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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: critiquing, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Writers: Don't rush your submission. Make sure your writing is polished BEFORE you send it out.

One mistaken assumption that I've noticed some newbie writers making: Sending out their writing too soon, assuming that the editor who buys their short story (or novel, etc.) is going to be helping them polish the piece anyway.

DO NOT DO THIS.

Never, ever send an mss out just after you've finished it. Put it away for a few days (a few weeks at least, for a novel). That way you'll be able to reread more objectively, without the rosy glow of "omigosh this is brilliant just wait until publishers see this."

I'm a foodie, so often think in terms of food analogies. In this case, it would be sort of like a first-time restauranteur opening before they've perfected their dishes. Turn off the restaurant critics early on, and you make it tougher for yourself longterm.

If you're a new picture book writer, this is even MORE vital. Why? Because I've noticed that many non-pb writers assume that writing a picture book is easy because there are fewer words, that it's something they can do on the side for extra money while they work on their "real" books. 

Vaguely related side note:

Others may differ, but I also advise NOT giving it to your critique group to read too soon. Why? Because there is a real value in getting feedback from someone who is reading the piece for the first time. Yes, there's a value in getting feedback for a rough version so you can polish it before sending it out to an editor. Be aware, however, that after the first critique, your crit partners will likely be giving feedback on your revisions rather than an overall first-time impression.

Respect your readers, before and after publication.

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2. The Problem of Conflicting Feedback

A big "thank you" to all who entered our latest giveaway. We enjoyed learning about your favorite chocolate treats. :-) The winner of the 2013 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market is:
Sandy Brehl
Sandy blogs at Unpacking the POWER of Picture Books. Congratulations, Sandy! And thanks again to Mary Kole for her guest interview.
 
And now to wrap-up our current TeachingAuthors' topic: critique groups, and critiquing in general. Last Friday, Jill opened the discussion with some excellent tips for when you're critiquing a manuscript in a group setting. Mary Ann focused on advice for one-on-one critiquing. Jeanne Marie emphasized the importance of looking at first drafts at the "global level," instead of nitpicking them. And both Mary Ann and Jeanne Marie talked about the value of asking a writer: What made you decide to write this particular story?/Why did you choose to write about this topic?  Today I'd like to share a bit about what to do when you receive conflicting feedback.

In the facilitated critique workshops that I teach, we follow the critiquing model I learned at Vermont College. The format is described in this guest post by Lyn Miller-Lachmann. There are two unique aspects to this format that are specifically designed to help keep the writer from getting defensive:

1) The author remains silent while others discuss his or her work. When you think about it, this makes sense. When you submit a manuscript to an editor or agent, you're not there to explain the choices you made. The manuscript must succeed on its own. Also, an author who remains silent is more likely to really hear the feedback because he or she isn't sitting there thinking about how to respond to what's being said. 

2) After a round of sharing positive feedback regarding what's working well, instead of telling an author what's "wrong" with the piece or what needs "fixing," critiquers share questions about the manuscript.  I've found it takes some practice for my students to learn how to express their comments in question form, but here are a few examples:
      “Is the narrator a boy or a girl?”
      “What time of day is it? What season?”
      “What happened to the dog?”
      “How did the narrator feel when that happened?”
      “Why did the mother react so strongly to such a minor accident?”
      “Why didn’t the mother react more strongly?  

I do allow my students to preface their questions with an “I” statement to indicate points in the story where they were confused or found something unclear. For example:
      I was confused here. I thought the narrator was a boy. Is the narrator a boy or a girl?
      I couldn’t picture this scene. Is the main character sitting or standing here?
      I didn’t understand exactly what this sentence means. Could you clarify?

However, not all questions are appropriate. I discourage critiquers from trying to tell the author how to "fix" the story via their questions. As critiquers, we may not see or understand the author's goals. Therefore, I believe questions like "Why don't you get rid of the mother character?" aren't as helpful as "What purpose does the mother character serve?" The first question puts the author on the defensive. The second question leads the author to think more deeply about the story. It may be that the mother is important, but the author hasn't shown why clearly enough yet.

When I facilitate critique workshops, I remind students that all feedback is subjective, including mine. Just because I'm the "teacher," that doesn't necessarily mean my comments are "better" or more valuable than anyone else's. I also encourage students to share their opinions even if they disagree with me and/or with their fellow students--it's important for a writer to know different readers may react differently to the manuscript.

So, when you're the author, how should you handle contradictory feedback? My advice is to latch on to the feedback that feels "right" or "true" first. For example, let's say that while drafting your piece you wonder if a section of dialogue sounds too mature for the character's age, but you leave it as is. Then, when you bring the piece to critique group someone asks: "How old is this character? I think his dialogue sounds old for a 9-year-old." Even if another critiquer responds, "I disagree. His dialogue sounds just right to me," I'd go back and revise the dialogue.

On the other hand, if you're not sure which feedback feels "right," you can go one of several ways. You may decide to go with "majority rules"--what do most critiquers agree on?  OR, if there's someone in the group whose opinion you particularly respect or tend to agree with, then you might go with that one individual's response, even it it's the minority opinion. In the above example, if the person saying the dialogue sounds "just right" is a third-grade teacher who works with 9-year-olds on a daily basis, I wouldn't revise. OR, you may decide that the contradictory feedback is a symptom of a deeper problem that requires you to go back and revise something earlier in the story. Perhaps your character is precocious, and mature dialogue is part of his personality. In that case, you may want to go back and check whether his dialogue has been mature for his age from the very beginning. If his precociousness is important to the story, you might want to include other signs of it, besides his dialogue.   

Keep in mind that the more critiquers you have, the more likely you are to get contradictory feedback. Sometimes, that's a good thing, but not always. I've seen writers revise over and over again thinking they will eventually satisfy all their critiquers. The problem is: You can't please all your readers all the time.  If you don't believe me, go to Goodreads and look at the reviews for The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Alongside this bestseller's many 4- and 5-star ratings, you'll see reviews with only 1-3 stars.

As I said earlier, reading is subjective. While critique feedback can be invaluable, in the end it's your story, and yours alone.

Happy writing, and Happy Poetry Friday! Today's Poetry Friday round-up is at hosted by Ed DeCaria at ThinkKidThink.
Carmela 

2 Comments on The Problem of Conflicting Feedback, last added: 11/12/2012
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3. Global Critiquing

I have used this space many times to lament the fact that I am a writer on an island -- critique group-less, feedback-less, buddy-less.  But as I'm sure most of us know, one thing worse than having no input is having input that sends us astray.

We've all been there, right? We've seen critique groups whose members are too intense, too lax, too hoggish; they are too vague; they are too nitpicky; they don't "get" your stuff, or you don't get theirs.  They have more time to devote to their writing than you do, or perhaps they have less.  They live too far away; they meet too frequently or infrequently.

Even worse is the damning critique experience: the editor at a conference who treats you like a clueless newbie; the teacher who gives you a bad grade for trying something a little different.  My friend, an actress, says at least when someone is critiquing your writing, he or she is not critiquing YOU.  But still, when we write, we are exposing our souls to the world.  And our writer psyches must be treated with care.  (The cardinal rule of critiquing -- always start and end with something specific and positive to say!)

With my community college students, I introduce a vocabulary word in each class.  The first word we discuss is "subjective."  I want them to understand that as a teacher, the worst thing I could ever do would be to crush their creativity or confidence.  In a required class, many students do not come to learn, and they do not care to revise.  For those who do, individual feedback is the most important component of our coursework.  But students must learn that I am not the final authority; they have to be the chief arbiters of what is right for their work and what is not. 

When it comes to peer review, some student writers are terrific critiquers.  On the other hand, some do not take the job seriously.  Some are just dead wrong.  As a teacher, I may often myself be dead wrong.  Thus I try to approach first draft revision on a mostly global level.  I find myself constantly asking my students, "Why did you choose to write about this topic?"  The answer is often the key to a successful essay.

In TV writing, we are advised to distill our pitch into a one-sentence "log line."  Fiction writers should be able to do the same.  In expository writing, of course, this summary is called the thesis statement. 

My classes are currently working on research essays and developing working theses for an essay that is supposed to propose a solution to a societal problem.  One of my students, a Navy veteran, read his to the class this week: "Military body armor is responsible for a vast number of injuries to personnel."  I found this quite a startling statement.  In search of more detail and a proposed solution, I probed further. HOW was military body armor inadequate?  My student stated that in fact, it was overly adequate; that many soldiers who would have died in previous wars were surviving attacks with grievous, lifelong injuries.  "So," I asked, "Are you saying it would be better if they died?"  He looked me in the eye and said, "Sometimes."  It was easier to talk about body armor, of course, than it was to talk about traumatic brain injury and PTSD.

I asked him what he proposed as the solution, and he said more drone strikes and less hand-to-hand combat.  In short, his essay was not really about body armor at all.  What he really wanted to say was, "Please send fewer men and women into harm's way." 

As writers, we often lose sight of the main thread of our story; as critiquers, we often get hung up on details that should be dealt with later.  A good first draft critique is about distilling a story to its essence -- nothing more, nothing less. --Jeanne Marie

1 Comments on Global Critiquing, last added: 11/7/2012
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4. How to Critique and Still Have Friends

     I've been in critique groups over the years, but for various reasons, I'm not in one right now. That doesn't mean I'm not critiquing. I still teach my young adult writing classes and occasionally will critique adult writers for hire.  So I'm taking a slightly different path in this discussion, non-group critiquing.   Here are my suggestions in working with one person at a time (some of them also work in group situations, so I am not really getting off topic.

     Being critiqued can be a traumatic experience. I've had people (professionals who should know better) literally treat my work as if it were bird cage liner.  On the other hand, I've had critiques that said that my work was the best thing since Harry Potter. I suspect the critiquer gave my work a once-over-lightly if they read it at all. And, as my husband says, you don't learn anything by being told how great you are.

     This is not to say that critiques have to be all negative.  They do have to be specific.  Saying "I like your protagonist" is all well and good but really doesn't tell the author anything.  Why do you like that character? Is it their personality, the way they think or talk or their relationship with another character?. Be specific.  It's always good to know that something is good and why

     The same thing works in reverse. Saying "This scene just doesn't work for me" tells me nothing.  Often the author already knows that scene doesn't work.  They are looking to you for suggestions.  My rule of thumb is if I don't have any idea how to fix something, I don't mention it.  Or, if the author backs you in a corner and says "The scene by the old mill stream isn't working, what can I do?" I throw it back in their lap.  Why do they think it isn't working?  Talk about it a little back and forth.  You two will either come up with what is wrong with the scene (or character or whatever) or you will decide the old mill stream scene isn't moving the story along.  One of all time favorite movie scenes comes from Tootsie. Bill Murray is a playwright working on a piece called Return to Love Canal.  Throughout the movie he keeps spitballing ideas with his roommate Dustin Hoffman for one particular scene that comes to be known as "The necktie scene." (By the way, the movie audience never learns what the necktie scene is about.) At last, Bill tells Dustin, "I've solved the problem of the necktie scene.  This time I'm writing it without the necktie."  Great writing advice.  Sometimes if something is giving you that much trouble, it doesn't belong in your story (or play) to begin with.

     Asking someone their opinion of your work is a lot like asking "Does this outfit make me look fat?" I have tried to take as much fear and loathing out of the process as necessary.  At the start of a session I remind the writer that he is already a writer; working together, he will become a better writer.

   I always ask if there is something in particular the writer wants you to look for in their work.  Do they want to know if their characters are believable, the plot plausible, is it overwritten?  I learned to ask because I have a tendency to point out every little inconsistency or flaw when all the writer wants to know at that point is if the main character is likable/interesting enough that you want to read the whole story.

       If your author doesn't have any particular questions, I try to stick to the Big Picture items...inconsistencies, missing transitions, failure in logic, vague characters etc. As I said before, if you don't know how to "fix it," don't bring it up.

     Most importantly, respect your author's vision.  I read a lot of stuff that left me wondering "What were they thinking when they wrote this?" So I ask, "What made you decide to write  this particular story?  Hopefully the answer is not  "because pirates/werewolves/dystopian fantasy is hot right now."  If they really like and want to write about one of those topics, great. Just remind them that by the time their manuscript has wound it's way through the publishing labyrinth, that topic will probably not be quite so surefire.

    What I've often discovered is that the story the author has written (and isn't very good) wasn't the story they meant to write.  Don't get me wrong. I'm not playing Freud here.  I try to approach the subject as gently as possible.  I once asked someone why they had written a picture book about talking organic vegetables.  After a little conversation, it turned out that what the writer wanted to write about was the sense of community after 9/11.  She wanted to write about a community garden and the sense of healing that it gave the gardeners.   I don't know if she ever went back and wrote that book.  I hope she did.

     You know the best thing about critiquing?  It is so much easier to see the flaws in your own work by recognizing them in someone else's.  You are not only helping someone else improve their work, you are helping yourself as well.

    Don't forget to enter our latest book giveaway of the latest edition of Children's writer's and Illustrator's Marketplace.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman

3 Comments on How to Critique and Still Have Friends, last added: 11/9/2012
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5. Comic: When You Know Your Short Story's Too Long

OHI0131 CritiqueWorkshopLongStory

Originally published in Writer Unboxed.

I'm posting some of my older comics here as I catalog and tag them in prep for a print book compilation. You can find my comics for writers on Inkygirl (http://inkygirl.com), Tumblr (http://inkygirl.tumblr.com) and Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/inkyelbows/comics-for-writers-inkygirl-com)

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6. Write What You Love, But Make Sure Only You Can Write It

I know I am overdue for a really good, meaty craft post, and I am thinking about craft, I promise. I just haven't had any huge revelations that have inspired me lately. My writing journey is a bit of a leaky faucet. At the beginning, knowing nothing, learning craft was like an open spigot. So much information poured through, I couldn't absorb it fast enough. New knowledge, new flashes of inspiration come more slowly now. I've read and heard enough craft advice that it's not as much about hearing something new as it is about hearing it in a different way, and being ready to hear it. I have to wait for something in my writing to need that information for it to process. Or maybe I am looking for the small droplets to gather enough momentum, to pool together and grow big enough to fall and create the ripple that will reshape my work.

For various reasons, I've done a lot of thinking and discussing about critiquing and workshopping recently. In part this is because I had one of the worst critique experiences of my life a couple of weeks ago, when a new member joined my local critique group. I read her work ahead of time, and loved it. LOVED it. But it was a like reading two different manuscripts all jumbled together. Although she hadn't yet finished her first draft, she had been workshopping and critiquing and submitting it to many different contests. Everyone recognized her talent, but she had gotten so much different advice that the work read like it had been written by committee. And when I suggested she needed to go back to her own voice, she said, "but that's not what people are publishing." And yet it is. Within her genre, that's what the best books are like. She got so upset by my critique, so defensive and offended, that I actually resigned my group. I just felt I couldn't work with her and didn't want to stand in her way, or in the way of the rest of the group as a whole. In the long run, sadly, she is going to be the one leaving, and I truly, truly hope she will find the faith in the voice of her heart to see that she can write what she loves.

It's such a fine line. Trusting yourself versus trusting what critique partners, or agents, or experts have to say. The market is fickle, and we are all here searching for answers. I wish I had them. There are so many writers I want to hug and remind that they need to BELIEVE. Just BELIEVE. It will come. Maybe not tomorrow, or the next day. But it will come, because they have something important to say.

For me, I think that's the whole point of writing. We're communicating. It's entertainment, sure, but the stories I love and connect with are those that have some essential truth to share. Some inner core of beauty or ugliness that makes it's way from the page to burrow into my soul.

Last week, I talked about the emotional heart of a story. For me, THAT is what writing is about. It's not about a great plot, or the mot juste, or a finely crafted sentence. Those have to be there too, but writing is also about creating a line from one heart to another.

There are many different hearts out there. Everything we read, every critique comment we receive, every workshop we attend grows ours a little more. Opens the spigot of our craft and knowledge a little bit more.

So if you are struggling, BELIEVE. Keep looking for the critique partners who will support you but give you honest feedback while letting you be yourself. I'm so blessed to have Marissa, Clara, Cici, Carol and Lisa Green along with my "real world" critique partners Karen and Elizabeth. Despite the solitary nature of writing, sometimes it takes a village to give us the courage to continue writing. The trick is that no matter how many critiques we get, no matter how many workshops we attend, we have to make our writing sound like it is our own, wholly our own. It can't be written by a village.

18 Comments on Write What You Love, But Make Sure Only You Can Write It, last added: 9/29/2011
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7. Best Articles This Week for Writers 5/6/11

Okay, time for an apology and a procedural note. We've been trying to include the Twitter handles for the folks we include in the round-up, wherever we can find them. Unfortunately, having to leave Google Reader to hunt for them on the individual blogs or, in some cases, search through Twitter, is slowing us down to the point where continuing would jeopardize our ability to keep doing the round-up. While we're sorry to have to do it, we're going to retreat to including just the teaser in the tweets unless we happen to know the twitter handle by heart.

If you would like us to keep including the twitter handle (and this request will likely apply to other bloggers or tweeters who do a round-up) it would be very helpful if you would put it somewhere either at the top or bottom of the post.

Thanks and apologies,

Martina



After the Sale


Book Reviews

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8. Comic: Critique Betrayal

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9. Forum Ideas

So, I'm happy at the way the new Buried in the Slush Pile Forum is working.  The layout is clear (if unexciting), and it's easy to find all of the different people who want feedback on their various summaries.  Best of all, the ones I haven't viewed yet are marked as new, so I don't miss anyone.  I also can't argue with the free price tag.  Supposedly there should be ads running around somewhere, but I haven't seen any.

A few people have started posting their summaries, and the feedback they've been getting has been great.  No one has said anything I wouldn't, and some of my comments have just seemed superfluous.  We're going to keep working on these through Sunday, so if you haven't posted anything yet, there's still plenty of time.  On Monday, though, we'll be moving on.

But as great as the forum has been for critiquing, I've been wondering, what else could we use the forum for?

One idea I had was to have a board on there dedicated to submissions.  We could have a thread on that board that could deal with who/where is accepting submissions and a link to the place's submission guidelines.  As you run across someone accepting (or no longer accepting) submissions, you could add it to this thread.  We could also have a thread profiling editors and agents so that when you go to figure out where to submit, you would have some names and editorial preferences to see if your work would fit that person's tastes.  I'm actually working on a (free) manuscript submissions workbook that I'll be debuting in the next few weeks that has a worksheet like that.

What ideas do you have for the forum?  I am open to any and all suggestions.

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10. A Brief Look Again at Cover Letters

The first part of any book proposal (or submission for that matter) is the cover letter.  A query letter is also, in many ways, identical to the cover letter.  Basically, these are incredibly important things to be able to write.  Also, you're going to be writing quite a few of these over your professional career, so you might as well learn how to write them now.

Of course, I talked extensively about cover letters during the picture book submission process back in January.  To review that post where I talk in detail about cover letters (electronic, query, or otherwise), click here.  Today though, we are going to quickly review the parts, and then do a little practice.

Again, the parts of a cover/query letter are:

  1. Introduction
    Where you explain how you know the editor/agent and why you are submitting/querying.
  2. 1-2 paragraph pitch
    Where you sell the book.
  3. Series Pitch
    Where you define and explain the series.
  4. Biography
    Pertinent information about yourself.
  5. Conclusion
    Thanks for allowing to submit/Ask politely to send the manuscript.
Again, for more detailed explanations, go here.

By far, in my opinion, the most important part of the letter is the 1-2 paragraph pitch.  You really have to make the book sound intriguing, yet not give away everything.  You don't want to rid the book of it's suspense.  You need to try to convey the voice of your writing, but still keep everything in a short 1-2 paragraphs.

Since I consider this section so important, I thought that for the rest of today and tomorrow we could practice writing these.  If you haven't already, join the Facebook Buried in the Slush Pile Page.  Click on the discussion link in the left hand box.  I've already started a One Paragraph Summary discussion thread.  To post your own one paragraph summary of the book you're building your book proposal for, click "reply to topic."  Although in the cover letter you can take 1-2 paragraphs, for this exercise, try to limit yourself to only one paragraph. 

After that, look at other people's summaries and offer them feedback.  You can do this by hitting reply just under their paragraph.  And if you don't want to post a paragraph right now, still feel free to offer feedback to others.  I'm sure everyone will appreciate it.

Of course, that being said, let's remember some critique rules while we're at it.  Positive comments are always encouraged, but of course negative comments are necessary for growth.  When posting a negative comment like "This summary doesn't work for me" always follow it with an explanation.  Was the plot arc unclear?  Could you not tell from the paragraph which character was the protagonist and which the antagonist? Things like that.  And at no time is flaming or general "this sucks", "your writing is terrible", "find a new pasttime" allowed.  Those types of comments are absolutely prohibited.  The children's writing community is about fostering new writers and supporting one another.  It is not about bolstering your own ego while tearing someone else's down.  Let's continue that tradition.

In the past I've allowed people to critique one another's work on this blog without incident.  Let's keep in that way.

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11. Best Articles This Week for Writers 2/25/11

Inspiration
Craft
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12. Best Articles This Week for Writers 2/18/2011

After the Sale
Book Reviews
Congrats!

  • Sarah Jio, Author | Facebook [Sarah Jio] Congrats to @SarahJio, whose VIOLETS OF MARCH is a Target

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  • 13. Best Articles This Week for Writers 1/27/11

    Marissa, Cam, Cici, and I are all at SCBWI-NY (YAY!), so this week's round-up is through Wednesday only. We apologize for the delay in posting! We'll catch up with the rest of the week in next Friday's round-up post. But there are still a LOT of great articles this week. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did.

    Inspiration
    Craft of Writing
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    14. Panel: Listening to Feedback with an Open Mind

    Welcome to SCBWI TEAM BLOG coverage of the 2011 Annual Winter Conference. Check in often throughout the weekends as we offer live coverage of the conference as it happens.

    Today offers a Writers' Intensive and an Illustrators' Intensive.

    Before the Writers' Intensive critiquing kicks off, an agent and two editors are offering advice about handling a critique situation.

    Edward Necarsulmer (McIntosh and Otis): Do your best to listen, but also understand that I'm just one guy. There are plenty of books out there that I've passed on that have become bestsellers. (He's found 3-5 novels through SCBWI events.) He gets that the idea of criticism in general can be hard to hear, but it's about turning off the defensiveness, and understand the critique for what it's worth.

    Julie Strauss-Gabel (Dutton Children’s Books): The thing that surprises her most is when she asks, "What is this about." She find writers often don't really know what they're writing about--her assessment is very out of line with what the writer thinks she's putting on the page. Critiques are about being open--it's part of your professional process. There's nothing personal about it. At least stop to think about why you are hearing a particular critique or why certain questions were asked. If you're in a ccritique group, remember that they only work if they include honest discussion.

    Liz Szabla (Feiwel and Friends): I find gold here. (She's currently working with two writers who she discovered at the SCBWI Winter Conference.) Remember that editors are thinking about your work in terms of the market. Go into a bookstore and really look at what the market is right now. She finds that a lot of writers are really surprised when she talks about market--but market is important. Critiquing with editors and agents, is a way to get another sort of compass as to where you are with your writing.

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    15. Best Articles This Week for Writers 1/21/11

    After the Sale
    Book Reviews
    Congrats
    Contests
    16. Best Articles This Week for Writers 1/14/11

    Now that I'm back from vacation, we're resuming our regular schedule of round-ups and catching up with the past couple of weeks. I hope you found our "Best of the Best" series helpful! A HUGE thanks to Cam, Cici, and Kara for keeping up with Google Reader while Marissa and I were gone! It's fantastic to come back and catch up with what we missed, especially since we get to share the good stuff with you. Here's to a happy new year of writing!

    Inspiration
    • Have High Expectations for Yourself [There Are No Rules] Love this: Go after what you want, or fail and become the wiser for it.
    • Writing Rituals, Secrets, and Superstitions, Part I [The Divining Wand] Seven writers share their secrets to success.
    • Finding Your Way Back From The Depths -- Christine Fonseca [Lightning + Lightning Bugs - Musings from Weronika Janczuk, Literary Agent] Seven lessons to help writers beat the fear of not being good enough.
    • Writer Milestones: THE ELITE REQUEST!!! [Justine Dell] Putting the steps in perspective.
    • How to Turn 'F-It' Into 'Effort' -- Kaitlyn Fall [Lightning + Lightning Bugs - Musings from Weronika Janczuk, Literary Agent] Ways to stay motivated.
    • The 2 Ways Writing Keeps You Off the Streets & Out of the Bars [A. Victoria Mixon, Editor] With a title like this, you've gotta read it.
    • Storytelling Techniques With Clare Edwards [The Creative Penn] 'Once you’re clear on the why, you can start to add the building blocks.'
    • Justine's Writing Epiphany ... It's a BIG one! [Justine Dell] Remember the REAL reason you're doing this.
    • What Are You Afraid Of? [Between Fact and Fiction] Get over it & get writing!
    • What if You Think Your Fiction is Crap? [Advanced Fiction Writing Blog] Every writer faces this question.
    • Simple Advice, Hard to Follow [Kidlit.com] 'Spare yourself the paralyzing anxiety of the ticking clock.'
    • Eight Writing Lessons from Larsson [James Killick's Blog] 'If your story is that good, you can tell it how you want.'
    • Tip Tuesday #70 [Literary Rambles] Love it- a look in the rearview does a writer good!
    • Guest Post: G. Neri on Beginning the Journey to a Finished Novel [CYNSATIONS] Some of the best advice we've seen on crafting a novel.
    • 7 Things I've Learned So Far, by Mark Mustian [Guide t

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    17. Best Articles This Week for Writers 12/10/2010

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    18. Best Articles This Week for Writers 12/3/2010
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    By: Adventures in Children's Publishing, on 12/3/2010
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    19. Best Articles This Week for Writers 9/24/10
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    20. Best Articles This Week for Writers 10/22/10
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    By: Adventures in Children's Publishing, on 10/22/2010
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    21. Alpha & Beta Reader Exchange
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    By: Adventures in Children's Publishing, on 10/26/2010
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    I read a post yesterday about someone finally finding a beta reader after going it alone forever. And a while back, when I posted about the types of critiquers, there was a lot of interest. So, I'm going to try something a little different today. I'm pimping. Hopefully I will hook you up.

    Here's how it's going to work. I'm going to define two of many types of critiquers: alpha readers and beta readers. Then I'm going to ask anyone who is interested in doing an alpha or a beta read in the near future to comment below this post. Anyone who needs an alpha or a beta read can check in with you, but once you committed to enough reads, be sure to comment again to take yourself off the list. If you want readers yourself, you can use the list to contact them--after checking the whole list to make sure they aren't full up. Readers, please, please make sure there is contact information somewhere to reach you!

    Alpha and beta readers are both crucial to the success of a book. Often, it can take multiple passes with a lot of rewrites and revision in between to get your story right. It's possible we also need a post on the proper care and feeding of readers, including the fact that they should always be acknowledged in your book, but for now, we will let you figure out how to show your appreciation properly. Meanwhile, on to explaining the difference.

    Alpha Readers: Alpha's read the first draft or a portion of it at a time, a third or a half, etc., to tell you what is working and what isn't. They are looking ONLY for macro things including:
    Alpha readers should not be marking individual word choices or doing line editing. They aren't really even looking at things like action beats in dialogue that don't make sense. Truly, an alpha read is a BIG PICTURE read. It makes no sense to look at little things, because the little things may--and probably will--change. The whole scene could get thrown out, and all the work and effort of critiquing it would be wasted. If an alpha reader encounters a problem, she should make a comment in the margin about believability, or being taken out of the story, or being confused, or finding herself skimming etc. But that's as far as it goes until she writes an overall report on the individual issues and strengths of the piece.

    Beta Readers: Betas are looking for the same things as your alphas, but in theory the plot and structure should already be in place, you should know your characters are likable and capable of getting your readers involved and connected. You should have read through, and hopefully had your critique partners read through, the manuscript several times to check for grammar That should leave a beta reader able to read smoothly, the same way she would if she was reading a book. And the beta reader, ideally should do things in two passes. On the first pass, she should look for everything but line edits to make sure there aren't whole sections that will need to be deleted or rewritten. BUT, because that shouldn't be true at this point, and because typos and grammatical errors should be few and far between, she should mark them when she sees them. As she reads, a beta reader is looking for:
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    22. Best Articles This Week for Writers 10/29/10
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    23. Best Articles This Week for Writers 11/12/2010
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    24. Best Articles This Week for Writers 11/26/2010
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    25. WOW Wednesday: E.M. Kokie on the Importance of Critique
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    By: Adventures in Children's Publishing, on 12/1/2010
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    E.M. Kokie's debut novel, Personal Effects, will be published by Candlewick Press in 2012. She is represented by Chris Richman of Upstart Crow Literary, a member of the Apocalypsies, and can also be found online at Twitter, Facebook, or hanging around the Absolute Write forums. Stay tuned for the impending launch of her website http://www.emkokie.com.

    The Importance of Critique 

    by E. M. Kokie

    Thanks to Marissa and Martina for inviting me to do a WOW Wednesday post.

    This was surprisingly difficult to write. My path to publication seemed so similar to so many others - a lot of revise, query, revise, query, lather, rinse, repeat. But in thinking about my path, I realized that the critique I received along the way made it a little easier and a little less lonely.

    Sharing my work in progress with trusted writing friends was the best decision I made. Joining a group of experienced critiquers helped push me to write so that I could submit something every time it was my turn to submit. Because I was getting effective critique as I wrote, my first draft was stronger than if I had been writing in a vacuum. Critiquing others' writing helped me improve my ability to self-edit. And something really great happened in the middle of all that critique - I began to trust my story and my ability to write it.
    6 Comments on WOW Wednesday: E.M. Kokie on the Importance of Critique, last added: 12/1/2010
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