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Posts Tagged ‘criticism’

I love my mother. She’s one of my biggest cheerleaders (and marketers! :D) and a very good proofreader. She loves just about everything I write, which makes storytelling fun because I know someone will enjoy it. She’s also pretty good at giving me honest feed back, but let’s face it… she’s my mother. Of course she’s going to like what I write. She’s great for my ego, but not necessarily a good measuring tool when it comes to my WIPs being something anyone else would want to read.

On the other hand, my husband, who has read everything from the latest Star Wars series to Les Miserables by Victor Hugo to The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson, has usually been ho hum about my stories. What I write isn’t what he’s interested in, though he’s kind enough to read it if I ask. I know the best I’m likely to get is a “surprisingly not bad,” which is basically the same as “don’t call us we’ll call you.”

Imagine my surprise when I let him read some of my unfinished, unedited WIP and he begged for the as-yet-unwritten next chapter. To me, that means I’ve got something worth pursuing.

When we look for beta readers, we often go after those who read our genre and ignore everyone else. However, by doing that we miss a fantastic way to measure our product’s appeal to a larger audience.

Sure, most of the time the response will be “surprisingly not bad” (unless the person doesn’t care about your feelings, then it might be a more… honest… response), but there is always the possibility that person will love what we’ve written. It certainly doesn’t hurt to ask and even if they don’t enjoy the work, they may point out problems that could turn off readers we are targeting.

Knowing I have at least two people impatiently waiting for me to finish my current WIP makes me want to work harder because where there’s two there’s bound to be more.

What are some of your experiences with beta readers?

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As I work my way through Darren Rowse’s 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, I decided to take on his earlier challenge to write a post with seven links. Since this post was originally going to be about critiquing or editing, I went with seven links on that subject. Without further ado, here they are:

  1. Critters Makes for Better WritingDon’t let the title fool you. It’s not about household pets. This post about finding someone to give you honest feedback on your fiction.

  2. Sandwich Critiquing this is perhaps my favorite post, giving you a helpful technique to use when you are asked to critique someone else’s not-so-perfect manuscript.

  3. Editing With or Without a Budgetmore helpful tips on how to use money to learn how to edit

  4. Blogosphere Trends + Handling High Word Counts this is a great guest post on Problogger by Kimberly Turner on how to trim the fat in your writing.

  5. When Editing & Critiquing, Check Your Personal Opinions At The Door the title says it all. A great post by April Hamilton of Indie Author.

  6. POD People Scares Me I love this title, but that’s not the only reason I chose it. Find out why editing is possibly the most important thing you can do before sending your manuscript to the publisher or POD (print-on-demand) company.

  7. The Art of Critiquing receiving criticism is difficult, especially when the person giving it doesn’t give you helpful details you can actually use to improve your work. This post will get you thinking of specifics to address when giving criticism to someone else.

Editing your work, giving and receiving criticism, it’s all part of the process. Knowing how to do it makes it all the easier to move on down The Road to Writing.

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You’ve been asked to read a friend’s manuscript. After dutifully plowing through 100 pages of less-than-perfect, sometimes entertaining, but often difficult to understand prose you’re left with one question: how do you tell your friend her manuscript needs a lot of work?

Unless you really don’t care about hurting your friend’s feelings and possibly losing a friend, this can be a very tricky situation. I know several writers who refuse to read other people’s unpublished works for just that reason. Yet, it seems crueler to me to let a friend send an unpolished manuscript out knowing you could have helped.

Enter the sandwich method. I don’t know who first came up with the idea, but I say, “God bless ’em,” because it makes giving (and receiving) constructive criticism a lot easier on the old ego. Simply put, the sandwich method gives the criticism “sandwiched” between bits of praise.

I can hear my husband saying, “So I can say ‘I like your hair. Your characters stink, but those jeans are really slimming on you.'”

Uh, no. The praise has to come from something in the manuscript.

“But, Virginia,” you may be whining, “it’s nothing but sentimental drivel and inane cliches!”

That may be; however, as Brenda Ueland says in If You Want to Write, even in the worst writing there is something of value. You may have to look hard, but it is there.

As for the actual criticism, it’s always best to be specific. Telling someone their story didn’t hold your attention doesn’t cut it. Why didn’t it “hold your attention?” Was there too much description? Were the characters two-dimensional and uninteresting? Perhaps the sentences were too long and rambling. Be specific.

Last of all, be sure to end with some more praise. I like to point out something good in the work I didn’t mention before. Sometimes all you can do, though, is reiterate the praise (using different words, of course) that you already gave. Either way, I tell the manuscript’s author that it has potential because I honestly believe everything has potential. Some things just need a lot (and I’m talking about a whole overhaul) of work.

It’s the process of growing one’s work from potential to published through the use of helpful constructive criticism that makes it worthwhile to travel The Road to Writing.

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