What Phrases Stopped You in Your Tracks…In a Good Way?

What stops your reading?

What stops your reading?

As a critique partner, one of our jobs is to mark the sentences or phrases that stop us in our tracks and pull us out of the story. In most cases, those are big No-No’s that should be stricken from the manuscript.

As a reader and aspiring author, I strongly believe it’s still important to highlight sentences that stop you in your tracks, but they should be the ones that you appreciate for their wit, humor, how they intrigued you to read more, or how they described something perfectly. Be sure to log them into a journal, a note pad, or scratch paper that you can look at after you’ve gathered 10 or so. My suggestion would be to gather them from different sources, at least 3 or 4 different books.

Why

Simply because once you look at that list again, you’ll start to see a pattern. You should be able to pick out what precisely attracted your attention. It could be the cadence of the sentence, the use of metaphor or simile; whatever it was that gave you pause.

And then…?

Create writing exercises based on those phrases. Describe a character in a similar manner, but with your own voice to it. Start a chapter using the same type of sentence cadence. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that you copy anyone. I’m saying that by recognizing what you like about other author’s voice, you can refine your own.

Here are examples of a few that I grabbed:

  • Now that… was a cure for constipation
  • She has Little Sister Radar. She knows exactly when I’m busy, and that’s when she pounces.
  • Poor Reeves. She looked as comfortable as if she was standing naked in front of her history class giving a report on the Salem Witch Trials using her own body as a visual aid to all of the tortures.
  • …understanding took root and grew limbs…
  • The sharpness of my sympathy almost cut my heart into shreds
  • He said that we needed to get to know each other better, so he started to throw out details as if they were bullets…and I was the target.
  • The virus was a knife to my face, carving away at my cheeks, sharpening my chin, thinning my nose.
  • I didn’t need him to buy my lies. I just needed him to rent them for a while.

Can you see a pattern to what I’ve picked out? Even if you don’t, that’s ok, I do. ; ) Now start your own list!

Stacked Books

Leis Pederson, Berkley Heat Editor – The Editor Life

This is a continuation of my notes from our recent RWASD chapter meeting. As you can probably see, I am a copious note-taker.

Editor

THE EDITOR LIFE

These questions were related more to Leis as an editor than to submission/query questions.

When reading a book, who would you rather be the heroine or her best friend?

Greatly depends on the book. Haven’t you ever read a book where you thought, “Wow, her best friend is really more fun than she is?”

What are your favorite and least favorite things about being an editor?

Her favorite part is the fact that she gets paid to read.

Her least favorite thing is when she likes a book and wants to buy it and isn’t able to for a number of reasons, such as a) someone
else bought it b) the rest of the committee doesn’t agree c) someone else just bought something similar, etc. It makes her very cranky.

What’s your opinion of romances written in the first or third person?

Depends on the book and the writer. If a book is done well, either works. It depends on the Voice and POV changes.

Someone from the crowd said: I heard that readers like to see the development of the romance from both the hero’s and the
heroine’s perspective. Leis agreed, but again, it all depends on the book and if it’s done well.

Which do you read first, the sample chapters or the synopsis?

The sample first. If what she reads intrigues her enough, then she’ll read through the synopsis. And she’ll usually read the entire
thing, unless it’s awful.

What’s a typical day for you?

She works in an office, so considers it a normal office job. She doesn’t do her reading or editing at the office; that happens at home.
A typical office day for Leis consists of filing, emailing, calls, meetings, etc. She sits at her computer all day long.

What was your path to where you are now at Berkley?

She was enrolled in the NYU Publishing program where she had to intern at a publishing house as part of her graduation requirement. She ended up interning under Cindy Hwang and the “rest is history.”

Who is your favorite among all your authors?

She adores all her authors with equal love and affection and could not choose one over the other.

With your psychology background, how much does it come into play while you’re reading a manuscript?

Not that much, unless it has some sort of psychological element to it. She has been known to call out a couple of inconsistencies or red flags in a couple of novels, but not much.

What is the ratio of what you review to what you actually acquire?

Off the top of her head, she supposes that if she sees 100 manuscripts, she will acquire only 2 of them.

Do you acquire Inspirationals?

No – she does not personally acquire Inspirational romance novels, however there are some books that Penguin has put out that fall into that category. It depends on the acquiring editor. There is no line at Penguin that’s slated for Inspirationals at this time.

Next time – I’ll have my notes from her on the Publishing Industry. IMHO, those were really interesting. Stay tuned . . .

Publishing

CRITIQUES Part 2: What do to when you receive a critique

In general, I usually try to be in a quiet place with no distractions. Read through it during your normal writing time if at all
possible. I don’t suggest reading through critiques or contest results just before combing your kid’s hair. Just saying. Have a glass of wine or hot chamomile tea to calm you.

When reading any feedback, remember – you sent your story idea out to the world for feedback. You DID NOT send out your first-born child for criticism. It can sometimes be hard for people to send out their work and not feel attacked as a person rather than seeing the comments for what they are: that person’s opinion.

Contest Feedback: The first thing I would do is find out a little bit about the judge. Most contest score sheets have information about the judge on the front, such as if they are published, PRO, or unpubbed. All three types of judges will grade things differently, you will have to put your own weight on the value of each category’s critique.

If it’s an unpubbed/PRO judge, I have found that they leave really great notes and questions for me to think about. Published authors usually leave a goldmine worth of comments if not more than one “Ah-ha” moments.

Tips to remember: 

  • Don’t take the comments personally, you paid for these critiques
  • Don’t get angry or defensive, the remarks that they make are that writer’s opinion
  • Write a thank you note to the judges
  • Whether you agree or disagree with the comments, don’t start revising right away. Take a few days to think about the
    comments.

Writing Buddy Critiques: In this case, they are typically your friends, if not close acquaintances versus the complete strangers from a contest. They want to see you succeed and thus their comments will be supportive and constructive. It’s nice that you don’t need any mental preparation when reading through these critiques. If you have writing buddies that are published, those are the ones to really pay attention to and hope that you can glean knowledge from their experience. Just remember that published authors work on deadlines, so you might not receive comments back from them as quickly as you would from others.

Keep in mind:

  • If there are sections of your manuscript where your writing buddies have all placed remarks –  then it would be a good idea to revise that section.
  • Know your buddies strengths – if one critiquer is better at punctuation vs pacing, keep that in mind when deciding what to revise
  • Same with all feedback, take a few days before revising, let the comments sink in and see which ones you really want to
    revise to.

Paid critique from a published author or an editor or agent – their comments are worth their weight in gold. These critiques will give you extremely valuable advice and criticism . . . that you may or may not want to hear.

The nice thing is that since you’ve paid for the critique as part of a chapter or charity fundraiser, they will make sure that you “get your money’s worth.” I would prep for reading through these critiques the same way you would for a contest, mentally calm, with an open mind, and possibly wine, chocolates, or both.

  •  More thoughts: 
    Write a thank you note to the critique – if it’s an agent or editor that liked your work, you are just giving them another reason to like you.
  • Change what you want – If you disagree with a critiquer’s comments, that’s perfectly fine. If they are suggesting a change that you don’t want to do, or think would change the story line or characters too much, then don’t do it. But think closely about what the comment says before completely ignoring it. Is it really about changing an entire character arc or is it something more basic like “this scene doesn’t fit here, cut or move it.”
  • Don’t change everything – This falls in line with the advice above. Say you receive 3 critiques and they all have marks in different areas and nothing is conclusive and more than anything, you end up feeling confused and disoriented. Instead of revising to all their comments, see if you can find another couple of people to send it to. See if their redlines fall in line with any of the ones you’ve received before and then you can find the relevant patterns.

Just a friendly reminder that critiques are supposed to help you on the road to publication. They are not meant to belittle you, chastise you, or get you to quit writing. If you EVER find that one of your critique partners makes you feel this way, well then, refrain from smacking them (I’ll do that for you) and just find a new partner. There are tons out there. Although writing is a solitary career, writing friends are in abundance.