Resource: On the Premises Magazine

On the Premisesa good place to start is a resource for fiction writers. It’s a PDF and web-based magazine published 3 times a year. The stories in the magazine are those that have won in the contests set up by the editors. You can read or download back issues here.

So, On the Premises is always running a contest – a ‘regular’ one and a ‘mini’. I learn a lot from the editors suggestions/hints/tips for submissions as well as the feedback they offer once a contest closes. They also share entries.

And they offer a free critique if your story places in the top 10; and have a reasonable fee if you’d like a critique if your story didn’t make the top 10.

blue ribbonDid I mention the staff is generous in helping writers?

  • As of -last- Monday, their newest ‘regular’ contest, Contest #21, already had 36 entries. Submissions are being accepted until Sept 27. It’s looking for 1,000 to 5,000 words on the premise described here. There is no entry fee and prizes are: 1st: $180, 2nd: $140, 3rd: $100, Honorable mention: $40 (and sometimes they’ll do up to 3 honorable mentions).
  • The new ‘mini’ contest, Mini-Contest #21, is now open to entries until August 30. No entry fee. Prizes are: $15 for first, $10 for second, $5 for third, and honorable mentions get published but make no money. This contest is seeking a 20- to 40-word (yes, that’s only a maximum of 40 words) story that starts and ends with the exact same word. Oh, and that word can’t be used anywhere else in the story.

To enter either contest, use this page to submit your entry (and to get the details/guidelines for both contests).

In addition to its website, On the Premises is also on Facebook, and has a blog. The blog doesn’t have a recent post, but that’s intentional. In the latest newsletter, the co-publisher mentions that the content on the blog is solid and they find it more beneficial to put time into the monthly newsletter.

I find the monthly newsletter to contain useful writing-related information every time, and look forward to seeing it in my Inbox.

This month’s newsletter, for instance, talks about using misdirection in a story — and also about how when submitting to a contest, to make sure your story doesn’t simply end, but that it actually wraps up the story line.

You can subscribe to their newsletter through this link.

Note: I’m not being compensated for this post. I personally enjoy On the Premises and felt you might like to know about it, if you didn’t already.

I’ve submitted stories in the past, but did not get published. I plan to submit to the mini contest this month, though! Nothing to lose and publication to gain. Are you with me?

Lisa J. Jackson Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys writing short. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Biznik.

The Writer’s Chatroom – a free resource for writers

I’ve been involved as a chat moderator with a fabulous online place called The Writer’s Chatroom (TWC) for the past 5+ years and I wanted to tell you more about it. It’s usually mentioned in my bio, but we have a fabulous line up of guests through September and it’s a good time to share.

Most Sunday evenings we have a ‘celebrity’ chat from 7-9PM. And I say ‘most’ because once a quarter we take a Sunday for a live critique chat, and occasionally we have a live prompt chat, and every now and then we have an open chat.

Celebrity chats are akin to bookstore events – you know, where you go to a bookstore to see an author and ask him or her questions. TWC Sunday night chats are moderated and chatters get in a queue to ask questions of the author, publisher, editor, freelance writer, short story writer, publicist, whatever-type-of-writing-professional we have in the hot seat —  from the comfort of their own homes.

Last night, I moderated mystery writer Hy Conrad – most known for being one of the original writers for the TV show Monk, and now for writing the novel series based on the same character. But he has other works too, including a fun book he co-wrote with Jeff Johnson called Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know.

We have international chatters who sign in each Sunday to meet new authors as well as chatters covering all the US time zones. It’s always a good time, and there’s usually a giveaway from the guest at half-time.

Every Wednesday evening is an Open Chat from 8-10 PM EST. There is usually a topic of conversation for the first hour and then free conversation for the second hour. What’s more fun for a writer than to talk shop with other writers, right?

The chatroom also has a discussion board forum for connecting with other writers when the chatroom is closed. There are conversations you can participate in and if you’re looking, for example, to find a critique partner, this is the place to go.

generic_101BestSitesThe Writer’s Chatroom has been listed in Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers 5 times. Our reach continually expands, and we get multipublished authors, as well as NYT best sellers, too. Here’s a list of our past guests. I bet you’ll recognize a name or two.

Here’s a look at our July line up. You can see the full schedule here.

The Chatroom is a fun place for writers of all genres and of all levels along their writing journey. On Sunday nights, I’m there under my pseudonym Lisa Haselton, just so you know.

If you stop in, make sure to say ‘hi’ and tell me you read this blog. I’d love to show you around and introduce you to people.

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer, editor, journalist, and chocolate lover. She loves working with words and helps businesses with theirs. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis. You can connect with her on LinkedInBiznikFacebook, and Twitter

On Receiving Critique

'The Firing Squad' photo (c) 2008, Sam DeLong - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Sometimes hearing critique can feel like facing a firing squad.

In a recent post, I blogged about offering critique. When I asked fellow writers for their thoughts about giving and receiving critiques, I got some great feedback, but there was so much, I needed to divide the posts. Here is what my fellow authors had to say about receiving critiques.

“For the writer, don’t take it personally. Don’t defend your work. Take the advice that works, and use it. Disregard the rest, but if you hear the same suggestions more than once, listen. The best workshops I have been in have required the writer to be silent during the process. Very hard, but keeps you open.” – Julie Hennrikus

“Don’t jump to any conclusions – make notes so you will remember later what was said, but then put it out of your mind. Sit with it. Mull it over. Leave some time between the initial hearing and the actual processing.” – Jamie Wallace

“Honor and respect each other – givers and receivers. Respect the group’s time. Regardless of first draft or final, give your piece your best shot before you read it. Be open. If you’re stuck – point out your difficulty and ask for specific help and feedback.It’s difficult to give a negative criticism – respect their courage by listening carefully. Honor the desire for privacy – short term or forever.” – Susan Nye,

“Cuts bleed, remember that the skilled physician not only cuts out the tumor but in the end, he’s a member of your team making you stronger and better.” – Wendy Thomas

“Don’t defend your work during the critique process. Then take a cooling-off period. Lament, tend your wounds, then return to the ms with a fresh, productive and professional attitude. (See “Cooling-Off Period” (scroll to p. 5).) Sometimes comments from multiple people that seem contradictory and confusing at first begin to fit together in new ways when you return to them after you’ve let some time pass.” – Tracy Hahn-Burkett

“In receiving crit, consider the source (again, opinion is not necessarily fact) but if more than one person says the same thing, take the comment into consideration.” – Megan Hart

“My best advice about receiving criticism, is to sit and listen to the feedback, make notes to yourself, thank the critiquer, and then evaluate the comments later on as you consider revisions. Definitely pay attention if more than one person comments on the same section of writing in your work.” – Lisa Jackson

Over the years I’ve struggled with the demon of defensiveness when I’ve been given critique of my work. I’ve gotten better, but I still do battle every once in a while.  What works best for me is to hear what is being said, make notes and then put it aside.  I revisit the thoughts of others when I’ve put some time between the session and editing my work.

What are your tips and tricks for receiving criticism?

Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com. Her words have appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe.

On Offering Critique

'More idea critique' photo (c) 2011, Drew - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ I attended the monthly meeting of a writers group a few months ago and at the end, there was a critique session for members who had work to share. It had been a long time since I’d actively participated in a critique group with people I didn’t know well. In a perfect world we’d all share our well thought out opinions and the other person wouldn’t take it personally. Alas, we don’t live in a perfect world and we’re writers which means that every time we put fingers to keys or ink to paper, our heart pours out. It’s hard when someone stomps on a piece of your heart.

Since I’m relatively new to this group, I sought out the leader via email, after the meeting to inquire about the session. She gently informed me that, while I was not the only one, my thoughts were not as constructive as they could have been. Oh NO! The last thing I wanted to do was be hurtful. I was also concerned because I walked away from the particular story in question thinking “I like that, I can’t wait to see what will happen with that character.”

I sent an apology to the person I hurt. I wanted to own that I was hurtful without reneging on my critique. I stand by what I said, but clearly, I could have expressed myself more constructively.

The next thing I did, was reach out to writers I know and trust and ask for their thoughts on giving and receiving critiques. I got some great feedback. Today I want to share what I’ve learned about giving critiques as well as gather more intel from our readers. In a later post, we’ll discuss receiving critiques.

On giving critiques:

“Be kind first. Be positive second. Be honest third.” Karon Thackston

“Present your comments less as judgment and more as observation.” Jamie Wallace

“Honor and respect each other – givers and receivers. Respect the hard work that goes into a piece when you give criticism” – Susan Nye

“Think about the writer’s goals for the piece you’re reading, not your goals. Don’t pick apart someone’s horror novel, for example, because you don’t care for the genre. Determine what he or she is trying to achieve and incorporate that standard into your critique. Be honest, be constructive, be compassionate.” Tracy Hahn-Burkett

“Be honest, but generous in giving them. Find positives, not just negatives. Be aware your opinion is not necessarily fact.” Megan Hart

“My best advice is BEFORE giving criticism, to make sure the writer is willing to hear it without argument. If the person is going to debate with you about your feedback, you’re both wasting your time.” Lisa J. Jackson

What is your advice for offering constructive, criticism?

Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com. Her words have appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe.

Short Story–Ready to Submit

I have a short story ready to submit. Isn’t that great?

I have never gotten a piece this long (5,000 words) ready for publication before so I thought I would share the process with you.

I originally wrote this short story for a local community college class assignment years ago when I was still working full-time. This class was “time out of time” and I loved every second of it!

A couple of years ago, a writing friend asked me if I had any stories already written. I remembered this one and pulled it out. I reread it and I was amazed at a) the crappy writing, and b) the complete story arc (I did that!) Focusing on what worked in the story, I started working on it again. And then again.

A few rewrites later, I submitted it to an online critique group and then put it away again.

This January, I decided this was the year—plus my friend said she’d beat me bloody if I didn’t submit the story already (I had said I’d do last year!) Isn’t it great to have supportive friends?

I brought the story to my critique group, and rewrote it again. Then I submitted a short scene that was giving me trouble (I can see it my head, but can my readers?) to an online chat. The critique was in some ways bizarre (how did they jump to the conclusion that one of my characters was a lesbian from the dialogue: “I do not date?”) but in other ways very helpful (I did not need the level of detail I originally wrote to show how two people were sitting).  I rewrote the scene, making it tighter and (hopefully) crystal clear.

Reading the story out loud to myself was painful, but necessary. I caught a lot of little words that made the dialogue sound stilted to my ear.

I gave the story to some friends to read. One gave me great “big picture” feedback. I had asked her to tell me if there was any place in the story that was confusing or didn’t make sense. She told me that never happened. Phew! Two other friends read it and said it was good. Not as helpful but reassuring, nonetheless.

One last edit to make sure the word count met the limit, and then I brought the story to my critique group one more time. No suggested changes. Cool.

I could keep tinkering with the story, but at this point I think I would be making it worse rather than better.

So, here’s what I’m going to do—today:

  1. Send my story (my baby, my heart) into the world.
  2. Let go of any attachment to how it will be received. (That’s not my business.)
  3. Start a new story.

What are you getting ready to send into the world?

 

Diane MacKinnon, MD, is currently a full-time mother, part-time life coach. She is a Master Certifiied Life Coach, trained by Martha Beck, among others. She is passionate about her son, her writing and using her mind to create a wonderful present moment.  Find her life coaching blog at http://www.dianemackinnon.com/blog.

Finding or Creating a Critique Group That You Love

I am currently in a critique group that I love. It totally works for me. And it’s only me and one other person. I’d love to have more people in the group, but it’s not that easy to find someone who is on the same schedule as you, and who looks at critique groups the same way you do. My time and my writing are precious, and to spend a couple of hours giving good feedback, offering constructive criticism, and getting back, “yeah, I liked it,” or “that didn’t work for me,” is just not good enough for me these days.

Many years ago, when I rediscovered my passion for writing, I was lucky enough to live near Denis Ledoux, the author of Turning Memories Into Memoirs. I took a local class that he taught at the Lewiston Public Library every Tuesday, which just happened to be my day off from my medical practice. Coincidence? I think not.

One of the many gifts that Denis gave me during those classes was the ability to critique other people’s writing and the ability to hear my own work critiqued without taking it personally (at least, not very often!)

All of the writers in the group were writing about different periods in their own lives. We did not have a fictional character to hide behind. To this day, whenever I am asked to critique someone’s work, I use the format Denis gave me.

First, I say what I liked about the piece. I give concrete examples: I liked this word, this phrase, that sentence. I thought this metaphor worked well or that this last line is perfect, “because it brings us full circle,” for example.

Then, I say:  “If this were my piece, I might change this phrase…because…” Again, I give concrete examples, and I give a reason. It’s not enough to say, “I didn’t like this phrase…” that’s just personal opinion and every other reader may have a different opinion. To say “This phrase didn’t work for me because it took me out of the story–I was trying to figure out who was speaking,” is a more concrete, helpful example.

The three years I spent with Denis and a small group of memoir writers many years ago and the lessons I learned there have stayed with me. I have been in multiple critique groups since, most in person but I’ve also tried on-line critique groups, and I always come back to those basic phrases:  I liked this… and: If it were my piece, I might change…x, y, or z.

Denis taught me to critique the writing, not the writer.

I was in a critique group once that fell apart because one writer was writing a novel that took place in Hungary. Another participant was from Hungary and didn’t like the way her countrymen and women were being portrayed. She took it very personally.

Another time I was in a critique group and shared a story about a difficult time in my life with one of my sisters (I am lucky enough to have three). Another participant in the group told me I was “giving away my power.” She was right, but since the story was about my 14-year-old self, I didn’t find the comment very helpful.

So here are the rules of my critique group (currently two members, but open to more!)

  1. Critique the writing, not the writer
  2. State what you like about the piece. Give concrete examples.
  3. State what you might change about the piece if it was yours. Give concrete examples.
  4. Be respectful of word count limits and time limits.

In other words, obey the Golden Rule. Give the critique you wish you could get for your piece.

What has your experience been with critique groups? Have you found them helpful?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, is currently a full-time mother, part-time life coach, part-time writer. She is a Master Certifiied Life Coach, trained by Martha Beck, among others. She is passionate about her son, her writing and using her mind to create a wonderful present moment.  Find her life coaching blog at http://www.dianemackinnon.com/blog.

Friday Fun – Writing Organizations and Groups

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, writing-related question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: Do you belong to a writers’ group? Any organizations? What are the benefits you have found? Any drawbacks?

ANSWER:

Deborah Lee Luskin: In addition to the New Hampshire Writers’ Network, which produces this blog, I belong to the Vermont League of Writers, though I don’t make it to their quarterly meetings as often as I’d like. I also belong to a local writer’s organization, Write Action, based in Brattleboro, Vermont. And as I’ve written in a post here, I’ve benefited greatly from belonging to groups where we gather to write.

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Jamie Lee Wallace: I have participated in a few writing classes (online and in the real world) – mostly of a creative, stretch your writing muscles type. I have also been a member of a critique group, which I wound up leaving because I wasn’t really ready to be critiqued (though I wrote pieces for the meetings, I was – and still am – in the research and planning stage). I don’t belong to any professional organizations (other than this blog), but I intend to join Grub Street Writers – a Boston-based organization whose mission is “to be an innovative, rigorous, and welcoming community for writers who together create their best work, find audience, and elevate the literary arts for all.” They have an annual conference that I missed this year, but definitely plan to attend next year!

Julie Hennrikus: I belong to Sisters in Crime (national) and Sisters in Crime New England. I also belong to a subset of SinC called the Guppies, which stands for the great unpublished. These are all groups for mystery writers.  I am also a member of Grub Street, and have taken a few classes with them. There are meetings of the SinCNE, but the rest of these groups meet online (unless we plan meetups at conventions, which happens.) I have tried a couple of writers’ groups but for one reason or another they haven’t worked for me. I do know many writers who benefit greatly from them, and perhaps will find one that clicks at some point.

Susan Nye: Other than NH Writers Network I am not currently a member of any professional organizations. I was recently contacted by another food writer/blogger about starting a NH Food Bloggers group. I’m looking forward to meeting with her after the summer. I was a member of the New Hampshire Writers’ Project and have attended their conference and one of their networking meetings. Both were valuable experiences and I will attend again in the future.

Wendy Thomas: I belong to this group, as well as,  a writers’ goal setting group (one of the most powerful tools in my writing toolbox IMHO). Coincidentally this weekend I’ll be leaving for a self organized writers’ retreat with 2 friends from that goals group. That will be the first time I’ve tried anything like that (and hopefully not the last.) I’ve taken many online courses (back in the day when Barnes and Nobles had them online for free) and read tons of “how to” books on writing. I don’t go to meetings (conventions) but it is my goal to make it to at least one by the end of this year.

To be perfectly honest, I tend to stay away from groups. Too often people are at a different place or stage than I am and I often get frustrated. I tend to work best with a small group of like minded writers with whom I can bounce ideas around.

Lisa Jackson writerLisa Jackson: I belong to Sisters in Crime (a national group for mystery authors, where I’m part of the membership committee) and Sisters in Crime New England (where I’m into my second year as treasurer). I’m a former member of the New Hampshire Writers’ Project (I was their book review coordinator for a number of years) and attended their annual conference a few times. I find the more I’m involved in volunteering in an organization, the more I get out of it. I also belong to a small critique group which is weekly inspiration to keep me writing.