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Posts Tagged ‘Critters’

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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Editing. Possibly one of the most loathed words in a writer’s vocabulary. It’s a necessary evil, but with the right tools and some help from people who understand what you’re doing you won’t need to put it under getting a root canal on your to-do list.

The first thing you need to do is to evaluate is your budget. That may seem like an odd thing to suggest, but there’s a good reason I have. If you can afford to pay a professional to help you in the editing process, then do it. They get paid because they know what they’re doing.

Once you’ve checked your budget and know what you can afford, decide who you need to hire. I recommend reading Joel Friedlander‘s post What Every Self-Publisher Ought to Know About Editing before actually hiring anyone because each part of the editing process calls for a different skill set. You want to hire the right person for the right job.

Once you know who you need it’s a matter of searching for the individual who can do the job within your budget limitations. Start with your POD or print house. They often have editing packages that easily fit into smaller budgets. If you don’t find what you need there, then ask around. Most self-published/Independent Authors will be happy to make referrals. It’s in our best interest to help other self-publishers/Independent Authors find people who will do a great job editing.

Perhaps you’ve looked at your finances and found you have a big fat ZERO in your budget for editing expenses. Let me just say, not having a budget for editing expenses does not excuse you from the process.

If you absolutely cannot afford to pay someone to edit your work, then you must be even more vigilant when you do your own first edits and re-writes. Invest in some good style and grammar books (you may find them in your local library or, better yet, second-hand on Amazon.com). I like Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing and the most recent edition of the AP Stylebook. You can also find a lot of free editing information on the internet just by doing a quick search. Just remember that searching for an answer can be time-consuming (especially if you tend to get side-tracked) and sometimes confusing.

Once you’ve done plenty of editing on your own, it’s time to submit your work to a writers’ group like Critters or Absolute Write. Be sure you choose the right forum when you submit your work or you’ll be in for some nasty returns. Keli Gwyn of Romance Writers on the Journey: Resources for romance writers en route to publication suggests in her post “How to Find Critique Partners” that writers find a critique partner in their particular genre.

Another good idea is to let plenty of people read your work before sending it to your POD or print house. I particularly like getting the insights of my non-writer friends since they make up the largest part of my readership.

Whether you have money to burn or a wallet full of moths, there is no excuse for skipping the rigors of good editing on The Road to Writing.

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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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Love it or hate it, if you’re a writer you can’t ignore it.  It’s the debate on whether being self-published is valid or not and whether we should continue to call ourselves Independent Authors or Self-published Authors.  After reading Victoria Strauss’ “Why You Are Probably Not an Independent Author (or, Another Post for Which I Expect I Will Get Some Flack)” I thought I’d chime in on the argument.

I must admit that Victoria’s idea that using the term “Independent” was: 1) inaccurate, 2) redundant, and 3) euphemistic and that we should all just call ourselves “self-published” (unless we can’t “admit that self-publishing actually does still carry a stigma“) made me rather angry.  If we put her words to work, then we can’t even call ourselves “self-published” unless we do everything, including printing each and every copy ourselves.

As MeiLin Miranda commented, “But why should people be stigmatized for trying to find their own audience? What amazes me is that literature is the last medium where the gatekeepers are still so firmly worshipped and those outside the gates so deeply despised.”  MeiLin goes on to explain that bands and comic artists aren’t stigmatized by going the independent route.  The question is, why are authors?

One person commented that “self-published” equalled poor quality writing.  I can’t argue that in a lot of cases that is true.  However, this person believes that by going the traditional route one’s writing will become better because it must get past the editor’s desk first.  I say, not so!  I’ve seen plenty of traditionally published books that make me shudder from the poor quality.  It was published because the publisher believed it would sell, not because it was well-written.  If a writer wants to improve his or her writing and still self-publish, then that writer must seek out an unbiased third-party to edit the piece.  There are groups like Critters for that.

As Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords publishing, points out, “Part of the problem here is that many traditionalists (uh oh, did I just create a new label?) have spent years maligning the term “self-published” to connote “loser author,” “failure,” “not good enough to get published in a respectable manner,” and worst of all, “vanity.””  He goes on to say about vanity that “…the word also implies conceited and excessive pride in one’s appearance. What’s more vain than an author refusing to publish their book unless its published by a big name NY publisher? Vanity cuts both ways, folks. And let’s face it, publishing is an act of vanity. It’s the author saying, “I have something I think is worth sharing with the world.” Blogging, twittering, public speaking and social networking are all forms of vanity as well.”

There were a lot more comments on both sides.  Obviously I come down on the side of keeping the term “Independent Author”, but I would like to add one more item, something another person added in the comments.  No writer should be stigmatized regardless of what path one takes.  I would like to put forth the idea that both “traditionally published” and “self-published” be abolished from our vocabulary.  Let us all just be writers on The (hard) Road to Writing.

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My husband is a big Star Wars fan.  He watches all six movies often, though there’s a couple he watches more often than the rest.  He collects the action figures (never call them toys to a “true” collector).  He rushes to the video store that sells the comic books the same day they call him to let him know his comic is in.  And everytime a new SW novel appears in print he combs the bookstores (ranting about it being released in hard back first and having to wait a year or more for its release in paper back, but that’s another story for another blog).  All of this means that when he found his favorite SW author’s web site he, of course, emailed a link to the site to me.

Usually I look at these “helpful” links others send me with half-hearted attention, but the fact that he raves about this author’s writing made me curious.  My initial reaction to Karen Traviss’ web site was, if possible, even more curiousity because the first page link she has is to something called Critters.  (My husband, being the wonderfully oblivious man he is, assumed the author was talking about her pets or some such thing.)  After looking at her other page links, which all had to do with how to be a better writer, I figured it had to have something to do with writing.

I haven’t been so surprised at being right in a long time.  It turns out that Critters is a group of writers from novice to pro who critique each others’ work.  (Hence the clever name.)  It’s a great idea.  The only catch is that all members are required to submit a minimum of one critique per week.  The good news is that there are ways to get ahead in critiquing and ways to catch up.  The benefits of having your work honestly, and tactfully, critiqued before it hits the publishers desk or you’ve already submitted it to a POD (print-on-demand) company far outweigh the commitment in time and energy spent doing a critique a week.

The best part is that you can have your complete novel critiqued as well as smaller works.  There are special provisions for entire novels and a way to get your work bumped up to the top for critique if you just don’t have the time to wait an entire month.

While it would be nice to be able to write the perfect story from the first word, a good writer knows that editing and rewriting are a must in the craft.  Having your work critiqued by others who have no reason to stroke your ego, as family and friends do, makes the process that much better (though no less painful).  Thanks to authors like Karen Traviss, who are willing to give new and emerging writers advice, and to fellow writers like those on Critters, every would-be author has a better chance at success on The Road to Writing.

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