I’m not the devil, I’m just trying to help.

This blog post title came from my son. It was his attempt at levity in a situation where I was feeling confused, hurt and sad. He succeeded. It made me laugh. But it also made me think about the incident and my reaction to it.  Perhaps, I was being too hard on myself.

Part of being a writer is giving back and writing and critique groups are an excellent place to do just that.  What I’ve learned is that I’m very sensitive to critiques. It’s been a few years of receiving them. I’m better with not “taking it personally”. I’m getting there. But it’s still hard.

However, when I give a critique I tend to focus on what needs to be “fixed”; the negatives you might say, not so much the positives. My brain skims over the good stuff. It’s like antivirus software looking for the bugs, it scans, evaluates and skips right over the parts that are working fine. But in writing, the parts are that are working fine are parts that need to be commented upon too.

You would think being as sensitive as I am, I would be just as sensitive to other writers. Yet somehow when I focus on doing a critique my brain goes into its own mode. I always try to make sure I include something positive, but my positives seem to have little impact. They aren’t specific enough for the writer. So I keep trying. Sometimes I do a great job, other times not so much.

You can guess what happened? I gave a manuscript evaluation to a friend. I spent a lot of time on it. I thought it was presented well. She hated it, felt gutted and told me it was too one-sided. There was no positive feedback. I was blindsided and upset. She was right, though. The critique was constructive but I didn’t highlight the positives at all. My brain skipped right over them: the excellent dialogue, the vivid descriptions, the character insight.

So, I left the meeting and called my husband. And started to cry while driving down the highway. I felt incompetent, and foolish, and worst of all insecure. I had hurt my friend’s feelings and that upset me even more. How could I not see what I was doing? Where was my self-awareness? And then that horrible sensation came over me, like in those situations where everyone knows what to do and say, and you don’t and you blunder badly and you feel stuck on the outside while everyone else seems to “click” and to just “get it” and leave you behind. My self-confidence plummeted.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time I have been told I can be too direct. The words haunt me and because they haunt me I try to actively monitor my thoughts, my speech, my writing. But sometimes, I just fail.

My husband read the assessment  and said it was fine. There may not have been positives but he didn’t think it was overly negative. Things were just stated factually. (I love him, but he’s not a writer.)

My son picked up on my mood so I told him what had happened. He grew quiet. “I feel bad mom, cause I tell you that all the time.” And he used to, a lot, especially when I tried to help him with baseball. He felt overly criticized and would shut down. His father would give him the same instruction using the exact same words and he would accept it, no problem.  He thought about that for a minute and agreed.

“Don’t worry,” I told him, “we’re mother and son, it’s just a different kind of relationship.”

He smiled, “You know mom, you’re not the devil, you’re just trying to help.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. But he was right. I’m not setting out to hurt people, I don’t have evil intent. I want to help. But apparently, I need to work on it some more. I need to recheck my critiques and remember to celebrate the positives in a story as well.

I’ve apologized to my friend and I hope she knows that she’s a gifted writer, and if my critique didn’t say that, then I’m saying it now, in writing, like I should have the first time around.




Contest Update

Sigh…I did not progress to the next round of the NYC Midnight short story competition. But I’m okay with that.  The feedback I received from the judges was kind of what I expected. For 2500 words my plot was a little unwieldy.

(Be sure and check out their site. They run many different types of writing contests over the course of the year.)

On the other hand, I have a great outline in the making for a much longer story. Maybe even a better story. 😉

Do I think it was worth entering? Yes, I do. Would I enter again? Yes, I would. The writer’s forum was a great place where the writers shared their stories and gave feedback to one another. You didn’t have to participate. I didn’t post my story because I was feeling a bit shy. I offered some feedback and that was fun.

So now its back to the regularly scheduled writing program. The one where I try to make time for it to happen. Wish me luck. I’m going to need it.

PS. I may post my short story after I finish its revision.

Expectation: The Key to Emotional Upheaval

For a long time I read books and blogs and essays on how to improve my writing, especially as it relates to character. And the sources always say things like, What is your character’s world view? What does your character want? (goal) How have their past experiences influenced them? What’s the worst possible event you could throw at your protagonist based on his/her emotional wounds? Make it hard for him/her to achieve their goal.

And I thought, yeah, okay. My protagonist is afraid of loss. His mom died when he was young. So maybe a close friend of his dies? How does this effect him?

I would just sit there stuck. Well, he could be mad, or sad. Maybe he’d call a friend? Continue reading

I entered a short story writing contest. I’m stoked!

I am pleased to announce that I entered a short story contest, and it was the best thing I’ve done in a long time. Why, you ask? Because it forced me to complete an entire story, edit it, and meet a deadline. Did I mention I only had eight days?

Some of you may be familiar with NYCMidnight and their writing contests. I’d learned about it from a friend. She’s entered their contests in the past. The unique part about it was  NYCMidnight assigns you your genre, subject, and character details. So there was no “Hey, I have this old story I could use,” shenanigans.

In this contest, there are three rounds.  Here are the specifics.

Round 1    2500words max    8 days   Jan 26th through  Feb 3rd 2018

Round2     2000 words max   3 days   March 29th through April 1st 2018

Round 3     1500 words max   24hours  May 11-12  2018

Yes, you can be under on the word count.

The only bummer is waiting for the results. I’m not sure when they notify you that you get to continue. A week before? A couple of days?   However the contest is open internationally and the entrant’s list is huge, so I guess I can understand why it takes so long to judge.

Every writer also gets some feedback from the judges. Love it!

Even though this was an unexpected writing endeavor on my part, I feel it still falls under my 2018 goals. I’m writing, and I finished something. (I know I’m supposed to be completing my old stuff.)

I want to thank all my writing friends who took time from their busy schedules to offer suggestions and proofread my work, especially because I suck at grammar. (Gon’na have to bone up.)

I’ll keep you updated on the results. Wish me luck!


Shooting your esteem in the foot…for nothing.

I was drifting around in the internet the other day and decided to visit some of my favorite authors’ websites.

Of course, I got sucked into reading some blog posts. One post about querying led me to another web site that focused strictly on, you guessed it, querying. Ummm, I said to myself, this is putting the cart before the horse, but let’s check it out anyway.

So, I got stuck there for a few hours reading query submissions and reading the agent’s comments on why they didn’t work, then reading the revisions, and then reading the revised agent’s comments and so on.  (And by the way, I did find this information very helpful.)

Now I’m invested Continue reading

It’s too cold…Brrrrrr!

Its way too cold outside, so I stayed in and did a puzzle. You’re thinking with all the writing you have to do, how could you take time to do a puzzle? Crazy, right?

But there’s something really relaxing about doing a puzzle.  Maybe it’s because it draws your focus so completely. It’s simple (shape and color) and it forces you too look at the pieces in a different way every time you handle them and that’s a great exercise for the brain.  And I’m down for anything that boosts my creative brain power.   Because anything that boosts my creative side benefits my writing. But the best part is when you finish. There’s nothing more satisfying than clicking that last piece into place. Ahhhh. And that’s how writing feels when you finish that scene or transition or even that next page. Although, with writing it’s just a little harder to get there and not get frustrated along the way. I swear the stories in my mind like to hoard some of the pieces. Lol!

What about you? What do you do for a fun creative brain boost?

Debut Novel “The Sisters’ Song” by Louise Allan

This is Louise’s first published book and I’m sure it won’t be her last. I was fortunate to meet Louise through online classes a few years ago. You can immediately sense what a sincere and kind person she is just by reading her blog posts and by the thoughtful responses she gives to those who take the time to comment on them.

In her blog she reveals pieces of her life and amid the memories she shares lay the seeds of this story. Continue reading