Ramblings from the Desert

The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either. ~Benjamin Franklin

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Location: New Mexico

Author of the urban fantasy novel, The Music of Chaos, and the paranormal romance, The Canvas Thief.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Diary of a Critters Critiquer

MONTH ONE:
Oh, this is so much fun. Last week I critiqued three stories. This week I'm going for four.

MONTH TWO:
I've critiqued at least three stories a week. The experience is helping me look at my work with a critical eye. V. helpful. Looking over this week's offerings. Maybe I'll do an RFDR (novel reading). Here's one. This looks promising.

MONTH FOUR:
Oh, dear. First chapter of novel RFDR I chose was great, but the rest...goodness was this even written by the same writer? Still keeping up the three critiques a week rate, however.

MONTH FIVE:
Finished RFDR. Um, yay me. It was longish to say the least. A real challenge but I think I found a way to politely and diplomatically say that it needed a lot of work.

After note: Writer has written back a long, very polite explanation of why novel is long, why nothing happens for the first 200 pages, etc. Hmmm. Am I supposed to change my assessment? Don't understand.

MONTH SIX:
Just read a horror story where nasty guy slaughters a bunch of people in the first scene. Gory, but really dull. Open up a Stephen King novel/short story. What's King's trick? Character, yep. Makes me either care about the victims or gets me deep in nasty guy's head. This story does neither. Now to express that di-plo-ma-tic-lly.

MONTH SEVEN:
Read a horror story where nasty guy slaughters a bunch of people in the first scene. Er, didn't I critique something just like this a while ago? Don't know what to say...except exactly the same thing I said last time.

Look for a different story on Critters' queue.

Still critiquing an average of three stories a week.

MONTH EIGHT:
Reading one of this week's stories. Ho-hum. Weird dialogue.

"Mary. What are you doing?" he asked.

"You are a jerk, Bob. A jerk! I hate you! I'm leaving," yelled Mary.

Whoa, whoa. Where did that outburst come from? Dear Writer, perhaps the dialogue could have a few contractions. Does Mary have to be so shrill? Story is also all "tell" with very little "show," for example...

MONTH NINE:
Have a group of regulars, whose work I critique and vice versa. But I like to expand my horizons, critique outside the box. Pick a name I don't recognize. Story features a female protagonist, young, pretty, thin. Protag is being victimized by a cruel slave owner/father/brother/dragon/INSERT VILLAIN HERE. Loads of bad things happen to her. She suffers and suffers.

Hmm. Why am I not moved? Do much thinking. Oh. Because she really isn't a character, just a suffering blob. And she isn't doing much to get herself out of the situation.

After note: Writer politely notes that that is the point of the story/novel excerpt. She is supposed to be the helpless victim. But in Chapter Twelve she will start to take control of her life.

Er, okay, whatever.

MONTH TEN:
Have just completed another RFDR. Again, it started out as one kind of story, meandered for 400 pages and ended as another story altogether. Pen very polite and nice critique.

Still doing at least three critiques a week.

After note: Writer has written back a long, very polite explanation of why novel is long, why nothing happens for the first 200 pages, etc. If writer didn't want my opinion, if novel is sooo shiny perfect, why the hell did he/she send it out for critique? Hmmm. Perhaps his/her Mom would be a better audience?

MONTH ELEVEN:
On the "trying new writers" kick, read another story about a hapless young girl/woman (is it just me, or is there a Lolita thing happening?). Same sich as before, lots of misery and angst, but protagonist is milquetoast bland.

After note: Writer politely notes that that is the point of the story/excerpt. She is supposed to be the helpless victim. But in Chapter Twelve she will start to take control of her life. I think, Well, yeah, but I need a reason to read to Chapter Twelve.

MONTH TWELVE:
Hmmm. Written several more of my own stories and getting going on two novels. Seem to be down to two critiques a week. Sign up for another RFDR to amp up percentage.

MONTH THIRTEEN:
Crap, has it been another week already?

MONTH FOURTEEN:
Hmmm. Haven't I critiqued this guy/gal's work before? Looks familiar. Same God-awful dialogue.

"Mary. Here is your birthday present."

"But, Bob. I do not want a new necklace. You do not understand me at all."

Yipes. Here's a quarter. Go buy some contractions. And the story is all "tell" and no "show." I feel like a broken record. Crap. Can't say that. How to be polite, polite. Argh.

MONTH FIFTEEN:
Finish RFDR and pen polite, yawn, critique. Receive, predictably, looong explanation as to why nothing happens in first 200 pages, etc. O-kay, Mr./Ms. Writer. Prove me wrong. Sell that bad boy to anyplace that isn't a vanity press.

MONTH SIXTEEN:
Another sweet little thing in peril story. She's little, frail, and oh-so-tiny. Why the hell are they always "tiny?" Why can't big girls be in peril? Give her a meal and she might be able to stand up for herself.

Still at one critique a week.

MONTH EIGHTEEN:
Ugh, another week. Scanning queue. Oh, thank, God, there's someone I know. At least I know his/her story won't make my eyes bleed. At one critique a week, barely. Percentage is getting low, cruising on the dregs of RFDR credits.

MONTH TWENTY-ONE:
Stupidly, try a new writer. Surprise, surprise, another girl in danger story.
Fuck diplomacy. Here's my credit card. Take frail, dainty little heroine out for a meal at an all-you-can-eat steakhouse. Sign her up for karate lessons. Buy her some mace and a taser.

MONTH TWENTY-TWO:
Critiques. Oops. Crap now I have to do ten to catch up.

MONTH TWENTY-THREE:
Fuck it.

MONTH TWENTY-FOUR:

Huh? Critters?

(Of all the stories [100+] and RFDR novels read, most have belonged to very sane, not-whiny writers. Critters is a great resource. But...I'm burned out. Smell the smoke?)

Happy Wednesday,
Pat Kirby

 

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