If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

Check out our February author interviews: 2/7-debut author Keenan Powell (Alaskan lawyer), 2/14-Leslie Wheeler (Rattlesnake Hill), 2/21-bestselling author Krista Davis, who unveils a new series, 2/28-Diane Vallere answers my questions about Pajama Frame. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.

Our February Saturday Guest Blogger Schedule: 2/3-Saralyn Richard, 2/10-Kathryn Lane. WWK's Margaret H. Hamilton will blog on 2/17, and Kait Carson on 2/24.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM has had the following shorts published as well: "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017 and "Turkey Underfoot," appears in the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: a Fifth Course of Chaos.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Saved by the Critic

Recently I had a short story accepted largely because one of my critique group members pointed out that I had not clarified the monetary value of an amount of a bill for services expressed in the monetary system used at the time of the events; pounds and shillings. I know that. I knew it when I wrote the story but, like many good critics, she pointed out something so obvious that it was little short of amazing I had not seen it on my own. Adding a few words in the revision made the point I was after — the point of the entire story.

In another short story I failed to give the historical time frame. My readers assumed that the hero, who was a World War II veteran, was in his eighties. They wanted to know why the old man was bouncing around on rooftops, fighting gangsters and saving a geriatric damsel in distress. I had not intended to write geezer noir. I just forgot to mention the date of the story, which resulted in a strange and unintentionally humorous adventure.

In fifth grade English I noticed that every time a student story was read that had characters with the same first name as one of my classmates everyone perked up and looked interested. I thought I had discovered the secret of writing popular fiction. I wrote a “story” using the names of the most popular kids in class. My mother read my “story” and tried to warn me. But I had to learn on my own that it’s also a good thing to include a plot. The teacher and students made that abundantly clear. I have never forgotten it. It was good training for a writer.

Feedback about what doesn’t work in my writing is especially helpful. On occasion in my desire to be helpful in critique groups I have been known to share things I believe could be improved in, um, colorful language. I don’t mean I curse. I mean I say things like a writer. One group member started her novel’s first chapter with a cute and well-written description of a woman coming home and playing with her cat. Person after person around the table in the bookstore commented on the high quality of her writing in the scene. Then came my turn.

I suppose my word choice could have been more tactful. I said it was, “boring” and likely to appeal to “all ten people in the English-speaking world fascinated by the idea that woman might play with a cat.”

I pointed out that later in the same chapter the woman locked her weapon in a gun safe and then noticed an unexpected man’s shadow on the wall. I suggested that those events might make an opening for a mystery novel that would interest many more readers than a woman playing with a cat. Just in case you’re wondering she forgave me and we are still friends. I fact she still gives me great advice about writing.

What have critics saved you from?


jennymilch said...

I learned to write a coherent suspense novel with the help of agents and editors who rejected my work. It is a brutal, soul-searing process of artistic advancement. But it works. I owe an awful lot to the critics, too, Warren.

BlackBear said...

After reading my story, someone in my writing group mentioned being unsure where the "second" gun had come from. I was about to smugly point out that there was one one gun in the scene when a second person also admitted being confused by that ... and then a third, fourth and fifth person at the table noting the same confusion. Ouch!

Ramona said...

"Geezer noir"--by golly, Warren, I think you're onto something.

It's what you do wrong that teaches you. That's what I tell myself when I get back a critique pointing out all of my mistakes.

Warren Bull said...

Jenny, When an agent or an editor takes the time to make comments about why your work is being rejected that is a gift.

Warren Bull said...

BlackBear, I've had that experience too. One comment is just an opinion two comments on the same thing make it problem needing to be fixed.

Warren Bull said...

Ramona, You're correct. As great as it is to get compliments, it is pointing out mistakes that is golden.

Maryn said...

I experienced a rude awakening about how important another eye is. After two critique partners had read my book, after three publisher edits, the fourth edit discovered that my hero was sitting down to a chicken dinner. Arrgh! He'd been a vegetarian since he was ten. This is after I read the book a zillion times and others read it. No one caught that. I was totally embarrassed, but not as embarrassed as I would have been if it had gone to press without the correction.

Warren Bull said...


I once had character's eating fresh tomatoes at a time of year they'd be tiny green bumps months away form becoming ripe.

Pauline Alldred said...

With one of my stories, I was so anxious not to slow down the story with internal thoughts or over the top expressions of grief that my protagonist was criticized for not showing enough emotion.

I knew how much emotion the protagonsit was feeling so I worked at including emotion via body language and dialogue. That made the story a whole different read.

Warren Bull said...

One consistent problem I have as a writer is conveying what I know about the characters to readers e.g. my geriatric hero.