Good morning, everyone. I hope this past month has been kind to you. For all my readers in the Northeast who are still shoveling out from the blizzard, I can only say I've been there, done that, so I know what you're going through.
Today, I'd like to aim my discussion at the new writer and talk about feedback. There are several ways to achieve this, but the most common is from a critique group. If you are an aspiring author, a critique group is essential. I've had quite a few critique partners in my writing life--some good, some bad, and some downright ugly. Here are a couple of tips to look for when forming or joining a group.
First decide how many to have in the group. I've found that from four to five is a good number. You get plenty of opinions and it doesn't take forever to respond. Next, determine how often you and your fellow writers want to meet. For me once every two weeks works well. It gives you to time to make any changes your partners have suggested and for you to critique their works. Now, do you want to meet face-to-face or send your material and comments electronically? I've done both, but electronic critiquing does allow you to have out of town partners.
So, you've formed your group. The next step is to set rules. My first critique group didn't do this and as a result a couple of us were frustrated. We had one lady who never got beyond the third chapter. She continuously rewrote and sent in the same chapter session after session. Hint: Send in chapter one, get the feedback, make the changes, and then move on to chapter two. Rule number two: Try to send the entire story, chapter by chapter, to your partners. Deadlines can be an issue with this, but if you're unpublished, deadlines don't matter. Don't jump from story to story. It leaves the rest of us wondering what happened in the previous book. I actually had one partner who did this on a regular basis because she claimed she was bored with her story line and her characters. Imagine how the rest of us felt.
Critique groups are much like families--some get along beautifully, while others--well, let's just say they can be dysfunctional. This is where the bad comes in. Take a former partner of mine. She never listened to a thing the rest of us suggested, and then couldn't understand why she was rejected by editors and agents. The ugly is a whole other category. There are some people who just can't stand to see others succeed. They have very little in the line of constructive criticism. Or worse yet, can't take it. They justify every legitimate comment with telling you why they wrote it that way and how wrong you are. Jettison these people as soon as you can.
Another form of feedback is the contest. Several chapters of Romance Writers of America hold contests for both published and unpublished authors. The general format is you send in (anonymously and for a fee) either the first chapter or a specific number of pages. The first round judging is usually done by experienced writers and the judging criteria ranges from plot to characters to the mechanics of how you write. The highest scores move on to the final round where the judges are editors and agents. If you don't final, you will receive your scores and comments. It's important to listen to these comments. If one judge tells you the plot is contrived, you might be able to overlook it. But if two or three judges tell you the same thing, then it's time to rethink and rewrite.
The last way to obtain feedback is to attend conferences and pitch to the various editors and agents who attend with the sole purpose of listening to what an author has written. The usual response from a pitch is a request for the first three chapters and a synopsis. It's a foot in the door to the magical world of publishing, and sometimes feedback is included.
Just keep in mind, that rarely is the feedback from any venue personal. Most people are honest and trying to help. Listen to what they have to say. You may or may not agree with it. That's up to you. The more you write and get feedback, the better your work becomes.
Since I won't be blogging next month, I can't let the opportunity go by without a little of that blatant self-promotion. My next book, The Assassin, is due to be released on February 22, 2016 and will be available from my publisher, The Wild Rose Press and over on Amazon. Here's a brief summary and the cover.
When high-powered Memphis defense attorney, Ross Patterson, is murdered, his estranged wife, Priscilla, and his step-daughter, Hilary Watson, are two of the prime suspects. Hilary teams up with sexy private investigator, Colin Blackwood, to find the killer. Their search brings them into contact with some of Ross's sleazier, undesirable clients. The more they discover, the more they realize that Ross was less than ethical in his practice. As the suspect list grows, so does the danger. Yet through it all, Hilary and Colin find time for each other. Can they and their newfound love survive?
Thanks for reading today. Hope you all have a great February. I'll be back again in March.