When Someone Reads Your Writing

Dear Reader,

I just sent Atlanta & the Lion and Other Tales and The Rebel’s Touch to a trusted friend from my 8th grade after school writing club who continued to write and got her masters in the creative writing industry. Let me tell you, I am nervous. Caitlin O’Sullivan has always been a better writer than me, and I haven’t had anyone look at my work in two years while I’ve been busy setting up my apartment, transitioning to a new job, and diving into the swing dancing world.

Kind of terrified about her critique, even though I know I need it as a kick in the pants to get writing again. I’d like to release the short story and poetry anthology sooner rather than later as I have the whole thing compiled, it just needs severe editing. Which I’m sure she will rip it apart with the best intentions. This is the scary thing about beta readers… they’re looking at your work before you’re ready to show it to someone else, say, an editor you’re going to pay. The beta reader is usually a reciprocal relationship, so I fully expect Caitlin to ask me to look at her work at some point, and I’ll do so gladly.

Which reminds me… I remember Caitlin saying a while back she was interested in breaking into the editing gig, and considering I trust her opinion completely… for those of you who are looking to try out a new editor, send Caitlin a line asking about her rates. She’s working on a historical fiction, and I know she wrote science fiction in high school, so her range is pretty broad.

Looking forward to seeing what she has to say, though I’m cringing at the thought at the same time!

Best,

Belinda

Why this Author Loves Her C Grade

Dear Reader,

Last week I got a review at Dear Author, which was both awesome and a little “meh.” The “meh” came in because I got a C-, which I’ve been told is still a solid grade. To confirm this, I looked up some of my favorite romance authors to see how they fared: they all got Cs as well. Mary Jo Putney, Candace Camp, Lucinda Brant, and more.

Why I Love a C Review

The awesome came in because I got a five page critique from the reviewer. No, seriously. I copied the text into Microsoft Word and it was five single-spaced pages.

Let me repeat that. Five. Single-spaced. Pages.

She went into detail that I would expect from an editor getting paid for her judgment. I kowtow at her feet and offer as much tea as I can brew and she can drink with multiple bathroom breaks. Her critique was spot on, pointing out everything I’ve wondered about my writing. She essentially gave me a checklist of things I need to make sure NOT to do in The Rebel’s Hero.

Do you know how many authors would commit murder for this kind of free feedback?

This is important stuff, I feel, because so often we authors can be a bit sensitive about reviews. And sure, when the reviewer launches into an emotional reason about why they did or did not like the book, that is less than helpful. Still, each review provides a learning experience, positive or negative. It is feedback for the next time we put pen to paper, and we should value them all, garnished with a grain of salt.

Plus, a C-range grade from Dear Author isn’t nearly as bad as some authors feel. It translates to “this book is competent, but not for me.” It’s a “good but not great” book. It’s a book that was “fun, but not sure I’d read it again.”

That’s fair. I’ll take that. Some of my favorite authors have multiple books in that “not sure I’d read it again” category. Darling Reader, I invite you to read the review and leave your opinion in the comments. The review was more than fair, and the comments were very nice. I would be interested to see your responses, as I know some of you left reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, etc.

Tumbling Around the Interwebs

Completely unrelated, I created a Tumblr for the videos, photos, and inspirational quotes I want to share that don’t warrant an entire blog post.

If you follow me on Twitter and Facebook, then you will see the content there. The fun part about Tumblr is that it’s an easy way to ask me questions, or to submit fun content for others to see. I’ll see you over there!

And finally, if you’re a fan of Readability, we have a new link available in the sidebar. Read now or later, this is a quick and easy way to syndicate the blog.

All right, I think that’s it for this week! Best,

Belinda

 

 

Love or Lack Thereof Progresses

Dear Reader,

And so I write my second check-in for Round of Words in 80 Days. I know this is supposed to be the writing exercise that remembers you have a life, but goodness, it’s still tough because I expect so much of myself.

Love or Lack Thereof goals

  • Weeks 1+2: Edit short stories 3, 4, and 5

Over the weekend I completed the edits for another short story for Love or Lack Thereof, the anthology of poems and short stories I will be releasing in February. I’ve determined the book will be in two sections: Sweet and Savory. I determined the order of the stories that are ready for professional editing, etc.

I am starting to kind of freak out because I want the anthology in my editor’s hand by this weekend. I’m participating in a startup weekend event beginning Friday evening which lasts until Sunday afternoon. Which means writing this upcoming weekend is out. Argh! It’s frustrating how my professional life conflicts with my writing life. I have to change my goals for this week yet again.

Fingers crossed I don’t stress myself out trying to get this anthology to Cindy (my editor). She’s already booked for late January and all of February. Gah!

Catching the Rose goals

  • Week 2: Finalize updated blurb, tightened outline

I have completed the blurb, I’m fairly pleased with it. However, I think I’ll have to drop the other goal of writing 750+ words a day until I complete work on Love or Lack Thereof. No outline work will be done until LOLT is done. The new blurb is available below for your enjoyment, however.

CATCHING THE ROSE

Accustomed to getting her way as a privileged southern belle, Veronica Vernon is outraged when her step-father arranges a marriage to her childhood bully. Desperate for a way out, Veronica runs north in search of her childhood love, Jonathan, to convince him to marry her instead.

Intrigued by similarities between her memory of Jonathan and the description of her friend’s cousin, Veronica ventures into Yankee territory only to find Brad Williams is nothing like Jonathan. But that won’t stop Veronica from trying to convince her step-father otherwise!

Refusing to let others run her life for her, Veronica embarks on a headstrong quest to find her Prince Charming before war takes him from her forever.

Belinda Kroll crafts a tale of lost love and determination during the exciting first year of the American Civil War.

Thoughts?

Check out how the other Round of Words in 80 Days writers are doing this week.

Time for My Second Chance

Dear Reader,

Joe Konrath says the best part about self-publishing is if something isn’t working, you can always redo it. As much as we like to think a book that has been released to audiences is a finished product, we authors know better than that.

I wrote Catching the Rose (CTR) when I was in high school. Seven years later, I released my second book Haunting Miss Trentwood (HMT) with awesome reviews. CTR has made some sales since its re-release in July, but nothing compared to HMT.

This information, coupled with the fact that Wulfshado took a look at it and had so many suggested changes within the first couple of pages has convinced me.

I must rewrite CTR if I want it to get the attention I think it deserves.

Perfect timing, because I’m a sponsor for the Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80), led by Kait Nolan. Below are my goals for the first round of eighty days, which should keep me busy as I’m working on two projects.

Round of Words in 80 Days Goals

Catching the Rose goals

  • Week 1: Finalize new blurb
  • Week 2: Finalize updated, tightened outline
  • Weeks 3+: Write 750 words a day

Love or Lack Thereof goals

  • Weeks 1+2: Write 750 words a day;
  • Week 3: Send clean draft of anthology to my editor, Cindy
  • Week 4+5: Review edits, prepare for publication
  • Week 6: Release for publication, just in time for Valentine’s Day

The thing with ROW80 is that if I accomplish all my goals, or find that my goals are too much for whatever reason, I can change them. I think this is a manageable effort, though. I’m excited to make CTR more into the Civil War-based fairy tale I had imagined originally. And I’ve never released an anthology before, so I’m interested to see how that goes, too.

Seems like 2011 is going to start with me as a busy little bee. All the best,

Belinda

Dangerous Liasons in Social Networking

“Hush, hush. Keep it down now, voices carry!”
Voices Carry sung by Aimee Mann

This is an interesting time for those of us trying to market our work. We have the internet, and all the “free” networking that comes with it. But I would like to extend a word of caution to my fellow authors. As fun as social networks can be, they are a dangerous outlet of frustration and hurt feelings if not taken seriously.

Writer Beware wrote a similar article yesterday about authors who fail to think before hitting the submit button, which is setting a precedence. A precedence that makes us authors look like we’re a bit insane, overly sensitive, and a bit whiny, if you ask me.

So what is there to do about this phenomenon? There are a couple of things we can do to make sure we don’t fall into the same trap of having our friends spam a blog that gave us a negative review, or using Twitter as our campaign to cold-call a journalist.

If you’re upset, write out your feelings, sure. You’re an author. It’s what you do.

But don’t post your upset email, blog comment, tweet, etc, until the next day. This will give you time to calm down to make sure you actually want to put yourself out there as potentially crazy.

Have someone else read the review.

Make sure you’re not flying off the handle by having an objective friend read the review and tell you what they think of it. Maybe it isn’t as bad as you thought. Maybe it’s worse than you thought. But you have to understand that this is the price you pay for having your work published. Do you know how many people would kill just to have their name on the spine of a book? You’re lucky someone read you and cared enough to review it!

Do not, under any circumstances, post the phone number and/or address of the reviewer so your loyal friends/family/fans can harass them.

Bad author. Bad.

Realize that reviews are subjective.

It’s all about personal taste, and as an author you knew, hopefully, when writing your book that not everyone would like it. You’re allowed to be upset about it, but try to be graceful, too.

Treat it as a learning experience.

If you’re that concerned about the review, send the reviewer a letter asking what would have improved the work for them. If they give valid suggestions, then great. If not, then leave them behind.

As someone who has been hurt by an errant tweet, I can tell you that it is very difficult to do these things when you’re upset. It’s difficult to resist the urge to rush to the defense. It hurts when people submit hurtful comments online without thinking. It hurts more when they’re obviously submitting hurtful things on purpose. My advice? The best thing to do is to walk away. Do not stoop to “their level,” whatever that level may be, as it makes you look petty.

How many of you have had a bad review, and what did you do? Have you ever seen an online author melt-down?

How to be a Computer-based Beta Reader

Please excuse another post off the Tuesday/Thursday schedule.

From August 22 to August 31, I’ll be without ready access to the internet and I need guest bloggers! If you would like to be a guest, contact me by Thursday, August 21, with your guest post. Guidelines here. If I don’t use your post that week, don’t worry. I’ll definitely use it later and will notify you the week I use it.

Now that we’re all connected using Crit Partner Match (if you haven’t joined, you should!), it occurred to me that many of us are computer-based beta readers, which can be a monumental task. So today’s tidbit will provide useful tricks in Microsoft Word 2003 to help you become a more efficient and productive beta reader. If you use a different program, comment with your reviewing hints to help your compatriots.

First: What is a beta reader?

I’ll admit to not knowing what this term meant even a year ago. A beta reader is the new term for a critique partner, it seems to me, and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. Wikipedia states that a beta reader is a reader who looks over a written work with a “critical eye with the aim of improving grammar, spelling, characterization, and general style of a story prior to its release to the general public.”

Some beta readers do more than others. Some refuse to edit your grammar, because that’s basic stuff. Others will get so nitpicky you’ll want to tear your hair out. So make sure to discuss your writing and editing styles with whomever you pair up with (and this can be a one-to-one, one-to-many, or many-to-many relationship).

In comparison, the alpha reader is the writer or author of the written work.

Now onto the editing.

Microsoft Word 2003 is the software I’ll talk about today because it’s the one I have the most expertise in. For the record, Word 2007 has the same features, but the buttons to use them are in different locations (the ribbon).

Track Changes: Deletion

Sometimes when you’re reading through the work, you have to delete a sentence or paragraph. But how do you do this so the alpha reader knows the change you made? There’s this awesome module called Track Changes that will note every change you’ve made to the document by adding a sidenote that you can hide or show at will. See an example screenshot. To use Track Changes, do the following:

  1. Click View » Toolbars » Reviewing in the menu bar. This will give you a new toolbar that gives you the option to make comments, track changes, and highlight.
  2. Click the little icon that looks like a piece of lined paper with a tiny sun in the top left corner and a pencil in the bottom right on top of it. If you hover your mouse a little tooltip should appear saying “Track changes.” This is what you want.
  3. Now, any change you make to the document will be recorded.
  4. If you don’t want to see the tracked changes, you can click the Show button which allows you to select what is visible and what is hidden.
  5. If you hit Track Changes again, it will stop recording all your actions after you hit the icon. It does not get rid of the changes you made previous to hitting the icon, however, so don’t freak out.

Track Changes: Rewording, Reorganizing, Adding text

Follow the same steps as the Track Changes: Deletion section. Tracking the changes will also note any additions you make, and I think will also note if you move something. Maybe. If it doesn’t, then you always have the option to comment.

Commenting on the Work

This is my new favorite toy in Word 2003/2007. Using the same Reviewing toolbar, you can comment whatever text you’ve selected with your mouse. It adds a rounded rectangular bubble to the right of the page with a line to the text that you selected for the comment. See an example screenshot. To comment, do the following:

  1. Click View » Toolbars » Reviewing in the menu bar. This will give you a new toolbar that gives you the option to make comments, track changes, and highlight.
  2. Click the little icon that looks like a yellow/tan-colored Post-it note with a tiny sun in the top left corner. If you hover your mouse over the icon, a little tooltip should appear saying “Insert Comment.” This is what you want.
  3. Now, a bubble should appear to the right of your text, with a blinking cursor.
  4. Type your thought.
  5. When you’re done, click outside of the bubble. Now, if you hover over the text you selected to comment, you should see the bubble highlight itself. You might also see the text from your comment hovering above the text…it depends on how you do it.

The really neat thing about this is that if someone else opens the same document with your comments on their computer, and they start to add comments, Word will tell there is a difference. To account for this difference, the colors of the comment bubbles will change depending on the computer/owner of the Word program.

You can also navigate through the document based on previous/next comment. Pretty cool, huh?

Networking for Writers: Crit Partner Match

Hi all, I know I’m disrupting my posting schedule, but this is too cool to pass up. Zoe Winters, our guest blogger today, clued me in on a new networking opportunity that is both fun and useful, too. It’s called Crit Partner Match, and the premise is that it’s like eHarmony.com or Match.com… but for writers looking for a critique partner. I’ve already set up a profile and wrote my introduction in the Historical forum.

So join us at http://critpartnermatch.ning.com/. I hope to see you there, no matter your genre!

And make sure to read Zoe’s wonderful post on changing your mindset so you can acually accomplish your goals.