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


Our reason for creating WWK originated as an outlet for our love of reading and writing mystery fiction. We hope you love it, too, and will enjoy our holiday gifts to our readers with original short stories to celebrate the season. Starting on 11/16 stories by Warren Bull, Margaret S. Hamilton, Paula Gail Benson, Linda Rodriguez, KM Rockwood, Gloria Alden, and E. B. Davis will appear every Thursday into the New Year.


Our November Author Interviews: 11/8--Ellen Byron, and 11/15--Sujata Massey. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.


November Saturday Bloggers: 11/4 Margaret S. Hamilton and 11/11 Cheryl Hollon.


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 will have the following shorts published as well: "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017 and "Turkey Underfoot," just published, will appear in the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: a Fifth Course of Chaos.


James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Growing Pains

I recently joined a critique group for YA authors.  It's a brand new group consisting of 10 women, and we all seem to be about the same age, but that's not the reason I joined.  I joined, so I could get some solid feedback on my writing by others in the field.  It’s nice to have the kudos of friends and family, but another writer’s eye can help point out discrepancies that loved ones might miss in their excitement to be reading something written by someone close to them.

We've only had two meetings so far: the first to meet each other and read one page from our WIP (to get a sense of where everyone is), the second to critique the first chapter of each of our WIPs.  We've agreed to meet once a month and to submit one chapter for each member to review and critique at the next meeting.  We meet for three hours and each author gets about 15 minutes of time devoted to her WIP (each other member gets about two minutes to speak).

I'm not sure quite what to make of the group yet.  I realize it's still too early to know how useful it'll be for me, but I do know a few things already . . .

I'm very green when it comes to knowing how to work in a critique group.  Here at WWK we critique each others' blogs as a courtesy--to make sure our stuff is the best it can be--but it's not a full chapter's worth.  Plus, I'm not the type of person who reads something with a critical eye.  I don't sit there thinking "this character isn't well fleshed-out," or "there isn't enough description here for me to really know where the scene is at" when I stick my nose in a book.  I prefer to become really engaged in the story, and to analyze it in that way would take me right out of the moment.

I clearly don't read as many YA books as the other members do.  When giving their comments about a person's work, these women rattle off book titles and authors as references, sometimes three or four at a time.  I've never heard of more than half of the books they recommend; ditto with the authors.  I feel very inadequate when I hear them all discuss these authors.

Mine is the only mystery in the bunch.  There are at least three dystopian, sci-fi stories in the group, a few normal teen angsty type books, where the main character has some serious emotional issues to work through, and mine.  A couple authors weren't able to make it to this month's meeting, so the working members of the group might dwindle over time.  But I do know that I'm the only mystery writer there.

The main problem here is that I don't read dystopian, or sci-fi, or teen angsty books myself.  So I'm even more at a disadvantage when it comes to critiquing their work.  Firstly, because I don't understand why these fictional worlds are in the state they're in (which I hope will be explained in later chapters), and secondly, because I'm so busy focusing on why the world is the way it is, that I'm paying even less attention to how real the characters, plot, or setting feel to me.  I imagine the others feel the same way about my mystery.

I will say that I feel they gave some very useful feedback on my first chapter.  Some of it I've heard before, and others I hadn't, but that helped me to think more deeply about my WIP.  So, if I'm willing to work my way through stories that I don't normally read, I might learn quite a bit, about my writing, as well as the art of writing, itself.

16 comments:

E. B. Davis said...

I feel your pain, Alyx. I started out with an in-person critique group. There were two problems. The group was a long standing one in which the relationships were already determined, and I clearly didn't fit. The bent of the group was science fiction writing, and I was mystery. I didn't find the difference in genre to be the greatest of those two problems. I've read my share of sci fi, but my enjoyment reading their WIPs was marginal. I've found online groups to be more convenient and the interpersonal relationships don't impede the groups' purpose as much as an in-person group.

BTW--having loved ones read your WIP, unless they are writing professionals, may be the most detrimental thing you can do.

Warren Bull said...

Carl Hiaasen has a series of YA Mysteries, Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko and When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead are award winners. Lisa Harkrader has written several. I would be remiss if I did not mention Heartland by...me, of course.

LD Masterson said...

We have similar issues at my local writer's group. The members cover the full spectrum of genres and it's difficult sometimes critiquing genres we don't write, or read.

Alyx Morgan said...

Yeah, EB. I'm not sure how well I'll do reading the other YA books. I'm already finding it hard to "get into" the stories.

As for having loved ones read my WIP, I'm not sure why you think it's so detrimental, but they're not the only ones who read it. I do have an editor & a couple beta readers from my SinC chapter, because I know that I need professional eyes on my work.

Alyx Morgan said...

Thanks for the suggestions, Warren, & of course you have to include yours. :o) I'll have to check them out.

Alyx Morgan said...

Thanks, for stopping by, LD, & for commiserating. Hopefully I'll make it through this phase of growth.

E. B. Davis said...

Because they aren't professionals, Alyx. Loved ones, like Gloria's blog said, tell you what they think you want to hear rather than the truth. They also lack the skills necessary to give good feedback and advice. I remember the first time Kaye George and Jim Jackson critiqued my stuff. Wow--I learned so much! One friend edited as if I were writing a college term paper, which isn't the same at all. Of course, I'd been writing for two years by that point--and I hadn't learned much either. You need objectivity and professional advice, which only other writers can give you.

James Montgomery Jackson said...

My first critique group was The Cincinnati Writers Project. All different genres. I learned a lot from the critiques I received; I learned to write by critiquing other writers' work and listening to how my critique differed from others.

By understanding what worked and why things did not work in other pieces, I better understood
The comments I received.

A few may so gifted they do not need to learn to write; the rest of us need to work and pay our dues.

~ Jim

Alyx Morgan said...

Thanks, Jim. I hope to reap the same benefits that you did from your first group. I definitely know that I need to pay my dues. :o)

Alyx Morgan said...

EB, I realize that I need a professional eye (or more) to critique my writing, but if my friends/family want to read my work, I'm not going to say no. I do realize that their opinions won't be as helpful, except maybe to my ego, so I keep it all in perspective.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Alyx, I think you're wise to want to read more in the YA field. It's always a mistake to try to write in a field in which you haven't done a lot of reading. Reading widely in your field of choice can help you avoid all kinds of obvious amateur mistakes.

The important thing in YA lit is voice. That's what makes something appropriate or not for YA. You need believable characters, a well-built world, a plot that keeps the reader wanting to know what's next, and good writing, of course. You need those in every kind of novel. What really makes it YA is the voice, the sense that this is written from a young person's way of looking at the world. You can pick up valuable pointers in all these areas from your critique partners, if they're good critiquers and good writers.

Also, I'd like to point out that Warren's book, HEARTLAND, does an excellent job with that sense of voice. Your book's voice will, of course, be different, but you could look at what he's done in his and learn a great deal from it.

Gloria Alden said...

Alyx, I haven't read a lot of YA books, but Alan Bradley's work is not exactly YA, his main character is a precocious 12 year old, who is quite delightful. I'm sure if you read at least his first one THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE, you would begin to see why the main character, who solves mysteries, is so appealing.

You might check out on-line critique groups, too. Some can be good and others not so much.

Alyx Morgan said...

Thanks for the pointer, Linda. Voice is a place where my crit group has already found chinks in the armor. They say that I sometimes come across fine like a teenager, but at others, I sound like an adult writing about teenagers...not a very good thing.

Thanks for the second nomination for Warren's book. Now I'll really have to check it out. :o)

Alyx Morgan said...

Thanks for the suggestion, Gloria. I'll check out his book, too, though like you say, that's more an MG book. But it might help me get closer to the proper age & tone.

I know EB likes online critique groups as well. I'm just not sure that I would be able to take it as seriously if I wasn't meeting them face to face. We'll see how this group goes, though. I really want to give it a fair shot.

Casey Dorman said...

One of your fellow Writers Who Kill bloggers, Warren Bull has written a YA mystery called, Heartland. Its a story set in the19th century midwest and is an exciting tale of moving West, dealing with outlaws and town bullies. It is available through Amazon under Warren Bull's name or through the publisher, Avignon Press at www.avignonpress.com

Alyx Morgan said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Casey. Warren's book has been touted today a few times, so it's nice to know I have a great model right in my own "back yard."