Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Critiquerly Interview: Author & Social Media Expert Nathan Bransford

(Or, Don’t Jump into Scalding Hot Water)

My sister introduced me to my next guest. Well, not in person. She sent me a link to one of his blog posts. Ever since then, Nathan Bransford’s blogwhere he writes about eBooks (see his recent post about the $.99 eBook phenomenon), offers page critiques, and has a mad lib formula for query lettershas remained on my must-read list. I’m interested in Nathan’s take on critiques because I like the fact that he’s a writer, and has dabbled¹ on the agent side as well. In fact, he still shows up as one of the all-time top queried agents on a particular online query-tracking system.

Oh, and also? If you read his blog, you’ll know he’s an all-around fantastic guy with down-to-earth advice for writers.

And if you haven't met him yet, then I'm happy to introduce him to you.


Nathan Bransford is the author of
a middle grade novel about three kids who blast off into space,
break the universe, and have to find their way back home, which
will be published by Dial Books for Young Readers on May 12th.
He was formerly a literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd., but is now
the social media manager at CNET. He lives in San Francisco.


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

NB: I recommend treating an in-depth critique like a pool of scalding hot water. You don't want to jump right in, you want to gradually acclimate yourself and let it sink in. If writers are anything like me it's difficult to hear that certain things need to change and it's important to gradually lower your defenses. Read it once, let it sit, read it again, think about it some more, and let some time pass. Your brain will be working in the meantime, and as long as you're open to everything you'll be able to listen to your gut without your defenses or ego getting in the way.

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

NB: I think the absolute most important thing is to leave aside how you would write it if you were the author and instead focus on trying to help the author achieve their own vision.

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

NB: I edit as I go. I don't really do very close line edits and instead focus on broader elements that are/aren't working.

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

NB: It really depends on the particular work, but basically I just try and keep an open mind, zero in on something that doesn't feel like it's working, and then try and figure out why it's not working. So it could be any one of those elements or a combination.


Thanks, Nathan! It’s interesting how you point out that critiquers are there to help an author achieve his/her own vision, not theirs. I completely agree, but this is easier said than done.

Check out Nathan’s JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW (Amazon link below).


Question for NAE readers: Have you ever found yourself critiquing as if you’re the one writing? If so, how do you reign yourself in?


Kierah Jane Reilly said...

I love Nathan! He's so spot on - much like another writer I know ;)

I like his advice about waiting instead of diving right in after getting notes back. I took a LOOOONNNGGGG time making my revisions. Was it too long? Maybe. But my revised ms is so much better because of it.

Marybk said...

<3 Kierah Jane! Glad to hear about your MS. And, *blush*.

Kevin Tross said...

I love his website and keep it on my favorites list. I think what he has done for the writing world is amazon and I'm excited to see what he will do in the future.

Great interview.

- KT

Mary Frame said...

Jaw. Floor. You go Mary! I love this!

P.S. Kierah - nice to see you around the blogosphere again! I am looking forward to some updates about your progress with your ms on your blog :)

Regge Ridgway said...

Thanks for the great blog and post Kierah. Good luck and great success with writing. Uphill battle unless name is Amanda Hocking. Check out my site if you find time and are interested in new ya authors or like to read thrillers. http://characterswellmet.blogspot.com. Thanks. Reggie Ridgway

Anita Grace Howard said...

Great interview, Mary! And dang, Nathan Bradford?? The man's an icon. Color me impressed. I'm looking forward to his book, too. It's right up my son's alley.

Marybk said...

Marewolf: *grin*

Regge: Thanks for stopping by! AH is legendary. We'll see what the future brings.

Anita: I'm going to buy his book, too. After I get my kindle for Mother's Day. ::smirk::

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great interview. It's interesting to hear Nathan's advice as a writer vs. an agent. Can't wait to read his book. I've pre-ordered it!

Marybk said...

Thanks for stopping by, Natalie. Always good to get inside Nathan's head.

Carol Riggs said...

Thanks for the interview, and nice meeting you (and hearing more about Nathan). Great points for revising. I always pick at little things until I get my courage up to do the big changes--or until I've resigned myself that yep, they need to change. LOL

Ben Campbell Novels said...

Following Nathan's blog is a must. If you don't learn at least one thing while reading his posts then move on and watch the old Jerry Lewis movie "The Delicate Delinquent."

Marybk said...

Hi, Carol...I'm working on a big-thing revision now--I'm right there with you.

Yes, Ben. Following NB is a must, and his archives are golden. I'll have to look up that movie.

Anonymous said...

I found this interview from Nathan's blog. Nice interview! It's nice to read his advice as a writer. I'm looking forward to reading his book. :)

Marybk said...

Great post on how Nathan edits himself on his blog today:

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