story beginnings tagged posts

Critique Technique Table of Contents

Here’s a Table of Contents of all of the Critique Technique posts to make it easier to go directly to the post you want to read.

Introductory Posts

Part 1 of Many

Part 4: Series Preview

Reader Response

Part 2: How Do You Feel?

Part 3: Authorial Intentions and Tracking Your Own Responses

Beginnings and Endings

Part 5: Weak or Missing Hook

Part 6: The Wrong Beginning

Part 7: Scene and Chapter Endings

Part 7b: More on Scene and Chapter Endings

Part 8: Story Endings

Characterization

Part 9: Characters and Conflict

Part 10: Poor Characterization

Part 11: Lack of Character Development

Part 12: Showing and Telling in Character Development

Part 13: Timing the Reveal

Part 14: Out-of-Character Behavior

Part 15: Unclear Character Goals

Part 16: Unclear or Insufficient Obstacles

Part 17: Dialect...

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Revision and Self-Editing for Publication Review

Small 3-star rating on dark blue background

Let’s get this on the table right now: Jim Bell does not write a bad craft-of-writing book. Does NOT.

In one case, however, the title of his book does not match the contents. That case is Revision and Self-Editing for Publication. As K. M. Weiland noted in her 3-star review of this book on Goodreads, there’s little here about revision or self-editing. That’s too bad because what little there is clearly shows that if Bell had focused on those tasks, rather than writing yet another book about writing a decent first draft, he could have done well.

Bell divides the book into two sections: “self-editing” and “revision...

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The Art of War for Writers

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Put James Scott Bell’s The Art of War for Writers next to Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style on your bookshelf—or better, within easy reach! It’s that good.

Using famous and long-ago Chinese general Sun Tzu’s The Art of War as his model, Bell presents vital and valuable information for writers in bite-size chunks. These nourishing and digestible non-chicken nuggets add up to a lot of chapters, yet only two are longer than five pages.

That’s what makes them so useful: you can read a few, set the book aside to ponder them, and then come back without being overwhelmed with information. These chapter titles will give you a sense of what I mean:

  • From Part I, “Reconnaissance”: 21. Put heart into everything you write.
  • From Part II, “Tactics”: 36...
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Critique Technique, Part 57 — Great Start!

Young woman reding a book on a lawn

Photo by lusi/RGBstock photos.

By Ross B. Lampert

Experienced writers understand that the most important chapter of a book isn’t the last one, but the first one. And that the first paragraph is the most important paragraph. And that the first sentence is the most important sentence. And that the first word… well, let’s not get carried away here.

But that understanding about the first sentence, paragraph, and chapter makes sense. The purpose, after all, of each of these firsts is to get the reader to read the one that follows: the second sentence, the second paragraph, the second chapter. Why? Because the writer wants the reader to keep reading, to keep going, sentence after sentence, paragraph after paragraph, chapter after chapter...

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Great Stuff for Writers, June 17, 2013

Quite a collection in today’s Great Stuff. There’s the Hero’s Journey, Niccolo Macchiavelli, who was probably not a hero, Aunt Edna, who might or might not have been one, and a cadaver or two. All in the service of writing. Plus foreign rights agents, dirty talk, and much more. Dive in!

CRAFT

Gregory Ciotti’s (@GregoryCiotti) Copyblogger post, What a Notorious 16th-Century Philosopher Can Teach You About Content Marketing Today, might seem to have nothing to do with creative writing, given that its target market is the business blogger. That seeming would be wrong. Niccolo Macchiavelli’s The Prince was controversial, sure, and it’s the book he’s most remembered for, but what’s important to us short story and novel writers is how he used controversy to stir—and maintain—inte...

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Great Stuff for Writers, May 8, 2013

Hey! What happened to Monday? I was traveling, that’s what. And Tuesday? Trying to catch up. And Wednesday? STILL trying to catch up. I’m almost there. So, herewith is an abbreviated and tardy version of Great Stuff: outlining and word choice and beginnings and endings; branding and Goodreads and mastery and saving your work on the cloud.

CRAFT

If you’re an outliner, you understand that your outline is a fixed thing, graven in stone. In What Comes After Once Upon a Time, Robert J. Sadler describes how a little item he threw into a story, not thinking it was going to turn out to be important, instead became a key element in getting his latest novel to its conclusion by a path he never intended. But he trusted his storyteller’s instinct and good things happened.

We all know that we s...

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Critique Technique, part 6: the wrong beginning

Last time I wrote about how the beginning of a piece is supposed to “hook” the reader, to make them have to keep reading past the first line, paragraph, and page. Now we need to zoom out a little and look at the beginning of the piece as a whole. Specifically, we need to ask, “Is this the right place for the piece to begin?”

That may seem like an odd question: doesn’t an article, short story, or novel start at the beginning?

Not necessarily. You’ve probably heard, too, that a story needs to start in medias res, a Latin phrase meaning “in the middle of things.”

Great. WHAT things?

Things. You know. The action. The events.

But when there are things, action, events all through a story, which ones should the story start in the middle of?

Let’s clarify...

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Critique Technique, part 5: Weak or Missing Hook

Before I begin, some thank-yous and a reminder. The thank-yous go to other members of the Cochise Writers Group because while I’m the one writing these posts, I didn’t come up with all of the topics. My fellow Cochise Writers contributed plenty.

Second, remember that for each of the items from now on, you have four questions to ask:

  • Did it happen?
  • Exactly where did it happen?
  • What exactly is the problem?
  • What can the author do to fix it?

OK, so what is a “hook” and how can it be weak or missing? Whatever you’re writing—fiction or non-fiction, poetry or prose—you need to catch and hold your reader’s interest: you need to hook them. And you need to do it early. How early? Well, in a poem it has to happen right away, in the first few lines, since a poem is likely to be brief...

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Great Stuff for Writers, March 19 & 20, 2013

Holy hotcakes, Batman! Check out the Great Stuff we’ve got today! The first three posts qualify as Extra-Great Stuff in my mind, and the others are none too shabby themselves. Check ‘em out.

CRAFT

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s excellent Your Story Opening: Shock vs. Seduction on Jane Friedman’s blog opens today’s Great Stuff, and what an opening it is. This excerpt from her book Fine-Tuning Fiction actually starts with a brief discussion of pace and who drives it—antagonist early, protagonist later—then gets into those two types of openings. The shock opening grabs the reader’s interest and attention right away...

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