Friday, January 15, 2010

 

Friday Speakout: Surely You Just, Guest Post by Michelle Dwyer

Surely You Just (Cheesy, I know)

by Michelle Dwyer

Okay so, I recently received my contest critique for the WOW! Summer 2009 Flash Fiction Contest. Not too shabby I must say. I guess the past critiques have allowed me to refine those blunders called adverbs. Toning down these dust mites (as I now call them), has taken effort. But seeing less green (you know, the highlighted adverbs) in my critique is worth it.

Why was I using adverbs ALL the time? I was addicted to making a point—a point I never had to make.

I thought using “punch” words such as just, always, really, very, and some quantified my thoughts, made them more tangible for the reader to measure. For example, “I just got a request for a partial!” (That hasn’t happened. Just let me have my moment), is no more intense than, “I got a request for a partial!” They express the same joy. The “just” adds no value to the excitement that hopefully one day I will experience.

I took me a while to get it. In my mind, the reader had to know what had just happened, or what simply had to be a certain way. It made the stakes higher. Made those words very, very important, right? No. It just made me look like an amateur.

But I’m hard-headed (really, really hard-headed), so I’m still learning to give up the dust. Sometimes I leave particles in my stories. And guess what? Adverbs in moderation can actually add depth when done right; however I’ve learned that overall, readers don’t need to know that a car can go super fast or that my protagonist is immensely hot.

I can be defiant, refusing to let tried-and-true principles trump my need to be right. I needed proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, that most adverbs are in vain.

I opened the file belonging to my 113,000 word manuscript. Blindly, I searched for and deleted every just, always, really, some, and very. I didn’t care about sentence structure or meaning. After this, I re-read the story.

What do you think happened? I put a handful of these words back into the story because the impact legitimately called for them. The remaining adverbs were never seen again because they’d added no value and would never be missed. I now have a leaner, meaner manuscript.

How cluttered had my manuscript been before the changes? In other words, how many adverbs didn’t make the cut?

2,497.

Pretty, very, really, amazing…don’t you think?

Wait. Start over.

Amazing, right?

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Michelle studied writing in high school and longed to become an author. But circumstances arose, causing her to join the military instead. However, she never gave up. She enrolled in writing school, finished her first crime novel, and will achieve her MBA this fall. She writes as Krymzen Hall at http://www.helium.com/users/421563/show_articles


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Do you want to reach WOW’s audience? We welcome short posts (500 words or less) from writers just like you! You can include your bio, pic, and links to your website/blog for promotion. Our only requirement is that your post be about women and writing. Send your Friday “Speak Out!” post to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

 

Friday Speak Out: The Value of Critiques, Guest Post by Kim Smith

The Value of Critiques

by Kim Smith

I recently entered a writing competition that offered a critique of my entry by no less than three judges. Excitement filled my heart. In the absence of any literary professionals in my life, ie: teachers or editors or authors, I'm not always sure of what is working, and what isn't.

Sure, I've entered various online critique groups, but I've never taken them that seriously. After all, these are other novice writers, like myself, and the critiques offered usually contain only vague words of praise. While some writing peers do offer helpful advice as to what they think is awkward, or wordy, or redundant, what I really crave is a nuts and bolts analysis of grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation.

So, I awaited this particular critique with bated breath. When the envelope arrived, I ripped it open on the spot, ignoring the slight drizzle that misted the cool air. All three judges praised my fourth-place entry, pointed out what they loved, and said I was an excellent writer.

Disappointment flooded through me. I was hoping for little red notations all over my story. I wanted to know WHY I didn't take first place, and what I could have done to improve my writing. I wanted to know what I'd done wrong, as well as what I'd done right.

The only point of contention involved the title of my story. Two hated it; one loved it. I thought to myself, "This is it?" However, after rereading the three critiques and calming down in the process, I realized that I still appreciated the time and effort the judges put in for this contest. They would have read hundreds of entries, and it would be too time-consuming to nitpick their way through all of them.

Will I opt to receive another critique? Of course I will! The critiques did bolster my writing self-esteem, which can always use elevating. Each one did say, after all, that I was a good writer, and who doesn't like to hear that? I will continue to take advantage of critiques where they are offered, because any nugget of concrete advice, no matter how small, is invaluable. And frankly, the anticipation of receiving opinions/compliments on my writing is an irresistible lure!



Kim lives in the country with one needy dog, three perfect cats, one long-suffering husband, and far too many chickens. She tries to write on a regular basis after a suffering a writer's block of thirty years.

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Do you want to reach WOW’s audience? We welcome short posts (500 words or less) from writers just like you! You can include your bio, pic, and links to your website/blog for promotion. Our only requirement is that your post be about women and writing. Send your Friday “Speak Out!” post to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration.


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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

 

Spring 2008 Flash Fiction Contest Update


Phew... What a marathon! We definitely took on more than expected by critiquing entries this season. Pages of the Chicago Manual of Style and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers are officially dog-eared and bookmarked. It's strange to say, but reading and scoring entries is much different than actually critiquing them. When critiquing, you aren't simply reading for pleasure, you're looking for mistakes. It puts you in a different mindset. When you think you find a mistake, you have to make sure you're correct by referencing one of the aforementioned books. Don't get me wrong, it's fun and all...but add impending magazine issue deadlines, Premium-Green Ebook deadlines, editorial, and day-to-day operations, and...wholly guacamole sister! We probably spent over an hour on each entry: formatting, reading, critiquing, deliberating, and emailing. I know Annette wants to beat me with a wet noodle--the whole thing was my idea. Well, we gave it a shot. And perhaps, when we get more womanpower in the future, we'll be able to pull it off without holding up the contest results!

Oh, and if you slid under the deadline, before we removed the critique purchase option for the Summer '08 Flash Fiction Contest, you'll still get a critique. We had the option up for the month of June, but had to take it down. We don't want to be late with the contest results again!

Okay, here's the good news: we've sent out all the critiques for the Spring 2008 contest. If you purchased a critique, you should have received it already. Oy! There were so many wonderful entries this season! We are proud to have such a talented bunch of contestants! If you didn't receive your critique, for some odd reason, please let us know and we'll check into it.

We have officially notified the Top 10 and Honorable Mentions for the Spring FF Contest. We sent out email notifications this morning (around 8:30 AM EST), so check your inboxes. If you did not receive an email...I'm very sorry. Those of you who know me, know how much that kills me. Like I said, there were so many wonderful entries that little things like punctuation etc. made all the difference. Our Webmaster will be working on formatting the contest winner's page, and our esteemed guest judge, literary agent Wendy Sherman, is choosing her top three as we speak. When we get the contest page up, we will send out an email announcement to those on our "Contest Newsletter" with a live link to the page. We will also post an announcement here.

Thank you to all who participated in the Spring 2008 Contest. We truly enjoyed reading your stories. Please keep writing and working on the craft. You are all winners for completing a story and entering. You have what it takes, so write on!

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Remember, this is the last season for the OPEN prompt! Enter the Summer 2008 Flash Fiction Contest with guest judge, Elise Capron, here: http://wow-womenonwriting.com/contest.php
Deadline: August 31, 2008 (Midnight, Pacific Time)

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