Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Fricassee

Aaaaand it's the last Friday of April!

So this has been a week of affirmation and encouragement all around, and I'm feeling glow-y.  Next week will bring info for our May Secret Agent Contest and a small in-house critique, because we need one of those, don't you think?

Several hours after posting yesterday's "87 Hearts" (in which I waxed dramatic about the black state of my own heart), I received a finished critique from Adam Heine, the newest addition to my crit partner brigade (well, it IS a brigade).

"Don't read it until you're ready," was Jodi Meadows's sage advice.

Forget "ready."  It's been a crappy few weeks and I needed something--ANYTHING--to sink my teeth into.

I don't know if any of you have ever had the experience of laughing your way through in-line edit notes.  All I can say is--Adam is a master at weaving insightful, DEAD-ON suggestions with the most hysterical side comments I've ever seen in a Track Changes bubble.  We're talking fake dialogue and everything.

I tore through the entire thing (yeah, there were A LOT of notes), and now I've got a wonderful document  titled "Adam Notes" for easy reference when I finally sit down to revise this puppy.

(No, you can't have him.  Go find your own endlessly witty critique partner.)

Anyway, it was such a turning point in my month that I wanted to publicly praise him.  (Just don't press too close.  He doesn't like crowds.)

Thank you, Adam!  You're a genius!

As for the rest of you -- what wonderful experiences have you had with edit notes?  Any huge eureka moments?  A life-changing comment that shone sudden light on exactly what was wrong with your story?  Funny typos?  A crit partner who proved to be the first person to really GET your story?

Or do you really hate edit notes and dread them like acne on prom night?

Looking forward to your comments, as always.  And have a delightful weekend!


  1. I get stressed about edit notes, to the point where I'm not allowed to read them before I go to bed (either I'm depressed all night at how sucky my stuff is, or else I'm up all night thinking of ways to fix it).

    As for the witty comments, I think I can trace it back to watching hours and hours of MST3K :-)

    I'm really glad you enjoyed it.

  2. The funniest typo that was pointed out to me by a crit partner (technically my husband, so he tries to keep his comments encouraging and entertaining), was this sentence:

    I made me laugh.

    It was supposed to read, "It made me laugh." So now the whole family uses the typo line all the time when they do something brainless. And I get to live with the constant reminder that just because spell check thinks it's a word, it doesn't mean it's the RIGHT word! :)

    You're so lucky to have a crit partner who can make the grind of editing so entertaining!

  3. Adam's reference to MST3K explains everything!

    Actually, my 22-year-old nephew (a comp lit major and a voracious reader) provided the most spot-on critique for my latest novel. I ended up cutting a quarter, and reworking a third but now the manuscript has gained the attention of five agents! Woot.

    One of his funniest lines was: I don't think any manuscript should use the word 'agita' more than once.

  4. I less-than-three edit notes with many less-than-threes. I mean, I hate them at first but once I get past that... for me, editing on the whole is like the reward you get for slogging through a first draft.

    Just had the biggest eureka moment of my life. The crit was 'You know that reveal you have half-way through? You should make that a big reveal at the end, instead'.

    After I did it, someone CRIED reading it (which threw me into a massive panic until it was explained to me that they good tears, not 'oh my dog, this is awful' tears...).

    I don't think many others will have such a strong reaction to it, but that something I wrote could affect someone so strongly... I'll treasure those edit notes forever...

  5. I look forward to edit notes, even if they're not entirely positive - just having someone engage thoughtfully with something I've written makes me really excited. And I love rewrites anyway, so I usually enjoy the whole process!

  6. I've learned that writing can be a very lonely venture if you have no appreciation, on some level, for constructive criticism. I've received line edits that were so enlightening that all I could do was facepalm and think, "Well, darn it all to heck. HOW did I miss that?" And then I want to hug them for pointing out the blatantly obvious.

    No, I don't get a thrill from having my MS ripped to shreds. On the contrary, it stings something awful. But I know that if I address those things, my story will be better, stronger and more enjoyable to a reader. THAT's what I think about when it comes to critiques...the making it "mo betta" part.

  7. Critique terrifies me. (for all that I just throw it down in comments, like I know what I'm doing). And for all that I just throw it down, I've actually never been critiqued in my "professional" phase. *hides*

    Several years ago, I was writing fan fiction, and ended up getting a little sliver of personal critique from someone on one chapter. I thought I had it, I thought I was amazing (I mean, how can 20 "OMGSSSSZZZ!!!" reviews be wrong, right? lol.) But dude knew what he was about, and after letting me know that he did enjoy my prose, he gently laid out all the other ways in which I completely sucked.

    I was devastated. I had been so sure I was special and my writing was the best thing since Imperial put sugar in a carton (instead of that freaking sack that spills it all over the place, even when it's closed, somehow). So I put his edits away and cried and slogged around for a while.

    But then fairly slowly, all the things he said clicked.... and they weren't subjective things, either (I really didn't need a dialog tag after every sentence, especially when they were all in the same paragraph), so being thus enlightened was crucial to my growth as a writer.

    And getting that hard critique showed me that I had a lot of work to do in the craft. I was creating characters and situations and descriptions. I had some nice turns of phrase. But I was seriously deficient in the mechanics. That awareness led me to several different resources for writing (including this one) where I've learned so much about the art. And my mindset has shifted so much from hobby to professional.

    I took a long break from drafting my WIP while I spent time just working on the mechanics of creating prose, and now I'm back to drafting. I am still dreading that first critique--the one where I find out I'm still not as good as I think I am--but I really hope it shines the same kind of light on my defects as that first critique did.

    I really feel that first edit is what knocked some writing sense into me.

  8. Hmm, I'm fine with edit notes now but I wasn't always. When my critique partner first edited my manuscript I was very annoyed reading her comments and even rolled my eyes at some of the funny notes that I deep down knew were hilarious, insightful, and true. I learned to love edit notes over time and put them to good use--Manuscript improvement.

  9. After reading my unflattering revision comments, a girlfriend told me she had just wanted me to tell her how much I liked the story. I said, "I'm not that kind of boyfriend." (Dear Boyfriends, It turns out that that is a stupid thing to say.)

    We are married now and laugh about that incident. But, it does help us appreciate the trusted feedback we can provide each other. That's hard to find.

    Now if I can only get her to start using MST3K wit...

  10. My critique partner is constantly making me laugh in the margins of my manuscript. It's the only way I can get through yet another round of edits...

  11. I LOVE critiques if they are helpful. Nothing bothers me more than to receive a critique back that has almost no comment boxes. I feel like maybe it didn't even get read.
    My wake-up moment was when my editor sent back my first edits with the comment, "There sure is a lot of smiling going on here." I never realized before then how often I used that particular word.

  12. Adam IS pretty awesome!
    And i love me some crit notes. Usually anyway. Sometimes i get the ones that really upset me, but usually that's a red flag that this person isn't the right partner for me.
    Otherwise, i get so excited to get them!

  13. The most useful critiques are the ones that make me think, 'Why ever didn't I notice/realize that?'

  14. I haven't done complete line-by-line editing with a partner, but the wonderful online writing partner I do work with is a lit teacher, so his critiques always sound so professional. He freely uses terms like "preposition" and "story line arc", and he uses them correctly. I suspect he has a wardrobe of red pencils. :)

    I, on the other hand, go by feel/instinct, so my critiques tend to run "this doesn't sound/read/look right" and give corrected examples. While I don't remember terminology, my teachers did a good job of pounding the basics into my head. When I feel the need to bone up on specific terms, I head to the library and grab the "School House Rock" DVDs, because college was a long time ago, and music and cartoons always make learning funner!

    "Conjunction junction, what's your function..."

    (Yes, I know it's not "funner". But it should be.)

  15. @DJ -- would love to know which of the mysteries was yours. Would also like to chat a bit by email if you're up for it. durangowriter(a)gmail(dot)com.

  16. Adam sounds awesome. Critiques are invaluable, but you do have to find the right partners, critiquer's who can help you lift your work to the next level, just as you help them do the same. And someone who gets your style and what you're trying to do.

    I had a similar moment recently when I sent my reworked chapters to some of my critique partners and got positive notes back with: "Go further!!!" Given the permission, so to speak, to really push it, I came up with a bunch of new ideas that I can't wait to dive into.

    Critique partners can hold us, guide us to the right direction, and help give us ideas that might not necessarily work, but will lead us to think of even better ones.

  17. LOVE collaborating on writing!

    I like to edit, and I like to consider other people's reaction to my work.

  18. I've already commented above, :-)

    -But I was just wondering if there's anyone here who wouldn't mind becoming my online critique partner for urban fantasy? I have critique partners in my personal life and even an old professor from college but I'd really to hear feedback from someone who may not be biased, doesn't really know me, or have occasional face to face interactions with me. I know it'll be easier for someone who doesn't know me to be more blatant about my work.

    Thanks! ;-)

  19. Right now, my (unofficial) critique partner is my best friend, an illustration student/book blogger with a love for grammar and well-written YA - and she's harsh. When I send her something and I get an e-mail back, I dread opening it because I know she's going to tell me something that makes me feel like, "D'oh" for the rest of the day. Good stuff, though - just not the kind that an author wants to hear about her "baby".

    Anyway, though, your post has brought to mind a question that's been bugging me for some time: how DO you find fellow writer critique partners? Some authors have told me (vaguely) to just "put yourself out there and you'll find one". Someone suggested SCBWI or going to conventions. Is that really the secret?

  20. Rissa, I'd love to take a stab at being your critique partner. I write fantasy too and have been thinking along the same lines.

    I joined the Critter Workshop a while ago and I really enjoy doing the critiques, but find it very frustrating that there is no real feedback.

    Another spot to find an independent critique at the moment is
    Kat has organised a whole bunch of well known agents and authors to auction off critiques to raise money for her water charity. The auctions are going from $20 to $1800 - the $1800 was for A FULL MANUSCRIPT CRITIQUE by Suzie Townsend. The campaign runs April to June and there is an auction every two days. Hats off to Kat and her fantastic friends for helping such a great cause.

    If you're interested in pursuing the critique partnership drop me a line at kay.cox(a)internode(dot)on(dot)net

  21. Kat is fantastic! She's grown Crits for Water to an astounding platform for the cause.
    Last year, crits didn't reach the heights they presently are. Seriously $1800?! They couldn't have kids, could they?

  22. I have one of those crit partners, too. He's a bit shy so I won't call him out by name, but he always gets the big picture and then makes funny comments in the margins. If I have a typo with an extra letter he'll write "spelllllling." And stuff like that! It almost makes receiving a critique fun!