Thursday, February 28, 2008

You can't write that!

I've been writing for years. Years and years and years. Until September 2006 I never submitted my work. I'm not just talking about publication--I'm talking about anything. No one other than the odd friend or relative ever read anything that I wrote. And then the house hunk challenged me to, uh, pee or get off the pot. So, mostly on a dare, I flamboyantly e-mailed off my submission, knowing deep down in my most secret heat that it would never see the light of day.


Well, somebody read it. For all I know, maybe even several somebodies. And they offered me a contract. Since then, I've almost adjusted to the process of editing. Almost. I don't grind my teeth anymore when my patient editor points out that things do NOT happen "all of a sudden"--they happen suddenly. Fifty years of countryisms is hard to shake off. But I try.

One of the things that I started doing after that was to take part in critique groups. I love to participate in critique groups. Currently, I belong to two "formal" groups and then I have a couple of friends that give an on-the-spot assessment when I hit a rough spot.

The secret to a critique is the commitment of the individuals. You might think that I would not want to hear that my work sucks hairy eyeballs. Not true. If it does, then I really want to know about it. That's the only way I can fix it. Thanks to my critique groups I've avoided some terrible clumps of writing.

My favorite critique of all time was one about a love scene. The critiquer said, "You want me to believe they love each other? I don't believe you. There is nothing to show me that they love each other and telling me is just paying lip service to romance." I went back and took a hard look at that scene and tore it apart. Rewrote. Rewrote.

And then when I was satisfied with that one, I went back and looked at all the other "love" scenes in that book. That particular scene is one that's received several very positive comments. Readers talk about how romantic and loving it was.

But that wasn't the only benefit of that critique. I took her words to heart and look at every love scene with new eyes. I ask myself if I've sufficiently demonstrated that the participants are not only having sex, but that they are "making love". There is a difference.

One of my current works in progress is titled Bishop Restart. Yep, that's exactly what I did. I set aside the first attempt and restarted it after all three of my critique partners admitted they had NO idea what the story was about, who the main characters were, or even where the story was taking place. Oops.

I started over, paying attention to all the pointers they listed. Something still didn't quite jell so I asked my friend, a professional proofreader to have a look. She read through the three chapters I had and then pointed out my fatal error. Other writers may have trouble with long-windedness. I have the opposite problem. I've spent so many years trying to say the most with the least amount of words, that I sometimes cut more corners than necessary or desirable. My friend said that I wasn't giving enough information. I was skipping part of the "who, what, where, when, why". Oops.

My English classes were so long ago that I no longer remember what I learned about the formal art of writing. POV--point of view is a huge mystery to me. Thank goodness most of my writing is instinctive because for the life of me, I can't see the "head-hopping" that I occasionally break into. My critique partners take me by the hand and point out the error of my ways. Sigh. I like to know what everybody is thinking! Oops.

I read a blog where a bunch of different people critiqued a blurb. One critiquer mentioned that there were too many gerunds. Picture me mystified. I had to find a book that explained all about gerunds. Then I went back to look at my work and found it positively peppered with gerunds. Oh no! I was appalled that I was breaking the gerund rule! Oops.

Don't you just love the way some people use a word over and over. Just as you think it might be a little quirk, they just toss it in the next sentence. In fact, they use it so much that you could just scream. Well, don't just stand there. Speak up or they might just keep doing it! Oops!

I want to thank every single one of the brave men and women who willingly critique my work and tell me the low-down, nitty-gritty truth about my writing. You're the best.


I believe in promoting humor, education, and thought-provoking commentary. So check out Kelly's blog at and Amarinda's Place at ! Blessings on your day!


  1. Yep, I do the gerund thing - I had to look it up first to make sure I was guilty of it even though I was fairly sure I would be. I also split infinitives all over the place. No wonder out editor is driven to drink

  2. I feel the same way you do about my crit group. And like the rest of you, will have to look up gerund. I'm a modifier dangler and a infinitive splitter.

  3. Anny, you writing is great. I love your voice. And the voice of an author is what keeps me going back to her books.

    I've been in big critique groups. I even coordinated two of them and critiqued up to ten submissions a day, and then sort of retire after my first book was contracted.
    Critique partners are a blessing. Mine are wonderful. But it took us time to find each other. They put me back in place when they feel my French accent in my writing.

  4. My editor's favorite note seems to be "Word Rep." I like to do things softly, 7 times, in one paragraph.



  5. I love my critique group. We've learned so much together.

    I'd like to thank your critique group too. Your writing rocks!

  6. I freely admit that I've forgotten more about high school grammer than I remember. Thankfully, most of it seemed to have stuck.

    I tend to use the same word over and over within a paragraph. Plus, like you, I can be sparse at times. I had one book that I handed to my reader--that would be my hubby. *g*

    When it came back, with tons of red marks and questions, he told me he didn't like the hero. We started talking and I poured out why the hero acted the way he did. Hubby looked and me and said, "Well, the reader doesn't know that."

    My original chapter one became chapter four as I wrote three new chapters to give some back action so that the hero's actions make sense. I rewrote that book more than any other one I've ever done. I was almost sick of it by the time I finally handed it in to my editor. LOL

    It was well worth the extra work though. I really love that book.

  7. What a great blog. If it weren't for my critique group, nothing I wrote would ever have been suitabkle to publish. God, the things I learned. Even now as Iw rite I hear their voices in my ear. Anny, you sooo hit the nail on the head here. Good job.

  8. Anny, your work never sucks big hairy rocks. But we all need those extra pairs of eyes, don't we? Thank YOU for being one of mine!

  9. I belonged to a critique group several years ago when I lived in California. Those ladies helped me so much, I can't imagine how I ever wrote anything without them. One of those ladies now lives 60 miles from me here in Texas. She's an amazing critique partner and catches things that I simply don't see.

    "What do you mean, the hero doesn't loves her? It's right there!"

    "No, it isn't. You're telling me he loves her, but you haven't shown me why."

    And she's absolutely right.

    I live in a small town with no writing group close to me. My close friend and another good friend who critiques my work via email are my salvation. My work wouldn't be nearly as polished without their help.

    I believe every writer needs someone to critique his/her work. We get so close to our babies we can't see when something doesn't work. Another set of eyes is always a good thing. Even when those eyes are part of someone with a nasty red pen.


  10. I'm sure I wouldn't be published today without my critique group. The hard part for me was getting emotion into my work. Two of my critique partners would write "And how does she FEEL about that?" "What is his REACTION?" all over my pages until I got the idea.
    In return, I've helped them with plot points.

  11. It's true a good critique partner is worth their weight in gold. In fact I credit my first critique partner with my first sale. Her continual "why does she feel that way?", "how does he feel?" pushed me to dig deeper. We wrote a great article together about "how to critique", which is on my website.

    But, I'm going to be the odd one out here, and I say that mostly I work on my own without a critique partner.

  12. I was in a wonderful critique group for years but dropped out recently owing to family commitments. The discipline of producing 2500 words of a WIP every two weeks helped me focus. I miss the group but am glad not to feel pressured. I'll ask one of my writing friends to read my work before sending it out but that won't be for awhile. I'm slacking off and revising a historical romance to keep my busy and out of trouble. Thanks for the interesting blog.

  13. Shelley, you're not alone. I've sent two chapters off to be critiqued, and was pleased with the results.

    I need a nasty red pen on the next one I send.

  14. I helped form the critique group for the San Antonio Romance Authors and founded the group for the Diamond State Romance Authors.

    I absolutely believe a writer needs another set of objective eyes to find the grammar errors, the lazy seques into "telling" vs. "showing", the missing motivations, and the word repetition, which I know is one of my major downfalls.

    BTW, Anny, do a search on "just"--LOL

  15. Thanks to everyone who commented!

    Delilah, the list is endless... That was "just" the one that I could fit in that sentence. Deep, only, ever, now, then, ....

  16. I also have a great critique group. I have one friend who is the King of grammar and punctuation but for whom my publisher's style is a bane. He says it's an excuse to kill off the semicolon. I have one who is my Huh? person. If she doesn't get something, I know I've been thinking ahead of the reader again. And I have my could Tab A really fit in Slot B in that way person. She points out when I push too fast, go too slow or just use something that pulls the reader out of the story. Most recently it was antlers. (Don't ask)

  17. Critique groups are invaluable. I know it's hard to hear criticisms of our babies, but better our critique partners find and help us correct anything wrong, rather than our editors.

  18. Danglies...sigh. That's my big challenge - those damned dangling modifiers. My crit partners know it's my weakness and kindly leave me alone about it. They concentrate on the story and whether I'm making them 'feel' it, and leave the grammar to my editor ;D

    My critters (as lovingly call them) tear me a new one, which is what I want. They get to the point of what they're trying to say and make it clear when something isn't clicking. But they also are just as vocal when something really works for them and they love it *smooches to 'em*

    So have a great weekend, all of you, and especially to all my fellow DMs out there *tj saluting all the danglies of the world*