Saturday, November 30, 2013

December 2013 - Why write as well as you can?

Why write as well as you can?  Because (you fill in the blank).

In truth, it doesn't matter what your reason or motivation for writing is, what matters more is are you writing as well as you possibly can? But how do you know if your writing stacks up to publication quality or reader satisfaction?

If you're a writer who cannot not write, and writing is important to you, then you have probably sought out people and critique groups, shown them your work, and wondered about, hated, or loved their feedback. I call it feedback— a word with kinder and more helpful overtones than critiques and their harsh criticisms.

Now, writers form or join both in-person and online groups not only for feedback but also for comradery. After all, only another writer understands a writer, their problems with the writing life, and with storytelling— especially how to get the words onto a page that are coherent and immediately understandable.

I must confess to having run the gauntlet of writers' groups as I strove to become a published author. I have experienced everything from the blind leading the blind (all novices who had no clue what fiction is about) to the social-only groups (food, drink, and be merry). And over the years, there have been the smattering of genre specific groups, like RWA (Romance Writers of America) and OWW (Online Writing Workshop), but only one organization has saved my sanity and given me feedback on my work and the industry that has made such a difference in my writing life.

That group is comprised of an eclectic mix of novice to multi-published and award-winning storytellers who represent all facets of writing—fiction, nonfiction, journalists, memoir, poetry, screenwriting, and more. It's a network of people who believe in their organization's creed to help a writer achieve their writing goals. That organization is: Pennwriters (www.Pennwriters.Org).

I'll even confess that I've belonged to Pennwriters for 18 years now and that the members honored me with the 2010 Meritorious Service Award for volunteering my time and talents to the organization.

By now you might think I'm rambling, but the point I want to make is this: if you are serious about knowing how well you write, keep seeking writers who can help you learn, improve, and achieve your writing goals. Yes, you might find a group that is too focused and too brutal in their criticism. Then again you might find the opposite type of group, the "hand holders," who only give praise, not constructive feedback. But you need feedback in order to achieve your publishing dreams, so network among your fellow writers. In this holiday season where New Year's resolutions are pending, why not make your 2014 New Year's resolution to find one group. Just one. And if that one fails to help you, find another, and another and another until you discover "the group" that enables you and your writing. 

Wishing you all the best with your writing endeavors,

Catherine E. McLean
Copyright Material @ 2013
This blog is updated the first of each month

Then enroll in "Revision Boot Camp" - an online workshop, January 13 to 31, 2014. Click here for details, fees, and registration information. Early-bird discount until January 1. Limited enrollment.  Act now!
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Friday, November 1, 2013

NOVEMBER 2013 - Rewriting or Revising, are they the same?

Rewrite means to write from the beginning and make significant changes, or to redo the same theme or idea or story but differently.

Revising means to edit, reorganize, update, improve, refresh, retool, amend, paraphrase, rephrase, or reword.

So, technically rewriting is not revising. Trouble is, writers often use the terms synonymously. Yet, we writer know we must rewrite and revise, cut and paste, trim, and make changes so that the person reading our words can understand the message, or thes tory, we intended for them.

But are we good self-editors? I think that all depends on the individual's mindset, how they learned to write, and, more importantly, if they understand that writing to communicate and writing fiction take a different skill set.

In school, we learned to write and use the English language. We learned and used punctuation and grammar rules. We increased our vocabularies. We learned to report and be factual, unemotional. That's fine for nonfiction, journalism, and the corporate world but not good when it comes to fiction. By my count, there are 144 aspects to writing fiction, and they cannot be learned overnight or in one fell swoop.

You've probably heard me say it a dozen times that these days anyone with a computer thinks they can write The Great American Novel or the next New York Times Best Seller. The reality is that millions do write a novel. However, instead of learning fiction devices and techniques to present a story for a reader, they self-publish and then wonder why their stories don't sell. Or they offer their stories for free. I came across a statistic last month: there are estimated to be 15 Million new titles published/self-published this year online. For readers, finding a good book among them is equal to searching for a needle in a haystack.

So, how does an author rise above the masses? They do it with ruthless editing. And, again, we are not talking punctuation and grammar. We're talking about various aspects of great storytelling. To the serious writer, editing means switching from creative mode to self-editing those first rounds of revision and rewriting passages for clarity and vividness. And now, as you might have guessed, I'm going to plug the "Revision Boot Camp" online workshop that will showcase the self-editing process and how to handle it step-by-step instead of en masse. That workshop will be held January 13-31, 2014. Oh, and there is an early-bird discount available until January 1. Registration fees and details are at

This blog is updated the first of each month.
Comments and questions are always welcome.

December 2013 - Why write as well as you can?

@ 2013 Catherine E. McLean
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