How Many Critiques Spoil the Broth?

critiques

Today I’ll give my opinion on a question sent to our blog:

When an author is trying to find the right Genre to write in for a particular subject, is it profitable to listen to only one critique? 

Discover

The author who posed this question is in the discovery phase. Writers who read lots of books and have developed a love for many types of stories often have trouble deciding what to write. Often I receive proposals from new authors who tell me they have written, for example, romance, women’s fiction, and romantic suspense and want me to market all three. From a statistical perspective, that makes sense. Isn’t it more likely that three proposals going to thirty places will be more likely for at least one to find success than one proposal going to six places? Well, no. This is because authors are better off finding their writing passion and pursuing that with the best book they can write rather than researching and writing across the board. For instance, romantic suspense and contemporary romance have in common the fact that the story’s main plot point is the relationship between a modern hero and heroine. However, a romantic suspense writer must be willing to learn about police procedure and the law, but contemporary romance authors usually don’t because their books focus on different types of conflicts.

Listen

My advice to the new author is to pursue the story they most want to see published and to see their name tied to forever. To decide that, think about what story you are most eager to write, and what type of research you enjoy. Though you will still want to write to market considerations, I recommend listening to your heart when choosing genres.

Flourish

Of course, many successful authors write in several genres. However, most of these authors started in one genre and moved to different types of books as their careers flourished. New authors need to get a foothold before attempting to market several genres. This is one area where a literary agent’s advice is invaluable. Our jobs include offering career advice to authors and helping them not to become overwhelmed with too many contracts. This is a nice problem to have, but one that needs the skill of a good agent to manage.

Critique

Critiques are tricky. Finding a match of partners who will work with your schedule and who are also knowledgeable about and have a passion for your genre is one of the most difficult combinations to find. There is nothing wrong with asking your mother or spouse to critique your work. My husband is not a professional author but he critiqued every novel and Bible trivia book I wrote. He was a tremendous help to me. However, when exchanging critiques with other authors, it makes sense to find those who have enough knowledge about your genre to be helpful with what will and will not work in the marketplace. A book about two people living in different countries but who find love in the last two chapters of a book may be a great read, but it won’t work for all genres. Writers of historical fiction would benefit from listening to authors who know their chosen time period to help with tone, voice, and details. Having author friends get behind your work gives you confidence when you first start writing.

Number

So how many critiques is the right number? Popular authors with deadlines usually reach the point of success where critique groups no longer work well. Submitting a chapter a week doesn’t cut it when your deadline is next month. And you don’t have time to critique other people’s work because you are under deadline. So at this point, you may have one devoted critiquer who can drop everything for you, or you may have no one at all. The bottom line is, critiques and critique partners can be a valuable piece of your writing career puzzle, but they should not and cannot be the end-all and be-all of your career. Even the most experienced and well-meaning critiquer is only offering an opinion. Over time you must develop the confidence in yourself and your work to submit your best to your editor.

 

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Let Creativity Flow (Part One)

Creativity.

There are days when it flows as free as the Rogue River (and anyone who’s ever been to Oregon knows that’s free indeed!) When ideas come so hard and fast you can scarcely keep up. When the words fly from your fingers, through the keyboard, and onto the page. When creativity happens, it’s electric, exciting, energizing.

And then there are other days.

Days when you sit at the keyboard, staring at a blank screen. When you type…delete…type…delete…and on and on. Every word is a struggle, every character wooden, every plot point contrived. And you ask yourself, for the 110th time, “Why?”

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Did You Miss Today’s “News You Can Use”?

For quite some time we have been providing various links on Tuesdays under the title “News You Can Use.” This post takes considerable time to compile. But since it doesn’t create discussion or comments we have little idea if anyone is reading this weekly post. Therefore we are asking if …

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The Perils of Social Media

Facebook. Twitter. Shoutlife. LinkedIn. Dopplr. Google+. Plaxo. Blogger. WordPress. Shelfari. Goodreads. Writer’s loops. Conference loops. Endless loops.

By the time I finish updating my status, writing my blogs, tweeting, pasting my bulletins, my newest pictures, my URLs and YouTube links, recruiting friends, recommending friends, sharing reads, rating reads, ranking reads, ranking friends, tagging friends, responding to posts, responding to friends, responding to blogs, ranting, reblogging, re-bulleting, re-accepting (plants, gifts, pinches, bits o’ karma, flowers, flare, tickles, candy, drinks, siege warfare by angry goats and lil green patches–what the heck is a lil green patch anyway??) it’s time to repost my status–and respond to those responding to my status who are reading their walls, shuffling friends, organizing bookshelves, recommending contacts and waging mob wars.

By then, the day is over. I have missed my hair appointment, my deadline and a conference call, needed to go to the bathroom three hours ago, blown off dinner, ticked off my friends (who live in town and did not check my wall to see why I never showed up), neglected my Significant Other, alienated my family, and defaulted on my mortgage.

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Fun Fridays – Jan. 6, 2012

Kevin Olusola, “Celloboxing” – the talent of playing the cello and beatboxing at the same time. Give it until the one minute mark and then try to keep your jaw from dropping.
Wow.

Kevin is also the “percussion” for the “Sing-Off” competition winning group “Pentatonix.”

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New Year’s Resolutions

So many resolutions. So many possibilities. So many dashed hopes.

In the interest of avoiding disappointment, here is my list of New Year’s Resolutions I am likely to keep:

1.) Watch more television.

2.) Buy more awesome clothes that go with red lipstick.

3.) Add to my collection of black pointy-toed spiked-heeled shoes.

4.) Increase my collection of black high-heeled platform shoes.

5.) Do less housework.

 Well, maybe I shouldn’t keep any of these. But my hope for the new year is to show everyone I care about even more:

 1.) Love.

2. Understanding.

3.) Mindfulness.

4.) Compassion.

5.) Patience.

Yes, more of these than ever before.

This is actually a very selfish resolution. For when we do these things, the likelihood of being rewarded in kind is great.

Happy New Year!

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Ready, Set…WAIT!

Ah, New Year’s. When hearts soar with best intentions and resolutions tumble around us like snow-melt waterfalls. Our hearts and minds surge with all we want to be, all we hope to accomplish, all we regret and want to change…

Okay, now, show of hands: How many of you make New Year’s Resolutions?

Again, show of hands: How many of you KEEP them??

If you were here, watching me, you’d notice my hand is down. I’ve made hundreds of resolutions over the years, and I’ve broken almost every one. It took me a lot of years to understand that this fact doesn’t make me bad or weak-willed or a failure. It took me several more years to realize that the new year isn’t, for me, about resolutions. It isn’t about saying what I will and won’t do.

It’s about listening.

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News You Can Use – Jan. 3, 2012

Publishing Predictions for 2012 – Various industry insider look into the Crystal Ball. Including Randy Ingermanson, Julie Gwinn, Steve Laube, Jeff Gerke, Chip MacGregor, Mary DeMuth, and Thomas Umstattd. Save this link and see who was right 366 days from today.

Update the Copyright on Your Web Site – A good reminder!

Christian Publishers Anticipate Global Growth in 2012 – Don’t forget that books sell around the world! Click through to read more.

Lack of Snow Get You Down? – Click through to make your own Star Wars snowflakes

What is the Magic Price for E-Books? – Insightful article on the history of e-book prices and a bit of the economics that influence pricing.

Lagging Movie Sales a Lesson for E-Books? – Fascinating parallel from some observations by Roger Ebert.

QR Codes are soooo last year…. – Richard Curtis predicts 2012 will be the year of the “Snap Tag.” How many of you were just starting to notice QR Codes? And they are already passe?

Why You Still Don’t Have an Agent – Jeff Rivera on the query letter. Then note his web site: HowToWriteaQueryLetter.com.

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2011 – The Year in Review

It is a good exercise to reflect on the past year. Count the blessings, reflect on the hard lessons, and remember the good times.

The highlight was bringing both Tamela Hancock Murray and Karen Ball into the agency in late May. I was and continue to be very excited about the talent and work these two are doing on behalf of our clients.

That hard work had visible results as we secured sixty-four (64) new book contracts that will cover 113 new books. That works out to a new contract every four business days.

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