Posted in Tips for Young Writers

Feedback is About Quality, Not Quantity

We’ve talked before about, unless you’re writing for your own eyes only, you need to consider your readers when you write. You can find that post here. In order to do that you’re eventually going to need to ask for feedback on your writing. Feedback can come from many places and in many forms, but some is going to be better than others. Let’s take a look at some common places to get feedback, and their pros and cons.

Family

Family is (mostly) awesome. They love you, they think you’re cool and they want you to be happy. Also, they might be happy to read your work for free (cha-ching). But is family the right place to get feedback on your work?

The Pros:

  • They don’t charge
  • They’re easy to approach
  • You trust and value their opinions

The Cons:

  • They may not be totally honest with you (because they love you and don’t want to hurt you
  • They don’t necessarily know how to assess a manuscript
  • They’re biased (again, because they love you)
  • They’re unfamiliar with the technical aspects of writing
  • They can be unreliable

Other Writers

Other writers should have your back, right? Yep. And they’re in the same boat as you, so they’ll know their stuff too.

The Pros:

  • They understand the technical aspects of writing and how to express them. They can point out problems with plot, structure, dialogue and character arcs etc.
  • They don’t charge
  • They’re honest because they know honesty is what you need to improve, and their feedback is constructive
  • They may ask you to read their work in turn and that in itself can be useful

The Cons:

  • You may need to join a critique or writers group to have access to other writers and you may not feel comfortable about this (it’s something I’m still struggling with)
  • They may not be at the same level of writing as you – a less experienced writer may not be able to give you the level of advice you need
  • They’re busy and may not be able to work to your time-frame
  • They may ask you to read their work in turn, and you might not feel like it

A Mentor or Manuscript Assessment Service

A mentor is an experienced, usually published, writer who knows what publishers and agents are looking for and can give you excellent feedback. A manuscript service is just that, a service offered by an organisation (such as a writer’s association) to assess your manuscript.

The Pros:

  • They are extremely professional
  • They are efficient
  • They are constructive
  • They have insight into the publishing industry
  • They understand the technicalities of writing

The Cons:

  • They charge and they can be expensive. Assessing a manuscript takes many, many hours of work and both mentors and services charge accordingly
  • They will be honest and, while they will be professional and constructive, that honesty can sometimes be painful and confronting

In my opinion, finding a mentor or using an assessment service gives you the best return on your time and money. But, they can be pricey.

For example, the assessment service offered by Writers Victoria (of which I am a member) starts at AU$540 for a long manuscript up to 10,000, with an additional cost of AU$40 for every 10,000 words over that you go. The standard for a YA novel is 50,000 words. Yikes!

The mentor I have worked with in the past charged AU$25/half hour and she often did upwards of ten hours of work on my manuscripts. For me, it was well worth the cost. But, while both options can result in a better manuscript, they don’t guarantee that your work will end up published.

Asking other writers to look at your work is the next best option, and this is where cultivating your writing tribe is useful. If you’re not in a position to pay for assessments (and, lets face it, we don’t always have extra cash floating around) then other writers can be a God-send.

Family, in my opinion, are the worst people to ask to assess your work, unless you’re looking for a confidence boost (or your family may be the brutally honest kind. In that case, just don’t go there. Why do that to yourself?). They may be avid readers, but a reader does not necessarily make a writer. And they’re less likely to be able to give you subjective feedback (whether negative or positive).

In short, do get feedback on your work, don’t get it from friends and family and, if you can, shell out money for a professional, knowledgeable, service.

Posted in Tips for Young Writers

Planning on Paper, or on the Computer

When it comes to planning your writing there’s many different ways to go about it but all of them require you to make some sort of visual record and, unless I’m missing something, there’s only two ways to do that – you either go old school and write it down on paper or you get techy and use some sort of app (when I was young we called them programs. Why the change?).

Obviously, there are pros and cons to both methods.

Pen and Paper

Pro:

  • It’s immediate
  • You don’t need to subscribe to anything or buy any extra apps
  • Paper and writing tools are affordable
  • It’s portable
  • You get to buy pretty looking notebooks and nice pens

Con:

  • Paper comes from trees
  • Written notes are difficult to organise and take up room
  • Written notes are easy to misplace
  • You can just delete something and start again
  • You can’t just copy and paste

Digital

Pro:

  • Everything is in one place
  • Easy to organise, hard to lose
  • Fairly intuitive – most people are tech literate now
  • Easy to share information with others
  • Time saving

Cons:

  • Extra apps can be expensive
  • Laptops can be heavy and awkward to cart around
  • You’re at the mercy of your WiFi connection
  • No pretty notebooks or nice pens needed

For me there’s something about putting pen to paper that helps things flow. It feels more intuitive. Perhaps that has a lot to do with my age – I didn’t have my first mobile until I was 18 because no body really had mobiles – or perhaps it’s just to do with how I think. I like that physical connection. That said, I’m a slob and I’m always losing my notes. And every time I want to switch things up, I need to rewrite everything.

How you plan your work (even whether or not you plan your work) is very personal and can change depending on the project your working on. I will say though, if you know what works for your, there’s no point trying to force yourself to work differently. That means that while I love trees, I still have to be one of their biggest enemies. And for that, I’m sorry.

Posted in Tips for Young Writers

Making Contacts Helps

I’m gearing up for KidLitVic 2019. This will be the fourth year this amazing Victorian conference for children’s writers is being held and the fourth year I will be attending and having assessments of my work by publishers. That means I’m busy refining, refining, refining. Writing reminds me of tumbling stones – you need to keep going to get something beautiful.

Continue reading “Making Contacts Helps”
Posted in Tips for Young Writers

Let’s Get Visceral

A visceral reaction is the physical feeling that often accompanies an emotional response to an experience or event. Think about the last time you were excited about something – the way your fingers and toes tingled and you felt a little bit light headed. That is a visceral response.

Visceral responses are great tools in the ‘show, don’t tell’ toolbox. You show your character being afraid (She looked over the edge of the cliff and her stomach clenched) rather than telling the reader she’s frightened (She looked over the edge of the cliff and felt afraid). There also a great way of showing the reader, hey this is real. This character feels things just as you’d expect them to if they were real.

Continue reading “Let’s Get Visceral”
Posted in Tips for Young Writers

What if You Don’t Agree with Your Teacher

If you’ve stuck with me for any time you know my views on the importance of education. Here I talk about the importance of picking the right course for you, here I discuss how education is not a luxury but a necessity and here I talk about the importance of finding someone who pushes you.

But, what if you are doing a course or making the most of you English class, but there’s something that your teacher/instructor has said that you don’t agree with? It’s easy to resolve a disagreement about cold, hard, facts – once a student pulled me up on the hierarchy of courts in Australia, so we Googled it – but what about method and the craft of writing?

Continue reading “What if You Don’t Agree with Your Teacher”