Plot Stitching and Seam Rippers

I made it through Home Ec without doing myself bodily harm.

Considering that the girl at the table next to me ran the needle of her electric Singer sewing machine right through her finger (and broke the damn needle off IN her finger), I figured that I dodged a bullet.

One of the tools we used in that class was a seam ripper. It was a pointy little sharp hooked thing that slid under stitches and cut through thread so you could take out a crooked seam. Part of sewing is ripping out your mistakes and putting the pieces back together again. And while I haven’t sewed anything since that long-ago class, years later, I’m thinking about seam rippers, and how sometimes you have to tear things apart to re-stitch them. It happens when you’re sewing a shirt, and it happens when you’re stitching a plot together.

I’m working […]

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Five Stages of Grief (Critique Edition)

Most authors do it: share our draft work with people, hoping to learn what we can do better. Sometimes, we participate in critique groups. Sometimes, we have “first readers.” Or “beta readers.” Or “critique partners.” Whatever we call it the process is the same: Writer plunges in a knife, exposing her heart and all other vital bodily organs. Critic(s) deliver(s) body blow after body blow after body blow, tearing apart the work in question.

Oh. Maybe that’s just the way I see things.

When I first started writing seriously, I joined up with an online writers workshop, exchanging my work with fellow participants and collecting criticism through email. That was the perfect medium for me — I could go through all five stages of grief in the privacy of my own home.

What? You don’t apply the five stages of grief to critiques? The five stages were originally defined by […]

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Writing Life: Reviews and Critiques — Dealing with One, Making the Most of the Other

I’ve been thinking about critiques and reviews recently, and had been even before the Magical Words How-to received this latest review from Black Gate. See, I’m currently working on the galley proofs for The Dark-Eyes’ War, the third book of Blood of the Southlands, which will be coming out in paperback in December. There’s been quite a lag between the hardcover release of this book (January 2010) and the mass market paperback re-release, and so it’s been a long time since I last read through this book. Talk about giving oneself some distance from a novel!

Let me pause here to say that I no longer place much stock in reviews. Yes, it’s nice to get a nice review, particularly in one of the big trade magazines (Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal). But just as I try not to let a bad review get me down too much, […]

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Beta Readers. Need ’em? Hate ’em? Love ’em.

Before I get started on today’s blog, let me shine a bit of glory on Friday’s guest blogger.

Bart Leib is Co-owner and Editor of Crossed Genres SF/F magazine. He is also the founder of Genre Challenge (, a genre writing challenge/charitable endeavor. Bart lives in Somerville, MA with his wife Kay and their son Bastian. When he’s not writing, editing or playing with his son, Bart is… sleeping. That’s all he has time for.

Bart’s website:

Bart’s blog:

More on Bart later this week!

Today’s’ topic is Beta Readers. Need ’em? Hate ’em? Love ’em.


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There must be help out there, somewhere.

“Will you read my novel and give me some pointers?”

It’s the question all published writers face eventually. And most of us dread it. We’re usually nice people, and we don’t especially want to hurt anyone’s feelings. We remember all too keenly how it was before we achieved our published status, which makes us want to help, if possible. That’s one reason Catie, David, Faith and I started this blog in the first place.

But for the most part, we will beg off reading someone’s as-yet-unpublished manuscript. For one thing, there’s the liability issue. Say I read your manuscript, in which there is a secondary character named Jolene. Three years later, I publish a book, and I’ve named the romantic interest Jolean. If you’re of a litigious nature, you could decide it’s all close enough to sue me for stealing what you wrote, and while I probably wouldn’t lose the […]

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