Saturday, April 16, 2011

Critiquerly Interview: Author Jodi Meadows

(Or, Join an Online Writers Group)

I credit Jodi Meadows as the person who helped me find Kat Brauer’s Crits for Water campaign. Jodi had been on my “I really want to interview this fantastic person” list from the get-go.  But when I did a quick search on her name (I’m a nosy little bugger) before I sent her the “please, please, come and do an interview on my new critiquing blog,” I found her in the Crits for H2O auction. Now I’m hooked on the campaign. And? Jodi knits those uber-cool fingerless gloves. Perfect for writers (maybe other people-types, too).

She’s a yarn load of fabulous, and she’s auctioning off 3 separate 5,000-word critiques (one a day starting 4/17). If I had the financial resources to pull it off, I might try for all 3 and get the 15k all to myself. Alas, I am but a poor blogger. But I’m smart enough to find out her thoughts on critiquing.

Evil genius? Maybe. But I’m sharing, so you can all be evil geniuses with me. (Cue your wickedest of laughs *here.*)


Jodi Meadows lives and writes in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, with
her husband, a cat, and an alarming number of ferrets. She is a confessed
book addict, and has wanted to be a writer ever since she decided against
becoming an astronaut. THE NEWSOUL TRILOGY will be published by
Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins, beginning with INCARNATE in early 2012.
Visit her online at


NAE: After a writer gets back an in-depth critique, what would you recommend in terms of a review/revise process?

JM: I think it's important for writers to read a crit thoroughly, put it away for a couple days while they digest it, and then read it again. A lot of the time, what looked like fire-breathing dragons in the first read will seem less harsh a few days later.

Many writers have an automatic "no you're SO WRONG" reaction to critiques. (I'm not judging. I do it too! Quickly followed by deep despair because what if they're right and I'm the worst writer ever? Ice cream usually helps all of the above.) It's important to have time to get over those immediate emotional reactions, since they tend not to be helpful.

Spend time looking at anything the critter said they liked, and where they left reader reactions that match what you were trying to make them feel. Chances are you aren't the worst writer ever.

Also, check the urge to defend your work. Sometimes critters are wrong, but if they pointed it out, maybe there's something there after all! (Maybe it's not exactly what they pointed out.) But if there's something you need to defend or explain -- that's best done in the story, since authors can't stake out every bookstore and explain things to readers. That would be creepy, anyway!

Once you feel like you have a good handle on what needs to be done to make the story better -- and you're no longer an emotional train wreck -- that's when it's time to start revising.

NAE: What is the one piece of advice you can give to someone trying to develop his or her critique skills?

JM: Read other people's critiques. One of the best things I did when beginning my writing journey was to join the Online Writing Workshop [] where I offered my work up for critique, critiqued other people's work, and read other people's critiques of other people's work.

I learned a lot by paying attention to what better critters pointed out, how they explained things, and then deciding whether or not I agreed with their opinions.

You could say that learning how to critique is a lot like learning how to write -- and it involves stealing from the best! (And then figuring out how to make it work for you.)

NAE: When you critique someone’s work, what is your general process?

JM: I make comments in the manuscript as I read. In my experience, reader reactions are invaluable; I try to give those whenever possible, in addition to critical comments. At the end, I offer a few overall notes, and expand on anything I noticed in the manuscript but didn't have a specific place to talk about it.

NAE: Is there one specific thing that you gravitate toward while critiquing?

JM: I generally focus on whatever needs the most work, but I love pointing out logic problems -- probably because this was one of my biggest personal struggles as a beginning writer. What do you mean I've already established it takes five days to go from point A to point B, so the characters can't get there in two? Obviously they flew!


So I find myself obsessed with pointing out continuity errors, logic issues in world-building and character development. . . . Just doing my part to create a new generation of people focused on minor, possibly insignificant details!

NAE: Is there another question you think I should ask, and what is your answer?

JM: I'm not going to tell you what the question should be, but I will tell you the answer: Wool.

It's not as scratchy as most people think (at least, not the good stuff), and it's incredibly useful if you happen to become submerged in cold water. I mean yes, when wool soaks up water it weighs a ton, but assuming you're rescued, wool is one of the only fibers you want to keep wearing if you don't have a change of clothes. Because wool is still warmer when wet. With other fibers, you'd be better off naked. You'd actually be warmer like that! Shocking, I know. (The other one you want to keep on is silk.)

Another little-known property of wool is that it's self-extinguishing. I still don't recommend running through a burning house, but if you decide to do that, I hope you're wearing wool. (Or a firefighter outfit.)


Thanks, Jodi! I am now, one at a time, replacing every piece of clothing I own with like-colored, like-styled wool garments. It may take a while, but I’ll get there.

As a co-admin of an online critique group and a member in several of them, I feel strongly about these forums--both in terms of developing your critique skills and your writing skills.

Note: Bid on Jodi’s Crit for Water 5,000-word critique here 4/17/11 – 4/19/11. If you're reading this post after Jodi's auctions, you have a chance to bid on upcoming auctions and drawings through June. And yes, I’ll have more Crit for Water critiquerly interviews here, so keep checking back.

->(Added 4/17) Comment below if you know of a great online writing forum/community that deserves a shout-out.


Anita said...

Another great interview, Mary! And your guest is somewhat of a superstar over on LJ. It's always fun to read about the frolicking hijinks of her ferrets. ;) Thanks both of you for the great insights into critting.

Authoress said...

I am honored to have Jodi as a crit partner. And because I came to the critting game less experienced, she has been quite a mentor for me in learning how to effectively critique others. It really does work the way she describes above!

And she's adorable. Which counts for a lot (especially during the post-crit, train wreck time period).

Marybk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marybk said...

Anita: Yes, her ferrets ARE amusing. I love the pics, like when they take over a blanket or a pair of jeans.


Authoress: Jodi IS adorable, and I'm happy that the two super-sweet people are crit partners.

Thanks for stopping by! <3

Jamie said...

Great advice on critiquing and critique-digesting! Also, I am now convinced that wool is amazing. :-D

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