Earlier last month, I sent my beloved Work in Progress through it’s first round of critiques. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about the critiquing process from my own experience and the thoughts of others. I have two groups of people who do my crits. Karen is my lovely dedicated critiquer. I will see all of her story and she sees all of mine. She is the one I will ask about the things I want to expand for my second draft. My other group, Mud Puddle, has a chapter exchange system that means the same people will not always read your chapters. The way I have things worked out, each of my chapters gets three sets of eyes looking at it.
First of all, I think you have to go in understanding that people really want to help you make your story better. Some of the things they point out will be harder to take than others. Some suggestions you will disagree with, some will make you wonder why you didn’t think of it first. Some of the hardest feedback you get will be what you need the most. I ultimately feel it’s good practice for having an editor go through you stuff, because they will be both an amazing supporter and the toughest judge. Or you know, getting your entire story rejected by an editor or agent. If you feel like you are in a group that isn’t trying to help but play the “I’m proving my story is better than yours” then you’re in the wrong group. Luckily, I don’t have that issue.
Another thing to keep in mind is what the other person needs you to look at. If they want a beta to look at plot and characters of a first draft, you will both go crazy if you do a line edit instead. I’ve also found that some writers are very sensitive to the language you use in comments. They want you to say “the story might benefit from this” instead of “I see you wrote this…” To them the use of “you” feels like a judgement on them while other writers feel that addressing the writer is building a relationship. Some want you to suggest grammar changes, others tell you to just put the comma where it should be but turn on track changes. If you have a preference, let your reader know up front!
Another thing to note, in a big enough group, writers may be at different points. I’m lucky enough to have published writers in my Mud Puddle group. I’ve also seen writers who are writing their first drafts of their first books. Others are in between. Everyone can contribute something. Even if you feel like another chapter is more advanced than yours, don’t let that intimidate you. Let the other reader know what you liked and why, keep an eye out for inconsistencies or things you want to know more about.
I hope this helps some of you out there!
One of the things that I hope this blog serves as is a writer’s journey to becoming published. I try to share what I’ve learned about publishing and writing in this corner of virtual space.
Right now, the first draft of my story is going to Beta readers. Beta readers check for things like plot and character. What works, what doesn’t, what might work better. Their job is not to correct my grammar and typos. A lot can change between a first and second draft. Pages or scenes can be cut, passages reworked. It’s not worth it to do the grammar and typo thing until you’re story and characters are where you need them. I’m getting good feedback and ideas from my betas. It is a time consuming process, however. Because my betas are other writers, I am doing a trade with them. I beta or proofread their stuff, and they beta my story in return. Ooo look, I used beta as a verb! How very Joss of me.
Proofreading is the part that always feels more mind numbing to me. This is the grammar, spelling, typo part of things. It can make you cross your eyes. It is important, I just think the story and character thing is more fun. But again, it is a trade I do with other writers which takes time. In the end, both should get you to a better manuscript though.
I think I now know what online dating feels like.
Over the past week I’ve been quite warmly welcomed into the MudPuddle and YARWA writing groups. They are an amazing group of people, seriously. If you are an aspiring author, I highly recommend a good writing group. If you write something that has a heavy level of romance and are not part of the RWA, go join. It is worth every dime you pay. Mark my words.
Finding a critique partner can feel very much like online dating. What’s your story about, this is mine. Let’s trade chapters to see if there’s interest. We’ll do a trial critique to see if we’re compatible. Running to go check your e-mail because you want to see what they thought because you want there to be interest in your story, if not, you’re doing something wrong.
It’s an interesting process but I’m really enjoying getting to trade with other writers. In the RWA, writers help each other become better writers. Better writing is more likely to lead to the golden ticket of a publication offer. I think it’s an awesome system and I wish I had found it earlier. Heck, I got the idea for Death by Dragon because of an RWA class I took. Jordan Summers, thank you for bringing it up at that writing panel at Phoenix Comic Con. It’s made a big difference.
A little update for all. I am getting the feel or the system that my FF&P Chapter uses for their critiques. Have not posted stuff yet, because I want to make certain things are being done right. I hope to put things up within the week.
On another note, I joined a second RWA Chapter, the YARWA (Young Adult Romance Writers of America) since I am a YA writer as well as a Romantic Fantasy one. I also signed up to take their Historical writing class later this month. On my to-do list is to send out my intro to that group as well as my request for a critique partner. Very exciting, no?
On another note, I found a really cool site called Get Ye Done. You make an account and create tasks or quests for things you need to get done. Then you get XP and levels for finishing them as an encouragement system. It’s really kind of fun.
I have returned from my holiday type break. In-laws have been visited, in laws have visited and my house is relatively back to its normal equilibrium. There is a small stack of read books in my office (and yet the Book Monster is still a dominating force of 80+ volumes or so), and new books have been acquired (yay new books). I am also the very proud owner of an increasing collection of awesomely geeky Funko POP Vinyl characters, a fuzzy Avengers blanket, and Agent Coulson’s Captain America Trading Card Collection. I did watch the Leverage series finale. Not only to I understand what Wil Wheaton meant about feels (ZOMG THERE WERE FEELS!), but I stand by my declaration that the episode was meant to be a series ender and should stand as such even though I will miss what for me was the Parker & Hardison & Elliot Show. On the subject of feels, Dallas comes back in just a few weeks. There will be backstabbing and feels aplenty!
So, on to the writing portion of this blog. I just sent off my e-mail to join my RWA Chapter’s Critique group for Death by Dragon and it’s a little nerve wracking. It’s a good group from what I have been told and has seen lots of first sales to publishers. It’s still unnerving to turn my baby over to a group of writers I don’t personally know, even if I should get a better story coming back. I guess I should take some confidence in the fact a lot of people in my writing classes thought I was on to something story wise but I most certainly am not entering this arena with any swagger in my step. Crossing my fingers, we shall see how this goes.
I finished it! Yesterday afternoon I finished draft one at a bit over 64,200 words!
So what’s next for me?
Well, for one I need to shelve my draft for a week or two to be able to come at it with fresh eyes. This will also let me spend the holidays with all of the family we are seeing or visiting without trying to work in regular writing hours. I’m going to use my RWA resources to get some critique partners. While one might say that in theory I could do that during my break, I figure those people will be busy with holiday stuff right now and if I’m asking for critiques, I should do it when I’m available to do so in return.
I may consider outlining another project. What I do want to do with some of that time is catch up on some reading for fun. My stack includes romances of the historical persuasion, Tricked by Kevin Hearne, Cold Days by Jim Butcher, some YA books and while traveling, a bunch of novella length stuff by Kevin Hearne and Kelley Armstrong. Anyone else out there reading something cool right now? Maybe eagerly awaiting the the time for a particular book? Am I the only one with a back log of at least 80 books?
I hate being ill, but my sinus infection hit the fever point last night. November and December are horrible illness months for me. Just horrible. However, I get a 2 week break starting next Friday. I look forward to this.
I’m working on the last two chapters of my draft. In the meantime, I’m posting what my query letter for my current manuscript will look like. Not only does it give a summary of my project but I hope that in giving it a page of it’s own, it can be a way to show potential agents and editors what projects I am offering for consideration.
So, here it goes: The Case Involving the Death by Dragon