My critique group goes to work!

If you write, join a critique group: other writers who read and critique your writing. Yesterday, my critique group liked the conclusion of “The Criminal Cupid!” (click to read it) I’ll share their comments. (And I will likely do that again for future critiques.)

One newer lady had said this was the first story I’d turned in where she could easily visualize what was happening. She said I had a little more description that slowed down the action and let her keep up. (I still have concerns that I skimp on description.) An older lady who wrote wonderful prose-poetry said, “This is slower?”

My methhead description felt awkward. (I agree.)

One writer said the Billy Jack banter felt flat and did not contribute to the story progress. Another writer really liked it. (That bit is there because Bennie is delaying the arrow girl so Holly has a chance to break free, and so I can take a shot at Billy Jack. I’ll rewrite it to show the former.)

Late 60s Bennie the cop needed to resist 25-year-old Holly more lest he come off as creepy. (I am putting more effort into Bennie holding off love-arrow-smitten Holly. I must make sure the reader knows what Bennie is thinking: Holly needs to back off and get back to police work! It’ll make for better, funnier conflict.) And as a corollary, a writer also said the badge cam felt creepy. (The camera stays! All the cops wear them! I will foreshadow the camera earlier, Holly will also wear one for her day on the police force.)

When Holly struggled against her bonds, followed by her dialog, one writer did not know who was speaking. (I have erased dialog tags too often! Readers MUST know who says what! I will tag that.)

I stole a line from Time Bandits when the villain is about to cast a spell: “Half-warthog? Half-donkey? Half-oyster? Half-carrot?” Arrow girl says, “Half hippie. Half hipster. Half commie. Half socialist. Half angry poet. Half stoned rock star. Half vegan. Half beatnik. Half tie-dyed anti-war protestor. And no cop!” One writer said, “That’s a lot of halves.” (I added a Bennie wisecrack about the girl being bad at math.)

One write gave me the line “untidily bowled over” for the shattered toilet knocking people down. (I took it!)

A writer wants a better description of the arrows. (I will describe earlier in the story, maybe Holly can say superpowered exposition stuff?

A writer liked the collard greens joke and the mocha brown face and Holly’s pale Swedish face gag, but did not get Holly’s beaky nose as deadly weapon. Also said the fascist references seemed to refer to our current government. (Actually, that came from annoying Marx worshippers I met decades ago in college. They’re likely tea-partiers now, wimps who always stuff their little pea brains into a comforting ideology. “Ew, this capitalism sandwich tastes like crap! I’ll hoark down this communism sandwich in one swallow, I don’t need to smell or taste it, it must be good cuz the other is bad!” The epitome of willful stupidity!)

P.S. Ugh, the story is up to 7000 words, that is TOO MUCH! But I have the middle and beginning to rewrite, and a big scene to cut out, so I hope to get it to the ideal length of just over 5000 words. Ideal in not too long, and maybe can be split into 2500 parts for shorter audio files.

Samples are puny, how about WHOLE stories?

I only have little samples of my short stories on this website. I am thinking of putting entire stories, and maybe I could get some feedback. I have followers. Maybe some fellow bloggers/writers would like to read and comment on my stories. (And maybe I could seek out theirs?)

I could keep them on my site until I deem them ready to publish on Kindle and Smashwords. Frankly, the barber story is WAY overdue for publishing!

Andy Weir (The Martian) did this. It worked for him. So expect some whole stories soon to replace the samples I have now.

In the meantime, have a great Christmas (or whatever your equivalent is).

My First Professional Rejection!

My story to Fault Zone was rejected. Harumph! Harumph! Harumph!

The Fault Zone editors gave a quick critique of my rejected story. That is much, much, MUCH better than empty silence! I hope they keep doing that. And I hope they do not mind that I critiqued their critique. I consider this my first professional rejection, and it is worth writing about.

The Hook.
Supply a hook at the start of the story? That’s good advice. I can supply a better taste of what is to come: a storyline about the irritations of mansplaining. That would be better than “The black and the blue raced to the rescue!”

We Want Information. Information. INFORMATION!
Let readers figure out on their own that this is a fruit-named computer company instead of saying it outright? That’s not so good advice, in my opinion. I want the time and location known immediately, so my first paragraph is “SEASIDE CITY, CALIFORNIA. THE APRICOT COMPUTER CAMPUS. THE PRESENTATION THEATER. A FRIDAY. 3:17 P.M.” Naturally, I will describe the location when my POV (point of view) character sees it. Alfred Hitchcock said his movies were not mysteries, which were about withholding information from the audience, but about giving information, as in there’s a bomb under the table. Also, this banner adds a comic book and cartoon flavor to my story. Others get it: at a workshop last Saturday, editor Charlotte Cook read the start of my story in the louder, slightly pompous tone that I adopt when I have read the banner-type opening of my stories at open mics. She GOT what I was doing.

Disjointed Prose.
They (or “I”) “found the prose disjointed and difficult to follow,” and then they did not say why? At Saturday’s workshop, a writer next to me read some of my story and liked it, but she pointed out exactly where she was confused about who was speaking and what was taking place. Them not giving an example of the problem made me wonder if they just did not like my style.

Sound Effects.
Forced sound effects should only be used in graphic presentations? No, I want a goofy comic book feel, an Adam West Batman sound. Sound effects words are words, why not use them in a prose story? Of course, a POW, THOOM, or SHUSH-SPLUT-SKAAAH (last one stolen from Don Martin) should not be overused, but sprinkled like a spice. And it had better be the right spice, cinnamon in spaghetti sauce would taste weird. Who knows, maybe I’ll change my mind later. But not today.

More Critique at a Writing Workshop
I printed and brought the story to a writing workshop last Saturday. Charlotte Cook, editor and former publisher, gave me some good advice when she read my story aloud to the workshop (she read several). I have been working on third person deep point of view. Charlotte mentioned close third person, and where I was not using it and thus pushing the reader away from the story. Telling instead of showing is generally a BIG NO-NO. She also pointed out my sentences that ran on too long. Readers should not gasp for air when they read. And she pointed out leading dependent clauses, which I should avoid. Like “Her red cape flapping, Holly flew over Cal and the charging ninjas.” Make the flapping cape its own sentence.

I am feeling better about my first professional rejection. I’ll wear it like a badge of honor. Or a T-shirt or underpants? I remember Isaac Asimov telling how he was with some writer friends, and he asked one of them how he handled rejection. The guy hemmed and hawed, and said he did not know, he had never had a rejection. Isaac said that it was only that this guy was a really nice guy that they did not kill him where he stood.

P.S. I still see myself as an indie author (Amazon, Smashwords, etc.), I do not ever see myself going to a New York publisher. I have thought about Sand Hill Press, or other small publishing house. I’ll see how the novel goes. For now, I get my short stories professionally polished and then I put them out for sale. Or for twisting in the wind.