No, I’m not a murderer. I don’t have a stash of bones buried in my yard. You don’t get to dig my bones either. I’ll keep those, thanks. I just need a male critique partner or two (because I have a male main character) so I can make my bones stronger.
What, you say? How could a critique partner makes my bones stronger?
It’s like this.I’m sure you’ve heard that weight-bearing exercise helps increase bone mass. Walking fits the bill, so I read when I walk. I can’t talk and chew gum at the same time, but that’s because I can’t chew gum. TMJ makes that too painful. Reading and walking at the same time, I can do. I want to do it more to stay healthy and strengthen my bones. Anyway, dovetailing my activities makes boring tasks tolerable and sometimes even fun. It’s walking that’s boring, not reading.
But won’t I trip and fall? Hey, that’s what peripheral vision is for. I don’t trip and fall as long as it’s light enough to see where I’m going. I’ve been known to wear a headlamp if I go out after dark. My hearing is good and the traffic is light, so I’m in no more danger of an accident than I am in my own home. You know homes have the highest incidence of accidents, right? Just think, you could save my life!
Backing up, I’d never have thought of reading while walking if not for a Mickey Mouse sort of accident that put me to bed for most of my last pregnancy. Then I contracted chronic bronchitis due to the medicine I took to prevent premature labor. After breaking my ribs coughing a day before the birth of my youngest son, I found out I had Osteoporosis. Doctors never tell you that for every month of bed rest, you lose 5% of bone mass. If you’re under age 35, you can gain back at most 1% a year, not a month. I was on the wrong side of that number.
When first allowed out of bed, I couldn’t even stand up for long. My ribs rubbing together were torture each time I coughed, but I went to the gym for 6 months straight to build up my strength. For years after that I gave up reading and tried to spend as little time as possible sitting down in a fruitless attempt to restore my bones. Since that wasn’t happening in spite of me taking the latest medicines, my doctor said I needed to walk more, at least 2 miles a day.
That’s when I thought of reading while I walk. But if I’m only reading for fun, I rationalize my way into doing services less healthful. I sit on my behind to do our finances, fold laundry, etc. I’m one of those who thinks if I’m not doing something for somebody else, I’m not making good use of my time. For my own reading pleasure, I might take one walk a day, but not two. I will do both miles if I have an obligation to critique something.
When I was in Emerald Coast Writers’ (ECW) critique group, I printed the pages, stuck them on a clipboard, and out the door I went. Around the block twice makes 1.2 miles, enough time to do 10 pages (double space, 12 font). Years ago, neighbors would ask if I was out taking a survey. Now they all know I’m just the crazy writer who can’t sit at her desk to work like normal people.
I also learned storytelling, mechanics and usage in a tough group including a college English professor and a journalist. But nobody in ECW told me about word count limits for MG/YA or many other critical things I learned too late, after joining SCBWI. Besides, I got tired of critiquing everything except my genre. I’m a fantasy/SF lover with a BS in Clinical Laboratory Science, specializing in Microbiology and Computer Science. My background helps me write SF for teens, yet I need to critique with writers who know about writing for children. I think I was one, once.
I have a female YA critique partner already. I’m also trying again to start a fantasy group within ECW, and I may have found one more permanent male SF partner to check my male POV, but he’s not an MG/YA specialist. So if you’re interested or know someone interested, please let me know. I can do anywhere from beta reading for big picture suggestions with no line editing included to full critiques.
Yes, I know the difference between passive verbs and passive voice. I know those MFA rules, and I also know many agents are complaining about the cookie-cutter manuscripts that result. I appreciate creativity too much to force someone into a voice-smothering mold. Anyway, if there were enough strong verbs in the language, adverbs would never have been invented. In case you didn’t notice, the last half of that sentence is a proper use of passive voice, where it doesn’t matter who did the acting as much as what got acted upon. I would also recognize a subjunctive even if I were blind.
If you’re interested, send me a chapter. If you don’t like my critique, there’s no obligation. If you do like it, only then do you need to return the favor. You help me get my bones back, and I give your writing some backbone. How’s that for a bone-us?