Writing With A Critique Partner

(note: I realise I’ve been posting quite a lot about the writing process since I returned to blogging. I suppose it’s because, when I was on my blog break, I spent most of it writing. However, don’t worry – I’ll still be wandering stone circles and photographing canal boats and weird doors and writing stories and generally rambling about stuff that occurs to me – I’m just taking a bit of time getting back into my blogging stride. Anyway, please enjoy this post – my critique partner is the duck’s guts, as my Aussie husband would say. Trust me, that’s a good thing…)

In my previous post, Stepping Into A Writers World, I mentioned that, when writing books, I work with a critique partner.

A critique partner is different than a beta reader. My beta readers are all wonderful people with whom I’ve shared my finished drafts, fingers crossed for their feedback. They are a vital part of my writing process.

However, my critique partner (who happens to be a kickass writer herself), works with me as I’m writing my story, and I do the same for her. We talk through plot points and help each other along when we get stuck, to a point where we know each other’s fictional worlds almost as well as we know our own. We make suggestions, edit sections of text for flow, clarity and plot points, and generally chivvy each other along until we get to the end of the first draft.

The idea behind working like this is to avoid major plot issues and ensure the story flows well before we get to the editing stage. We both work with professional editors who charge based on the number of hours they work, so providing a document that’s as polished as possible makes good financial sense, as well as, hopefully, making our own editing process shorter. Perhaps most importantly, a critique partner is a fresh pair of eyes. We can get so caught up in our own worlds that we miss important threads – a critique partner, who knows your story almost as well as you do, can help you see where you may have missed tying up a loose end, or had one of your characters do something, well, out of character.

If you find yourself a decent critique partner, tie them to you using magic spells or bribery or whatever means you have available, and DON’T LET THEM GO! Haha, just kidding.

Sort of.

Seriously, a good critique partner, one who ‘gets’ your writing and is willing to spend time working on your book with you, is worth their weight in rubies. If you can set up a relationship whereby you critique each other’s work, then all the better – the process then becomes a learning opportunity for both of you.

Of course, you can write a first draft perfectly well without a critique partner, and some people may not feel comfortable sharing their work at such an early stage. We’re all on different creative paths, so what works for one writer may not work for another. However, if you are looking for someone to work with, a good start would be within your circle of writer friends, perhaps with someone you feel has a similar writing style to your own.

Writing a book is hard work. But, with a critique partner along for the ride, you may find the journey a little bit easier.


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

 

The Wednesday Review: Under Stone by Helen Jones (The Ambeth Chronicles #4)

A lovely review for Under Stone, the fourth book in my Ambeth series 🙂 Thank you so much, Darque Dreamer!

The Mermaid Behind the Books

The Book:

side+crop+of+paperback+image+TSTME (1)Book Title: Under Stone

Book Author:Helen Jones

Genre: YA Sci-Fi/ Dystopian

Publishing Date: December 31st, 2017

Publisher: Pendry Publishing

Synopsis: ‘Help will come to you, Alma, you will not be alone.’

Accepting her new powers hasn’t been easy for Alma. Nor has finding out the truth about her father. And she’s still not sure about the prophecy, or about going back to Ambeth. But the Dark are gathering, Denoris on her trail. Deryck hasn’t forgotten about her either…

Events past and present converge on a small Welsh town as Alma, and the Dark, choose their path. Who will reach the Cup first?

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January Divider

The Review:

What I have loved most about this series is the fact that with each book the characters and story develop and change. Each book has offered some sort of emotional story-line, but…

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Stepping Into A Writer’s World

In my recent post, A Season for Writing, I wrote about the fact that I’d started a new WIP set in California, and that I could almost feel the sunshine.

And the more I think about it, the more it seems to me that this feeling of place, of inhabiting the world where my characters live, is the way I know that my story has ‘legs.’

I don’t know about you guys, but I get story ideas all the time. Walking down the street, at the airport, in the shower. Some become stories, but others, for now, remain fragments, nothing more than a few sentences.

I’m not a plotter – I don’t sit down and write detailed plot graphs and chapter plans. I tried it once, but my characters didn’t like it and decided to run off in an entirely different direction. I knew then that it wasn’t for me. I’m envious of people who can plan their books that way – though I love the excitement of flying by the seat of my pants when writing a new story, there are moments when I have no idea what will happen next, or whether I can bring things to a speedy conclusion, and a nicely plotted graph would be very helpful. However, when I can ‘see’ my characters and their surroundings clearly, I take it as a signpost that all will be well.

Instead, when I start a new story, I take one of the little fragments – an idea, a couple of characters, a key event – and I start writing. I don’t think about it too much, because if I squeeze the idea too tightly it won’t be able to race forward, dragging me along with it. It’s quite a balancing act, caring just enough that the story knows you’re interested, but not so much it decides to quit, or run off with someone else. (If you’ve read Big Magic you’ll know what I’m talking about). And sometimes it goes nowhere – I don’t get that magic tickle in my stomach and fingers, I’m not thinking about the characters when I’m out walking. But sometimes, a world starts to spring up around me. Scenes and characters appear, almost as though they’ve been waiting for me to shout ‘Action!’, one scene linking into the next. I find myself thinking about the new story world at odd times, little snippets coming to me. And that’s when I know I’m on my way.

And so it is with this new WIP. I’ve been working on it for a little while, up to almost 10K words now, and I confess I did get slightly stuck at one point, but a chat with my critique partner (which will be another blog post) soon got things going again. And now that I can hear the surf, feel the sunshine and see the streets of the (fictional) town where my characters live, I know it’s going to be okay. That the story will unfurl for me. Because that’s how it’s always been. Whether I’m wandering the green woods of Ambeth, the beach Heaven in A Thousand Rooms, or the near-future world of The Last Raven, as long as I know where I am, I can see a way forward.

And maybe that’s how life is, sometimes, too.

How about you? How do you know when a story has ‘legs’? Are you a Planner, or a Pantser, or something in between?


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

 

Around The World and Back Again

Getting back into this blogging thing is easier said than done, I’m finding. And it probably hasn’t helped that I’ve been away for the past three weeks on the other side of the world. Apologies for being late getting back to comments, too!

So, where have I been?

Back to my husband’s native Australia, to see family and friends we’ve not visited for seven years. It’s a trip that was a long time coming, house renovations and life getting in the way of previous plans to visit.

I confess, I was a little bit nervous about going back. Australia is a wonderful place, and there are a lot of people I love living there. But it’s a VERY LONG flight, and I’m not the biggest fan of flying. Plus, I found that, despite all the work I’ve done sorting myself out over the past few years, it turned out there was a bit of emotion to unpack about the idea of heading back to the place where I lived for seventeen years. As I said to friends when we were there, I have three passports and a lot of issues.

People often comment to me that I’ve lived such an interesting life, moving around the world, travelling and seeing different places. And I agree – I’ve been so fortunate to have lived in some wonderful parts of the world. But that has come at the price of roots, of continuity, of having a place that feels so familiar that, no matter where you are in the world, it feels like home. All the moving around I’ve done (24 different addresses, six different cities, three continents) has left me with a deep desire for a place that is mine, that won’t change and doesn’t move, where I know everyone and they know me. Returning to live in the UK seven years ago was full circle for me, both physically and metaphorically, as it’s where I was born, and where I feel most at home. Living in Australia was wonderful, definitely, but it was also tough, as I was (literally) half a world away from many of the people I loved most. Going back there brought with it a whole host of emotions and I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t going to stay there, that I was coming back.

That sounds awful, doesn’t it? As though I hated the place so much I couldn’t bear to stay there. This is not the case at all. If you’ve been to Australia you’ll know how beautiful it is, how blue the water, how bright the sky. Some of my best friends in the world live there, as well as family. It’s a country I truly love.

So, once I’d worked through all of that, I was able to face the flight with less stress and, when we finally touched down in Melbourne, I could enjoy the city for how wonderful it is. Our first day was a perfect Melbourne day – seeing family, walking through the Botanic Gardens to the National Gallery of Victoria to have lunch and see the Escher exhibition (quite a mind-blowing experience with jetlag), then dinner that evening with dear friends. And so the days unfolded, one beautiful experience after another, but each of them then tempered with goodbyes. And that, perhaps, is the key to my struggle. The endless round of goodbyes.

Well! This started out as a post to say hey, I’m back from my trip, but it’s turned into something quite different. As you can see from the photos, I had a fantastic trip in a wonderful part of the world. However, I’m glad to be back home again now (and I will be getting to comments, too!).

If you’re in the UK, here’s wishing you all a lovely holiday weekend. Also, May the Fourth be with you 😉 (Yeah, I said it.)

xx

Puppy Love

The past few months have been a busy time, working on my book and generally getting through life. However, we’ve also had a new addition to the household, a small ball of fluff and love and chaos – Cookie the cockapoo.

Cookie is now ten months old – we’ve had her since she was eight weeks and, it’s fair to say, there was a bit of an adjustment period at first. Someone once said, ‘It’s a good thing puppies are cute, or else you’d give them away,’ and, even though she is very cute, I won’t say I wasn’t tempted in the first few weeks of biting and pooping and piddles and mess – it was like having a new baby again and, as my gorgeous girl is almost a teenager, I’d thought those days were long behind me.

However, she has wiggled and waggled her way into all our hearts, despite chewing everything she can get her snout on, her propensity for stealing cloths and socks, and her desire to wipe her dirty face all over us. She is, as are most dogs, full of love, wanting nothing more than to curl up close to us whenever she can. She is small for a cockapoo, her fur still puppy soft, and sometimes her paws smell like popcorn. I am, in short, smitten.

She is taking puppy classes, sitting like a very good girl in a windy field as our ex-police dog trainer tells us what to do next. She’s not doing too badly either, despite her kangaroo jumps of excitement and need to play with every other dog in the class whenever possible. We take long walks along the canal and around our neighbourhood, exploring streets I’ve not walked down before, meeting squirrels and cats and birds and people, all of whom she greets with the same level of enthusiasm.

I realised I’d become quite insular once I’d gone back to writing full time, staying home most days to wander vampire halls and dream of darkness. Cookie has taken me out into the world again. Since having her, I’ve spoken to more new people than I have in years; a dog, it seems, is an instant ice-breaker. We even have our ‘regulars’, now – people who know her by name and look forward to seeing her come past, often giving her treats. She’s a jammy pup, that’s for sure!

While it may have been a slightly shaky start, Cookie has brought a great deal of love and joy into our family. Someone else once said, ‘You don’t get what you want, you get what you need.’ And I think we needed her as much as she needed us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

A Season For Writing

I’ve recently, after months spent editing and tweaking my vampire novel, started a new WIP. I felt a bit rusty at first, a bit unsure. I knew I could write books, but actually doing so, letting the story pull me along, was something I hadn’t done for a while. So I started slowly, trying not to force it, trying to remember how it felt to let things just flow instead of agonising over each sentence.

A blogger friend once wrote about there being seasons in writing. A season for editing, a season for planning, a season for writing. This resonated with me (well, not so much the planning part, as I’m a dedicated Pantser, but certainly the rest of it). It seems as though I’ve just come out of a very long season of editing and submitting, the wheel swinging around to writing again. I’m very happy about it.

Another blogger friend said recently, and I’m paraphrasing slightly, that I’m at my best when I’m writing. And maybe she’s right. I certainly enjoy creating – there really is nothing like the fire and excitement of a first draft, when the words just flow from my fingers, the story unfurling in my mind. I tend not to write scenes in any particular order – I just start with an idea and see where it takes me, enjoying the revelations that come with each scene, the puzzle of knitting all the threads together.

Way, way back, at the very beginning of my blogging days, I wrote about unearthing stories. This idea was based upon something Stephen King wrote in ‘On Writing’. He described finding stories as ‘unearthing a fossil,’ and, as soon as I read those words, I could see mine. This is what I wrote back in 2014:

Can still see them, poking out from the forest floor, delicate carapaces of bone or polished wood, it’s hard to tell as I unearth even more of them. One is almost clear of the ground, the story complete, just a bit of polishing required. The others are still offering up new discoveries, new aspects every time I look at them, whether it is a change of only a few words or a whole new idea. But the important thing is that I keep looking at them, keep exploring the angles, the nooks and crevices, until the job is done, the story told.

I’ve unearthed quite a few more since that original post, with five books now published and one more written, but the lovely thing is that I’m still finding them. My new WIP is set on the California coast just near Monterey, and I swear I feel as though I’ve been there just from writing about it; I can almost feel the California sunshine.

That’s the beauty of both reading and writing, I suppose – when this world seems a bit too much, we can escape somewhere else. I’m glad this season has taken me back to California – wonder where it will take me next?

How about you? Do you find your writing also falls into different ‘seasons’? Or do you work on everything at once?


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Five Reasons I Enjoy Blogging

 

Going to start blogging again, I said. Going to write those posts regularly, I told myself. But getting back into the habit, both of checking comments and writing new posts, is taking a little bit of time. However, onwards and upwards!

Blogging has (and I’ve said this before) literally changed my life. I’ve made some of my best friends in the world through blogging, as well as becoming a published author. I’m also a committee member for the annual Blogger’s Bash in London (coming up June 15thdo you have your ticket yet?), which has broadened my blogging and social media circle even further.

So, being a bit stuck for a blog topic, I thought I might tie in to my committee work and make a shameless plug for our Bash Blog Post competition. Each year we run a themed post competition, and this year, as it’s our fifth year of operation, the theme is ‘Five’.

I thought I’d keep things simple with a short list:

Five reasons I enjoy blogging

  1. The words. I love writing, and I know for a fact that regular blogging has made me a better writer
  2. The knowledge. There are blogs covering just about any subject under the sun. If you’re interested in it, chances are someone is blogging about it. And hey, if they’re not, there’s a niche for you.
  3. The inspiration. There are loads of fab writing prompts in blogland. In fact, The Last Raven, my book currently out to submission with an agent, started life as a writing prompt over on Ali Isaac’s blog.
  4. The experiences. From wandering hillsides with Sue Vincent to meeting bloggers in London at the Bloggers Bash, blogging has led me to experiences I might never have otherwise had
  5. The people. The best bit, to be honest 🙂

And that’s it! As the competition is restricted to posts of 375 words or less, I need to wind up. However, if you’d like to enter, entry is £5, first prize is a £50 Amazon gift card, with £15 and £10 cards to second and third place respectively. For more details, or to enter, click here – but only until March 24th!

Happy blogging x