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Are You Really Your Own Worst Critic?

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What Do You Think of Your Writing?

If you’re a writer then you know that feeling, the one you have after you read and reread what you’ve created.

You struggle for some sort of self-validation.

You know it’s ridiculous to try, there’s no way you can see your own work through someone else’s eyes.

Will people like it?

A Peek Into Your Mind

Sitting at your keyboard your eyes trace over the familiar words that you’ve so painstakingly crafted. Either you think it’s brilliant or you’re unsure. If it sucks, you certainly wouldn’t leave it in that state. You read along, you think you’ve got it, it all sounds right in your head.

BING! BING! BING!

Check yourself, stop what you’re doing. It’s someone else’s turn to have a look. You know the truth here. You can’t be objective. You’re reading the story as it plays out in your mind and not by the words that you’ve written. Truth.

Why Your Friends and Family Can’t Be Trusted

You do the first thing you can and share what you’ve got with that one trusted friend or any family that you can muster.

  • The first thing to note, your family has been roped into this.
  • The second thing, their reading because they feel like they have to.
  • Thirdly, they love you and aren’t going to be objective either. If they are, your situation is extremely rare.
  • Your friend is your best friend for a reason, they’ll be more honest but most likely want to steer clear of crushing you. They know you love writing, it’s your passion. They’re not going to jeopardize that by telling you the absolute truth if it’s crap.

At least you know what your next move is. You’ve read up on the business of writing and you know that good writer’s get themselves a good group of beta-readers. So you go through the motions, sending them chapter by chapter. You’re getting their feedback and you’re thrilled that they like it. Sure it’s not perfect, there are some areas that need perfecting, but of course there are, you expected that right? Yes, you did. Now you’re golden! Nope, think again.

What Aren’t Your Beta Readers Saying to You

What are your beta reader’s not telling you? Not every person who writes or reads is trained in the art of constructive criticism. And even if they are, do you think they want to hurt your feelings. It’s widely known that so many writers absolutely cannot take any form of rejection. It’s true, most writer’s cringe, denying their bad reviews, explaining them away. But not before taking it personally.

Is there some chance that you’re not getting the feedback you need? Great, just what you didn’t want to hear, right?

Before you dive into the world of beta-reading and build up your team, think of what your needing from them. We all ask for their honest opinion but are we prepared for the feedback.

  • Are they trained in constructive criticism?
  • Do they write in your genre?
  • Are they someone who’s writing you respect?
  • Do you trust them to tell you the truth?

Will you get upset if they tell you something you don’t want to hear? They think you will. It might be that they aren’t skilled at constructive criticism. They might shy away from stating what’s obvious to them that you somehow missed.

Why the hell are we so delicate you might ask? Because we’ve toiled away, bleeding our hearts out and it all sounded great in our minds while we were at it. We’ve spent hours and hours in the editing chair. We did our very best, followed all the rules we read in Stephen King’s book on writing. We put up the hefty fee to have our work edited by a professional even, and we made the necessary changes. See… we corrected the spots where we screwed up. But is there still something more that’s being overlooked here?

What You Can Do

While it’s true that there will always be a percentage of people that your writing just doesn’t resonate with. And there will always be the haters or the people that think they are better than you. There will always be a someone that rejects your style of writing. But, is there a message you’re missing, or something that’s been left unsaid entirely.

Take the time to make a list of what you expect from your beta-readers. Make sure the people that are reading for you are qualified to give you the feedback you’re looking for. If you just want to see if they like it, you can ask just about anyone to read for you. But if you want to grow as a writer and improve your craft, you’ll look for just the right fit. You’ll beg them to shred your work, demand that they hold nothing back. And the best part, you’ll love every ounce of criticism. It’s golden.

 

Craig Boyack – Guest Post: Short Story Writing

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I really appreciate the invitation, and the topic challenge. I never really put much thought into how I came to write short form stuff. It kind of evolved, but reflecting upon that, hopefully, leads me to a good article.

Once upon a time, I wanted to write a novel. I picked up my iPad and started typing away with no idea what I was doing. I had no idea what the rules were, or that they even existed. Looking back, it was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my writing career.

The final product sucked, but I didn’t know that at the time. I kind of wandered from one cool idea to the next without much of a game plan. What I wound up with was quite a bit like a television series. The same characters engaged in tiny vignettes that were kind of cool. Archaeologist might look at those one day and decide they were my first short stories. (They certainly weren’t a novel.)

I’ve always loved short form stuff, and in many ways prefer it to a novel length work. Time is a big factor for me, and I really dig a story I can complete in one session. Prior to that first “practice” novel, I read lots of Poe, O’Henry, and magazines. I enjoy some of the ones dedicated to short stories, like Hitchock’s, Ellery Queen, and others. It never really occurred to me to write my own.

From magazines, I wound my way into comics. I think this is a wonderful way to tell a story, and there are some great graphic novels out there these days.

My Blog, Entertaining Stories, had been live for about a year when October rolled around. I wanted to do something on my blog that felt like Halloween. I enjoy reading a kind of micro-fiction called Creepy Pasta. I thought I might try my hand at that.

I did some snooping around, and someone has a website by that name. I probably have no legal worries, but didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes either. Who knows, that person might someday prove to be an ally in my self publishing journey. I came up with the name Macabre Macaroni instead.

I posted a complete story per week during October, and my blog stats spiked. One of them was the most popular post I ever made for a long time, and it’s still in my top ten. I decided the short form still had fans somewhere out there, and did a bit of digging.

Traditional publishing shunned the short form. Oh sure, some of the biggest name authors can get away with a book of short stories, but for the rest of us it’s pretty limited. Amazon changed all that for us. These days, novellas, novelettes, short stories, and even poetry are making a comeback.

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I’m a big believer in challenging myself, and include a personal challenge in all of my novels. It might be unnoticed by the reader, but it forces me to grow and improve. I approached short stories with that mindset. I’ll never know if I can write one until I write one.

I scoped out my competition, and many of them offered a single short story for 99¢. Others were writing a series, and offering a prequel for 99¢. I decided to offer a book full of short stories, and micro-fiction, for 99¢. It seems like a better deal, and it sells pretty well for me.

I searched for the rules once again, and there aren’t many. Sites offer up word count for the various lengths, but none of them seem to agree. Therefore; I reject their reality and substitute my own. I break it down this way:

  • Flash Fiction = one paragraph
  • Micro Fiction = a decent blog post. 1000 words, pushing my luck at 1500
  • Short story = 5000 to 30,000 words
  • Novella = 30,000 to 80,000 words
  • Novel = 80,000 words and up

It used to bother me that there are holes in my list. It also bothered me that novelette didn’t find a home. Today, I really don’t care. The actual story is more important than the pigeonhole it goes in. As a self publisher, I don’t have to conform to a bunch of categories that different websites define differently anyway.

My short form tales are also proving grounds for me. I called the first book The Experimental Notebook for a reason. Short form allows me to experiment with new things. I recently wrote one that I’m pretty excited about as a big monologue. It would never work as a novel, but I think it’s a great short story. I also wrote my first epistolary style story as a short story.

At some point, I’m going to put out a second Experimental Notebook. The first one sells well, and I’ve gotten some wonderful reviews. It can also be looked at as a gateway drug into my novels. Someone might take a 99¢ chance, and decide one of my novels might be fun.

I write speculative fiction, and for me the fences are pretty far apart. My stuff varies from paranormal to science fiction, and the occasional fantasy. This gives me plenty of room to keep things fresh, and the short form stuff does the same.


I hope I’ve encouraged some of you to take a chance on short form. As writers, you can try new things without dedicating months to a project to see if it works. Now you can use those cool ideas that won’t carry an entire novel. As readers, you can enjoy a complete story on your commuter bus, or coffee break.

If you’d like to check out some of mine, you can read The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack here: http://a-fwd.com/asin-com=B014S2BA4U

Cover Art

A speculative selection of micro-fiction and short stories. These were designed to be short reads for your commute, coffee break, and other times when readers are pressed for time. This book contains a bit of science fiction, some fantasy, and paranormal stories. 

I’m excited to see short fiction returning in popularity. I hope you will enjoy these stories as much as I did.

 

 

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