Posted in Editing

Critiquing For Other Writers

Editing is hard. It’s even harder when you don’t know how to edit or what to look for when editing.

It’s especially even harder still when you’re editing someone else’s work. And when you believe that someone is a better writer than you? Well, how can you edit their work confidently?

Critiquing For Other Writers

I’ve talked about editing all month long with various tips and tricks and advice on editing. This post isn’t going to be like that. Instead, it’s going to be more like a “pep talk,” if you will.

Yesterday I talked about why I think it’s important for writers to be part of some sort of writing or critique group. I’ve had my group for over two years now. People have come and gone in the group, but it’s still going strong and I hope to have my group for many, many years.

Yet, each month I take a look at all the chapters I have to read through. I typically read the work as a reader and then I go back and read it again as a writer. It helps me get a feel for the chapter. It also helps me focus on editing rather than just reading.

This is because I believe all my group members are better writers than me.

This could be for a number of reasons:

  • As a writer, I naturally suffer from self-doubt so I believe everyone is a better writer than me
  • I’m the youngest, so in terms of “experience” in writing, everyone has more than me
  • They may actually be better writers than me

I like to think that no writer is better than another since we all have our own writing styles and people are going to either love, like, hate, or think your writing is just okay. Everyone has different tastes.

Still, when you’re in a group with other writers, you can’t help but think they’re all better than you.

When I read their work, I read through it a few times. I find myself getting immersed in the story, getting wrapped up in the plot and characters. Before I know it, the chapter has ended, I’m eager to read more, yet I haven’t made a single mark on the page.

How can I edit something that’s so good? How can I make corrections when there are none?

Typically, there are mistakes. There are parts of the chapters that could use some help. But I have a hard time seeing them.

It isn’t until we actually meet that the host asks, “What could be improved with this chapter?” I typically wait for someone else to speak first and bounce off from what they say. I wait for someone to say, “I didn’t like this,” and then I can think about myself. Sometimes I agree, but sometimes I can disagree and form my own opinion as to why.

But why can’t I look at it that way when I’m reading the story myself?

I don’t know.

Editing is a learning curve and I definitely find it harder to critique someone else than your own work. Still, you live and learn.

With each new piece I get, I think back to the previous meeting and look for what we discussed they could improve on and see if they did improve on the next one. I’m slowly figuring it out.

It’s hard to look past the feeling that all the other writers in the room are “better” than you. You just have to remember you’re all there to learn. Everyone has their own writing style and unique voice. You’re all writing different stories and possibly different genres. Someone may have been writing longer than you have, but you’re all in the same boat.

Have you ever got the feeling that everyone else is a better writer than you? How do you deal with it? Let me know in the comments below!

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Posted in Editing, Writing

8 Reasons Why Joining A Critique Group Is The Best Decision

A few years ago I remember posting on my blog seeking a writing group. I was looking for something online because I was working full-time and going to school full-time.

I knew a writing group would help me with my writing, but I didn’t know where to start. I had no idea where to look for such a group.

The day after I posted something on my blog about it, my dad ironically found an article in the newspaper. Our local library was putting together a writer’s critique group. Kris and I looked into it and we joined immediately.

We’re still part of that group to this day and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

8 Reasons Why You Should Join A Critique Group

I’ve always heard pros and cons about joining a writer’s group, but I’ve found it to be more helpful than harmful. So, here some reasons why I think every writer should join a writer’s group.

1. Editing Skills

When I first joined my writer’s group, I was taken aback at the feedback I received. When I read their pieces my thought was, “Wow! This is really good!” I liked all the stories and I wanted more. I didn’t really have too much to say because I couldn’t find any mistakes.

But there are always mistakes. There are always opinions. What did you like? What didn’t you like? I’ve learned a lot about editing over the past few years I’ve been part of my group. I know the right questions to ask and know what to look for when reading someone else’s work.

2. Writing Skills

Just like editing, you learn a lot about writing as well. As you read the work of your fellow writers, you’re looking at different writing styles and ideas. You learn from one another to help with your own writing process.

3. Inspiration

Stuck on something in your writing? Feel like something isn’t working out or you have writer’s block? Ask your group members for their opinion on what you should do next. They’ll help generate ideas and then you can pick and choose and try out the different ideas because deciding what to do next.

4. Socialization

Writers aren’t the best at being social. Having a group of writers is great because it gets you out of the house and gives you social interaction with other humans. Not only do you find a great community of writers, but you’ll also make new friends as well.

5. Promotion

Have a blog? Share it with your group. Finally getting that book deal? Throw a party with your group. Your writing group members are most likely your first fans. Plus, you can bounce promotion ideas off of one another as well.

6. Self-Confidence & Thick Skin

When I first joined my group and submitted my first piece I was nervous. I’ll admit, there was a sick feeling in my stomach when people told me what they liked and what they didn’t like about my work. Taking criticism is hard to get used to. However, there will be people out there who absolutely love your work and there will be people who think you’re a terrible writer. Everyone has their own opinions, their own tastes in books.

Your writing group will be honest and help you along the way. Through that, you’ll gain thick skin in taking criticism as well as gain self-confidence in your own work.

7. Motivation

Sometimes it’s hard to keep writing. Having a deadline to submit something to your group can either help or hinder that motivation to write. For me, it usually boosts my motivation to keep writing. I want to keep up with the members of my group and I’m also excited to share what my novel has in store for them next.

8. Writing Time

We all complain that there’s not enough time in the day to get our writing done. Having the deadline of the group will help with that. In a way, it’s kind of like homework and you end up making sure you find the time to get that writing done.

Are you part of a writing group? What are your thoughts on it? Let me know in the comments below!

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Posted in Editing

How To Radically Revise Your Novel

Radical revision is a term to revise or rewrite your current draft. It’s a tool to help your reimagine your story.

This is a method I learned in school when I was working on my English degree. I’ve kept the notes these past two years because I found it to be helpful and a pretty cool method. It didn’t seem so at the time because it was homework, but I do think it helps.

How To Radically Revise Your Novel

What does radical revision do?

The point of radically revising your novel is to try something new, something different you wouldn’t normally do. Rewrite your current draft in a new way and see which one works better.

It may or may not work, but you’re experimenting, getting to know your novel and characters at a deeper level, and you’re practicing new forms of writing.

In a way, I guess you could look at this as a hardcore writing prompt.

Radical Revision Styles

1. Voice/Tone and POV Changes

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’ve done this before. I’ve had to rewrite my entire mystery novel manuscript to be in the viewpoint of a different character.

So, try rewriting your novel using a different voice or tone for a character if something isn’t working out. If your protagonist isn’t the right fit to be the main character, rewrite in a different point of view.

Test it out by just rewriting one scene or chapter. If it seems to work, go farther with it. It will give you a new perspective on your novel and give you more insight on your characters. You’ll learn a lot about what you’ve created, trust me.

2. Time Changes

Is your novel written in present tense? Try writing in past tense.

Write the novel using flashbacks and flashforwards, allowing plot info to sprinkle about here and there.

Tell the story backward. Start at the end and work your way towards the beginning.

Change the overall time period. See how your characters cope and change.

Changing the time and the way you convey the story can show you a lot about your plot. You’re looking more in-depth at your plot and zeroing in on certain aspects of your novel. Something that isn’t revealed until the end may be revealed earlier. And that could change the entire story, which may not be a bad thing.

3. Layout

Writing a novel? Try writing it as a script. Try writing a chapter as a poem.

It’ll give a brand new look to your manuscript allowing to challenge your mind and possibly switch around some ideas. Plus, writing scripts calls for bare-bones dialogue and quite a bit of description as direction. Switch things up and focus on one over the other and see what happens.

In Conclusion…

As I said earlier, these are kind of like big writing prompts. Still, if you have the time, and you feel as though there’s something not right with your story but can’t figure out what, try rewriting it using one of these methods.

It can’t hurt to try and you’ll learn something new about your novel and also about yourself as a writer.

BONUS

I only mentioned three radical revision styles above, but the notes I have list a few more. I listed the three above because I find them to be the most challenging and straightforward way of rewriting. Still, I thought I’d add the other two methods in case anyone was interested.

  • Genre Change – Turn your story into a fairy tale, short story, recipe, or letters. Or, change the overall genre, turn it from romance to mystery to anything else.
  • Art Piece – Tell your story using pictures or write songs about it.

Is this anything you would like to try? Have you tried it already? Let me know in the comments below!

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Posted in Editing

How To Find A Great Beta Reader You Can Trust

Finding beta readers isn’t as hard as you would think. They’re everywhere as long as you know the right places to look.

But before we go into where you should find your beta readers, let’s talk about the characteristics you would like your beta readers to have.

Because, of course, you want to have the right beta readers on your team, right?

How To Find Beta Readers You Can Trust

Your beta reader should…

  • Be your targeted audience. For example, they should have an interest in the genre you write and be the appropriate age.
  • They aren’t afraid to say what they think. They shouldn’t be afraid to tell you the truth about what they think of your book. If you have a beta reader who has absolutely no problems with your book, chances are something’s not right.
  • They’re not close friends or family members of yours. People close to you will have a tendency to bend the truth a little bit. You want someone who knows what they’re doing and, like the previous point isn’t afraid to speak their thoughts.
  • They’re readers. Find beta readers who read a lot. They’ll know what to look for, know what they’re doing. Bonus if they consistently read the genre you wrote.
  • They’re writers. This isn’t a must, but it helps. Writers understand writing like no one else does.
  • They’re brand new to the manuscript. If someone has already read your book, don’t ask them to be a beta reader. They won’t have that element of surprise or that, “what’s going to happen next?!” feeling.
  • Ideally, they’ll have a good grasp on publishing. They’ll know what makes a book a good one.
  • They have extra knowledge on the topics of your book. For example, if you’re writing about mental illness, ask a beta reader who has knowledge in that field. If you’re writing in a certain location, ask someone who’s been there or lives there. They may know things you didn’t.

Well, then! Now that we’ve got that out of the way…

Where do you find these kinds of beta readers?

  • Writing groups. Join a writing group whether it’s online or local, whether it’s a place where writers hang out or critique each other. You’ll make new friends and find a lot of things in common, including your manuscripts.
  • Workshops and conferences. Again, attend workshops. Most writers there are in the same boat as you. Make new friends and help each other out.
  • Social media. Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook groups, other blogs, etc. Writers are everywhere. You just have to strike up a conversation.

How do you get them to beta read for you?

  • Create real friendships. Writers need other writers to survive. Don’t go up to a stranger and say, “Hey, we’re both writers! Will you be my beta reader?” Be genuine. Get to know them, as a writer and as a person. You can help each other out, but you can also just hang out as people together and have a good time.
  • Offer something in return. Don’t find beta readers for the sake of helping yourself out. Beta readers do this for free so it’s only common courtesy to offer something in return. This can be offering to beta read for them when the time comes.
  • Ask questions. You want to know that they’ll be the right fit for your book. Ask they’re general interests, what they typically read, etc. Then you can decide together whether your book would be the right project for them.

In Conclusion…

Finding beta readers is easier than it seems, but it doesn’t go without working hard.

Just keep in mind that you’re not only looking for a beta reader, but you’re looking for a new writer friend as well. It doesn’t have to be strictly business all the time.

How have you found your beta readers? Are you looking for some now? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Posted in Editing

Beta Readers: Who Are They And What Do They Do?

When it comes to writing a book, you may often hear the author searching for and requesting beta readers. This happens during or after the editing process and before the book is published.

A beta reader, also known as an alpha reader, is a reader who agrees to read through a written piece of work, usually fiction. This is to help the author make some last minute decisions with the book before publishing. Beta readers are like test readers to give the author a sense of how well their book may be received by the targeted audience.

So, what exactly do they do?

Beta Readers: Who Are They and What Do They Do?

What They Do

Beta readers can do a lot of things that include, but are not limited to:

  • Checking for spelling and grammar
  • Looking more in depth at the plot, continuity and other elements of the story
  • Give their overall general impressions of the story – what they liked and what they didn’t like
  • Help improve the story overall

You may be thinking to yourself, “This is very similar to an editor.” Well, yeah. I can agree with you on that.

Still, an editor is searching for mistakes. A beta reader is reading your novel as your audience would. They will give their honest opinion and feedback to you about the novel similar to a book review, but with added flare (slight editing).

Beta readers help give your story that extra boost before you hit the “publish” button for all the world to see that plot hole on page 151.

Why else do you need a beta reader?

Often when we write, we know what we’re trying to say. It’s all in our heads, but it may not come out on paper that way.

As a writer, you describe something and think that’s enough because you know what you’re talking about. But the readers sometimes won’t. Beta readers will catch that.

The Report

Beta readers will give you a “report” on your novel. It’s like a cross between a book review and a little editing. They’ll speak their honest opinion about what they liked and what they didn’t like. What there was too much of something in the story, what there was too little of in the story. They really break it down.

The best part? Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

That means if you give the same manuscript to three different beta readers, chances are you’ll get three different results.

In the end, it’s your novel, so you decide which pieces of advice to us and which not to us. Still, look at it all and really think about it.

And, if all your beta readers agree that something in the book is not working, definitely take a look at that.

Is a beta reader worth it?

Yes. Yes, I think it is. It’s another pair of eyes looking at your manuscript and it’s your very first reader who maybe become a fan.

Beta readers’ opinions are so important. Take them with a grain of salt, but don’t ignore them.

Have you had beta readers before? What was your experience? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Posted in Editing

Highlight Editing

Similar to rainbow editing, highlight editing zeros-in more on your manuscript.You’re not marking up your plot and characters with various colors, you looking more into mechanics and the smaller details.

In rainbow editing, you’re marking up your plot, characters, and setting with various colors, taking an in-depth approach to your story.you looking more into mechanics and the smaller details.

In highlight editing, you’re looking more into mechanics and the smaller details.

You could use rainbow editing for this as well, but I find highlighting to be easier and you can use both in the same draft.

Your manuscript will look gorgeous if you do.

Highlight Editing

Replacements

Use highlight editing when you want to replace certain words, sentences, or phrases in your novel. Use different colored highlighters for different things to swap out later. For example, assign different colors to look for:

  • Cliches
  • Vocabulary (add stronger words)
  • Repetitive words or phrases

Work towards making those phrases more specific and concrete.

The “W” Questions

Some small details don’t matter, but others do. It all helps out with the background of the story and gives the readers a little bit more to go on as they delve deeper into the story.

Ask yourself these questions as though you, the reader, is in the story:

  • Where are we?
  • Who are we?
  • When are we?
  • How do things look?
  • What time period are we in? What time of year?
  • Is it day or night?
  • What’s the weather like?

Some details, like the weather, can be small, but they can add a lot to the story and allow the reader to really feel as though they’re in your world.

Use a highlighter to answer these questions (and similar questions you can think of). If you can’t find the answers in the text, then your reader won’t know the answer. Make a note and ask if it’s really important to add. If it is, add it in somewhere you won’t disrupt the flow.

In Conclusion

Highlighters are a lot of fun and they’re made to make things stand out to us. When editing, you want to make notes of things to add, delete, or change. Highlighting these things in different colors is not only easy (and pretty!) but it’ll save you some extra editing of later drafts and will be easy to look back on later.

Have you used this method before? Do you do anything similar? Let me know in the comments below!

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Posted in Editing

57 Questions To Ask When Editing Your Novel

The last time I talked a lot about editing on my blog I wrote a post called 35 Questions To Ask When Critiquing A Novel. It was a popular post and it seemed to help a lot of people out.

So, I’ve decided to update it. Between notes I’ve kept from school, my writer’s group, and personal editing of my novels, I’ve come up with an updated list. The 35 questions from before are included in this list, but it’s more organized and there’s a lot more to think about.

57 Editing Questions

Plot

1. What are the conflicts (internal and external) in the story? Is it known right away?
2. What is the central conflict of the story?
3. Are there too many conflicts happening in the book at once? Or is there not enough?
4. Are all the conflicts important to the story and help drive the plot forward?
5. Is there enough tension?
6. Are there any plot twists to throw the protagonist and the reader off track?
7. Is the plot clear and believable from the beginning?
8. Is the plot interesting? Will the readers be able to relate to points in the book?
9. Is the plot resolved at the end of the book? Is the reader satisfied at the end?

Setting, Locations, & World Building

10. Does the author create a believable setting?
11. Is the setting vividly described? Are there too many details or not enough?
12. Is the setting, time and date period, all consistent throughout the book?
13. Are there enough locations in the book or not enough?
14. What are the rules of the world?
15. Is it clear whether the story takes place in real life or a fictional world?
16. Is the time period clear from the beginning?
17. Is each new location clearly distinct from the last? Is it easy to tell when you’re in a new place?

Character Development

18. Is the protagonist clearly introduced as the main focus of the story?
19. How do you feel about the protagonist? Do you sympathize with him, care about what happens to him, and do you share his emotions? Does the character feel alive?
20. Can you relate to the protagonist or any of the other characters?
21. Does each character have a background, hobbies, etc.?
22. Are the secondary characters helpful and push the story forward? Do they each have a purpose?
23. Does each character grow by the end of the book?
24. Can you see the characters? Are they described well or not enough?
25. Are there too many characters or not enough?
26. Does each character have a unique voice and personality?
27. How are the names? Are there names that are too similar to each other? Are some names too hard to pronounce and read? If so, which ones?
28. Which characters need more developing? Are some characters not needed?

Writing Style

29. Can you hear the dialogue? Is there too much dialogue or not enough?
30. What is the point of view in the story? Is it consistent throughout the novel? Do you think the POV was a good choice for this particular story?
31. How is the pacing of the story? Does the story drag at some points? Do some parts happen too fast?
32. Is each scene easy to read and flow well right into the next?
33. Are there scenes in the book that don’t drive the plot forward?
34. Does the author show instead of tell?
35. Does the overall tone work well for the story?
36. Is there enough emotion in the story? Were there enough happy, sad, angry, tense, etc. moments?
37. Were there any inconsistencies in the plot, characters, or setting anywhere? Were there any contradictions? If so, where?
38. Is there too much dialogue in some parts?
39. Is there too much description in some parts?

General Thoughts

40. Does the opening of the story hook you? Do you want to read more? Why or why not?
41. Were there any parts you wanted to put the books down? If so, which scenes and why?
42. Did any parts confuse (annoy or frustrate) you? If so, which parts and why?
43. Did you know fairly quickly where the story took place, what was going on, and who the story was about?
44. Was the book too long or too short?
45. Did the first and last chapters work?
46. Does the title fit the plot?
47. Is the book appropriate for the targeted audience?
48. Was the ending satisfying and believable?
49. Were there a lot of typos, grammatical or spelling errors?
50. Does the writing suit the genre?
51. Are there any scenes that need to be elaborated more or deleted?

Opinion Thoughts

52. What do you think the moral of the story is? What message is the author trying to get across to their readers?
53. Who was your favorite character and why?
54. What’s one line that you loved for whatever reason?
55. What is the strongest part of the novel?
56. What is the weakest part of the novel?
57. What is your overall impression of the story?

Of course, not all of these questions have to be answered, but it’s a good starting point.

Did you find this list helpful? Have any other questions to ask? Let me know in the comments below!

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