I’ve taken a break from writing recently. I felt I wasn’t really getting anywhere and needed to hone my skills by doing something different, rather than ploughing on relentless.
Time will tell whether this detour has helped my writing, but in the meantime I’m enjoying the experience.
Here’s what I’ve been doing:
1. Judging Contests
As a member of the Romance Writers of Australia (even though I’m in the UK – they do an international membership option), I applied to be a volunteer judge. Several times a year the RWA runs contests and needs judges – who don’t have to be published authors – to grade the entries.
I’ve recently completed a batch of judging and, although it was very time- consuming, it was also extremely interesting looking at how other people approach the task of entering a writing competition.
I also inevitably end up comparing my work against that I was reading and could see my own mistakes in the work of others, even though I hadn’t realised before then they had been mistakes!
So altogether, a really useful exercise for improving my writing, I thought.
2. The Choc Lit panel
Publisher of romances, Choc Lit, invite avid readers to join their panel. This involves reading and reviewing as yet unpublished manuscripts. The idea is that they will publish that are most popular with their panel.
In order to be a judge you need to read at least one manuscript per month. This is a big deal when you’re busy with work and family but if you’re a keen reader it’s a great way of getting books for free (you can read on your Kindle or on pdf, but not hard copy unless you’re prepared to print out hundreds of pages). And if you’re an aspiring author it’s a great way of seeing how other people approach their writing.
3. A writing buddy
Also through the RWA, I found a critique partner. You’re matched to your critique partner based on your strengths and your weaknesses.
Whereas my strengths tend to be grammar and hopefully flow of language, I struggle with writing emotion and – as it turns out, am guilty of often putting things in the passive tense!
She, on the other hand, is great at writing emotion – So together in theory we should be an unstoppable team.
So far, it’s working really well (well, I think so anyway!), and her comments are honest, but sensitively phrased and really, really helpful. I hope she feels the same way about me!
Word of warning though – I’d suggest only going in for a writing buddy if you’re prepared to take criticism. It can be hard hearing that all your hard work doesn’t make the other person jump for joy all the time, but if your skin’s thick enough, it should bring out the best in your writing in the long term.