Friday, May 27, 2011

Some Fantastic Critiquer/Writers

(Or, Critiquerly Love Never Dies)

There are times that I read blog posts about critiquerly-related topics, and when I’m done, I sigh and think: I couldn’t have said that better myself.

Which is why I’m basking in the brilliance of a few bloggers this week and hijacking their wisdom. Here are a few recent posts I love.

Historical romance author Ashley March (interviewed by NAE here) discusses how much she values her critique partners and beta readers (plus she defines the difference between the two in a non-dictionary way) and gives some guidelines on how to go about finding critique partners and the whole thing is a critiquerly-oriented dish of chocolate fudge ripple. *heart-my-crit-partners sigh*

Literary agent intern Jessica Lei (interviewed by NAE here) talks about how having a critique partner is like any other relationship in that you have to find someone who genuinely likes your work. *kindred spirit sigh*

The ever-chuckle-provoking INTERN (interviewed by NAE here) has blogged not once, not twice, but thrice about critiquerly topics. Her first post outlines the 14 stages of critique acceptance, and in the second post she talked about how to get over revision paralysis, and her last post reminds everyone who to avoid as a critique partner. *giggly sighs*

Young adult author Jodi Meadows (interviewed by NAE here) shared how overwhelmed she feels to receive critiques back, and points out how when she feels she needs to go back and explain something to the critiquer based on their comments, it’s a red flag for her that she needs to fix something in her manuscript. *self-enlightened sigh*

I love it when formerly-interviewed NAE critiquers go on to post profound critiqerly things on their own blogs. Could it be that we've started a new critiquerly revolution? Critiquers unite!

Critiquerly love never dies.

Here's a promise: if you read all of the above posts, you’ll learn something either about the critiquing process or about yourself.

Come back and let me know.  

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Critiquerly Interview with Author Susan Dennard

(Or, Critiquers Unite!)

Susan Dennard writes young adult fiction, and she’s another wonderful Crits for Water author/critiquer. She is represented by the fantastic ladies of Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation, who have done a lot to save lives in the Crits for Water campaign.

Sara Kendall mentioned how fantastic Susan Dennard’s Let the Words Flow blog is, and may I say? Glorious revision advice. Susan’s Crits for Water young adult/adult fantasy 50-page critique is up for auction starting tomorrow (5/23) here.

Susan Dennard is a 27-year-old reader, writer, lover of animals, and eater of cookies.
She used to be a marine biologist, but now she writes novels. And not novels about fish
either, but novels about kick-butt heroines and swoon-worthy rogues (she really likes
swoon-worthy rogues). She lives in Germany with her French husband and Irish setter,
and you can learn more about her crazy thoughts and crippling cookie-addiction on
Twitter, Facebook, or Goodreads. Her debut, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY,
will be available from HarperCollins in 2012!


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

SD: I think it’s best to read it and then let the criticism/feedback sit for a day or two. No matter how nicely worded a critique is, it always stings to learn you’re not perfect. :) As such, I think letting that sting wear off and allowing the truth behind the critique to sink in is critical before you tackle it.

Then, once you’re ready to work, you’ll be able to take each comment and decide if you agree or disagree with it.  No matter who’s critiquing you (even if it’s your agent or editor!), it’s up to YOU to decide if you agree or not. I have gotten some pretty rotten critiques before, and I am SO glad I didn’t listen to them—I wouldn’t be where I am now if I had!

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

SD: Don’t be condescending!  Try to word your comments as nicely and non-confrontational as possible.  No matter how long you’ve been doing this, then it’s always possible you’re “wrong”—boy, have I given some crappy feedback in the past!  But at least I know I gave it nicely and the author wasn’t offended.

Remember: writing is subjective, and your feedback is nothing more than your opinion.

As such, the key to a critique is to always start your comments with “I”, so it’s clear that the feedback is ultimately just your belief.  If you phrase it like: “I think you might…” or “I noticed…” or “I thought this…”, you reduce your risk of offending the writer and raise the chance of helping!

NAE: When you critique someone’s work, what is your general process (e.g., line edit as you go along, read once before editing, read several times, etc.)?

SD: I tend to read through and make comments as I go (possibly line-edits too if the author wants it). Then, I write up my broad thoughts on a separate page.  Finally, I go back through and check that all my comments are 1) nicely worded, 2) appropriate/helpful, and 3) accurate (in case I realized later I misunderstood a passage).

NAE: Is there one specific thing that you gravitate toward while critiquing (e.g., plot, grammar, characters, emotions, etc.)?

SD: It definitely depends on the writer’s request. If he/she wants line-edits, I’ll provide that. If he/she is just looking for overall feedback, I’ll focus on plot, character, and pacing—the Big Stuff.

NAE: If there is another question you think I should add to this list, what is it, and what would your answer be?

SD: Some people seem to think having a CP isn’t helpful—that it means you “don’t trust your own writing”. What do you say to these people?

No! :) I think each person has to decide what does/doesn’t work for him/her. I know that, for the majority of writers (that includes me!), having a fellow writer read and offer feedback was a defining step in developing our craft.  I know I can’t live without my CPs or beta readers!

I don’t “not trust my own writing”. What I don’t trust is my ability to distance myself from my writing. I need other eyes to catch where characters behave inconsistently, the plot confuses, or the pacing is bogged down with introspection. After I’ve been working on the same novel for over a year, it’s almost impossible for me to catch that sort of stuff anymore!

So, my advice is this: don’t be afraid to let other writers see your work, but at the end of the day, you have to decide if you want to listen or not. The only way a fresh set of eyes on your work could ever hurt you is if you choose to quit because of it—but notice, that’s your decision.

Critiquers unite!


I think Susan has coined my new catch phrase: Critiquers unite! Love it. Now I just need someone to compose a theme song. :)

Thanks, Susan for sharing your critiquerly ideas and suggestions. It’s a great idea to do that extra step of checking over your critiquing notes before you send it back. After all the time spent reading and writing up notes, it’s a simple but important way to ensure your critique is worded in a way that the writer will “hear” what you’re saying.

Remember to bid on Susan’s Crits for Water YA/Adult Fantasy critique auction tomorrow (5/23). Fifty pages! Wow.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Critiquing Pointers: Part Deux

(Or, Writing Crits with Zing)

In this post, we reviewed how a beginning critiquer can pull off a helpful review by focusing on character, plot, and sensory details. However, sometimes a writer asks for feedback on specific areas of concern. 

No problem. We’ll take a look at a few more pieces of the critiquing pie today, just so we’re prepared to comment on these areas: dialogue, emotional reaction, and getting pulled out of the story.

1. Dialogue
~Are the dialogue tags subtle (he/she said) or somewhat distracting (he spat, she huffed)?
~Is the dialogue limited to an interaction necessary to the story without getting too realistic (e.g., “Nice weather we’re having, eh?” sits more on the too realistic rather than necessary side of dialogue)?
~Does the dialogue not only maintain the personality of the characters, but perhaps also reveal deeper aspects of these characters?
~Do the characters words ring true, in general?
~Is the writer attempting to convey too much exposition in the dialogue (e.g., a huge Q&A dialogue scene with major plot reveals)?

2. Emotional Reactions
~Do the character’s actions, thoughts, and desires make you feel close to him/her, and want what he/she wants?
~Do you know what the character’s thoughts and desires are at all times?
~Can you point to each scene and find a conflict, resolved or not?
~Can you point to each scene and find the overriding emotion felt by the MC?
~Are you having an emotional reaction different from what the writer intended (e.g., the MC displays too much of a flaw to the point that they are not likeable)?

3. Getting Pulled Out of the Story
You may have already experienced this phenomenon, where you’re reading along and feeling absorbed in the story, but then something trips you up, and for a few moments, you try to reconcile whatever it is. Maybe you can, maybe you can’t, but the fact is…you were pulled away from the magic, the illusion that the story has transcended reality. As a critiquer, you’ll have to be aware of when this happens, and then try to figure out what caused it. Some common “pulling out of story” trip-ups may be:
~Too many details, rather than a focus on the action/characters
~Odd descriptions or vague word choices, making you wonder what the writer means
~Not understanding a character’s motives at any point
~A passage that is too heavy on a character’s introspection/internal dialogue
~Breaking the fourth barrier (when it seems that the narrator/character is too aware that he/she has an audience, a la Groucho Marx/Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)

If you feel up to a bit of practice on the above critiquing points, hop over to Miss Snark’s Secret Agent posts for May. There are 48 aspiring authors, each with 250-word excerpts from the beginning of their MS. Perhaps you can look for several with fewer comments than others, and see if you can provide them some helpful feedback.

Because? Practicing critiquing is as important as practicing writing.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Critiquerly Interview with Author Roni Loren

(Or, a Tiny 'Thank You' is Huge)

Romance author Roni Loren is our special critiquerly guest today. She’s a card-carrying member of the Crits for Water club, so after you read her interview, consider bidding on her 2,500 word YA/romance critique that will be up for auction tomorrow (5/18) here. She’ll also have query critique up for drawing.

One more quick comment from me? She’s about to give us one of the simplest, best pieces of advice in this interview. The entire interview is fantastic, though, so read on.


Roni wrote her first romance novel at age fifteen when she discovered writing about boys
was way easier than actually talking to them. Since then, her flirting skills haven’t improved,
but she likes to think her storytelling ability has. After earning a master’s degree in social
work from LSU, she worked in a mental hospital, counseled birthmothers as an adoption
coordinator, and did management recruiting in her PJs. But she always returned to writing.

Though she’ll forever be a New Orleans girl at heart, she now lives in Dallas with her husband
and son. If she’s not working on her latest sexy story, you can find her reading, watching reality
television, or indulging in her unhealthy addiction to rockstars, er, rock concerts--yeah, that's it.

Her debut novel, CRASH INTO YOU, will be published by Berkley Heat/Penguin in January 2012.

She is represented by Sara Megibow of the Nelson Literary Agency and is a member of RWA
and the  North Texas Romance Writers.
This is Roni's website, this is her blog, and here she is on twitter.


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

RL: First, I would say read through the critique, take a deep breath and let the feedback sit with you for a day or so before you do anything. A lot of times we have a knee jerk reaction and instantly want to get defensive. Or some of us are the opposite and internalize everything and feel ready to scrap the whole thing because clearly it's crap. (I'm vacillating between both extremes.) So don't change anything until you give it some time to settle into the nooks and crannies of your brain. You'll find that some of the crit will resonate and some of it may not. Decide which parts you're going to change and go forward.

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

RL: Get critiqued yourself. It's impossible to become a good critiquer if you're not having someone put your stuff through the wringer. I also HIGHLY recommend volunteering to judge contests (many local RWA groups run national contests and are always in need of judges. You can find the lists of upcoming contests here). The score sheets that you have to work through to judge an entry are excellent at training you to look for both big and small things in your own manuscript. And it's amazing what you can see in other's people's work that you never pick up in yours.

NAE: When you critique someone’s work, what is your general process?
RL: I'm a line edit as I go person. Then I give overall feedback at the end on bigger picture items. Even when someone asks to just give overarching feedback, I can't help but line edit, lol. I'm a very nitpicky critiquer but I (hopefully) deliver all the feedback with love. I kind of liken it to a thorough physical at the doctor. It may be a little uncomfortable, but in the end, it's good for you. : ) To get an idea of my critique style, you can see some of the crits I've done online on my blog here.

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

RL: Not really. I try to look at all the aspects, though I don't focus as much on minor grammar stuff as I do on the bigger issues. However, typically people have one or two big problem areas when I critique that are repeated throughout their pages. It's different for every person, but it seems like we all have our favorite bad habit. (Mine is using "just" everywhere and characters smiling a lot.) For instance, if someone head hops in the first page, it's usually a problem throughout. Or if someone has a penchant for overwriting or purple prose, it's typically throughout.

Question added by RL: How should you respond to a critique?

RL: I've done a lot of critiques. Not just in my own crit groups, but I've done many on my blog and have given away a lot in contests and such. And like I said, I'm a detailed person, so I know sometimes the feedback I give can be overwhelming. But I've gotten such a wide range of responses from people. Most are very nice and seem genuinely thankful for the feedback. But others, it's like radio silence. That stresses me out because then I'm worried that I offended you or something. Realize that it takes someone a lot of time to critique for you. Even if you don't agree with their feedback, take the time to say thank you.


Many thanks, Roni. I would have never thought about judging contents as part of writerly development, but that is fantastic advice. And the whole thing about saying thank you? So important and yet too easy to overlook at times.

I can't wait until CRASH INTO YOU comes out in 2012. Congratulations on your debut novel!

Check out the Crits for Water campaign this week, and don't forget to kick the tires on Roni’s 2,500 critique auction tomorrow.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Critiquerly Interview with Nancy Coffey Junior Associate: Sara Kendall

(Or, What is the Character Feeling?)

I meant to get this post up so much earlier than this until my non-writerly life took over my day. Oy. But I'm so excited about this interview. 

There are many reasons you’ll like Sara Kendall after reading her interview, but I’m going to tell you three of them now. (1) She’s got a 30-page critique up for auction tomorrow (5/17) to benefit the Crits for Water campaign, (2) she loves young adult and middle grade fiction (huzzah!), and (3) she’s a firm believer in critique groups. 

Her awesome self is here today to share a few thoughts on critiquing and revising.

Sara Kendall is a junior associate at Nancy Coffey Literary and Media Representation.
She loves YA, dark MG, and fantasy. Follow her on Twitter!


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

SK: Great question! We know that looking at an in-depth critique can be daunting. Where do you start? Where does the revision process end?

So. First things first. Read the notes/critique carefully--twice. And then sit on it for a day. Weirdly, that's sometimes the hardest part. Maybe you're excited about the notes and want to dive right back in! Woohoo! Great! But I don't want you to get halfway through revising before you realize you actually don't quite understand how to implement the revision notes through the whole novel. On the other hand, maybe revisions overwhelm you, and you can immediately think of forty questions for things you need clarified. Also great! Also woohoo! We love questions! But you want to make sure you're asking the right ones so that, again, you don't reach the halfway point and hit a block. So sit on the notes for a day. Read them again. Then figure out what it is you really need to know to not only start, but finish, the revision process. Come up with a game plan. Make sure you and the agent/editor/etc. are on the same page, and have the same vision.

Then! Email your trusty beta-partner/crit group. (If you don't have one, I can't recommend them enough--the growth I've seen in writers pre- vs. post-crit group is astounding). Share your game plan with them, and tell them what you're trying to accomplish. They'll be on the lookout for it, and can help make sure that the notes you got are applied throughout the novel.

(Susan Dennard is actually doing an awesome series of posts on approaching the revision process over at Let The Words Flow--check it out here!)

NAE: Great tip about Susan Dennard’s posts. Thanks, Sara. I have an interview coming up with Susan this month.

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

SK: If you're suggesting the writer make a change to the work, always explain why. Your instincts might be telling you, "This paragraph isn't working," but if you just say, "Cut this paragraph; it isn't working," that's not going to help the writer be a better writer, and it won't help you be a better critiquer. What's not working? Is the pacing off? Is the voice missing? Is the paragraph just in the wrong place?

I also think a great way to give better critiques is get critiques yourself. Someone may say about one of your sentences, "This really cuts the tension--we don't need the info in it right now. Focus on the scene/fact/character at hand." And you will say, "Ah-HA! It cuts the tension. That's exactly what's wrong with this scene in X Manuscript!" Hopefully.

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

SK: I always read once before editing. I can't give notes as effectively if I don't know where the story is going or where your characters end up. Usually, we go through a couple rounds of edits, starting with the bigger picture stuff (plot lines, characters development, etc.) and working our way down to line-edits.

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

SK: I find myself saying, "What is the character *feeling* here?" all the time. With "What is the character thinking here?" a close second. I want to be close to the characters I'm reading. And feeling emotionally invested in/connected to characters right from the opening page is what moves readers from looking at a book on a shelf to bringing it to the cash register.

Plot is another big one for me. So are characters. World-building too, actually. Um. So maybe there is not one thing I particularly gravitate toward. Ha, all the pieces have to work for me to be invested.


Thanks so much, Sara, for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I love how you suggested that a person should explain why they’ve made a particular critiquerly comment, a step that helps both the writer and the critiquer to develop.

Remember to look for Sara’s Crits for Water 30-page critique auction tomorrow here. The winner of the auction gets a fabulous critique and gets to help provide clean water to people who struggle for such a basic need every day. Also? Literary agent Joanna Volpe has a critique up for auction on Thursday (5/19). I'm just going to say it: Nancy Coffey's staff and authors rock.

It's a busy week. Watch for my next Crits for Water interview with author Roni Loren coming tomorrow.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Freaky (not so) Friday Blogfest

(Or, Embarrassing My Writerly Self for the Sake of Critiquing)

Kat Brauer is taking a small break from her Crits for Water campaign for a special Freaky Friday Blogfest. She’s got prizes! And promises of jocularity! And Harry Potter! As Kat would say, for serious.

She posted one of her earliest, 500-word pieces of writing to be critiqued (for her, a fanfic Harry Potter spin-off written when she was a teen) on her blog. Pop over there and check it out. I did a line-by-line critique on it for extra credit.

Kat also posed this challenge: she wanted her readers to find some old piece of writing and post it for critiques on their own blogs. That’s right, she wants us all to open ourselves up to (*cue creepy music*) public feedback. This is slightly different from Miss Snark’s blog in that, well, it’s not at all anonymous on anyone’s part.

Naturally, since NOT AN EDITOR is all about critiquerly topics and such, I knew I had to participate, no matter how embarrassing it might be. Therefore, I found a piece of flash fiction that I did several years back. I’ve only been writing for shy-of-four years, and I started with short fiction.

Being a psychology major, I was drawn to characters with hard-core psychological diagnoses. Yes, I was more concerned about characters and their worlds than I was about plot* (oh, you mean there has to be a story, too?). See if you can tell what my character’s mental illness is.

Feel free to throw in some critiquing. I’m ready for the red pens (or, if you’re Marewolf, purple pens) to fly. Line edits or any other critiquerly advice is welcome.


New Shoes

Janice examines her purse for necessary items - a package of sani-wipes, keys, wallet, antibacterial lotion, tissue, gloves, and a white cloth. Was she sure she saw her keys? Yes, jingle, here they are.
A glance in the mirror to comb her hair reveals the worst: greasy. As she undresses to take another shower, she carefully re-folds her clothes. She is concerned that her pastel shirt might wrinkle and she finds a hanger.

She turns on the water, crisp and clean. The pressure didn't seem normal and she shuts it off. Turns it on and off. On. Much better.

As she steps out of the shower, she flexes her feet on the pristine rug. Left foot, right foot, left, right, left, right. She clearly cannot wear the clothes that she wore earlier; it wouldn't be right.

She has an idea and she packs an extra pair of sheer socks. Those nylon footies they offer in the shops bother her. The whole experience is a bother. Reviewing the faint quarter-inch scuff on her shoe's instep, she realizes that she must go. Her heart quickens.

Janice reviews her bag once more. Yes, everything was there, and now she has an extra pair of socks. She felt her keys jingle in her fingers. Perfect. What if she had left earlier with dirty hair and no extra pair of socks? And the beige shirt is much preferred over the light blue.

She readies herself as she flips the light switch off and on three times. Satisfaction gradually comes while sani-wiping the car seat and the steering wheel. And fastening, unfastening, fastening, unfastening, and fastening her safety belt. She takes a deep breath and presses her eyes closed. She turns the key without starting the car until three half turns back-and-forth are complete. The sound is fine, just fine, and she opens her eyes. She adjusts and re-adjusts her mirror.

Damnit! She says clapping her hands thrice, less than half a tank. She shivers.

I can do this, she says. People put gas in their cars every day. Every day, everyday. She slowly drives to a station and up to an empty pump, but is not close enough. She backs up and pulls forward several minutes until it feels right. I can do this.

She pulls out her gloves but wishes for more protection. She uses her pointer to press in between each of the gloves' fingers. Right and left. Each one twice more. It takes quite a few sani-wipes to sterilize the handle on the gas pump. Her nose squints as she cleans. Brown god-knows-what stains the disposable towels.

As the gas fills her tank, she wonders if she has to urinate. Yes, yes, she is pretty sure of it. She returns the nozzle, uses her white cloth to open her trunk, and disposes of her gloves in a plastic bag marked "dirty''. She takes a clean pair of gloves out of a Ziplock bag marked "clean'' and closes the trunk. Opens and closes, opens, closes. A sigh leaves her after the task is done. She sits down after sani-wiping the driver's seat, the steering wheel, her hands.

As she makes her way home for the safety of her own bathroom, she passes the shoe store. A half a tank wasn't enough, halfatank, h-a-l-f-a-t-a-n-k. Perhaps I'll go shopping tomorrow. She looks at the scuff on her left shoe in disgust. But she has to urinate. And she wouldn't feel proper afterwards without taking a shower.


That’s it. Critiques in the comments!

*Okay, I admit. I'm still this way. But I'm aware of it now. :)


(Or, How Blogger Tried to Hose Up My Give-Away)

Sadness struck me with the recent blogger black-out, because it happened during my first ever give-away. I lost my original contest post early yesterday morning, and had to re-blog about the contest. Unfortunately, I also lost the original comments and names of participants with the original post.

Even when Blogger support restored the original give-away post, the comments did not come back with it.

I gnashed my teeth for a full day, thinking how unfair it would be to continue the contest without all the people who deserved to participate.

And then, I remembered to check my other e-mail account. Voila! There, each in their own separate message, were all the comments and commenters. (Copied/pasted below for fun.)

Happiness and Joy. And now, happiness and joy belong to our winner:

Kayeleen Hamblin!

Kayeleen, please e-mail me at mkaley3 (at) gmail (dot) com with your address so I can ship JACOB WONDERBAR to you.

Thanks to everyone for playing!

And now, for my not-so-automated restoration of your lovely comments.


Kai said: “I'm in! Need all the help I can get w/critting. I love free books and can't wait to get my hands on this one. And I tweet. All good things.”
>Thanks, Kai! You've come to the right place.

Andrea Mack said: “A blog about critiquing sounds interesting! I signed up to follow (but I don't tweet yet so I can't do that part of your requirements). I mostly critique in Word docs, so I use the comment box, which I think is black ink.”
>Andrea, no worries about the tweeting. I like the word comment boxes, too.

Marewolf said: “I like purple! (And pancakes!) And I have a quick editing tip for when you are ready to revise your MS (this is after you've finished your rough draft & left it alone for a couple weeks like a good little writer): change the font, print it out, use a pencil (or purple pen) to make notes to yourself in the margins BEFORE you start editing in your computer :) Fun contest!
>Somehow, I knew you'd say you edit in purple. I got the idea for this contest from Marewolf, who just did a book give-away on her blog.

Aimee said: “Thanks for this! I'm in too. I'll tweet about it! :)”
>Aimee, thanks for stopping by and for tweeting.

Kayeleen Hamblin said: “I use a yellow hi-liter and a red pen if I'm using paper, but track changes in Word if it's on my desktop. And I've been looking forward to Jacob Wonderbar for ages.”
>Kayeleen, congratulations again!!!

Rena Jacobs said: “Text-to-speech software is my biggest tool for editing. Nothing takes the place of listening to my work aloud, read exactly as it's written. Thanks for the giveaway. I'd love to read this to my son.”
>Hello, Rena. I have text-to-speech on my kindle. I might try it for editing. Thanks for the idea.

Krista V said: “Great contest, Mary! I'm afraid I'm too impatient to wait (I'm planning to order JACOB WONDERBAR later today), but I did tweet about it, since it sounds like such a great book.”
>Krista, I don't blame you for ordering it already. Enjoy!

Mandie Baxter said: “Great blog!”
>Thanks, Mandie, and thanks for tweeting.


This was way fun, even with the blogger mishap. I'll have to do it again soon.


Friday, May 13, 2011

A Chance to win JACOB WONDERBAR! by Nathan Bransford

(Or, Celebrating a Friend’s Release Date)

~~~>Reposting the 5/11 give-away since the entire blogging community crashed shortly after this went live*. NOTE: If you left a message yesterday, please comment again because yesterday's post is GONE (sniff), and I want to be sure to include everyone who showed up yesterday.<~~~
Today is the release date of the Nathan Bransford’s debut novel, Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow. Because Nathan was so nice a few weeks back during his interview here, at Not an Editor, I thought it’d be fun to give away a copy. Just cuz.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

a middle grade novel about three kids who blast off into space,
break the universe, and have to find their way back home.
See the first chapter here!

Here are the (simple) rules, in three steps.
1.    Follow this blog by clicking the “Follow” with Google Friends Connect button in the column to the right
2.    Leave a comment below. It can be anything, like the color you like to use when you critique.
3.    Tweet with a link advertising this give-away.

I’ll do a random drawing generator thingy and announce the winner tomorrow, on (*cue scary music*) Friday the 13th at noon (CST) UPDATE: Contest extended to Saturday, 5/14 at noon CST due to the blog issues.

That’s it!**

*If you ask me, I think a huge cosmic KAPOW caused the whole blogger blackout.
**Although, if you’d like to follow me on twitter, click the “Follow Me” button, also in the column to the right. :)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow Give-Away

(Or, Celebrating a Friend’s Release Date)

Today is the release date of the Nathan Bransford’s debut novel, Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow. Because Nathan was so nice a few weeks back during his interview here, at Not an Editor, I thought it’d be fun to give away a copy. Just cuz.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

a middle grade novel about three kids who blast off into space,
break the universe, and have to find their way back home.
See the first chapter here!

Here are the (simple) rules, in three steps.
1.    Follow this blog by clicking the “Follow” with Google Friends Connect button in the column to the right
2.    Leave a comment below. It can be anything, like the color you like to use when you critique.
3.    Tweet with a link advertising this give-away.

I’ll do a random drawing generator thingy and announce the winner tomorrow, on (*cue scary music*) Friday the 13th at noon (CST).

That’s it!*

*Although, if you’d like to follow me on twitter, click the “Follow Me” button, also in the column to the right. :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Critiquerly Interview with Author Elise Rome

(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.