(Or, Voice + Stakes = Paramount)
A charity water fact: 50% of the schools in the world don’t have access to clean water or adequate sanitation.
Fantasy romance author Jane Kindred thinks that all schools should have access to water. That’s why she’s donated a query critique to the 2012 Charity Water campaign.
Meet Jane, member of team Megibow, and bid on her query critique here.
Jane Kindred began writing fantasy at age 12 in the wayback of a Plymouth Fury—which, as far as she recalls, never killed anyone…who didn’t have it coming. She spent her formative years ruining her eyes reading romance novels in the Tucson sun and watching Star Trek marathons in the dark. Although she was repeatedly urged to learn a marketable skill, she received a B.A. in Creative Writing anyway from the University of Arizona.
She now writes to the sound of San Francisco foghorns while two cats slowly but surely edge her off the side of the bed.
NAE: What valuable lesson have you learned from one of your critiquers/beta-readers (feel free to share who it was)?
Jane: I took an online workshop with Writer’s Digest editor Jane Friedman where she critiqued first pages, and she got right to the heart of what was wrong with mine: I was trying to set a stage; she wanted to be intrigued. It wasn’t necessary for the reader to know exactly who my character was, or where she was, but they definitely needed to care what happened to her before the end of the first page, if not the first paragraph. The voice and the stakes were paramount.
NAE: What’s one of the worst mistakes a critiquer can make?
Jane: I’m not sure I know what the worst mistakes in critiquing are, but I know one of the worst mistakes a writer can make is to try to rewrite to please every reader. You have to evaluate which critiques are valid for you--without your ego getting in the way, which can be hard. It’s a fine line between thinking every word of a critique is right and thinking every word is wrong. LOL.
NAE: When you critique someone’s work, what is your general process?
Jane: I line edit as I go, otherwise I’d forget the things that initially stick out as I get lost in the story. It’s also an OCD thing; I like marking things, and can’t resist line editing, even if that’s not the version I’m ultimately going to give to the writer.
NAE: Is there one specific thing that you gravitate toward while critiquing?
Jane: I definitely gravitate toward grammar. If the grammar is distracting, I can’t even pay attention to the characters or plot.
Crits for Water Quickfires—And, go:
1. Oxford comma? YES.
2. Should "I like him too" have a comma before "too"? It depends on the context. Are there two people being liked? Or two people liking? Or is the person doing something in addition to liking? Never mind; just change it to “I also like him” and you don’t have to worry about the comma. ;)
3. Italicize or underline? I know there are some agents and editors who still prefer underlining for emphasis so they can see it clearly (and I think there also used to be printer typesetting reasons to do it this way in a manuscript), so if that’s what they want, give it to them. But the correct type style for emphasis is italic, and that’s what it will end up being in print.
4. How do you separate scenes: #, ***, line break? However your editor tells you to separate them. ;) It seems to be largely dependent on house style, but what I’ve seen most (and therefore, how I do it in my drafts) is to use a line break for a minor scene break and three asterisks for a major scene break.
5. What's your favorite verb? I don’t think I can say that here, but it’s possibly of Scandinavian origin, and according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “the earliest examples of the word…are from Scottish”…and if it’s not Scottish, it’s crap. ;)
Thanks, Jane, for stopping by! Take a peek at Jane’s novels, such as THE FALLEN QUEEN.
Until her cousin slaughtered the supernal family, Anazakia’s father ruled the Heavens, governing noble Host and Fallen peasants alike. Now Anazakia is the last grand duchess of the House of Arkhangel’sk, and all she wants is to stay alive.
Hunted by Seraph assassins, Anazakia flees Heaven with two Fallen thieves—fire demon Vasily and air demon Belphagor, each with their own nefarious agenda—who hide her in the world of Man. The line between vice and virtue soon blurs, and when Belphagor is imprisoned, the unexpected passion of Vasily warms her through the Russian winter.
Heaven seems a distant dream, but when Anazakia learns the truth behind the celestial coup, she will have to return to fight for the throne—even if it means saving the man who murdered everyone she loved.
If you’re curious about the voice and stakes in your query and you think Jane could help, go to the Crits for Water campaign page for her query critique up for auction.