Five Fundamentals (or an excuse to write about my fabulous critique group and the Cubs)
When you watched arguably the best baseball game in recent history and held your breath during the ninth inning after the Cubs didn’t get any runner in, waiting to see what the Indians would do, then to go to a rain delay, and the incredible tenth inning, I bet you didn’t notice the fundamentals. Watching how the players gripped the ball before they threw it, or how the hitter aligned his knuckles, or the outfielders using 2 hands to catch the ball probably escaped you. The strike outs, the homerun, and that throw from Bryant to Rizzo! Holy cow! The big plays. That’s what gets us. But we don’t get the big plays without endlessly practicing those fundamentals.
Think about young Bryant and Rizzo playing little league, practicing catching the hit to third, throwing to first, catching, tagging the runner and the base. Day after day. Year after year. Messing up many times along the way.
Well, my dear writing friend, we have our own set of fundamentals that will hopefully lead to your own big play.
1. Write, everyday possible.
2. Read, read, read. Read what’s in your genre. Read what’s not in your genre. Read craft books to help you critique and edit your own work.
3. Join or form a critique group. Not sure what to do with one? Here’s a suggestion. The most important thing to bring to group is a willingness to hear your weaknesses. The best thing to offer at group is your reaction to the piece. You have an opinion, yes. But it’s one opinion. The author ultimately must decide what to do with the feedback.
This is my critique group, the Six Pens. (One is not pictured.) We are picture book, chapter book, middle grade novel, non-fiction, memoir, education, historical fiction, contemporary fiction, fantasy, humor, action/adventure, heart-rending writers. There’s lots of opinions to go around. Two are published, with one more story on the horizon.(Whoop! Whoop!) We are all hopeful. And we need each other to keep applying butt to chair and writing when the motivation is running low.
4. Go to conferences. And watch your local writer’s society for smaller craft nights. My critique group attended the recent Prairie Writers & Illustrators Day that the Illinois SCBWI chapter holds every November. It sharpened and inspired. And we can pool together the different things each of us learned from it to edify our group as a whole.
I bet you can’t tell, but this is my critique group again. We are now the Super Six Pens, tackling troublesome stories in a single bound (or many revisions.) Another bonus of attending conferences is open door access to editors at otherwise closed houses. If you don’t have an agent already, this is golden!
5. Never, ever, ever give up. I once heard it said, that many successful writers started with 10% talent and 90% dedication. I’m six years in, I’m receiving incredible feedback from agents and authors who critique my work. I’m not published yet. YET.
Never. Ever. Ever give up!