Category Archives: critiquing

Where have I been? What have I been doing?

Well, life has a tendency to get in my way, and, unfortunately, the blog is the first thing that gets slighted.

I have been working quite a bit at Babies R Us and may be in line for a promotion.

I have been writing, and rewriting, and editing.

INFECTED us getting rewritten from the beginning now that I know a bit more about writing than I used to. This time it is in 1st person past. I have chapter 1 fully outlined in my new formula of writing and it should be written by Wed night.

PROPHECY is also getting a do-over, switching to past tense. Seven full chapters are completed.

A QUESTION OF CHANGE is in the researching part of writing as I learn more about zoology and a specific park that is near me. Although under a different name, Maymont Park in Richmond, VA is the setting in the novel, with some small modifications.

WHITE DARKNESS also known by the name RAFTER MONSTER is still in the brain storming stage.

June 1st begins the Speculative Fiction Marathon where INFECTED and PROPHECY will be undergoing critiques. For 12 weeks, one chapter a week will be critiqued by other spec-fic members. It is a thrilling and exhausting time.

I am also a contributing blogger for dragons and aliens and wraiths oh my a blog for speculative fiction authors, by speculative fiction authors. My first post is live.

After Marathon I will be publishing serials from authors I know. A chapter a week is the goal right now. Hopefully my fellow spec-fic members come through like they said they would! Thanks for already having segments done TJ!

So I will be better on letting you guys know where everything stands in the future. At least things are getting back under control.

Always,

Dawn

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Shelving a Manuscript

If you’ve been writing a while, you know what this is all about. It is taking a piece of work you have finished (or almost finished) and putting it aside.

This is different from trunking a novel. When you trunk it, it may never see the light of day again. But, by shelving it,you are merely letting it sit, like a pot of soup simmering on the back of the stove.

Well, right now I am in this position.

My Manuscript INFECTED is not getting the reviews I want for it. And I think I know the reason. It isn’t ready, but I have been staring at it too long. So, on the shelf it goes.

Does this mean that I am not going to write? Or maybe only write short stories or flash fiction (under 1000 words)?

No.

I am already working on a second novel that was originally slated to be the sequel of INFECTED. I am changing it into a stand alone novel. I think this may actually be the better way to go, to be honest.

One of the things I have the most trouble with is making the romantic relationship between my two main characters seem real.

I don’t have that problem in the ‘sequel’. It is about the former MC’s son. A two-year-old boy with the mind of a 25-year-old. He has the blood and soul of a green one. hence the title GREEN ONES. He is an object of their prophecies. But no more spoilers for you!

I think one of the reasons this will be a better fit for me right now, is that there are no romantic elements in the main story. It is told from the child’s point of view. (Have I mentioned he has the mind of a 25-year-old).

This thriller/horror is going to be my main project for the next three months. (That’s usually how long it takes me to rough out a novel). Then time for edits, and beta reads, and edits, and more edits, and crits, and edits, and even more edits. Occasionally I will also be playing with INFECTED to turn it into a prequel. Should be an interesting time for a bit!

Wish me luck!

Always,

Dawn

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Interview with Imran Siddiq

Here is an interview with my favorite David Tennant look-alike…at least I think he is a look-alike…

I’ve been in denial from a young age that there was more to me than just working hard and following the rules. The applause I would receive as a young child, in Leicester,UK was never truly grasped by myself. Sure, i could blame the route of eduction that was forced upon me, but I never tried to rekindle it until 5 years ago. Now, every flutter of spare time is thrust into creating, drawing and writing. Not yet published, but I have a museum of tales I hope to extract and tell. My first novel, The Last Strider, though inspired by my two cats is a daring tale of reincarnation and destiny that demands. Currently in its final round of editing, and my second, Disconnect is almost complete. Details of my progression can be found on http://www.imranwrites.com, and you can follow me on Twitter: @flickimp.

1)   What genre(s) do you write? And why?

Young Adult works well for me, as I will never pretend to be an expert in hitting the mark that adults of epic novels would expect. However, in narrowing the YA area into a specific genre, I would have to break the mould and state that I am a SFFR. No, that isn’t a text version of writing ‘Suffer’, but a space-time mashing of Science-Fiction, Fantasy and Romance.

 Fantasy and Sci-Fi are the pillars of my childhood. In 1983, I say Star Wars, aged 5, and by the age of 8, I’d read The Hobbit. Suddenly, the world was not a network of roads and buildings, but an endless arena of possibility. Some would class Fantasy and Sci-Fi writers as being the chosen paths of those that aren’t very good at writing novels set in the real world. I would hesitate to agree. I prefer to step out into the unknown, because that is what dreams are made of. It is where we want and can escape to.

 The romance part of my genres is a new step of writing evolution… see question 2.

 2)   Tell us about your latest project. This is your chance to crow about being published, agented, or winning a contest.

I am mega-passionate about my first novel, The Last Strider and hope to see it happen, but equally, I have been working hard on for the last 8 weeks on a novel that sprung into my head on a long drive back from York, UK at the end of March 2011.

 Disconnect is a YA Romantic-Sci-Fi novel that will not aim to be a cliche-drive tale of happiness. Romance scares me, but I have taken this self-imposed challenge, and who knows, I may mess it up, but until then, I want to break out of my comfort-zone and have a go.

 Writing in a one chapter = male POV, next chapter = female POV, following chapter = male POV, etc, has been exciting and liberating. From the moment I started this novel, my take on a gritty romance in an off-world setting has maintained its full-throttle momentum and is full of the same plot-twists and turns that I would inject into a Fantasy or Sci-Fi novel.

 I am 2 weeks from completion and am excitedly looking forward to redrafting it.

 Disconnect’s tagline: Even in endless space, love has boundaries.

3)   Other than writing, how do you like to spend your time?

I am a work-a-holic in the National Health Service and bringing work home is part and parcel of me. When that moment comes to write, I seize it. So when I’m not, I’ll usually be drawing digital art with my Wacom Cintiq 12wx which is an amazing drawing tablet for Photoshop. And if I’m not doing that, then I might watch a little TV. Though, without question, I love spending time with my cats whether I’m busy or not. They keep me sane.

4)   Do you have any tattoo’s, if so where? If not, do you want any?

I don’t have any tattoos because I’m not a fan of needles and would need a strong dose of something-magical to calm, and knock me out. If I had to, I wouldn’t mind one of those elvish tattoos that the cast of the Fellowship of the Ring had. I adore the Lord of the Rings, and an ambiguous symbol rather than a dolphin would be uber-cool.

5)   What is the last book you read? Did you like it?

The last book I read was Florence and Giles by John Harding. A tale set in 1981 about the sinister governess who comes to look after two orphaned children. A gothic novel that chilled me and has opened my eyes to the grand possibility that I may write in first person soon (my preferred style is 3rd person).

6)   What is your advice to those who want to be authors? (I know, it’s a crummy one, but needs to be asked)

Believe in yourself and stop listening to the pretenders of knowledge. I always have to bear the criticism that I have too much time on my hands to write, or why am I not published yet because it can’t be that difficult, and that all grates me. Joining writing forums and mingling around real-live or virtual writers strengthened my belief and has made me a better writer. Don’t just think that your qualifications as a teenager are enough. Remind yourself of grammatical rules, preposition usage, thrilling dialogue, physical and emotional conflict and improving your voice with words.

Never give up on an idea until you have rinsed it of all possibility.

 I strongly recommend that you do set up a website, lavish or free, it doesn’t matter. Just as long as you use it to stage your blog, writing and random craziness, it will be your aid to becoming an online presence.

7)   Tell us one thing no one knows about you

Ooh, now this would be telling.

 Aged 7, I was on top of the world; excelling in maths and english and being mr-all-nice with the teachers. Though that was how everyone viewed me. Inside I was dogged by a desire to tell one girl, in my class, that I fancied the socks off her. Hang on, I was 7, what did I know about fancying? Movies of that time were all about action and love stories on the television were filled with doom and gloom – take Angie and Den of Eastenders.

 Christmas time, school party, in the hall, music, children dancing. There she was… sitting alone. I used the force to pluck my courage and approached her.

 “Would you like to dance?”

 My request lit up her eyes and her nod, though slow, didn’t matter because she’d already stood up. Holding her hand, I escorted her, and we danced to some cheesy 1980’s tune that must have been all the craze then. I remember my heart pounding like a flux-capacitor in overdrive. The night ended with us going our separate ways. We were 7, and it’s difficult to sneak a kiss when your parents arrive to hand you your coats.

 The next day, the playground parted like Moses and The Red Sea she approached me. Her smile lingered and in an ecstatic manner she said,

 “That was the sweetest thing anyone has ever done. I’ve always wanted a brother like you.”

 For the next eight years, I nursed that broken-heart and struggled to not think of ‘what-if’. It was made worse that we shared classes with one another all the way up until I was 16.

 Even in a classroom, love is a subject experienced, not taught.

As you can see, my darling friend is a deep soul and an amazing individual! Thanks @flickimp! Love ya! Can I please take a ride on the Tardis? 1776 America would be nice…

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I Know What I Was Feeling, But What Was I Thinking?

Okay, so those of you who follow my blog know that I have not posted for a long time (like 2 weeks or something). There is a reason.

Between marathon critiques, rewriting my own manuscript, taking care of my son and husband, and being an animal parent, I was getting completely overwhelmed. I no longer wanted to do any writing. IN ANY SHAPE OR FORM!

I said to myself, “Dawn” (because I do talk to myself this way) “Dawn, you need to just stop.” Of course I answered myself, “How can I stop? I have too much work to do.” Then came the “I’ll make you a deal,” (yes this really is the way I do it) “Go one week without typing anything out. No crits, no editing, no rewriting, no blogging, not nothing. Oh and don’t even read about writing, just read for fun!”

Well after a bunch more internal debate (of which I will spare you, dear reader) I decided that from Saturday til Saturday I would do just that. NOTHING. Nothing on writing. I even stopped (almost) Tweeting! Yes shocking, for those of you who know me from Twitter.

So that was my feeling as I went into what seemed to be the longest week of my life. Yeah, I know what I was feeling, but what was I thinking??

In this week, and yes I did manage to make it through the whole dang week, I realized a few things.

1) (Have you noticed I like to make lists? Hmmm, must be the scientist in me)

Anyway 1) I’m a writer. I guess I knew this before, but I really noticed it when I was having to FORCE myself not to write.

2) Vacations can suck. Especially when it is a vacation from something you love.

3)Vacations are great for clearing the mind. I don’t think I have ever had so many ideas for stories and improvements on stories as I have this week. This being said, not being able to write them, sucks.

So what was I thinking to take a full week off? I have no idea, but it did give me the perspective to realize that I WANT to write, I NEED to write and that even if I am not a GOOD writer, I AM a writer.

Always,

Dawn

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God is Great. Beer is Good. And Writers are Crazy.

God is Great. Beer is Good. And People are Crazy.

Well okay, in my case, God is great, margaritas are good, and people are crazy, but you get the idea.

The most important of these for the purpose of this blog, is that People are crazy!

Okay, all people are crazy, if you haven’t figured that out by now, you haven’t lived among people.

But authors/writers of all sorts are among he craziest people who exist! Especially fiction writers.

Think about it. These people create worlds and situations they have never actually seen before, except for in their imagination. These amazing people can take two (or more) unrelated things and create a story that others actually want to read.

The best example I can think of is the way my thought processes work. I know a middle school librarian (BigBlackCat97) who has to erase the penises that middle school boys draw in the back of the dictionary. (Middle school boys all think that they are soooo original!)  Okay, so simple situation right? Does it bring anything to mind for you? It does to me, a great short story idea. See if you can follow my thought processes.

Okay, so the librarian has to erase the penises….what if the REAL penises of the boys are erased too? What chaos!! But wait, there’s more…

What if a shy little girl, just entering middle school wants to fit in with the ‘in crowd’? What if they dare her to draw a penis in the dictionary. And she does. What would happen to HER when her penis was erased?

How would the girl act? How would the librarian act? Is the librarian a witch who casts a spell to get back at all the boys who are defacing her precious tome? How would the principal act? The school board? The other students?

Fill in the blanks and you have a story. It could be a really wonderful one, full of humor, or it could be a macabre piece of horror. The choice is with te writer. Shoot, I don’t even know, because I haven’t actually written this story yet! But the ideas are there.

I really believe that the people who write, and write well, are often a bit cracked. It takes a warped personality to sit hour by hour at a laptop or other computer and muse over a single sentence, a single word, in order to get the meaning across from them to the reader. (I know, very convoluted sentence). These same people slave for months, often years, just to get their story to where they want it to be. Then they have to try to convince other people (agents specifically) to read it. And since that is a hit-or-miss proposition it may take years as well. Then the writer has to edit according to the dictates of the agent/editor/publisher, in order for it to be considered for publication. Then wait. And wait. And wait. Until someone says that the story is good enough, the edits are complete enough and everyone is pleased with the work.

Now understand this….all of the above work, editing, reviewing, and work (yes I said work twice) is done…get this…FOR FREE!

Writers devote their time to making a finished manuscript, short story, ect without being paid. For years. That’s right, years. How is that NOT crazy?

Why do we do it? Well it obviously is not for the money! It is because of the love for the crafted word, because there is a song in our hearts that needs to be sung. A story that needs to be told. Regardless of how long the MS might sit on the shelf while other works are in progress, it is still in the writer’s heart, and still needs to be told. I don’t know any writers who just throw a piece of work away. It just gets filed away to be played with again another time.

Anyway, this is just a small case to point out that the greatest community in the world, the writer community, is a bunch of crackpots. Myself included, of course!

Always,

Dawn

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Science to Writing

Okay, so today I don’t really know what I want to write about, so I am just going to do a little free writing.

When I was younger I always knew what I wanted to be. And it most certainly wasn’t a writer.

When I was 8 years old, my wonderful school librarian suggested that I read a certain book. She thought it might be something that would interest me. It changed my world. It was called Shark Lady: The Real Life Adventures of Eugenie Clark. by Anne McGovern. I still have it as a matter of fact. Signed by Dr. Eugenie Clark herself.

Yes, when I was eight years old I decided I wanted to be a shark biological researcher. And that has never changed.

Through the years I devoured everything I could find on sharks, books, videos, scientific paper, even Shark Week.

My obsession with sharks, and Marine Biology in general continued through high school, and then on to college. I went away to school to Coastal Carolina University. I had amazing experiences there. I got to know a wonderful shark biologist named Dan Abel. He helped to take me under his wing and kind of taught me ropes around school.

I participated in Dolphin Watch, the Marine Sciences Club and actually went on a field expedition. I spent 6 days on the NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) FERREL. That was definitely one of the best things I have experienced in my life.

I had to leave South Carolina. It’s a long story, but I had to leave.

When I went back to Virginia I enrolled in Virginia Commonwealth University and took up the study of Biology in hopes that I would be able to go to a Marine Sciences Graduate school.

Problem is, I got sick. Then married. Then pregnant. Then sick. Finally I had to come to the realization that I was never going to be able to do the thing I wanted most in the world. I was never going to be a researcher on a vessel sailing through the seas. I was never going to be able to get my hands dirty in the stomach of a shark to find out what it ate. I would never be able to even do molecular taxonomy using mRNA on the Cnidarians (jellyfish) like I wanted to. (For you not in the science know, that’s classification of relationships between different species of jellyfish using a version of DNA)

So what was I going to do now? At this point, I was 34, married, with a child just starting school. What was I going to do with my time now that all my dreams were shattered into a billion pieces like a mirror thrown to the floor?

I did not give up my dreams without a fight, but then figured out that maybe another dream could take its place.

When I was in high school, and then in college I wrote a few short stories. Nothing much, and never polished. Just a little bit of Science Fiction to fill up a few boring hours. I liked writing, but I never considered it more than that, after all, I was going to be a shark researcher right?

I was sitting outside my house one day, not too long after I had to leave school for the last time. I saw a high school girl walking through the woods across the street. I wondered what would happen if something came after her from the woods. I thought about the Invertebrate Zoology Lab I had taken and thought that maybe a parasite could do something.

I mused about it for a long time, kind of thought it out in my head, even got a plot idea.

Soon all that was left was putting something down on paper. I did a character sketch on my female main character. I decided she needed to be in her 20’s and the doctor needed to be in his 30’s. Next was the writing.

This actually turned out easier than I could have believed. I typed out an 80,000 word novel in 3 months. Then the editing…well I’m still doing that. But I found out something. My mind has been painting stories for me my entire life. Now I just have to write them down. And I do. I always seem to be on the laptop writing something new, while still working on something old. My imagination has hit its stride, and my writing is following.

I see story ideas everywhere now, and have to jot them down to keep track of them all.

So, I went from scientist to writer in one step. And it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be. They both require the same discipline, attention to detail, and thinking outside the box.

Science and Writing. Two different things that have nothing in common on first glance, but in reality, they are very much the same. And I have been blessed to do both.

Always,

Dawn

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Critiquing Marathon Thoughts

Okay, so I haven’t been around for a while. There is a reason. I have been busy in a Posting/Critiquing Marathon at www.agentqueryconnect.com in the Speculative Fiction Forum.

You might or might not know that my Work-in-progress is a paranormal romance. So I posted my first two chapters, gave critiques and got critiques. There are a lot of reasons to join a group like this and some reasons why you shouldn’t. Let’s go over them together.

Pros.

1) You get lots of critiques. This way you have lots of people view your work and tell you what works and what doesn’t. If the majority of people don’t understand, or have a problem with your work, you know you have to rewrite. By getting a cross-section of the population reading your work, you know what HAS to be changed.

2) You do get a cross-section of people reading your work. These are the same people who will be buying your work when it is finally finished and published. It doesn’t matter if you go for traditional publishing or e-publishing. This IS your target audience and you have to cater to them in order to sell.

3) This is the best one of all to me. You get to read other people’s work before it is published. You get to help people write better, just as they help you. You never know where you might meet the next J.K. Rowling, or Stephen King. It is exciting to watch others grow!

 

Okay, now the cons,

1) You get lots of critiques. This way you have lots of people view your work and tell you what works and what doesn’t. Now this sounds just like the number 1 pro, doesn’t it. Well, it is. The problem with this is that you get so many different views, they are often contradictory. This makes it hard to separate the good advice from the bad advice. Just remember to follow your heart. It IS your story after all.

2) Sometimes you just don’t know what to say to someone you have done a critique. It may be that their writing is not your style, or not your genre or even that you just don’t like it. You have to be honest. No matter what, you HAVE to be honest. However, try to be nice about it. Just say things like, “This isn’t my favorite genre, but I can help with what I see.” or just, “I don’t like this genre.”  If you use the second then maybe you shouldn’t do the critique at all. However, it is my opinion you should. Even if all you can offer is grammar help.

3)It takes A LOT of time. I was completely surprised at how long it took me to critique everyone else’s work. Too much time, actually. You have to make choices. You can’t always do everyone’s critique, just do what you can. But, you MUST do a few crits, no matter what. if you don’t why should anyone else critique for you? I also recommend reading everyone’s work. Just because you can’t do a crit this week doesn’t mean you can’t do one next week, and so you need to know what the story is and where it is going.

Okay, that’s my opinions on participating in a critiquing marathon. Over all, I think the benefits outweigh the problems. So try to get into one of these groups, but remember to have a thick skin.  And, if someone hates your story, use that as motivation and not make you quit. it is okay to have a moment of self-doubt, but then you just have to get up and see what you can do to fix things!

That’s what I had to do. Remember, use it for motivation, not as an excuse to give up.

Always,

Dawn

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