(Or, Tempering Your Overprotective Muse)
After my last interview with Courtney Milan, I’ve become a historical romance fan. Truly. So, you can imagine my excitement talk to Elise Rome today about critiquing. And if that’s not enough, as part of the Crits for Water campaign (see my first post about it here), Elise has a 3-chapter critique up for auction on Kat Brauer’s blog tomorrow (4/11).
After reading her interview, you’ll want that critique. Oh, yes.
Elise Rome is the author of Seducing the Duchess (Oct 2010) and
Romancing the Countess (Sep 2011). When she isn't writing sexy, emotional
historical romances set in Victorian England, Elise stays busy entertaining
her two young daughters, attempting to do housework, and hiking in the
beautiful foothills of Colorado.
NAE. Who, as one of your critiquers/beta-readers, have you learned the most from, and what did you learn from him/her?
ER: I have two amazing critique partners, and I've always said that every one of my acknowledgements will feature them because I truly don't believe I would have become published without their help. I'm more than fortunate to have Kat Brauer, the hostess for Crits for Water, as my critique partner. Out of everything she's taught me--and there are many, many things--the most important tip that sticks out in my mind is to remember to show how the characters react to situations. It's easy to write action scenes, but the difficult part comes when you dig deep and have to show how that action affects and/or changes the character as a result.
NAE: After a writer gets back an in-depth critique, what would you recommend in terms of a review/revise process?
ER: I know everyone has different ways of editing, but I really prefer to wait until after I finish the book to start editing, even though I exchange critiques with my cps chapter by chapter. I will glance over the chapter they've returned to see if there's anything I need to take immediate action on or keep in mind as I go forward (such as characters being likeable, or inconsistencies in plot), but I find that editing all at once is much easier for me that writing-editing-writing-editing. Each works a different part of my brain and my creative process, and it can be difficult for me to switch my mindset from one to the other.
I would also say that I know we as writers and human beings are very protective of the words we write, and you do have to stay true to your creative instinct. However, if a critique partner suggests something and you immediately dismiss it, I would advise trying to figure out if it is something really important to the story that you feel strongly about, or if it would be just as easy to change. If it's something easy to change, you might simply be acting the over-protective creator who needs to make the change. If it's something important, go ahead and ask your critique partner for more details to try to understand why they feel so strongly about it that they would suggest you make the change. Critique partners are just that--partners--and you should be working with people that you trust, even if you don't take their advice every single time.
NAE: What is the one piece of advice you can give to someone trying to develop his or her critique skills?
ER: If you are brand new to critiquing, read someone else's critiques, specifically someone who has been doing it for a while. If you're an experienced cp, simply remember to help the writer stay true to their voice while selectively imparting wisdom you've learned yourself through the difficult journey of writing.
NAE: When you critique someone’s work, what is your general process?
ER: I line edit as I read. If it's an easy chapter (read=good), I'll generally only go over it once. If it's a difficult chapter and there are a ton of basic mistakes such as grammar and spelling, I'll read it again to look at plot and characters just to make sure I'm thorough and can provide the best feedback possible for the story. As a critique partner and a writer who receives critiques, I do feel it's best when possible to focus on one chapter at a time for in-depth critiquing, then review the entire book when polished in order to find any glaring issues that were missed the first time around.
NAE: Is there one specific thing that you gravitate toward while critiquing?
ER: As a recovering perfectionist I definitely look at grammar and spelling, and these are the first things that I'll catch and mark. After that, I pay the most attention to characters--are they three-dimensional or flat?--and emotion--is it subtle and powerful or cliché and trite?
Question added my ER: Why is having a critique partner so important?
ER: In all of the questions above I've provided my answers from my experience as a critique partner. This is because I can't imagine going through the critique process only on one side, nor can I imagine writing without a critique partner. At the beginner cps help each other with opinions and learning the fundamentals. Over time, though, even if each chapter is no longer exchanged, cps are still invaluable for support and much-needed feedback. They become friends who can become as familiar as family because they are closer to your writing than anyone else. I consider both of my critique partners as close friends even though I've never personally met either of them. And as I said above, I truly don't think I would have become published without them.
Thank you, Elise. You’ve given me a lot to think about as I critique my own work. I love your comment about keeping the emotions subtle. Once you mentioned this, I thought of the books I love, and went through this AHA moment, realizing that some of the most powerful emotions have been the most subtly written.
Check out the Elise's book that I’ve downloaded to my kindle. If I’m late on my next blog post, you’ll know I’m busy reading this:
And, if you liked Elise's interview, you’ll love her blog. I dare you to read one post and not get hooked.
Don't forget to check out Elise's Crits for Water auction tomorrow (5/11) here. If you're coming across this interview a bit too late, check out the upcoming Crits for Water auctions and drawings here.