Sunday, December 9, 2012

by Sue Viders

We haven't been as active with our critiquing blog as we once were, but that doesn't mean we haven't been busy looking for new ways to work with writers and help them along in their writing journey. Becky and I remain part of active critique groups and continue to enjoy the critiquing process, but we're also always looking for other avenues to help writers.
Recently one of my writing friends suggested that I write something for all those aspiring writers who wanted to do nonfiction “stuff”... you know, how-to books, articles on how they coped with one of life’s problems and of course, how to get started doing blogs.

After of bit of thinking and not wanting the book to be too long for even writers have short attention spans... grin, I decided to categorize the subject of writing nonfiction into six sections (six short books) and started on the first idea, which was... wait for it... a booklet on how to find, expand and focus in on one great IDEA.

Once the outline was complete the writing was a breeze. It ended up at 48 single spaced pages, in the Times font and a little over 11,000 words.

Now comes the more interesting part. I have a friend that is a computer genius. He has a company that, you guessed it, was slowing turning their skills in audio-vision talents into formatting books for the web.

Talking to him about who he knew who could format this file for me inexpensively he suddenly offered to do it for me. Thank God, because as many of you know, I am dyslexic and learning how to format a book would be way beyond my capabilities, never mind the fact that I can’t spell or that I’m simply too busy writing to stop and learn a new skill.

So I sent him the “raw” file. No page breaks, just the file in word. About three hours later he sent me the most beautiful, professional, top-of-the-line layout I have ever seen. Considering that I had already seen some of the e-pub stuff and had not been impressed, my book looked great. In fact so great, I hardly recognized it.

Turned out he and his partner were now part of a new company that is going to be going public very soon that will be publishing and formatting books for authors and paying good royalties, 50% at first and then 75% and they will do all the marketing. I was overjoyed.

As I talked to the principals the simple idea I had for a small booklet for nonfiction writers morphed into something quite interesting. I realized that “booklets” don’t really sell well. Remember that when you talk with people about marketing and money, they think a bit differently that writers do. Thank goodness for the difference. Grin.


That was the break-through.

We changed the concept of doing small booklets into the idea of doing writing guides because they were simple and sell better. Think the “Dummies” series or even the “Chicken Soup” books.

These guides needed a name. Something that would catch the buyers attention.  A name that we could use on other guides.

Other guides?

Oh yes. Other guides. This concept quickly took over all my gray cells. Then in the middle of the night the name came to me.

The WEEKEND WRITER’S Guide to....

It simply clicked.  Once the overall name was there, the overall theme, the ideas flowed like a faucet had been turned with the various titles pouring out.

Over the years I have taught and lectured to literally hundreds of organizations, writing groups both onsite and online. Sometimes alone, but often with Becky. We had tons of lectures already written for classes that had been well received.

We could turn all these classes into WEEKEND WRITER’S Guides.

Yes! And so the next phrase began. Outlining and writing the guides.

We now have one finished and formatted, two in line to be formatted, five outlined and many more in the “thinking” stages.

All together 18 are in the works. 

We plan on having the first few available the first of the year. So, if you have any ideas for a guide that you would like to see, please let us know. And watch for the first one, which will be the guide on IDEAS.
And as the new year starts we are also going to be starting a new blog, called  Today we have more on how the idea for the Weekend Writer's Guides developed.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Ten Reasons for Having a Critique Group or Partner

“I not only use all the brains I have, but all that I can borrow.” Woodrow Wilson.

If our presidents can form focus groups, have advisors (which is really just a fancy name for a critique group) and interview people from all walks of life BEFORE they make a speech, draw up a new law or make a decision that will affect all of our lives, we writers ought to be able to turn to our own form of advisors. We’re talking about the advantages of having our own critique group or at least a critique partner to help us with our stories.

As we begin the new year we got to thinking about various reasons for having a critique group or partner and the various ways that those others can help us or already help us with our work. We’ve come up with ten very good reasons to either be in a critique community or have a critique partner. If you don’t find any critique partners or group around you, then maybe you want to go out and form your own critique group.

Here is what we’ve come up with:

1 - It’s another pair of eyes that can catch those little pesky problems such as
   bad word choices

2 - They can provide help when you get stuck by
   suggesting new research resources
   sharing their own personal knowledge

3 - Critique partners and groups can provide help in setting and meeting deadlines
   If you meet once a week and so many pages have to done, deadlines will be met
   Knowing you have to write so many pages this week or next can help you set up a workable writing schedule

4 - They are company on your desert writing island
   Writing can be a lonely occupation, and it helps to “share” your words with another writer and not your mate or family
   They can provide a lift when you are feeling down because they better understand your writing “pain”

5 - They can suggest new ideas for your story
   Brainstorming is one of the major values of having a critique group. Others might think of things that you will never have come up with.
   The group or your partner might offer ways of trying alternatives you were uncertain about.

6 - Boost your ego
   A good critique partner can find the good parts of your work and point them out
   As you critique the work of others you will see places where they might have trouble but where you shine or get a glimpse of things that you constantly do right.

7 - Suggest new twists and turns to your story.
   Some critique partners are great at creating new and exciting plot points.
   Others are extremely helpful in giving you ideas for making your characters come alive.
   Other partners might have a special knack for making emotional passages sing and can help you improve that part of your manuscript.

8 - Give you helpful feedback
   Here is where critique groups shine, as they often see the big picture and can “point” the scene on a better path.
   An honest group or partner will point out the weak spots and perhaps give you ideas for fixing them.

9 - Keep you going.
   They can help you through the dreary times when you don’t want to write something new.
   They can point out the reasons your manuscript deserves to be finished and submitted.

10- Share your vision
   Give your encouragement in order for you to reach your goal
   By sharing their own visions they can help you reach for those stars

But there is also a CAVEAT for writers... caveat scribus. Please remember that all critiquers and critique groups are NOT EQUAL.

   Personalities vary.  You will probably need to try several writers and several groups in order to find just the right one
   Level of expertise of the writers can make a difference. It’s always best to have a variety in the group, some beginners and some more advanced.
   Dedication. Be sure your people are truly dedicated to the overall principal that each and every person in the group wants to make whose ever writing they are working on, the very best they can.  No egos are allowed.

If you are already in a group or have a great partner, then rejoice! But if not, then you might want to check out options for finding a partner. Local writing groups often have critique opportunities or look around at your local writing group and ask around and see if there are others who might be in the same boat.

Remember the old Polish proverb as it relates to critique groups.
            “Two (or more) heads are better than one.”

Let’s get off to a great new year in critiquing! If you have ideas for starting a group or other ideas for why you enjoy having a group or partner, please leave a comment. We'd love to hear from you.
Also remember if you have some pages you would like us to critique for the Critique Corner, please email them to