Becoming an Author – Part 2: Criticism: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, and The Worthless

One of the not so happy aspects of being a writer is that everyone who has ever read a book has advice for you. Here are some of my thoughts on the types of advice I’ve received.

The Good

UpwardGood criticism comes from someone who is knowledgeable about writing and editing. It can be about one line, one chapter or an entire book. It consists of specific suggestions that improve my writing. That means a suggestion that mentions a specific problem and a solution that would correct that problem. I’ve written what I think are some excellent chapters for my books but when someone else reads them, they realize that they don’t help move my story along. When you’re busy in your role as a wordsmith, sometimes it is hard to see the forest for the trees. Good criticism can also come from someone who enjoys your genre, and is a potential reader of your efforts. This usually isn’t as specific but may help guide your story to your intended audience.

The Bad

TheBad_BrokenDownCarHow many times have we been told that someone has an idea for the world’s greatest piece of literature but just hasn’t gotten around to writing it?  Why do these people then give us their idea of sage advice on how to improve and what we should be writing? At least half of these people have trouble speaking in complete sentences let alone communicate a coherent thought. I smile and listen patiently to these well intentioned mental litterbugs. When I was in my career as a mathematician, I didn’t run into these types of people but now that I’m writing they seem to be coming out of the woodwork.

The Ugly

Mud Dancer Wearing a MaskAs soon as criticism becomes personal attacks, it’s time to excuse yourself and walk away. I sent a manuscript to an editor who must have been awfully angry with the world because he attacked everything short of my manhood in describing the problems with my manuscript. And I paid big money for his insults. I don’t mind negative critiques that I can learn from; but angry rants have no value.

The Worthless

When someone says my novel was cute, sweet, or nice, I find they didn’t like it but don’t want to tell me why.

~~~

TheGood_ThumbsUpThe best critique I have received from my readers:

“You write female characters better than most of the authors I have ever read.”

“It brought tears to my eyes when she lost her parents.”

“This is one book I will keep.”

Each of these indicates my success with my most important critics; my readers.

What do you find helpful in critiques? What has been your best and worst advice from readers?

Happy Writing!

Virtual Book Tour and A Real Challenge

pump up your book, richard alan, tour, book tour, blog, author

Richard Alan’s  MEANT TO BE SERIES VIRTUAL BOOK PUBLICITY TOUR will officially begin on March 5 and end on March 23 2012. Please contact Dorothy Thompson at thewriterslife(at)gmail.com if you are interested in hosting and/or reviewing his book. Thank you!

I am so excited to be part of a Virtual Book Tour.  Each day I participate in a different interview, blog, or guest blog.  There will also be giveaways.  I will try to keep you updated by twitter of the various stops I’m making during the tour.  Click on the image below for the schedule of events.

blog, blog tour, marketing, meant to be, richard alan

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

While on tour the second challenge came out from Rachel Harrie’s Fourth Writer Platform-Building Campaign.

Prompt 1: 

Two people are sitting together under the remains of a concrete bridge. Their backs are against a rusted bridge support. One person’s leg is cut. The other person has wet hair.

Prompt 2: 

(Source)

Prompt 3

(Source)

Prompt 4

(Source)

Prompt 5

(Source)

Second Campaigner Challenge

Do one or more of the following:

  1. Write a pitch/logline for a book based on the prompts (less than 100 words)
  2. Write a short story/flash fiction piece of less than 200 words based on the prompts
  3. Write a poem with a twist using the prompts as inspiration (in less than 200 words)
  4. Write a story/poem in five sentences, each sentence based on one of the prompts
  5. Write a poem/flash fiction piece (in less than 200 words) about the water pear *without* using the words “pear”, “spoon”, or “droplet”.


Here is my entry:

Two people are sitting together under the remains of a concrete bridge. Their backs are against a rusted bridge support. One person’s leg is cut. The other person has wet hair.  Three children are in the midst of a large garbage dump.

“It’s not a bad cut,” he told his sister.  “Besides, the rain has almost stopped.  I see another garbage truck coming.  We better get out there and see if there’s something for us to eat.  I’m so hungry, my belly aches.”

On the other side of the world, my son runs along the pier chasing his ball.   He has thoughts of the cotton candy he ate at the fair yesterday.   He doesn’t worry about hunger and if anything, he could stand to lose a few pounds.

How will he react when he is kidnapped?  How will he manage to exist when he is left on a garbage dump on the other side of the world, to fend for himself?  After a life of not knowing hunger, will he have the physical and social skills to join with the other children in a desperate attempt to survive?

I welcome your critique of this piece.  Flash fiction is very new to me.  Now I can go and read other people’s entries.  There were so many wonderful flash fictions stories from the first challenge.  It was fascinating how many different themes came out of the same input.  I expect to see that here also and I’m really looking forward to it.

Until next time – Happy Reading!

Richard Alan

Write Campaign 11 Question Tag! I’m It!

I am participating in Rachel Harrie’s Fourth Write Platform-Building Campaign.  Fellow campaigner Diane D. Gillette tagged me in an amazingly fun game of 11 Question Tag, so without further delay, here’s my answers to her excellent questions!

The 11 questions Diane had for me:  

1.  Where is your favorite writing spot and why? My home office because it is quiet and I am surrounded by the math and science books I love.

2.  What author/book first made you want to write?  It was not a specific author or book that got me started.   I wrote an article for http://memoirsfromnam.blogspot.com/. The blog owner, @CJHeck60, asked me how long I had been a writer.  I told her I hadn’t and she said I should.   With CJ’s and my wife’s encouragement, I decided to give it a try.  I found I really love writing.
3.  If you could no longer write, what would your creative outlet be?  First I would perform research in mathematical analysis.  Second I would drum.  I am a second generation percussionist and two of my sons were state HS drum line champions.  When our last son moved out we converted his room into a drum room.

4.  Music or silence when you write?  Absolute, positive, and complete silence.

5.  What is your writing goal for 2012?  Publish at least 4 new bestselling novels.

6.  What pushes you out of your writing comfort zone?  I’m always comfortable writing.  Occasionally I might feel the pain one of the characters feels, but I also get to feel their love.

7.  Where do you go when you need to escape for a while?  I start writing mathematical proofs or work on learning a foreign language with Rosetta Stone.

8.  Which series are you eagerly anticipating the newest release for? (If you aren’t addicted to any series right now, then what new book by a favorite author are you waiting for?)  Book 3 in the Meant to Be series, Finding Each Other, is due out early summer.  Full disclosure:  I’m prejudiced.  I’m the author.

9.  What’s your favorite online resource for writers?  There are several great ones.  I can’t narrow it down to one.  I frequently visit:  John Kremer The Book Marketing Network, The Book Designer Practical Advice to Help Self-Publishers Build Better Books, World Lit Cafe Where Readers and Authors Unite, and Jane Friedman’s Writing Advice  Free Advice for Writers

10.  Do you read any literary magazines? If so, which ones?  No.

11.  What’s something that made you smile today?  Seeing my wife and knowing she is my soul-mate.

Now it’s my turn to tag people.  I choose http://thegoldeneaglesblog.blogspot.com/http://caitlin-lane.blogspot.com/,http://www.christinetyler.net/http://nickwilford.blogspot.com/http://sallys-scribbles.blogspot.com/http://cjparmenter.wordpress.com/http://bornbookish.blogspot.com/http://www.donasdays.blogspot.com/http://writer-steps.blogspot.com/http://raeann28.blogspot.com/

My 11 Questions for You:

  1. If you write about characters who love each other, does their love reflect the love you have in your own life?
  2. Would you be able to write in a genre you really dislike?
  3. You are having a dinner party.  What 4 authors (dead or alive) would you invite and what would you serve them?
  4. What about writing do you enjoy that non-authors don’t realize is fun?
  5. If you listen to music, while you write, does the music influence the mood of your story?
  6. Is your writing better in the early morning, afternoon, late evening, or is it always the same?
  7. After someone tells you they enjoyed reading your book, what positive comment would you like to hear about your book?
  8. If you consider writing your passion, and assuming you have the time, how long would your days be and how many days per week would you write?
  9. How many characters in your writing mirror characters in your real life?
  10. When you meet fellow authors, do you inspire them?  If yes, in what way?
  11. Do you find it difficult to end a story or would you prefer to continue writing the current story?

Have fun!  Happy Reading and Writing!

CONGRATULATIONS! And the winner is…

CONGRATULATIONS to Christopher Belton @ BeltonWriter for winning the signed copies of  MEANT TO BE and THE COUPLES.  Christopher, please contact me with mailing instructions (DM using Twitter).  As an added bonus all subscribers to this blog will receive a Smashwords coupon for a free download of MEANT TO BE.  Anyone signing up for the blog between now and the end of this month (February 29 – Yeah leap year) will receive the same free coupon for a MEANT TO BE download.  Sign up in the box one column over.

*****AUTHOR PARTICIPATION*****

   Platform badge author network

Fourth Writers’ Platform-Building Campaign

I am very excited to be participating in the Fourth Writers’ Platform-Building Campaign.  It is running now until March 17.  The campaign is the brain-child of writer and blogger, Rachael Harrie.  She states in her current blog:

“My Writers’ Platform-Building Campaigns are a way to link writers, aspiring authors, beginner bloggers, industry people, and published authors together with the aim of helping to build our online platforms.

The Campaigners are all people in a similar position, who genuinely want to pay it forward, make connections and friends within the writing community, and help build each others’ online platforms while at the same time building theirs.”

This is a super idea!  For more information and to enroll, click Fourth Writers’ Platform-Building Campaign.

* * * * *

I will also be participating in a Pump Up Your Book: Virtual Book Publicity Tour during the month of March.  I will be tweeting my locations on Twitter, so be sure to follow me @VillageDrummerF.  Visit Pump Up Your Book! for more information about virtual tours.

I will be blogging about both of these experiences as they take place.  Advice from anyone who has experienced these networking events is very welcome!

Happy Reading to All,

Richard Alan

Website

Facebook

Blog