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A Good Review is Hard to Find – Part 2

Who decides if a book is good? I’ll give you 3 guesses and the first two don’t count. I’m certain you don’t need 3 guesses. Just in case you’re exhausted, running a high fever and the walls are talking to you, or you just woke up from surgery and you’re still groggy from the anesthesia, I’ll go ahead and say it very clearly. The readers. The readers ultimately make that decision.

You can write that first book that you think is great. You can market the hell out of it. You can learn all the tricks to get that book to top ranking on Amazon and you can even use all the ways to manipulate that book to the NYT Bestseller list. In the end, if readers that love the genre(s) of your book don’t like your book, that may be the only one you ever sell.

What does any of this have to do with getting and giving critiques, reviews, and feedback?  Absolutely everything. Identifying your target audience is the first step in getting and giving critiques that have real value. These are the people whose opinions matter.

In this post on review and critiques, I am primarily referring to those performed before publication. The value I’m  speaking of is the quality of the feedback in helping you improve your craft and your book.

Once you have identified your target audience, the next step is to identify individuals within the target audience that like or write books that are similar to your book. This is the pool of people you want to recruit from for critiques and reviews. To identify these people join some reading and writing groups in that genre if you don’t already belong to some.

There are no local groups available to some writers but there are plenty of reading and writing groups available on the internet. You may want to join some internet groups even if you are in local groups. Granted, some groups are better than others and some groups require membership fees. Those fees can vary greatly. Get to know the readers and/or writers in the groups. Look at what types of books within that genre individuals in the reading groups like most. Do the same with the writers.

Most importantly don’t join the groups just for this purpose. Be an active supportive member of these groups. You could enjoy it and learn a lot in the process.

There are also beta reader groups and reviewer groups. You do want to make sure that you get reviewers that love the type of writing you want to be critiqued or reviewed. I read and love a wide range of genres but there are a couple of genres I will not review for two reasons. First, I would rather poke myself in the eye with a needle than read a book in either of those genres. Second, I know I would be doing the writer a disservice because my bias would affect my review. Also, remember writer etiquette: Get a review, give a review.

There are at least 4 points in the writing and publishing process where a writer might want to seek  reviews or critiques:

  1. After the first or maybe the second draft, when the manuscript still has typos and grammar errors but the reviewer can still follow the plot and evaluate the other important aspects of the novel. This is done before any major time is spent performing line editing. Why waste time doing line editing of sections that may be cut or in need of major re-writes?
  2. The writer, at this point, has possibly done several rewrites and the manuscript has been polished and edited.
  3. Advance reader copies (ARCs) may be sent to advance readers when the writer thinks the book is almost ready for publishing.
  4. Reviews after publication.

 

In my next posts on critiques and reviews, I will discuss each of these types of reviews and how they differ. I’ll address what the writer can do to improve their chances of getting the feedback they need. I’ll also give some tips on how reviewers can provide helpful and useful reviews at the different stages.

I mentioned marketing earlier in my post and I in no way mean to diminish the importance of marketing. Before you spend countless hours and invest money in that marketing, it’s important that you at least have feedback from your targeted audience.

 

I do not claim to be an expert on this topic. I just want to share some of the things that I have learned. If you have thoughts on this topic, please feel free to share them in the comments. I’m interested in hearing any thoughts you might want to share.

 

 

A Good Review is Hard to Find – Part 1

It’s the first Wednesday of the month and so it is once again time for the ISWG Blog Hop. I would like to thank Alex Cavanaugh and also the other members of this wonderful group for making this possible and for the support they provide. Special thanks to the co-hosts of the January 3, 2018, posting of the ISWG:  Tyrean Martinson, Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, Megan Morgan, Jennifer Lane, and Rachna Chhabria!

 

One of the most challenging steps for an insecure writer is putting your writing out there for reviews and critiques but it is also one of the best things you can do to help your growth as a writer. Conversely, giving reviews and critiques to other writers is also one of the best things you can do for your own writing skills. Giving reviews can help you develop your analytical skills and apply those skills to your own writing.

The most significant experience that helped me begin the process of overcoming the fear of putting my writing out into the world to be read, reviewed, critiqued, criticized, loved or hated was agreeing to be a beta reader for another writer. The writer was young and it was the first novel for this writer. I’m not sure if the writer was male or female so I’m just going to use the pronoun she for simplicity. She lived a half a world away but with the internet, I now know authors and writers all over the planet.

She was having trouble finding beta readers for her WIP (work in progress). I had no experience with being a beta reader at that time but I’m an avid reader, I’d written several novels, and I’d taken novel writing classes from successful authors. So, I thought, why not agree to read her book and I volunteered.  I also found several groups of beta readers and gave her the names and links to the groups. She ended up with about two dozen beta readers.

I received the manuscript and after reading the first two chapters, I wanted to jump out of a window of a very tall building for agreeing to do this. I slogged through 8 more chapters because I had made a commitment. At that point, I just gave up. I had read calculus textbooks that elicited more emotion. I tortured myself for days wondering how I was going to give her feedback on her novel without being a total jerk.

By putting myself in her shoes, trying to see the story through her eyes, and by assuming she wanted honest feedback on how to improve her work, I eventually found a method that worked in this case. I was thanked profusely for being the only beta reader that gave her useful feedback. I was told that the other beta readers that bothered to respond came back with responses like “looks good” or “sounds fine.”  Not being able to get useful and helpful reviews and critiques is an issue I’ve heard from a number of writers. I’ve decided to write a short series of posts regarding this issue.

This experience helped me to understand that I had to overcome some of my insecurities about putting my writing out there for reviews if I wanted to take another step in improving my writing.

 

Notes of interest:

Don’t forget to mark your calendar for the next IWSG Twitter Pitch Party – Thursday, January 18!
With hundreds of agents and publishers, this one will be ten times bigger than our first event.

To read blog posts from other members of The ISWG use this link because the HTML code doesn’t work on my site:

http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

 

Quotations on Books!

A Great Post I wanted to share!

charles french words reading and writing

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(https://pixabay.com)

italy-2510287_960_720

(https://pixabay.com)

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”

                                                                  Marcus Tullius Cicero

Jorge_Luis_Borges

(https://en.wikipedia.org)

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”

                                                                 Jorge Luis Borges

Stephen_King,_Comicon (1)

(https://en.wikipedia.org)

“Books are the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent. What I wonder is why everybody doesn’t carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life.”

                                   …

View original post 44 more words

WEP: The End is the Beginning

This is my first time to participate in the Write…Edit…Publish Challenge. I want to thank Denise Covey, Yolanda Renee, Nilanjana Bose, and Olga Godin for this blogging event. I decided to use a fictional Holiday/End of the year family newsletter. It takes a look back at the events of the year as it draws to a close and looks forward to what the new year might bring. I hope you find it amusing.

 

Dear Friends,

I hope this Christmas letter finds your family in good health and good cheer. The Calamity family has had a very exciting and eventful year so I wanted to share the highlights with our dearest friends.

Granny Calamity celebrated her ninety-ninth birthday back in March. We’re all so happy to have had her with us all these years. She insisted on making her own cake. You know how she can be. When Cousin Carol tried to move the cake to the table, it was so heavy that she dropped it on Grandpa’s foot. He screamed so loud that everyone came running. The cake was still in one piece but Grandpa was still screaming in pain. He picked up the cake, threw it out the back door, and accidentally hit their dog Lucky. It knocked Lucky out cold. We had to take Grandpa to the hospital and Lucky to the veterinarian. Grandpa got a cast and a walker which made him none too happy. Lucky got brain damage. He sounds like a bullfrog now when he barks and he occasionally just passes out and falls over. We think poor dear old granny might have mistaken a bag of cement for a bag of flour when she was making the cake.

Grandpa was miserable with his cast and his walker until he had an unexpected visit from old friends. Three World War II army vets showed up at the door looking for a Chester they had served with during the war. They talked about the “good old days” and about the war for hours before one of them finally decided that Grandpa was not the right Chester. They invited Grandpa to their reunion anyway before they left. As they left, I heard them arguing over the name of the man they were looking for. I think they decided his name was Charlie instead of Chester but Grandpa was happy for the day. He may have made new friends or met with old ones. We’re not sure.

After only twelve years, Cousin Stu graduated from college with an associate’s degree. He must have been well known on campus because there was quite a reaction from the audience when the Dean called his name, Clo Stu Calamity, during the ceremony. We had a family celebration afterward and Uncle Andy brought some of the wonderful apple cider that he makes himself and sells at The Kountry Store. He didn’t stay for the party because he had to work. It was the best batch of apple cider he had ever made and we all drank a lot of it. I think the party got pretty wild but none of us remembers very much about it. We all woke up on the floor the next morning with really bad headaches.

Uncle Andy came by that morning to pick up his bottles for recycling and saw everyone’s condition. He smelled one of the bottles and said the apple cider went bad. What he really meant was that somehow it had fermented and we all had gotten very drunk. The only thing wrong with us was that we all had hangovers. There is never a dull moment when the Calamity family gets together.

Uncle Andy felt so bad about messing up his apple cider that he finally retired. We later learned that there were a number of graduation celebrations that night that ended just like ours because of Uncle Andy’s apple cider. He didn’t understand why orders for his apple cider went up tenfold after that weekend. He had to keep telling people he had retired.

After retirement, he decided he wanted a pet. I went with him to the animal shelter thinking he could find a nice dog. Instead, he saw a kitten with an extra toe and chose to adopt him. He said cats with an extra toe were good luck and were smarter than most pets. He must have been right because he taught that kitten to sit, roll over, and play dead. He takes that kitten with him almost everywhere he goes. He even puts him on a leash and walks him like a dog. It is a little confusing when he takes him to Granny and Grandpa’s because he named the kitten Lucky just like Grandpa’s dog.

I saved the most exciting event of the year for last. Granny received an award from the Mayor. A couple of months ago Granny insisted on going to the bank to get some money so she could do some early Christmas shopping. She refused to go through the drive-through so we went inside. Just as we reached the front of the line, three men wearing ski masks and carrying guns ran through the door and yelled that they were robbing the bank. The teller got the money together and handed the full bag to the robbers. Right then Granny keeled over flat on the floor.

The robbers started arguing about not going down for murder. They dropped the money and ran out the door. They ran right into a group of police officers walking over to the café next to the bank. The robbers were arrested and are now in prison. An ambulance was sent for Granny but she regained consciousness just as they were about to put her on a gurney. She stood up, brushed herself off, and threatened to punch the paramedics if they touched her. The Mayor decided to give her an award for her role in stopping the robbery. I’ve enclosed a photo of the award ceremony but it’s a little blurry because my hands were shaking from the cold. Granny is the tiny red spot on the right.

All in all, it was a very good year for the Calamity family. I wonder what exciting things the new year will bring.

Happy Holidays and best wishes for the coming New Year from the entire Calamity family.

With Love,

Ima Calamity

 

copyright ©2017 L.J. Leighton All Rights Reserved

Word Count: 990 FCA

 

 

 

 

The Bear Attack

Christie, Doug, and Tammy sat in Tammy’s living room reminiscing about old times. These were Christie’s best friends. It started in High School and had lasted for almost fifteen years. Their careers had separated them by miles but Christie thought it was great when they got together. The conversation turned to their current lives.
“How’s your anxiety disorder? Has it been rough since you were attacked?” Tammy asked Christie.
Christie was shocked by Tammy abruptness in changing the topic to something so sensitive.
“It’s tough but I’ll be fine. How about your promotion?” She quickly changed the topic.
Tammy prattled on about her promotion and the interior designer she had hired.
“Look’s nice.” Christie wasn’t listening. She wondered if Tammy was different or had she always been this self-absorbed. Maybe I’m the one that changed, Christie thought. She interrupted Tammy when she finally paused long enough to take a breath between sentences and asked Doug a question.
“My job’s great but Dennis and I are starting our own business.” He went on telling them about his business plan and potential investors. When Doug started going into the esoteric details of business financing and the tax differences of different types of business models, she couldn’t listen to another word.
Christie lifted her glass. “Here’s to good friends and bright futures.”
Christie heard a loud bump coming from a back room. She jumped.

“Did you hear that?” Doug asked.

“Oh, did that scare you?” Tammy looked at Christie. “It’s probably nothing.”

There was a louder bump. Then another. They all stared at each other wide-eyed.

Christie’s mind whirled. She lowered her voice to a whisper. “Is anyone else or a pet in here?”

“No.”

The bumping continued.

Christie turned to Doug. “Do you have a pocket knife?”

He fished one out of his pocket. Instead of heading down the hall he handed it to Christie. She glared at him then flicked it open and headed down the hall herself.

“You’re going back there? What if it’s an intruder?” Tammy asked.
Doug also muttered some half-hearted protest.

“If there is an ax murderer back there, I’m not going to just sit here and wait for him to come kill us.” She turned and continued toward the back room.

Christie noticed neither of them followed her down the hall in case she needed help.
When she entered the room, she saw something move in the dark. She held the knife tightly as she flipped on the light. What she discovered was a large, slightly deflated Winnie-the-Pooh balloon floating in the air. It was tied to a chair but it had deflated just enough to put it in the path of the fan. The fan was pushing it against some books and knocking them to the floor one by one. She cut the balloon ribbon. Maybe all three of them had changed, Christie thought, or maybe they had just grown in different directions. It didn’t really matter because she just knew it was time for new friends.

She dragged the balloon to the living room and presented the culprit to Tammy and Doug.

“I just saved your pansy asses from a horrible bear attack.”

Will It Be Good Enough

Today is the first Wednesday of the month and time for the IWSG Monthly Blog Hop. Since I can’t seem to get the HTML code to work on my blog, I’ll post a link at the bottom that will take you to the page where the other bloggers’ links are posted. You might want to check out their blogs and the IWSG website. I’m very thankful to this supportive group of authors and writers. It’s amazing to me how some of my favorite authors were not only insecure about their writing but their emotions ran the whole gamut to even hating their writing.

I was going to write about my NaNoWriMo experience today but something happened on the way to my blog. I saw a post. It was one simple sentence by a writer that wanted to write a book about something very important to them.It ended with the writer expressing the fear that the book wouldn’t be good enough.  I instantly understood that fear.

I’m currently working on a novel with a very timely social theme. One that I feel so strongly about that it just crushes me. I see it. I feel it. I have to write this story. Then there is the anxiety, the fear that hasn’t stopped me but it hits me out of the blue or out of the darkness. Will it be good enough? Will my writing be good enough?

This story needs to be told. It needs to see the sanitizing light of day. But can I do it justice? This story deserves the best. That can’t possibly be me.

Sometimes we find the answers in the most unexpected places. By taking the time out of what I was going to do, to try to support another writer, I found the answer to my own question.

I told this person what I just expressed here about my own fears but I went on to say that I was going to write this book to the very best of my ability in my unique voice because I had to do it.

The rest of my response went like this:

That is all any of us can do. Do you feel strongly about your story? If you were to only write one book in your lifetime, would this be it? Are you willing to write, rewrite, rewrite and edit this book until it tells the story, the message, you want the world to hear?  Even the greatest writers had their doubts. You absolutely can do this if it’s what you truly want to do.

I don’t know what this other writer will do. That’s out of my hands but I know what I’m going to do. Perhaps someone else could get more attention or write it more eloquently but no one has my unique combination of passion and voice.

Sometimes we find our answers in the most surprising places.

Thanks for reading my post. If you liked it check out some of the blogs on the blog hop. The links are on this page:

http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

If you really liked it feel free to share it or follow my blog or both

 

 

Bad Breaks

Daphne downed her third single malt then walked out the door before realizing she had forgotten her hat. She reached into her pocket for her key. It wasn’t there. She had also forgotten her key and her phone. Sara, her sister, had an extra key but with no phone, she couldn’t call her.

“Maybe those three drinks weren’t such a good idea,” she muttered. She checked the windows and doors. They were all locked. She picked up a landscaping rock and broke the back door window. The alarm blared as she reached in to open the door. Great, she thought, the one thing I remembered was to set the stupid alarm. Before she could even open the door, two policemen arrived.

“Evening officers.” she slurred. “Sorry to bother you. I just locked myself out of my house.”

“You have some Identification to prove this is your house?”

“It’s inside with my key and my phone which is why I broke the window, duh.”

“Sure it is,” one officer said. “Is there a neighbor who can vouch for you?”

“I just moved here and they don’t know me.”

Daphne turned to the other and placed her hand on his face. “You believe me don’t you cutie pie?”

Before she realized what was happening, they were handcuffing her.

“We’re going to have to take you downtown,” the older officer said as he clicked the last cuff.

“Great! I love shopping downtown. There are some great stores there. These silver bracelets are nice but I prefer gold.”

“You sure are cocky for someone in your position,” the older cop said.

“What? What? A girl doesn’t have the right to break her own damn window?”

“Let’s see here. What charges do we have?” the older cop asked his partner.

“I’d start with breaking and entering.”

“That’s a good place to start and public intoxication. Don’t you think?”

“Yeah, nice one partner.”

“I was in my own yard! That’s not public,” said Daphne a little louder than she realized.

“Didn’t she touch your face?” the older one asked.

“Oh yeah, yeah she did. Does that qualify for assaulting an officer?”

“I think it might.”

“I barely touched you dammit.”

“Lewd language. Does that qualify?” the younger cop asked.

“I’ll have to check into that but we’ll count it for now.”

“I can’t believe this shit,” Daphne mumbled.

“What was that?” the older cop asked.

“Nothing.” Daphne fell silent after that.

“I like that sound,” the older cop said.

“Silence is nice.”

 

After the mug shots and the fingerprints, Daphne sobered up.

“Anyone you want to call?” they asked.

“My sister’s number is on my phone in my house!” She was so shaken up that she couldn’t remember it.

They passed the men’s cell as they led her toward the women’s cell.  It was full and there was vomit on the floor. She started to panic.

“I remember Sara’s number.”

 

“You owe me. What happened?” Sara asked as they left the station.

“It’s a long story. Please just take me home.”

Sara walked Daphne into her home. As Daphne looked around, she realized someone had used the broken window to get in and steal all of her valuables.

“I think you need to get your window fixed and call the cops,” Sara said.

Daphne just stared at her.