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Archive for February, 2010

It’s come to my attention that there are a lot of us who don’t have a clue how to honestly critique. We can tell you we like your story (or hate it), but we leave out the most important part — the why.

Critiquing isn’t just about misspellings and bad punctuation. It’s about understandability, what makes a story something you just can’t put down. Or, as Kelly Hart put it in her post Critiquing, “[I]t is about trying to help the story creator reach the full potential for that story.” She goes on to remind us that each story is the writer’s “baby” and “[f]or this reason you should try to be as diplomatic as possible, nobody likes to be told bad things about their baby.” (And I can say that’s true from both the mother’s and writer’s POV)

One way to bone up on the hows of critiquing is to just do it. Receiving critiques and critiquing others’ works makes a writer a better writer because  it “improves your own editing eye,” according to blogger Penny in her post
The Art of Critiquing, Pt. 1. I have to agree with that. As I’ve read and edited others’ works, I’ve noticed problems in my own writing.

Of course, getting critiques (honest ones, especially) can be difficult. I’ve mentioned Critters as a place to find other authors willing to give good criticism, but I recently read about another called Absolute Write. After reading the Newbie section I think it sounds like a great place, so long as you can handle a little heat. Apparently there have been some, as the moderator put it, knock-down-drag-out arguments on things as silly as the appropriate use of serial commas.

Of course, my suggestion before putting your work out there for criticism, is to edit it at least once yourself. Track down as many of those niggly little misspellings and punctuation errors as you can. And don’t forget about grammar. While in some cases grammar rules can be bent, it’s best not to break them without at least knowing them. For that I would recommend a fantastic little book called Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.

Regardless of where you find your critics (or where they find you ;)) try to keep in mind what you need to improve your writing, then reach out to your fellow traveler to give the same in return on The Road to Writing.

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Okay, so I maybe putting the cart before the horse, but I believe in getting a head start when I can. I’m only about half finished with my second book (first draft!) and I’ve been considering cover art. Why? Because you only get about 8 seconds to entice a prospective reader to take the time to read the blurb about what’s inside the cover.

Well, as this post’s title indicates, I’m not an artist. (I can draw a mean stick figure, but that’s about as far as it gets. :D) I did design the cover for my first book using a photo from the drive-thru window of the Northwest Missouri Regional Credit Union where I work and Photoshop to create a rainbow. I also designed the text for the cover. However, being as it was a Bible study I felt the artwork was appropriate in its simplicity. With this second book being a fantasy, though, I thought maybe I should see if I could hire a real artist to design the cover.

I went to Lulu.com first because they “supposedly” have professionals who do cover designs. Here’s my problem: each Lulu sponsored designer stated that they would design my cover for a fee, but I would have to submit all the images I wanted to be incorporated in the cover. Huh? I have to give you the images? Isn’t that your job? That’s the whole reason I’m looking for a designer. I can’t draw to save my life (and forget asking my artist brother because cover art “ain’t his thing” :P) and I want a really great professional cover.

I’m still looking for a good artist with reasonable fees, but in the meantime I’m trying to find ways to use my Photoshop and the skills I learned at Rush Printing as a desktop publisher to create a cover I can be proud of. I guess you could say I’m looking for the shallows in want of a bridge on The Road to Writing.

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