Top 10 Literacy Organizations
When I was a kid, I had a lot of dreams. Mostly about what I wanted to do when I grew up. I dreamed of being a scientist when I got a microscope for Christmas. I dreamed of being a singer when I did my chores (singing all the while). I dreamed of being a figure ice skater even though I had never been ice skating (it was beautiful and looked fun). I played school (teacher) and office (secretary) and family (mommy). Between every new dream, I always came back to my #1 dream: to be a writer!
At some point, I dreamed of running a marathon. I have now run two! (Gonna run an ultra when I turn 50!) I now have two published books. I also teach other writers how to write novels. And while I’m basically living my dreams, at some point I realized I wouldn’t have reached any of them if I didn’t know how to read.
My new dream is a big one that I’ll never be able to reach all by myself: end world illiteracy. The U.S. statistics alone are utterly shocking.
3 Surefire Ways to Revise Your Novel
The number one challenge writers face is learning the craft. The number two challenge is how to revise and edit your novel, but revising doesn’t have to be hard. If you’ve written the first draft, spend an entire week celebrating. That’s a huge accomplishment! You just overcame the third biggest writing challenge: finishing your first draft.
But don’t start submitting your work just yet, you need to revise your story so it shines and editors will want to publish it. Let’s talk about three ways you can revise your novel.
Start Revisions by Looking at Plot
Whenever I’m helping other writers revise their novels, we always start with plot. Whether you’re writing your first draft, or you’re starting the revision process, knowing your five main plot points will help you create a stronger plot and a better story. Revision can - in a sense - happen before you ever write your first word. Which is why creating a plot outline before you write helps cut down on your revision timeline.
If your plot points aren’t identified correctly, your pacing will be off. Being able to know which plot points are most important and where to properly place them will help you avoid a slow start and a saggy middle.
For example, the most important scene for the middle of your novel should show up in the middle. But if the scene you have that shows up in the middle is your two characters leaving the ranch, when it really needs to be when they finally reach the canyon, then you’ll have to revise – or rearrange – your plot points so that your character motivations, pacing, and storyline flows better and makes more sense. So start all your revisions by looking at your novel’s plot points first. And revise accordingly.
Revise Your Novel at a Week-Long Getaway
When you think about the top challenges writers face: craft, revision, finishing your book, not having enough time to write, and not having a critique group, attending a writing retreat is one of the best ways to help you.
Taking some time for yourself is a great way to gain momentum with your revision. Take a week off and plan to attend a world-class writing retreat in western North Carolina, where you’ll overcome the top 5 challenges writers face and:
10-Point Revision Checklist
Using a checklist is a great way to start revising your novel. Once you revise the plot and have a good development of character and conflict, your story will begin to take shape. When you get all the big pieces in place, you can start revising further and you’ll be editing to polish the story rather than revising the plot. Start with plot and revise that first. Then move on to the checklist.
Here are 10 things to keep in mind and start looking for. Start at the top and work your way to the bottom. Your manuscript will be much tighter when you finish the checklist and apply it to your whole novel.
The first five can be applied on a scene by scene basis or a chapter by chapter basis. The last five can be applied to the whole novel all at once. For example, revise chapter 1 by going through #1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Then do all five with chapter 2. When you get to the last five items on the checklist, do #6 for the whole novel. Then #7 for the whole novel, etc.
When you’re ready to revise your novel, or your short story, now you have three excellent ways to tackle your revisions: look at plot first, attend the Writers Who Run Retreat every July, and use the 10-Point Revision Checklist. Happy revising!
Keep writing, keep running.
Which do you like better? Writing the first draft? Or revising it? Let us know on the Writers Who Run Facebook page.
How to Take a Manuscript Critique
Not all critiques are the same. Sure, it’s one person’s feedback – their opinions, thoughts, and suggestions, ideas to make your writing better and your story stronger. But what if you disagree? What if you don’t know how to take their advice? Or if you even should? How do you implement feedback from lots of people? Getting a manuscript critique is an essential part of being a writer. Good critique partners for a writer is like a running coach for a runner. In a word? Transformational!
Things to Consider When Getting a CritiqueI’ve shared how to give a good critique and how to overcome the fear of getting a critique, so now let’s talk about once you have a critique, how do you take the feedback and put it to good use? There are two major things to consider.
While the best critiques will come from other writers who write in the same genre as you, the same is true of those who have a similar level of writing experience (or better) as you. I have given and received hundreds of critiques and while all levels of experience are valued and provide fresh perspectives, the times I have grown the most are when the people giving me critiques have had more experience or were further along the writing journey than I was.
The Purpose of a Manuscript CritiqueOften, writers seek feedback on their work to see how good their writing is. But the real reason you should get a critique is to learn how to become better. That only happens when people point out your faults and weaknesses. So if you want a good critique, be prepared to hear some harsh (not hateful) feedback in the process. More on that later.
For now, let’s talk about the real purpose of getting feedback on your manuscripts. How does it help you become a better writer?
Secondly, manuscript critiques should provide encouragement. This doesn’t mean that every word should be a glowing review of your language prowess. On the contrary, it means that they mix positive and negative feedback and cheer you on to keep going. Their words encourage you to work through your story’s problems and work to make it better. A critique should never berate you, belittle you, put you down, or say hateful things to you. Negative feedback can also lift you up when delivered with a little bit of encouragement
What is Good Feedback?Writers want good feedback, not feedback that’s all good. I touched on this in the last section with mixing up positive and negative feedback.
While feedback that’s all good is what some writers may want, it won’t help. That’s when someone tells you, “It’s good. I like it. Keep going!” with NO ideas on where or how to improve your work.
But good feedback is when someone comments on your manuscript in such a way that will help you make it better. The following is a list of things someone might comment on for your story.
So if people are pointing out “bad” things about your writing, that’s GOOD FEEDBACK!
Craft vs. StoryBut honestly, the BEST feedback is when someone looks at your story and the plot, not just your writing style and individual sentences. When you ask the right questions, you’ll get better feedback.
When someone gives you feedback about your writing, it focuses on craft. Things like spelling, grammar, sentence structure, syntax, nouns, verbs, etc.
But when someone gives you feedback about your story, you want to hear about character, plot, setting, conflict, emotion, relationship, actions, etc.
Ask your critique partner or beta reader to mark any time they get confused. That could be any of the following.
Ask them to note any phrases or sentences they love, along with words that could be cut to make it tighter. But just know that as you continue to revise, even those sections that you subsequently edited will continue to change and improve.
After all, that’s the whole goal. To improve your story. The writing will follow. And that, my friend, is how you take a critique. Happy writing!
Keep writing, keep running.
Learning how to write fiction is different from learning how to write academically such as essays, research papers, or book reports. Fiction requires superb storytelling skills. There are three main ways to learn the craft of writing fiction: studying the craft from experts, getting your work critiqued, and attending writing conferences and retreats.
What is the Writing Craft?
Just what does it mean to study the craft of writing anyway? There are many ways you could answer this question. One dictionary definition goes like this:
Writing Craft - n. “the artistic skill or technique with which an author puts together narrative and other elements in order to convey meaning.”
Let’s get more specific. The writing craft consists of basic elements to help make your story readable and have meaning. It consists of such strategies as characterization, conflict, plot, dialogue, tension, backstory, theme, pacing, tone, voice, setting, point of view, and more. These are the narrative storytelling elements that make your writing flow and make sense to a reader.
One way to learn the writing craft is to jump in and figure it out. Just write. Keep practicing. You’ll get there eventually. But there are better ways.
Study the Craft of Writing From ExpertsExperts in the literary industry include published authors, editors, and book coaches. They can teach us a lot about how to write fiction. All we have to do is consume their information, usually in the form of books, workshops, or courses. So when you have an opportunity to buy a book you think will help you, or attend a workshop or take a course from a writer you admire, do it!
Other tips to become a better fiction writer and practice the craft include the following:
If you’re reading, writing, and studying about writing, you will continue to get better. And when it comes to your writing craft, that’s always the goal.
Get Your Work Critiqued
One of the best ways to grow as a writer is to get your work critiqued by someone who understands the writing craft and also knows how to give a good critique, which doesn’t necessarily mean all good feedback. Getting feedback from family or friends who aren’t writers may give you a glowing report on your writing, but you’re not going to learn how to become a better fiction writer that way.
A critique group is a small group of writers (typically 4-8 people) who exchange manuscripts or chapters with each other to give each other feedback on a monthly basis. A beta reader is anyone who is willing to read your completed manuscript and provide feedback. Beta readers don’t always exchange with each other or at least not necessarily at the same time.
When you’re looking for someone to critique your work, ask if they’ve ever been a part of a critique group. Ask what their experience level is. They don’t have to be a published author to give good feedback, but they do need to understand the writing craft.
If you’re looking for a critique group, or even just a beta reader, there are many places to find people who can help you.
Writing retreats are similar to writing conferences, but retreats are usually smaller and more intimate, have fewer workshops, fewer editors and agents present, and more writing time. Attending a writing retreat that offers both workshops and critiques is a win-win opportunity. They also provide motivation and momentum, and you’ll meet new people who can potentially become long-term critique partners.
The Writers Who Run Retreat includes eight different workshops that focus on the craft of writing, such as character, conflict, plot, and setting. Sometimes we even include sessions on publishing or marketing.
We also offer small group critiques as well as a professional one-on-one critique. But if you don’t have anything you want critiqued at the moment, you can still join us and learn all that we have to offer to help strengthen your narrative storytelling skills, whether that be for fiction, memoir, or creative nonfiction.
Remember, no matter what stage of writing you’re at, it’s important to continually hone your skills. Learning the writing craft is essential to your success. Now go write!
Keep writing, keep running.
Since 2010, I have been blogging over at www.christiewrightwild.blogspot.com. It started out as a personal journal for my writing. It has morphed several times over the years focusing on different things such as picture books, websites for authors, and of course my own publication journey.
It's time for Writers Who Run to get its own blog. So here we are! Every Monday, a new blog post will be published. Topics will always be focused on our four pillars for content.
Which pillar are you most excited to learn more about? Let us know over on the Writers Who Run Facebook page.
Christie Wright Wild
Founder, Writers Who Run
Creator, Plot Like a Novelist
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