My Revision Process
August 19, 2016
To Plot or not to Plot!
October 19, 2016
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The Importance of Critique Partners

**Disclaimer–what works for me won’t necessarily work for you. Every writer is different, and that’s okay, otherwise we’d all be telling the same boring story**

Before I continue with my “How I Revise” advice, I had a question last month about my cover designs, so I thought I’d share with you my experiences as an author with the cover designers.

Most publishing houses don’t give the author very much, if any, say at all in the design of their book covers. And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What I like, and what someone else might like, are two completely different things. The Publishing house has been in this business successfully for much longer than a lot of authors. In my eyes, that qualifies them to make the right decision when it comes to putting a face on my work.

When I first saw the cover for my first book, FADING AWAY, I honestly didn’t like it. Now I know that seems unfair on my publisher and the designer who spent hours creating it, but I really didn’t think it gave my work justice… Two years later and heaps more experience under my belt, I realise that it really doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I keep moving forward, always improving my craft and looking to the next project…

NOW, on to the revising. Last month I told you all about the patience of waiting and absorbing advice before implementing it. This month, I’d like do give you a few idea’s on what to do while absorbing said advice and the importance of having a good Critique Partner.

First things first, If I haven’t done it already I write up a query letter! A query letter is basically the blurb on the back cover of a book + a paragraph to agents/editors on your experience, comp titles and word count. I do this even if I don’t have do. It’s fantastic practice and a brilliant way to improve your cover-copy skills. A good structure base I’ve come across courtesy of S. Jae-Jones is this–

“Enticing lead line. Perhaps two lead lines to accurately convey mood and tone.

A sentence or two about setup so we can care about the characters and/or stakes. The “but when” setup, or the sentence identifying the inciting moment, when all is about to change.

Describing how the inciting incident sets the protagonist on a journey, whether physical or emotional or both. Imply the story question here.

An intriguing closing line, usually more factual and to the point: information about genre, style, and/or potential audience. (E.g. Hilarious, witty, and occasionally heart-breaking, This Book will appeal to fans of Known Writer.)”

After I’ve got a rough query worked out, I start a synopsis. Now, If you’re like me and you plot before writing, you should already have a rough outline of your novel. I use that rough outline as a starting point and polish from. This step also helps to reinforce my entire story before I dive into revisions. A synopsis MUST give away the important twists and ending of your story. This is so an agent or editor can clearly see what direction you’re trying to go and if the ending will satisfy them enough to put the years of effort and time needed into your work. Some agents DON’T want to see a synopsis, be sure to check the Agency Submission Guidelines before sending anything off.

Lastly, I create a spreadsheet to collect all my prospective agents/information. I go through every agent I want to query, check their agency website, their twitter (to make sure they aren’t closed to submissions) and basically stalk them across the web, visiting every interview, tweet and anything else that might point to what they are currently looking for in an MS (Manuscript).

Armed with all of this, I move back to my MS to polish it up, make the necessary changes and reread the entire thing.

REMEMBER, never send off a query before you are at least 99-100% sure you’ve polished and proofread your manuscript to the very best of your ability. You only get ONE first impression, and if you haven’t put in the work, you might just have to move on and do better next time. This means shelving your beloved MS…

Last newsletter I also mentioned my Critique Partner, “E”. I cannot stress enough the importance of a critique partner or partners… It’s good practice to find someone in the writing circle. Places like AbsoluteWrite, Maggie Stiefvater’s Critique Match-up and Pub(lishing) Crawl are fantastic places to find like-minded writers prepared to put in the work a Critique Partner is there to provide.

They are there to catch the issues you can’t see. And even if you think you’ll catch everything, I can tell you right now, you are wrong. That might seem a bit harsh, but this is coming from someone who never used to believe in critique partners. A good 100% of the time, you will be way too close to see the glaring issues/plot holes present in your own work. This isn’t something to be ashamed of, even the fantastic, New York Times Bestselling, amazingly awesome author you idolise has this issue.

Example: I finished my last MS, read through, thought it was great (The glow of finishing a story you love is the best), and happily sent it off to E to read. Eight nail-biting days later (which is really quick, by the way. I usually expect a month or two turnaround) E sent me back my MS. Comments throughout the document about sentences/ideas that were/were not working and a two page essay at the end stating everything in a summary. As I said before, I thought this MS was in tip-top shape. Obviously not. Imagine if I had sent this off to an agent/editor with all of these issues? ONE FIRST IMPRESSION, and it could’ve been ruined just because I was too close to the story/characters to see the problems.

You don’t have to use your Critique Partner just for your MS. E and I always exchange our Query letters as well. She tells me what’s working and what’s not. The honesty is something every writer needs. Without it, we can never get better. After all, it takes a lifetime to master the craft of writing. There will always be something new to learn!

Note I said “exchange”. If all the above information wasn’t mind-boggling enough, a Critique Partnership is about give and take. That means if your partner has put in the time and effort to read through your work, you need to be prepared to do the same for them. This is a relationship. One you want to keep for a long time to come. This person will become your sounding board, your biggest critic, your advisor and possibly even your best friend…So treat them right 😉

Until next month, I hope you all learned something or can take something away from this. If not, that’s fine too. Feel free to send me an email about anything! I’ll do my best to answer, if not directly, then in my next newsletter…

10 Comments

  1. Mary Brannian says:

    Really appreciate the insights you provide in your blogs. Clear, concise, to the point. Always learn something new when I read your posts. Thanks!

  2. Laura Farmer says:

    Very interesting and informative read. I hesitate in criticizing authors, but I guess constructive, polite criticism does help!

  3. Bonnie says:

    Really great article!

  4. Jennifer Lessard says:

    Very interesting blog, give a reader alot of insight into the dynamics of writing. Thank you, I found it extremely interesting. Look forward to reading more from your blog.

  5. Kai says:

    Thanks for the wonderful advise on submitting the manuscripts. When I’m in a rush, my inclination is to just submitted and get it out of the way without thinking about first impression.

  6. Debbie Craine says:

    Thanks for the info.

  7. Mary Preston says:

    I can see how critique partners could be invaluable to a writer.

  8. paula bibbee says:

    I have not read any of your work yet but am looking forward to getting to know your thoughts .

  9. John H. says:

    I will pass this info along to my wife.

  10. Jana Leah says:

    I’m not a writer (or an aspiring writer), but I find the process interesting.

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