RSS

Tag Archives: Reading out loud

Workshop your writing – join a writing critique group

Parts of Sharon’s short stories were originally critiqued by members of her East End Writers’ Group

Half my life is an act of revision.

                -John Irving

I run the East End Writers’ Group a writing critique group in east Toronto (http://www.samcraw.com/Articles/EastEndWriters.html). I’ve brought pieces of my stories from my collection Beyond the Tripping Point when they were in rough shape and received excellent suggestions on how and what to fix. In turn I have given some advice to other EEWG members on possible ways to make their manuscript sparkle. (My writing/editing/writing instruction business motto is “We make words sparkle.”)

The fact is we writers view our own writing very subjectively. A phrase or sentence or plot sequence may appear brilliant in our eyes but read out loud (with plenty of light) around the writing circle, the flaws start to show up. As we learned in last week’s post, reading out loud does this, but so much more when there are other ears besides your own hearing it.

I’m not trying to be negative here. One of the goals of writing critique groups needs to be pointing out the strengths and weaknesses in a positive, helpful and friendly manner. Giving suggestions for how you can improve your story is even better. Sometimes the group members agree on what needs fixing; sometimes they don’t. What you are receiving is a number of options to consider. I find that if many people agree on one point, a change is probably necessary. And with other eyes and ears on your manuscript, the feedback is objective. No tunnel vision.

For fiction, some of the areas we look at are:

In General – Is the beginning a reader hook? Is the lead at the beginning or later in the story? Does the story flow? Is there a point or theme to the story? What is the story’s biggest strength?

Plot – Besides grabbing the reader in paragraph one, does the plot contain suspense? Foreshadowing? Have a mixture of narration, dialogue, action and inner thoughts appropriate to the story? Is the story credible? Have some resolution at the end?

Characters – Are characters distinct? Three-dimensional? Believable? Interesting? Do they have character tags? (for example, jiggling keys in a pocket when nervous), Is there a protagonist? Antagonist? How do they interact? Dialogue appropriate to the characters? Further develop the plot and characters?

Point of View (more coming in a later post; I promise) – Too many points of view? Is POV used the best POV for the story? Whose story is it?

Writer’s Style – What is the style? Laid-back? Moody? Simple (as in simply told, not stupid)? Lyrical? Literary? Fast-paced? Light and humorous? ). Are word choices and phrases unique?

Mechanics – spelling, grammar, punctuation (including my two favourites – verb tense mix-up and incorrect dialogue setup).

Now that you have some idea what writing critique groups do (or should do), how do you find a suitable writing group? Consider if you want a group exclusive to fiction or whatever you write or to cover all writing areas. (EEWG is the latter). Consider if you want in-person or online. If the former, consider the geographic distance. Is it free or is there a charge? (EEWG is free but participants bring a gluten-free snack for our networking-snack break. We like to talk and eat.) What type of critique setup do you want? Some groups require pre-submission of manuscripts; some only critique one manuscript per session; some groups have page and time limits for reading. Some meet weekly, bi-weekly, monthly. (EEWG meets one evening monthly except July, August and December. We have a 10-minute reading limit, so length is up to six-pages double-spaced, copies for others and no pre-submissions.)  Check out local library branch websites – many library branches run writing groups or know who does. Check local writing organizations. When you find a group, try it out a few times and if it doesn’t work for you, move on to another group. Can’t find a suitable group? Start one yourself. I did 12 years ago.

If your schedule is tight already you might want to go the online critique route. For example, in Canada, the Canadian Authors Association (http://www.canauthors.org) has a Virtual branch for its members. Google “writing critique groups” and see what you get. The beauty here is you can pick one not in your geographic area. But remember, most online groups require give and take – for every critique you get you have to do one (sometimes more) critique of another person’s writing. That’s how we learn – from each other and each other’s writing.

Happy writing and happy critiquing.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Reading your writing out loud

Sharon A. Crawford almost reached her tripping point reading from Beyond the Tripping Point

Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.                                                                                            ~P.J. O’Rourke

The stage was set for the public reading. The host introduced me and I grabbed the author copy of my book Beyond the Tripping Point. I walked up to the lectern, took the mic, opened the book, prepared to read…

And could barely see the words.

No, folks I wasn’t going blind. And my glasses were (and are) just fine.

The culprit was not enough light. Only dim ceiling lights. The restaurant had supplied the lectern and mic but did they forget we would need to see to read? I wasn’t the only one who had problems seeing. Usually I enjoying reading in public and am told I do it very well. Not last Thursday evening’s session in the patio room at a Toronto restaurant. I was reading as part of the Toronto branch of the Canadian Authors Association season launch, which outside of the restaurant’s gaff with the lack of light, went very well and brought in record numbers for the branch. I was proud to be reading as part of the CAA program. And yes I did manage to stumble through the short passage I read (and was actually heard as others told me afterward). However, I was so disconcerted by the lighting situation that I forgot to mention the date of my book launch (November 4, 2012). My publisher did, when he went up to the lectern.

My publisher since told me to print out my reading excerpt from my Word copy double-spaced in 14 point. Another author told me to use sans serif font and print all caps. Not sure whether my eyes could deal with the latter, but the large print sans serif sounds good. I might also bring a flashlight or a clip-on book light – if I can find new batteries for my book light and figure out how to insert them. Never again will I complain about bright lights shining in my eyes as I do a public reading.

Fortunately, this reading was a dry run (as my publisher put it) for the book launch.

This reading experience made me think how much reading out loud can help the manuscript in-the-works. Sometimes hearing what you have written puts your story in a different perspective. And your setup for reading-out-loud can bring out different experiences. If you read out loud, record it and play it back, you can hear your words as if coming from another person. If you merely read out loud, you hear the sound from inside your head.

Both methods can give you excellent feedback. You might discover:

Something in the plot sounds jarring and doesn’t work.

One character’s dialogue doesn’t sound right for the character or for the scene.

The point of view you have used may not work. For example if you wrote it from the third person omniscient – see all and hear all – like looking down from a cloud – it might sound cold and distant for what is intended to be an intimate story. (We will be covering the ins and outs of point of view in an upcoming blog. Soon).

You will hear your word errors – words that don’t fit exactly for what you mean, words left out or repeated.

Reading out loud can be an enlightening experience (pun on word intended). You can hear your characters live, breath, and speak. Reading out loud is an excellent tool to help you improve your writing. Playing back what you read works even better.

And if you are going to read in public, be prepared. Bring a large printout of your reading material and a book light or small flashlight. And practice beforehand. That latter (and my experience reading in public) was my saving grace last Thursday evening. Otherwise, I might have been tempted to walk away without reading.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Author of Beyond the Tripping Point

http://www.bluedenimpress.com

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: