Critiques — The Good and the Bad

When last I wrote hereabouts, I shared my Five Stages of Grief (Critique Edition). (Remember that? That was before we started fantasizing about retreats and vacations and all 🙂 ) As a professional writer, frequent critique partner, and sometimes hired editor, I wanted to share my method for delivering critiques.

Let’s face it. No matter what we do, criticism is going to sting. Our recipients might have pulled up their big girl/boy pants, smiled bravely, and encouraged us to be brutal in our analysis of their work. But we’re still, on some level, saying, “Your baby is ugly.”

That’s why I use a three-part strategy.

(An aside on process — I use Track Changes to mark specific grammar changes in the manuscript and to make comments as I read. I also write a cover letter that ranges from 1-5 pages, summarizing my overall reactions. The following comments focus on the […]

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Five Stages of Grief (Critique Edition)

Most authors do it: share our draft work with people, hoping to learn what we can do better. Sometimes, we participate in critique groups. Sometimes, we have “first readers.” Or “beta readers.” Or “critique partners.” Whatever we call it the process is the same: Writer plunges in a knife, exposing her heart and all other vital bodily organs. Critic(s) deliver(s) body blow after body blow after body blow, tearing apart the work in question.

Oh. Maybe that’s just the way I see things.

When I first started writing seriously, I joined up with an online writers workshop, exchanging my work with fellow participants and collecting criticism through email. That was the perfect medium for me — I could go through all five stages of grief in the privacy of my own home.

What? You don’t apply the five stages of grief to critiques? The five stages were originally defined by […]

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Your Critique of My Work Revisited

Early in February of this year, I posted to the MW site the opening paragraphs from my WIP, City of Shades, which will be the third Thieftaker book. (It should be out in the summer of 2014; Thieves’ Quarry, the second book in the sequence, will be out on July 2 of this year, as will the paperback edition of Thieftaker. Just sayin’.)

Today, I want to revisit that passage and show you the revised version. First, here is the original:

Ethan Kaille knew that he had been followed. Even as he pursued Peter Salter, who had stolen a pair of ivory-handled dueling pistols from a wealthy attorney in the South End, he himself was pursued. Like a fox running before hounds, he could almost feel Sephira Pryce’s toughs bearing down on him, snarling like curs, determined to take what he had claimed for himself.

Salter had led him […]

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Dealing with the Negative

This might take a while. It’s a recurrent theme here at MW but not one we’ve addressed much recently so I thought I’d come at it from a slightly different perspective.

Different conversations with friends over the last few days got me thinking about the various forms of crap that gets thrown at writers. Some instances:

bitter, hostile or otherwise unhelpful beta readers/critique partners

snide remarks from friends and colleagues about your literary “hobby” (these don’t go away after you’ve hit the NY Times

Bestseller list, by the way)

rejections from agents, editors and their minions, the tone of which range from the bland to the brutal

blistering, mean-spirited unfair or ill-informed reviews of your published work everywhere from legitimate newspapers and websites

to the dreaded one star reviews on Amazon.

I’d like to say that if you just tough it out, your success […]

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On Writing and New Year’s Goals: Conquering Our Inner Demons

Happy 2012, all! Like A.J., I usually begin my year with a new set of goals and plans. I bring high hopes and great ambitions to every new year, and I was glad to have the chance to list my goals for 2012 in response to A.J.’s Friday post. Chances are, if he hadn’t written a Resolutions/Goals post, I would have.

But I have to admit that my thinking about this coming year in particular is somewhat different than it has been on New Year’s Days past. 2012 will mark the launch of the Thieftaker series and the “career” of D.B. Jackson. With the single exception of my very first year as a published author (Children of Amarid was released in May, 1997) this is the most important year of my professional life. And as this year dawns, I find myself thinking less about specific goals and more about matters […]

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It’s good, but…

Last week I was invited to speak to a group of high school writers. It was a delightful experience, because these kids were serious about what they were doing, and had some pretty mature questions for me about the business and the craft of writing. I was able to stick around long enough to listen to them read some of their own work, and it was exciting stuff. One of the most important things I told them was to grow a thick skin. You can’t be a fragile butterfly in this business, unless you want to hide in a lighthouse and write pages that you burn by the light of the full moon and then throw into the sea. Not my personal career goal, but hey… Anyway, a thick skin gives you the emotional distance to think about your work as a product (vital if you want to sell it.) […]

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