How to write a critique

 

How to write an honest critique

By Janice Seagraves

 

The first publisher I worked with suggest that I work with a critique group to help improve my writing. Since then, I’ve been working on critiques nearly every couple of weeks for the last ten years. And in that time, I’ve gone through five critique groups and I even took a workshop on critiquing.

Here are some things to consider if you have been asked to do a critique or are doing critiques or possibly beta reading someone’s work.

Please keep in mind that this is someone’s baby.

They most probably have slaved away at this manuscript for months if not years.

So be kind.

They may not have ever had any feed back on their work before this.

Say nice things about the pages or manuscript you’re working on.

If you find misspelled words, simply correct it within the pages and move on, or leave a comment in a comment bubble: “I think you mean this word.” Everyone at some point will have problems misspelling a word or using a word that spelled just a little different than the word that they mean to use. Or maybe it’s a typo. We all have those brain fart moments. Don’t make a big deal about it. Just correct the spelling and move on.

One of the moderators for a critique group I work with likes to say, “Sugar and spice. Mark what you like as well as what needs work.”

If nothing else, compliment the genre they chose to write their story in.

I find that if you compliment the writer first, then they are more likely to consideration the changes you are suggesting.

And remember, it’s suggestions. You are producing a critique and they didn’t hire you to be an editor.

All critiques should be in the body of the pages you’re working on.

Use the comment bubbles in edit format.

I always go through the story first before I write a note at the start of the pages.

The note will usually start with why I like their story.

For example: Vampires stories are a very popular right now. Or I love your characters. I can totally picture them. Or this scene was very exciting and really grabbed  me.

Next, I’ll drop down to a new paragraph and write: Good Job. 😊

And then I’ll start another paragraph that usually begins with: and now for the critique.

Sometimes I’ll write that their pages were well written, and I only needed to mark a few things here and there. That will relax and ease your critique partner. Up to his point they might be really tense.

And then I’ll go to things I noticed.

Things to watch out for.

Maybe it was: You used look and looked a lot so I highlighted all I could find.

And then I’ll finish the note with this disclaimer: This is my opinion only. Please take it with a grain of salt. Use what works and toss the rest. And with every critique your mileage will vary.

Janice~

 

Passive Writing

Turning Passive Writing into Active Writing

By Janice Seagraves

 

Since I’ve been seeing a lot of passive writing in the critiques I’ve been doing here lately, I thought I’d do a vlog on passive writing.

 

What do I mean by passive writing?

 

Have you ever heard of show and don’t tell?

 

Passive example: Rose was mad.

 

What’s wrong with the above sentence? Not much really. It does what it’s supposed to do, it tells us Rose is mad. But it doesn’t show us that Rose is mad.

 

Active writing example: Rose slammed the door closed then stomped through the room. “That jerk!” Picking up a flower filled vase, she hurled it against the wall where it shatters.

 

Not a real great example but you get the idea. Notice I used the words: Stomped and Hurled. These are active verbs. I wanted to show action and anger even in my word choice.

 

Passive writing is that, passive. It doesn’t show the reader anything.

 

Have you noticed while watching a movie that when an actor portraying a character that is mad, he doesn’t just frown. He stomps, shouts and will nearly always breaks something. He’s showing us he’s angry. And in writing, we need to show it too.

 

Another example: Rose was sad and wanted to cry.

Again, there is nothing wrong with this sentence, but it’s still telling up and not showing us how the character Rose feels.

Active writing example: She closed the door and leaned on it. A tear worked its way past her control. She rubbed the wetness off her face with an impatient swipe of her fingers.

You can see here that I’m conveying the feeling of sadness without telling you she was sad.

Year of the Cat book trailer

 

 

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Blurb:

Morgan isn’t expecting romance when she accompanies her friend for a week of skiing, but when she meets Jared all bets are off.
Jared has secrets that he doesn’t mind sharing with a special lady, and he hopes Morgan is that special someone. When his past and present collide it’s worse than he imagined, and he’s forced to fight for his life.

heart knot

Excerpt:

“Morgan, open up.” The woman pounded on the door again.

Unlocking the door, Morgan stepped back so her mother could enter. “Mom, this is Jared. The man I’ve been seeing. Jared this is my mom, Alice Brookhaven.”

“Good day, Mrs. Brookhaven.” He held out his hand.

Instead of shaking his hand, she scanned him up and down. “No belt or tie.”

“Hardly anyone wears a belt and tie anymore.” Morgan snorted.

“What’s with his hair?” Alice stared. “Did you dye it that color?”

He ran his hand over his mane. “This is natural.”

“Orange?”

Morgan frowned at her mother. “It’s a type of red, Mom. Lots of Scotts are redheaded.”

Alice gave her a sharp look before turning back to Jared. “Did one of your parents have hair that color?”

“I donna remember.” His heart twisted at the thought of his parents.

“Are you an orphan?”

“Aye.” As the deep emptiness filled him, he slumped against the wall staring down. “That I am. I have not even a photo of me mum and da to know which of them had red hair.”

“Oh, sorry to hear that.” Mrs. Brookhaven stared at his bare feet then checked her daughter’s, too. “Were you both naked when I called?”

“Huh?” Surprised at the accuracy of her guess, he baulked. He didn’t want to tread on dangerous ground with this woman. Jared glanced at Morgan for assistance.

Morgan threw her hands in the air. “Oh, Mom, you didn’t give us much notice.”

———————————————————————————————————

Dry Writing by Janice Seagraves

 

Dry Writing

By Janice Seagraves

 

Has anyone ever told you that your writing though well written was kind of dry?

Did it sound like the smooch of death?

It doesn’t have to be.

The first time I heard this about my own work, I was struck dumb. What is dry writing and how do I fix it?

I discovered that dry writing means that I was lacking emotions in my scenes.

If there are no emotions in your scene then your reader can’t connect with your hero or heroine. In other words, your reader isn’t going to care about your characters.

And that my friends, is the smooch of death.

How do you fix that?

By adding emotions.

An early (dry) excerpt of my book, Windswept Shores:

Megan rolled a large log with one foot then the other, until it was near the bonfire. “God, this thing is heavy.” With a grunt, she lifted one end until it teetered upright then gave it a shove. It landed in the fire, embers swirling in the air.

Last night’s violent storm had made a mess of her meager campsite, which had taken all morning to fix, and had demolished her seaweed SOS sign. She’ll have to recreate her SOS. Sighing, Megan trudged toward a pile of kelp. As she got closer, she saw a figure wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt.

      Oh, God, it’s another body washed up from the plane wreck. That would be number twelve. As always, she couldn’t help but wonder if the next one would be Jonathan. He hadn’t been wearing jeans on the plane, so she knew she’d been spared seeing his corpse this time. Thank God. She approached the body with dread. Suddenly the “dead body” coughed and rolled over. With a scream, Megan jumped back.

He’s alive!
***

There isn’t anything technically wrong with the scene, but it lacks an emotional punch.

You don’t really care what happens to the heroine, because in this scene you can’t connect with her on an emotional level.

Windswept Shores except 2: After adding in emotions:

If she had to spend one more day on this godforsaken island, she’d go stark raving mad. The thought spurred Megan into rolling a large log with one foot then the other, until it was near the bonfire. “God, this thing is heavy.” With a grunt, she lifted one end until it teetered upright then gave it a shove. It landed in the fire, embers swirling in the air.

Breathing hard, she flicked a glance at the teal-colored sea. She’d thought a vacation to the Bahamas would be the perfect getaway, would be a solution to the problems she and Jonathan had faced. She’d been wrong—dead wrong. Tears of grief filled her eyes. The never-ending crash of the waves on the beach and the cries of the seagulls seemed to mock her with the reminder she was utterly alone.

She’d felt like a tiny speck of sand last night when a violent storm had swept across the island. It had made a mess of her meager campsite, which had taken all morning to fix, and had demolished her seaweed SOS sign. She’ll have to recreate her SOS. Sighing, Megan trudged toward a pile of kelp. As she got closer, she saw a figure wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt. Her stomach lurched.
      Oh, God, it’s another body washed up from the plane wreck. That would be number twelve. As always, she couldn’t help but wonder if the next one would be Jonathan. He hadn’t been wearing jeans on the plane, so she knew she’d been spared seeing his corpse this time. Thank God. She approached the body with dread. Tightening her resolve, she knelt. Suddenly the “dead body” coughed and rolled over. With a scream, Megan jumped back. She clutched her chest and pressed a shaking hand to her mouth.

He’s alive!

***

As you can see adding emotions makes the scene come alive.


Windswept Shores Two Book Series

Windswept Shores part oneWindswept Shores is back, and better than ever with a replaced missing scene. It’s something warm to read while it’s frosty outside. And better yet, there a sequel too.

Blurb: The sole survivor of a plane crash, Megan is alone on a deserted island in the Bahamas. Then she finds a nearly-drowned man. Another survivor, this time from a boat wreck.

With only meager survival skill between them, will they survive these windswept shores and can they find love?

For the first time available as a trade paperback: https://www.createspace.com/4084680
And for the Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AS9NDNO

Excerpt:

His hand lingered on her shoulder. Her trembling vibrated up his arm. Blimey, she’s all shaken up.

“S’kay, she’ll be right.” He grabbed her sleeping pallet, pulled it over, slipping an arm around her waist.

Her body went rigid. “What are you doing?”

“Relax, mate, I’m not trying to get a leg over. You need a bit of comfort so you can go back to sleep. My mum would cuddle me when I’d have a howler of a nightmare. It’s nice to know you’re not alone.”

“So, I’m supposed to think of you like my mom or dad?”

“Or like yer husband if that’ll help?” He grinned in the dark, wondering what kind of reaction he was going to get.

“I think not.”

“I noticed you weren’t wearing a wedding ring. Is it because yer husband drowned?” His heart beat a little faster when he asked the question. He really wanted to know if he had a chance with her.

“No, he’s not drowned,” she snapped. “I lost my ring in the ocean, but I’m not sure when. I just looked down one day, it was gone.”

She’s in denial about her husband’s death. I reckon it’s too soon. A little disappointed, he decided to change subjects. “So, you got any ankle biters at home?”

“Two boys.”

“How old?” he asked. They must be missing their mum, poor little nippers.

“Joshua is twenty. He’s in college. Eli is eighteen and just graduated from high school.”

“Blimey, how long have you been married to your bloke?”

“Twenty-three years this January,” she said.

“How old are you?” He positioned his head where he could breathe in the scent of her hair, and inhaled a floral fragrance. How does she manage to smell fresh in a place like this?

Megan moved a bit forward. “Do you know that it’s considered very rude to inquire after a woman’s age?”

“Not where I’m from, so spill.” He scooted up some, placing his knees behind hers.

She pulled away. “Humph, well, okay I’m forty-two.”

“You’re still spunky.” He wondered how far she’d move until she ran out of room in her tiny shelter.

“Uh, spunky, thanks.” Megan rolled onto her back.

Blimey, she out maneuvered me. Seth was forced to move back, but kept his hand on her tummy.

“You got hitched when you were a young ‘un?” He quickly did the math. She’s a bit older than me. More of a challenge.

“Yeah, I got married at nineteen, but I knew what I wanted, or thought I did. Have you ever been married?”

“Got hitched once.”

“What happened?” she asked. Her bed rustled as she shifted position.

“We got into a blue, she told me to shove off, so I left. So that was the end of that.” His hand drifted to her rib cage.

“Any kids?” she asked, pushing his hand down.

“A son named Nick. He just turned six.”

“Okay, now you have to tell me how old you are.”

“I’m an old prawn. I just had my thirtieth birthday.”

“That’s not old, especially not for a man.”

“I’m starting to feel it when I surf,” he admitted, smoothing a wrinkle on her shirt.

“Oh, you’re a surfer?”

“Back in Uni I got caught up chasing the good breakers on Spring Break. I headed out from Cali to Baja, then from there to Florida. I became a Surfie. That’s what you’d call someone who surfs more than they work. Then I met this old bloke, Bill, in a pub. He’s from Oz too, or so I thought, but it turns out he’s an apple.”

“An apple?” she asked.

“He hails from Tasmania. I was broke doing odd jobs. Bill hired me to help on his fishing boat.”

“Wait a minute, Oz?”

“Oz, short for Australia,” he explained, moving his mouth toward where he thought her ear was, saying softly, “It’s in the sound Au`z-tralia—Oz.”
———————————
Trade paperback: https://www.createspace.com/4084680
Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AS9NDNO

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/446101
Janice Seagraves’s website: http://janiceseagraves.org/


Windswept Shores Two

WindsweptShores2_432

Blurb: Megan and Seth are finally rescued off their little island, but things are far from idyllic. Seth is arrested for murder, and Megan is order to return home to her philandering husband who is somehow still alive. Will they ever get back together again or see the life they envisioned?

Except:

“Megz, I thought you were going home?” Seth chided as she took the seat across from him at the old beat up wooden table.

“I have a flight in two hours. Time enough to see you before I leave.” She blinked back tears.

This is so unfair. This can’t be the last time I see him.

Megan folded her hands on the table. “We already checked out of the hotel, but I brought your luggage. The commissioner gave me the okay, so now you have a change of clothes for when you go in front of the judge. I also bought you a few necessities. Since soap and such are not provided, I was told it’s customary for family members to buy those items for the inmates.” She sat a white plastic bag on the table. “These have already been cleared for your use.”

He eyed the bag. “Did your boys pay for it?”

This is the last thing I can do for him, and he doesn’t want it? “Don’t you argue with me, Seth Dawson. You need these.” She fisted her hands. “I also put some money into an account here at the jail for anything else you might need.”

“Ta fer that, love. I’ll pay your sons back somehow.” Seth took one of her hands and uncurled her fingers. “I did want to see you one last time. I didn’t reckon with us parting this way. You to yer rotten bloke, and me here on charges.” He smiled. “Cuddling up on one of your siblings’ sofas sounded nice.”

“Crowded maybe, but we would’ve been together.”

“I heard you made a statement.”

“I did.” She sighed and looked down. I’m not sure what good it’ll do, Seth.

“Thanks for trying, love,” Seth murmured. “I don’t reckon on it being much since you didn’t know Bill before he died.”

“The commissioner said most of my statement is hearsay.” She shrugged. “The only thing I could really tell them was: Bill was dead when we found him and looked the same as the other drowning victims. Also, you never said a bad word about him and showed genuine grief at seeing his body.”

“Not much to go by.” Seth rubbed his thumb across her knuckles.

The slight touch sent a tingle through her, and she wanted to throw herself across the table at him. “The commissioner said he was going to contact the harbormaster where the Dinki-Di had been birthed to see if you two had gotten into any fights.”

“We didn’t.” Seth shook his head. “We got along.”

“Maybe he’ll make a statement too.”

“Gawd, I hope so,” Seth said. “I don’t have enough character references, being from out of town.”

“No, just me.” She tried to smile.

“And old Bill who’s gone.” He lifted her hand to kiss her fingers.

“Times up,” said a guard.

Megan stood and stared at Seth wanting to remember him. Not like this in the black and white jail clothes, but the way he was on the island, happily rumpled in his threadbare outfits.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/637092https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/637092

Buy Link: Amazon USA: https://www.amazon.com/Windswept-Shores-Two-survivors-story-ebook/dp/B01BPLNHTI/

Buy Link: Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.com/Windswept-Shores-Two-survivors-story-ebook/dp/B01BPLNHTI/