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Monday, June 25, 2012

Coffee and Critique Writers' Group Update

A lot has happened since I last posted here about the Coffee and Critique Writers' Group. I checked with Tricia and got the okay to once again use the blog to post basic information and updates about the critique group.

More than five years ago, Donna Volkenannt and Lou Turner started a new critique group named Coffee and Critique. Originally the group met on Tuesdays (alternating each week with mornings and evenings) at the Barnes and Noble in St. Peters, MO. The evening group was sparsely attended, so we went to mornings only and changed our location to the Rendezvous Cafe on Main Street in O'Fallon, MO. Most, but not all, members of Coffee and Critique also belong to the Saturday Writers chapter of the Missouri Writers' Guild.

The motto of Coffee and Critique Writers' Group is to "be candid but kind." Our goal is to give honest feedback respectfully, with the intent of helping one another become the best writers they can be. We are a serious group, but we don't take ourselves too seriously. We are a friendly group, but over the years we've found it necessary to have some guidelines.

Member and award-winning writer W. E. Bill Mueller helped Donna and Lou come up with these:

Tuesday Morning Coffee & Critique

15 Guidelines & How We Run Things

1. The Tuesday Morning Coffee &Critique group meets every Tuesday morning, 10am-Noon. The current meeting site is The Rendezvous Café in O’Fallon, MO.

2. The group critiques all styles of writing: fiction, memoirs, essays, articles—but no poetry.

3. Members at all levels of writing skill are welcome to bring their work at whatever stage they feel comfortable reading and having critiqued. But—please polish beforehand and read your work out loud before bringing it in.

4. Reading is limited to 5 (five) pages maximum.

5. Make approximately 12 copies of your work available for distribution, keeping one for yourself to read from. Pages can be stapled or paper-clipped together.

6. Your manuscript should be prepared using 12pt. Times New Roman or a comparable font, double-spaced, one-inch margins.

7. Manuscripts with graphic, pointless sex, violence and crude language are generally not welcome.

8. If a manuscript contains graphic scenes and language that is integral to the material, the scenes/language should be skipped in reading. It is all right to have the scenes/language in the manuscript, but reading it aloud is not permitted.

9. Critiquing begins with the person to the left of the reader and continues around the table, clockwise.

10. Each person is allowed two (2) minutes to critique a read manuscript. Others are asked not to interrupt while someone else is critiquing.

11. The person whose manuscript is being critiqued is generally not allowed to rebut, although answering direct questions is permitted.. The manuscript is “yours”—critiques can be accepted or rejected, but not argued.

12. Not everyone will get to read each week. If you sign up but don’t get to read your name will go to the top of the list the following week.

13. While we do not charge to belong, we strongly encourage everyone to purchase a beverage or food from the café because they provide meeting space to us for free. And due to health concerns, the restaurant has asked us not to bring in any outside food or drink.

14. Members are welcome to bring in their books to sell before or after critiques begin, but no other items are to be sold during meetings.

15. Have fun. While the Tuesday Morning C&C group is serious about its purpose, we are intent on having fun while doing it. All criticism is given well-meaning and should not be taken personally. We are critiquing your work—not you!

There you have it.

We welcome new members. If you are interested in joining us, e-mail dvolkenannt (at) for more information.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Next Big Writer Review

The good news. I've received excellent feedback on my first 3 chapters of Zombies at The Next Big Writer. I think it is more than worth the price of admission to get fast critique of my work. The review for points system is more than fair, though I admit some people could be more specific in their reviews if they really want to earn their points. If you don't have a group of writers who can give you feedback, I recommend The Next Big Writer. I also think it's great if you need an opinion from readers who prefer your genre.

My writer friends are awesome. I value their opinions. But they wouldn't normally read the kinds of books I write. They just do it for me (thank you, writer friends). Their on-the-outside critique combined with the reviews I can get on the website from readers who would choose to read in my genere equal the perfect form of critique. It gives me the best of both worlds.
The bad news - I must lie in bed in despair, as some of the writing there strikes fear and envy in me. I am not bad. But I want to be more than "not bad"! I want to be great, mesmerizing, awe-inspiring, millions-of-fans-catching good. Waaaaaaaaa!

But you're still revising, I tell myself, it will get better.

I don't care! the sulky child stomps. I want it to be perfect nooooooow. I hate them! I love them! Oh schizzle, I'm having a temper tantrum, an identity crisis and a severe attack of jealousy. How will I ever write again!

Because I have no choice. The show must go on. The book must be written. The draft must be made better. But it is a hard, bitter thing to know it's not yet where I want it to be......

You will find me hiding under the covers.

Watch for the work of Ripley Patton, Lucy Rice, and Marcia Wells. Good stuff, dammit.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Next Great Writer Contest and Revision Update

Zombies Are Forever Update: Pages revised so far - 86

I've decided to submit my first three chapters of Zombies to "The Strongest Start Novel Competition" over at The Next Big Writer.  (Please don't confuse this with The Next Big Author, which looks a bit dodgy.)

The Next Big Writer is basically a critique website sponsored by self-publishing website Createspace, which is Amazon's we'll-help-you-self-publish company for print books. You pay a few bucks a month to join, you post your first chapter for free, and then you have to earn enough credits reviewing to post more of your work. Then it is critiqued, everyone is happy, and the rainbows and unicorns come out, tra la la.

If you look at my blog title, you know I am no stranger to critique, but it's been awhile. I am half afraid I will be a sniffling mess at the first feedback. I'll get over it.

Why am I entering a contest for a pay website?
  1. The worst thing that can happen is I get some feedback on my first draft of Zombies Are Forever. Critique from readers is a valuable thing.
  2. There are lots of great writers out there, so while I may not win, place or show, I do hope to get the word out about Zombies Are Forever and maybe entice a few readers to come check it out once I publish it in Septemeber. There is also a page with links to books that have been workshopped on The Next Big Writer. Not sure what you have to do to get on it, but it's another opportunity for visibility.
  3. I miss reviewing and seeing how other people build their books. My full-time job keeps me from it during the day, but online critique is anytime.
  4. If by some chance the fates align and I win or place as one of the 3 runners up, I get free help publishing my book, which includes copyediting. I'll be paying for that one way or another.
So, that is my diabolical plan. I signed up for a 3 month membership that costs $14.95. We shall see if it turns out to be worth it.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Save the Orphans - Of your Writing

Yippee! My daughter has graduated from high school and has a job to occupy her this summer. My sixteen-year-old son would rather I forgot he existed (no luck there, boy) and School's. Out. for. The summer. My time is now! I have commited to finishing my novel, Zombies are Forever (288 pages so far), and self-publish it in the fall. This is the first time I've told anyone on the internet. I feel a bit faint.

Now that I'm revising, I am running into that age old writer problem. Killing off the orphans of my writing. These are the bits and snippets that I love, but do not really belong in my story. Unlike the awful, messy stuff we do while drafting, these are the bits I am actually quite fond of. Look at that clever bit, that turn of phrase. I love you! Kisses.

But they don't belong in my book. That is why they are orphans. Poor displaced, lovely tykes that I could not just x out of existence. For years it made revising an agonizing process. They had to be cast adrift because they did not serve the story or distracted from the tone, or they just didn't fit in, bless their quirkly little hearts. Leaving them in would have made the Bad Seed of their natures come out and run amok in my tale, evicerating innocent, necessary bits. (amok, amok, amok - sorry, I am compelled to do that every time I use that word).

I felt guilty about abandoning my creations. Then one day, I opened a file and started dropping them in my orphange document. This made things much easier when I was revising. After all, I wasn't killing them by sending them on their way into the land of delete. I was providing for them. Saving them for another day. While knowing how way leads on to way.... Yes, I was ignoring the fact that they probably would never find a home, bless their weird little verbiages. Shhhh. Don't think about it.

So that is my drafting advice to you, after I have revised 28 pages, or the first 10% of my book. Save the orphans. You'll feel much better for it.