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.

 

Wednesday Wander – El Peix, Barcelona

I’ve been to Barcelona twice, and both times I visited the beach. Yet, before I visited, I’d never thought of Barcelona as a ‘beach’ city. To me it was a place of dance and food and architecture, home to Gaudi, one of my favourite architects. I knew it was on the coast, but Barceloneta beach was an unexpected delight.

On my second visit we spent half a day or so there, hubby and the gorgeous girl in and out of the water as we looked for shells and soaked up the sunshine, eating fresh paella at one of the many seafront cafes before returning to our hotel sandy and happy. We also took a walk along the wooden boardwalk, heading towards an unusual structure we could see gleaming golden  in the distance.

It turned out to be El Peix, a golden fish sculpture created by renowned Canadian architect Frank O. Gehry for the 1992 Olympics. Built as a canopy to link a hotel, casino and restaurants, it’s now one of Barcelona’s most well-known landmarks.

It’s not the only Gehry we’ve seen – in Seattle we spent a wonderful day at the EMP, marvelling at the colours and curves of the extraordinary building. It seemed fitting to see another piece of his work in Barcelona – Gehry, like Gaudi a century earlier, twists shape and form to challenge what can be done architecturally, creating structures like no other. We’re heading to Bilbao this summer and I’m very much looking forward to seeing the Guggenheim there, another of his famous works.

But for now I’ll leave you with Barcelona beach palms against a brilliant blue sky, a memory of a golden day. Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

 

 

Walking A Tangled Path

img_2083I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog front of late. Partly because I think I’m still recovering from the Thirty Day Writing Challenge, partly because I’ve actually been recovering from a nasty lingering cold that’s been running rampant around here (even the Queen had it), and partly because I’ve been trying to untangle the structure of Under Stone, the fourth book in my Ambeth series.

I wrote the first draft of Under Stone more than three years ago. Since then it’s undergone quite a few edits and rewrites, then was sidelined for a while as I worked on other projects. Now that A Thousand Rooms is out I’m free to roam the forests once more, but the path to this story is still quite tangled.

As the fourth book in the series, Under Stone pulls together a lot of the plot lines set out in books one to three, so I’ve had to do a quick re-read of those books and make sure that I’ve covered everything. Even though Ambeth, the characters, their motivations and their plot lines all live in my head, there are small details I’ve added here and there that I need to keep track of. So far, so good. However, the story itself also needed re-ordering, so I’ve been shuffling scenes around and, in some cases, deleting them.

Making this slightly more complex is the fact that Ambeth deals with multiple character viewpoints. I know, right? A six book series told from the point of view of multiple characters. *shakes head* Also there’s a time twisting element, which sometimes is useful and sometimes really annoying (for the writer), as I have to keep track of what is happening when in two different worlds. But oh, I love it. I love the stories and the characters, and I love it when it all comes together and I can feel the flow. I guess that’s part of the reason I write, for that feeling – it’s a little bit like joy.

I think I’m pretty close to being done now. In fact, I’m hoping I might even be able to get it out to beta readers by the end of this month. So I’ll continue to slash and burn, moving branches and reshuffling scenes, forging a new path through the tangles in the hope I reach my destination soon.

How about you? When you write a story, do you then play around with the order of events to get the best flow? And, if you’ve written a series, how do you keep track of everything? (Notes. It’s notes, isn’t it? I really ought to make more notes when I’m writing.)


If you enjoyed this post, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

 

#WritePhoto – A Glimpse of Ambeth

Sue's Tower Prompt

The ground began to rise beneath them, their horses’ hooves thundering as they entered the pass leading towards Etras’ stronghold, a castle set high among the crags. Pointed towers of grey stone rose above a solid keep, black flecks swirling around one of the towers. The faint shrieking of winged Watchers could be heard, growing louder as they drew near.

‘Are you ready?’ asked Denoris, pitching his voice to carry above the sound of their approach. Gwenene glanced at him briefly, a flick of dark hair and sapphire eyes, but did not slow her pace.

‘I am.’


When I saw Sue’s #writephoto prompt for this week, I couldn’t believe how well it tied into a scene from book four of my Ambeth Chronicles, when Dark Elders Denoris and Gwenene are headed for the mountains, hoping for help from an old friend. And so I thought I’d share it as part of the photo prompt – just a small glimpse of Ambeth, as I’ve yet to publish this instalment.

If you’ve read the first two books, you might have an idea of who Etras is, and why the Elders might want to visit him. And if you haven’t – well, what are you waiting for? 🙂 Click the links and start the journey.

It’s Wednesday, right?

IMG_1753

I’ve written before about unearthing stories.

About how exciting it is, seeing them emerge from the ground, the twists and turns revealed as you dig deeper.

But this latest story, the one I thought complete and clear, just needing a final polish? Well, it’s not so complete, after all. Instead, it’s as though I’ve broken it and am now re-assembling the pieces, leaving out some that have turned out to be unnecessary and adding new pieces found hiding in the fertile soil. It’s a lengthy and complicated process, but I have to stick with it until the job is done.

In other words, this structural edit is driving me crazy! 🙂

Onwards…

 

The Perils Of Being A Pantser

A tangle of ideas...
This is what writing looks like to a Pantser…

I’ve said this before – I am a Pantser. When I start writing I have an idea, maybe a couple of characters and an end point but not much idea of what happens in between. But off I go anyway, letting the story pull me forward, sometimes finding what the characters choose to do or not do as surprising as if someone else had written the story. It can be an exhilarating feeling, words coming from my fingers as fast as I can type them, the story pouring onto the page.

Oh, I’ve tried the whole planning thing, laying out the chapters and what I expect to have happen to each character, the whole thing building to a neat and tidy solution. But then I start to write and the characters come to me, pulling my hair back to whisper in my ear, tapping me on the shoulder during my morning walk.

‘we would never do that’

‘I’m actually interested in this other character’

‘this happened to me as well’

‘I’m not such a bad guy’

And I have to give in, knowing in my heart, or that spot under the breastbone where such feelings reside, that what they are saying is absolutely true. That they know, better than I do, it will all work out in the end.

Only thing is, writing like this makes structure a bit of an unwieldy beast. I’m wrestling with it at the moment as I make a final structural edit to No Quarter before sending it to my editor. I feel like an old time lion tamer with my chair and whip, shouting at all the paragraphs to get it together and make sense, dammit, while they roar and claw at the air, unhappy to be pushed around. But we’re getting there. I’ve had to add a few extra scenes, plus realised there was a whole section where time of day and weather were pushed aside, when they actually needed to be part of things. And as it’s the second part in a serial, more threads are coming into the weave, new characters and storylines taking their place in the story.

I confess, I do have my moments where I wish it was all laid out in front of me as orderly notes. I’ve gone as far as to write a small list of some of the main characters, just for continuity’s sake. And I have a small pile of paper with notes scribbled on, various colours of pen, which I refer to as I bring it all together. But that’s as far as the planning goes, I’m afraid.

So how does your writing garden grow? Is it orderly rows of well planned chapters, or a wilderness of tangled plotlines you struggle to pull into place?

PS I am looking forward to Eurovision tonight – how about you?!