Like last month, Charlie and Karol have mostly relinquished the floor to the Schmoozers for this blog post. Also like last month, they realized there was no way they could top the novel critique Schmmoze blog post for 2012 (read it HERE).
|The Schmoozers in action|
The most important thing I learned about my manuscript was...
– Hmm, let’s just say all the information I thought was on the first page WAS NOT THERE.
– I took a risk with my novel's voice, and the overwhelming response amongst my group was that it worked. Beyond that, I got a very helpful suggestion to help make my opening paragraph much stronger with the addition of a single sentence.
Garrett Vander Leun
– Too much telling.
– The most important thing that I learned about my piece (3 pages from a writing prompt) was that it could become a middle-grade book. I'm still smiling from the kind and encouraging feedback I received.
– My transitions could be smoother.
– I need to watch out for repeating what's been said. Keep the writing tight.
|Last Leaf on the Tree Table (moderated by Charlie Cohen)|
–...that it is a mistake to bring transitional scenes to a critique. I got so sick of bringing the first 4 pages of my book I thought I'd bring the next four. But those depend entirely on the first four to make sense. So I wasted a lot of valuable critique time answering questions that were answered in the first four pages. I wanted to see if there were things I could cut in the transition, but it was hard for anyone to judge, not knowing what I was transitioning from and to. So what I learned was: Bring scenes where something happens. Scenes that are, at least a bit, self contained. Hmm.... Seems obvious now that I look at it, but...
|The "No You Can't Sit at Our Table" Table |
(moderated by Karol Ruth Silverstein)
KAROL RUTH SILVERTEIN
The most important thing I learned about writing for middle grade kids / teens was...
– You will be properly ridiculed if your main character says she lives on THE WESTSIDE.
– In spite of my novel's unique and 'successful' voice, I still need to moderate how fully I use it because it could lead to comprehension problems for younger readers.
GARRETT VANDER LEUN
– Be careful with word choice/vocabulary in your writing.
|Four Fatal Femmes Table (moderated by Laurie Young)|
– Not to front-load the manuscript with background information. Dive head first into the mess and sprinkle background information as needed. Hook 'em from page one.
– Start in the action
– Anything goes. Really.
KAROL RUTH SILVERSTEIN
– I didn't exactly learn it, but it was brought back home to me: Never write down, and never preach. But this is true for any age, from toddler to geezer.
The biggest surprise for me at the May Schmooze was...
– I was surprised by how well received my work was. Writing is such a solitary endeavor and it's always a little gut wrenching to finally take your little monster out for a stroll. To not have everyone gasp in horror was a wonderful surprise.
GARRETT VANDER LEUN
– I didn't offend everyone at the table with my comments. I only offended HALF the table.
– ...how amazingly well some folks can write. Every time I sit at a critique table with "newbies," I am amazed that there are really terrific, visionary writers out there who have not before been to our schmoozes. I mean, real writers who, somehow, got to this level of ability without us!! HOW does this happen??! Does this mean Karol and I are not the sun and the moon; the mother's milk of all your creativity? That you people are the real talents and we, just trained monkeys, who hop around for your amusement? Well, that's probably as it should be.
|501st Legion - The Wolf Pack Table |
(moderated by Blue Leader AKA Jeffery Cox)
– How interesting some of the stories people are working on turned out to be.
– How committed the participants are.
– (My tablemates were) awesome speed 'critters.' Really. It's not easy to give good advice under time limits, but they excelled.
– Enjoying my pages being read out loud -- thanks to the wonderful job by Mara
– …What!?! No espresso brownies?!? Noooooooooo!!!
The most inspiring thing I heard at the May schmooze was...
– It's incredible how patient children's writers are and the lengths they will go to TACTFULLY tell me my pages need MORE WORK.
– That my fellow critiquers wanted to read more of my story.
– There was a woman who claimed she wasn't capable of writing anything beyond a few simple short stories... And then she brought in this amazing short story that was loaded with original characters and a very unique plot that lends itself PERFECTLY to a longer-format story - - - not to mention that it only contains a handful of ideas from the author's incredible life story. You don't know what you got until you sit down and give it a shot! Don't say 'I can't' - just write!
GARRETT VANDER LEUN
And a few random thoughts/comments:
– Fresh eyes bring fresh insights. No matter how many people look at a manuscript, a new reader may see something missed by others. It is such a pleasure to talk about writing with other writers.
– Inspiration works in mysterious ways. I just love being privy to the creative fruit and process of such diverse writers. Slowly, I feel my own flow desiring to be shared. And I surprise myself with all my comments during the critiques! I hope the love is clear.
|Not Charlie's Table (moderated by Lee Wind)|
– Whenever someone says you're only going to get to share the first five pages of your manuscript, there's a desire that I imagine is universal, to want to cram in more - twiddle with the margins, do a full first page - because there's a fear that if they don't see enough of it they won't 'get it.' In our group on the novel critique night, we suggested that someone else besides the writer read the text aloud, and for one of our critique pieces, the reader only got to about three pages in before the reading time was running out. The author commented that the person could maybe read the rest faster, but all the major points of feedback we had to give were already apparent in the first three pages. (In fact, they were evident on the first page.) It reminded me that as much as I, too, chafe at the idea of having my work appraised based on only a small portion, the DNA for the entire book is right there in the first three pages… the first page… and dare I say, maybe even the first few lines? It was a good lesson to re-learn.
We couldn’t have said it better...everyone!
Huge thanks to our table monitors and to Molly Mueller for snapping all the great photos.
Join us June 12th for the niche Schmooze – where we’ll explore the road-to-publishing less traveled. Plus – we want to hear your ideas on what Schmooze topics we should schedule for next year.
Until the, keep passing the open windows.
Charlie & Karol