lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Over at Book View Cafe today, Ursula K. Le Guin is concerned that a lot of on-line critiquers are "just parrot-squawking some useless “rule” they read somewhere." (She's soliciting opinions on the matter, so if you have views on how and whether to select critiquers and how to evaluate what they provide, head on over.)

Since I've always referred to such people as "rules-parrots", this amuses me.
lizvogel: What is this work of which you speak? (Cat on briefcase.) (Work)
...or so my New Year's Day fortune cookie told me. ;-)

To that end: I really like the bakery story. And I've been sitting on it for six months waiting for beta-reading that isn't going to happen. Enough of that. Out it goes.

Oh, thank ghod

Saturday, September 6th, 2014 05:13 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
The alpha reader reports, on preliminary read, that Chapter 1 is not a horrible world-building info-dumped mess, but instead is very interesting, with a nicely-distributed measure of world-building that raises curiosity without overwhelming. Also, she felt quite bad for my poor messed-up main character, and flagged several of my favorite bits as especially good lines.

(I am glad I cut the two paragraphs of world-building that I did, however. That might well have tipped the balance, and one of them will work better later anyway.)

There's still the proper full-critique read to come, of course, but at least now I can stop worrying that I'm going to have to torch the whole thing and start entirely from scratch. Whew.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
One of the things I'm very leery of when looking for critique is what I call rules-parrots: those people who chant whatever writing "rules" they've adopted, and try to force every story to conform to them by rote at the expense of judging the story on its own merits.

As usual, Patricia Wrede says it better than I do:

"There are always folks around who have memorized a list of no-nos without understanding the reasons behind them, and they will complain bitterly if they notice you using anything on their list, regardless of what you’ve done with it or why."

I don't know whether the drive to parrot rules comes from insecurity about one's own judgment or a desire to boss others around (though I suppose they're not mutually incompatible). I do know it's profoundly unhelpful. Perhaps rules-parroting is a cop-out for a beta-reader in much the same way as using an unexamined cliche is a cop-out for a writer?
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I'm looking for 2-3 beta readers for a short story, about 1800 words, original light fantasy. Goal is professional publication.

I'm primarily looking for big-picture feedback: Are the characters' motivations clear? Does the plot make sense? Does the ending work? That sort of thing. (To borrow terminology from [livejournal.com profile] elissacruz's excellent post on The Different Types of Critiquers, I'm looking for Global Critique. I've also had good results in the past with Reactionist-style feedback, so if that comes naturally to you, go for it!)

I am not looking for critique on writing style or spelling/grammar/punctuation, though if you do spot a typo, by all means point it out.

If you're interested, comment here or PM me. I will happily trade equivalent critique; if you're not a writer, let me know what you'd consider a fair exchange.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Beyond the Sandwich Method: What I Learned About Critiquing From My Editors

Not any earth-shatteringly new revelations, but some good points that bear repeating.

lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I have written, I have workshopped, I have revised, and I need someone to tell me if it works now. I need beta readers.

The story in question is original SF, ~800 words. Think Fredric Brown meets Twilight Zone in tone.

I'm primarily looking for big-picture feedback. My perennial question: What did you get out of this? Summarize the story back to me; tell me the plot, the characters, the setting, and the theme as you understood them.

Depending on the answers, I may ask follow-up questions.

I am not looking for critiques on writing style or spelling/punctuation/grammar, although if you do spot a typo, by all means point it out.

If you're interested in beta-ing, please comment here or PM me with your preferred format and means of communication. I'm willing to swap critiques of an equivalent work; if you're not a writer, let me know what you'd consider a fair trade. Aside from my deep gratitude, which everybody gets.

Goal Status

Friday, February 15th, 2013 01:22 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
So, I'm back from Capricon, and almost recovered. (Exhausted doesn't even begin to cover it.) On balance, it was fun, although both the consuite and the (lack of) writing track were disappointing. Gophered my legs off. Highlights were probably hanging out with people representing other cons, specifically the Cafe Capricon/MuseCon folks and the Minneapolis in 2073 bid.

Capricon was a goal-deadline, so let's see how I did:

- Finish rough draft of Kitchen Sink: done. It has an end. I tied up the dangling scenes that weren't related to the subplot-to-be-added, and made a start on de-bracketing.

- Revise "Off The Map": done. I had the interesting experience of going over all the workshop feedback and realizing almost all of it was wrong. Or rather, I don't think the things people were suggesting would have fixed the problem they were identifying. Putting in brand names, describing the kind of car, etc. was their way of asking to be grounded in the setting, but all those things would have come too late; I already had grounding-points half a page in, but by that point readers have made their own assumptions and will not be shifted. The grounding has to happen right at the beginning, before the reader has a chance to build up something else in their head. (Those suggestions would also have made it some other kind of story entirely, which is why I was kicking so hard.) I don't know if what I did instead will work (need fresh betas), but at least it's still the story I'm writing.

Status: Win!

Goal #3, which does not have a fixed deadline, is to get back on the querying horse. As happens every time I try this, I discovered I needed more prep work; the synopsis I thought was done... wasn't. Or, it is, but six bloody pages is just too long. I tried cutting it down, even got a fresh pair of eyes on it, but the result was thoroughly unsatisfactory and still too long. So I'm rewriting it again.

And out of desperation, I'm writing it backwards. I started with what I want the last line to be, then asked, "What has to happen for that to make sense?" and wrote that line. And so forth. It seems to be working; I'm at Chapter 8 of 15 (from back to front) and somewhere around the 500-word mark. (The same material was 1300 words in the previous version.) It may still run a bit over the two-page target when done, but a plot fueled by complex character motivations which are in turn fueled by deep backstory does not summarize easily.


Other than finishing the synopsis (tentative deadline = end of this month) and starting querying again, I do not currently have specific writing goals. This is a bad state for me to be in. I want to at least de-bracket Kitchen Sink before moving on; haven't decided if I should tackle the subplot as well, or rest it for a bit first. There's the Haley novel to be resurrected. Whither the writer?
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I should have included this link in my last post: Patricia Wrede on necessary and sufficient causes. This is sort of the structural back-end to the visible front-end I was talking about yesterday. Because the reason the protagonist tries the final thing that ultimately works is that it's necessary to solve problem X -- but for that to work in a dramatic sense, there has to be a sufficiency of things pushing him in that direction, which includes all the other things he's tried that haven't worked.

Again, beta-reading

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012 04:11 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
A fine round-up of essential principles: Nathan Bransford's Ten Commandments for Editing Someone's Work. "Editing" in this case applies to beta-reading or critiquing or whatever you care to call it when somebody looks over your writing with the avowed intent of helping you make it better.

As usual, Bransford spells out what should be self-evident with clarity, insight, and his usual laid-back wit. Words cannot express how much better my ex-writing group would have been had the members embraced these concepts, especially 1, 3, 6, and 9.
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
Browsing through old archives, I came across this post by Pat Wrede, which may be the single best thing written about the beta-reading process ever. The first couple of paragraphs nail a lot of what writer and beta should discuss up front before ever setting pen to manuscript. The rest describes exactly what a proper beta-reading involves.

Frankly, Pat's whole critique tag should be required reading for anyone about to embark on a beta-reading relationship. I certainly intend on using it for discussion material, if I can ever find another potential beta....
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
This time, it's a round-up from the pros.

Holly Lisle on The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, or How to Choose a Writers' Group. A lot of good advice there, but the best is probably at the very end: "When you get home, do you want to write, or do you want to become an accountant?" If only I'd applied that to my ex-group sooner... well, a lot of things would be different.

The Practical Meerkat on Writers' Groups Vs Beta Readers vs Going Solo. Most notable for the simple but vital observation that beta reading is "not a job for the casual reader, who may love your work but not be able – or willing – to clarify what they don't think works, and why." Speaking of my ex-writing-group.

Also, this Pat Wrede post. The post is not about beta-reading as such, but comment #6 does illustrate one of my mandatory requirements for a beta: Must be able to tell a cat from a dog.

Beta links

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011 11:55 am
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
Collecting links for potential beta-reading discussions.

Pat Wrede on what a scene needs to have to be a good scene (plot, backstory, and/or characterization)

And I read a post fairly recently about how much the poster loved beta-reading, the actual process as well as the result, which I now can't find. I'd thought it was on [community profile] metafandom, but apparently I just found it through friendsfriends. Anybody else remember this, ideally with a link?
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
Had a most pleasing weekend-plus with the charming and talented [personal profile] signeh, which included much discussion of life and of writing.

It's so very refreshing to have a beta-reading session with betas ([personal profile] signeh and the housemate) who (a) get what I'm trying to do, (b) are capable of staying on-topic, and (c) can actually have an intelligent and useful discussion about a piece of fiction. We came up with some good insights on the sticky bit in chapter 10 of the novel. Fixing it is still going to be mighty hard work, there's no way around that, but thanks to them I've at least got a sound plan of attack.

Now I just need to be able to, you know, attack it. My typically uneventful life has suddenly acquired a batch of rush-job paid work, a rush-job job application... and my Ficathon Walks Into A Bar story is due, er, today. So much for going out to play in the lovely warm sunshine!
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
...commodorified has a fine post about the merits of looking for beta-readers among readers, not necessarily among writers.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
(Crossposted from LJ on 6/15, because I forgot before.)


The Different Types of Critiquers by [profile] elissadcruz. An excellent list of the various types of critiquers, with their flaws and merits. Seriously, I think I'm going to keep a printout of this handy for discussions with my writing group.


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