Things I’ve learned about writing: how to receive feedback

Feedback. On your precious writing. Also known as critique, constructive criticism, edits, thoughts, comments, disemboweling, soul crushing … I’m talking here about those written reports, emails, notes, track changes etc, which might be given by relatives, friends, critique partners, tutors, mentors, competition readers, agents, and editors, to you, on your full or partial manuscript.

Never mind that you asked these lovely people to review your manuscript for free; or paid them for advice; or have a contract that shows they already love the story – giving your work to someone else to read can be heart-shakingly hard. You may have spent three years getting this story up to scratch, and then a person reads it in less than a day and tells you lots of things they think are wrong with it. HOW you respond to feedback may vary depending on the WHO, but trust me, it’s going to involve emotional turmoil of some kind.

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Writing with mental ill health

This is a blog I wrote back in August for the #WriteMentor Spark Programme. Another of Stuart White’s wonderful inclusive and encouraging iniatives, Spark is a good affordable way to get help with your writing and engage with the children’s writing and publishing community.

How to keep writing when you have mental ill health – 6 practical tips

Alongside therapy, medication, and exercise, many people find writing can help to manage their mental health.

Confused Mental Health GIF by Lisa Vertudaches

But there’s a catch: How do you write when depression means just getting out of bed is too hard? Or OCD has you stuck in a loop of some tedious behaviour? Or anxiety tells you that you’re not good enough, you’ll never be a writer, and sends your brain spiralling?

Having lived with chronic anxiety since childhood, plus depression and OCD on the side, in my experience life is always better when I’m writing. Any kind is good – non-fiction, journaling, memoir, poetry, therapeutic – but for me, fiction works best. Here, I offer some practical tips to help you keep writing on difficult days.

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Endurance Writing Part 2

Sunday morning run on the cycle track through woods.

May is a month that weeps green. Cow parsley and nettles reach my shoulders in places along the path. The smell of wild garlic shouts life, joy, hope, and mingles with the sleazy scent of hawthorn flowers.

This is a path I run often, through all the seasons, and I love it.

The very first short story I had published was born here, about eight years ago. Little Red Running Hood. I entered an online competition run by the wonderful Inktears. The story was commended, and published on their website. I look at the story now with a critical eye, of course. Certainly, I didn’t understand the concept of killing darlings back then. 😁

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Mentoring, Editing and Reading Services

I’m now offering mentoring, editing and reading services for writers of Middle Grade, Teen and YA fiction, and short stories of all kinds.

I believe in giving kind and constructive feedback, and my aim is to help writers on to the next step of their journey.  If you’d like to know about my qualifications and experience please take a look here.

Services include a Submission Package, Full Report, Procrastinator’s Package, Beta Reading, and the Teen Reader Report. Further details can be found here.

Please take a look and get in touch if you’d like any further information.

Endurance Writing

This is not a humble brag, or any other kind of brag for that matter, (and if you ever saw me running, you’d know that is the truth), but I’m in training for a half-marathon. I’m the sort of runner whose main aim is to make it to the start line, never mind the finish. Personal bests, credible times and podiums (ha ha), be damned.

Anyway, I’m in the endurance phase of my training programme. These are the weeks when you turn up, day after day, and put in the miles. Good days, bad days, fast or slow, sun or rain, flowing or stuttering. (Yes, it is a writing metaphor.) Often, I feel like I’m getting slower, less fit, achier. Too old, my body protests. But I keep on. Because I’ve been here before. In a few weeks’ time, some magic will happen, and I will run a longer distance than I ever felt was possible. (Yes, that is also a writing metaphor.)

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More about #WriteMentor and me

I’m sure there are a few writers lurking around the WriteMentor hashtag not asking questions even though they might want to, and wondering if they have the nerve to apply to the programme. It’s scary to share your writing, and I avoided doing it myself for a really long time. But it is so worth being brave, being bold, and doing it.

The #WriteMentors are a genuine bunch who want to help their fellow writers. I haven’t met any of them in real life but we are connected by our passion for writing, and there is a wonderful supportive feel about the whole group.

This week has been frenetic on twitter. I’ve had my first Q and A sessions. It’s been fun, but I do find it pretty hard coming up with answers on the spot. We introverts need time to think before we respond! Also, I like to redraft fifteen times before I show anyone my words, even tweets … and I’ve just noticed a typo in one of them.

Anyway, I thought it might be helpful to have some more considered information about my writing and my critiquing experience.

Here’s a bit about what I write:

I write about the things that scare me. I am fascinated by voice – that’s the character’s voice (narrative voice) rather than authorial voice, and so I sometimes have multiple narrators. I also write speculative fiction – basically sci-fi that’s closer to real world than fantasy.

I write stories for younger teenagers and children, too, usually contemporary realism with a bit of humour, and the odd fantastical element.

I write in first person, third person and sometimes (probably more than I should) in second person. I usually write in present tense, but not always.

You can read an extract from my YA MS and a humorous teen short story on the ‘read’ menu to give you an idea of some of my writing.

What have I beta read, critiqued and edited?

Here are some examples of the types of manuscripts I have been privileged to read and give feedback on:

Middle Grade: fantasy adventure, third person, past tense; magical middle grade third person, past tense; magical middle grade, first person, past tense; contemporary issue-led middle, first person, present; historical detective; dual contemporary/historical narrative; adventure; funny 7-9, first person; fairy, third person; funny, first person, past tense.

Teen: funny detective, first person, present; LGBTQIA romance/humour, first person; adventure, third person.

YA: Historical UK set; Historical Europe set; contemporary detective, first person, present; Sci-Fi, first person; contemporary with magical elements; dark contemporary with multiple narrators; fantasy with dual narrator; LGBTQIA contemporary.

A bit about genre

Genre was coming up a lot in the Q and A. I read and love all sorts of books with the possible exception of horror, but I do understand that some readers and writers have a real passion for a particular genre (usually fantasy and/or sci-fi). I know that these superfans read fantasy in a different way to me – some of them are my closest friends! So if you want that kind of intense, genre-specific reader, one of the other mentors who specifically state that preference might be better for you. BUT, whatever the genre, your story still needs a plot, characters, voice, pace and so on and these are all things I am used to working with.

There are 27 mentors now on #WriteMentor! So, take a look and see if any of them sound like writers who could help with your work. You can choose three to apply to. The closing date for applications is 11th may 2018.

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More Mentoring News

Delighted to say I am now a writing mentor for #WriteMentor, a programme for unagented Middle Grade and YA writers. We offer the opportunity to develop a manuscript with an agented or published author. There are various options available from a query package to developmental edits on the full manuscript.

Each mentor has something different to offer, in terms of input and style. We aim to encompass a wide range of genres, styles and diversity, and encourage mentees from anywhere in the world to apply, although all work should be submitted in English. There will be an agent showcase at the end of the process in September.

Interested? What’s the next step?

  1. Check out the mentor bios.
  2. Choose three mentors to apply to.
  3. Send your application between 4th and 11th May.

Hello

Kathryn Clark – About Me

When I was very small, I could fly. I remember the feeling before take-off, like the start of a sneeze, but in my toes. I swooped up and around the hall of our tiny terraced house and looked down at the swirls in the black and green carpet. I was flying. Or perhaps, I was dreaming. Or perhaps, it was a story I told myself.

I grew up in Surrey in an ordinary family, in an ordinary town. I read lots of books and studied English at university. I went on to work in a wallpaper shop and a call-centre; as an aromatherapist, a researcher and a writer of web content. And all that time I made up stories in my head. But it wasn’t until I was really quite old that I started writing them down.

Now I write all the time. Stories for young people, usually. You can read some of them here.

I also like to help other writers with their stories. You can read more about this here.

I live in rural Gloucestershire with my husband, two teenagers, two cats, and a border terrier. I have a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and love reading, running, the sea, dark chocolate, and earl grey tea.