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Thread: June Activities 2011

  1. #1
    jenny b

    June Activities 2011

    Our featured author for June is Alex/welshdevondragon!

    Her author’s page can be found here.

    • You must review the featured author for it to count as your monthly activity requirement.
    • Post the link to your review here - you may also post it in the June review thread for credit as a review.
    • Questions in this thread are not part of the monthly requirement, but they are greatly encouraged. Also, they must have something to do with the subject of writing.

  2. #2
    jenny b

    June Drabble Challenge

    This is blatantly stolen from Jenna's drabble challenge of August 2009, but no one actually did it so I'm putting it up again:

    Choose a fellow SPEWer, and write a drabble or scene that is resembles something they might write. You can do this by emulating a style or tone, or using characters, pairings, plots or situations common in or typical of their writing. Examples of style: if they tend to write in a certain point of view; if they tend to rely heavily on dialogue; if they use a lot of description.


    • Drabble can be between 250-800 words.
    • Content should not be any higher than a 3rd-5th Years rating.
    • All content that would require a warning on the MNFF Archive should be labelled appropriately.
    • This thread is for responses only. If you have a question, PM me.
    • Responses must be posted by June 30th.
    • Please post using this format:
      Word Count:
    • As with all activities within the SPEW forum, this challenge is open only to SPEW members.

  3. #3
    jenny b

    June Discussion: Nitpicking

    This was also stolen from one of Jenna's old threads (weirdly enough, also August of 2009) and I thought I'd bring it up again since it's always an interesting thing to discuss as SPEWers tend to have varying opinions on the matter.

    There is a post on it here in the old RAC thread, but basically: to nitpick or not to nitpick? Do you do it? Is it helpful to receive? Discuss.

  4. #4
    This is an interesting topic. It's something I do quite often in reviews, nitpicking. Looking at the post, I think I will quote bits of it (not too much, hopefully) and just say my opinion on the matter.

    Quote Originally Posted by RAC
    Nit-picking, to define this, is when the reviewer goes through the story and finds minor errors with things like spelling, grammar, and/or punctuation. Nit-picking is unhelpful to the author unless these errors prevented you from understanding the story.
    I disagree. I think that nitpicking is helpful to authors who are perfectionists (like me), and I don't think that it's unhelpful to the author to point out punctuation/grammar/spelling errors. This is proven -- I think -- when I nitpick in my reviews, because they just say thank you and correct it/say that they'll bear it in mind for next time. So I think it is helpful. It doesn't mean we're becoming the author's beta. We're just pointing out errors that the beta and author missed out. Of course, if you're really negative/rude about it, then it's not nice, but otherwise, I don't see why you can't accept that you missed a comma somewhere or whatever.

    Before I continue, I just want to point out something that seems to be a bit of a contradiction here. In the SPEW rules, it says:

    III. Members’ reviews should include some or all of the following:

    -> Grammar and/or spelling corrections.
    -> Comments on writing style, canon accuracy, and character and plot development.
    -> Use specific examples from the story to illustrate a point.
    -> If criticism, be worded in such a way as to be helpful to the author, rather than hurtful.
    So I think that if nitpicking was that much of a problem, we wouldn't have it in the rules to pick out grammar/spelling/punctuation mistakes. And I know it says that that doesn't necessarily mean that we should never, ever point out an error, it does kind of say that it's better not to, but as an author, I think I'd prefer it if someone told me if I misplaced a comma/misspelled a word.

    OK, now I want to look at an example that the RAC team gave, an alternate example to nitpicking, which is:

    I noticed that there were a few grammatical and spelling errors throughout the story. If you haven’t already, try getting a beta reader to catch these little things (which are devilishly easy to overlook).
    Now, I will not name any names, but a former SPEWer (I think she was a SPEWer, anyway) left a couple of reviews like that. She had a lot of concrit in there too, but anyway, she just said that there were a few grammar/spelling errors in there. The author responded and asked for examples of spelling errors because she said she couldn't find any. So I don't exactly know how you're supposed to point out that someone's got spelling errors if you don't give examples to back up your point. I suppose you could always tell them to work on your comma placement or whatever, but if it happens in isolation, I don't think it's the best way to go about things, and you're better off pointing them out.

    I have read reviews where literally all the reviewers do is nitpick and nothing else, but I think it depends on the errors themselves. If they happen in isolation (as in the example above) then I think you should point it out, as in, quote the story and correct it. If the story is riddled with errors, it's better to say "Remember to capitalise blah blah blah" or "Work on blah blah blah" or even "It might be better to get a beta". Whatever you say, you should specify what your nitpick is. I don't know... maybe it's because I'm a beta and when it comes to my work, it's so crap that the least I can do is try and catch all those errors, but I like it when someone nitpicks. It helps, and as long as the reviewer isn't patronising/hurtful (which SPEWers never are, as far as I know) then I don't see why you can't nitpick.

    EDIT: Danielle, the name's Soraya
    Last edited by babewithbrains; 06-22-2011 at 07:57 AM.

  5. #5
    'Til the end of the line Ravenclaw
    Kill the Spare
    ToBeOrNotToBeAGryffindor's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Forever and always in rarepair hell
    Title: Who's the Boss
    Word Count: 800
    Author's Note: I have borrowed Alex's preferred first person present tense that she used in Bryter later, as well as her Slytherin preference as a main character. Everything else, though, is pretty much my own doing, lol.

    * * *

    I’m late; I’m so late. Why did I decide to curl my hair at the last minute, when I know he’s not going to notice me any more today than he did yesterday? And my hair is still a bloody mess.

    As I practically run out of the Floo at the Ministry, I notice that the Atrium is empty. Yes, I am definitely late. If I were on time, there would be at least some people milling about before the clock struck eight and it was time be begin the work day. On the bright side, though, at least the lift won’t be crowded.

    Once the lift car stops, the doors open. My heart sinks into my stomach. “Er, good morning, Minister.”

    Minister Shacklebolt nods and gives me a slight smile. “Running late again, are we, Miss Greengrass?”

    If I could melt into the floorboards at this moment, I would. “I, um… forgot to let the cat out,” I lie, wanting to hex myself. Only an idiot would lie to the bleeding Minister of Magic, but I do it without even thinking.

    “I see,” he replies enigmatically before the lift stops.

    “Level One,” says the automated lift voice.

    Inclining his head in acknowledgment, the Minister says, “Good day to you.”

    As the gates close behind him, I start to wish that the lift would take me far, far away instead of going to Level Six. I will almost certainly be sacked unless, by some miracle, my supervisor, Max Leavitz, doesn’t notice me gone before I get to my desk. But, considering I had to bump into, of all people, the Minister while nearly an hour late, I doubt my luck is going to be rescuing me any time soon. When I slide into my seat, the event is miraculously unremarked upon by the boss.

    At the next desk over, Jimmy Peakes, the Floo Network Authority’s newest employee, mouthed, “You’re late.”

    I resist the urge to send him a rude gesture, as I know he can easily get me into deep trouble, so I put my finger over my lips in a plea for his silence. There is a battle waging inside his head, I can see it. Likely, he’s debating whether to sell me up the river or not and which would be more beneficial to him.

    However, that decision is made for him when a bellow comes from Max’s office. “Daphne!”

    The amusement on Jimmy’s face is obvious, but I ignore him and start the slow trek to my doom. Out of habit, I begin winding bits of my curled hair around my finger over and over again, hoping it will distract me. It does not. My pace becomes slower and slower as I approach the doorway. At the very least, if I get sacked, I can be paid for an extra minute’s work. Not that I’ve done any work today, mind, but I find that largely irrelevant.

    When I finally make it into Max’s office, though, the scene awaiting me is not what I expect. There is no angry glare on his face or a pink slip with my name on it in sight. Instead, I see my normally invincible-looking boss rubbing his bloodshot eyes and wearing the same clothes he’d worn yesterday. “Max, are you… are you all right?” I ask, momentarily forgetting that I am likely in trouble.

    He runs his fingers through his hair, tousling the strands in an irritatingly enticing manner. “I’ve been here all night, trying to get this presentation ready for the Undersecretary’s visit later today. I just can’t wrap my head around it, and… and… and I need coffee.”

    Relief overtakes me before I recompose myself, just in time to not sigh in relief. “Right away,” I say before fetching his requested beverage. When I come back, he is already re-immersed in his paperwork. Quietly, I set the coffee in front of him where he can’t accidentally spill it and turn to leave. But as I turn, his hand closes around my wrist.

    “Daphne, wait.”

    There is something in his tone that makes me stop. “Did you need something else, Max?”

    He exhales heavily. “There’s no easy way to do this.” Again mussing his hair, he says, “You’re fired.”

    I gasp. It isn’t entirely unexpected, but he hadn’t led me to believe that I was in any sort of trouble. “But, you —”

    “You’re nearly always late, and you get others to do your work for you.”

    I can’t argue with that.

    “But that leaves me able to do something I’ve always wanted to do.” And without another word, he presses his lips to mine. When we break apart, we are both breathless. Maybe he did notice my hair.

    “Daphne, will you have lunch with me?”

    Chuckling, I say, “Of course.”
    Jess WritesJess DrabblesJess DuelsJess PoetsJess Draws

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  6. #6
    Simply Being
    I'm of two minds on this. Personally, in my own reviews I generally stay away from commenting on nitpicks like spelling and grammar. To me, it's much more important and gratifying to the author (and to myself as an author) to give them feedback on writing style, plot, characterization, etc. I think that part of the reason for me discounting nitpicks is because 1) I am not a grammar Nazi and 2) Spelling and grammar are much more easily remedied than errors in plot, characterization, etc.

    As an author who is much more concerned with the writing itself rather than ensuring that my writing is grammatically perfect, I would much rather receive a review on my writing style than picking out each and every tiny mistake. Yes, thank you for informing me that such-and-such word is spelled wrong. However, this is so easily fixed it really isn't that helpful to me as a writer. Fanfiction writers can easily find Betas to help them with this, and real authors always have editors. To me, major errors in characterization or an incoherent plot are much bigger issues.

    On the other hand, I have to understand writers like babewithbrains (eek! I don't know your name!) to whom grammatical errors are very important. This creates the dilemma: to nitpick or not to nitpick? It seems like the only way of solving this problem would be for an author to specify upfront whether they want feedback on their grammar skills, writing style, or both. This could possibly be placed in the author’s notes, as many authors already place comments such as “please review” there. However, I don’t think that it’s likely any author would actually do that; most of us are so eager for any form of feedback that they don’t want to risk losing reviews.

    Personally I am fine with reviewers pointing out one or two mistakes, but an entire review dedicated to nothing but grammar would not make me happy.

    I’m definitely not saying that nitpicks should be banned from SPEW reviews, I just believe that the majority of a SPEW review should focus on content.

    Also, I would like to point out that though babewithbrains (so sorry about not knowing your name!) is correct that commenting on spelling/grammar is listed in the SPEW rules, it only says “some” or “all” of these may be used. It isn’t a requirement, just a suggestion. Furthermore, though I enjoy reviewing and giving authors feedback on content, I really don’t trust myself with correcting grammar mistakes. I would be a very unhappy reviewer if I was forced to comment on grammar and spelling when I’m shaky with this myself!

  7. #7
    Seventh Year Gryffindor
    Lockhart Removed My Bones!
    welshdevondragon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    London/ Newcastle
    Title: Growing Up
    Word Count: 717
    Warnings: Mild sexual situations and violence.
    AN: Romilda’s mother is Rebecca Vane nee Harrow, who appears in my story Thin Red Lines. She is an ex of Rabastan Lestrange and, when the Dark Lord wins, Rabastan hasn’t forgotten. I need to stop just being able to write off-shoots of that fic...

    This is, supposedly, in Soraya’s style with her tendency to have a seemingly normal situation and then violently interrupt it.

    Romilda was not sure about Zachariah Smith. She had only accepted his offer of a date because she knew it would annoy Ritchie Coote, her fellow Gryffindor and a Beater on the Quidditch team. After all, Zachariah had been nothing but scathing and biased during his commenting on the match and Gryffindors did not forget easily.

    Besides, Romilda liked the idea of dating someone two years above her. It made her feel more grown up and, when Zachariah had shown up unexpectedly on her doorstep that morning, she had been rather pleased by the gesture. She had rushed Zacharias upstairs to her bedroom and away from the glaring eyes of her mother.

    Now, however, she felt slightly nervous. She’d had a boyfriend before but he’d never been in her bedroom. And whilst she’d had male friends round, this felt––different. She wasn’t sure whether she liked it or not.

    A few minutes later, however, she’d decided she did like it. Zachariah Smith may be a bit irritating, but she liked the look on his face when she mentioned Harry Potter and by Godric was he a good kisser.

    They were lying side by side on her bed, when he moved his hand, slowly, from where it had been on the small of her back to slightly lower. Romilda wasn’t sure how she felt about that. Maybe it was too quick but he was rather sweet and gentle and he was cute––

    Suddenly there was a crash followed by a yelp, a noise Romilda recognised as that of her mum falling down the stairs. Romilda felt a leap, though of disappointment or joy at their snogging session being curtailed she wasn’t sure.

    She pushed him away (he muttered in annoyance) and opened the bedroom door, about to ask her mum if she was all right, as she usually did, when the words caught in her throat.

    Her mum had not fallen. She was against the wall at the bottom of the staircase, but her feet were not touching the steps. Her hair was matted with blood. Suddenly her body moved forward and Romilda heard a male voice she didn’t recognise.

    “What––” Zachariah began, but Romilda clamped a hand over his mouth. He frowned, more in annoyance then confusion, but followed as Romilda grabbed his hand and they softly stepped down the stairs, until Romilda could see through the bars.

    “That’s Rabastan Lestrange,” Zacharias breathed. “What’s he doing in your house?”

    “We’ve got your husband, Rebecca,” Rabastan was saying to her mum.

    “He’s hurting Mum,” she said, her voice oddly hollow. “And they’ve got my dad.” Somehow, though, she couldn’t move. “He’s hurting––” She turned to Zachariah who had paled, “I’ll Disarm him, you can––”

    “I’m not attacking a Death Eater!” Zachariah whispered as loudly as he dared. “Didn’t you know? The Ministry fell last night.”

    “He’s hurting my mum. We have to do something!” Romilda hissed.

    Then Rebecca screamed and Romilda could not stay watching any longer. She heard the crack of Zacharias beside her and called him a word she’d previously only levelled at inanimate objects, before running down the stairs and shouting, “EXPELLIARMUS!”

    Rabastan’s wand flew from his hand, her mum jumped up from where she was slumped on the living room floor, caught it and grabbed Romilda before turning with her on the spot and Apparating.

    They appeared in what appeared to be a moor. Her mum was clinging to her tightly, as if scared that someone was about to take her away.

    “Where are we?” Romilda muttered, pressed too close to her mum to speak properly.

    Rebecca loosened her grip, although only slightly. There was a cool wind though at least the sun was shining.

    “We’re––This was the first place I could think of. I grew up in that town.”

    She nodded to the sprawling industrial town at the foot of the hill they were on.

    “Who was that man?”

    “Romilda,” Rebecca said, looking very carefully into her daughter’s eyes. “You’re going to have to be very brave and very strong.”

    Romilda suddenly felt very grown up and very old. She didn’t like it.
    Banner by Minna.

  8. #8
    I reviewed Tooth and Claw, the fic you wrote for the Mysterious May Challenge. Since I'm as curious about the books people read as I am about their first chapters, ;D, I'd like to know the mystery novels you've read that influenced your writing and/or made you want to write a mystery yourself.

  9. #9
    I reviewed "What Money Can Buy," and left my review here.
    Out of curiosity, how do you come up with your characters? Do they just come to you, do you base them off real life people, or do you come up with the plot first then shape the characters to it?


  10. #10
    Seventh Year Gryffindor
    Lockhart Removed My Bones!
    welshdevondragon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    London/ Newcastle
    Since it's the end of the month, I thought I'd answer the questions.


    I'd like to know the mystery novels you've read that influenced your writing and/or made you want to write a mystery yourself.

    Well, this was for the Mysterious May prompt so that’s what made me want to write a mystery. I’ve always thought the plots would have to be really tight, which I’m not great at, and I think that’s why I’ve never written one before.

    My favourite mystery writer is Raymond Chandler. Talking of first chapters ( ) I think the opening to “The Little Sister” has to be the best opening to a novel I’ve read. You wouldn’t think a man trying to kill a bluebottle whilst talking on the phone at the same time could be menacing, but it is. There’s something very dark about his books and the language is fantastic.

    So I liked that. I used to love Agatha Christie, and I still think she’s good, but I read too many in one go and therefore - she does have a habit of using similar ‘types’ of characters, even if her plots are pretty different. But I like the idea of the ‘manor house murder’ which seems more likely to happen in Potterverse than with the frequency it does in Agatha Christie novels.

    Also Daphne Du Maurier. She is a brilliant mystery writer- her book The Scapegoat (two men, one English, one French meet in a hotel in France- they look identical. The Frenchman ‘steals’ the Englishman’s life and therefore the Englishman takes the Frenchman’s. It’s brilliant) is an excellent mystery as is Rebecca (although I think The Scapegoat is better). But I think the main thing I enjoyed about Tooth and Claw was describing nature. Daphne Du Maurier describes nature really well, as do the Bronte sisters, Richard Adams in Watership Down and also Barry Hines in A Kestral For A Knave, although in that case it’s descriptions of nature very much juxtaposed with industrialisation.

    Also- this isn’t a book but the TV show Cracker (a line of which I do steal in Tooth and Claw). Cracker is a detective show but, usually, you know whodunnit at the beginning and it’s about how the police find him/ how Cracker (a psychologist) reveals why the criminal behaved the way he/ she did. My favourite one, however, is when they arrest and charge the wrong man and the real suspect is never found.

    I think those are probably the things that influenced the writing of this story, although it was the prompt that made me want to write a mystery. Wow, that was a long answer. Sorry about that.


    Out of curiosity, how do you come up with your characters? Do they just come to you, do you base them off real life people, or do you come up with the plot first then shape the characters to it?

    I generally come up with the characters first or a question. Honestly, Thin Red Lines and the three sequels to it are due to the question “what happens when you fall in love with someone whose morals are very different to your own?” Hence the majority of the conflicts between the three couples in Thin Red Lines and A Darkling Plain, though not in the two stories after them.

    Florence was a character whose mentioned very briefly in Thin Red Lines and who was always going to be unhappy and scared of her husband (hence an affair with Rabastan within that story).

    I don’t know how I come up with characters. I like people watching and a couple of, mainly OF, stories are just from seeing something in RL which didn’t seem quite right and developing their backstory from that.

    I write rather a lot about them which never goes into the story- Florence is the one exception to that- that’s everything I wrote about her, but with my other characters there’s loads of stuff which is just getting dialogue right- moments that are just mentioned briefly in the story, things like that.

    But I find characterisation more important than plot, so that does come first.

    Sorry that’s not much sense- I’m not sure really.

    Thank you both for your questions and lovely reviews (Meg, as soon as I have a chance to read yours as thoroughly as it deserves, I will respond to it- back to manically trying to finish Mysterious May story)
    Banner by Minna.

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