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  1. #1
    Hillary W
    Guest

    Glad I found this forum--- I have a question

    Not sure if this is the right section to post this in, so I apologize if its not.

    Ive been writing since I was a little girl and wrote my first novel at 23. It wasn't very good, but that's another story altogether. I took a few years off from writing (personal issues- long story) and then finished college a few years ago and took a few writing classes while in UG. I was the best writer in one of my classes (according to my professor- I'm not arrogant) and probably the second best writer in my upper level writing course. However, I have never had any confidence in my writing because I knew that while it was good, I knew it wasn't "great". I had a hard time in my courses because the students that were critiquing my work didnt usually offer good constructive criticism or points to actually work on. It was usually a "Oh, I liked your story. This character is interesting." Or, if they wanted to provide a critique, it generally came in the form of a comments that were nitpicking a particular word, and not on the overall flow of the writing and ways to improve the story I wanted to tell.

    Long story short, at last I seem to have found a place with writers who are considerably more talented than I am. Like most things in life, I won't improve unless those who are better than me challenge me to step up my game. And it seems like there are some people here who don't mind giving constructive feedback on my work. Amazing! I'm so glad I found this place.

    That being said, it seems as though there is a general consensus here that people are busy and don't have time to critique longer pieces. That's totally understandable. So I have to ask- do any of you work together and critique each other's work outside of this forum? I don't know any serious writers in real life, and the chorus of "oh, its good" that I will inevitably get from friends/family won't help me improve my writing.



  2. #2
    Sam Fletcher
    Guest

    Re: Glad I found this forum--- I have a question

    Post a little bit of your writing Hillary. If we like it then there might be some possibilities of collaboration. No promises but dip a toe in the water and see what happens.

  3. #3
    Hillary W
    Guest

    Re: Glad I found this forum--- I have a question

    I posted a crappy old short story from undergrad yesterday, but I'd rather not be judged based on that particular piece. Its just not very good, and I've improved as a writer since then. I'd be happy to post a shorter excerpt from another piece I'm working on. Let me look through my files and I'll get back to you. Thanks for the quick response.

  4. #4
    Hillary W
    Guest

    Re: Glad I found this forum--- I have a question

    This is the prologue from one of the pieces I'm working on. It's a little strange because the narrator is talking directly to the reader, but if you like it or even see promise in it, I can post part of the first chapter.





    Do you know how it feels to be dead?

    No, I tell myself, you probably donít.

    I rise now, as a spirit, and I speak to you. And my only hope is that you listen.

    A long, long time ago a woman once told me that my spirit was too strong, too strong to be broken by time or by that mortal flesh which binds it or even by death itself. This woman meant very much to me in my mortal life, and I only laughed at her. I laughed at her as any prideful and foolish young man would.

    But now I am here, speaking to you, and her words ring true in my ears, more true than any hymn or sermon, and more true than any other words that have been spoken to me since.

    And as you read this now, I can sense your disbelief. What, is this a spirit? You are asking yourself, with your modern cynicism and your world devoid of magic and belief. Ghosts arenít real, after all.

    Yes, I am a ghost. That much is true.

    I am spirit now, no more than a wave of particles floating on a breeze, or a piece of sand bobbing in the ocean. I can will myself to appear now and again, but only with great and concentrated effort, and only when the power comes to me, which it does from time to time, when the imprint of my emotions are strong enough to affect the physical world. And when I will myself to appear, it is only for a short period of time, and I always appear in the same form in which I died.

    I was young when I died, you see.

    I was only some twenty-five years old, the age at which I was told the Ďwhole world was ahead of meí, but yet I now find myself staring inexplicably backward at it. I am unable to understand why I am dead, and why I was so young when it happened, and why I am still not at peace.

    I was the victim of something terrible. Something unholy and altogether terrible.

    I suppose that is why I am still not at peace, why my spirit still wanders, and why that womanís words still ring true. My spirit is unable to rest, unable to put together the answers and the reasons why I am still here. I still float, I still exist, I still feel. I am inexplicably linked to my human body, my human form, and am attached to this planet in ways that I cannot fully articulate.

    But I suppose this story- my story- is not so easily explained, if even there was a reasonable explanation for it at all.

    But I will tell you now, tell of you my story, and I only hope that you will listen. For it is a tale of love, of hope, and of the power and the struggle of the human spirit. And as I still search for the answers of what happened to me, perhaps you will learn something too. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned from each of us, in each of us, and in the possibility of each day.

    Or perhaps there is nothing at all. Perhaps that is why I am still here. After this is resolved, will I sink into oblivion?

    Ah, I can see your interest is piqued now. Itís not all that often that you are spoken to by a spirit, after all, and I can see that you have been drawn in to my little tale. Let me just tell you that this tale is not an easy one, not an easy one to understand, or for me to tellÖ afterall, it is the tale of my own life, death, and rebirth. But, when it is all told, perhaps you can rest easier at night, knowing that there is somethingÖ there is something after life, after the clock in your chest grinds to a halt.

    So curl up now, curl up with this book and sink into your couch or your leather armchair. Iím with you now, canít you feel it? I can smell the fresh modern smells you surround yourself with- this dark, roasted coffee and the lightly chemical-flavored cigarette you are inhaling right now. And when you feel a slight breeze on your shoulder, know that it is me, watching over you, watching you.

    But I digress.

    Where was I?

    Oh yes, I was alive once. In this maddening tale of love and life and forgiveness and an attempt at redemption, I was aliveÖ

  5. #5
    Cindy Kay
    Guest

    Re: Glad I found this forum--- I have a question

    Hilary, part of getting good critiques from friends and family is getting around the typical oh-it's-great first response. People are afraid to hurt our feelings. You've got to account for that and control it. I could make even the most nicey-nice person rag on me. It's really up to you.

    Just basic stuff.

    Never ask, "Did you like it?"

    Ask, "Which character seemed most off? (note difference between that and, was there a character who seeed off) Which character didn't you get? Did you see character X as XYZ. Where did you find your interest laggin?"

    Always ply critiquers with liguor and set the tone of honesty. You've got to drag it out of people sometimes, at least the first time around.

    Also most local writer groups have critique groups operating out of them. Check net, library, college, bookstores. I live in a very small town and we have a terrific author's group.

  6. #6
    Hillary W
    Guest

    Re: Glad I found this forum--- I have a question

    Cindy,

    Yes, I've tried that with the people that have read my work, but they genuinely seem unable to offer constructive criticism that's harsh enough.

    I will take your advice and check out the library here as well as look some more online. There are a couple of colleges in town, but I'd like to find some older writers since I didn't have much luck in my college classes.

  7. #7
    Jeanne Gassman
    Guest

    Re: Glad I found this forum--- I have a question

    HIllary,

    Have to agree with Cindy Kay here. If you poke around, you should be able to find a local critique group. Try your library, bookstore, community college (a lot of them offer creative writing classes, a great resource to recruit writers for a critique group), and adult ed centers. If you can't find one, post a notice at meetup.com or on the bulletin board of your library or bookstore. When I first started writing, I formed a critique group with four people I knew. We put out a few notices and had over 60 people involved in various projects and splinter groups within two years. And this was a small town--less than 100k people.

    Have you read The Lovely Bones, by Alice Seybold? If you haven't, you should. It's sounds like your story is very similar.

    Jeanne

  8. #8
    Sam Fletcher
    Guest

    Re: Glad I found this forum--- I have a question

    Uhmmm. The punctuation is adequate (although there were mistakes) and there seems to be good characterization. It's also pretty imaginative. But nothing happens. The whole thing is navel gazing. What if this story wasn't about a ghost and I tried to write the same sort of thing. Something like this.

    -------------------------------

    Do you know what it feels like to be a cook?

    No, I tell myself, you probably donít.

    I rise now, full of culinary knowledge and speak to you. And my only hope is that you listen.

    A long, long time ago a woman once told me that I was destined to be one of the great chefs. I was too strong to be broken by the struggle to be the best. This woman meant very much to me before I became well known, and I only laughed at her. I laughed at her as any prideful and foolish young man would.

    But now I am here, speaking to you, and her words ring true because I became a sous chef at a famous French restaurant. Her words for me were more true than any hymn or sermon, and more true than any other words that have been spoken to me since.

    ----------------------------------------

    I'm not trying to be condescending but I do want you to take a fresh look at your writing. Now, be honest, would you bother to continue reading a story like this?

  9. #9
    Hillary W
    Guest

    Re: Glad I found this forum--- I have a question

    Hi Jeanne,

    Thanks for the quick response. I actually did read that book when it first came out. Funny that you should mention that, as I didnt intend my piece to be similar. From the prologue it may seem like its going in that direction, but my piece is quite a bit different.

    Its set in the post-civil war era in Virginia. The protagonist is a wealthy young man that grew up during the civil war, and after the war he and his brothers come into an inheritance of what's left of their family plantation. The protagonist is outgoing, charming, and a bit-self absorbed. He dies under mysterious circumstances and returns immediately as a spirit, unable to figure out who killed him and why. The book is part historical fiction, part murder mystery.

  10. #10
    Sam Fletcher
    Guest

    Re: Glad I found this forum--- I have a question

    You guys don't know what a small town is. I live in a town of 110 people. Before that I lived in a town of 17 people. In order to get to a town of 100,000 I would have to drive 175 miles. If I put up the notice for a writing group here I might get a coyote to answer but nobody else. Most of them would wonder why I was interested in such durn foolishness rather than buckling down to real work.

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