Nancy: The Fine Art of Receiving a Critique

Last week, Jeanne discussed critiquing manuscripts for newbie writers, and yesterday Justine talked about revising (and revising, and revising!) the opening chapters of the first book in her historical romance series. With both of these posts on my mind and no less than three (three!) revisions of my own to complete, from minor tweaks in one story to major revisions in another to something in between on the third, today I’m thinking about the best way to bridge the gap between getting back comments from a trusted critiquer and putting a revision plan into action.

We’ve discussed a lot of the steps I’m going to suggest here at 8LW in the past, and much of the way the Ladies approach critique work is based on the guidance Jenny Crusie* gave us while we studied with her in our McDaniel writing program. But with so many of us knee deep (or eyeballs deep) in the critique and revision process, let’s revisit some of the basics, ICYMI (or ICYNAR – in case you need a refresher). Continue reading

Jeanne: The Dunning-Kruger Effect

dunning-kruger--edited

A few weeks ago at church, the minister talked about something called the “Dunning-Kruger Effect.”

This concept, defined by psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger, describes the cognitive bias of inexperience that causes people who know almost nothing about a topic think they are experts because they don’t know enough to realize the extent of their ignorance.

If you’ve ever critiqued a manuscript for a beginning writer, you know exactly what this is. The newbie will bring you her precious creation and hand it over, dewy-eyed with confidence that the next day (because it’s so good you’ll stay up all night reading it), you’ll call to tell her that she is the next J.K. Rowling/Nora Roberts/E.L. James/Gillian Flynn. Continue reading

Jeanne: My First DNF (Did Not Finish)

censorship-3308001_640So I got a note from an old friend and former co-worker the other day, saying they couldn’t finish The Demon Always Wins because it was too scary. Pressed, she admitted that she never actually started it–just the idea of demons freaked her out.

I was sorry she couldn’t enjoy the book, but I didn’t really take it to heart. It didn’t feel like a rejection of my work so much as a rejection of the genre. Since I have no expectation that I’m going to convert anyone who doesn’t like paranormal over to reading it, I wasn’t upset.

What felt a little more personal was the lady at the gym who declined to read it because of the cursing in the first chapter. I pointed out that only the bad guys curse, but she wasn’t swayed. Cursing makes her uncomfortable. Continue reading

Jilly: The Appeal of Foreign Stories

Do you read contemporary stories set in countries other than the USA? What kind of stories are they? What do you especially like about them?

I have a reason for asking.

I’m just back from a most excellent vacation in the States, including an action-packed weekend at the Writers’ Police Academy in Green Bay, Wisconsin with fellow 8 Lady Kay, followed by a few days in picturesque Door County (click here to read Kay’s description of our excursions to the Northern Sky Theater Company).

Before I met up with Kay, I spent an afternoon in Chicago talking all things writing with a developmental editor. Mostly we focused on Alexis, but we also talked about my English/Scottish contemporary romance, which I decided to dust off in time for the next (and final) RWA Golden Heart contest.

The editor gave me the same feedback I heard from a very respected agent a couple of years ago when I tried to shop this book: the writing is strong, but a contemporary British setting, with all British characters, is hard to sell outside the UK. She said that the story offered a kind of insider perspective on life in London and Scotland, which is not what the mainstream American romance reader is conditioned to expect.

In her view, when US readers pick up a foreign-set story, they expect the setting to be either

  1. exotic;
  2. glamorously urban; or
  3. small, close-knit communities where the culture is a large part of the appeal.

Continue reading

Michille: Google Romance Novels

I googled ‘romance novels’.

Google Romance Novels Top of the page, a scroll bar with Fifty Shades of Grey first (ack – hated it, stalker steals car and doesn’t stop at no – I know others loved it, but not my cuppa). Love Story – hello, she dies. No HEA. Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre were there so at least some classics were represented but there was a lot of crap there which is one of the things that, IMO, give romance novels a bad name. For example, the first article link: 20 of the Best Erotic Romance Novels of All Time, According to Readers. It’s not about the sex, folks. It’s about the relationship, the character arcs, the HEA. Although this is changing, for the most part, romance novels are by, for, and about women. But the new sub-genres that are on the LGBTQ, MFM, MMFM, FMF, etc, focus on parity with the partner. But I did find some good stuff. Continue reading

Justine: Writing in a Vacuum Sucks

59612318 - woman with vacuum cleaner isolated on whiteI’m very fortunate to have two fantastic critique partners, Jenn and Lisa, that I meet with once a week. Every Tuesday, we hit the Red Robin in Scottsdale, AZ for lunch (because it’s close to Lisa’s office) and we talk about writing, swap critiqued pages, discuss story problems, or vent about our husbands and kids.

Jenn, Lisa, and I have all have a somewhat similar writing background. We’ve done multiple Immersions with Margie Lawson, so we all look for the same sort of rhetorical devices in our writing based on the lessons we’ve learned from Margie. We’ve also all taken similar plotting classes and while we none of us write in the same genre, we know each other’s stories well and we have a pretty good understanding of our respective writing styles so as not to suggest fixes that change each other’s stories into our own.

As good as that all is – and it’s really good – I think every writer needs Continue reading

Jeanne: Dear Contest Judge

(This is supposed to be a Christmas story using a list of words provided by Elizabeth, but since I’ve only recently started contributing to the 8 Ladies blog on a regular basis, I missed the memo. Next year. )

Recently, I received my scores back from an RWA chapter contest for Girl’s Best Friend, 

the contemporary romance I’ve been putzing around with in my spare time.

I always send at least a generic thank you to my contest judges. I judge contests, too, and it’s a lot of work, especially if you’re going to do it well. But this particular contest was set up to allow the entrants to thank each judge individually, so here are my individual thank you notes.

Dear Judge #1,

Thank you so much for sharing your time and expertise to judge my contest entry. The great score you gave me was gratifying and your comments made it clear you truly enjoyed my story. Writing is such a solitary occupation and a little encouragement really helps.
Continue reading