Beginning January 1, 2013

Stop by the new site and take a look around.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: Anny Cook

Ah, the heartburn of edits, critiques, and reviews! My baby, my baby is so precious. I just know it's perfect. Really. Well, almost. No?

For an author, there is nothing that stings so much as criticism of their work--whether it is deserved or not. Any author who says otherwise lies. Oh, we can be big boys and girls about it, but deep down, it still bruises the ego.

If we are to present our best work then that input is necessary because most of us are too close to our work to see the flaws. Even minor flaws can mar our work and prevent us from placing our best work before the public. The way I see it, there are three stages of criticism for my work. (I'm not counting myself as I should have done my own edits before it goes to the next stage.) Count the number of times I used "work" in that paragraph! Talk about flaws...

Critique partners: When I have my chapter/section/piece that I'm working on polished up to the best of my ability, then it's time to send it off to my critique partners. Contrary to what some people think, it's not their job to tell me how wonderful it is. I have family, friends, even neighbors who can do that. No, their job is to point out the flaws in my writing.

What is it with you and the head hopping?
Why are there nineteen characters in this scene?
Did you know that you used the word "just" twelve times in two paragraphs?
I have no idea what the first three paragraphs are about!

Or conversely, I fell asleep after the second sentence.

The critique partner is the first line of defense. She/he is the one who puts the brakes on the runaway train before it completely jumps the tracks. Rather than telling me how amusing/hot/sexy my writing is (unless my scene just totally blew them away!) what I need is for them to point out where and how I can improve. Otherwise, they are just cheerleaders yelling rah, rah.

After the critique partners shake things up, it's my job to go back and fix things. And when I've done that to the best of my ability, then it's off to submissions.

Editor: If my book is accepted, then eventually an editor will go over it with a careful eye and a big fat red pen. Well, not really a red pen. In this new technological age, it's all done on the computer with fancy hi-lighting and squawks of protests in the margins. But the end result is the same.

Why does hero have three arms in this scene?
Men are blond, women are blonde.
Fourteen "that"s on this page.
People are who, things are that.
Not on the accepted list of alternative words for penis--use something else.
There are fourteen characters in this scene. Cut some of them.
Why did the heroine suddenly turn into a whiney wimpy crybaby?

Sometimes, there are simply paragraphs of suggestions. This is erotic romance. Therefore, the hero/heroine should probably make it to bed sometime before Chapter Sixteen. There is no sexual tension in the story until Chapter Ten. At this point, you have a mystery with romantic elements--not an erotic romance.

Whatever there is, the editor is committed to improving the author's book, so taking the edits personally just doesn't work. When I receive my edits and final line edits, I always read through them immediately to make sure I don't have any unanswered questions. Then I leave the computer, walk around, have a cup of coffee and think about them.

Until my frustrations are under control, I don't work on the edits, because my best writing is not accomplished when I'm in a temper. And sitting in front of my computer is not the place to get over my mad, no matter how temporary.

Editors do not generally set out to destroy the writer's fragile ego. Really. And if your ego is that fragile, maybe you should find another line of work. Yep, your feelings will hurt. But if you want your book to be the best it can be, then get to work.

If you have radical differences of opinion with the editor, those need to be resolved before you make changes. Believe it or not, the editor is not God. However, before diving in, make sure you really, really want to draw that line in the sand, because likely your book will not be published by that publisher and you will need to go elsewhere.

Yay! I've made it through the editing process and now my book is released and I anxiously await the reviewing process.

Reviewers: Reviewers are the toughest audience of all. They're readers, generally not professionals in the writing field, but they know what they like. And when they don't like your book, they say so in a public arena. In the Internet age, public has a very different meaning than during the print age. A bad review will likely be read world-wide. Ouch. It doesn't just sting, it humiliates. No matter what spin you put on a bad review, it sucks.

But there are things still to be learned from a bad review. Don't shove it under the mattress. Print it out. Cool down. And analyze that review. What exactly did the reviewer not like? And... are they right? If so, how can you change things so your next book is better?

At every step in the process, the author can learn valuable lessons and use those lessons to improve their writing. Would I rather my critique partners pointed out the flaws privately instead of hearing about them in a public review? Yeah. Oh, yeah. But if my story made it through the entire process still flawed, then that unflattering review may be the last chance I have to learn something that will make all the difference in my next book.

So don't forget to thank them for their hard work. Critique partners, editors AND reviewers. They're worth it.


Cindy Spencer Pape said...

Yep! Couldn't do this without 'em!

booklover0226 said...

I think you need to have a thick skin to be a writer. You have to go through a lot of "bashing" to finally reach your goal. But when you do reach that goal, what a great feeling it must be.

Tracey D

Anny Cook said...

Yes, it's all worth it when they send you that e-mail telling you they want your book!