Critiques, Endorsements, and Reviews

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A beginning writer asked me what the difference is between critiques, reviews, and endorsements. 

Let’s review what each means in relation to the craft of writing:

Critiques: These are critical evaluations of a person’s literary work. If you are writing, you are likely to be in a critique group where you share your work in progress with other writers. You point out errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation. You also talk about sentence structure, characters, conversation, and many other aspects of the writing craft. The idea behind sharing critiques is to help your fellow writer. Think of these as peers helping each other.

Reviews:  a critical consideration of something. We are familiar with writing reviews of restaurants, businesses, and products. Movies, plays, and events are often reviewed. In regard to books, one writes a short analysis, stating positive and negative aspects of a person’s work. Sometimes the reviewer is also asked to rate the book in terms of “stars” or “happy faces.”

Endorsements: an act of giving one’s public approval or support to someone or something. Endorsements are often written on one of the first pages of a book or on the cover. These are often read by consumers prior to purchase to help them decided whether to buy a particular book—or not.

ECHOES

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Echoes are repetitious words and/or phrases an author may (usually unknowingly) use in their writing.

As an author, and a reader, this is one of the things that irritates me most.

Of all the words there are to choose from, there is no excuse to use the same few words/phrases over and over again.

In a recent book I read, the plot and characters were very enjoyable. However, the repetitious use of several phrases left me shaking my head.

Here are a few examples from that book:

…paused a beat.

…cast a gaze at…

…eyes sparkled.

I have an editing tool that I bought on the internet (see a previous post by me about ProWriting Aid) to help me avoid these pitfalls.

After my critique group gives their input, I do any necessary rewrites. It is at this point that I load my chapter into the tool.

The pages glow with highlighted repetitious words/phrases. Hovering my cursor over each one, I am given suggestions for substitutions. Often, I use these; but just as often, I click on the Thesaurus and choose one I like better.

Doing this, chapter by chapter, works better for me than waiting until the end of the book. Trying to do it that way one time made a believer of me. I will NEVER wait that long again. What a tedious endeavor!!!)

So, that’s the scoop on echoes.

As I finish off, I seem to recall writing about echoes previously. If you didn’t see that post, then this is new material for you.

If you did see it, then please pardon MY ECHO!

 

       

 

Mile Posts Along the Way

 

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Even the best books can seem unending unless they are broken up somehow so that there are little mile posts along the way…

We have talked before about separating our stories into chapters of varying lengths, with 20 pages being about average. Giving them titles is not necessary, but if done cleverly, they can add an element of interest.

We’ve reviewed Prologues (pre-stories telling about past events that are necessarily revealed in order to understand the present book); Epilogues (more rarely used than Prologues) that add something to the story or are used to segue into the next book in a series.

Let’s touch on the question of dividing a story into “PARTS.” 

In my reading, I have found that these designations can be used to divide radically different sections of a book and/or sudden changes in time, place, or narrators. For instance, The Early Years, Middle Years, Later Years; London, New York, The Bahamas; Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter; and so on. 

If you are writing an extremely long story, you may want to consider dividing your book into parts. You may also consider shortening it by making it a book in a series.

I got my idea for the Simon Says series from readers who wanted more about their favorite characters. So, each of the main characters is the focus of a book and each book is named after a children’s game: Simon Says (the original book) is the story of Marcus; Truth or Dare is actually Simon’s story; Tug of War has Ed as its main character; and Cat’s Cradle will be Mary’s (sometime in 2021).

If you are aware of other ways to divide stories, please share!

Triggering Human Emotions

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Alan’s mother died.

Lara walks her daughter, Lucy, to class on the first day of kindergarten.

Sharon and Scott celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

Events of our lives trigger human emotions.

They are the stuff stories are made of, and it is up to authors to use the right words, phrases, descriptions so that our readers will experience these events with all of the emotion as if they were right there, encountering them firsthand. 

Authors do this in many different ways:

  1. By providing appropriate settings- Perhaps using darker lighting, wind/rain, eerie sounds in instances of sadness such as death, defeat/loss of some sort, suspense, and so on. Light, sunshine, puffy clouds, a gentle breeze for scenes of romance, birth, success, etc.
  1. By providing appropriate sounds- Such as laughter, wind chimes, birds singing for happier scenes; screams, heavy breathing, howling for more suspenseful ones.
  1. By providing describing appropriate ‘touch’- Gripping, pounding, scraping are more emotionally charged for suspense; soft touch, patting, tender reassurances for more restful scenes.
  1. By using certain colors- Light pastels are more restful; red, orange, black are often used for scenes with more action… tenseness.

5.  Other things that can be varied, depending upon the purpose of a scene are:    smell, facial expression, voice, vocabulary, description of the characters’ bodies (tense shoulders…) Even teeth—and especially eye descriptions—add  add to the overall emotional feelings of each scene.

Emotions are all about the senses, so everything you would feel, see, hear—and the resulting tastes/sounds/smells (and I’m not talking about popcorn) on a movie screen is fair game for authors.

A quickened pulse or heartbeat… a churning stomach…

A good book to get you started toward creating an emotional journey for your reader is:  The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.

 

When Is The End Not Really “The End”?

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I just finished writing the last chapter of book three in my Simon Says series.  In my mind, I write the words “THE END” just like authors used to do (on paper) decades ago.

But when is “THE END” of a book not really “THE END”?

The way I view it, if your book is part of a series, then only the last book in that series can claim that declaration.

So, how should each book within the series “end”?

The end should be satisfying and feel like a conclusion, but then I suggest using the Epilogue to give hints of what is to come in the next book in the series.

The reader should be enticed to keep reading, but they should also feel confident that if they don’t, the current book has concluded in the best way possible.

I use the Prologue to introduce Book One and its Epilogue to segue into the second book and so on through out the entire series. 

When the last book is written, its Epilogue may have a little more of a finish than the others, but personally, I like leave the door slightly ajar, so that if I want to pick up the story again and write another book in the future, I can do so.

For Auld Lang Syne

 

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Many of us sang poet Robert Burns’ song “Auld Lang Syne” on January first.

Almost no one, however, remembers that those famous words mean “days gone by.” (I looked it up).

A friend tells me that she doesn’t like to read books that require her to keep a dictionary nearby so she can look up unfamiliar words.

She likes to read fiction for pleasure.

I found out that only half of Americans read at an Eighth Grade reading level.

And get this, when reading for fun and relaxation, people prefer to read TWO GRADE LEVELS BELOW what they are capable of reading.

You may want to keep this fact in mind if you are beginning to write a new book this year. In fact, I would suggest that before you publish the one you are currently writing, you pare down any difficult vocabulary.

Make your book a pleasurable read!

 

Writing Acuity

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Most of us look ahead to the coming year–2020. This one, especially, since it is historic—number-wise, at least. 

Many of us set goals for the coming year, so I decided to clarify just what 20/20 means in relation to eyesight.

20/20 is considered “normal” vision when measured on a Snellen visual acuity chart. It is a Fighter pilot minimum. It is required to read stock quotes in the newspaper, numbers in a telephone book and (in almost all states) to drive a car without the restriction of eye-glasses on one’s license.

However, 20/20 is not perfect. 20/15 and 20/10 are even better.

Should 20/20 be our writing goal for the coming year? 

Well, if you are content to be “normal” or average, then aim for 20/20. But if you are intent on raising your game, then a goal of 20/15 or 20/10 might be worth striving for.

So, what would 20/15 or 20/10 writing look like?

Imagine exciting “show-don’t-tell” writing, colorful adjectives, stimulating conversation, vivid imagery.

Imagine superior editing, unique style, interesting characters with real depth.

You get the idea.

If our personal goal is to be the best we can be, if our writing goal is to achieve more in the coming year than in the last, then we cannot settle for average. 

We cannot be content with what we’ve achieved thus far.

We must set our sites on a “writing acuity” that will reflect excellence in the year ahead.