowrimo2016 hashtags on Twitter are extremely active, and allowed me to find a ton more writers to interact with one-hundred and forty characters at a time.

If you haven’t signed up for the event, there’s also a Camp NANO in the summertime which I’ve heard encouraging things about.

More Evil

My next topic is a bit of a return to a previous topic — Accepting criticism. Nobody likes to have their work slammed. Most people don’t enjoy giving it out either. However, there’s a right way and a wrong way to react to it. Keep in mind that I’m talking about when you ask someone who has no vested interest in seeing you succeed or fail. A total, or almost total, stranger that you somehow bribe, arm-twist, beg, plead, offer sex in exchange for, a look at your work.

If you’ve done this for more than a couple of weeks, you’ve probably found out how hard it is to get people to read your work and offer anything more than a pat on the head and a job well-done reply. Unless you’re in school and have teachers who are being paid to examine your writing, the process can really blow sometimes. For those of you who’ve been following me, you know I swap material with as many people as I can find.

Some advice downright sucks. Some advice is absolutely wrong. But all advice is freely given, and it’s my job to smile, say thank you, and sort through what I think are valid points and what can be tossed in the scrap pile.

If more than a couple of critique partners mention the same problem, you can be certain I’m going back through the area to find a way to make it work better. The other day I had someone who completely didn’t understand one of my character’s reactions to a situation. I had to step back and think if the character was behaving in a manner that NO human would react or if the character was just doing something that this reviewer couldn’t see himself doing in the same situation. For now, I’ve decided not to adjust the scene. If more people tell me she isn’t reacting like a human, I’ll make changes. I’ll even point out the scene in question to one of my writing groups and see if anyone else thinks it’s a problem.

So… Last night, someone posted on one of my Facebook writing critique groups a request for someone to read over a few pages and give feedback. I offered to take a look and then promptly fell asleep waiting for a reply. This morning I had a message along with the file waiting for me on Facebook along with an email asking if I got a chance to look at it.

The message on Facebook has already been deleted, so I’ll have you give you the rundown from memory. This person told me a few other people had already done line edits of the material and he was only looking for a basic overview and opinion. Sounds good so far. I hate reading material where the author hasn’t bothered to reread and correct obvious typos and such.

So, I read the material. It certainly wasn’t awful. It kept my attention throughout even though I caught a few grammatical issues and some places where I needed to read a sentence more than once. I sent him a short response since he didn’t ask for a close line by line examination. Keep in mind, I’ve never met this person before, and the only thing I know about him was that he’s currently in college someplace.

The scene is between the main character and an intern working in a human resource office of some company. Her job is to interview this man for a job. The character seems to dislike the entire interview process as a whole and proceeds to do things to taunt the interviewer.

Enjoy this horrific exchange.


In case you’re reading from a device too small to make these screenshots visible, I’ll re-enter the exchange.

Him: Hi Andrew

I sent my story to you via Facebook message. Just wanted to be sure you got it. Thanks for giving it a look.

Me: Sorry, didn’t see anything come through until this morning.
The ending is a bit unclear. It might have a better impact on people if the reader knew from the beginning that he cared nothing about getting the job because he already had one lined up. During all the bizarre things he was doing, I was just thinking the guy was an asshole and had no chance at getting the job with his attitude.


Him: Ouch

Him: I did indicate he had another opportunity at the end of the first page. FYI, if I was you I would not offer feedback in the future. There was absolutely nothing constructive about this.

(Okay, so he didn’t like my feedback. No big deal so far. But then I get this next one a few minutes later.)


Him: I am truly shocked you would treat another writer the way you responded to me. Very underhanded. And weak. Let me guess. You’re Jewish?

Me: Did you send this to the right person? I didn’t say anything offensive.

Him: Andrew
You are fucking publishing shit on Amazon and you can really be so careless when someone is simply looking for feedback? That was a complete garbage response. Any reasonable person would have had at least one constructive thing to say. Unbelievable.





Me: I’m sorry you feel that way. You specifically asked me to give you a general impression of the piece and not an in depth line by line edit. I gave you an honest opinion. If you’re planning on putting your writing out for the world to see, you can expect to get harsher words than I gave. I didn’t say there was anything wrong with the story. I just told you how I thought it could be improved. You might want to take the time to learn a few things about this type of feedback.
You didn’t pay me. I’m taking some of my free time to help you. It doesn’t matter if you agree with anything I say or not. Appreciate the fact that I was willing to read your material. You probably haven’t found out how hard it is to get that much out of random people.

If you only want platitudes and a pat on the head, ask your mother to read it.

Him: Andrew
I have gotten a fair amount of feedback from people I have never met before. Nothing came as close to your carelessness. Done with you. Please don’t contact me any more.

(But of course that only lasted for a few minutes because he needed to send more.)


Him: One thing you may want to consider, don’t say anything about someone’s work you wouldn’t say to their face. I assure you if we were in a writing group you wouldn’t have been as rude. If you were I would see to it you never would dare to treat someone so poorly ever again.

Me: I honestly have no idea what you think I said which was rude.
You’re the one who threw a racial slur.

Yeah … So that was my morning. I had to reread my response a few times trying to see where he thought I insulted him in such a careless manner. I still don’t see anything. Yes, I called the character an asshole but certainly not the author. I write lots of unlikable characters, and I assumed the one in question was meant to come off as arrogant. I can only guess that the character was a thinly veiled version of himself, and he didn’t intend the character to come off as such an awful prick.

After getting this sort of reaction, how eager do you think I am to help the next person who wants me to take a look at their work? I admit I was pretty blown away and pissed off for about an hour. I’m over it now. Trolls lurk everywhere. Surround yourself with people who lift you up.

I’ll try to keep updating this blog more frequently. If anyone has a suggestion for a topic, feel free to send it along. Comments, opinions, even visceral nastiness accepted.

Rejections & Quiting

Okay, I admit it. I’ve been slacking with this blog. After I posted the blog Breaking The Rules, I hit a high with the number of people reading the post and the number of comments. After that, I posted a sample of what it’s like working with a critique partner. That blog didn’t go as well. Lots of crickets played beautiful music for a long time after that one. This tells me most people are more interested in giving a finger to society and their damned rules rather than accepting criticism. Fair enough.

Everyone take a deep breath, open a tab on your browser to whichever is your most hated political figure (You too Canada. You can’t like everyone running your country.) Once you pull up that site, give that smug weasel the old one finger salute. Feel better? Good. I’ve been giving Alfred E. Neuman the finger for years. He needs to start worrying.




Now that we have that out of the way, I can move on to some of the writing stuff. Let me fill you in on what I’ve been doing. Riley – Mapleberry II is now posted on Amazon and you can even read the beginning if you click on one of those tabs at the top of this page. I’m sure you didn’t notice. It’s not like I don’t have enough purple on this page that it looks like Prince decorated. That was my brief obligatory self-promotion. I feel a little dirty now.

Sleeper Earth is about ninety percent edited and I’ve sent out another round of query letters. I’ve even received several impersonal rejections already. Weeee rejection. Some of you are saying — Hey dipshit! Why are sending out query letters if you haven’t finished the editing? Fair question. Glad my imaginary friend asked. I have a little condition called being a perfectionist. This is a crippling disease which prevents me from ever being done with anything. Every reread produces more adjustments. Every critique partner or beta reader makes me want to change a word here a line there. Until a publisher buys this thing and tells me to stop, or I hit the self-publish trigger, it will never be done.

Meanwhile, I’ve peeled a wrapper off of a shiny new story. Weeee new! There’s nothing quite like the feeling of diving into something new. Squeaky clean characters for me to manipulate and corrupt. New settings for me to describe. Evil antagonist to cause mayhem. Beautiful damsel in distress. [Cue record scratch.] Nope. No damsel in distress this time. My current story, tentatively named Shabin, features a beautiful and somewhat naive Prince with an unusual ability who ends up getting saved by a strong female character. Sure, I’m not the first one to do a role reversal thing, but it’s my first time and you never forget your first. Oh… and it’s set in space.

So we have space, a Prince with a mystical ability, an Empire, a father who’s part human and part machine, there’s a big hairy character that doesn’t speak English well … Wait, you ask, are you rewriting Star Wars? Umm… Let me think about that. [crosses out the scene with the electrified swords] No. This isn’t Star Wars. I think we’ve all had enough with the reboots.

It’s also my first foray into the world of Young Adult. I had one person mention to me that most of the YA audience is composed of women in their thirties. Is this true? If anyone knows the answer to that, please leave a comment. The story is from the POV of a seventeen-year-old boy, and I was trying to be as realistic as possible when it comes to the way a teenager would act. Unfortunately, this person thought I may have been a little too honest with the way his glands were dictating some of his actions. She thought women would be put off by a kid who drools over whatever is in front of him.

Moving onto my topic for today.

Frustration – Rejection – Criticism.

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from one of the people I exchange material with. They told me they were giving up because they’ve come to realize that the only person who could enjoy their writing was them. I think we’ve all been there and it sucks. I’ve banged my head plenty of times when rereading an old story. Nothing brings contempt faster than when my writing style has changed (hopefully for the better) and yet my old stories don’t magically morph along with me. I cringe looking at some of those pieces.

There’s a famous quote by one of those fancy muckety-mucks that goes – If you can quit writing, you were never a writer. Meh. I think that’s an oversimplification and sort of bullshit but there it is. Any subjective art is difficult. I don’t think there’s ever been an artist who didn’t want to put their fist through a canvas, rip up a page of prose, cut the strings on a guitar, or … hmm what do singers do? Gargle acid I guess.

If you need inspiration and a recharge to get you going again, look someplace else. I can’t help you with that. But find something, take a break, pick up something new, make a change. Maybe you’ll come back to writing, maybe you won’t. Be happy with whatever you do.

However, if you truly believe that your writing sucks and nobody likes it, then maybe it’s time to pay attention to what other people are telling you. Stop freaking out when someone offers criticism. Find out what you’re doing wrong and make a conscious effort to change.

I’ve offered tons of feedback to people who do the same thing over and over. Now if they don’t accept my advice, why are they still sending me material? I had someone a few months ago send me a story that I found to be based on a completely unrealistic premise. I offered lots of places where things could be adjusted to make it more acceptable. About a month later, they sent me an updated version with none of my suggestions.

I don’t want this to sound as if my suggestions are perfect, but if my opinion matters so little, why ignore everything I tell you and then ask me to go over it again? So if you’re ignoring suggestions from others (and were all getting suggestions from partners and beta readers, right? Right?) that’s your choice. But don’t expect to get glowing feedback if you aren’t willing to change.

Dos and Don’ts for Writing Deep POV


We all want to immerse our readers into our story worlds and have them experience the story first hand. We love books where we forget we are reading and get lost in the story. But how do we create such an experience? One way is by using Deep POV. Deep POV is a technique that allows us to get inside the head of our POV character, creating an emotional connection between readers and that character. It also works to erase any insertion of the author into the story. When done correctly, Deep POV allows your reader to get lost in the character and storyline. So what are some dos and don’ts for Deep POV? Let’s take a look.

  • Show, don’t tell. Cut out filtering words that distance the narration and show author intrusion. Cut words like saw, thought, felt, heard, knew, etc. Don’t tell what your character is feeling…

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The Value of a Critique Partner

Am I Doing This Right?


As an aspiring novelist— No, strike that. As a novelist who is aspiring to be published, I’m beginning to see how reaching my goal is something like achieving the speed of light. As one approaches success, one finds it becomes exponentially harder to keep moving forward.

Of course, for writers, the answer to the question of how to continually improve one’s craft is simply to keep writing. And I’m doing that. In fact I’m doing that this very moment. This blog is as valuable or more to me as it is for anyone who reads it and learns some tiny fragment of wisdom or gets a momentary smile. I’m also working hard on my third novel and have plans for several more. I have a loooooooong way to go before I am going to run into the issue of struggling against my own momentum.

No, what I’m talking about is…

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The Art Of The Critique


The critique process

     Today I’d like to discuss what it’s like to give or receive a critique. This is a long topic to discuss, so I’m going to break it up over several blogs to keep you coming back. The more times you come to my blog, the more often I can slip in shameless plugs for my material. Hey! Look at that Mapleberry ad on the right. Wouldn’t you just love to spend a half-hour before bed reading a short story while at the same time getting the heart-warming squishy feeling from helping out a fellow author? You know you want to. Free for Kindle Unlimited readers.  

Personally, I like passing chapter drafts around with other writers to see what type of response they give me. Some people seem terrified of getting a critique and for some inexplicable reason, unqualified to give one.



     As for being scared of showing your work to other people, I don’t think I can help you. But if you’re planning on eventually putting material out into the world, you should probably bite the bullet and start doing it. Nobody is going to improve if they don’t know something is wrong. Self-evaluation only goes so far. You have this wonderful, horrible, uplifting, or other story in your head, and at some point, you need to find out if the same story is showing up on the paper. Through the wonderful world of the internet, we can now do all this while hiding in a closet so the evil monster who says mean things about our work are far away and anonymous.

     The issue of not being qualified is bullshit. If you can read the same language the material is written in, you’re qualified. This assumes we’re talking about material that doesn’t require some specialized knowledge. Your job as a critique partner isn’t to be an editor. You don’t have to fix the work. You don’t have to use fancy English Major words explaining why some {insert a fancy English Major phrase here} is wrong.

Nobody should expect something like this from you:

In Latin grammar, the ablative absolute (Latin: ablativus absolutus) is a noun phrase cast in the ablative case. More specifically, it consists of a noun or pronoun and either a past participle, a present participle, an adjective, or an appositive noun, all in the ablative.

Okay … I only understand a few of those words. That comes from the Wikipedia page on Latin grammar if you’d like some easy reading.

When someone gives me a chapter to look over, I focus on certain areas. Another writer with different skills will do a critique focusing on parts that never cross my mind. This is one of the advantages of having multiple people reading the material for you. If you give a chapter to five people and three of them mention the same problem, you should probably look into fixing it. If only one person mentions an issue and you think they’re wrong, then let it go and move on. Or ask one of your other critique partners what they think of the problem.

So what do I do when someone hands

me a chapter to read?


No, don’t do that. It can be fun.

     Glad you asked that question imaginary-person-in-my-head.

     I can only explain what I do. First, I start by reading it. I try not to make any comments until I’m done just in case something that befuddled me gets explained in the next paragraph. Sometimes I cheat and make a note to myself if something popped out at me and I don’t want to forget to mention it when I go back.

     When I read material for a critique, it’s not the same as when I read for pleasure. I force myself to slow down. Sometimes I even read it out loud. I find it a little annoying when someone sends me a critique that mentions a problem that only existed in their head because they didn’t pay attention to what I wrote. However, keep in mind the final product will be read by millions of your adoring fans and many of them will read it with this same absent-minded focus. If it’s something important, you may need to mention it more than once (hopefully not in the same manner.) Reading comprehension really sucks for some people.

     The most common excuse I hear from people about doing a critique is, “I’m not comfortable giving SPAG advice.” (That’s Spelling & Grammar) Well, who cares. You aren’t an editor, and maybe someone else is better at giving SPAG advice. You still have something to offer. Focus on what you can do. If I spot an obvious SPAG issue, I’ll point it out, but I warn people not to expect me to fix all their commas. I leave enough of them on the floor. I think I just stepped on one.


Have you ever needed to reread a sentence or paragraph more than once to figure out what the author meant?

     This problem is a simple one for you to mention to your new best friend critique partner. Anytime you needed to reread something because it was awkward or didn’t make sense on the first (or second or third) pass, tell the writer. Sometimes I give a long explanation of why there was a problem. Occasionally I offer a simple solution. Most of the time I highlight the section and mark it with — “This read awkward to me & I needed to reread it to understand.” This could be an issue of flow or word choice. Perhaps in the dialogue, I wasn’t always sure who the speaker was.


     Do you speak? Are you a human? Have you spoken to another human? Have you ever been around people having a conversation?

     I know those last two are becoming rare in our society with all the texting and swiping, but if you answered yes to those questions, you can probably spot unnatural dialogue. Have ever read a story or watched a TV show (Yuch. Don’t waste your time with TV.) and felt yourself cringing at the dialogue? Sure you have. We all have. Some writers are great with dialogue and others just plain suck at it struggle to get the right words out.

     Is the author overusing “said” tags to the point where it’s noticeable and annoying? Mention that. On the other hand, perhaps there are no “said” tags and it started to confuse you who was saying what. Sure I mentioned this earlier, but it’s important, and there’s that whole reading comprehension problem, so I’m saying it again. Are you feeling any emotion in the dialogue? You can suggest changing the simple he/she said tags into a descriptive beat instead.

Frank said, “Screw you! My writing is awesome.”

“It’s not that the story wasn’t good,” she said. “It’s just that your dialogue didn’t make sense.”

Interrupting the private conversation, Mary said, “Calm down. It’s not the end of the world.”

We can change that to some beats.

“Screw you! My writing is awesome.” Frank ran his fingers through his hair. He was getting frustrated.

Cindy walked over to comfort him and put an arm on his shoulder. “It’s not that the story wasn’t good. It’s just that your dialogue didn’t make sense.”

Mary, the busybody whore who wanted to take Frank away from Cindy, came out of nowhere. “Calm down. It’s not the end of the world.”


So what’s next?

     I asked a few people to volunteer up a sample of material for me to critique. I will be posting those samples along with my critiques over the next few blogs along with more areas you can critique without an English license.

     For now, I’m going to post a partial chapter from my WIP and show you the advice one of my writing buddies gave me. I’ve changed the chapter since this version, but I think this will show you what a critique partner can do for you.

As a side note, I guarantee that once you get in the practice of critiquing other author’s material, you will start to notice problems when you write your stories before they blow up into a chapter that needs to be rewritten from scratch. Helping others will help yourself.


     Luis Cardozo dressed as his wife jumped into bed after working all night. It was taking him longer and longer to take care of himself these days. Even with the exoskeleton around his arms and legs, without proper medication, his control of those devices continued to deteriorate. His equipment was also getting old and in disrepair. Luis could fix the exoskeleton if only they could afford new parts.

Suggestion, adjust two of the sentences to this:  It was taking him longer and longer to take care of himself these days, even with the exoskeleton around his arms and legs. Without proper medication, his control of those devices continued to deteriorate. His equipment was also getting old and in disrepair.

“Do you need help?” Might be helpful just to denote who’s speaking here.

“No!” Luis snapped back, then softened his voice. “One of the servo motors is working sporadically. I’ll look at it later.”

“Have you been taking the medications Dr. Applegate prescribed?”

Luis’ new doctor had him trying a new combination of drugs. The company that used to manufacture the medication, specific for his disease, stopped production when most of the MJD patients died in the Portugal disaster. Deleted unnecessary commas.

“Don’t nag!” Luis knew he shouldn’t be hostile, but he couldn’t help it. “Sorry. I’m only taking it every few days. We can’t afford it.”

Tereza nodded. “Could you at least keep taking the acetyldopa. It should help with the mood swings.”

Luis glared at her, continuing to struggle with his outfit. “Enough. I’m fine.”

Tereza got out of bed and started to help him. “Please take it before you go. It will keep you calm and focused at the interview.” She kissed him. Right here, maybe change the action focus. “He grimaced while she tugged at his jacket and brushed out the wrinkles. She kissed his cheek. ‘Please take it….’ “

He knew she was right but lied to her. “I took it an hour ago.” She gave him a doubtful expression. He sighed. “I’ll take it now.” I’m guilty of using too many words when one will do.
Try, “She glared.” Or “She raised an eyebrow” It’s a little more show than tell.

“Speaking of medications, did you get anything back about our request for Eneida?”

“I spoke with someone at the refugee office. They’re still processing the application. She said it could take a few months.”

“A few months. Tereza was disgusted. “How do they make a little girl wait for medical aid?” If interrobangs were appropriate punctuation, I’d suggest that. But go with an exclamation point here.

“They said it’s not an emergency. MJD is listed as a chronic problem.”

Tereza climbed back into bed. “Do you have everything you need? Are you prepared?”

“Oh please. This is an entry level position. I could run this project for Aridlock.”

The company building the Tucson floodwalls had posted a job opening well below his qualifications. However, Luis was desperate to find any job that brought in money and provided benefits.

Luis picked up his AI-com. He noticed he had left the Frontier Marine information site on the screen and wondered if Tereza had seen it. It took Luis several tries to get his AI-com into his jacket pocket. His research on the FM requirements for engineers and nurses had provided ambiguous answers. MJD wasn’t listed as a medical condition that could get a waiver, but there were a few other neurological diseases that were listed as allowable.

Luis was sure that he could find a way to revive his career through the Frontier Marine. Any colony would need engineers. He considered that hopeful, less hopeful, was Tereza’s view on the subject. Luis gave Tereza one last kiss. “Wish me luck.” Change to: He considered that hopeful. Less hopeful was Tereza’s view on the subject. He gave her one last kiss.

“Good luck. Don’t forget to drop Eneida off at school.”

“She’s already eating breakfast and won’t let me leave without her.”

Luis almost asked Tereza how she felt about joining the Frontier Marine. Tereza was raised a strict Catholic. For the past three hundred years, the papacy maintained the view that, voluntarily putting oneself into cryostasis was not only close enough to suicide, since you couldn’t be sure of ever being revived, but also blasphemous, because you were trying to alter God’s plan for your lifespan. Ever since the seed ships started leaving Earth, the Church backed off on the second point claiming that since God knows all, He would know about your life span adjustments and would have included them in His plan. However, since you were not so omnipotent, you had no way of knowing if any of those ships would ever find a new home. Therefore, it was still close enough to suicide making cryostasis a sin.

Maybe move this part down to the sentence where Luis asks Tereza’s opinion on the Pope’s declaration.

Not a huge fan of this paragraph. It’s a little clunky. I think it’s the slip to 2nd person – use of you. Also, this would be a great place for Luis to interject his thoughts, make it more personal.

“What?” She asked.

He realized he had been staring at her. “I.” Luis tried to find a way to broach the subject. “Sorry, lost my train of thought.”

“Take the meds.”

“Yeah. Sure.” He went over to his dresser and shook out a couple of tablets. “What did you think about the new Pope changing the ruling about cryostasis?”

“Where did that come from?” She asked inquisitively.

“I saw a news report yesterday.”

“Some news. I think that was almost two years ago. It’s only allowed for medical emergencies. To allow time to grow organ replacements. Why?”

“You’re the Catholic in the family. I was just curious.” Tereza didn’t follow her strict upbringing. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have married a lapsed Protestant, but she was still sensitive to Catholic doctrine. They never discussed the topic with any seriousness. Luis dreaded bringing it up, because if she felt strongly about not going into cryostasis, he would have to drop the whole idea of leaving Earth for colony life. He wasn’t sure he could oppose her on something of this magnitude.

“I haven’t given it much thought. You’re going to be late.”

He left the cramped bedroom and went to get Eneida. One of his knee servos kept clicking as he moved. They lived in a two-story townhouse that was converted into five apartments. Their bedroom was a former child’s bedroom, Eneida’s was made from a converted master bathroom, and the kitchen/living area could comfortably hold the three family members, as long as nobody ever visited. They needed to share the bathroom with one of families upstairs.

You could cut this and maybe shorten it to say something like:

They lived in barely 400 sq ft of space, 2 bedrooms and a combined kitchen and living area. They shared a bathroom with a family upstairs.

OR…if this isn’t that important, you could cut it. Also, you could passively mention they lived in a cramped ghetto where x number of families shared apartments intended for one.

When he walked into the kitchen, he froze. Eneida sat at the table, back to him, finishing her breakfast. Her left arm was down at her side, and the wrist twitched repeatedly without her noticing.


She turned and jumped out of her chair. “Daddy! You ready?”


There you go. The fires of hell didn’t swallow me when she told me about those problems. I learned. I rewrote. I think the chapter is better now. There were six other authors who reviewed the same chapter, and I found something helpful from each of them.

If anyone is interested in sending me a small selection to critique and post. I’d love to do it. I already have a few people interested. I can work out the details with you through email.

In the meantime, keep writing, have fun, and read something for enjoyment.

May I suggest





How to Grow Your Author Blog

Found this interesting blog post I thought I’d share.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

I am a huge fan of writers having a blog, but one of the first arguments I get is, “But I did have a blog and it did nothing.” I hear your pain. We live in a world of instant gratification and often it is why we are more inclined to post content on our Facebook or Twitter instead. Instantly we can see other people sharing and responding and it feels oh so good.

The blog? Meh.

The problem, however, is that any “benefit” from Facebook or Twitter evaporates almost as soon as it appears whereas the blog (if we stick to it) will keep giving us rewards for years to come.

Reframe Your Goal

Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons

I will give you tips for growing your author blog here in a minute, but a simple…

View original post 1,647 more words

Breaking the Rules

Breaking the Rules

Read enough advice about how to write fiction, and you will be deluged with rules. Show don’t tell.  Stop with all the exposition and give the reader action. No passive voice. Be concise. Purple prose confuses the reader. Don’t include unimportant details. Stop with all the adverbs. Reduce the use of -ing words. Cut out the filters words, they remove the reader an extra step from the point of view. Throw away words such as – just, only, thing, like, actually and don’t even think about using – suddenly. Vary your sentences. Don’t start every one of them with he, she, or proper name. Stick with “said” as a dialogue tag everything else is dross. This person doesn’t connect with first person stories, or heaven forbid, present tense first person.

Suddenly, every time I pick up a book for enjoyment I’m struck by how many of these rules are broken. I’m not referring to unknown authors either. For every rule, you can find a bestseller that ignored it. Massively popular books are riddled with examples of how to do it wrong according to the rules. Currently, I’m re-reading Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. Millions of his books have sold. There are plenty of areas in the story for critics to complain about. The section I read through last night was filled with page after page of exposition. Backstory. Details, where any teacher would tell him it should be changed to a “show” experience. I get upset if I have more than two paragraphs without something happening in my story. I’ve read the entire series probably six times and only after having other people complain about “tell” in my work did I notice it in his novel. Of course, now that I’m focusing on how to make my writing better, all of this rule breaking sends up flashing neon signs to me. It makes it tough to read for entertainment.

I’ve seen people argue they don’t care about the rules and refuse to bother with them because they screw with the creative process. That might work few some writers, but I doubt it’s a good idea for the majority. If you don’t know the rules, you won’t know when it’s appropriate to break them. But keep in mind, if everyone followed all the rules every time with perfect grammar, it would be difficult for an author to display their particular style. However, not all styles work. I’m trying to stick with the mantra – All things in moderation.

I include lots of little observations in my current WIP. Small unimportant details about the world. They have nothing to do with the plot, but they do serve a purpose. Most of them are there to remind the reader the world they are experiencing is not the same as the one we live in. There’s probably a fancy term for this, but I call it – World building through random comments. I could’ve included in chapter one a detailed description of how people of this world are walking around with animal traits grafted onto their bodies. That would have taken a few paragraphs of what I would consider boring exposition. Instead, when MC walks into a restaurant he’s greeted by the hostess nervously playing with her tail. That’s it. No sideline paragraphs of exposition on why she would bother to have a tail put on her body. There’s also mention of skin dyed unnatural colors, animal prints covering the body, antlers, extra breasts, and even an offhanded mention of an extra penis.

So go ahead, break some rules, party on, have fun. Just try not break the same ones over and over again in a single story. The rules have come into existence for a reason. Show vs tell is there because without something actually happening in the story, your readers will become bored. The average reader might not even be able to define why they think the story bored them. Passive voice is frowned on because it confuses the object of the sentence. However, English is a screwed up language, and people regularly use passive voice. Side tracking into small details can be seen as a writer looking for filler material because there isn’t a lot to the story. Dangle a participle. End a sentence with a preposition just because it feels good. Toss in the occasional – She breathlessly uttered, “blah blah.” instead of using a – said. Do something insanely cliche’. Variety is the spice of life.

If you didn’t notice, I intentionally broke most of the rules while writing this. Fuck ‘em.

In my endless pursuit of more feedback, I’ve been attempting to gather a few people to form a new critique group. The basic format of the group will be to exchange chapters through email giving everyone time to go over the material and make notes, suggestions, point out places where something is unclear or breaks a rule for whatever the universe the story is working inside. After a few days or maybe a full week, we can get together using Skype or other app and discuss what we’ve found and email back to the originating author our notes. I would prefer to find people working on a novel (any genre). The material should be self-edited to the point where SPAG issues are gone, along with typos, and anything else a careful proofread would pick up. We’re looking to critique the material, not become editors. Send me an email, tweet or just comment on here, if you’re interested.

Meeting Eleven – Who’s your audience?

One of my all time favorite authors is Lois McMaster Bujold. She has books in both the sci-fi realm and fantasy. Her sci-fi series, called the Vorkosigan Saga, is an amazing world which combines medieval lords with a futuristic setting. The main reason I love her stories is the characters. The setting is all background and the science never takes a starring role. If I had to assign main themes to the storyline, I’d include items such as loyalty, honor, overcoming adversity, and family.

So why do I bring this up on a blog which focuses on critique groups? I mention it because I guarantee there are “hard” sci-fi readers out there who would dislike her books. Maybe even hate them, although, I find that tough to believe. I have two main groups that I work with plus a few individuals I trade chapters with to toss around opinions. The sci-fi group almost always focuses in on the technological or other scientific issues of the story. While my other group always talks about the characters. What personality traits are showing up? Does character actions match the personalities I want to portray? The way characters interact with each other.

If I had to guess, the members of the sci-fi group don’t like my story. You know what? I couldn’t care less. I’ve found that by using two groups, I can get valid advice from both. The advice doesn’t always come from where I expect. One of my chapters casually mentions a reference to a Dyson Sphere. The sci-fi group took it in stride while the other group didn’t. They weren’t sure what a Dyson Sphere was. They objected to the way I phrased the sentence and thought it needed more explanation.

Since I’ve read tons of different sci-fi books, I never thought about getting into a detailed explanation. To me, it’s almost like having an author stop to explain what a computer is. Maybe not quite that simple. But it’s a subject I’ve heard an explanation for over and over again in science fiction, so I wasn’t planning on including one in my story. Now I need to rethink that position, and I’ll probably add one.

The members of the sci-fi group are authors who enjoy reading hard sci-fi stories. They enjoy writing hard sci-fi stories. But they aren’t my audience. My audience (hopefully) are the readers who like character-focused stories.

I don’t go through all these constant critiques to make my story more likable for the three or four people who show up to a sci-fi writers group. I go for objective points of view. I need both groups for that. Perhaps I’ll add a third group if I can find another one I like. Or maybe even start one. If anyone out there has an online group that needs people or individuals interested in forming another group, drop me a message.

On to other high notes for the week.

One author took one of my suggestions about how to do something in their story. It involved a medical situation, and the original description wasn’t accurate for a modern world. A writer in my other group offhandedly complained to me, because of my comments, he needed to rewrite a section of his story to increase the reader’s understanding of the character. So between the two people, I guess I’ve been helpful for their writing, making me feel somewhat useful. At times, I’m not sure how much my comments are worth, and it’s nice to know I’m making a contribution to the group.

As for my WIP:

  1. I discovered a way to change something to make a more interesting story. I was getting worried that there wasn’t enough antagonism going on and I think this will solve the problem. Unfortunately, it means several chapters will need to be trashed or extensively rewritten.
  2. Most people seem to be enjoying the characters. The biggest issue I’ve heard so far is that my main character has a bit of a dual personality. This was intentional because I wanted to show him overly stern in public with a much more insecure personal life. I think his public personality is coming off too callous at the moment so I’ll look into making adjustments.

A few weeks ago, I told you I emailed several scientists for information. I never heard back from any of them. That was a little disappointing. I’ve asked similar research questions to various people by tracking them down on the internet and emailing them. This was the first time I received no response to my inquiries. But, in the meantime, I’ve made changes to the story to indicate a major disaster in the past causing the problems in my universe. It will have to do.


Happy writing everyone.