Critique Muscles

Work that cerebral cortex!

You’ve heard of muscle memory, right?

Athletes will do an activity over and over again until their body automatically does something. They don’t have to think about it, so they are able to focus on the bigger picture. They’re not the only ones that use muscle memory though. We writers have it in our fingers if we type. My boys are amazed at how fast my fingers can fly over the keyboard. Even though it isn’t always the highest accuracy, I still have good speed because I do it so much.

Do you exercise your critiquing muscles?

I’ve done some critiques with people along this writing journey, but it hasn’t been regular. Lately I’ve had more opportunity to offer suggestions to people. I’ve found an online critique partner, and I’m participating in the ACFW critique email loop.

Even though having my work reviewed is a bonus to find those words and phrases I’m blind to, I think the greater benefit is getting to critique people.

I’ve been reading books on craft, quality novels, and blog posts for years now. I’ve assimilated a lot of knowledge. But nothing beats the application of knowledge to truly get it.

Now that I’m looking at other people’s work and offering suggestions, I understand the reason for minimizing speaker tags. I see the flow of logic and the motivation/reaction unit so much better. By using it in other people’s writing, I’m developing muscle memory in looking for these things.

The end result is that I’m then able to take it back to my own work and see weaknesses better.

Of course we’re still going to have blind spots, but I’m amazed how things pop out at me more. It shouldn’t be surprising. Practice makes perfect, right?

If you get a chance to participate in a critique group, remember that it benefits you in more ways than one. It’s always good to help others and be a blessing when you are able, but you’ll get more than other people’s perspectives on your writing. Your perspective on your own writing will grow.

Writing Dissection – Part One

I am continuing a discussion brought on by the book of the week for the CFBA blog tour, Wedgewood Grey, and its prequel, Abiding Darkness. I am not the greatest writer or editor in the world, but I’ve been reading a lot of fiction lately, as well as trying to study the craft of fiction. I thought it could be informative to dissect a couple of passages from these books by John Aubrey Anderson.

There are three factors about these books that have drawn my focus over the last two weeks. One is the spiritual message that has greatly encouraged me, but that is a different discussion. The other two are 1) the delightful use of language to paint the setting of rural Mississippi and 2) the great characters that are brought to life by said language. I’ve enjoyed the story presented in his books, but I’ve also tried to pick out the aspects that fuel the entertainment.

I’ve chosen two passages, one from each book, to look at and see how it contributes to what I’ve mentioned above. I’ll quote them without context, and leave this post there. Tomorrow I’ll come back to them and present what I see out of them. If anyone has any comments regarding the passages, please share in the comments and I’ll bring that into the discussion.

From early in Abiding Darkness:

Every day for the rest of his life, he would recall that she had been grinning. She was turning away from him; the movement lifted the short-cut hair in seeming slow-motion, moving it up and away from her like strips of ribbon on a fast carousel. A halo of water droplets escaped the brown tendrils and caught the afternoon sun life dozens of transparent pearls. The pearls arced away from the girl and fell in a perfect circle. Water ran down brown legs from the rolled up overalls, her knobby little knees bent, her body leaned out slightly, tanned arms lifted, and her knees began to straighten. And he’d remember how fast the grin changed to something else.

From 2/3’s through in Wedgewood Grey:

Ceedie stepped close and took the jacket from him. “Put your arm in here, then stand still.” She got him jacketed by standing on her tiptoes. When he was dressed, she patted his good arm and momentarily set the stability of his knees back twenty-four hours when she locked eyes with him. “You stay calm, now, an’ be nice to the other children.”

“Yes, ma’am.” The special attention caused his cheeks to use blood he couldn’t spare.

See you tomorrow for the conclusion…

Writing Dissection – Part One

I am continuing a discussion brought on by the book of the week for the CFBA blog tour, Wedgewood Grey, and its prequel, Abiding Darkness. I am not the greatest writer or editor in the world, but I’ve been reading a lot of fiction lately, as well as trying to study the craft of fiction. I thought it could be informative to dissect a couple of passages from these books by John Aubrey Anderson.

There are three factors about these books that have drawn my focus over the last two weeks. One is the spiritual message that has greatly encouraged me, but that is a different discussion. The other two are 1) the delightful use of language to paint the setting of rural Mississippi and 2) the great characters that are brought to life by said language. I’ve enjoyed the story presented in his books, but I’ve also tried to pick out the aspects that fuel the entertainment.

I’ve chosen two passages, one from each book, to look at and see how it contributes to what I’ve mentioned above. I’ll quote them without context, and leave this post there. Tomorrow I’ll come back to them and present what I see out of them. If anyone has any comments regarding the passages, please share in the comments and I’ll bring that into the discussion.

From early in Abiding Darkness:

Every day for the rest of his life, he would recall that she had been grinning. She was turning away from him; the movement lifted the short-cut hair in seeming slow-motion, moving it up and away from her like strips of ribbon on a fast carousel. A halo of water droplets escaped the brown tendrils and caught the afternoon sun life dozens of transparent pearls. The pearls arced away from the girl and fell in a perfect circle. Water ran down brown legs from the rolled up overalls, her knobby little knees bent, her body leaned out slightly, tanned arms lifted, and her knees began to straighten. And he’d remember how fast the grin changed to something else.

From 2/3’s through in Wedgewood Grey:

Ceedie stepped close and took the jacket from him. “Put your arm in here, then stand still.” She got him jacketed by standing on her tiptoes. When he was dressed, she patted his good arm and momentarily set the stability of his knees back twenty-four hours when she locked eyes with him. “You stay calm, now, an’ be nice to the other children.”

“Yes, ma’am.” The special attention caused his cheeks to use blood he couldn’t spare.

See you tomorrow for the conclusion…