Writer’s Journal Vol. 3.6

It Takes A Village To Write A Novel


Being Mean For Critiques Sake

Writing a novel or any work for that matter, is going to necessitate finding others who are willing to read your work and give you honest, critical, feedback. (Hopefully for the price of mutual gratification – you read my novel and critique it, I’ll do the same for you.) The kind of feed back that requires putting on the big girl/boy panties, with feelings tucked away where they belong.

Aunt Betsy’s Turkey Stuffing

One of the greatest challenges I’ve found in writing a novel, isn’t so much about putting the story down in words, but finding a community of fellow writers with the expertise and kahunas to tell me what I’ve written, sucks. It’s as if their mothers had come to the meeting as well and were sitting next to them whispering troupes like, ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.’

Well, that’s fine if you’ve been invited to Christmas dinner at Aunt Betsy’s and cousin Suzann blurts out how delicious the stuffing is. When in fact you think it tastes like cardboard. Absolutely nothing good will come from your being honest. Instead, you take too large a sip of wine, pretend to choke – all the while praying the conversation will move on.

Unfortunately, its that kind of thinking that makes most writer groups ineffective for anything other than a place to go when you’ve realized you haven’t left your writers cave in over a month.

Lacking Empathy

Now this isn’t to say I’ve never gotten good feed back from my fellow authors. If not for a small group of writers I met with for a short period of time, I would have never known that, despite my efforts to show my readers what I wanted them to see, they told me my characters lacked emotion, texture and depth (In other words, they were as flat as Aunt Betsy’s stuffing.).

As you might imagine, their comments were invaluable and I’ve since made a concerted effort to crawl inside my characters hearts – not just their heads.

But emotions are just one aspect of writing. What about the story itself. Flow, plot, scene accountability? (I personally get incensed when I read a novel and discover plot discrepancies.) Not everyone can afford to pay a structural editor every time they do a re-write. Besides that, shouldn’t I wait until I think my MS is perfect, before shipping it off to my editor so I can be told it isn’t?

I would think so, but maybe that’s just me.

images (6)Putting On The Big Panties

Anyway – After publishing several books, I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the key factors in helping me write a good story, one that gives my readers bang for their buck, is a writing group with seasoned authors able and willing to point out where my novel needs improving and why. Hopefully within the genre I’m currently working in.

A little rabbit trail here. I was at a conference in Montana last year and asked one of the guest speakers whether a writer should in fact, stick to writers within his/her own genre for critique partners? His answer was no, as he felt the diverse background would help to uncover things genre specific critiques might not.

I’ve since discovered I disagree with that theory.

While writers of other genres might add value to my novel, only those familiar with the genre itself, and thus reader expectation, would be able to give me the type of help needed to make my book marketable. Unless of course I wanted to write for purely altruistic reasons. In which case I might welcome an author who wrote SyFy or woman’s issues, to look at my MS about Madame Curie’s life and tell me where I might improve the technical descriptions of her research, or flush out the challenges of what it meant to be a woman physicist in 19th century Europe.)

But if I want to  stay current with the market trends in the genres in which I write, finding a group of mutually like minded people would, in my not so humble opinion, be the better choice.

Desperately Seeking Susan  download

So I’m back to the question of, Where do I go to find the type of writing group that will help me become a better writer? (Please don’t tell me Facebook. Accept for Indie Author Writing Group [of which I’m a member], all the others I’ve looked into are just spamming sights for authors trying to get noticed.) I’m currently scoping out ALLi (The Alliance of Independent Authors) andbooksgosocialauthors, a UK based group of authors helping and promoting authors.

The following article, ‘The 4 Hidden Dangers of #WritingGroups‘ by #JaneFriedman, is by far one of the best articles on this subject I’ve read to date. I especially appreciated comment #2;Struggling writers are not often the best judges of struggling writing.

In the article, Ms. Friedman quotes Edwin Catmull from Pixar, as saying this about critique groups; ‘A good note is specific. A good note does not make demands. Most of all, a good note inspires.’

Catmull goes on to list the four things the ‘note’ should include: What is Wrong; What is Missing; What Isn’t Clear and What Doesn’t Make Sense.

As I work to complete the first draft in my Blog2Book ‘The Exodus‘, I feel like Rosanna Arquette in Desperately Seeking Susan. Only its not Madonna I’m looking for.

All constructive and potential critiques, welcome. ‘Mean’ comments – not so much.

Sharing the Journey’


The Review

scene-29275_150Using Erotica to Fake Talent

By SSpjut

Normally my Wednesday posts are about reviews on some of the books I’ve read. And as a rule of thumb, if the book is bad, I don’t write a review…period.

Why? Because I see no point in being mean for the sake of being mean. And let’s be honest, there are enough mean people who enjoy writing scathing reviews, they don’t need me to add my voice to the cacophony of their blather.

But, as happens in most junctions between good and evil, this also leaves me with the difficult challenge of having nothing to review.

Not that I haven’t read anything lately – God forbid I should not have a stack of unread material just waiting for me to explore. No, the problem is quality, not quantity. Which means most of what I have read within the past couple of months has fallen under the heading of, I can’t write a review on this, because I don’t write mean reviews.

That’s right. More than half of the novels I’ve attempted to read (Attempted as in, can’t-read-one-more-word, kind of attempted.) have either been so badly written, as to make me wonder who in the heck lied and told the author their manuscript was actually good enough to publish; or so lacking in content, it made me think this same liar must have told this same author, glutting the book with unrealistic, overly imaginative scenes of erotica, will cover a multitude of novel writing sins.

Either way, I have found myself disappointed more often than not. And it really isn’t the erotica I find disappointing or even offensive (though, as a self-proclaimed prude, I prefer to use my own imagination on what happens during ….well you know). No, what I truly find unacceptable, is that so many authors with the potential to be great, have settled for writing something far less than their best, and are using ‘erotica’ as a way to cover up the fact.

Now, lest you think I’m saying this because I follow the teachings of Christ, or label myself a prude, I’d like to point out the fact that there are authors I enjoy reading who incorporate a great deal of sex (maybe not erotica – but still TMI for me) in their work. Several that come to mind are Charlaine Harris, Nalini Singh, Kate Daniels and Iiona Anderson.

So what’s the difference between the first group and the second?

The second group of writers use sex as the frosting on the cake, whereas the first group of writers use it as a means of hiding the fact that there is little or no cake to cover up.

And that, in a nut shell, is my angst against so many of the novels I’ve read lately. Instead of taking the time to flush out a story with interesting characters, heart gripping scenes and well thought out story arches, these authors are pounding out wham-bam-I’ll-take-your-money-now-mama pieces of crap, and calling them novels.

And not just any novel either – they actual have the audacity to call them ‘best-selling’ pieces of crap, at that!


Yep – you heard me right. That is just plain bullshit!

Just as great sex in a bad relationship, can’t make up for the fact that you still have a bad relationship, stuffing a novel full of erotica, in an attempt to try and distract the reader from realizing that they’ve just invested how ever much money and hours reading a poorly written novel, won’t hide the fact that they’ve just read a poorly written novel.


In my not so humble opinion, the saddest part of glutting a story with erotica to cover up the lack of content,  isn’t even the attempted cover-up. It’s the fact that if these authors had put as much effort into telling the story, as they did into trying to get their readers to take a cold shower, in all likelihood, they would have ended up writing a really great novel.

It’s just a shame they didn’t even bother to try.

So on my readers scale of 1-5 stars, I’m giving the use of erotic sex scenes as a way to fake talent, a -1.