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How to deal with negative reviews, by author Jenny Ladner Brenner

How to deal with negative reviews, by author Jenny Ladner Brenner

Shortly after I self-published my debut novel, The Dinner Party, I began to revel in the good reviews. Hilarious! Witty!  Fabulous!  See, you short-sighted agents? I was right about myself and my oeuvre all along! And just as I started to experience the buoyancy of a sugar-addict presented with a fresh box of French macarons, the wicked worldwide web reduced my book to one-star ratings, ranting and raving. Boring? No one had ever slapped me with that adjective before, at least not so publicly. A waste of time? Gosh, I guess we can’t all be Honey Boo Boo.

 

A few weeks ago, I engaged in fifty shades of masochism and decided to Google myself ad nauseum. Not only did I feel like a narcissist, but it was an exercise in reminding myself just how far I’d gone to expose and embarrass my ego. Self-publish for all the world to see and judge? What was I thinking?  I closed my laptop, trying to control flashbacks of being stuck on a ski-lift, suspended mid-mountain, unsure if one mighty gust would render me unhinged. Then, while self-soothing with some banana frozen yogurt (I didn’t have any European delicacies on hand), and cursing the aftertaste of Aspartame lingering on my tongue, I had an epiphany: everyone’s a critic. About everything. Perhaps The Dinner Party is just one more thing for people to “yelp” about.

 

Online reviewers can be vicious about stuff you’d least expect: “worst manicure ever,”  “you call this osso buco?” “this bedbug-sniffing-dog doesn’t know his ass from his left paw!” It makes sense that a book would be fair game. And, it’s not like I haven’t griped loudly about the ending of Gone Girl, or the ironically slow express line at Whole Foods. So am I a hypocrite? A walking cliché? Are the stones finally pelting away at what I thought was my shatter-proof glass house? The bottom line: I’ve learned to duck pretty quickly.

 

Putting yourself out there aint easy, whether you are penning a book or opening a bar. Usually, the process involves tears, hair yanking, doubt, and regret. After all the effort (and existential agonizing), how do we cope with the bashing of our figurative babies? Take a look at the tips below for taking it all in stride:

 

  1. Most online reviewers are NOT literary critics, nor are they authorities on anything. Don’t take what they say too personally, especially if they don’t even bother to spell check.
     
  2. When a bad review is particularly nasty, try to keep in mind that your book induced a strong reaction in that reader—it’s better than being forgettable.
     
  3. For every bad review, a good one seems to pop up in its place. It’s kind of like the arcade game Whack-a-Mole. If you want to do some damage control, try featuring your book on a blog that caters to your target audience.
     
  4. Afraid one bad review will impact sales? It’s definitely possible, but in the long run, unlikely. Do travelers stop staying at The Four Seasons because of one tripadvisor horror story?
     
  5. Channel your hurt, resentment, and disbelief into your next book—sounds like the making of a complex and painfully human protagonist.
     
  6. Finally, keep in mind that all you need is one person to love your book and spread the word. Whether that’s your mom or your mailman, don’t forget the power of the fans you already have.
     

Jennifer Ladner Brenner is the author of The Dinner Party. Check it out here!

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Ego, Deadlines, and Other Things That Go Bump in the Night, by J.T. Geissinger

Ego, Deadlines, and Other Things That Go Bump in the Night, by J.T. Geissinger

J.T. Geissinger is a Ladies Who Critique member whose debut novel SHADOW’S EDGE will be published 0n June 12th 2012 by Montlake Romance, the new romance imprint of Amazon. Congrats to J.T. for a wonderful achievement and thanks for a great post where she shares her advice on how to navigate the publishing business without losing your mind!

– Laura

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JTGeissingerWhen I began writing my first novel, it seemed a wonderful and lofty enterprise, unsullied by the pedestrian business of deadlines or the need to please anyone but myself. Once I landed an agent and a book contract, however, the ugly reality of the publishing business began to intrude. What do you mean, I have to rewrite entire chapters? What do you mean, this character’s motivation is unclear? And, really now, what do you mean I have to cut this, change that, shorten my brilliant tome by twenty thousand words? 

 

And by this weekend???

 

Book publishing is a business, one with a bottom line all businesses share: profit. For the novice author with dreams as big as the federal deficit, this can be tough to swallow, but I learned a few things in my journey to publication that might save you a Tylenol or two. 

 

 

  1. Put your ego aside

Easier said than done, I know, but an absolute necessity. You must develop the hide of a rhinoceros and not only listen to critiques of your work, but solicit them. Critique partners and supportive/trustworthy friends will help you refine and revise your work until it gleams, so get it out there and let the feedback pour in. You’ll be a better writer for it. 

 

One caveat: there is a big difference between critique and criticism. If anyone ever says anything remotely resembling, “Your story sucks/you have no talent,” you should cut that person out of your life immediately and forever. Even if it’s your mother. Especially if it’s your mother! Naysayers are a black hole from which your ego might never escape.

 

2. Learn to write under deadline

Besides running out of Merlot, there really is nothing more terrifying than making the transition from a lackadaisical, whenever-I-can-get-to-it writing schedule to the totalitarian, you-will-produce-the-manuscript-or-be-shot deadline imposed by a publisher. Suddenly writing isn’t so much fun anymore. Suddenly it’s (gasp!) work. If you’re planning a career as a writer, give yourself daily or weekly writing goals, and stick to them. Write when you’re sick, when you’re tired, when you’d rather be watching Modern Family. Because once you get a publishing contract, that’s exactly what you’ll be doing. And by then your family will be accustomed to your absences.

 

3. Give up the deadly/soul killing/totally unachievable goal of perfection

 

Your manuscript will never be perfect. NEVER. There, I said it. With the possible exception of James Joyce’s Ulysses (which was largely incomprehensible), there is no perfect book in existence. The goal shouldn’t be perfection, it should be completion. Seriously, there are many saleable, unfinished novels gathering dust on shelves because the author couldn’t push through to the end without perfecting that one sentence, that one paragraph. Don’t allow yourself to get mired in the quicksand of perfection. Get it done, get it out there, then let it go.

 

4. Think like a CEO

 

That is to say, long term, big picture. (OK, the CEO of an imaginary corporation. Cut me some slack here.) If you’re going to have a successful, long term career as an author, you must deliver the goods (your work) in a timely manner (on deadline) in a pleasing, consumer-oriented format (unless you’re going to write very highbrow literary fiction, which almost no one will read) and it also has to stand out from the competition. How are you going to do that?

 

Research. Which in this case = reading. Read everything, within and outside your own genre. Get a feel for what works, what doesn’t and why. Then use it. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here, people, we’re trying to sell stories. That’s it. 

 

5. The Green-Eyed Monster

 

A final word about jealousy. Don’t allow yourself to go there. There are better writers than you. There are worse writers than you. There is room for all of us, because the public has such a huge array of tastes, and the market has niches both big and small. Jealousy kills creativity. Don’t try to write the next Twilight, the next Hunger Games, the next anything. It will always come off as false and the readers will know it. You can’t fool them! Don’t try to predict the next big thing and write for that. (Dystopian YA anyone?) Write for one reason and one reason only: because you love it. And therein lies your soul. 

  

J.T. Geissinger is the author of Shadow’s Edge and Edge of Oblivion, coming in the spring and fall from Montlake Romance. Visit her online at www.jtgeissinger.com.

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‘Command Your Brand’, a Guest Post by Joanne DeMaio, Whole Latte Life

‘Command Your Brand’, a Guest Post by Joanne DeMaio, Whole Latte Life

Joanne DeMaio, author of Whole Latte Life shares her wisdom on commanding your brand
in the post below. Great – and important – topic!

Take it away Joanne! – Laura

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They say there’s room on the shelf for everyone, no matter what the craft. Books, fashion design, paintings, recipes, songs. And there is, but if you are one of many, you can get lost in that crowd rather than rise above it. It’s important to find your own niche, your own identifiable trait within your work, and accentuate it so that the trait becomes your brand. You are recognized because of it.

Like these sunflowers. They not only rise above the crowd of flowers, they practically rise above the house! They have several distinguishing traits, but their truly identifiable one? Definitely height. What other flower rises to this soaring level? And the gardener here has played-up this trait to effectively draw an audience.

 

I refer to my debut novel Whole Latte Life as coffee-branded women’s fiction.  I’m all about the coffee and what it stands for.  Readers relate to its energy, its comfort, and the life questions we mull over a fresh-brewed cup.  So you’ll see coffee winds its way into much of my work:  I’ve brought it to my websites, my social networking, and yes, even my novel’s cover.

So branding is useful in helping you rise above the crowd in an identifiable way.  And as the artist you must first define your unique brand. So let’s do a little branding today. This gardener sold us on the flowers’ height …

What about “you” will you market? In a query, in a pitch, in a craft show, on your blog, at an exhibit, on the bookshelf, what will be your identifiable brand?

 I hope you’ll share your thoughts in the Comments, and thanks Laura for hosting me today.

Coffee Cheers 🙂 ~Joanne 

 

 

 

Joanne DeMaio is an author of contemporary women’s fiction, blending family,
coffee and friendship on the page.  Her novel Whole Latte Life is an Amazon best seller
in Women’s Fiction-Friendship as well as a Kirkus Reviews Critics’ Pick. 

Find out more about the book on her website, and see it on Amazon.com here!

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Where I Write: with Meg Mitchell Moore

Where I Write: with Meg Mitchell Moore

Today Meg Mitchell Moore is joining us on Ladies Who Critique to talk about where she writes. I love getting an insiders peek into where the magic happens!

Author of The Arrivals, Meg has a new book out TODAY: So Far Away. Scroll down to find out more about the book and where you can get a copy! 

Meg lives in Newburyport, Massachusetts, with her husband, their three children and a beloved border collie. Follow her on TwitterBecome a fan on Facebook.

Enjoy the post, and happy Tuesday!
– Laura
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There are two different spots in my house where I typically write. The first is an office on the second floor which I am not going to photograph because we are in the middle of organizing a big move and I’m staging a lot of the clothes sorting from there. 

The other place I write is at a desk in our basement, which I like to call The Bunker. (It’s not a walk-out basement.) That desk is pictured here. The only reason the desk is in The Bunker is because we bought it for my daughter’s room, it didn’t fit there and I was too cheap to pay the restocking fee to return it. Plus it’s a nice desk. I work here only when my kids are at school and I have the house to myself, or sometimes at night when everyone else is sleeping. There’s a desktop computer on the desk, which we set up for the kids to use. When I work in The Bunker I push the desktop to the back and squeeze my laptop in front of it. The only adornment is a Miscela Leone coffee poster, nothing fancy, I’m not sure where I got it but recent research shows that anyone who wants one can have one from buymeposters.com for $19.99.

 WhereIWriteMegMitchelleMoore

Behind me, as I sit at my desk in The Bunker, is the only sofa in the house the kids are officially allowed to use as a jungle gym. To my left is a small, high window that looks out on the back yard, and sometimes I can see my dog walking by during one of her yard explorations. She’s a border collie, a decade old, but still fit and game, and occasionally she’ll rouse herself and do a couple of laps around the yard at full speed: a canine track workout. To my right, on the floor, not pictured here, is a sheet of Masonite, 8 feet by 4 feet, which my daughters are supposed to use to practice their Irish dancing; the board helps them hear if her feet are hitting the ground correctly on each step. The closet to the right is full of toys, though not as full as it used to be, because the pre-move purging is going really well. 

I have always envisioned writing in a light, airy, well-furnished, kid-free, dedicated office, uncluttered, maybe a vase of fresh flowers, a fruit bowl with some grapes and apples. Our new house in California doesn’t have a dedicated office, so we are finishing off an attached garage that I can use. It won’t be underground, but I think I’ll still call it The Bunker. 

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Thirteen-year-old Natalie Gallagher is trying to escape: from her parents’ ugly divorce, and from the vicious cyber-bullying of her former best friend. She discovers a dusty old diary in her family’s basement and is inspired to unlock its secrets. 

 
Kathleen Lynch, an archivist at the Massachusetts State Archives, has her own painful secrets: she’s a widow estranged from her only daughter. Natalie’s research brings her to Kathleen, who in Natalie sees traces of the daughter she has lost. 
 
What could the life of an Irish immigrant domestic servant from the 1920s teach them both? In the pages of the diary, they will learn that their fears and frustrations are timeless.
 
Available May 29, 2012, from Reagan Arthur Books / Little, Brown and Company.
 
Where to buy:

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Where I Write: A Peek inside Author Lauren Clark’s Office! | Giveaway too!

Where I Write: A Peek inside Author Lauren Clark’s Office! | Giveaway too!

* 5/24: This giveaway is now closed! Thanks 🙂 *

 

Friend and member of Ladies Who Critique, (disclaimer: she’s also one of my PR clients 😉 ) Lauren Clark is celebrating the release of her fabulous second novel, Dancing Naked in Dixie TODAY and she is sharing the space where her writing magic happens below!

I shared the cover of her new book on the LWC facebook page recently, but it’s so wonderful I want to show you again! THIS my friends is a book cover that will grab a readers attention (male and female no doubt!)

Dixie is set in New York and small town Alabama, and like many great books have done in the past, after finishing the last page I desperately wanted to get on the next plane and discover Alabama for myself. Lauren lives in the State of sweet tea and sweeter Southern folk and does a fantastic job at painting the environment for her readers. It’s the perfect summer beach read.

Ok enough of me. I’m turning things over to Lauren! Enjoy!

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Guest post by Lauren Clark:

With Dancing Naked in Dixie being released this week, I’ve spent (what feels like) the last month inside the four walls of my office. Luckily, I like it here–it’s filled with many of my favorite things!

 

While I prefer to ‘write’ at the local college library in a study room, everything else–email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.–gets done in this room. We have a 108-year old home in a historic district; every room has wood floors and tall ceilings. The office, just off of our enclosed second-story porch, gets lots of light and I can see the treetops through the glassed-in French doors past the bookcases. The birds are chirping outside the window right now!

 

My office necessities include photos of my children (aren’t they cute?), my Macbook (flanked by my hand-written calendar on the left and never-ending to-do list on the right), and my ten year-old desk and chair from Pier One. I often have a can of La Croix sparkling water nearby, which I’ve grown to really like since I gave up Diet Dr. Pepper about a year ago.  This in no way implies that I’ve stopped drinking coffee–that is a daily staple!

 

Above the desk is a lovely handmade card from my publicist, Laura Pepper Wu, my Pure Barre schedule, new Dancing Naked in Dixie swag, my phone, and Kindle (w/pink case)!

Lauren Clark's Writing Space 

My trusty bookcase on the right hasn’t buckled yet under the weight of books from my favorite authors–including Emily Giffin, Sophie Kinsella, Jennifer Weiner, Jodi Picoult, Stieg Larsson, and Alice Hoffman. The bottom shelf is filled with writing and reference books.

 

My go-to purse is hanging on the chair. It’s a backpack designed by flight attendants (Bagallini) and I take it everywhere, along with a notepad to jot down ideas for stories!

 

Oh, I almost forgot to mention one item I keep in my office at all times…my pink princess crown! My boys bought it for me when we visited Legoland in March. I thought it was so adorable that I picked up a matching one for my neighbor, who is one of my closest friends. When we got home from the trip, Yvonne and I sat out on my front porch (wearing the crowns) while our boys played with their new Lego Ninjago toys in the front yard. It’s just a reminder that being silly once in a while is good for the soul!!

 

If you’re setting up your own writing space, in my opinion, it doesn’t have to be large, have an oak roll-top desk, or expensive framed prints to decorate the walls. Your “office”– whether it’s a closet, or a corner in the laundry room, or a space you share with your spouse–should reflect what you love and what makes you feel comfortable. Happy Writing!

 

I’d love to hear about your writing space and what makes it special. Or, if you prefer, ask me about my latest book, Dancing Naked in Dixie. If you’re one of the first five to comment, you’ll receive an ebook copy of Dixie.    xx, Lauren

Smart, Sassy Fiction with a Southern Twist

 Dancing Naked in Dixie for Kindle

Dancing Naked in Paperback

Dancing Naked for Nook

Lauren Clark Books Website

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The Busy Mom’s Guide to Writing, a Guest Post by Suzannah (Write it Sideways) & GIVEWAY!

The Busy Mom’s Guide to Writing, a Guest Post by Suzannah (Write it Sideways) & GIVEWAY!

 UPDATE: 5/10 – This giveaway is now CLOSED. Congrats to Angela Hunter who won a copy!

 

Thanks to Suzannah of Write it Sideways for this hilarious anecdote of balancing writing and motherhood. Leave a comment below about the book or your own writing challenges to win a copy of Suzannah’s fabulous new guide, The Busy Mom’s Guide to Writing.

 

– Laura

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I’m a mom, and I’m a writer.

Like all other moms who write, I’m busy. Actually, as a mom of one school-aged child, one toddler, and a set of 7-week-old twins, busy is an understatement. These days, I wear a lot of ‘comfort fashions’ and dream of having a shower the way a child dreams of being accidentally locked in a candy shop overnight. I recently learned about an enticing short story contest, the deadline of which was rapidly approaching. I’d already started a story which was perfect for the competition, but could I possibly complete it, let it marinate, edit and proofread it in just five days?

My kids’ mid-morning nap times were ideal for writing, but what would I do when, at 5:30 am, three-quarters of my offspring were screaming just as I was struck with the creativity and stamina to compete such a challenge? Here’s what: I made my 2-year-old’s breakfast and sat him in his highchair. I plunked myself on the couch with a nursing pillow strapped to my waist (it sort of looks like one of those big trays hotdog salesmen wear at baseball games) in order to feed the twins. I then proceeded to write on my laptop, which was stacked on top of a craft table, several books and a Lego box to bring the computer to the right height.

Awkward. Very awkward.

But, after several mornings spent this way, I finished the story and entered the contest. I may not win or even make the shortlist, but I’m happy I gave it my best. Plus, if I don’t win, I still have a story I can submit to literary magazines.

While I wouldn’t recommend regularly putting yourself in such a position, remember there are always solutions (or at least partial solutions) for your time predicaments. When you’re a busy mom with a passion for writing, you’ll find ways to get your words on the page, even if it means a little indignity and a whole lot of juggling. Who knows? Maybe one day you’ll see me featured in an article like Weird Writing Habits of Famous Authors. Until then, you can bet I’ll be practising awkward writing poses for my press shot.

 

Suzannah Windsor Freeman is the creator and editor of Write It Sideways, and author of The Busy Mom’s Guide to Writing. Her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Grist, Sou’wester, SawPalm, The Sand Hill Review, and The Best of the Sand Hill Review anthology. Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/writeitsideways Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/writeitsideways Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/writeitsideways/

 

 

 To be in with a chance of winning, just leave a comment!

 

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Actively Unblock Writer’s Block with these Time Tested Techniques!

Actively Unblock Writer’s Block with these Time Tested Techniques!

Kathleen O'MaraToday’s guest post is courtesy of Kathleen O’Mara, author of Inspiration: Write Every Day.

Find out more about the book at her website, http://www.kathleenomara.com!

In this great post, Kathleen is addressing the awful topic of Writer’s Block…

 

(also known as “My characters aren’t talking to me”.)

 

We’d love to hear your thoughts on writer’s block and how you deal with it in the comments!

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Recent debate in writing circles has focused on the concept of writer’s block. The comments provoke great emotion on both sides of the argument. 

Some say there is no such thing as writer’s block; it’s only a lazy writer who will use a block as an excuse. Those who experience writer’s block describe periods of complete despair over the inability to produce written work.  Experience and reason fall somewhere between the extremes. 

 

Image courtesy of authorlorilotto.wordpress.com (more…)

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Writing for joy, not for publication

Writing for joy, not for publication

This is a guest post by Ladies Who Critique member, Lisa Amowitz. Her book BREAKING GLASS was just sold to Spencer Hill Press and will be released in the near future. Remember folks, you saw her here first! 😉

 

Take it away Lisa…

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This past Wednesday, the sale of my YA noir ghost story BREAKING GLASS to Spencer Hill Press was announced on Publisher’s Marketplace. Yesterday I signed and mailed the contract to my agent, Victoria Marini.

 

BREAKING GLASS is the story of Jeremy Glass, a troubled high school track star. When his crush disappears Jeremy becomes convinced she’s been murdered by his best friend, only to be haunted by her ghost.

 

Until about eight years ago, my main interest and mode of self-expression was art, yet I always wrote. After college I filled spiral notepads with my scribblings until years later when I decided to write a childrens’ book so I’d have something to illustrate.  Too bad I didn’t understand the market I was writing for. Eventually, I bumbled into an online writing group that helped me craft a manuscript, which got me my first agent request.

 

After four years of relentless effort, an agent finally signed me for my third book. But after eight tumultuous months parted ways by mutual agreement.

It felt like my ship had come in, then left without me.

 

But I kept writing. In early 2010, with my fourth book, nearly finished, I entered a Writer’s Digest contest and tied for runner up.  I then began to query, and proceeded to operate in a manner that flies in the face of every bit of wisdom I have ever heard. I sent out 90 queries all at once and got requests from about 30% of them. And the emails requesting phone calls started coming in. No offers, just requests to revise.

 

But I knew this meant I was getting closer.

 

At the end of July came the email from Victoria offering representation. I was skeptical. I was revising for other agents. She was new and really young. But I couldn’t help thinking how good she made me feel about my writing. In the end, I signed with her. In my heart, I knew I’d made the right choice. She got me. She got my writing.

 

But my fourth book did not sell. So I wrote BREAKING GLASS. The minute I typed the words THE END, I knew it was better than anything else I had written before.
But even that wasn’t enough. So, I wrote my sixth book.

 

Finally, after eight years of toil, we got the offer from Spencer Hill Press who unabashedly loved BREAKING GLASS.

 

When I first started writing, I was in some kind of a mad rush to be published as if I was being timed. I was certain that I had written the most genius book of all time and simply had to tell the world about it.  Sure, right. It stunk!

 

I think we all have stories inside us. The problem is —how you weave your tale is critical. Learning the craft of writing takes time, discipline and lots of guidance from others with more experience.

 

Learn your craft. READ. Go to conferences. Take writing classes. Write EVERY DAY. Find others you trust and develop the thick hide of an old rhinoceros. AND NEVER GIVE UP. Rejection is not the end; it’s a reminder that you still have a way to go on your journey.

 

One more thing! I am holding a contest on my blog — I am giving away a free blog banner custom design and a partial read from Victoria Marini.  For details visit me at:
http://lisa-amowitzya.blogspot.com/2012/02/amazing-blog-banner-redesign-agent.html

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Pinnacles and Pitfalls of Writers Groups

Pinnacles and Pitfalls of Writers Groups

Though I obviously LOVE writing partners and writers groups, I’m also a huge fan of spreading the word about the need to find the RIGHT critique partner or critique group. Not all writers groups are made equal, and you shouldn’t settle for anything less than perfect. A negative experience or dynamic can do more harm than good to your writing and your confidence in your writing.

Today’s guest post comes from Ladies Who Critique member Cyndi Pauwels. She’s telling us about the pinnacles and pitfalls of writers group using her own experience. Don’t forget to leave a comment and tell us about your own pinnacles and pitfalls!

 

[Laura’s note:Aren’t we all this contented when we write? (!) Image courtesy of shootingstarsmag.blogspot.com]

 

Guest Post: Cyndi Pauwels

Writing is a solitary business. We spend hours upon hours alone, immersed in an imaginary world that can become more real than the one we physically inhabit, crafting phrases and sentences into a semblance of mental clarity and grafting them onto a blank page. Eventually, for most of us, the tales of our imagination are ready to be shared. But with whom? Mothers are usually far too approving, ready to hang even the roughest effort on the fridge with a fluffy kitten magnet. If willing, spouses and roommates are convenient, but they’re not always the best judge of character development and plot holes. For more concrete results, excellent sites like Ladies Who Critique offer a way to connect to those with similar backgrounds and experience levels.

 

Each of these possibilities is useful in its own way, but to grow as writers, and sometimes to shore up our sanity, we need more. We need an experienced viewpoint, a patient teacher, and a calming voice. We need a writers group.

 

My weekly group is my lifeline. Part beta readers, part critique partners, part support group, we’re a fluid mix of six to eight struggling authors who share evaluations, encouragement, and kick-in-the-pants accountability. Our regulars each bring a different strength: Tami’s English teacher background corrects our grammar, Lori focuses on continuity, Jim ruthlessly eliminates excessive adjectives, and James shows us how to set a compelling backdrop. I’m a not-so-closeted punctuation junkie, and I’ve been told I craft authentic dialogue. We complement each other, and after almost two years together, we’re a family.

 

If you don’t have a group, ask around at conferences (you do attend writer’s conferences, yes?) or your local bookstore. Although I hesitate to encourage any of us to get lost in social media, Facebook queries can be helpful as well. My group has its own (closed) FB page where we share links to interesting blogs, submission outlets, and workshop possibilities. It helps knowing a familiar and sympathetic ear is only a click away.

 

But as in any venture involving fragile human egos, use caution! As much as I adore my current tribe, I’ve also been in groups that were toxic. One such biweekly meeting many years ago was led by a frustrated community college teacher who wanted everyone to write her way, and bow to her self-aggrandized expertise. We disbanded, finally, after one young lady caused an insurmountable rift by trying to pass off chunks of writing from a Dean Koontz novel as her own. More recently, another group I test-drove for a few sessions had a bully who castigated me in no uncertain terms for questioning his obsession with what appeared to be unnecessary graphic violence. Needless to say, I politely bowed out.

 

Run from such toxic groups. Run from groups that try to rewrite your stories, to fit you into a mold that warps your personality or stifles originality. Almost as bad are those gatherings that are little more than pep rallies. Mom can do that for you, and she might have cookies.

 

Whether you meet once a week or monthly, share pages ahead of time by email or read aloud when gathered, the mechanics of the group aren’t nearly as important as the personalities and intent. When you find (or create!) the right mix of people, seeking, questioning, prodding each other along, striving to learn something at every meeting, you’ll know.

 

Because your writing will improve. And that’s our goal, isn’t it?

My thanks to Ladies Who Critique for allowing me to guest post on their wonderfully useful site. Their matchmaking was so appreciated when I needed a new set of eyes to tell me why my novel kept garnering rejections instead of yeses. The critique partner I found is a welcome addition to my network (Thanks, Marianne!). Follow my weekly ramblings at http://cpatlarge.blogspot.com

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How Blogging has Helped my Skills at Critiquing

How Blogging has Helped my Skills at Critiquing

This is a guest post from LWC member and editing student Rebecca Berto. Some of you may know Rebecca Berto as “Novel Girl”. She runs the blog Novel Girl which is dedicated to practical tips and advice for writers, comprehensive book reviews, and author interviews.

Take it away, Rebecca!

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Isn’t this a fun topic? Combining the sometimes-tedious task of blogging and sifting through manuscripts with issues to result in something positive?

 

I’ve been blogging for a little under four months now and I am confident in my statement when I say my critiquing skills wouldn’t be as advanced as they are now if I never started my blog. Yes, my blog, Novel Girl, is about writing and books but even if yours isn’t these techniques below are still just as important.

 

Let me share what I’ve learnt from blogging that has helped me:

 

Structure.
Preparing text (even if it’s a rant) into something structured, with meaningful pictures that break up the space, along with informative links, and a “marketing” frame of mind has helped me to improve picking up structural issues. When preparing a post, I’m constantly thinking:

  • Is this paragraph too large?
  • Is the sentence simple and coherent?
  • Have I ordered the pictures in a pretty way to make the post seem easy to read and interesting?


Goals.
I have goals when posting. If I’m posting on my blog about story structure, then I must also structure the information in a clear and sensible way. My first heading might be “First Plot Point”—and it’ll never come after “Midpoint”. I think about how the reader’s mind will process the information.

  • Am I drowning my reader in too much information?
  • Have I begun with a good hook to hold their interest?
  • Have I explained the goal of my post accurately and fully?


Continual questions.
Already I’ve asked myself questions, but I do this constantly as should you when critiquing.

  • Have I described the midpoint in this post as I claimed I would at the start?
  • Do I have a consistent voice? Or, do I slip from report-like to humorous and back again?
  • Am I setting up the information, explaining it and then leaving the reader with a clear thought about my message?

 

Can you see how these points are relevant to critiquing? It’s a much easier task to sit back and analyse the manuscript you’ve got from a distant and structured point of view. In my blogging I have a message I want to give the reader; in critiquing, you need to pick the message and find the best way to flesh it out—does Mary struggle enough before she accepts Joel’s forgiveness? Does the climax occur too early and has every scene before it been an increasing setup of information for this moment?

 

What are your thoughts? What feature of blogging has improved your critiquing skills?

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