I’m a contracted author!

I’m so very excited to announce that I just signed my first writing contract! It’s for BEER AND GROPING IN LAS VEGAS, a 13K word novelette, due out in January 2013 by Secret Cravings Publishing!

I actually had two contract offers on the piece and opted to go with Secret Cravings, which I’m very excited to be a part of this established e-publisher.

I have to admit, I got choked up when I received Secret’s contract. I felt like all my hard work (and obsession with writing) had finally paid off, that it was a reality, that I hadn’t been fooling myself that I could do this.

This Sunday, for Six Sentence Sunday, I’ll post the opening six sentences to give you a taste :)

Here was my query, which I’ll use as my jumping point for my blurb:

Riley McGregor is a geek trapped in a Good Ole Boy body and as owner of a microbrewery, he’s just not meeting his type. Smart chicks never look at him twice. He’d like to find someone who appreciates him for who he truly is.

Rejected by a geek who wanted to “trade up,” Mirjam Linna has lost herself in her work as a computer programmer. When a djinn and a magic slot machine bring these two together for a blind date, Mirjam wants nothing to do with it. However, her sister threatens more drastic measures if she doesn’t take advantage of the offer. Mirjam agrees to dinner, but after that, she’ll say thanks, but no thanks, and see what’s on late night on the SyFy channel. But when they meet, they are surprised to find they had a shared connection in their past. Sparks fly as these two learn to be in the moment, be themselves and find love.

BEER AND GROPING IN LAS VEGAS is a romantic comedy with paranormal elements, complete at 13,400 words. Fans of Star Trek, Star Wars, Monty Python, Firefly and Marvin the Martian will enjoy this romance.

Obviously, I’m super excited for a number of reasons. One of them, oddly, is that I’m looking forward to the process: working with Secret Cravings on the cover, working with their editor to polish this puppy up, etc.!

I also want to thank my Beta readers who helped me get my submission to a place I felt confident sending it out. Thank you so much!

Anyway, just had to share :)

What about you? If you’re contracted, do you remember that first moment when someone actually said “yes”?

My Fast Draft Experience

Humorous Pictures

Whoa! Hello World! I feel like I’m waking from a two-week stupor. Monday, May 14 I started Candace Havens’ Fast Drafting class where we committed to a certain number of pages for a 2-week period, the goal being to finish your first rough draft as fast as possible. If you need convincing on the soundness of this method,  hear this confession from a former scoffer and why she now embraces fastdrafting.

I found out about it a couple of days before the start date and thought “No Way”. I waffled, I felt nervous about signing up, I had the same feeling I had before I agreed to do NaNoWriMo the first time: that the word count goals would be impossible to do. Trepidation, in other words. All day that Friday, the signup link kept taunting me, and finally I scolded myself. I realized that I should sign up precisely because it scared the heck out of me. I’d found out by doing NaNoWriMo that writing 50,000 words in 30 days was totally doable. What if it was totally doable to do it in half the time and I was just too chicken to find out? I’d also realized that I had begun to find excuses not to start my new novel idea STEAM ME UP, RAWLEY a steampunk romance set in 1890 Mobile, Alabama. So I signed up.

And I did it!

Last night at 9:22 I typed THE END and had written 56,267 words in 14 days!

It feels rather weird, and frankly surreal at this point, especially as I wasn’t allowed to read any previous days’ writing. It just happened so fast. And more so than the other times I’ve finished a first draft, I feel like I have this shiny new baby that popped out of me all of a sudden and I’m wide-eyed with amazement and want to show others–Look! That came out of me in 14 days!….

How I did it

I’m not the only one who did this either, there were many in our class hitting their goals of 15 or 20 pages a day (mine was 15 a day, but there were days I did more and yesterday I did 31!). I thought I’d share my experience in case any of you would find it helpful.

  1. I already had a rough plan of how the story would unfold. This was the first time I’d tried to write a synopsis and work out plot points ahead of time. I’d done this work the previous month, so it was all ready and waiting for me when I started this. I used Scrivener and already had scene cards made for a lot of scenes. When I ran out of steam in one scene, I just clicked to the next and started writing it and didn’t worry about transitions or anything. That can be fixed in revision
  2. As Candace advised, tell your Internal Editor to take a hike. I’d struggled with this already in NaNo and had learned how to do this, but it was hard in the beginning to get back in that groove coming off of a year-plus of just revising. I had to tell myself as I typed: “Yep, just used a cliché.” “Yep, that’s a bit of telling” “Yep, not the best way to describe that” “Yep, I just named an emotion instead of describing it viscerally” and kept typing. I looked on all these as placeholders that I’ll tackle and rework in revisions. That I was just getting the basics down and the pretty will come later. No one will see this draft, I also had to keep telling myself. I gave myself permission to write crappy.
  3. If I didn’t know something and couldn’t find the answer in two minutes of Google-Fu, I just typed in brackets things  like [look up how they did this] or [describe this better] or even used _____ for place names or names of things I didn’t know yet, and kept typing. I also used the Document Notes in Scrivener for each scene and typed out things I’d need to look up in revision for that scene. I also kept forgetting about her pet monkey and found myself typing “Forgot about Loki in this scene again! Fix”
  4. #1k1hr — Seriously this hashtag on Twitter I owe a serious debt to. I made many new friends that way too. I think almost every hour I wrote I used this tag. It really helped me focus and cut down a ton on my compulsion to check out what’s happening on the web. I knew that when that hour was up, I had to say my word count, and I really wanted it to be over 1000 so it made me push. One time I wrote 1858 words in one hour, but typically I averaged around 1200-1500. So what I found out was that I could knock out my page goal in three hours.
  5. I woke up 1/2 hour earlier to get in more writing time before work. I already had 2 hours and 15 minutes set aside for this before, now I had 2 hours and 45 minutes. Depending on how fast things were flowing, I could get between 8 to 14 pages done before I even went to work! Usually it was around 10 pages, which was so nice to be able to know that when I came home, all I needed was one hour to wrap up my daily goal.
  6. I think Candace’s idea to focus on pages instead of words is a solid one, psychologically. I remember agonizing some days during NaNo to squeeze out the requisite 1667 daily word goal because that seemed large somehow and so mentally I’d made it large and would think, okay just got another 50 words down. Now, since it’s by page, it just seems more attainable and it becomes so. Now you’re thinking, okay just one more page and ding another 250 words has been written.
  7. I worked in chunks of time, which built up my page count over the course of the day. Whether it was 15, 30, 45 or 60 minutes, I’d set my wordcount tracker in Scrivener and type. For 1 hour, I had it set to 1000, which totally seemed attainable and usually was. I had no idea how many pages I’d written until I went to “Compile” at the end of my session and counted. That’s how I knew where I stood going into work, i.e. that I only had 5 pages to write when I got home, etc.

What I learned

  1. I learned to trust myself more. I also oddly found out that I’m a morning person (had always thought the opposite) and that I seemed more creative and inspired in the morning, go figure! (My mom probably just fainted from shock).
  2. I learned that I can’t plot my romantic story line too well ahead of time. I knew before going in that I didn’t know how it would play out. I had a solid action plot, but I didn’t know my turning points for my H/h. I just couldn’t picture it. What I had seemed too forced. So I trusted myself that it would unfold as I got to know the two characters better, and you know what? It did. They surprised me!

There’s more I’ll learn as the process continues. We get a two-day break and then we start Revision Hell, which will be like Fast Drafting, only applied to revisions. One of the rules of fast draft was to not reread what we’d already written, so I’m dying to know what I actually wrote! Kind of scared too! So I’ll write another post later to let you know how that process goes. I also want to do another when this is over about my conversion from full Pantser to a Plotser (half-way between a Plotter and a Pantser)

Anyway, there’s plot holes, there’s minimal set dressing, there’s cliches, but hey, it’s written and now I have something to mold into shape during revision, which is more than I had two weeks ago!

Have you tried Candy’s Fast Draft class? What things helped you?

Blog going into low-wattage mode

Hello, I just wanted to do a quick post to say that for the next two weeks, there won’t be my regular posts to the blog. You might have noticed there was no Monday Hunk Who Reads post today.

I joined Candace Havens Fast Draft class at the last minute as a kick in the pants to get my new steampunk romance, STEAM ME UP, RAWLEY, rolling. She’d like us to output 20 pages a day for 2 weeks, which is about 70,000 words! More hardcore than NaNoWriMo! However, we are allowed to set our own goals, and mine will be 15 pages a day. Today was the first day, and I did 3559 words which came out to 16 1/2 pages!

So, until this is over, the only regular blog post I will be doing is Six Sentence Sunday.

If you’d like to do word sprints with me in the morning or evenings, look for me on twitter. I’ll be using the hashtag #1k1hr and #fastdraft.

See ya on the flip side (or on Sundays)…

What’s Been Up Lately With Me

I don’t do these often, but I thought I’d post about what’s going on.

I WENT PRO!

Oddly enough, Romance Writer’s of America (RWA) allows you to join their PRO ranks if you get a rejection! You have to prove that you are in the querying stage and also send them a copy of your complete manuscript. No extra charge, but now I have a groovy pin, am in a PRO listserv with others in the same stages, special tracks at the RWA conference this summer, and a shot at agent pitch timeslots before the general membership! So if you’re in RWA and qualify for PRO, take the small steps necessary and go pro!

AM NOW AN OFFICER IN OUR LOCAL WRITER’S GROUP

Last Thursday, I was honored to be elected the Vice President of the Mobile Writer’s Guild! I’m super excited to be a part of this dynamic and creative group and look forward to another year with everyone.

MUST LOVE BREECHES

Still playing the waiting game here with agents. This is really teaching me patience, which is a good thing. I stopped querying agents when I reached 18, just so I could get the feedback from this round. Based on the number of positive responses to my query, I’m having a 33% success rate. If I hear back from the rest all in the negative, the worst my query will have will be a 17% success rate. I’m told this is really good, so I know my query is solid enough. Right now I have  two partials and two fulls out. Why aren’t I sending out to more agents if my query is solid? I don’t want to blow through them all if my submission isn’t the strongest it could be. So that I could dovetail agent responses with ammo for making it better, I put out a call for a new round of Beta readers, and I got so many awesome replies! Especially from the #sixsunday crowd. Thank you! Those are starting to trickle in and I think the space I’ve taken away from the manuscript, coupled with their feedback, and hopefully agent feedback, will help me make it better.

Since I can be obsessive about things, I needed to step away from sending more queries. So, I started brainstorming for a new novel, which led to…

STEAM ME UP, RAWLEY

This will be a steampunk set in 1890 Mobile, Alabama. I’ve tried to be a reformed pantser with this one and pulled out my storyboard and brainstormed sticky notes, etc. I even wrote a 14 page summary. But I think I’ve learned, especially for the romantic throughline, that I need to pants parts of it. I really liked coming up with my opening and closing images ahead of time, and my theme, which should help me write a tighter first draft, but there’s just some things that don’t happen for me until I’m in scene and writing. I just learned a new term from an online RWA class this week–plantzer–and maybe that’s what I’ll end up being! Here’s my mini character bios for this story:

A fledgling reporter in 1890 Mobile, Alabama, adrenaline junkie ADELE DE LA POINTE must get the new job at the paper or her father will force her to marry his new business partner. Determined to remain independent and free to enjoy all life has to offer, Adele pounces on the Jack the Ripper-style murders plaguing her city as just the story she needs to get the job.

Fresh from London, immigrating to America is about the most daring exploit DR. PHILLIP RAWLEY has ever done, thank you very much. He wishes to settle quietly in his adopted town and marry a sweet, supportive wife. His employer’s beautiful and impulsive daughter does not fit that image. She works. She’s wild. She has an armored pet monkey running errands for her.

BEER AND GROPING IN LAS VEGAS

While brainstorming STEAM ME UP, RAWLEY, I came up with a title for another story, BEER AND GROPING IN LAS VEGAS. This is the first time I’ve thought of a title before the story, and it was a fun way to start one. I’d been wanting to try my hand at writing short stories on spec for specific lines at epubs, and so a couple of days later my brain finally caught up and put that idea and the title idea together. The title provided some character and setting ideas, and I sat down Friday a week ago and started writing. Boy it felt so good to be writing something new! I started out with just an idea of the characters and their premise and by Sunday I’d written 7K words. I finished it by Tuesday and have been polishing it since. It’s now over 10K and I had a lot of fun with it. It’s about a guy who owns a microbrewery and is a bit of a geek trapped in a Good Ole Boy’s body. He longs to meet a smart chick, but in his line of work, and given his outward appearance, they don’t give him a second look. Will computer nerd Mirjam be the woman of his dreams?

I’m looking for Beta readers for this too, if anyone’s interested. I think it would be considered erotic romance, just because of the amount of sex in a short story and that’s how they find each other, but there’s no BDSM.

AUTHORSALON

Forgot to add this when I first hit publish. I’m still participating in the hard-core website www.authorsalon.com. The process is pretty rigorous, but I believe it’s worth it. Weekly I get emails announcing different agencies that want submissions from profiles that made it into their Showcase. I’ve received feedback from all my peers and just need to finish one more peer review, and then I’m going to make tweaks to my profile and call for a vote for advancement.

I highly encourage all authors serious about their writing to join this site!

How about you? What are you up to? Consider this an open thread to share the latest in your writing world. If you’re interested in Beta reading either of my new WIPs, just let me know. I will return the favor!

Yay, MLB is a finalist in the SARA Merritt contest!

For those that are already published, this would be no big deal, but this is my first foray into the writing world and so I’m super excited!

Just got the email today that informed me that MUST LOVE BREECHES is a finalist (one of three) for the San Antonio Romance Writer’s Merritt Contest in the paranormal category. I got super-great feedback from the judges, and the cool thing about this contest is that I can take that feedback and resubmit my entry before the final round judging starts. This contest judged the first 25 pages and a 5 page synopsis.

Judge #1 said:

Lovely story, refreshing take on the time travel. I loved that Isabelle will stay ‘modern’ and have to learn to incorporate into her new time. And that Phineas is a flawed and ostracized hero – always a promising situation :)

Another said:

The intrigue [the hero] brings to the table is impossible to resist. He remains a mystery even when we’re in his head, which gives him a surprising amount of depth that I wasn’t expecting. His past is well fleshed out, his goals are commendable, and it’s hard not to dig a guy who can light a woman just by kissing her knuckles.

Isabel is a character that is likable and relatable. Her sense of humor wins me over just as much as her flaws and lack of self-confidence. As a reader, I look forward to seeing her grow into the kind of woman who goes after what she wants and knows what she doesn’t.

There are really two conflicts taking place in this story. First is Isabelle discovering what she really wants, and then there is Lord [Montagu] getting what he wants. Both goals intermingle with each other, while still developing on their own terms. That makes this novel uniquely fascinating. I’m not just watching one really fleshed-out story unfold, I’m watching two.

In other contest news:

In March, I entered the first 250 words in Miss Snark’s First Victim Secret Agent contest. Out of 50, I was one of two chosen by the secret agent.

Thank you

for letting me indulge in celebrating! This business can give you some really hard knocks (hello, rejections!) and so I’m all for getting excited when I get good news :)

Exciting News! I finaled in the Marlene Contest! (and a conference update)

I’ve been aggressively entering RWA Chapter contests since December, and so far I’ve gotten results back from two. The first one I got pretty dang close (by a few points), but just this Friday, as I’m checking into my hotel in New Orleans and calming myself to pitch to my first agent in a little over an hour, I checked my phone. There, to my surprise, I saw an email that gave me the confidence boost I needed to go into the pitches (of course I forgot in my nervous state to MENTION this to the agents, but it’s all good).

The email was from the Washington, D.C. Romance Writers chapter of RWA to tell me I’d finaled (meaning one of the top 3) in the paranormal category for MUST LOVE BREECHES!! I’m so excited about this (can you tell?) It’s also a validation for me on my new opening– I’d completely scrapped it and been reworking it and so the Marlene contest is the first contest result with the new opening. The previous contest had the old opening, and I think there’s still one contest out there with the old one…

What happens next? My submission goes on to a judge in the publishing industry, who will then rank the submissions. The first place winner will get a free critique from author Kristen Painter!

FF&P Conference Update

This past weekend I attended my first writer’s conference and had a blast. Fellow conference goers told me, though, that the bar has been set high for me now, as others are generally not as good. It was a small conference, but I really liked that aspect, and others did too, It had a very intimate feel since you started recognizing faces pretty quickly and I met some really cool fellow writers. The panels were also very informative.

I ended up pitching to four agents, not three, and I’m happy to say that all four requested pages! Thank you guys for your help last week in getting that nailed down! I’m trying, though, to keep my expectations realistic — I’ve jumped another hurdle, but I still have many more in front of me. I plan to get those submitted by this weekend, and then I’m going to fry my brain playing an RPG computer game for about a week as a way to celebrate and detox (it’s been over a year!!) and then I’m going to start on a new WIP!

Thank you!

I’ve been very fortunate to have friends, family, critique partners and blog visitors who’ve helped me so much and I want to thank you for your support and constructive feedback, which has helped me grow tremendously as a writer! Thank you!

Polishing my Pitch for the FF&P Fantasy on the Bayou Conference this weekend

funny pictures-RAWR! Iz I doin it rite? RAWWWR!!!I’ve had a nervous stomach since last Wednesday when I realized this conference was only a little over a week away. Now it’s only a couple of days. Eeep!

Been hitting the Chamomile Tea pretty hard to calm the ole stomach….

Reason I’m nervous? Not only is it my first writer’s conference, but I’ll be pitching to three agents. Never done it before. For the non-writers who might be reading this, I basically have about 8 minutes to verbally infuse that agent with a hot, burning need to read my manuscript. Can I say ‘Eeep’ again?

They say you should memorize about 3 to 4 sentences to pitch and that the agent will ask questions. Is that about right?

So I thought I’d indulge myself by running several by y’all. They say it also needs to sound conversational… So here it goes, FWIW:

A) MUST LOVE BREECHES is a completed 98,000 word time-travel romance. When a thoroughly modern American girl finds herself stranded in 1834 London, she must find a way home while navigating the pitfalls of London society, resisting her attraction to a hunky lord, and ultimately having to decide when her true home lies. 

or:

B) MUST LOVE BREECHES is a completed 98,000 word time-travel romance. It’s about a quirky modern American who has finally met the man of her dreams. There’s only one problem–he lives in 1834. She has sworn off ever doing the follow-the-boyfriend move again. But when she’s accidentally transported to 1834 London, she has a hard time resisting the hunky lord known as the Vicious Viscount. She wants to find the silver case that transported her through time so she can return to her carefully crafted life in the present, but when he asks her to pose as his fiancée for his own scheme of revenge, she ultimately has to decide when her true home lies. One of the fun things about it, besides the yummy hero, is that she is befriended by Ada Byron, Lord Byron’s daughter, and meets Charles Babbage, the inventor of the Difference Engine. I’ve tried for a light, humorous touch, while also exploring aspects of 1830s London that’s not typical: the scientific.

I know mentioning other characters in a pitch is usually bad, but the thing is, Ada Byron Lovelace is a major secondary character. She is one of the “high concept” things about the book. Whenever I mention she’s in it to someone who asks me what my book is about, they perk up with that bit. Also, it’s timely–Steve Job’s biographer’s next subject will be her. Folks into steampunk love Lovelace and Babbage.

I’ve tried to get my goal, motivation and conflict in each, my theme, and (B) also includes the Act One turning point.

I see (A) as my elevator/cocktail bar pitch and (B) as my actual pitch? Will I have enough time for B?

Some resources I found, if you’re faced with doing a verbal pitch session soon:

I’ve done my research on the agents, now I just need to nail down my pitch and memorize it. I’m also going into it with the attitude that the agent will know I’m nervous, it’s to be expected. Hopefully that will make me less nervous. I’m going to go in positive…

How about you? Do you have any advice? Are you going to the conference? Do you have any funny pitch stories to share?

Insecure Writer’s Support Group – I’ve caught the new writer malaise

It’s time for another edition of The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh. On the first Wednesday of each month, writers participate in this blog hop sharing their doubts and concerns and receive support from other participating writers. This is my first official post, since last month I wrote my first insecure-ish post and it happened to fall on the 1st Wednesday of January and so I hopped onto the back of the caboose.

I’m not plagued with a specific doubt or insecurity this month, but with an overall doubt or worry: how best to proceed from here as a new writer.

Maybe I’ll number them:

  1. I still hear the siren call of self-pubbing and I wonder if I’m dooming myself by going the traditional route. It’s scary to commit to a potentially three-year long arc to publication when the industry is changing so rapidly.
  2. I’m also intrigued by going indie – I already have one offer for a contract with an independent e-pub and I sometimes wonder if I should try that route.
  3. My dream is to go traditional, but I worry my novel isn’t good enough.
  4. Which pushes me to keep learning and learning my craft and revising and revising and revising. I really do need to be firm though and set a limit on the number of drafts because I worry I might be using this as an excuse to delay putting myself out there. For those that already think this (I’ve had some tell me this), I really do need to do one more draft to incorporate the last of my Beta readers’ input.
  5. I’m still insecure about letting the rest of my real-life friends know (some already do) that I’m writing a Romance. It’s such a misunderstood genre. I think once I have a contract, I’ll put on my Big Girl Panties and deal.
  6. I’m sure like all writers, I worry my characterizations aren’t deep enough and that my plot isn’t strong enough, which also leads to #4.
  7. And, of course, I worry I don’t have a strong enough logline, query, summary and pitch. I have one month to get those nailed down and my draft completed since I plan to go to the FF&P Conference the first weekend in March.

Whew! I think that’s enough, no?

What about you? What worries or doubts plague you right now? Any advice for me or other new writers?

Want your theme? Your subconscious will eventually grab you by your short and curlies

To her surprise,  Bella finds the foot she'd misplaced two years ago. I’m knee-deep in my fourth draft when lo and behold, out pops my theme. It was freaking amazing how it felt, too, so I scribbled it down and realized that I already had so many elements in place it was a wonder I hadn’t gotten whiplash from it hitting me in the face before.

Are you a pantser like me still struggling with finding your theme during revision? I’ll share what I did that made it so glaringly obvious.

Lots of craft books on theme always say not to force it, that it will just come to you, and after a year and three drafts when it hadn’t, I had started reading that advice and saying, “Yeah, right. Pfft.” Finally, I settled for something like “love conquers time,” but it just didn’t ring my bells.

Meanwhile, I’ve been entering some RWA (Romance Writer’s of America) Chapter contests (three to date) and one of them required a synopsis. Gasp! I knew I had to do one of these dreaded things eventually so I sat down and read up on best practices, did some brainstorming exercises to help boil the plot down to its essentials and hammered one out, sat on it, researched some more, revised it, brainstormed, posted it for review, etc.

It was during one of those moments when I was looking at the macro structure of my story that I realized my theme. And then I made bullet points of every single way that theme was a part of my story already, and I was bowled over. I swear, it was like I’d planned it the whole time! The craft books were right!

One of the craft books I’m working with right now is Writing Love: Screenwriting Tricks for Authors II by Alexandra Sokoloff and among other tips, she’d advised making a list of thematic words that will convey what the story is about so that you can start assembling a visual library in your mind as well as vocabulary you want to incorporate. So I did that and went back to my revisions and it really helped tighten my first chapter. Who knows if anyone will really get that I chose the visuals and setting specifically as subtext for my theme, but it’s now there and it feels great. It will also help me make final decisions on some backstory and as well as see that certain paragraphs aren’t really necessary – they’re now just clutter. I’m also keeping the theme and my word list handy as I work through my fourth draft to see if there are ways for me to strengthen my scenes and prose.

It’s also helped me to strengthen my logline/pitch, and when I get closer to the query stage, I’ll be sure to have it in there.

One thing I want to make certain I don’t do, is hit the reader over the head with it though. I feel it should be something that’s just lying there under the surface, helping to buoy them along as they read.

How about you? Plotters, is this another instance where you’re shaking your head at us poor pantsers? Pantsers, have you also struggled with your theme and how did it come to you? How do you ensure you haven’t been too obvious with it? Readers, do you like trying to find the theme?

On writing: Is my zipper down or do you just not like my pants?

We’ve all gotten those critiques or reviews of our work where the reader has a lot of things to say of the not-good variety. As writers, we have to learn to grow a thick skin. At least, that’s what they always say. But I think that analogy is a little off as it implies being impervious, which is not exactly what we want to be. Yes, we need to learn to be tough and withstand criticism, but we also need to be able to absorb and learn from others.

During the critique and beta phases of our WIPs, we have to learn to tell the difference between helpful advice and just plain bad advice. This isn’t always easy. I touched upon a way to look at critiques in the fall, but being a new writer I’m still learning and have come upon a new fear. (Yippee! Not.) And that is…

Is my zipper down or do you just not like my pants?

I’ve been getting extremely helpful critiques from critters at critiquecircle.com as well as by fellow writers I know or have met online (Yay Twitter!) and I’ve learned a lot in the process. My writing is stronger because of it. I still have metric tons more to learn. Sometimes I’ve received critiques I haven’t agreed with, or they were trying to stamp out my voice and insert theirs, or I could just tell they didn’t like romances. These were easy to see. I’ve also had helpful feedback where mistakes and lapses were pinpointed, weak spots highlighted, or being told outright that a scene wasn’t working and why. This was gold to me. I would rather hear this kind of stuff and grow as a writer, than be patted on the head with a “that’s nice, dear” and live in blissful ignorance that my writing sucks.

Recently, however, I’ve been the recipient of a new kind of feedback (which I’m sure you veterans are familiar with) which has made the evaluation process tougher. This critiquer pretty much had something snarky to say about each scene, belittling plot choices I’d made, etc. You might say that I should dismiss this person as they obviously don’t know how to give constructive feedback. But what if he/she’s right, or that hidden amongst it are good gems I just can’t see past the snark factor?

Could it be my zipper’s been down this whole time and everyone else has been too polite to tell me?

The problem with the delivery of this person’s feedback is that it makes it very hard to look beyond it and see if any of it is valid. Or to understand that they just don’t like my voice and genre (which I’m fine with).

I love critiquecircle.com, but one of its drawbacks is that it’s mainly done chapter by chapter with inline comments. To continue with my metaphor, everyone’s helped me make sure the stitching is straight, my pockets look good, cuffs are the right length, etc. (Thank you guys!!!) It’s not ideal, though, for stepping back and evaluating the whole and noticing that my goddamn zipper’s been catching air this whole time. The whole forest for the trees thing… I think that’s why the recent critter worries me, because she might be seeing things everyone’s missed. The other problem is that I’m a new writer and haven’t yet learned how to evaluate this.

It could be a confidence thing. Heck, I’m sure it is. But I think it’s also because I ache to improve my writing and I really, really don’t want to be missing an opportunity to learn. But I haven’t developed the skill yet to tell if this person just doesn’t like my genre and style. Since I don’t know this critter, which would help in the evaluation department, I’ve reached out to a writer I trust to read my fourth draft (which I hope to have soon) and let me know if my zipper is down.

How about you? Have you had a rough/snarky critique that ran in complete contrast to all other critiques? Did you also have a hard time putting that one critique in perspective?

EDIT: Coincidence time! Just saw from another blogger I follow that the first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day blog hop. So, I just entered my name into the ranks and making this my first post. Visit some others today and help boost morale.