Criticism is part and parcel of the writing process. Without it we will never know if our work is any good, but to benefit the writer the comments must rise above the personal – those kindly responses that don’t offend but don’t offer anything useful either – and address the problems with the writing itself, rather than with the writer.
My mother always used to say, If you can’t think of something pleasant to say, don’t say anything. This might be useful advice in some areas of my life, but it’s completely useless when critiquing another’s work. Writers, particularly beginners, want to know if their work hangs together, makes a thumping good read, has believable characters and plot. Some even want to know if they’ve got the spelling and punctuation right, too. Hearing that the result of sleepless nights, tortuous plotting sessions and numerous rewrites is ‘quite a nice read’ is more likely to send us into a slough of depression than any amount of constructive criticism.
A few weeks ago I rejoined my local writing group. I originally left because the weekly homework and reviewing of other members’ work left me with little time to write anything else, and I felt I was getting into a writing rut and not learning anything new. However, I soon found that without that weekly discipline, I did no writing whatsoever.
First of all, apologies for my prolonged absence. Just the small matter of a very significant birthday (suffice to say I’m now eligible for a bus pass), which needed celebrating, with various visiting friends and relatives to share the fun, leaving very little time to think – my usual precursor to writing. I have done no work on the new novel, or any editing of the old one. I wanted some time out to sit and order my thoughts and I felt myself getting rather tetchy when I couldn’t do this because I was too preoccupied planning the next meal.
Celebrations, friends and family are very important so I won’t beat myself up too much about the lack of writing. We all need the stimulation of social interaction to give us inspiration and keep our writing fresh. I mean, where else are we supposed to get all our ideas? Continue reading →
Now that we’ve got the writing venue settled, do we need any particular tools?
If you use a computer or a word processor – yes, I still have one in the cupboard under the stairs. An unwise purchase that was upgraded to the PC I swore I didn’t need almost as soon as it was out of the box – do you have favourite fonts or size of typeface? Some fonts seem to lend themselves to particular styles of writing. I usually write in 10-point Verdana, but I’ve been through my Comic Sans MS (humorous writing) and Arial (reports and reviews) phases too.
If my previous post didn’t help free up the creative juices, here’s a list of last lines – writing a story from the end, backwards, requires a different sort of imaginative leap, but it can be very entertaining. As before, you can delete the last line after you’ve finished. One of these last lines is the conclusion to one of the novels from the first lines list.