Monday, June 20, 2011

Is Writing A Team Sport?

My guest today is fellow Sisters in Crime member and author Linda Lovely. Her debut novel, Dear Killer, has just come out. Good story, fun and interesting characters, wonderful setting! 
While many people consider writing to be a solitary pursuit, preferably performed in a secluded garret, I approach writing as a team effort.
Singles tennis is an individual sport. But when tennis players join a team and share a goal—say a league win—it can lift their individual games. Team members practice together, assess strategies, analyze strengths, point out weaknesses, share pointers, root when a point’s won, console when a game’s lost.
Critique partners and writing groups can serve as an author’s team with improved craft and publication as common objectives. To help one another reach these goals, we pinpoint what works in a partner’s plot and what doesn’t. Is a scene funny—or not? Does a heroine stray out of character? Do the dialogue and internal thoughts of our hero ring true, or is he talking/thinking like a woman? (One reason I LOVE having a male writer as part of my critique family.)

Do I make every change my colleagues suggest? No. Yet I consider them all. Even when I don’t take a suggested revision, I may revise to skirt around a word or sentence that made the reader stumble or a scene that slowed pace or seemed “over the top.”
My teammates catch errors I miss because I’m too close to my work. We also share craft techniques and swap info about agents, editors, publishers, contracts, marketing, social networking—all part of the need-to-know mix in today’s entrepreneurial author’s world.

Of course, group activity doesn’t lessen the need to park my fanny in front of a computer for long, solitary stretches. Yet this isolation is never complete. If I get stumped, I can email or pick up the phone. My critique family is generous with their time and respond to even the most trivial worries—like what kind of pens to buy for my first book signing.
I actively participate in the local chapters of Sisters in Crime (SinC) and the South Carolina Writers Workshop (SCWW), too. I’d belong to both organizations even if there were no local chapters. But I can’t say enough about the benefits of attending meetings, gabbing with fellow writers and seizing the opportunity to tap into a wealth of area resources.
Our Upstate SC Chapter of SinC meets in Greenville, SC, and our guest speakers include a wide range of “Law and Order” professionals. We’ve heard from medical examiners, a U.S. Marshall, district attorneys, police officers, arson investigators, crime reporters, FBI agents, private investigators...and the list goes on. These folks not only seem happy to answer our questions at our meetings, they often hand out business cards and invite us to call with any questions we think of after they leave.
Our local SCWW chapter doesn’t address crime—unless we’re talking punctuation felonies. But these meetings are gems as well. Each month, one of our members researches a writing topic and presents it to the group, complete with handouts and examples. During the past year, topics have included pacing, point-of-view, dialogue, the hero’s journey, and hooks as well as digital publishing alternatives. The format ensures everyone contributes and leads to lively meetings.
Most folks who write fiction can attest to the fact that the road to publication—whether it’s for book one, two or ten—is full of twists, turns and more than a few potholes. I find it’s quite comforting to have good company along for the ride.

Linda Lovely’s new book, Dear Killer, is a fast-paced summer read. It dishes up a main course of suspense, action and adventure with generous sides of romance and humor. The Sea Island setting gives the reader a tantalizing glance at the coastal area known as the Lowcountry, famed for its numerous islands, Gullah culture, plantations and resorts. The novel’s the first in a series of Marley Clark mysteries to be published by L&L Dreamspell.
A journalism major in college, Lovely has made her living as a writer, tackling everything from magazine features and ad copy to speeches and brochures. Her manuscripts have made the finals in 15 contests, including RWA’s prestigious Golden HeartÒ and Daphne du Maurier competitions and mystery contests such as Deadly Ink, Murder in the Grove and Malice Domestic.
For more information about the author and Dear Killer, you can visit her website at:
A note from Ellis. I'll be over at Terry's Place, giving away a Kindle copy of Haunting Refrain.


Donnell said...

It is so fun seeing you, Linda, behind a copy of your wonderful book. Invaluable advice on what every writer needs: alone time, but that all too important support.

Okay, next time, practice looking mysterious. After all, your book is called DEAR KILLER. At least raise any eye brow. Congratulations, you wonderful author, you.

Linda Lovely said...

Hey, Donnell, I was more worried about hiding my double chin. But thanks for the advice. I'll raise an eyebrow next time.

bj said...

Linda, obviously your critique partners help you but that's because you bring so much to the table in talent, judgement and savvy. They are fortunate to have you in their group.

E. B. Davis said...

Your book sounds like a great beach read. I'll look for it. I'm attracted to the lighthouse cover and the title makes me wonder. Good luck on the book!

Anita Page said...

Linda, I completely agree with what you say about the importance of being part of a community of writers. I'm also fortunate enough to belong to a wonderful critique group, and am member of NY/Sisters in Crime as well as MWA. The support and encouragement these groups offer has been invaluable.

Good luck with book! I look forward to reading it.

Polly said...

I agree about the critique family, Linda. My critique partners have pulled me out of too many messes to count, and I'm grateful for them. Best of luck with your book. It's a terrific read.

Maryn Sinclair said...

I'd mention that critique partners don't have to be on the same page. I have one partner who is the exact opposite in style, and it works out perfectly because we add what the other doesn't have. Dear Killer is a great read. Sell a gazillion copies.

Betty Gordon said...

A good interview, Linda, and an interesting slant on critique partners. The process is give and take and it works.

Ellis Vidler said...

Hi, Linda. Thanks for coming today. Good post. I rely on my critique partner to catch all kinds of things, even if I hate it when she finds plot holes I've missed.
I've read Dear Killer and it's a fast read with interesting characters. The setting adds to it too. I'm sure it will be a winner!

Maggie Toussaint said...

I'm just now getting here - one of the hazards of reading digested yahoo loops. I'm thrilled to see you with your book, Linda, and I wish you all the success in the world.

Down in coastal Ga. we have a strong Geechee/Gullah contingent - at least two groups based here do the "shouting," so I'm familiar with the cultural differences.

Best wishes! Maggie Toussaint
fellow mystery author

Ellis Vidler said...

Linda wrote to me and said Blogger won't let her post, that's why she hasn't answered. I'm sure we all know about that--some days it doesn't know me or want to. Anyway, she'll try again later.

Linda Lovely said...

I agree with Maryn that having critique partners that aren't always on the same page can be a blessing. If a critique partner writes/reads in a different genre, she's less likely to assume things and more likely to question plot points and character development. It's a fresh set of eyes.

Vicki Lane said...

A good critique group is invaluable -- mine saw me through my first three novels.