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Posts Tagged ‘critique partner’

Plot holes. They’re wonderful things aren’t they? *note sarcasm* Your story is flowing really well, you’re so close to completion then suddenly… plot hole! You can’t finish the story because you realise there’s this big gaping hole that doesn’t let the story tie together.

Have you ever had that? I’m sure most of us have.

So what is the best way to avoid plot holes? This is what I’m here to tell you. Please remember this is just my opinion and not how it must be done. We all have our own ways of avoiding plot holes and this is just one way I find really helpful.

The simple answer is this: planning. That’s right, plan your story out from beginning to end and have a set idea of where you want it to go. To me, this is a foolproof way of avoiding plot holes. I’m not saying they will be avoided all together because that’s impossible. We’re still going to fall into that trap from time to time but it will certainly limit it from happening.

Basically what planning does is it allows you to see where your story progressing and will have you asking questions much earlier. If there’s going to be a plot hole you’ll notice it in the planning stage rather than toward the end when you’re tying everything together.

Trust me, there is nothing worse than getting to the end of a story and seeing that plot hole that changes the entire story.

Yes I speak from experience, and that’s what encouraged me to write this blog.

You see, the story I wrote for the ABNA had a massive plot hole, which I totally missed. Why? Because I didn’t plan the story out. This is a story I wrote when I was in my late teens. I was still learning how to write and I told myself planning was for people who couldn’t write. Oh how wrong I was.

What happened is I decided I really liked the concept of the story but it needed a lot of work so I recently decided to rewrite it. During my rewrite, I didn’t question the goings on of certain events, I just let them take place. Once the rewrite was done and I sent it to my critique partner to read, she brought up the major plot hole.

I was devastated because it turned out I had to rewrite the entire story again. Still, it was a good pick up by her and I will be forever grateful. If I sent it to a publisher with that plot hole, I would definitely not be considered for publishing. So now with that sorted I can happily send it in to the ABNA and to publishers knowing all major plot holes have been fixed.

So it’s essential to have a clear idea of where you want your story to go and how your events will unfold. It will mean you won’t have so much rework later.

I understand planning isn’t for everyone and that’s fine. However, before you say it’s not for you, I would encourage you to at least try it. You can’t say you it’s not for you if you’ve never tried it. But if you don’t want to then that’s fine also. 🙂

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So it’s that time of year again. The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards (ABNA) are upon us.

Last year I entered my story ‘The Matchmaker’ and was ecstatic when I made it through to the second round. To me, to be chosen as one of the 2000 contestants out of 10,000 was a huge success. I know 2000 is still a huge number but when you compare it to the 8000 that didn’t make it, it’s big. I realised that my pitch must have been good enough, which was a relief.

Unfortunately I didn’t make it to the third round. The feedback I got, while harsh, was invaluable. There were one or two comments that were uncalled for but I dismissed them. And no, that’s not the bitter side of me coming out. There really were some harsh comments that were not constructive, they were downright rude. I can accept criticism, in fact I thrive on it. What I don’t like is rudeness for the sake of being rude. How is that constructive? It’s demeaning and wears you down. I didn’t get anything useful out of those.

That aside, the rest of the feedback was great and I’ve worked on my manuscript tirelessly for the past year to have it ready for this year’s competition. Yes that’s right, ‘The Matchmaker’ is being entered into ABNA again. In fact, it’s already been submitted.

Over the last year, ‘The Matchmaker’ has been written and rewritten about three times. It’s been a tough year. My critique partner has been a godsend and I will be forever grateful for her help. She’s picked up plot holes I missed, bits of the story that don’t work or weren’t realistic, and offered great ideas to make it work. As a result, the story has completely transformed and I’m much happier with it now.

It’s funny, I thought I was happy with it last time but this time it feels different. It feels like the changes I’ve made may be enough to get me through to the third round this time.

I’m not getting my hopes up, if I don’t get far then I won’t be heartbroken. Hell, there’s no guarantees I’ll even make it past the first round this year. If that’s the case, I will soldier on. It’s only a competition after all. There are tons of them around and there are many publishers I can submit to as well.

I’m keeping positive!

For anyone who is considering submitting to ABNA, you have until the 2nd March 2014 to submit. Good luck and I’ll keep you up to date with my progress. I won’t hear anymore until around 18th March though.

I’ll try and blog more soon. 🙂

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I wish to apologise for no blogs in 2014 yet. It’s been a pretty full on start to this year and time has escaped me.

On saying that, it has not been in vain. Apart from my usual day job, I have been keeping busy with my writing. And it’s the usual topic of writing that inspired me to write this blog.

You see, just last night I did something extremely reckless…I submitted a manuscript to Harper Collins. Yes that’s right…Harper Collins. One of the biggest named publishers I know. Usually they don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts but a writer friend of mine provided me a link which allowed us to submit unsolicited manuscripts every Wednesday. Exciting, right?

You may be asking why it’s reckless. After all, I’m an aspiring author and getting my name in print is my biggest dream. Well the answer is this: I wasn’t intending on submitting my manuscript for a few weeks yet. That’s why it’s reckless of me. I’m the sort of person that always plans things out. I decide I’m going to do something in two weeks and I do it in two weeks. So when I said I would submit in a few weeks, I intended to stick to it.

Although after some contemplation I realise now there was no point in me waiting. The manuscript was completed, it had been critiqued and I was happy with it. I’m never going to get anywhere if I don’t start submitting to publishers and literary agents.

Hmmm. The more I think about it, the more I realise that’s what compelled me in the first place. My subconscious was giving my backside a good kicking for procrastinating and so I did it.

That doesn’t mean I’m relaxed though. If anything I’m halfway between excited and terrified. I know sending off a manuscript for publication isn’t a big thing. After all there are no guarantees they’ll even want to publish it. But that’s just it. It’s the fear of the unknown. I can handle rejection, no worries. What scares me most is being accepted. Silly, huh? But if I’m accepted, I’m going to be achieving a goal I never thought possible. This is what petrifies me.

So anyway, that’s what I’ve done. I will know in three weeks if they want to proceed further. If I don’t hear back then I’ll assume I’ve been rejected. And that’s okay because I’m going to keep trying. Now that I’ve jumped the first hurdle, future submissions won’t be so hard.

That’s all from me, I’ll try and be a bit more frequent from now on.

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As the end of 2013 approaches, I’m finding myself reviewing myself as a writer. How have I improved in 2013? What have I actually achieved?

One part of me wants to say I’ve achieved nothing. After all I’m still unpublished. But then I realise something… I may not have my name printed on the spine of a book but that’s not everything. What I have achieved is becoming a better writer and to me that’s much more important. After all, how can I get published if I’m not a good writer?

So no, I refuse to say I’ve achieved nothing. I’ve actually achieved a lot.

At the beginning of 2013, I set myself a goal to get my first book published. The only reason this didn’t happen is because I learnt something. I learnt that having a critique partner and getting your manuscript critiqued before sending it to a publisher is vital. I wrote a blog about the importance of having a critique partner a few months ago. You can read it at this link: The importance of a critique partner

After realising this, I found myself one. The woman I partnered up with has been invaluable. I have learnt so much in the 10 months I’ve known her and we’ve both helped each other become better writers. The manuscript I want to send off for publishing had more errors than I realised and I’m really glad she’s helped me improve it so I can send it off in 2014. We have a little way to go on it but I hope to have it fully critiqued early January. Then I will send to a publisher.

I’m so glad I held off. How embarrassing would it have been sending off a manuscript with so many errors? Of course it won’t be perfect when I do finally send it, but it will be better and hopefully more appealing. So I can’t emphasize enough how important having a critique partner is and how important it is to be fully critiqued before sending your manuscript to a publisher. Trust me, you will be so glad you held off.

Being a writer, albeit a successful one, takes time. Don’t rush it. I know someone, aged 16, who was so desperate to get published, they wrote a novel, didn’t get any editing or critiquing done then published it through Create Space. It was a complete flop. The novel had so many plot holes, the story was weak, the grammar, punctuation and sentence structure needed desperate work and just overall it was a bad move.

I know the feeling of desperately wanting to get published. I’ve had that desire for years. But please…just wait! Don’t be too hasty. I’m 31 (32 in 12 days!) and still not published but I’m glad I’m not because if I published any earlier, I know I would have failed. Be 100% happy with your work, be happy to accept criticism and you will then end up going further than you realised.

I’m not saying I’ll succeed when I finally am published, but because my writing has improved so much, I’ve got a better chance at people actually enjoying what I’m writing. As the days go by my writing is becoming better and better. I have a lot to work on but compared to where I was at the beginning of the year, I’ve improved massively.

So yeah, I have achieved something this year and it’s an achievement I’m very happy of. Oh and we can’t forget my success in NaNoWriMo. This story has a long way to go but I succeeded and reached 50,000 words I’m happy with that.

With 2014 only a few minutes away now, I just want to say this… I know for a fact 2014 will be a better year for me as a writer. Whether my novel is published or not, I will continue to improve even more. I realise now, at the end of 2013, that improving as a writer is one of the biggest achievements you can have.

I hope you have all had a great 2013. If you haven’t, may 2014 be a better year for you. See you in the new year. For me, that’s only 6 minutes away. 🙂

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Take a break

Anyone who knows me will tell you how much writing means to me. I am an avid writer and if I could live and breathe it, I would. However, there comes a time when you need a break. Well, that’s what I think anyway. Who knows, maybe there are writers out there who can write for hours / days / weeks on end without a single break. Sadly not everyone can.

There comes a time when you need a break. It’s like a normal job. You have holiday pay for a reason, so you can take a break and not think about work for a while. Writing is a job, so you need to take a break occasionally. Even if it’s a day, it’s enough to recharge your batteries so you can start fresh next time. Although remember, it’s okay to take more than a day. Sometimes taking a week or more off can do wonders.

So be practical and don’t overdo it. You look around and see those dedicated career workers who live and breathe their job. And what good does it do? It does them no good at all. If anything it can cause family trouble, it leaves them exhausted and their social life goes down the gurglur. Who wants to be like that? I know I don’t. If you do, then that’s up to you but just remember, sometimes you do need time out.

I take a break from writing from time to time. When I do, I always go back recharged and rearing to go with new ideas.

Speaking of taking breaks, I am doing just that starting today. I’m not taking a break from writing as such, as I did that only recently. I’m taking a break from something else, which is connected to writing.

I spend a lot of time on wattpad writing stories, reading other people’s stories and offering critiquing and editing services. Sadly over the last few weeks, I’ve become exhausted with how much I’ve had to do and I don’t like that feeling. So I’m not going to have much to do with it for a few weeks.

Pressures with family and work haven’t helped either. So yes, I’m taking my own advice seriously. By the time I return, my batteries will be fully recharged and I’ll be rearing to go again.

What this means is I can focus on other writing. I am in the process of putting some final touches to a manuscript so I can send it to a publisher. I really want it done within the next couple of weeks so I can send it off.

It also means I’ll get November to myself. Why? NaNoWriMo of course! I am in the process of planning out my story for that month and I am very excited about it. I don’t want any interruptions then. I am determined to write my 50,000 words.

My plan is to return to wattpad in December.

So there you have it. Take a break people, it’s important! If you decide to just take a day, do something that doesn’t involve writing. Go down the beach, spend some time with your family, bake… whatever tickles your fancy. But don’t write. You’ll be surprised how good it feels.

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For a long time I had no idea what a critique partner was. Then as I started to take writing seriously and I became a member of the Romance Writers of Australia, I realised how important they are.

A critique partner gives honest and sometimes harsh opinions on your story but you will be forever grateful for their honesty. They will read your story from start to finish and tell you everything that is wrong with it. They will also correct grammar, punctuation, spelling etc. as best as they can. Remember though, they are not qualified editors or proof readers, they just point out the obvious errors.

Please keep this in mind: even though critique partners are important, you have to be ready. One thing I was told was this: if just want someone to tell you your story is good and you can’t accept criticism then a critique partner is not for you. Not yet at least. You must be ready.

To be ready you must be willing to take a step back from your story and get it ripped to pieces. But don’t view it as mean or rude, view it as a way to improve your writing. Believe me, there will be times you want to rip your hair out and scream at the other person but let me say this… don’t do it! If they’re confused and can pick up a zillion errors, so will the reader.

As a writer we don’t see our own mistakes, that’s where critique partners come in. Trust me, as much as it might hurt having your story ripped to shreds, it’s worth it. You will come out a much better writer at the end of it and your story will be 100% better.

Good luck!

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A while ago I wrote a blog titled An important message for writers: show, don’t tell. In this I gave my own experience on how I learnt the very valuable lesson of  ‘show don’t tell’. Today I am here to expand on that and tell you another important thing… it’s okay to have some telling in your novel!

Yes, showing rather than telling is vital to make a story flow well. However, if you have an entire novel of nothing but ‘show’ it’s very tiresome. You need to have a certain amount of telling to make the story enjoyable.

So what has brought this on, you may ask? I recently decided to trial a new critique partner. I already have one, a very good one at that, but I  have been encouraged to trial two or three because everyone has varying amounts of knowledge. Well this new one I got critiqued my first chapter and at every point where there was a bit of ‘telling’ she would highlight it and say ‘this should be shown not told’.

Now don’t get me wrong, I accept criticism well. I’m more than happy to make changes when something isn’t right in my story. But as I read her comments and tried to change the so-called ‘telling’ bits to ‘show’ I realised I couldn’t do it. These parts had to be told. There was no possible way I could ‘show’ them without overdoing it.

So my point is, don’t be afraid to have some telling in your story. You need to be balanced. Make sure you show where it’s possible to do so but back it up with some telling too.

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