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Posts by Margaret Ball

Good Critic, Bad Critic

Last time I talked about dealing with the destructive inner critic, so I thought that today it might be worth mentioning that it’s not really a good idea to silence or ignore all the criticisms that float through your head. Some of them come from the useful critic, the one you definitely want to listen to. It’s not hard to distinguish them. The Bad Critic makes statements that are usually personal attacks, and are always designed to silence you. The Good Critic asks questions that spark ideas and help you improve the story.

There are lots of checklists of questions to ask yourself, but I don’t find these terribly useful. I prefer to take a step back from the story and see what floats into my head when I try to read it as a stranger might; when I sense a weakness in what I’ve written or recognize an old stumbling-block. A lot of them are things you might expect to hear from beta readers, but I don’t believe in counting on beta readers to fix problems I can catch for myself. Here, then, are some things I might hear from the Good Critic during the journey from initial idea to finished draft. Read more

Starving the critic

Catching up on some of the blogs I haven’t read since the knee surgery, I’ve just come across Kris Rusch’s April 17 post on silencing the critical voice.  That’s a topic of perennial interest to me, because I’ve spent a lot of energy wrestling with the critical voice in my own head – as, I suspect, have most of us. Oops, I don’t mean you guys are wrestling with my personal critical voice, I mean most of us have that embedded critic and have to deal with our own voices. Sorry. I’m still taking occasional pain medications, to the detriment of clarity in thought and writing.

Kris talks about envisioning the Critic as that annoying person at a party, the one you walk away from as soon as you recognize that you’ve bumped up against one of those unhappy souls whose mission in life is to suck the joy and passion out of everything and everyone. I’d never thought of imagining my Critic as a real person; it’s an interesting idea. I may try that some time.

However, I’ve never been very good at simply silencing the Critic. I’ve found that a slightly different approach works better for me. Read more

Life gets in the way

I’m getting ready for knee surgery next week, which involves more hospital visits, lab tests, and doctors’ appointments than I ever imagined. And on my part of the preparation, well, I’m hustling to get my writing life ready for a necessary break. That has meant (a) releasing that Regency fantasy romance, and (b) extracting my head from 18th century Philadelphia in time to write the final chapters of A Child of Magic; the theory being that I may be able to lounge in bed and edit the thing while getting used to my brand-new synthetic right knee, but I probably won’t be sharp enough to do any original writing that week.

So what with this, that and the other, I have no thoughts about the writing life this week except that it’s desirable to get as much as possible done before the surgery. If you want something to read, go check out Salt Magic. It’s free on Kindle Unlimited.

And if all goes well, in a month or so I get to do it all over again with the left knee. Whee.

Plotting around what you know

I’ve reached a point in the current book (#7 in the Applied Topology series, for those who care) where I have to stop, take a deep breath, sit back and… read all day. Or maybe all week.

No, really. I have to. I’m not just making excuses to take off, I swear! (Oy… please, people, don’t let Thalia beat me up! She doesn’t like it when I ask her to quit talking for a few days.)

Thing is that A Child of Magic has a subplot which requires my characters to visit Philadelphia for a day and a half. Um, during the Constitutional Convention. Summer of 1787, that would be. The bits that got them into this fix have already been written, and I’ve already worked out how this assignment leads right into the final confrontation of the main plot. But now it’s time for them (and me) to take a deep breath and plunge into the noise, smells, and mud of the big city. Read more

Who puts the books in the book book book-a shop?

(With apologies to Barry Mann)

Sarah Hoyt’s recent post on  The Day the Bookstores Died (no, not the actual title; I seem to be in a pop music mode this morning) got me thinking about my own issues with bookstores; specifically, used bookstores. I think (can’t prove) that one of the factors diminishing my enjoyment of used bookstores is, ironically, something that’s probably good for their bottom line: the ease of Internet research. Read more

The Stories We Aren’t Telling

During a recent attempt at mindless escapism I recently downloaded some collections of popular novels from roughly 1900-1920. As a supply of reading material it’s worked out excellently (as long as I give myself permission to skip nine out of ten books). The escapism, though, failed with the very first book I read, by Mary Cholmondeley (Nope, never heard of her, and thought it had to be a pen name until I looked her up. Sic transit gloria mundi.) It featured people being very earnest about social issues in a very recognizably contemporary way.

Early in the book our heroine and designated Good Person muses on the injustice of life: “‘If anyone had told me,’ she said to herself, ‘when I was rich, that I lived on the flesh and blood of my fellow-creatures, that my virtue and ease and pleasure were bought by their degradation and toil and pain, I should not have believed it, and I should have been angry. Read more

Entwined Series

What do you do when two series decide to get friendly with each other?

One of the problems with spending January wrestling alligators instead of writing is that it left my muse free to plot in the shadows… and she has a nasty sense of humor. Read more