Ruins & Angels- A Title Dilemna

Over the years, I’ve noticed a penchant in myself to go through manuscript titles compulsively. Typically I have a working title while I’m writing, then a title when I finish…followed of course by a new title when I decide I don’t like that one.

Why? If it made some sort of real difference to the story this compulsive need would make sense but its become almost like putting on a fresh dress to go to a party. I noted this when I moved my story Kingdom South (working title was Let Down Your Hair) to Radish and immediately renamed it Ruins. Then I realized I have done the same thing with every book I write.

Is this normal? I don’t know. Is it productive? Probably not but it helps keep me sane.

Much like my compulsive cover changing.

Speaking of, I got my cover for Angel’s Beneath 5th City (now calling it Beneath 5th City…don’t judge me.)

ANGELS BENEATH 5TH STREET Radish(1)

 

I’m having a ton of fun with these two stories on Radish Fiction… but I probably need to stop my messing at some point…maybe even…I don’t know…write?

I have a sneaking suspicion that all of this is based around my desire to be in some sort of control of the success of my books… which of course I have very little real control over.

Twist the Blade… but Only a Little

Having touched on how to kindly take a vicious stab… now I’ll go in to how to graciously stab someone else (yes I’m still talking about critiquing.) First, if you are new to it, realize that just like anything else giving a good crit is a skill. Don’t expect to be amazing or for it to come easily.

For me this is a little more complicated as a subject because there are many different good critique styles and I don’t want to say that mine (and the one I prefer others to use on me) is better. But like every other human I am a little slanted by my own preferences. Due to this however rule number one for giving a critique is:

  1. Realize that what you want in a critique may not be what others do. Listen to what people say they want and trust that they know. It may be you can’t give that style of crit effectively, if so… maybe this isn’t the person for you. I got myself into trouble early on doing this. I was learning so much so quickly and I just went in with a sledgehammer on others… and wound up with some angry recipients. People who 100% never wanted rules quoted at them, or people who I disagreed with ideologically and so was probably not the right person to be reading their story since I saw their main conflict as immoral and they did not.

Okay having gotten that rule out of the way let us go on with the list.

  1. Understand that ‘more’ isn’t better. Say what needs to be said, not more. Because if your goal is a word count what you are doing is searching for flaws. And guess what? Most writers don’t want you to do this, namely because then you start calling out things that aren’t wrong. You start going way too deep into opinion territory or quoting rules without considering context and relevance.
  2. This is personal, and I know not everyone agrees but linked to rule two, limit the number of negatives. I’m not saying lie and tell people things are right if they aren’t. But guess what it is daunting received a crit that is as long as your submission packed with negatives. And even if every point is spot on the damage it does to self-esteem isn’t worth it. Most people can’t learn it all at once. Find the main flaws and talk about that. If the author is POV flipping in a slightly jarring way… but they also seem to be switching tenses and telling way more than they should. Isolate what is the most distracting (or two or three) and go into those. Don’t mention the others. Not because there isn’t a problem but because… hmmm… it’s like when your boss yells at you (or parents) you shut down and stop hearing what they say because it’s painful and you get angry. Well critiquing is the same. And a crit that calls out every word as wrong is like yelling. Oh you say ‘But editors would do it.’ Yes but they are a professional that you pay… you are a peer and NO it is not the same thing.
  3. If you don’t know the rule… don’t quote it. It isn’t your job to find everything. And if you ‘think’ something is wrong but aren’t sure, leave that for someone else to find. Why? Because as a recipient, when something like that is done and the critique is wrong… nothing takes away a writers faith in a reader like being told ‘don’t use said so much, use a variety of tags like, whined, yelled…’ Okay, occasionally that could be a valid statement but for the most part that runs against conventional writing wisdom and as soon as I see that on a crit (though try to fight the reaction) I relax and start to disregard what the reader says.
  4. Don’t forget the positives. When I started I was all gung-ho for negatives. I rarely pointed out good things and I didn’t want mine pointed out. Until I noticed that receiving crits was leaving me drained and I dreaded it. What I realized is, yes we get critiques to improve, and in order to do that we need to know what’s wrong. But we also need to know what’s right. For example, if I had seven critiquers and five loved a paragraph. None of them said anything. But the other two didn’t like it and called it out. I would probably trash it. Now that may be extreme but it holds true in less obvious ways. If a balance in correct, like description to action ratio, and no one tells me its right, I might mess it up in revisions. It IS helpful to know what’s right.
  5. Now, a little structural advice- Let them know what you understood (who knows it may not be what they intended.) Point out the basics- Pacing, plot, characters, dialogue believability, consistency in tense and Point of view. Unless you are asked to do a line edit don’t worry about every comma… but if someone misses a few, be kind and help them out. If someone clearly doesn’t understand a grammar rule, explain the rule and point out a few places where they messed it up.
  6. Keep the crit aimed at the writer’s ability range. This harks back to 3 but I consider it separate. You wouldn’t crit a five year old’s story the same as you’d crit Stephen King’s (though how did you get Stephen King’s story!) And while that is extreme there are lesser degrees. Don’t crit a first draft with the same intensity as a third draft. Don’t crit someone’s first novel the same as you’d crit someone who has been published a few times (unless they are on the same level.) We all develop one step at a time and demanding someone skip from step 1 to 10 is discouraging not helpful.

Radish (They are tasty, but not that kind)

 

Not only am I now officially a writer for the Radish app (check it out, its brand new and I assume awesome…though I can’t look at it because it isn’t available for Android yet,) but it is Sci Fi week! And I am one of the authors featured.

If you are interested, check out their blog below (hint, I’m number 6.)

If you aren’t interested in that…I am posting a brand spanking new story on the app called Angels Beneath 5th city. I’ll have a cover for it soon…you know I go crazy over those. For the moment I’m using this sexy little number…which I shall have to find a new use for once my cover is ready!

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Fun, Fun

My story Spider’s Game is going to be featured on Wattpad in a few days. I’ve been working on updating the story and…the cover…yet another cover. Because apparently I’m a cover addict. Though I didn’t make this one myself.

SPIDER'S GAME2

New blurb for Spider’s Game

Tired of dwelling in the bowels of the galaxy’s most infamous brothel, Silvia plots to escape her bonds, setting in motion the resurgence of a race of spiders thought extinct. As Silvia, the spider queen, and her mate claw and kill their way to freedom, some of their victims refuse to stay defeated.

Police Chief Berrick Trehar and his family begin the spider’s game without knowing the rules. But after a brush with Silvia, he learns the consequence losing. Survival is the goal, galactic dominance the prize and failure is death. All the players must walk the line between playing to win and getting lost in the game.

 

(I also did a new cover for Spider’s Gambit)

SPIDER'S GAMBIT2.png

Spider’s Gambit

Wow life gets crazy.

November has Nano and then December has the holiday season. I haven’t had a moment of downtime in months!

So updates, I posted some possible covers a while back…but then I redesigned everything. Wednesday I will finally be posting Spider’s Gambit on Wattpad.

Spider's Gambit6

Blurb:

Silvia Black is marked for extermination by the Brothel. Her continued survival and her lust for revenge all point in the same direction– kill them before they can kill her. Friends are hard to come by and Silvia can’t afford to play the board alone.

Darith Cortanis lost almost everything when he got entangled in Silvia’s scheming, but with the help of his former enemy, he stands a chance of winning back what he prizes most. His wife, Marim. Held captive by the Brothel and her own mind, Marim is worth any sacrifice.

For the time being, their paths intersect. But there are other moving pieces, and goals that conflict with Silvia and Darith’s desires. In a game of strategy, it pays to think about the long run.

Accepting a knife to the kidneys with a smile

Taking a knife to the kidneys with grace is an art form. And by knife to the kidneys I mean, of course, taking a critique. I’ve ranted before on the different type of critiquers and how some of them honestly just aren’t helpful and I still believe that. Critiquing is an art that’s learned, (a talk for another time.) Unfortunately for all of us who spend gratuitous amounts of time giving thoughtful critiques, accepting criticism is also an art form.

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So, what not to do when receiving a critique (some of these are obvious, some less so.)

  1. Never argue why your right and they are wrong. There is no need to change for their opinion, but they took the time to give it and calling them out on being incorrect is unappreciative, rude and shouts to the world that you think you know best already (and if that’s true why did you ask for a crit?)                                                                                                                woman-315006_1280
  2. Don’t Insult or depreciate the critique in any way. Even if they are downright rude to you. Starting a firefight won’t help you. Realizing they are wrong and you don’t have to listen… that will help. But you don’t need to tell them that, in fact, you shouldn’t.
  3. Don’t take advice by the letter. Guess what? If you are getting peer critiques, chances are they don’t know any more than you do. So if the advice doesn’t gel or disagrees with the advice of others, ponder it, tuck it away for later and then forget it. And it’s just fine to take pieces of advice and not others.                                                                             book-730479_1280
  4. Don’t inform them what other critiquers think. Now this is a personal opinion far more than 1-3. I’ve noticed a trend of authors defending themselves (not saying they are right, but holding up a shield) saying ‘my other critiquers didn’t think this.’ Okay… fine… So either you make the critquer feel bad because you’ve essentially just told them their opinion is wrong, and if they choose to crit again they will feel self-conscious and not do as good of a job, or you’re insulting other critiquers to them by calling them unobservant. Which makes your critiquer wonder what you say about their crits behind their back. Point is, yes a little complaining about crits is okay, but you don’t do it in direct response to a comment in another critique.
  5. Remember that everyone is in a different stage in their writing and critiquing abilities. Don’t assume because something is short it didn’t take effort. Or discount all their advice because they quoted grammar rules incorrectly- guess what they may not be grammar geniuses, but I bet they know how a piece of work makes them feel.

Now, if I do a list of don’ts, there must be a list of dos, so here goes.

  1. Do say thank you. Even if you didn’t find a single thing of use (you may when you look back, or you may not…still thank them.) And take the time in your thank you to let them know you read the crit and heard what they said (unless you have a prior relationship established and feel it isn’t needed.)
  2. Keep in mind that writers helping each other is reciprocal. Does that mean you need to crit for crit? No. But it does mean that as a member of the writing community you should try and honestly give back as good or better than you receive.
  3. Expect it to hurt. Yup. Even wonderful kind crits… hurt. Especially if they are good. The pain doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer or that they are critiquing badly. As writers, words are your babies… It’s going to hurt having someone tell you when they are wrong.                                            woman-801711_1280
  4. Appreciate quality partners. I know I have a good crit partner when for two weeks they’ll send me rave reviews on chapters (notes on punctuation, repeated words, a sentence that didn’t flow, reminders about paragraph breaks but overall wonderful.) Then on the third week they’ll rip the chapter to shreds. It means that they aren’t looking to tear me apart, but they also aren’t throwing marshmallows at me. I would swim upstream the Nile river surrounded by crocodiles for these folks.                                                       girls-926784_1280
  5. Be clear when requesting critiques what you want help with. If you have done this and people ignore your requests, put the advice you didn’t ask for aside. Use the advice you did ask for. It really is that simple.
  6. If someone goes above and beyond for you, let them know you appreciate it. I put this separate from basic thank yous because it is. I had a crit partner online pick up my story when it was halfway through on the websites cycle. She took the trouble to go back and read (and do light crits) on the first ten chapters in order to give better crits going forward. Again…Nile River and crocodiles. These people are irreplaceable and hard to find and should be treated that way.
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That is my take on it at least. I know that there will be points of dissension and a lot of that comes from the fact that depending on the writer they appreciate different things. I will try to go into that more when I talk about giving critiques- it’s all tied in together.

Halloweeeeeen is coming

Suddenly life got insanely busy 🙂

Over the past few weeks, I finally figured out where to go with the sequel to my novel and finished the first draft. On the opposite side I got a few of my short stories in condition to start sending out and *crossed fingers* maybe not only getting rejections. My son started preschool throwing off my entire schedule. I’ve also been working on a few Halloween shorts including one for an awesome collection on Wattpad- https://www.wattpad.com/story/8256175-thirteen-days-of-halloween

My story for the collection will be posting on October 20th 🙂 And the rest of the lineup is amazing.

Also my fifth wedding anniversary (and 10th year together) with my husband is coming up, in honor of that my story for the Halloween collection is based in part on our zombie wedding costumes (this is what happens when you get married on Halloween!)

horror wedding Jesse spraguedress Jesse Sprague zombie bride

Covers, Covers, Covers (and a dose of Nano)

I despise making covers. Hate it. Seriously. Anyhow… for my nano novel this year I’m planning to do the second book in a series. The first book being Spider’s Game.

Spider's Game3

The upcoming book is Spider’s Gambit. Its all outlined (as much as I ever outline) and now I’m starting the part I like least. Making myself a cover. So far I have three options. And I’d love opinions on what works best.

Spider's Gambit 2 Jesse Sprague Spider's Gambit 3 Spider's Gambit

I also have been experimenting with new covers for my fantasy novel Kingdom South. Two options there…

Kingdom South option 2 Kingdom South option 4

Now that I’ve spent all day playing with pretty pictures… Perhaps I should get back to the real work.

Everyone Needs a Support Group… Doesn’t Mean I’m not Crazy

I’m starting to get overwhelmed by everything I ‘have to do’ right now. And sadly, the more overwhelmed I get the less likely I am to do any of it. I just get tired. Like down to the bones aching tired. I think all day about all the things I need to get done, that I can as long as I have a three year old trying to wrestle onto my lap an then when his bedtime rolls around all I have energy to do is crawl into bed.

I have a novel 3/4ths of the way drafted, with people who have already states an interest in beta reading… and I haven’t written a word on it in weeks. Every other writing project is fairing about the same.

The only thing I’ve managed to write is a few one-off horror stories. Which I can only assume is because there was no pressure to write them. I just sat down, dumped out my thoughts, vented my hidden bloodlusts and was done with it. I have this fear that if I start to edit my horror pieces more than a good once over I’ll just stop writing them.

But the biggie is… I have my novel out with agents and editors, waiting on a response. There is nothing I can do about that. Nothing. But somehow it puts extra weight on the other things like somehow if I just wrote more on my fantasy novel, or finished that rough draft, or finished editing my paranormal-scifi… somehow that would help my chances.

It’s like a noose just hanging over my head. Not doing anything but waiting to swoop down and destroy me at every moment. I feel like shouting ‘I can’t do this! I’m not strong enough, I give! I’m out.’

But I won’t, because I can’t. There is nowhere to go but forward. So I pile these projects around myself to keep busy and then I drown in them.

I’ve found myself wondering this week if it will always be like this. Will the possibility of rejection always hang this heavy? Why can’t I just find a way to find contentment in what I do have?

Speaking of…on a completely different note- my novel Deprivation is a fraction away from 20k views. I think all week that’s the thread I’ve been holding onto (and trying desperately to keep my brain from reminding me that 20k isn’t nearly 200k or 2 million… I really need a zapper to silence that voice.)

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