Results of an experiment: finding beta readers online from among fans vs in-person writing groups

A couple weeks back, I sent out a very short story I’d written a few days earlier to people who had signed up for my newsletter (you can sign up for that newsletter on my welcome page). I wanted some feedback, and I had more than a week until the next scheduled meeting of my writing group, so I decided to try something I’d heard other authors have done: generating beta readers from my mailing list and asking for feedback from them.

Here’s the results of my little experiment Continue reading

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Sol Stein sold me on “The Actor’s Studio Method for Developing Drama in Plots”

Some of my regular readers might notice that my usual response to frustration in the midst of a writing project is to start borrowing writing books from the library and systematically going through them (in addition to eating chocolate, cleaning, and spending too much time on Facebook as an avoidance strategy).

stein on writing

A new favorite writing book, chock full of original, well-informed, and practical advice.

I’m two volumes into my current stack of five. The last couple of days, I’ve been reading Stein on Writing, written by novelist, playwright, and editor extraordinaire, Sol Stein. It’s not a new book, but it’s a classic, and I picked it up due to the acclaim.

I’m not done yet, but I’m just loving this book. It’s much more practical than most of the writing books I’ve read, which tend toward the touchy-feely, and after 50 pages of familiar (but articulate) ground (which I probably could use a review of anyway), Stein starts describing all sorts of new strategies for writers to employ.

My favorite one, thus far, is “The Actors Studio Method for Developing Drama in Plots.” Continue reading

Writers wondering what goes on in the minds of other writers

A couple weeks back, Kristen M. Ploetz posted several questions she wished she could have answered by other writers. The post has generated a bit of buzz, with replies by two bloggers I admire, Nina Badzin and Rivki Silver (which is where I first heard of it).

(And then Rivki made me cry happy tears by saying she admired my work. I love her site, so the feeling is mutual.)

I found both the original post and the follow-ups fascinating. A lot of what all three bloggers had to say was about self-identification as a writer. At what point does a person who writes become a “writer?” Another theme was how the writer — whose job is by nature often solitary — interacts with their social milieu, both in their personal lives and in their professional ones.

Here are the original questions in bold. I’ll add my responses below each of them.

1. Do you share your work with your partner or spouse? Does it matter if it’s been published yet? Continue reading

Megillat Esther through the eyes of a 21st century writer, or It’s okay if G-d saves the day if there’s forshadowing

This year, in preparation for Purim, I’ve been rereading the megillah at a class given by my LOR (local Orthodox rabbi). Of course, it’s not the first time I’ve read The Book of Esther, as it’s called in English. We do that every year on Purim–twice! And it’s also not the first time I’ve learned it with this particular rabbi. But it is the first time I’ve read it with commentary, guided by my rabbi, since I officially became an author (whatever that means). And boy, is there a difference.

The Big Literary No-No All Over the Megillah

book of esther theater poland

A Purim Spiel in Poland. Photo shared in the Wikipedia Commons by Henryk Kotowski.

When you’re writing fiction, there is a big no-no that you’re told never to do: rely on deus ex machina. In short: don’t get your characters out of a tight corner by dropping a deity down from the sky to perform an instantaneous rescue. The audience will roll their eyes, at best.

The term originated with actors playing deities in the theaters of Greece. But for a religious writer of a different persuasion in the 21st century, it causes problems. Continue reading

Time to be funny! Turn things upside down! It’s really Adar this time. I promise.

Okay, so for those who have no idea what the title of today’s post means, I’ll clarify:

Don't you wanna dress up for Purim?

Don’t you wanna dress up for Purim?

The Hebrew month of Adar contains the wacky holiday of Purim. The thing is, when there’s a leap year, there’s an entire extra month of Adar–because if you’re going to have a month that comes twice, it might as well as be the one that’s known as the happiest of the year. But there’s only Purim in the second Adar.

After a month of tolerating a giant “SIKE!” the second Adar of 5774 started yesterday. Jewish kids everywhere are going crazy. Continue reading

This story does not stop here!

For the last week, I’ve been struggling with a major rewrite of a short story. Basically, the character was not so likeable, her journey was boring, and the ending was very, very lame.

The problems with my Lame-O story:

This was already the third or fourth draft of the story. I’d originally written it for a particular venue, who rejected it. Later, it was accepted for a different one, conditional on me completing a satisfactory rewrite.

The main structural changes the editors asked for were the removal of one subplot (and the scenes both where it was introduced and where it was resolved) and a new ending.

I cut out the subplot. No problem. I wasn’t entirely attached to it.

But still not done!

Now my story had a new problem Continue reading