Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ways to Build Craft

With each book I write, I want to grow as a writer, learn from myself and others. So I thought I would share some ways I have been doing this over the years.

1. I wrote four completed manuscripts before I sold Shrinking Violet. I did not find this a waste because I truly feel like I grew with each manuscript. Sometimes I see aspiring authors struggle for years with the same manuscript, slicing it to pieces. But I truly felt I learned from each one and one of those manuscripts was Pure Red which will be released in September! I also plan to revise one of the others and hopefully sell it.

2. For me belonging to a critique group is very important, especially in the beginning. There is something about reading aloud to your peers. You can catch so much that way. I used to attend the group weekly and now try to go once a month or every other month, but what I love about my group is that you can go whenever you want.

3. One of the most valuable things is to have is at least a couple of critique partners. These are people you can really trust to help make your manuscript the best it can be. A critique partner knows your strengthens and weaknesses and is someone you can bounce ideas off of at the drop of a hat.

4. Reading is also extremely important to me. I don’t have time to read stacks of books, even though I would love to, so I try to read books that would make the most sense to the book I’m working on. For instance, if I’m looking to add more depth to a character, I try to read a book where the author has done well with this. Or if I’m working on a historical element in a book, I may pick up a historical novel. So I’m not really reading something that is too similar to my book but something that has an element of what I would like to add to my book.

So what are some things you do to hone your craft?


  1. I do all of the above. Well, my critique is by default since I'm in an MFA program. However, I would love to join a critique group that focuses specifically on YA. :)

  2. Great tips! And also thanks for the comments on your crit group. I have partners but tomorrow 3 of us are going to start getting together every other week for two hours and we are trying to figure out the best way to spend the time. You've given me some great ideas :-)

  3. I have an online writer's group that has, so far, been invaluable. I found it really difficult and frustrating when I had to meet IRL at a specific location and time, and the forum I belong to has enough structure that nobody gets lost. It's great.

    Reading aloud is another essential I've found. Like you said--you catch so much.

    I also study books that I love, picking out the plot structure, focusing on characterization, etc. I've found this only really works the second time through, though, since the first time I read a book I usually get caught up in the story.

    I would love to have a critique partner! Alas, I have yet to find someone compatible, or even available. The land of critique partners is a land of mystery to me.

  4. I have a valued but quite large critique group that I meet with weekly, plus a small group of trusted writer friends with a less formal arrangement of passing around chapters and things that need another pair of eyes.

    The big group is a read and critique, so it's best for getting a global impression on a scene. Too slow, too much description, not ENOUGH description, lacking emotion... But most important, it meets regularly, so I produce pages regularly. I don't always read, and I never read a whole book, just bits and pieces. But every week I put on my writer hat and think critically about writing. Sometimes I learn as much from other people's reads as I do from my own. It's made me a better editor of my own work.

  5. Pam, maybe you can start the critique group! Rachel, I really suggest that everyone have a hardcopy of your chapter(s) while you read aloud so they can mark down comments.
    EA so true about crit partners. What about someone from your online group?
    Rosemary, I totally have the same thing. My big group is a lot of newer people and then I have a small breakout group of crit partners that I have known for a lot longer and we have all gone through the publishing process together.
    Thanks, Jenny!

  6. Great tips and yes....why have I not seen this cover??? So pretty!!!!

  7. Great advice, Danielle! Also, if someone has trouble finding a crit group, they can usually connect with a writing partner or two online. Those extra ears/eyes are invaluable!