Skip to main content


Showing posts from February, 2020

The Best Online Writing Group Ever

All through February, we’ve shared some of our favorite Writing and Critique Partnerships Ever. I’m ending the month by talking about a few of my favorite online groups, which I enjoy much more than live meetups. About fifteen years ago, I belonged to an online group called Book-in-a-Week. Every month, we posted goals, and were required to submit our word counts daily. A small team of moderators tracked and tallied all our reports. I didn’t actually work on a novel in these sessions, but cranked out a lot of non-fiction writing like newspaper articles and blog posts. Somehow, the group accountability was important to my productivity and success. I also met some really good writers there, including several of our Blood-Red Pencil team bloggers. Ann Parker was working on one of her early titles in the Silver Rush Mystery series, perhaps even the first. Before long, I became a beta-reader and occasional editor and writing partner. It was a small group of 100-200 participants in an

Diagramming a Critique

I've been critiquing with Maggie Toussaint for more than ten years. Maggie writes cozies set on the Georgia coast. We write nothing alike. My books lean toward dark suspense and thrillers. They have "language" and sometimes sexual scenes if the story calls for it. Our strength as critique partners is exactly because we don't write in a similar manner. We trust each other, and though we may not always take the other's advice, we usually do. I thought the best way to explain our partnership was to show a critique Maggie did of a book I never finished. I might some day. It's a follow-up to my Kindle Scout winner, Indiscretion and The Last Heist , sold separately or as one of four novellas in Low Country Crime . A little background: my main character, Paul Swan, has lived on the other side of the law all his life. He's a diamond thief, and a very good one. The line from the Godfather comes to mind: "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back

#FridayReads Sci-Fi and Fantasy Authors of Color - #BlackHistoryMonth2020

Last week we delved into Literary Fiction ; if Science Fiction or Fantasy are more your thing, then pull up your favorite armchair and turn on the reading lamp. Here are four excellent authors of color writing Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Tomi Adeyemi Tomi Adeyemi Photo by Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 4.0 , Link 26-year-old Tomi Adeyemi wrote Children of Blood and Bone in response to police shootings of innocent African Americans. Beneath our skins of varying shades and differing features, we are all just “children of blood and bone”. Fantasy is a great way to explore oppression and cruelty metaphorically in a way to help stimulate empathy for real humans being treated so horrifically. Website: Twitter: @tomi_adeyemi Facebook: T Adeyemi Books Nnedi Okorafor Nnedi Okorafor Photo by Cheetah Witch - Own work , CC BY-SA 4.0 , Link Nnedi Okorafor’s dual Nigerian-American heritage has given her a wealth of material for fiction that explores a wide range of s

Beta Readers—a Different Perspective on Critique Partners

So, what is a beta reader? "Beta" is the second letter of the Greek alphabet, which implies it's the second reader of an unedited manuscript. It also suggests there must be a first reader, an alpha reader. What's an alpha reader? The first reader of a manuscript that's likely draft number one, an alpha reader evaluates the story from the viewpoint of a reader. Often a friend or close family member, he or she looks for the big stuff: readability, continuity, major story gaps, etc. After those issues are addressed by the writer, the story should go to the beta reader(s). Beta readers—who also consider a story from a reader's point of view—may be avid bookworms who work alone or members of a writing group. Ideally, two to five readers will provide a rounded review of the story, its strengths and its shortcomings. They comment on sentence structure (ineffective, awkward, unclear, rambling, etc.), as well as addressing character development (including effe

The Best Ever Writing Critique Groups in History

The Eagle and Child, the pub in Oxford where The Inklings met every Tuesday while Oxford University was in session for more than 16 years. Both C. S Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien were members of this famous writing critique group, which focused exclusively on works of fantasy. My fellow Blood-Red Pencil blogger, Patricia Stoltey, wrote a wonderful post this month about her own Best Ever Critique group. Be sure to read Patricia's wonderful post here . While I had already started a post on the same topic, after reading Patricia's entertaining and inspiring story, I switched gears a bit and decided to explore the history of a couple of notably successful writers' critique groups. Throughout recorded history, some of our most beloved authors have belonged to a writing and critique group or had a personal critique partner whose opinion they valued and trusted. While not every writing group produces a literary genius and not every critique duo helps each other achieve publ

#FridayReads Authors of Africa - #BlackHistoryMonth2020

Looking for a good book to curl up with this weekend? Here are four brilliant authors from Africa to add to your bookshelf, ranging from the rising star to the well-established novelist. NoViolet Bulawayo NoViolet Bulawayo by EuphoricOrca - Own work , CC BY-SA 4.0 , Link At just 38 years of age, Zimbabwean-born NoViolet Bulawayo is definitely a name to watch. In 2013 her debut novel, We Need New Names , was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, making NoViolet the first Zimbabwean and first indigenous African woman to do so. We Need New Names tells the story of ten-year-old Darling beginning with her escapades in a Zimbabwean shantytown after the destruction of her home and school by the paramilitary police, and following her to suburban America where new challenges abound. Author website: Facebook: NoViolet Bulawayo Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie by Slowking - Own work, GFDL 1.2 , Link Nigerian author Chimaman

Ten Tips for Successful Collaboration

Other than parenting, I can’t think of anything else that is more difficult for two people to share than one writing project.  But when it’s done right, when everything works, the results are amazing. I've had the pleasure of collaborating with several other writers over the years, mostly on screenplays but also on a couple of books, and they have all been satisfying experiences. Craig Wargo was the first writer I worked with on screenplays, and we wrote several during the years we worked together. In the course of our writing partnership, we came up with these tips for a successful collaborative effort as a handout for a workshop we presented at a film conference. While writing fiction, both writers must have an equal understanding of the plot, the characters, and the character arc. That will avoid costly mistakes later.  Both writers must have the same vision for the direction of the story. Otherwise it would be like two people trying to get to a destination while foll

Best Critique Partners

I have been fortunate in my writing life to have the support of two wonderful groups and other brilliant individuals. The first group came at a very difficult time in my life when I was searching for answers. I found my first writing home on Thursday nights at an organization called Women Writing for A Change in Cincinnati. I spent several happy years there communing with other writers and finding my voice. Then I moved and it took several more years for me to get out and meet other local writers. I had several writing partners and finally found a steady group we called the Ladyscribes made up of several members over time: Sharon Pielemeier, Susan Hoskins Miller, Tracy Richardson, Janet Koberna Skoog, Cameron Steiman, Kathie Huddleston, Rita Woods and Cynthia Adams. I met most of my tribe through the Midwest Writers Workshop s at Ball State in Muncie, Indiana. I have also had the pleasure of working with authors  Nicole Amsler  and Jennifer Jensen . There is nothing more affi

The Best Writer’s Critique Group Ever!

One of the things that will make this an awesome writing year for me: I belong to the best writer’s critique group ever . My group is called Raintree Writers and currently has seven members, three women and four men. How this group evolved from its 2003 all female beginnings to 2020 is a long story, but we’ll leave that for another time. For this post, I’ll focus on the high points for the best ways to find or create a group that works for you, what makes a successful critique group, and how to be the best critique group member ever. Finding or Forming a Critique Group Pexels Back in 2003, I took a well-attended novel-writing class here in Northern Colorado from author Brian Kaufman . After the class ended, a couple of the women proactively invited several classmates to form a new critique group to keep each other writing and to help with “eyes-on” submission evaluations. In my opinion, this is the best way to find an existing group, find a critique partner, or form a ne