Tuesday, February 21, 2006

First Rights, Critiques, A Rant...And All That Jazz

Those of you who post your writing anywhere on the Internet really need to read the latest post at the Writer Beware blog. Ms. Crispin makes two very good points, in my opinion. I have been a member of several on-line critique sites, but about eighteen months ago I stopped posting any of my serious work on the Internet for the very reasons mentioned in the blog:

One: By posting your work on the Internet, you can use up its first publication rights.

Copyright and first publication rights are two different things. You always own the copyright to your work (unless you specifically grant/sell it to someone else). What publishers want to purchase are its first publication rights. If you can't offer that--if you can only offer reprint rights--you're going to be out a big bunch of dough.

Second: Many writing/critique sites are (mostly) the blind leading the blind.

I find this to be true as well. At the sites I have participated in, I have always found a handful of members whose opinions I value, members whose critiques appear to be based on a real and working knowledge of fiction and poetry. A handful of members. Meaning I don't have to take my shoes off to count them. The majority of the members, however, seem to lack this knowledge and although sincere in their desire to help others improve, they have little of substance to offer. (OK, let the hate mail begin.) That said, I do think it is important to consider any and all critiques you receive on your writing, even if they are offered by someone who doesn't know much. There may still be one little kernal of truth, one little nugget of observation, one little...Ok, you get the picture...that makes you see your story or poem in a new and interesting way.

And now a mini rant. At one site, a few critiquees who didn't like my comments blasted back with, "Well, you haven't posted any of your work for me to read, so your comments are worthless." Arrghh. My blood pressure rises just writing that. The sheer stupidity of that statement is amazing. News for those people: if you can't discern the worth of someone's critique of your writing just by the critique, then you have a long, long, LONG, LONG, LONG, LONG way to go before you are writing at a professional level.


Writing and critiquing are two distinct--although related--skills. I believe that, as we learn to critique others better, our own writing skills can become sharper. We learn to see weaknesses (characterization, plot, POV, narrative, etc.) in the work of others, and then we can apply that knowledge to our own writing.

However, that also means that to become better writers, we need to learn to distance ourselves from our writing. We need to be able to look at writing objectively. I know through experience that I need to let at least a week pass between the writing of a story and the editing. During that week, I gain some emotional and intellectual distance from it, so that I can look at it with fresh eyes.

/end rant. off soap box....

Monday, February 20, 2006

Someone Asked for Pictures...

Since Snarky Writer asked for doggy pictures, here are a few. These aren't the best, but until I get my digital camera working again, I guess they'll do.

The black dog is my baby, the one who needs his pack:

The brown dog is our anti-social gal:

My House, The Construction Zone

Well, I survived the weekend with my sanity and both dogs intact. The new kitchen cabinets are finally installed, and I’ve begun to research how to bring someone back from the dead—specifically, the person who built our house back in the 1920’s. I’d like to throttle him. He was either drunk or working with a faulty level when he built the walls and soffits. There’s not a square corner in the room. The soffit over the sink is a full inch lower on one side than the other—that’s a one inch drop in about seven feet. Two of the walls that should be parallel were two inches (!!) wider at one end of the room than the other, and one of the other walls bows out so that the room is 1-1/2” wider near the ceiling than it is at the floor. Arrgh.

However, after much practical geometry, creative use of a table saw and shimming, the cabinets are as plumb as they’re ever going to be. With a coat of primer, they look pretty darn good. And of course, there’s always crown molding to disguise the flaws we couldn’t fix without completely gutting the room.

The best news is that I have a brand new, shiny, black, functioning stove. Yay!! We were getting very tired of microwave and convenience store food. Now I’m coveting my new sink, which unforunately must sit in its box for a few more days.

The dogs handled the chaos surprisingly well. One of my dogs thinks people are only there to feed her, scratch her butt, and let her out to bark at the neighbor dog. She pretty much left us alone, bless her anti-social little heart. My other dog, however, is afraid of many, many things, including the Shop-Vac and the “smack” of his tail hitting things. He insists on being right in the middle of his “pack”—even when two of them are holding up a three foot long cabinet and the third is on a step ladder and wielding a drill. *sigh* At least he didn’t end up with primer all over him.

Tonight we do the dishwasher. Then it’s on to countertops and painting…lots and lots and lots of painting.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Philosophy will have to wait

I had intended to discuss my trip to the sunny south a bit more, but that will have to wait. My dad has been in the hospital twice in the last week to have an angioplasty done. Actually, the first time was just for a look at where the arterial blockages were. The second time--this morning--the actual procedure was done. The good news is that he came through it well and will be home tomorrow. The bad news is that this had to happen at all.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Back in the land of snow and ice

OK, I'm back and horribly jet-lagged at the moment. Flying east didn't bother me--maybe the excitement of the trip took the edge off--but flying west really knocked me for a loop. It took us about 18 hours of traveling to get from the airport in Freeport (Grand Bahama Island) to my front door. Ouch!

Grand Bahama was wonderful. The temperature stayed between 63 F and 73 F the entire time. Ahh, balmy and mild. Thunderstorms rolled through on Saturday afternoon, but otherwise we were able to stay outside and active most of the time. We rode horses on the beach one afternoon (and I'm still sore!) and took a glass-bottom boat tour over a coral reef another day. We saw sharks, grouper, and other fish whose names currently escape me.

One of my weaknesses is seafood. And I ate quite a bit of it the last few days. Lobster, snapper, and conch, in particular. I wanted to try grouper, but I couldn't bring myself to eat it deep-fat fried--or "cracked" as the Bahamians call it. Conch was the best of the bunch by far. Conch--which is basically a large snail-like shellfish--is very meaty and has a subtle flavor. It isn't slimy like clams or oysters. It makes for a very filling meal.

More observations are to come, but for now, I must actually do some work. Have to pay off all those credit card bills from the trip...