Ten years ago I handed a woman in my critiquing group a short story I wrote involving an Alpine farm and a drowned kitten. "It's dark," I said. "Kind of like your writing."
A few days later she handed it back to me, her nose wrinkled up from the stink of bad prose. "I write NOTHING like this," she said. "If ever I write like this, I'll kill myself."
Okay, then. It wasn't my best story. But her critiquing technique? Well, it sucked. There was no constructive criticism involved. In fact, what she said wasn't even a criticism. It was just plain hurtful. Even so, we stayed friends and she went on to critique my work (sometimes constructively and sometimes not) for another year or so. And in a twisted way, I really appreciated what she said to me that day. Why?
At least she was honest.
If there is one thing writers need, it's honesty from their critiquing partners. I don't mean it should come in the scathing form it did for me ten years ago, but it has to come. When writing a draft of a novel, your goal is to find what needs fixing, twiddle with what needs tweaking, and move around what is malleable. And when writing a draft, you are often so entrenched in the story, you can't see how it reads from the outside. You wrote the damn thing. You aren't always going to notice what make no sense. Because, to you, everything makes sense.
"This is wonderful" is no help to a writer whatsoever -- at least not before the book is published. (After publication, however, that's all we want to hear -- a review is a whole different animal from a critique). If you truly love the craft, you want to your work to be as good as you can make it at that time.
Not good enough, but good. Really good.
And the only way to make a piece of writing move from good enough to really good is through honest critiquing. The kind of critiquing that says, "Oh, my God. I LOVE this book...but chapter three makes no sense whatsoever, you use the word ache way too often, and your main character is a bitch. Rework it, babe."
I've been with my current critiquing group for a while. It takes time to move from stiff, polite critiquing to critiquing that goes for the heart with no bloodshed. But we are there now. We know each other's weaknesses and strengths and we point them out. Gently sometimes, more forcefully other times. But we do point them out.
I've brought them my work from years back, curious as to their reaction. Luckily, in this group, no one has ever threatened to kill herself. But I did get raised eyebrows and comments like, "Your writing has improved a lot since then, so I would say..."
A year ago I didn't even realize book bloggers existed. I was never one to spend time surfing the net. It's only in the last nine months or so that I began to discover this whole world of book reviewers who post their opinions online. It's amazing, really, that there are so many book lovers out there willing to give up a chunk of their time to write reviews and feature books on their blogs. It's not a paid job. It's a passion. And it's awesome.
With the number of books out there, book bloggers provide a welcomed service to both readers and authors. They wade through the slush pile of published books so readers can get a better idea as to which novel they should pick up next. They offer desperately needed exposure to authors who may not get it otherwise.
And this is a big BUT. But more and more are refusing to review books by indie authors or authors they haven't worked with before. Why? Because there are authors who've called them names, threatened them, set out internet campaigns against them. And the book bloggers have had enough. They do this on their own time. They don't need that kind of crap. Yes, I'm sure there are bloggers that write hurtful or ridiculous reviews -- I won't defend them. (But I won't defend authors who can't write or proofread, either.) However, most book bloggers are respectful, even if the review is negative.
The whole thing pisses me off. It pisses me off that authors have acted like toddlers and thrown tantrums when a reviewer doesn't like their work. It pisses me off that they've done it often enough to have closed off reviewing opportunities for the rest of us. And it pisses me off that as an indie author, I am put in the same category as those writers who have been behaving badly. That many of the blogs I do follow -- many that I feel would be a great fit for my novel -- when I go to review guidelines I am greeted with the message I DO NOT REVIEW INDIE AUTHORS or DUE TO PAST EXPERIENCE, WE TAKE NO REQUESTS INVOLVING SELF-PUBLISHED BOOKS.
I can't blame them. But it's unfortunate, since indies really need book bloggers behind us. We don't have ad campaigns by major publishers to get our names out there. Our books aren't in Target or Walmart or other places people just might come across them randomly, when shopping for something else.
Self-publishing has exploded. There are more and more books out there every year. Which means there will be a lot more bad with the good. And that more than ever, we'll need bloggers to help guide readers through the mass. Yet it also means that there will be more and more authors acting like idiots.
I don't know what the future of book blogging and indie authors looks like. But I do know that only a month and a half into my publishing venture I am extremely grateful to the generous bloggers who have posted on my book. Every second of my time
is consumed with the worry that no one will discover Untethered out there
amid hundreds of thousands of other titles. My social media circle is small. I don't have the money for
huge ads. Or a network of influential contacts. Or a half-naked couple
on the cover of my book.
All I have is a burning desire to make this work. And my e-mail.
And those bloggers' responses to my e-mails. The ones who've said, "Yes."
Every writer has a preferred place to write. You can learn a
lot about a person by looking at her writing space.So I thought I’d analyze mine and share the
results with you.
(FYI: If I were rich, I’d have a totally different space.I’d have enough money to get a new apartment
with a real office of my own.A room
with a view and a door that shuts (and locks) and a huge DO NOT DISTURB sign.Yeah, that would be my ideal.)
But what I’m
making do with right now is this:
Yes.I write at the
kitchen table.I chose that spot despite
having a little Ikea desk in the hallway.
And here’s why:
1. The kitchen table is near the windows, hence
sunlight.As a writer, I spend 98% of my
time indoors.Gotta get those UV rays
2. The kitchen table is in the kitchen.Sooooo much
closer to the candy.Before, I’d
interrupt my writing way too often to go forage for food. Now I’m right
there.And I’ve got a big table to
spread it out on.(Just don’t ask me
what else has spread.)
Which leads me to my NEXT writing
space!I’ve got two!
My homemade desk bike.(Thank you to my fabulous father-in-law who
built it). I’m packing on the pounds,
people.All that sitting, writing,
eating!I have to do something.And this way I can do it and work, too.
So what do these writing places
say about me?
I’m not sure.That I’m a book and food obsessed writer who
can’t stand small spaces and likes indirect sunlight?
Or is it just that when we want to
tell a story, we make do with what we’ve got.Because, ultimately, the only thing that really matters is that you
write. Anywhere.Any way.Anyhow.
Today my guest post 10 Ways to Tell if You are a Writer is featured on Living for the Books -- an awesome book blog with lots of reviews and info. And BONUS! There is also a giveaway! Check out the post HERE Thank you!