Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Power of the Critique

As a writer, showing someone else my work can bring feelings of terror and pride. I may be second guessing what I wrote, frustrated with the storyline, or proud of my brilliant phrasing. As an introvert, it is stepping outside my comfort zone to share my work, even after years of writing and in a comfortable and familiar critique group. So much of writing comes from within, revealing corners of ourselves. We work in solitude, but writers can be egotistical enough to think their thoughts deserve an audience.

A first audience should be a critique group. The first time submitting to a critique group can be devastating. Writers want to tell their tales in the way they want to tell them. Hearing this or that isn't working can feel like bullets to the chest. We writers can feel indignation, shame, horror, we wonder why we put up with this abuse. We hate these people who cannot grasp our vision and may insist these people are wrong.

Three, Faces, Creatures, Angry, Aliens

The thing is, those people who are picking apart your chapter are doing you a huge favor.  These are other eyes on your pages, assessing what speaks to them, what isn't working, what is. It can hurt. Hearing something is missing when you poured your entire heart out on a page is hard, but it can also be valuable feedback to dig deeper, write better, get to the meat of the story and grab the reader.

Writing is from the heart, but there is a myriad of ways to execute it, and some are definitely better than others. If you want to be better, you have to be critiqued.

Be brave. Be strong. Get critiques and let them simmer past the emotional reaction.

And keep going. Write better.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Book Review: Orphan Train

I just finished "Orphan Train" by Christina Baker Kline. It was the Fox Cities Read this year, and although I missed her talk during the Fox Cities Book Festival (www.foxcitiesbookfestival.org), I could tell why this story was chosen.

It was a compelling story of a new immigrant child semi-orphaned and sent to the west on an orphan train. There weren't enough details on the train, except for Dutchy, who we get to love again and again.

The book had a dual POV style, set in the past to show the orphan adventure against a modern day foster teen. I didn't much care about one in the beginning, but it became important in the end and worth sticking through it.

The beginning half of this book is extremely promising and engaging, and may propel readers to the end, which is satisfying in a way that makes you glad to shut the pages of the book.