Not My Thing!

Photo by Annie Sprat

This is a little bit of rant here. But I hope you see my point that critiquing work in a writing group isn’t just about sharing an opinion, it’s about encouraging writers and bringing out the best in their work. Critique honestly and constructively. Writers join these groups to share and grow, not to be discouraged or insulted.  

Last post, Brainstorming, was about the positive side of sharing your work with writing buddies. But there are downsides. 

I’ve had many a critique where my writing buddies have pointed out issues. That’s exactly why I share my work there so I can get feedback on what works and what doesn’t. It’s what writers do to improve and get support as they go. 

I’ve also critiqued many stories that I wouldn’t have critiqued if it weren’t for knowing the writer or returning a favour. I enjoy critiquing these stories because it forces me to think outside my usual wheelhouse. But if I don’t feel like I can adapt to offer constructive thoughts, then I’ll send a message to explain.

Something that bothers me both personally and empathetically is when critters say “This isn’t my thing,” or “I’m not a fan of this genre…blah, blah, blah,” but they feel like they should give you their biased thoughts anyway. I’m sure they have good intentions, but more often than not, they just waste their time, and yours. 

Why critique something that isn’t your thing? 

Many are returning a favour or welcoming newcomers to the group. It’s great to reach out in this sense. But it’s also better to say “I read part of your story, and while it’s well-written, it’s just not my thing, so I don’t feel like I can give you a realistic critique based on the target audience.” The number of times I wish people would have said this rather than critiquing something they just aren’t into and giving and being unnecessarily negative.

Someone outright insulted a fellow writing buddy’s work because her amazingly emotional and personal short story wasn’t their thing. They said they hated it. Why do that to an aspiring writer? This was beyond wrong for that person (not returning a critique or following up any previous correspondents whatsoever) to insult her work for no reason at all. The same critter actually did something similar with my work only a month or so before, but I saw their negative critique for what it was, lording some sense of experience over me since they thought I was new to the site. I was a returning member and more than familiar with his type. 

Okay, so this was a pretty nasty experience. Many of the “Not my thing,” people aren’t this bad. They’re just not useful. Would you ask a sci-fi fan to read your historical fiction novel if they weren’t open to it? Or a romance fan to read a war story? Maybe they choose to read it with an open mind and actually enjoy it as I have. If not, you’re just wasting your time and the writer’s while risking insulting others. 

It’s great to look for other genres to critique beyond your favourite or what you write. Just remember that the writer has a particular target audience in mind. Mystery fans, fantasy fans, teens, middle grade, adults. If you don’t feel like you fit into that group or can’t adapt to that group, then you should seriously consider what you can offer the writer in their journey to being published. Because they are still on that journey.

I’ve chosen my critters carefully for my private group where only they can see my work. I feel strongly that each one offers many benefits in their feedback on my work and appreciates my writing and story as well as my personal hopes for it in the future.  

It’s okay to say “It’s not my thing so I’m not going to critique your story”.

Brainstorming!

I am still unpublished right now, and that’s absolutely fine. I’m enjoying the writing process and polishing my work. Nothing is in a state to be published except for maybe a couple of shorter pieces. But while I have the summer off, I’m going to focus on the novels. And that means brainstorming. Lots and lots of brainstorming. 

I love brainstorming. I love seeing the ideas come together to create a story. I also love pre-revision brainstorming to improve said story. Brainstorming alone is fine, but brainstorming with others can be massively helpful as well as encouraging to have someone like your thoughts. Also, you never know what other ideas it prompts. 

It feels like therapy for your WIP. You express what’s causing problems for you and talk it out together. Or having someone listen while you sound out your thoughts is just as therapeutic for your work. I have a few people I love to brainstorm with. Not only are they great for bouncing ideas off, but they’re really nice people, too.  

Even before the various international lockdowns, countless writers have been turning to online communities to discuss their work. It’s easier and more convenient for busy people, especially those of us who are aspiring writers and still need our day jobs. The writing website I’m on is great with helpful forums. I’m open to all and any discussions on writing in general, but when it comes to brainstorming my own work, I find the forums a little unsuitable for my particular style. 

I created a Discord group a few weeks ago. I’m not sure what my original intention was for it, but I soon turned it into a writing group. Since then, I’ve had a few great conversations with a fellow writer on there. And now it’s time to invite more people. 

My idea is simple. To bring a group of fantasy/sci-fi fiction writers together in a place where we can discuss various ideas and approaches to our writing. 

Feel free to ask about my Writing Ranting With Others discord group. You can download discord for free here and find me as SilverLinings#0367. 

The more the merrier.

More Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Things!

Steampunk, Time, Clock, Brass, Victorian, Dream Factory
Image by Greendragon-Gecko at Pixabay

Oh, if only I had a time machine so I could get everything right 1st time around. But I don’t. I have to change and adapt what I have to make it work. Also, time travel is a tricky thing. Even the smallest change can cause a ripple effect through everything you know and love. Just ask Doctor Who and Marty McFly. So when things aren’t working, we have to settle for starting over as best we can. 

Fun fact: I moved to Spain in 2009 with no real clue if I was going to have any more luck with building a life here. I even changed my career from tech support to English language teacher. 

It was terrifying at first, but part of me felt the change for the better, and I changed everything in my life—except my parents, who moved here to retire—in the hope that I could start again being a little older and hopefully a little wiser.

Writing is just as scary when we’re talking major changes, and still a little daunting when we cause ripples from smaller changes. Trust me. I’ve been there. I’m often there and so are many writers more skilled than me. It’s just part of the process.

Whether from our own ideas or prompted by feedback, it’s recognising the need for changes that makes us grow as writers. Rewrite a chapter. Swap scenes or POVs. Kill your darlings if you have to. They are all worthy sacrifices I’d you see a change for the better.

Don’t fear change. Embrace it.

Summer Staycation!!!

black framed Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses on top of book
Photo by Link Hoang

Summer is going to be rough this year. Many of us are on an extended break, or unemployed due to Covid-19 cutbacks. It sucks. It really does. 

But there are lots of us who have a wildly creative side to lose ourselves in when things get tough. Use this time to your advantage and throw every spare minute into your art. You’ll never have a better opportunity. 

Not sure what to write? Who cares right now?

Why not try something different and make it more personal? My Shufflers story is all about fantasising Covid-19. Sure, it’s not publish-worthy, but it’s something fun based on my Covid-19 experience, plus, a new style for me.

Keep job hunting (this was me last year) and whatever else you need to do, but in the meantime, write your little heart out. Write until you have no words left. Write while you can. Make a plan. Stick to it. Don’t stick to it. Just do what you can while you can and don’t waste what time you have to write. You never know what wondering things you find you’re capable of.

Last summer, I broke my foot and was stuck inside most of the time. I also had some other medical issues so I wasn’t feeling my usual writing inspiration. But I still wrote. I wrote short pieces and made some collections, which I might try and get published or released as an anthology. I started a blog which has become a new outlet for me. I reworked outlines and built on my Scrivener files for my WIPs. I found new sources to help with my work like new inspirational music. I thought I’d lost that summer of writing, but looking back, I got far more done than I realised at the time. 

Doing these things gave me time to work on my writing skills and branch out rather than limiting myself to one style and one form of writing. I’ve since turned this site into a sort of blog. Plus I write more flash fiction, lyrical, and poetic pieces. I’m a well-rounded writer now who would still be finding her voice in the same story. You can’t find a voice if you keep saying the same words over and over.

We’re all in unchartered territory here, so plot your course to include some luscious islands of creativity. Or better yet, float away completely to a fantastical island in the sky. 

Commission: Flying Islands
FrankAtt at Deviantart