Sunday, May 22, 2011

When is it all too much?

Criticism that is. I have mentioned once or twice before that I belong to a monthly critique group. We dutifully send out our pages once a month, and despite moving and having no internet connection last week, I still piggy backed onto the public connection and got my pages out and did my crit.

So at what point do you get enough criticism? I ask as several things have prompted me to think about this.

  1. Firstly, last month we decided to close our crit group to new comers. 
  2. A few weeks ago there was a thread on Litopia where one of the members didn't make it to full member and she questioned how her writing was going to improve without input from other writers. 
  3. And lastly about a month ago, I agreed to be another writer's crit partner.
1. As a group we decided that we no longer wanted people to drop-in. While I think that a new perspective can make you relook at your work, there's something about a stable group. You can be gently coaxed into changing your whole WIP by a critique partner in a way that you may not be by someone who's just popped in for chapter 17. Another member of the group even mentioned something about too many partners sucking the life out of your piece. And for this reason, even though there is an evening group going, I'm going to leave the place open to others, because I think my little group is enough for now.

2. However, it was the crit group and a mentor who got me to where I am today, so how do you develop if you don't have the priviledge of having a crit group? But then again, sometimes, especially at the beginning, you need to have this belief that you can write anything. You need to believe that you can write that whole novel, and to have someone else tell you where you're going wrong may be exactly what you don't need. You need to be ready for the critique. For years I wasn't.

3. The last crit partner was taken on because the Frog is now sacked as my beta reader. I have this idea in my head that I needed someone else other than my group to read THE WHOLE THING again once I had revised it. The thing is I haven't finished revising it, so despite having mentioned that I would like a beta reader, I then got a bit worried about taking on a new partner. In the end it's worked out well, as my early chapters were holey and originally I thought the Frog was doing a good job (he was, but he also has another job and dealt with the whole buying a flat thing, which was kind of important and took up all his time).

Anyway, my point is that I think there is a point when all the criticism can be all too much. As my journey continues I think that this is what works for me: I need a stable group to help me through that difficult revision/first draft. People who will guide me to make the WIP better without jealousy or snobbery involved. Once the revision is done then I think an objective beta reader is a good idea. After all the agent you send it to is not going to be part of your critique group. I am veering more and more to the point of view that a small number is better than a large number of people. I also believe (sorry Frog) that that small group should be fellow writers.

And now, even though I've been super busy and neglecting you all recently, I'd love to know what you think.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Dirty little secrets and startling confessions

It's that time of year again where we're about to finish one class reader and we need to choose another. This should be fantastic and great and easy, but I just don't know what to pick. Yesterday I pulled down the dusty box labelled 'Book Club' and almost collapsed in shock when I saw the contents. Now I'm not saying that kids shouldn't read Geronimo Stilton, but is that what we want to read as a whole class. Puppy Place? Junie B. Jones? I don't think so.

I believe, that what we read to a whole class should be special. Sometimes the book we read as a class is the only chapter book some of these kids tackle all year. Because of that I think that we teachers have a responsibility to provide kids with examples of a high quality of literature.

The problem is it takes me so blooming long to choose.

My criteria is that the book should be:
  • timeless;
  • universal;
  • the words should sing off the page;
  • and...
  • I need to love it.
That's not much to ask is it?

So what would you recommend for 8-9 year olds? Oh! Hang on, you know that study that's just out saying that there aren't enough girl MC's and therefore gender inequalities are being reinforced, well can we add that to the criteria?

Cheers guys, looking forward to hearing your recommendations.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

A bit of a ramble...

Yesterday I started off my day by browsing Twitter and clicking on links and then some more, and then some more. I tell you this because yesterday there was no decorating or DIY. Nope, we have hung up our rollers and as one of my bosses used to say: "thrown some money at the problem." A nice little man is going to go and paint our walls on Monday. This is not to say that I've hung up my rollers for good. There will still be the hallway and entrée to do in the summer, but it's the size of a postage stamp (well 2 postage stamps). So, let me ramble on some more about what I've been reading.

Firstly, I spotted this very helpful article by Chuck Sambuchino. It's a link to five different articles about what makes something a Children's Book (Middle Grade in these articles) or YA. I was particularly drawn to this as when I first started my WIP I insisted on calling it 'tween! Just go and see what Kidlit has to say about that. Each article has a slightly different viewpoint and I found that I could pick a teensy weensy little fault in each person's reasoning, but on the whole each article furthered my understanding. I'm not going to summarise the articles, because I really want you to go and read them. They're good, go on.

See, they were good weren't they. So I spent the afternoon trying to write a synopsis of a page and failing, but safe in the knowledge that my WIP was a Children's book and my future WIP is YA. After having a last crack at the synopsis just before bedtime and shaving off a whole three lines, I had a last look at some links and came across this article by Katie Dale about happy endings. If you read through the comments everybody has a different opinion about whether teen fiction should have a happy ending and that was when I had my 'Aha!' moment. The whole way through my current WIP I've been a little uncomfortable about the happy ending. OK, it's not completely happy, there's death and separation, but on the whole, in my head, it's a happy ending. And for me that's what makes it a Children's book. Now in the YA to be written thing, I keep thinking, blooming hell that's a bit dark and while I suppose everything works out in the end, it certainly doesn't for the MC. The first time I wrote it I remember thinking that perhaps the ending was a little too dark. So, I've thrown in this little ray of hope, but it ain't for the MC. So, maybe as well as all the other factors that make a book Children's or YA, it's whether the ending is happy or not.

So with that, I shall leave you to go and do some more shaving and scraping to my synopsis. Oh and that's a picture of some chocolate cupcakes I made this morning with the bubba. She took one bite and decided she didn't like them! It's a good job I only had one egg and had to halve the recipe.


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