Monthly Archives September 2013

Critique Technique part 23.5: read-out-loud tools

We’re going to take a break today from the regular Critique Technique posts to explore some very cool tools.

If you’ve been writing for any time at all, you’ve probably heard the advice that you should read your work out loud, or have it read to you. The reason is that you’ll hear (literally) the things that go bump or clank in the text that you might not have discovered otherwise. Your brain processes information through different channels when in comes in through your ears versus your eyes and that can be truly eye- (or should that be “ear-“?) opening.

Up until recently, using this technique required one or more of the following things:

  • A place where you could talk to yourself without getting funny looks.
  • A reduced sense of self-consciousness.
  • An understanding or–even better–helpful sp...
Read More

Critique Technique, Part 23—Confused Storyline

Green die with past, present, and future on faces
Photo credit: Stuart Miles via

I was originally going to title this article “Confused Timeline” but as I put my notes together I realized time isn’t the problem (other than me not having enough of it). Of course it’s important that a story flow in a logical sequence of events from its beginning to its end (with some exceptions I’ll get to in a moment), but that sequence doesn’t have to follow a time-linear order.

In fact, more than likely, it won’t. Consider:

  • If there’s even one flashback, flash-forward, or instance of a character remembering something, the perfect time sequence is broken. This is true even if the story is written in the present tense.
  • Same thing if there are multiple plot lines or point of view characters...
Read More

Critique Technique, Part 22—Overly-Complex Plot

Knotted ropes
Photo credit: Boaz Yiftach via

In a way it’s hard to say that a story’s plot is overly complex. Many stories have multiple plot lines, each with their own subplots, and yet the story “works”: the reader can understand what’s going on, the plot lines all make sense (eventually, anyway), and things come together at the end. Maybe the conclusion doesn’t tie everything together in a pretty bow—if the book is part of a series, it shouldn’t unless it’s the last one—but the story doesn’t end in a Gordian knot, either.

So the question isn’t whether a story’s plot is too complex, but whether it’s too complex for the space allotted to it...

Read More