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.

Editing Books Writers Should Read

This past quarter, I read books on the side between my crazy class schedule, work, and the magazine. I should write my typical Worderella review on them, but instead I’m going to list these books and give a little blurb about why you should add them to your To Be Read list. If you’ve read these books, let me know what you thought about them.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King

This book kind of changed my life. My writing life, that is. I have it sitting next to my Strunk and White on my shelf of books on writing. It taught me it’s ok to be brutal and take out something you were “iffy” about in the first place. If you’re questioning that paragraph, rest assured that your agent and/or editor will do the same, except the solution to the problem won’t be you deleting the paragraph, it will be the sight of your beloved manuscript thrown in the nearest trash. If you aren’t sure about it, as the author and creator of your book’s mini-universe, your reader, agent, editor, and publisher probably are unsure about it too, which is dangerous in this mad business.

Self-Editing has a chatty, enjoyable tone that makes the pain of realizing all the work you need to do in order to improve your WIP bearable. Each chapter focuses on a different facet of fiction, ranging from high-level topics such as plot, characters, and dialogue, to low-level topics like proper grammar and good, action-oriented sentence structure. If you have a writer in the family, this is a great holiday gift. It may make them cry for a few days as they rip apart their WIP in order to improve it, but afterward, they will thank you. Maybe even shake your hand. Take my word for it: all writers ought to read this book. If anything, it’s a good book to fall back on if you need to charge your writing through a rough spot.

On Writing Romance by Leigh Michaels

Finally, a book that definitively tells me what is the difference between erotic, erotica, sweet, and mainstream romance, as well as what makes a book historical fiction or historical romance, or a romantic historical! Another great book with an amusing and informative tone, what might sound like a manual or text book to others was my nightly read before bed. This is a good reference for anyone writing in the romance genre because it not only defines the different levels of romance, it goes into the history of the subgenres, giving a chronology of which subgenres were popular and even ones that have fallen by the wayside.

This is a great marketing tool because for every example cited, two or three other similar works are mentioned. If you want to learn more about Sweet Romance, this book has a lot of great examples, and lists more in the back. That really excited me, because I’m under the impression that I’m one of a very small number of sweet romantic writers.

On Writing Romance also includes example query letters, synopses, and cover letters for those of you going the traditional publishing route. I’ll be honest, this book had me thinking maybe I shouldn’t go the self-pubbed route and instead try my hand at traditional, just because I had some great examples staring me in the face. It sort of makes you think, “I can definitely do that.”
A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation by Noah Lukeman

Ok, so I haven’t read this one yet. But it’s on my Amazon wishlist and my To Be Read list. Like the previous two, it has high marks on Amazon reviews, and, as I’m a sucker for good books about writing, even punctuation, this is on the list. I feel that we as a culture have forgotten the high points of the written word, most especially punctuation. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read books and thought, “Oh man. He definitely missed the opportunity to use an em-dash there,” or when I point out a passage to a friend or my mom, saying, “See this? She would have had a better sentence if she used a semi-colon.”

Maybe that’s just me. I love punctuation though, so I’ve put this on the list. If you’re like me, give the book a chance and let me know what you think.

Trials of an Editor

Think your editor, or all editors, have it good because they get to sit around proofreading the next Great American Novel while drinking tea? I never really thought about it. Most the things I hear about are how difficult it is to be a writer, or an agent, or a publisher. But the editor? Well, I guess I figured they sat around reading already approved manuscripts and that there were enough of them to go around. According to Lucia Macro, that’s very untrue. Read below to find out just how a real editor spends her day:

What I Do When I’m At Work
by Lucia MarcoWhenever I tell people I’m an editor, I almost always get two responses. The first is, “Oh, so you must be a really good proofreader!” The other is, “Wow, I wish I sat around all day and got to read books.”

That’s when I get to tell them that while I do a little bit of proofreading, that I don’t spend my hours reading galleys, red pencil in hand. And one thing I seldom do at work is “sit around” all day reading books—or manuscripts. Their vision of me in a comfy chair, cup of tea in hand, happily reading the next Great Novel is a (lovely) fantasy while tweedy men and earnest women occasionally pop in for “a word” went the way of the two martini lunch…if it ever existed at all.

Continue reading

Time to look for an editor…

We hear so much about the importance of editing, and moreso the importance of letting someone else read our work before we attempt to publish it. The thing is, how do we know who to trust? Who should we allow to look at our writing? How do we know when to stop writing and look for that editor? The following article sheds some light on the situation…

When Do You Need an Editor?
by: Alyson Mead

Copyright 2006 GrammarGods.com

According to many of my clients, writing is one of the hardest things in the world. They spend some time staring at a blank monitor and blinking cursor, they space out, they regain consciousness and curse to themselves, at how difficult it can be just to get their thoughts on paper.

Even editors need editors sometimes, so there is no shame in giving in. Others can see our work more easily than we can, since they’re not emotionally connected to the material, as well as the journey it took to get there.

The first sign that you need an editor is that you are increasingly frustrated with writing. If you become bored, stare out the window, get angry or just stop caring about what you’re doing, chances are you need someone to help you focus your work and your energy.

Of course, we love to work one-on-one with our clients, if they need help, or provide input over the phone. But if you’re in a jam, Write Express StyleWriter can get your documents looking and sounding professional. By running your work through this software add-on, you’ll find any passages that commit common usage and style errors, and save your editor tons of time. That can translate into getting the job done, or not in some cases.

Another indispensable tool any writer should have is Editors on Editing: What Writers Need to Know About What Editors Do. Editor Gerald Gross gets down to the nitty-gritty by compiling a series of essays by editors at publishing houses large and small. Clearing up any misunderstandings now may save you a ton of time and aggravation now, so check this one out!

Writing workshops can help struggling writers out, as they begin to “hear” their mistakes read out loud. I find that listening to books on tape, CD or podcast really helps in this area, too. Training your ear to hear clunky grammar, beautiful sentence construction or dangling participles is really strengthened by a trip to iAmplify, where you can find downloads on everything from astrology to gaming, golf to weight loss. You might learn something, and your “ear” will thank you later.

Lastly, you know you need an editor when you have simply come to the end of the road. Writers talk about writers block as if it’s a curse, but some don’t even believe it exists. Allowing ourselves the time we need, for rest, sleep, proper diet, and vacations (are you listening, workaholics?) helps to cultivate creativity. We can’t force ourselves to write, paint or play music on a certain time schedule, so we shouldn’t try. Instead, your Inner Creative Person may need time to simply be. Vacations are a must. Even if you’re on a tight budget, Priceline can get you out of Dodge, quickly and easily. Add a car and hotel online, and you’re off. Who knows? Maybe the characters for your next novel are waiting at the very next stop.

For more stories like this, visit http://www.GrammarGods.com

The above text was found at http://www.forthewriter.com