Critters

April 4, 2011

Critter: (noun, dialect.) A reader who undertakes to provide a constructive critique or helpful feedback on behalf of the author of the piece being read.

Critters are great. Critters are indispensable to my writing process, and I suspect that 90% of successful writers have critters of some sort.

Where to find good critters can be a difficult problem. Non-writer friends are often not the best critters, because they don’t always understand what kind of detail is helpful to a writer. Writer friends can make good critters, but not when they’re busy with writing first drafts of their own.

Critter exchanges can be a very good arrangement, or writer’s circles in which the entire group acts as critters for each of the members in turn.

I’ve found some good critter exchanges on the ‘Nano swaps’ forum of the National Novel Writing Month online community, and I’m attend two local writer’s groups that do critiques of pieces that members bring in. I’ve even acted as a critter wrangler for the Stringing Words online forum, organizing their third CritMo (Critter Month) event and pairing up authors with volunteer critters who read their pieces and send in feedback.

Recently, I’ve also joined an amazing online workshop called… (drum roll please,) critters.org, which runs something like the same program on a much larger scale. Here’s how it works, basically:

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My ‘hone your skills’ Blogfest entry.

March 16, 2011

I’m not quite clear anymore on why I signed up for this blogfest.

The thing is, I don’t really write short-short stories that often, and out of the complete stories that I have that are about the right length, I’ve already shared most of them on this blog since I started doing ‘Sharing Exercise Friday.’ And I didn’t really want to do a repeat for a blogfest.

But I found this little piece in my files, it was from some kind of a prompt at the Chester’s Beers of the world Hamilton Writers group. It’ll be interesting to hear what you think.

On the Halos of a Dilemma.

She hesitated at the post box, not knowing if she should really send the letter.

This was one of those moments where you normally pictured an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, Caroline thought. The problem was, at the moment, she had two little critters who both appeared to have white robes and halos arguing with each other, and she couldn’t really tell if one was a devil in disguise, or maybe they were both well-meaning angels who happened to be having a difference of opinion over her tough choice.

“You have to tell her,” the voice from her right shoulder told her. “There are certain things that you have to do if you want to do the right thing, and this is one of them. You’ve stumbled across a secret that’s about your friend’s life, and you can’t keep it from her. You have to let her know somehow, and this is the best way – anonymously, so that she isn’t hurt by finding out how you know, on top of everything else.”

“Oh, yeah, let’s start there, shall we?” came the reply from left shoulder. “So that she isn’t hurt. Isn’t it better to start with sparing Lizzie as much pain as you can, rather than inflexible rules? If you tell her this, then you’re causing her pain, and not sparing her any further down the road. There’s no upside except keeping your own conscience clear of keeping the secret, so just suck it up and do what’s best for Liz.”

“That’s just a load of rationalizing…” Right shoulder started.

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