Archives: August 2014

Even Jane Austen Edited Herself!

by Nicole Marie Schreiber
Published on: August 26, 2014
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Here is Jane Austen’s writing desk at Chawton Cottage.


Last week I stumbled upon this great article about Jane Austen and her editing process.  Yes, even Austen edited herself, which as I writer I shouldn’t be surprised by since EVERY writer edits and revises their work, but seeing how it was done hundreds of years ago is fascinating and really makes me feel a writerly kinship towards Ms. Austen.  It’s the same feeling I felt when seeing her actual writing desk at Chawton Cottage in England many years ago.  Actually, seeing her editing process makes me feel even closer to her, and makes me realize that we writers, no matter what era we live or lived in, really are kindred spirits.

Enjoy, and happy writing (and editing!)

-Nicole Marie Schreiber


Critique as Creative Collective

by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: August 20, 2014
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I read a wonderful article in the Sunday New York Times called “The End of Genius” that I think captures why we Scrivas, and you and other writers, thrive in critique groups.

It’s about how our brains are wired to be in conversation with others about our ideas, about our creative work. Though this researcher focused on creative pairs and many critiques groups include more than two people, the idea of creative conversation still applies, I think. When we Scrivas critique, we go around and give comments one at a time. We address our comments directly to the writer. The conversation for each critique is mostly one-on-one. People do pipe in (interrupt politely) and add comments. But in most cases these comments are productive, broadening, focusing or stirring the conversation.

I have heard that in some critique groups, the writer being critique is supposed to remain quiet the whole time, taking notes. In both my critique groups, the writer certainly listens quietly and take notes at first, but most critiques become conversations, and I think that is good thing. Do you?

Scriva Liz

What Can/Will/Would You Do, “For the Writing?”

by Nicole Marie Schreiber
Published on: August 14, 2014
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This looks like fun! Maybe I can learn to do this someday, “for the writing!”

While writing my first realistic, contemporary YA manuscript since January, I’ve immersed myself in similar YA fiction, movies, and television shows. I notice teens at Starbucks more and listen in on their conversations. I pay more attention to their clothes and contemporary music. Now I find myself swimming in the angst of late teens and twentysomethings on an almost daily basis, which is sometimes hard because I am a fortysomething mother of two boys under the age of nine and a preschool teacher during the school year. So bobbing on the tide of young adulthood doesn’t easily fit into my life.

But I make room. I make a lot of room. It’s what needs to be done. It’s what my story needs, and it’s what we writers do. We find a way to immerse ourselves into the worlds we’ve created. We sometimes do crazy things that many people who live in the world outside of writing would never, ever think of doing. And it’s all to make our characters, our settings, and our stories come alive. Lately, I’ve gorged myself on the HBO series “Girls” (first as research for my novel and now I love the show) and there is a fabulous line from one of the characters that sums my thoughts up. Hannah is a struggling writer, and in one episode she begins to do things, “for the writing.” Some of the things she attempts to do for her writing may look completely outrageous to outsiders, but I really understand where she is coming from. There is just something about actually doing (or getting close to doing) many of the things that our main characters do that makes our writing feel more authentic and real.

This is true for any genre. If you are writing a high fantasy, and you have your characters sword-fighting, try going to a Renaissance Faire or SCA event and pick up a sword yourself to see what it’s like. Try out archery. Take a ride on a horse if your characters are doing the same. Try on some Medieval or Renaissance garb, if your characters wear similar clothing.   If you are writing historical fiction set in pioneer Oregon, get as deep as you can with your research by eating some of the food/recipes of the period. Do some of the chores children did at a living history museum (many have days you can wash clothes the way they did, play period games, make candles, do woodworking, etc). Sit in a covered wagon, or try to take a ride in one.

Immersion may make a lot of sense for these genres, but the same goes for contemporary stories, too. If your main character is a skateboarder, have you ever ridden on a board before? If someone in your book is into the goth/punk scene, try dressing up in that style to see what it feels like.   You don’t have to get a piercing or tattoo, but you could visit a parlor and talk to the people there, or get a feel for the place to try and understand your character better. (You could always go to a wig store and try on a neon blue or fuchsia wig to see how it feels to have a unique hair color.) Listen to the music your characters would like. Look at the world through your characters’ eyes.

No matter the genre, our characters sometimes do things that are dangerous and unhealthy, things that we wouldn’t ever want do ourselves. Or they simply may be things we would feel uncomfortable trying. But perhaps you can interview someone who has done those things to help get the details right. I know that’s helped me as well as my fellow Scrivas. Regarding setting, it really helps if you’ve been to the places you are writing about too, but of course monetary concerns may make it impossible to travel. If you are writing a story set in France but have never been there, many places have French festivals you can attend. Travel and art/architecture/ coffee table books are also helpful to gain a sense of place, as well as travel videos. Even French films can help.

Sometimes you can try things that totally go against your personality (or the personality you and others thought you had) all “for the writing,” and it’s a freeing experience. You can learn so much about yourself.   You can try something that isn’t even linked to the manuscript you are working on right now, but there is a kernel of an idea in your mind for something you might want to write later, and that’s reason enough to try it out. This past summer I’ve taken a class where I’ve had to create a routine and a costume, learn how to put on stage makeup, and perform on a stage…all for two story ideas that I have but I haven’t started writing yet and won’t for quite a while. But the experience will definitely help me with my writing when I do start those stories.

So go and try something new and different, even something that others may think is crazy, unusual, and not you at all…“for the writing.”   Your present and future stories will thank you for it!

Happy Writing!   -Nicole Marie Schreiber

“Make friends with other writers…”

by Melissa Dalton
Published on: August 8, 2014
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“The right alliances will save your spirit — not to mention your career — during the dark nights of the soul. Spend some time getting to know what you want. It’s a shifting-sands industry, so you’ve gotta take responsibility for being familiar with your own priorities. And never, never, ever let the word ‘rejection’ apply to you. It’s not a rejection, it’s a pass, and they happen every day. But so do offers.”

I thought this was great advice from a newly published writer and it reminded me of the value of a critique group (and great group of friends :). You can read the rest of the interview here.

Laurie Ann Thompson: Scriva for a Night

by Ruth Tenzer Feldman
Published on: August 4, 2014
Categories: Critique Process
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laurie-thompsoncropped-Blog-header-2-1024x198Viva Scriva is a tight-knit group. After all this time together and our myriad critiques, how could we not be? Rarely do we invite others to attend a meeting, and usually it’s with an eye toward joining our group. We’re not snobs. We simply take our writing seriously. A few weeks ago, we made an exception, and I got more out of that meeting than I’d expected.

Laurie Ann Thompson, a Washington-based writer, was visiting Portland and staying with a Scriva during the evening of one of our meetings. We invited Laurie to come. I checked her out on the Web first (an addiction of mine), and this is what she has to say for herself:

I write for children and young adults to help my readers—and myself—make better sense of the world we live in so we can contribute to making it a better place. I strive to write nonfiction that gives wings to active imaginations and fiction that taps into our universal human truths. I believe that each of us is capable of doing amazing things once we discover our passion, talent, and purpose. Reading is a great place to start.

At the Scriva meeting, we talked a bit about Laurie’s upcoming book, BE A CHANGEMAKER, which offers young adults ways to effect social change in our world. Mostly, though, the conversation centered on the Scriva submissions, none of which Laurie had read beforehand. So how could she have contributed to the critique? I noticed two key ways that Scriva for a Night engendered creativity and added to the process:

  • We Scrivas for The Long Haul brought Laurie into the conversation by summarizing our latest projects and describing what we were trying to say in our writing. It’s amazing how much clarity comes from hearing yourself encapsulate your own work for someone else!
  • Like many good writers, Laurie has perfected the art of listening. She augmented our comments by synthesizing what she’d heard and adding her own thoughts with a fresh voice and a fresh angle.

Maybe having a guest at our critique meeting worked so well because Laurie Ann Thompson turned out to be the ideal Scriva for a Night. Maybe it would have been equally enjoyable and productive to have invited another writer of Laurie’s caliber. Who’s to say? Either way, if Laurie ever finds her way to Portland on another meeting night, I’d welcome her back for another Scriva for a Night critique.

Scriva Ruth



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