1. My Mum—She's my Alpha (person who reads the story while it's still being written). I know everyone says you can't trust your mother to crit for you, but they haven't met mine. She's always honest. If something isn't working, she tells me so. While she doesn't catch some of the writerly things, she is an avid reader. She knows if a story is working and if it isn't. As well, she listens to me whine and complain when I'm having an awful day. That's always handy =)
2. Tina—My second line of defence against suckage. She's great for brainstorming and helps me out tons (probably more than she knows). She's always asking me questions about my story, which helps me think about things in a different way. Her crits are always amusing and very thoughtful. Like me, she tends to comment on whatever she's thinking at that moment, which I find extremely beneficial. I honestly don't know what I'd do without her critiques.
3. Mel—My newest critique partner. While Mum and Tina look more at content, Mel is definitely my go-to girl for line edits. She spots repetitive words like nobody's business. I don't even know how she does it. As well, she looks for consistency errors. She often asks hard, but wonderful questions. In addition, she's great at brainstorming sessions. Quite frankly, after she's been through my chapters, my story feel so shiny and clean.
4. Chris—While not an official critique partner, my fiance is very helpful. He helps tidy up sentences that aren't working and helps out with grammar (a lot). =)
In addition to these four wonderful critique partners, I also have several betas who read for me. As you can see from my CPs, each of them have their own specialities. If you remove one, I lose that aspect of a critique. All together, they are perfect critique partners.
So today I thought I would talk about how to Critique With Tact. I'm sure most of us have learned the hard way how damaging a bad critique can be. Unfortunately, no one can prevent harsh critiques from happening, but we can talk about how to give a good critique.
No matter how much you may dislike the chapter or story you are critiquing, you must find something positive to say! This is non-negotiable. Remember, a smile and a nice comment can go a long way. Don't underestimate that.
Before you decide to do a critique for someone, find out how they tend to deal with critiques. If they are known to get whiny and/or cranky after a critique, it might not be a good idea to crit for them. Remember, you can say noif someone asks you to crit for them. It isn't selfish to say no. You're likely saving yourself and the other person a lot of grief.
When you're critiquing for someone, keep in mind what stage of revisions they're at. If they're just starting revisions (or aren't finished their story yet), line edits aren't going to be very helpful-- they'll be overwhelming! If you're not sure what sort of critique they're looking for, ask them! Some (like myself), like to have everything laid on them, while others can't work like that.
Be honest, not harsh. If you think it's going to be a harsh critique, go back and reword your comments and add more positive things. I know I've had to do this a couple of times. But guess what? I'm still friends with these people and they didn't make voodoo dolls of me (that I know of), so clearly it worked.
Be aware of voice differences between yourself and whoever it is you're critiquing. Some changes you'll want to make are going to be voice related. Stop and think before you make any changes or suggestions to their story. A critique should be thoughtful, not hasty.
Ask questions! If you're reading and stumble across something you're not sure of (either about their story or writing-wise), ask them! For one, this shows you're actually interested in their story and paying attention. It can be very flattering to know someone cares enough to ask a question. As well, your questions might help them out. I know my critique partners have asked me questions that made me scratch my head thinking, "Huh. I never thought of it that way before."
Find your critique voice. Agents and editors always talk about finding your writing voice, but you also need to find your critique voice. This is extremely important and can help you out a lot. For example, I often add humour to my crits. I will go to any lengths to make sure I don't hurt their feelings (we're friends first and foremost). However, that doesn't mean I don't give tough critiques. Trust me, I do. But I've found a way to make sure it doesn't necessarily seem like I am.
Hello all! So today I thought I'd talk about things you should keep in mind when revising.
1. One of the most important things to remember is that not everything will happen according to your plan/schedule. Set realistic goals for yourself. Don't worry about how long it took your critique partners to revise their manuscripts. Don't even worry about how long it'll take you to revise. Simply sit down and do it.
2. I know this one can sometimes be difficult for writers, but ask for help. If you happen to be stuck on something, don't be afraid to ask for help. If you don't have critique partners / beta readers, get yourself some right now. No writer can do this solo (IMO). At some point, every writer needs feedback.
3. While revising, you're going to find words you tend to use over and over again. When I did revisions, my biggest one was "jump." Except for one or two, I deleted all of them. I'd suggest you do the same. Along the same lines, the word "that" is a word often used but not needed. Do a search and destroy for repetitive & unnecessary words.
4. In my opinion, the quickest way to kill a story is passive voice. Most people claim passive voice gives them a lyrical edge. This is not true. I know it's really difficult to break out of the habit, but it can be done. It just takes a lot of practice and some gumption. My first two stories were packed full of passive voice. It was hard to accept that I had a problem (lol) but I've since learned how to spot them. You can too! If you are having troubles, the best way to find passive voice is to look for the "was" "ing" pairings. Of course, there are many others, but one step at a time =)
5. SDT (show don't tell). While I am a big advocate of this, I also believe you can over show. There are times when you can simply say, "She gave him a coy glance." rather than the whole spiel on her exact facial expression. Part of writing a book is finding the balance between showing and telling. Readers don't always want or need to know everything.
9. Revisions are the time to get nitpicky. While you may have let things slide in the first draft, you can't let them slide now. Even if it seems like you have a dozen huge issues on each page, you need to fix them.
10. Lastly, this isn't going to be your final draft. It took me 6 rounds of revisions before I decided it was ready to query. And I know it's not going to be the final draft. If I get an agent, they'll likely want to make edits. Same with an editor.
I would just like to reiterate how happy I am that I don't live in residence this year. There's no drama, no fights, and most of all, no immaturity. Well, there is, but I'm not part of it!! Yay! I get to pick who I hang out with and they're all hard workers, intelligent, and funny. I love it! School is stressful enough for those of us who actually go to class and do our homework that we don't need the high school drama chasing us around too. You know?
Anyway, I just wanted to put this up. I'm so much happier than I used to be and I wanted to share it =)
I hope you guys have a wonderful Sunday! Tomorrow I will post about 10 Things You Should Know While You Revise, so make sure you come back and check it out!
Okay guys, I'm drawing a blank on what to talk about. With school sucking up so much of my brain power, I can't come up with anything to post. Therefore, I am opening the floor to you guys! You can ask me anything you want. However, I do reserve the right to not answer something =) As well, if you can come up with a topic rather than a question, I'll take those too!
I finished my query today! It took me an astonishing 16 days and 13 drafts before I finally got it just right. Yay!!! I'm pretty sure I managed to annoy everyone helping me—sorry guys! I do appreciate all the help you gave me ♥
Now, I just have to finish my synopsis tonight (which I have found much easier to write). I have 4 more paragraphs to do and then I should be ready to submit to agents in the next few days. Crazy, huh? Looking at my schedule, I'm not all that far off. I wanted to query by September 9th. It's the 18th right now, and I'm thinking I'll query either tomorrow night or Monday sometime. Not too bad eh? Stayed pretty darn close to my goal, I think =)
Anyway, I promise to keep you guys updated on how everything goes!
Yep, so I survived my first two days of school. I have been to all of my classes and caught up with my socializing. That's one benefit to being a fourth year English major. I know everyone in all of my English classes, LOL! Some people might not think that's great, but this way we can have really lively class discussions =) (Yes, I'm aware how nerdy that came across).
Anyway, as a refresher, here are the classes I'm taking this semester. Beside them, I'll make a note of what I'll be calling them on here, Twitter, and Facebook.
Communications Through History— I'm actually dropping this course. It's online and my professor is insane. He's called me twice already. Twice. My professor. There's more to it, but that's all I'll say for now.
Children's Literature from 1900 to the Present—Children's Lit
Literature in the Age of Chaucer—Chaucer or HOLY CRAP I DON'T UNDERSTAND *breaks down sobbing*
Select Topics in Literature of the Long Twentieth Century (1865-present): Literature and Ecology—Eco Lit
First Nations In Canada: Co-Operation, Coercion and Confrontation—History
So there you have it. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go to bed. I'm exhausted. Who the hell invented 7 am anyway? I mean really. It's not needed. No one likes that time, right? I'm thinking we should just get rid of it. All in favour say aye!
*Query Update: I forgot that I haven't really posted since my big query freak out. Sorry! You'll all be glad to know that my query is going quite well now. I went through a hundred drafts (okay, you got me. It was only 99), and I think it's pretty good now. We'll see once I get some feedback!*
So I started writing my query last night. The entire experience was awful. I tried to look at agent blogs and writer blogs, but it didn't work out so well. Whoever says writing a query isn't hard—and I’ve learned there are a lot of you people out there—should be taken out back and pelted with snowballs.* Repeatedly.
Quite frankly, I don't care if other people think it’s easy or difficult. I think it’s hard, therefore it's inconsiderate for others to undermine my troubles by telling me it’s easy. People mean well, but they have to realize that every writer is different, which means the query process—from start to finish—is going to be different, too.
For that reason, I'm not going to sit here and tell you query-virgins out there that this “simple” 250 word letter is easy if you follow the appropriate steps. *snicker-snorts* No, I won't do that to you. However, I will warn you that you may be just like me and find it extremely difficult to write. If that's the case, I'M SO SORRY. We can cry on each other's shoulders if you want?
So what about you guys? Are you query-virgins or are you a pro at it? Do you find writing the query easy or hard? Have any tips?
*If you don't think I can find snowballs in September, think again.*
I find everyone has a different take on the revision process. Some people believe it's easy and some people believe it's harder than writing the first draft. It's different for everyone, so both opinions are true. However, there are some things that are universal. Regardless of how you write, these rules apply to you.
Your second draft will take you longer than you think. Much, much, much longer. Set realistic deadlines. A couple of days is not realistic. People will laugh at you. Myself included.
Your second draft will be just as hideous as your first, but in a different way. That means you shouldn't worry about being perfect. I promise you, it's never going to be perfect. I also promise you, this isn't your final draft.
It doesn't matter what your writing style is, you'll need to do at least four drafts.*
You will lose a ton of words by tightening and getting rid of passive voice in your story. If you "tighten" and you haven't lost a lot, you didn't do it very well. Trust me. Do it again.
You will need junk food to make it through, even if you're a health nut.
Don't plan on having any energy while revising. Even if you're one of the people who think revision is easy, you'll still be exhausted. You're editing your own story, after all. That's never an easy thing to do. Prepare for it. If you're not tired, you're either a freak and have too much energy, or you haven't torn your story apart enough.
Find people who will listen to you whine and complain when you're having a bad day. Since it's not wise to throw a hissy on Twitter or Facebook for the whole world to see, you need an outlet. They're it. Once you're done revisions, you might want to send them thank-you gifts for putting up with you. Seriously. You're going to be so thankful they were there to help you. I know I am.
While sympathy is always great, make sure you also have people who will smack you and tell you to get to work. If all you get is sympathy, you won't get any work done. You need a hug and a swift kick in the arse. Trust me on this one. It's even better if you can find both in one person. I happen to have three: Tina from Sweet Niblets, Melissa from Chasing the Dream, and of course, my mum. Without them, I wouldn't have finished the first draft, never mind the second or third.**
Be prepared to hit The Wall. This might mean being ready with good books and lots of chocolate, or it might mean taking long naps and staying in your PJ's until 5 pm (true story). Whatever you think will help you specifically, prepare for it now. After talking to numerous other writers, I've managed to narrow down The Wall's location to about a day or two away from the end of the final draft. Yes, cruel isn't it?
Finally, take breaks. It's not a bad thing to take a few days off here and there. In fact, it's smart to take a break. Revisions are hard. Don't make it harder on yourself by burning out in the first couple of days. It also helps to work on a new story while you revise, that way you're still being creative on the side.
*Yes, four. This includes the last minute readthroughs. Many people go through eight or nine drafts, so be happy if it only takes you four.*
**I'm one lucky duck, aren't I? Writing relationships are invaluable. If you don't have them, make them right now. It's not just about having your stories beta read or critiqued (though, that's important too). Writing friends help you. They know what you're going through. More often than not, my writing pals (and my mum) help me through my dark spots and make me laugh. What's more important than that? Nothing.**