The Ultimate Critique

Monday, June 30, 2008
I have lots to say today, meaning if you need a bathroom break or some munchies, now’s the time to take care of that . So, okay. This weekend, I became a member of another writing group. Mid-American Romance Writers has over forty members and meets monthly in the Kansas City area. They’re a great group, share lots of laughter and smiles, and contain some talented, published authors that are very willing to give helpful advice. I had fun and can’t wait to go back next month.

After the main meeting, one published author took a few minutes to sit down with me and go over the first chapter of one of my completed stories. I still appreciate all the time and consideration she put into the critique, but… wow. That one stung. After ten years of practice, one correspondence class, and a bachelor’s degree in fiction writing, I realize I have so much more to learn.

It was harsh, though. My rational brain realized this wonderful, talented author that gave me so much advice wasn’t trying to hurt me or kill my creative muse. My logical side was well aware she was attempting to help. Her words were terribly honest and insightful. And, yes, I do mean terribly. Fixing the problems she found will make my manuscript stronger and so much better. But the thing is, my rational, logical self didn’t write my story. That was all emotion, baby. And I should note here, I have terribly sensitive emotions. Yes, terribly.

I figure emotions have no room in the revision process. After completing the main rough draft, emotions might as well go on vacation and logic needs to step in and clean up that emotional, wordy, sloppy, “creative,” mess. Revision is where the story needs to be virtually re-written so other people can read and understand it too. My emotions must’ve gotten too much sun in the Bahamas—or wherever they went— though, because they returned from their trip a bit early and I found them hanging around during this oh-so honest critique, hoping to maybe hear a little praise. No such luck.

It wasn’t like this wonderful, talented author disliked my style, or word-choice, or had problems with any specific element of writing. She didn’t even say the characterization was bad. They had to be pretty well developed characters actually because she was able to despise them… all of them. That really hit home with me because I’ve put my heart and soul into these people. A little of me is in each and every one of them. So, all I saw was her pointing at me and saying, “You’re a weak, immature cry-baby and no one will ever like you.” No, no, she didn’t say that verbatim (of course not), that’s just the summary of what reached my ears—told you I was too sensitive.

All I thought during this, was “Oh, my God, she’s right.” How had she so cleverly been able to reach inside me, pull out my deepest, darkest insecurities, and expose them to the entire world? It devastated me and made me question who I was as a writer… heck, as a person.

I’ve been critiqued a lot lately. In fact, another published author has read the exact same scene she did—before a revision. The other author’s comments left me energized and excited, ready to go forth and revise my story immediately. But not this critic. I went away, wondering why I was polluting the world with all the filth I had written. She hadn’t even given me suggestions for repair. No salvation in sight. I had, in no way, meant to project most of the themes she found and was horrified when I realized someone could actually see my story that way. It was embarrassing.

I went away and bawled… the entire rest of the weekend (Yep, she nailed weak, immature crybaby on the head, didn’t she?). My poor husband didn’t know what to do with me. I think he was worried I would turn into a manic depressant because he assured me it didn’t matter if I was a bad writer or not, I was still a great wife. Isn’t he a sweetheart? He’s the one that’s the wonderful spouse.

Now that it’s all over and done, however, I’m still glad I received that critique. After I finally got over myself, I realized I was still alive and nothing was going to stop me from writing what I love. I’m going to make her words help me un-sensitize myself and grow a thicker skin.

I’m also grateful she gave her point of view. It was interesting to see how a complete stranger perceived my work. But I do realize hers is only one person’s perspective. I think I’ll get a second, and maybe third, opinion to see if anyone else saw the horrors she did. If they all agree with her… well, then, okay, at least I’ll know what parts to fix. Now, all I have to figure out is… how.

Microsoft Word

Monday, June 23, 2008
I'm totally in love with my Microsoft Word program. Not only does it catch the obvious spelling errors and some of the grammatical mistakes I make, but I've almost worn out my thesaurus feature already. And the word dictionary is incredibly handy when suddenly I can't remember the different definitions for compliment and complement. Then, if I need to throw out all the unneeded "thats" and "ups" and "outs", the find box becomes my best friend. Can't say that I mind it pointing out all my passive voice sentences and split infinities either. To add onto all that, this past week, a member in my critique group pointed out how Word can tell me my level of readability too. Very neat.

I know the program doesn't catch all mistakes and I still have to go over my manuscript, like, a hundred times, but I'd say writing this way is infinitely better than pounding out my stories on one of those... what're they called again? Oh, right. Typewriters. Nope, I don't mind living in the spoiled age at all.

Now, if only Microsoft could repel computer viruses like I've heard Macintosh does, then life would be perfect. Or is that only a myth?

House Project

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I know this has nothing to do with writing, but I have to share. My new house I'm getting built got a roof on it yesterday!! It still needs trim and guttering, and sidewalks, and garage doors, and an interior, but at least it looks like a house now--actually, it looks like a barn, but that's intentional. Feels like we've been waiting forever for the outside to get done so we can start on the inside. But now that we can proceed, I feel a little panicked because, yikes, now comes the part where I actually have to work. Then after it's done, I'll have to pack and move. Double Yikes.

June Nightstand Reviews

Thursday, June 12, 2008
Since I'm not going to make my MRW meeting tonight (Yeah, it's really bumming me out), I thought I'd list what's been on my nightstand this month. I haven't done that in a while. If you can't tell I've turned into Paranormal fan this month.

The Hollow by Nora Roberts.
This is Fox's story and it's the second in the The Sign of the Seven Trilogy. There's all sorts of freaky paranormal stuff happening in this story. I suggest reading Blood Brothers before hooking your claws into The Hollow.

J. R. Ward's
Lover Eternal. 2nd in the Black Dagger Brotherhood. My favorite part about Rhage's story is that the demon thing inside him has the hots for Mary too. That is just so cool.

Lover Awakened. 3rd in the Black Dagger Brotherhood. No way could a Ward fan resist reading Z's story. He's the most scarred and enthralling brother, in my opinion.

Lover Revealed. 4th in the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Butch finally gets his woman. I wanted him to be able to turn vampire so bad. Another five star book.

Lover Revealed. 5th in the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Here is V's story. I didn't realize he had had such a bad past until his story. I'd say Vishous really is the most complicated brother like all of Ward's reviews claim.

Lover Enshrined. 6th in the Black Dagger Brotherhood. I had been anxious for Phury's story ever since reading Z's tale and Ward did not disappoint. Her story's are so addictive. They keep getting better and better as the series progresses.

Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh.
This book begins the Psy-Changlings series. We meet half-leopard, half-men changlings and a woman who was programmed to never feel emotions but does anyway. Engrossing.

The Darkest Night by Gena Showalter
I was hooked from the first page. If you want a bunch of tortured alpha males that make you shiver with delight this is the series for you. Starting the Lords of the Underworld series, Maddox and Ashlyn's story is outstanding. And my favorite part of J.R. Ward's Lover Awakened is mirrored in these stories where the demons inside like our leading ladies as much as the hero does.

The Lost Duke of Wyndham by Julia Quinn
First book in the Two Dukes of Wyndhams duolgy. I just love Jack, that's all I have to say about this book.

The Wicked Ways of a Duke by Laura Lee Guhrke.
This is the second book in Guhrke's Girl Bachelor series. It's set in historical England and filled with longing, passion and deceit. I liked it.

Okay, so a read a couple historicals too. I have eclectic taste, I guess. Next month I probably be caught up with Singh's and Showalter's series books and move on to something else.

Raring to Go

Monday, June 9, 2008
Feels like I'm on the right track to being a published author these days with three submissions sent out, five contests entered, and continual feedback from my critique group. Now, I just have to relax in my seat and see if the train I chose will take me where I want to go. Just hope I don't have an ulcer by the time my ride ends. I need to learn how to relax and stop stressing so much.

I'm looking forward to meeting with my critique group face to face this Thursday and then attending my monthly MRW meeting afterward. I'm sure I'll be back Friday with reviews on how both of those events went.

Linda Kage is Excited.

Monday, June 2, 2008
I must be on MySpace too much because I feel like I need to start my blog with, “Today, Linda Kage is excited.” Amazon has sent out my copy of J. R. Ward’s new Black Dagger Brotherhood book!! But, hello, I’m so totally eager to devour it. I’ve been anxious for Phury’s story ever since I read Zhadist’s book (Lover Awakened)… and that was only last week. I just discovered this series a month or two back, so I haven’t had to wait as long as other brotherhood fans. But, geesh, it seems like I've been waiting forever.

Feels like July 21, 2007 all over again where I stood in a block-long line until one in the morning at Hastings for my issue of Harry Potter’s last book (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows). Yeah, I’m one of those people. Actually, I thought I was going to do what I did with Julia Quinn’s The Lost Duke of Wyndham and go buy the book at the store because I couldn’t wait for the print I ordered to come in the mail. But thank God Lover Enshrined is already on the way, so I won’t have two copies of that floating around too.

My husband seems to think I buy and read too many books, but I always have the comeback, “Dear, it’s research. If I want to publish my own stories someday, I should read what everyone else is writing. I have to read all this material.” Hee, hee. Pretty tricky, huh?