Monday, February 17, 2014

A Peek at Critique and Revisions


 
Janet here. Ever feel so frustrated about low scores in contests that you're tempted to pull out your hair? Or toss the story? Or find another easier release for your creativity? 
Even after reading craft "How To" books do you sometimes have no idea what's wrong with your scene, yet you know you're not happy with the writing?  
If so, perhaps like me, you could use a critique partner's fresh eyes.

Not every writer wants or needs feedback. But I appreciate the insight of critique partners I trust. Trust is built when partners know that criticism is intended to help, not harm. I’m blessed to have two critique partners Missy Tippens and Shirley Jump. I know with certainty that they both want the best for me, as I do for them.

A critique partner means dealing with red ink or pencil lead or digital comments. Sometimes criticism hurts but when we're teachable, we can look beyond our precious words and consider suggestions to improve our stories.

I'm sharing a snippet of a scene Berkley author and longtime critique partner Shirley Jump critiqued, along with the revisions her input triggered to give a sense of how feedback improves my writing. For clarity, I decided to give a few paragraphs of the critique and then show my revisions for that passage before moving to the next. I had tried to put her comments in bubbles at the side, but wasn't able to accomplish that. I'm no techy. Still, I hope you're able to follow the thread.

In this scene business woman Carly Richards is tutoring bounty hunter Nate Sergeant in how to handle the business end of the livery he finds himself running.

"How could a man keep his mind on a column of figures when the pretty instructor at his side took his breath[AU1]  away?  [AU1]Nice hook!

Carly[AU2]  bent over her account books, exposing the soft nape of her neck[AU3]  and ran her fingertip down a column, explaining the figures beneath. With her shimmering black hair pulled back in a sensible bun, her flawless ivory skin glowing in the gaslight, Nate's fingers[AU4]  itched to massage the pale skin, to tug her close. More than anything, he wanted to kiss her. Not the reason he was here."
 

 




 

I am grateful Shirley saved me from Grammar Queen’s censure by pointing out confusion with point of view and misused qualifiers. I also changed Nate’s internal thought to first person and italicized to make the thought more powerful. 

Now it reads:

"A few feet from where Nate sat, Carly bent over her account books, her flawless ivory skin glowing in the gaslight. She’d pulled her shimmering black hair into a sensible bun, exposing the soft nape of neck.

His fingers itched to massage the pale skin, to tug her close. More than anything, he longed to kiss her.

Whoa, cowboy, not the reason you’re here."


 
Back to more of Shirley’s input:

"The blue eyes Carly turned on him dazzled. She said something about earnings. He shifted in his seat, struggling to focus on her words. What had gotten in to him? Why did he feel this puzzling sense of intimacy with the woman who stood between Anna and this shop? Yet[AU5]  the current between them made him feel as if they occupied a deserted island, alone. In reality, her son slept in the next room and his sister hummed softly beside the stove, running stitches through the handwork[AU6]  in her lap with Maisie dozing at her feet.

A deserted island didn't include chaperones."
 

 

 

The revised passage follows. This go around I decided I’d short changed Nate’s reaction to Carly so added sexual tension.

"The blue eyes Carly turned on him dazzled. She jerked her gaze away, then said something about earnings. Nate shifted in his seat, struggling to focus on her words. What had gotten into him? How could he feel this puzzling sense of attraction to the woman who stood between Anna and this shop?

Yet, despite his best intentions, Nate inhaled the scent of lavender teasing his nostrils, watched her dainty hand hovering over her accounts. Would Carly’s touch be soft, gentle?

He gulped. The attraction sizzling between them made him feel as if they occupied a deserted island, but in reality, Carly’s son slept in the next room and Nate’s sister hummed softly, as she sat across the room running stitches through the handwork in her lap with Maizie dozing at her feet.

A deserted island didn't include chaperones.

Who was he kidding? Carly Richards would not allow a man like him to sully her life. Her son’s life. Only a fool would think otherwise." 

As is often the case, I added words to the critiqued passage. There’s something about seeing my work through another’s eyes that elicits more from me. Though sometimes I am told the passage is redundant and needs to be cut.


My critique partners know craft. They know what makes a book sparkle. Usually I make their suggested changes. But not always. When my gut tells me not to, I listen. But, normally I find that I’m too close to my story to see what needs fixing. Fresh eyes are invaluable. 

One of my weakness is redundant introspection. Missy Tippens said recently after reading a large chunk of my story,

 
 

Ouch. Even knowing this is a fault of mine, I still miss repetition. And interestingly enough, I may see the same issue in another’s writing, but not in my own. I will listen to Missy and delete those repetitive tiresome passages and look for new reasons that my hero and heroine can't be together. 

I brought apple fritters and fruit for breakfast. No time to fritter away my time cooking when we can talk about writing.

Do you have a critique partner? Multiple critique partners? Is the feedback helpful? Do the suggestions sometimes have a familiar ring? 

If you're a reader, do you see issues you wish a writer had addressed? Or do you get caught up in the story and are oblivious to small issues with a book?

Share and get your name in the drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card.







 

125 comments :

  1. Janet, I prefer to read where I know the authors have support from their partners, critiques, even editors. I find myself having trouble reading novels that are not well edited. Thanks for the apple fritters. I agree we don't want to fritter our time away. I had to chuckle...I thought Carly had two children, and I find out its Nate's sister, not Carly's daughter. Thanks Janet

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  2. There's coffee!

    Janet, you make me feel twinges of that nasty thing called envy.

    I have a friend who reads and marks my manuscripts, but she doesn't critique. She's an always thinks everything I give her is wonderful and doesn't take them apart. I have yet to find someone who can/will do that for me.

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  3. Yep, Naomi and Glenn. I think I might cry if Naomi ever left me, she's my first critter so she gets the worst of it. Lucky her, huh? :)

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  4. I've had critique partners at various times but not recently. I might have to go and get organized again I think and reap the benefits.
    I went to Shirley Jump's workshops when she came out to New Zealand in August last year- she is one of the best speakers on romance writing and if anyone gets the chance to go to one of her workshops - run, don't walk. She's a gifted teacher and such a fabulous lady as well (and so funny!) .. will stop my fan girl moment now...

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  5. Hi Janet,
    I don't see the issues as much but if they are glaring I will find them.
    Like the wrong word, name etc. Also some books where they are not edited well I will notice things like they are slow etc. One book the action parts were really good but other parts read like a diary. One part was like I was going to go for a swim today but then decided not to. I Went shopping. I got so frustrated and if I have not been reading it for a review I would have stopped reading it.

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  6. For a long time I would just read books without to much thought, but the more I read the more I started noticing things. I read so many great books that when I come across something that's not quite right I tend to notice it and my brain tries to rewrite that part in my head.
    Thanks for the giveaway!

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  7. Hi Janet, as a reader, I find I notice things that seem a little disconnected. I just finished an anthology recently where the description of an item was one color in the first novella and when passed to the next character in the second novella the color was totally different. I would have thought something as important as this item would have been defined between the authors and the editor(s)should have noticed. But to be perfectly honest it didn't take away from the well written work.

    As a newbie, I haven't sought out a Critique Partner yet. Hopefully I'll venture that direction soon.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

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  8. Janet,timely post as I've started working with a new critique partner. It takes time to build trust and get to know the person. I tend to worry more about the advice I give than what I receive. I'm always afraid of leading someone down the wrong path.





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  9. Hi Janet,

    Thanks for sharing your process. I'm part of the big ACFW critique loop. I'm always excited to get a crit back, but there are some authors I know will do a great job pointing out things that need to be fixed. I know it takes a lot more time to send out a lot of comments, and I always appreciate their hard work.

    Thanks for this post today, I hope it'll help me give better crits to other writers on the loop!

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  10. I have 2 CPs and I love them dearly! I'm like Melissa, I'll cry if I ever lose my CPs. They are so necessary for my writing.

    Happy Presidents Day!

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  11. Good morning, Janet! I always enjoy the "before and after" examples -- it really helps seeing the application, the showing how it's done, not just telling. Thank you!

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  12. A truly good critique partner is worth her (his) weight in gold. Comments by a contest judge can be confusing, especially when two of them contradict each other.

    I would much rather someone pointed out things with no concern about my feelings than to have them try to be...? polite? The truth of 'this isn't working' is a gift.

    It also becomes easy to see what your crit partner has struggled with in the past, because they will pounce on it when they see it in your writing!:)

    If you have more than 1 or 2, you are really blessed because everyone catches different things and has different strengths.

    THanks Janet! Have a great week!

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  13. Loved the examples, Janet. It really helps to see the before and after. I have a tendency to be repetitive too. I'll 'show' something and just can't leave it alone so I'll 'tell' as well and then, in case that isn't enough I'll throw in some introspection just to make sure the point is clear. :-) I swear I end up cutting out half of what I write.

    As a reader I usually don't have trouble letting small issues slide. It has to be glaringly obvious to really distract me. I read a book a while back where every time the heroine accidentally brushed against the hero she tingled. And every time the hero brushed against the heroine he tingled. They tingled their way through the whole book and it about drove me crazy. I was really surprised an editor didn't catch the overuse of that one word 'tingle'.

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  14. Good morning, Marianne! You beat Helen here again. :-)

    There are so many aspects to writing a novel. Nice to have feedback before the story gets to my editor.

    Sorry the relationships confused you. By this time in the book the reader is well acquainted with Hate's sister and Carly's son.

    Janet

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  15. Hi Helen. Thanks for making the coffee! Always appreciated.

    I totally understand wanting an in-depth critique of your work. But I'd say you're doing great without it.

    Janet

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  16. Hi Melissa! Your comment has me grinning. Shirley doesn't have time to critique all of my story, but when we critique, we exchange scenes as they're written. Missy usually sees the entire book so she catches redundancy, etc. I love having both types of reviews. How do you and Naomi work?

    Janet

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  17. Hi Joanne! You can rave about Shirley all you want. I've always said that she's a fabulous teacher and really "gets" how to put a novel together! Plus she's lots of fun and understands technical stuff.

    Janet

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  18. I have two critique partners, one who writes historical and one who writes suspense. I find the feedback to be very helpful, particularly to make sure my first and last lines hook the reader and make them want to read on. One of my critique partners also pointed out my overuse of commas. I tend to give every thought elaboration by adding a comma where a period will do. Sigh. I make a special effort to look for this now.

    Having critique partners is great practice for me to learn how to handle feedback and to incorporate it into my revisions. If I do get a revise and resubmit for a project, I know that I know how to revise based on feedback.

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  19. Hi Jenny!

    The novel you read sounds too much like real life. Dull. LOL I'm grateful for reviewers like you and Marianne!

    Hope you're feeling better every day.

    Janet

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  20. Janet, I can't get along without a critique partner -- or two, which is what I have now. They see stuff we don't. Even the most skillful writers get "married" to a phrase or a plot development or a (ouch) useless chapter. I am learning to anticipate my crit partners' crits and take care of it before they read it, but sometimes they will still throw me a curve. We need feedback to be the best we can be. Pobody is nerfect.
    Kathy Bailey

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  21. One will never NOT be critiqued, either by crit partners (pre-publication) or editors and agents when pubbed. Might as well get used to it. Iron sharpening iron, when it works.
    KB

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  22. Good morning, Abbi. I've rewritten passages in my head, too. But not often. When I'm reading a wonderful story, I get so caught up in it that I don't notice.

    Janet

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  23. Good morning, Cindy! You make a great point. When the story is well written, little errors can be forgiven. No one is perfect.

    Janet

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  24. Hi Connie! I totally agree that giving an opinion of someone's work carries responsibility and a bit of angst. The reason I always tell someone I'm critiquing through a contest, etc. to follow their gut. And to remember that my opinion is just that, my opinion, and I could be wrong. That's understood between critique partners.

    Janet

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  25. Good morning, Jackie! Critiquing does take time, at least for me. I tend to be thorough or some might even say, nitpicky. But that's the kind of critique I want of my work so that's what I give. No one has to pay attention. LOL

    Janet

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  26. Hi Annie! Happy Presidents Day! Anyone off work today? Are your schools closed or has the school closings due to weather gobbled up those free days?

    I'd cry if I lost my cps too. I'd even pay them. But don't tell.

    Janet

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  27. Good morning, Glynna! Thanks!

    Do you work with a critique partner or go it alone? Whichever you do, it's working. Your books are wonderful!

    Janet

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  28. Great post, Janet! Thank you. :-)

    I like that you said if a person is 'teachable'. Some people are so busy defending their writing that they can't hear the constructive critique.

    I like the examples of showing how to fix weak spots in a manuscript. :-) That helps my visual brain to retain the info better.

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  29. Great article JANET. I find having a critique partner is essential. I especially like face to face meeting. For years I would meet once a week with a group of five writers and we would bring our recent chapters for the to take home. Then we would go over and comment on what we had read that week.

    Having five different POV's helped because it eliminates the personal bias. If all five see the same problem then you know it is a problem. But if only one sees it, then you can really think about whether it is a problem or personal bias.

    Not only were the comments helpful but the best part for me was the mini-deadline. I had to write something that week to take to the meeting. I got a lot more writing done that way.

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  30. JACKIE, that ACFW crit program is great. That is how I met RUTHY and consequently the other Seekers. smile

    I recommend it/ HELEN, maybe you can try it.

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  31. Good morning, Debra! My cps and I aren't always polite about our criticism. That's where trust comes in. :-)

    I hadn't thought that a past issue with craft tends to make cps sensitive to that same issue when they critique. Excellent point.

    I also think we have pet peeves. Little things that bug us. I wrote an entire post on that. LOL

    Janet

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  32. Redundancy in introspection? I'm guilty!!

    Anna Adams and I critique on most Tuesdays at Panera's Bread! Yummy lunch first, then we read each others pages and provide input. Over a few hours time, we work on one to three chapters. Anna has about 17 books to her credit (most are Supers). She understands story and romance! Plus, she just got a four-book contract for Heartwarming, about the same time I got the four-book deal with LIS, which means we're pushing to get new stories written. I can always count on her fresh eyes finding holes in my writing, which is such a help.

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  33. Janet, love how you explained the critique process and how it improves your writing! A hard concept to put into a blog, yet you've made it so easy to follow!

    Great blog!

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  34. I work with a few authors, critiquing and editing. I prefer that side of things than receiving critiquing from contest judges lol. I've sent a few things in for contests. I take the comments and go back through my work. Usually, I'll take their suggestions, but sometimes, I'm just like, I want to keep it this way and see what happens. Later I may decide I should have listened lol. I have a really good friend who is wonderful about pointing things out that don't work. When I point things out for the authors I work with, they say they didn't notice that b/c they were caught up in their own story. It works having someone else reading, making suggestions, critiquing. If I read something and it doesn't make sense, I'll say so. Sometimes I can't finish a book b/c of the mistakes, not being able to tell who's talking, or scenes don't work like they ought to. Having someone go over your work with a fine tooth comb is wonderful! Thanks for the great post!
    tscmshupe [at] pemtel [dot] net

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  35. Wonderful examples and explanation of changes! Love it, Janet!

    And, Missy and Shirley, I hope you can stomach the fact that Janet's gut has more clout than your suggestions. Just sayin' lol

    (Psst, Janet, I agree with you. Those gut reactions are golden.)

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  36. Hey, Janet, great blog this morning, and "do the suggestions sometimes have a familiar ring?"

    Uh, yeah. Missy's statement about repetition made me squirm because I find myself doing that A LOT more lately, it seems. Kind of like I did with my kids growing up -- beating a point to death because I wanted to make sure they got it. I don't have a critique partner anymore, but fortunately for me I have a copy editor who nailed me on it in my last few books, so WHEW!!

    You also asked: If you're a reader, do you see issues you wish a writer had addressed? Or do you get caught up in the story and are oblivious to small issues with a book?

    I don't care HOW caught up in a story I am, if I see "issues" I wish a writer addressed, it detracts from the story for me, so I reallllly appreciate the comments of a critique partner.

    The reason I stopped with critique partners is that I'm SO anal, that it takes days and days for me to critique someone else's work. It's not something I can do quickly, so I just gave up the ideas of crit partners altogether because I didn't have the time to reciprocate the way I wanted to. So hopefully between my husband, my agent, my editor, and two copy editors, I figure I have enough feedback to catch most errors, God willing. :)

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  37. KATHY BAILEY SAID: "Even the most skillful writers get "married" to a phrase or a plot development or a (ouch) useless chapter."

    "OUCH" is right, Kathy -- I get married to a particular phrase or word in EVERY single book, then have to go back and delete most of them, so it IS very useful to have someone else catch that annoyance before the reader does. :)

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  38. Wonderful article! For me, critiques are like exercise. Not my favorite thing, but I always feel better afterward :)

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  39. I was in a critique group for years.

    I joined it right when I joined ACFW. Those ladies were so great.
    SO MUCH HELP.

    There's just something about a neutral pair of eyes on a manuscript...they could see things I'd done...and then in THEIR work, I'd see the SAME things they'd done....that I didn't see in my own work.

    It's just something about distance, about it NOT being your own work, about NOT having an emotional attachment to it.

    I still hear Christy Barritt in my head saying, "You just stopped the action dead right here."

    She really taught me to have a feel for what made a scene MOVE and what didn't. And big 'didn't' was always me putting in chunks of backstory when my characters were fighting for their lifes.

    It's one of the reasons I'm such a fanatic about it now.

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  40. Great post, Janet! Yes, you're right about total trust. When you point out problems in my stories, I know you're doing it to make my story the best it can be. So THANK YOU!

    Debra said what I'd like to echo. A good critique partner is worth her/his weight in gold!

    Joanne, I agree! I've taken several of Shirley's classes and they're amazing!

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  41. Also, meant to say that I have another critique partner in addition to Janet. Each has her own gifts. Sometimes they see the same problems. Often, they pick up different problems. So my mss gets two sets of eyes before going to my agent or editor. Plus, hubby usually does a read-through as well. :)

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  42. Hi Kav! I'm giggling about your tendency to show, tell, and then serve a dollop of introspection to make sure the reader gets it because that's me, too. The reason I have those scissors in my post. :-)

    Janet

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  43. I just wrote a scene where a 'trap' is set for the hero, not like a shoot-out, but someone leaves a dangerous 'booby trap' on the trail. His horse goes down, so does he, the heroine riding behind him rushes to help and she gets hurt.

    This scene has been the work of about a WEEK. I knew when I wrote it I wanted it big and lively and intense. But the first writing was small and deadly dull and lame.

    But that's just me on first draft in scenes like that.
    Now after working it over and over and over, it's come to life. What Janet said about having trouble letting go of works and scenes and such that we love, I totally get that. Because in the process of revising I'll have a few lines that are ... I think, emotionally powerful or funny or just well done, but the revisions are such that those moments sometimes have to go.
    And I can feel myself clinging to them, even if I know they mess up the direction of the action or story.

    Great blog, Janet.

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  44. My two critique partners have been a huge help to me. Also, they've kept me accountable on how much I write.
    I tried the large ACFW crit group, but that wasn't for me.
    Revising is fun. I love seeing my story improve!
    Great examples given here!

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  45. Hi Mz. ZeyZey! Revise and resubmit are fabulous words to hear. Critique partners prepare us for having an editor. Love mine!

    Janet

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  46. Hi Kathy! You make a great point. I anticipate what my cp will say if I don't fix it first. For example, Shirley they will notice if my POV character doesn't have a goal for the scene. Or if I don't have a strong hook. Missy sees the whole book so will notice redundancy and pet words.

    Janet

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  47. Kathy B, another excellent point! Contests, agents, editors all will critique our work. Iron sharpening iron is a great way to put it!

    Janet

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  48. Good morning, Mary H! When writers get defensive, they've closed their minds to the value of fresh eyes. But, each of us must find our way. Not everyone finds red ink exciting. :-)

    Janet

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  49. Apple Fritters are my favorite sweet dough treat! Thanks.

    And thanks for this post, Janet. I always like seeing before and after segments.

    As for crit partners, I'm taking this opportunity to send a Shout Out to the Inkies and Gwen who step in to crit my work - sometimes on short notice - and turn my bare words into scenes worth reading.

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  50. Good morning, Sandra! I love critiquing face to face. Shirley and I did that for years. We had a mini-deadline, like you say, and we explained our comments to make sure we were understood and if not that gave us a chance to clarify. Plus, we usually had lunch and time to chat. Now I do most critiquing online.

    Janet

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  51. Apple fritters.

    Apple fritters.

    APPLE FRITTERS!!!!

    :)

    Oh, wait, there was INFO here???? I dove right to the food, Janet!

    How blessed to have someone as established as Shirley to work with! What a great friendship you guys have going. It's simply wonderful.

    I gave up critiquing once I realized that Melissa and I worked well together and her opinion helps pattern the depth of my books. That has saved me a timely step, and it works for us, but I know lots of authors use critique groups or partners.

    Sandra and I critiqued well together before publishing, but that extra step takes time... and then I'd have to find someone who'd put up with me, listen to my whining and bossiness, and well....

    I'm better if people just pat me on the head and leave me in my self-imposed cave.

    But I'm loving HELEN'S COFFEE and the apple fritters while I realize that no one in his or her right mind would be standing in line to critique with me.

    God bless Sandra!!!!

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  52. Good morning, Debby! Your sessions at Panera sound like so much fun! You and Anna work like Shirley and I used to before she moved. Only you must work faster and longer to get several chapters covered. We never did more than one. Guess who was slower? LOL

    Janet

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  53. Sandra, I didn't realize that you met Ruthy through the ACFW critique program and that led you to the Seekers. I met Tina, Myra and Julie through finagling in the Golden Heart. That led me to the rest of the Seekers. A priceless perk of entering contests.

    Janet

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  54. Anita Mae, I have to give Janet and my other cp Lindi a shout out for the same thing! They're so good about reading my stuff on a tight deadline!

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  55. Hi Sally, I usually have been impressed with the feedback I've had from contest judges, but if judges disagree that is confusing. I'm learning from reviews, etc. that readers have preferences. One may love a book. Another may dislike the very same book. Maybe judges prepare us for that when our book sells.

    Janet

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  56. I love how you changed it in the after, Janet! So often I don't get to see that until it's in print :-) Great job! Glad to help--though the talent is all yours!

    Shirley

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  57. Hi Pam. You have me giggling with your comment. I'm guessing Missy and Shirley can stomach that my gut overrules their suggestions because they do the same with my suggestions. But, my gut rarely disagrees. When it does, I don't always tell. LOL

    Janet

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  58. Aw, thank you, Joanne Hill! You made my day!

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  59. As a reader, I usually find myself lost in the story and not notice the small issues.

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  60. lol - Some things are just better kept to ourselves, eh?

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  61. A cold read. A good critique partner is EVERYTHING!!!! Thanks for showing that, Janet.

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  62. I am a reader. I enjoyed your post, Janet and am so glad you writers have CP's that you appreciate so much.
    Keep up the great writing; thanks for your giveaway.

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  63. Note to Debby: Is your CP, Anna A., the one who has a Kindle free today???? Your comment made me want to get her freebie.

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  64. Hi Julie,

    Ah, yes, I've experienced the need for redundancy with my kids. They didn't always appreciate "fresh eyes." :-)

    I'm slow at critiquing too. When I read Missy's complete, I clear the decks and try to turn it around in a few days. Shirley is so prolific that she only has time for me to read her first chapters or proposals. We find a way to make it work.

    My agent does not read my manuscripts before subbing to my editor. Wonder which way is more typical.

    Your books are great so no worries about not having a cp.

    Janet

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  65. I love the way you wrote this post, Janet, with the "before", the comments, and then the "after." A great illustration of what we can expect from a critique partner and what our CP's should expect from us.

    I always appreciate feedback on my writing (thank you again for the critique I won last month!). It's amazing what a fresh set of eyes can see.

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  66. Hi Sherri! So clever and so true! I see critiques as a dose of medicine that I need. Doesn't always taste good, but it's good for me!

    Janet

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  67. Hi Mary. Your stories are fast paced and action filled. I can't even imagine you dumping back story into scenes where your characters are fighting for their lives. I love your knack for combining danger with humor.

    Janet

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  68. As a reader, discrepancies and errors stand out to me and are somewhat distracting. I appreciate all the hard work and thoroughness of the people who make a book well-edited and successful!

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  69. Great examples of what goes into a helpful critique, Janet! Every manuscript can benefit from a fresh eye before hitting the "submit" button.



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  70. Janet, you said, "My agent does not read my manuscripts before subbing to my editor. Wonder which way is more typical."

    I'm pretty sure my agent reads everything I send her before submitting. She also makes sure my proposals and synopses all hang together. I trust her judgment about what works and what doesn't, so I'm really thankful for the feedback.

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  71. Great post, Janet! My critique partner is my husband. Ironically, we met in a creative writing class in college, in which one of the class activities was to critique a class mate's work. He liked my comments, I liked his, one thing led to another...

    Event though we are married (and MAYBE a little biased), I find his input invalubale. He finds things I don't catch, and vice versa. I've thought of getting a second partner, but he's always going to be first eyes on a manuscript.

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  72. Thanks, Missy! My dh doesn't read my manuscripts before I submit. But he lets me brainstorm an idea and always reads the published book. Eventually. LOL

    Janet

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  73. Mary, thanks for pointing out that great scenes don't just happen. Usually they are the product of tons of revisions. I think new writers don't realize the effort and time involved to get the story strong enough for publication. At least I didn't!

    My question: Do you rewrite and rewrite the scene then and there or go back and revise after you've spewed the rough draft?

    Janet

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  74. Hi Courtney! Love that you find the revision process exciting. I do too! I also love that your cps keep you accountable. That's how Shirley and I got together. We were a long way from publication. We found meeting to critique kept us producing.

    Janet

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  75. Hi Anita Mae! Kudos to your crit group for working on short notice. We all need that upon occasion!

    Janet

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  76. Ruthy, you have confidence in your process and in yourself. That's a wonderful thing! I think the more you write the more you get that feel for telling the story.

    Janet

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  77. Thanks so much for your transparency here. I, for one, learn best from real life examples!

    What a blessing your partners are. Love that you understand that they want the best for you, as do you for them. Win/win, especially for readers!

    Like Helen suggested, competent CP's are hard to find, as are betas who will truly let you know what's not working. 'Course it's nice when they give you kudos, like "nice hook!"

    On the other side, I've worked some as an editor. It's difficult at times to find the right way to critique. There surely must be a level of trust! I tend to be blunt and bleed all over the page... Can't see it in my OWN work you understand... HA!

    Thanks, Janet. Excellent post!!!

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  78. Missy, Meeting a tight deadline is about the only way published authors can have a critique partner. Except for those writers that are way ahead with the book.

    Janet

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  79. Hi Shirley!! Thanks! By the way, I love that gorgeous cover! The model could be you.

    I have to share with Seekerville that when you and I would meet in coffee shops to critique, you would be in your stilettos and skirts. I always felt soooo short. LOL

    Janet

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  80. Hi Amy C! That's cool! Writers love readers like you.

    Janet

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  81. Yep, Pam. Stealth doesn't just apply to suspense. :-)

    Janet

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  82. Good afternoon, Tina! We writers know what we meant with our words, but someone reading a scene for the first time will see what isn't clear or what isn't working or what jerks them out of the story.

    Janet

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  83. Hi Jackie S! Thanks for stopping by and for reading our books!

    Janet

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  84. Hi Heidi! Readers are savvy. The reason they judge contests like The Reader's Choice Award. Readers also bring a lot to the story that deepens the impact for them. Cool, isn't it?

    Janet

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  85. Hi Jan, thanks! You know how a story can give you this great sense of anticipation? Well, that's what your opening did for me. Looking forward to the day I read it in print!

    Janet

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  86. Hi Myra! Am I the only author whose agent doesn't read her stuff? Another writer with the same agent once told me that if asked, our agent would read her work, but she found the agent was tougher than her editor.

    Janet

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  87. Stephanie! What fun that critiquing brought you and your dh together!! Romance that truly came to life on the page. :-) Is he still writing?

    Janet

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  88. Janet I've learned I have to just GET THAT FIRST DRAFT DOWN. I am a huge procrastinator on scenes like this, or comedy scenes, not just the routine sass, but a true comedy scene with sparring h/h or children in them or lots of misunderstanding that leads to comedy.

    I can feel myself dreading it, putting it off, making another cup of tea, going back and revising an earlier scene, ANYTHING to avoid the hard work of the scene coming up.

    I've learned I just have to force it. Get it down. And then I can fix it. But you can't fix what doesn't exist.

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  89. KC, I'm always shocked how often I don't see things in my own story that I see in my cp's. And vice versa. One session, we both said "What's the point of this scene?" Gave us a big laugh. Upon occasion a scene isn't ready for fresh eyes. We need to do our best before asking our cp to wade through it.

    Janet

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  90. Mary, this is another huge tip for new writers. The harder the scene is to write, the more getting the scene on the page takes out of the writer. Perhaps the reason we put off writing those difficult or emotional scenes.

    Janet

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  91. TERRIFIC point, Mary. Can't fix it if it doesn't exist.

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  92. Hi Janet! I'm a reader and I always appreciate authors who have done their best to make the book as smooth reading as possible! I have actually done some proofreading for a couple authors and I know it's a time-consuming process but it's necessary. When a book has a lot of grammar & spelling errors, it's just no fun to read! I don't know about critique partners but I do know that there are times I have read a book and something didn't quite make sense so I wrote the author an email about it. I think that might be why some authors are going the route of "street teams" where readers read their books before they are released sometimes point out things that don't make sense!

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  93. I give credit to my old critique group for being able to recognize it when the scene starts to really MOVE, really WORK.

    I learned that from those ladies.

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  94. Good afternoon, Valri. I haven't heard of street team readers before. Whatever works to give a great read!

    I have my editor's and copy editors' input, but try to get the story as pristine as I can before they see it. When I decide to indie pub, then my cp's input will be all the more valuable.

    Janet

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  95. Mary, we are blessed to have been helped with craft when we were newbies. The reason we want to pass that kindness along to others. I'm hoping our posts here in Seekerville and the critiques we give away provide that help.

    Does anyone wish we'd post about an area that we haven't touched on for a while?

    Janet

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  96. Janet, I kinda wish you'd mail me an apple fritter, does that count?

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  97. Mary, are you a fan of apple fritters like I am? My dh doesn't see the charm of crunchy with soft and gooey like I do. Yours will be on the way via overnight mail. Oops it's President's Day. Scrap that!

    Janet

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  98. Janet, I had to laugh. I'm the queen of repetitions -- just in case you don't get it the first time. It's good to know I'm not the only one.

    It's so easy for characters to obsess. But we don't always see that when we're writing. Another set of eyes is so helpful.

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  99. Janet, you've got the best critique partners in the world : ) I hope how Shirley corrects gently, but to the point. There's no need for brashness, right? And critiques from Missy I imagine as gentle suggestions...served with sweet tea, of course : )

    You made such a great point in making sure your critique partners have your best interest at heart. There's nothing worse than receiving a harsh critique that might cause you to second guess your writing. Not a good place to be.

    Thanks for the tips, Janet!!

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  100. Cara, let's blame that repetition on the characters and not on us! LOL I'm feeling better. These story people need to get a grip.

    Janet

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  101. Hey, Audra! You've got these two nailed. :-) Missy's sweet tea would make any redundancy morsel go down easily. Shirley is more apt to coat her comments with a latte or mocha.

    Janet

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  102. Janet, I have the most amazing critique partner. I know several of yoh have said that, but I truly do! :-)

    Her insights really strengthen my writing. I also have a few other gals who look things over from time to time. As Missy mentioned, they each offer something different.

    One of the things that makes me the happiest is when I can hear their comments in my mind while I'm writing. Gives me hope I'm finally learning!

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  103. Hi Terri! Hearing their voices and fixing it first tells us that we've come a long way, baby. CPs rock!!

    Janet

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  104. Oh, this is great! I've been blessed to find some really great critique partners and my current one, Christalee finds SO MANY issues. She cracks me up, too, with the way she words her comments.

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  105. Janet asked: Does anyone wish we'd post about an area that we haven't touched on for a while?

    I would like to know more about what Mary mentioned about keeping the scene moving. :)

    I'm very thankful for my cp, Sherida! She is very good at seeing what I miss.

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  106. Hi, Janet!

    I'm blessed with two great CPs. Piper and Elaine very often blindly agree with each other in their critiques. Another fun blessing is my CPs each mention things the other doesn't, but their critiques never contradict the other's. Cool, huh? They are some smart ladies.

    I believe you gave me one of my first ever critiques, Janet. A very kind critique, but with solid, much-needed advice. Those are priceless to beginners! Thanks for sharing this post with us today!

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  107. Hi Virginia! Love when a cp uses humor to get her point across. Sounds like you two are a great fit!

    Janet

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  108. When my first ever critique partner of some length cut me, it felt like I'd been broken up with. I'd like to think I didn't take it personally. However, I didn't contact her again until she contacted me on something.

    I've since had others and I'm trying new ones at the moment, hoping things work out.

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  109. Hi Donna! Hope Sherida sees your praise. There ought to be a Critique Partner Appreciation Day! I'll call Hallmark in the morning. ;-)

    To keep the scene moving, you need to start the story where things change and the action starts. Mary's characters are usually fighting to survive the elements or bad guys or animals. Or the heroine. :-) But even when our plots aren't life and death, we don't want our characters just sitting around thinking, at least not early on. Maybe never. Mary's characters rarely even sit, unless they're on horseback. LOL And we don't want a scene without a goal. When the POV character wants something that scene will be active. The character will be moving. You will find helpful posts in the archives and keep an eye on for more on this in the weeks ahead.

    Janet

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  110. Hi Natalie! Relieved my critique was helpful! So proud of you for moving forward in this journey with excellent CPs like Piper and Elaine. Know they appreciate you too!

    Janet

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  111. Hi Walt! It's tough to lose a CP, but sometimes circumstances change or styles don't mesh. Hope you'll find the right CP for you and for him/her, too!

    Janet

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  112. As a reader I can overlook most minor issues. I might gloss over them if the story is compelling.

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  113. Hi Janet,
    I get so caught up in the story that I miss issues. Thanks for the reminder because I need to read like a writer!
    Jan

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  114. Thanks Mary P, for stopping by. We love readers!

    Janet

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  115. Hi Janet K. I love to read stories that "take me away." I notice nothing when I'm caught up in the story. Wishing you the same!

    Janet

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  116. Hi Janet,

    I have 2 critique partners,both of whom have been a huge blessing. They notice things I don't and give praise and criticism when needed. If not for them I don't think I'd be as far on my WIP as I am now:)

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  117. I love coming here as a reader, future writer and saving all your tips on seekerville from each author who writes here. I hope I never get so stuck on something I write that I won't give it up. I like reading and critiquing, all though I don't like being the one to say, hey this stinks , you need to change this... Jules I hope whoever is our CP , makes sure that I am looking great and smokin hot... lol
    I am adding ot that pinterest board daily Sis, 1930's Clothing. tomorrow I am going shopping for more !!! Hey you know I was really thinking how much pinterest really brings reality to writing about things and adds depth to everything written. Thats why I save clothing, and other things I like.
    Linda Finn
    faithfulacresbooks@gmail.com

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  118. When I was writing fiction, I was in a critique group - there were 4 of us. It was great because we had more than one opinion. Now that I'm writing nonfiction I don't have a critique partner and it's been a challenge.

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  119. Hi Sara Ella! Congrats on the progress you're making with your novel! Critique partners are such a blessing!

    Janet

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  120. Yay, Becke!! Cool to see you here!

    Janet

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  121. Hi Edwina,

    Can imagine you feel like you're writing in a vacuum. Wish you the best with your non-fiction!

    Janet

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  122. Hi Linda F! Thanks for your kind words about Seekerville! There's so much in the archives for writers to utilize when they need it!

    Janet

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  123. Hi, I both read and write. Unfortunately, errors in grammar, spelling, syntax, etc. pull me out of the story. If they happen often, I find myself watching for errors rather than reading for content. How great you have a wonderful critique partner!

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