Critique Groups Are For Everyone #writingtips

Writing Tips

Let me just start out by saying, I’m a HUGE advocate of critique groups. If there was one small gem I could share with any writer it would be: Go forth and become part of a critique group.

I can hear the moans and groans now. “I’ve already tried, but…” and the list of reasons why to avoid a critique group grows by the minute.

“…it was too big”

“…the people were strange”

“…they didn’t get my writing style”

“…I don’t have time”

“…meet new people? Really?”

and so on.

Don’t leave! Let me tell you how I finally, after three years of critique group shopping, found my home with the 7 Evil Dwarves. I even stayed for seven years, an eternity for any critique group.

Writing has been part of who I am for…forever. While in college I thought being the anti-social, reclusive hermit was a pre-requisite for every aspiring writer. I wouldn’t share what I wrote unless I was submitting to publishers. I know (ducking the head slaps), if I could, I’d go back and smack myself for that alone.

Somehow as I was finishing up my first college tour, I managed to come out of my cave long enough to marry my best friend. A few years passed, writing took a bit of a backseat as I finished an advanced tour of college, (yes, professional student did get mentioned once or twice). Writing got pushed back even further when my little family of two, went to three and eighteen months later, to four.

As you can see, insanity was bound to set in and when it finally began popping up in various forms, I knew it was time to turn back to my own self-therapy—writing.

My first problem was nerves. I could write. That part was easy. I could do it hiding in a closet, under a blanket with a flashlight so the little rug crawlers couldn’t find me. I could jot a few lines in-between real work and family-raising time. Writing is a solo adventure, right? Wrong.

My very loving, and patient, hubby finally dragged me out of the house, pushed me out of the moving car and said, “Go spend some time with this Mother’s Writing group.” He didn’t even wait for my response, as if it could’ve been heard over the squealing tires disappearing in a cloud of dust.

I stumbled to my feet and cautiously made my way into my very first writing group. They were great—women from various walks of life, writing in a variety of genres. This first group became the ones who made me realize how valuable a support group (aka critique group) is to a writer.

Feeling bolder, I waved good-bye to that group and began a long journey on my search for “my” critique group. Considering I write Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance, it was a rocky road.

The first group was large, twenty people at a minimum, and every genre under the sun was represented. It was heartbreaking to hear how someone thought my work was “too dark and depressing”, or another couldn’t understand “why anyone would believe magic existed in the real world”. I almost gave up, but do you know what I found?

The core of the 7 Evil Dwarves. These were writers of Speculative Fiction, a term I hadn’t heard used before. Soon, four or five of us decided a smaller group would be more productive. Plus, wouldn’t it help if everyone knew what Spec Fic was?

Our group underwent a great many changes. Anything important always does. It took us almost five years to create a solid, steady group. We had some great members stop and share their creations with us, and then move on. And yes, we’ve had a few entertaining guest, which I’m under threat of death by zombies if I reveal, so I’ll leave it to your imagination. You’ll probably come up with more exciting scenarios anyway.

There were times I was scared to death to set my stuff before my group. The whispers of my very loving and supportive critique group twisted through my mind when I wrote. It helped if I was a few (or more) chapters ahead of where they were critiquing, but when they were right behind me—I found myself overanalyzing every word I typed. I became hyperaware of small edit type things instead of getting the basic story out on paper.

See the Evil 7 were damn good. They caught everything. From how many times I used “ing” to how much I truly suck at math anything (do you know what a polyhedron is? I don’t.). They made great therapists. I mean, how many of your friends would take the time to discuss the nature of relationships between dragons and warlocks, or how manipulative a ghost can be with three young friends? Uh-huh, I thought so.

Then came the point in ever writer’s life, I out grew my group. It wasn’t an easy decision. Seven years I spent with these fantastic writers, mining every bit of advice, hoarding their critiques for more. But things changed, and so did my writing, to the extent that I felt our critiques weren’t quite the chisel they’d once been. So I bid the Evil 7 adieu with many hugs, and back out I went. This time, I found writing partners, two to three individuals I could trust to give me honest feedback, because in the end, that is what writers want and need.

I’m still a firm believer in critique groups. While I struggled to build my worlds into cohesive realities, breath life into my characters, and untangle the twists and turns of my plots, I knew there was this great group who had my back. The Evil 7 might have driven me to screaming when they pointed out how much my new character is channeled my previous one, or questioned the depth of trust between characters who’d been to hell and back, but you know what? Even though the holes they pointed out scared me, I was ever so grateful, because when it was all done and I clicked save for the last time, I had a story that was stronger than what I started with. That’s why I loved my critique group, even when they scared me.

TIP: An excellent guide to writing Queries/Blurbs by Query Shark

Blurb/Query, Editing, Writing Tips

Query Shark, aka Lit Agent Janet Reid, posted a very thorough and indepth look at each step of writing a query that works.

How To Write Query Letters … or, really, how to revise query letters so they actually work

These tips apply to both queries and blurbs, because they use the same setup and information. The key is to put just enough information into your paragraphs to HOOK the reader(or agent) into wanting more.

Check it out here:

~ Amber Kallyn

What Writers Should Know About Workplace Organization

Guest Posts, Organization, Writing Tips

Please help us welcome Emily Johnson with some tips about Workplace Organization. And don’t forget to check out her other useful tips for writers HERE.


Have you ever wished you could write high-quality papers faster?

One of the most difficult tasks for a freelance writer is self-organization, including allocating attention across creating papers, editing them, searching for interesting insights, communicating with clients, and spending time with relatives. Of course, it can be hard, but you should know how to make your life easier.

Here’s the deal:
The first thing you should know: a workplace impacts your productivity a lot! Depending on how you organize a workplace at home, your productivity will change.

What do you have on your table? On average, you can find a cup, a lamp, tons of papers and drafts, a pile of books, office stuff, and much more. But it is a problem! The fewer distractions you have, the more productive you are. Is it hard to believe? Try to hide all extra items!

You will see productivity growth when you demark your workplace into two zones. Computer one is for working process; non-computer one is for inspiration. It is quite simple, isn’t it?

What is more, your workplace can save your health. Be picky about your chair, don’t forget to stand up every 20 minutes, and work standing from time to time to reduce a risk of health disease.

If you want to become a better writer, take a look at this visual manual by OmniPapers. This step-by-step guide can help you reveal key moments for workplace organization. Don’t forget to share this piece of advice with your friends. It can be useful for any freelance workers and students.

So, do you know any other things writers should remember about workplace organization?





The Dreaded Show vs. Tell with Shannon Donnelly #writersinthestorm #writingtips

Writing Tips

Heading back over to one of my favorite virtual stops, Writers in the Storm. This time their guest, Shannon Donnelly, brought along some great tips when facing that fire-breathing dragon of Show versus Tell.

Check out the article Tell Better; Show More at the link below or click HERE.

Tips for a Gripping Suspense from Novel Now #writingtips

Writing Tips

One of the blogs I tend to visit is Novel Now, and in June 2015 I ran across their article on writing crime fiction and decided it deserved a share. Check out these seven elements needed for that gripping suspense novel you’re creating…

Click HERE or on the link below for the full article: Writing Crime Fiction- 7 Elements of Gripping Suspense

Character Action = Character Depth with Les Edgerton #writingtips #writersinthestorm

Writing Tips

Found this article in June 2015 from Les Edgerton at Writers In The Storm. He discusses how a character’s physical actions adds depth to the character’s arc. While we spend plenty of time on physical descriptions on how characters look, what about what they do in any given situation? Being a visual writer, I’m a firm believer that how a character moves in a scene is as revealing as sharing their inner dialogue or reaction.

Check out Les’s article How Actions Determine Character and Arc at the link below or click HERE.


To Kill or Not To Kill Your Lead with Neal Litherland #writingtips #writing

Writing Tips

In June 2015 ran across this post from Neil Litherland at his The Literary Mecernary blogspot ( and enjoyed it so much, I decided to share it. Let’s face it, sometimes you have to do something drastic, something horrific, something downright scream worthy, when crafting your story. Something like killing off your lead.

Check out his, Why Killing Lead Characters Is A Good Idea (Even If You’re Not a Horror Author or click The Literary Mercenary

Margo Bond Collins takes on Writing Active Prose #writingtips

Writing Tips

Writers face constant mantras when it comes to what makes good writing, everything from show-don’t-tell, to dialogue tages, to active versus passive voice.  In May 2015 Margo Bond Collins stopped by Jessie Clever’s blog-o-sphere to define what “active” voice actually is, and how to nix the sucker.

Check out Margo’s take on Writing Active Prose with Margo Bond Collins or click Writing Active Prose by Margo Bond Collins.

Necessary Writer Tools…Ackerman and Puglisi’s collection #writing #thesaurus #writingtools

Writing Tips

Since I’m always on the lookout for new tools when it comes to crafting my shining jewels of words, I have to spread the word about Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi’s recent addition to their Thesaurus collection, The Emotional Wounds Thesaurus. If you have discovered these, dash out and uncover your copies of The Negative Trait Thesaurus, The Positive Trait Thesaurus, and The Emotion Thesaurus. You can’t go wrong with these, they provide great insight into those pesky non-verbal cues we use to paint our stories.

Check out their post from May 2015, Announcing…The Emotional Wounds Thesaurus with or click Writers Helping Writers:

Does Your Thriller Have Pinch Points? #SueColetta #pinchpoints #crimefiction

Writing Tips

Sue Coletta has a fantastic blog, Crime Fiction Writer, for those who write thrillers, police procedurals, or any type of suspense. Not only is it chock full of spot-on references, in April 2015 she discussed Pinch Points in Fiction Writing, the crucial points in any story where evil reveals its face.

Do you have Pinch Points in your written gem?

Click here or on the link below for the full article: