The enjoyment of peer critique editing

In the past year I have started swapping stories with other authors, for beta reading, and critiquing. In exchange I have gotten some great feedback on my own work. Keep in mind; great feedback is not “OMG, I love your book!” But rather, “You have a problem here and it really needs to be fixed.” I love the compliments, but compliments don’t fix troublesome stories. Criticism does.

More importantly I’ve been able to offer that criticism. I have read some great works that are going to be loved by audiences. The story still needed help. I’ve done my best to give the author feedback so that she can work on the story and make it better. Make it ready to an audience.

I love critique editing. It’s hard work to get through a book sometimes. But to find that magic that is there and help bring it out? Amazing. By critiquing other people’s work I look at my own work in a more critical manner. Depending on the day I want to either slash up my work or feel good about what I’ve done. On the slashing days I can been seen sobbing to my husband, begging him to give the “bad” feedback:

Husband: Yes, honey, your writing is amazing.
Over dramatic author, sniffling through her tears: You really think so? You haven’t read the last five drafts, but you really think so?

Of course he does. And of course he goes on to mention a scene that hit the cutting room floor years ago. But that’s okay. I still love him.

The downside with doing critiquing is that I’m critiquing books that have already been published. I want to fix the plot holes, move sentences around, cut out that section… Often times I need to remind myself that someone else has already edited this book, and the author is making a decent living off of the writing, so who am I to be offering up critiques?

My strength is plot critiquing. Looking at the flow of the story. Seeing how it all comes together. It’s exciting to see how a plot is laid out, where it goes, how it is resolved.

It’s easier to critique someone else’s writing than my own. Point out problem. Let author handle it. When critiquing my own work I point out problem, then pull my hair out trying to figure out how to handle it.

Or rather I tackle husband and ramble off confusing plot while looking up at him with hero worship eyes. He makes a few suggestions, since he’s that nice of a guy. I dismiss both options for X, Y, Z reason. He gives up and I’m back to pulling my hair out. Until two days later, when an idea pops into my head. I come back to him, triumphant in my discovery, only to be reminded he came up with it first…

But that’s okay. He still loves me.

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A Poem For My Son

When I was younger I used to write poems, yet haven’t written one in years. Last week I was watching my sick three-year-old sleep on my chest and a poem came to my mind. I grabbed my phone, careful not to disturb him, and reunited myself with my poetic side.

I lie here, watching you sleep
Long, dark eyelashes brushing your cheeks.

Hair clung to a sweaty forehead,
Brown and blond, from mother and father.

Your days are filled with exuberant energy.
Testing, taking, controlling, misbehaving.

Your world is at your fingertips,
You crave to understand.

Tinkering with toys,
Tinkering with rules.

Loving the journey as best a three-year-old can.

You bring joy, you bring stress.

You are amazing,
Even as a pest.

But now you rest,
Sweet as sugar.

Peacefully filling my heart with wonder.

I will cherish these moments,
Think of them when you are awake and creating mischief.
Remember them when you grow old.

Soon the baby face will have stubble.
The voice will turn deep.

You won’t fall asleep on my shoulder much longer.

The love I have for you will continue.

Through the sweet moments,
Through the trying,
You are now and always.

My son.

Romance Covers

My favorite books to read are romances. I’m a hopeless romantic so I love a good romance. Every book I have written, with at least a completed first draft, have strong romantic elements in them. I do have one horror waiting to be finished. No romance there unless the cat gets lucky.

One thing I was reminded of recently: while I love a good romance, I’m not so keen on the traditional covers. I was at the library with my family. Up until now I have been borrowing e-books. No shame in browsing through covers with scantily clad men and women in the privacy of my own home. Browsing paperbacks in the library, with Fabio look-a-likes on the front, however, made my cheeks turn pink.

There were rows and rows of fancy hard cover books. Then in a separate section multiple turning stiles of paperback romances. An invisible line ran through the library, separating the professional academic books, from the… well… girly porn. I’m not going to lie; I felt a little dirty walking over to them. I’m not the type to walk into the adult video section of a video store, so a cover that screams “SEX SCENES INSIDE” make me feel like a schoolgirl.

If I have control over the cover of my books, I will opt to do something along the lines of Jennifer Crusie’s books. One of my favorites is Bet Me, and here is the cover I have at home:

Beyond the obvious squirm level the sexy covers create in me; I like a cover that flexes my imagination. This one doesn’t tell me what any of the characters look like. The only flaw it has is that the main character doesn’t wear any shoes with a cherry on top in the book. Books that have models on them never seem to match my idea of what the main characters look like. Even drawings can throw me. I remember reading one book with three skinny females on the cover. Yet one of those females was not skinny. It bugs me. My attention to detail struggles to let these small, insignificant stuff go.

In the end I may have to let all this go. A cover is a cover. If steamy men and woman lost in a passionate embrace will better sell my novel then a giant chocolate chip cookie, who am I to complain? Also depending on how I journey from aspiring to published author, I may not have all that much control over what is on the cover.

Back to the library: I ended up borrowing two books. Both with relatively tame covers. And I still felt a little dirty.

What are your thoughts on covers? Love the hunky men and skinny damsels in distress?

50,000 word challenge a success!

July has come and gone, and with it the challenge to write 50,000 words. My final word count was 53,000 for the month. The novel entered completed first draft at 61,000 words, not too shabby for a little over 30 days. She is still on the short side for her genre, but I’m letting that slide for now. Editing can mean many changes for a novel.

At the end, I’m excited to have another completed story under my belt. I really do love the process of writing something new and fresh. I don’t remember how long my first novel took to write. I know my second one took years as I took large breaks in-between, and was trying (and failing) not to write her. Now I know with hard work and dedication, not to mention an understanding family and obsessive work ethic, I can complete a first draft in about a month.

My next challenge is to complete editing in a short amount of time as well. Not a challenge I’m ready to tackle just yet, as it’s time to put my focus back on Project Torture and her grand debut. But one day. Soon.

Until then, I designed a cover for my completed 50,000 word challenge, just for fun. The picture is from another blog, and I fully intend to make the yummy morsel depicted. I really do like the cover and had fun making it while I stared at the wall of writer’s block:

Ethical Dilemma1

Bottom line, I enjoyed writing with a goal and a time limit. It was a learning experience to see what I was able to accomplish. When I started I didn’t know if the goal was realistic. Now I know it is. I may have a first draft of crap. But it’s my crap and I’m proud of it.

If anyone out there is wondering if they can write their own book, give it a try. Just write. Set a goal. Meet that goal, don’t meet that goal. Just keep writing.