Monday, March 19, 2012

I don't like critiques? Mea culpa

I wrote a few weeks ago of my hesitancy to get my work critiqued. I am not some haughty author who thinks his work is above reproach. I just have misgivings about certain authors I have talked to even having a clue about the kind of material I write. I welcome critiques from a good source, but I am leery of certain sources. Add in the fact that my day job is on a swing shift schedule, and that shoots down all those evening sessions so many writers groups love.

But I am open to having my work hammered, praised, helped, prodded and poked. Nothing made me more interested in that than a critique I received on my first novel when I entered the Pikes Peak Writers Conference fiction contest. I received two critiques, and one of them was a gem. The review came from someone with lots of experience in the trade, and I suspect it was an agent or an editor with a publishing house. He/she was very detailed, which is great. Here's a capsule look at the review:

1. You take too long to establish flow of action at the start of your novel. Pick up the pace.
2. Your use of two story lines is confusing. If you are going to use that method, it has to be PERFECT to make it work.
3. You write well, and in some instances very well, but you need to strip away the extra stuff.
4. You either don't get your work critiqued, or you choose not to heed the advice you get. Change that.

There were other small points, like certain word usage in a sentence, but those were just normal writer-editor issues. Here's what the critique has persuaded me to do:

1. Find ways to get critiques done even with my swing-shift schedule. I am attending the Pikes Peak conference again this year, and I will explore my options with the group's leaders while I am there.

2. Put my first novel on the back burner. My use of two story lines needs to be refined. I will pick up that novel and rework it in the future, and I will trim down the use of the second story line to avoid confusion.

3. Channel my energies into my second novel and get it finalized so I can pitch it at PPWC. I am into the edit/rewrite phase, so that is a very reachable goal. This novel doesn't suffer from slow development at the start, and it has a nice, single story line. I add lots of twists and turns, of course, but it is a much more focused work. I believe it also achieves one goal of any agent or publishing house: It is commercially viable. Now I have to convince an agent that that's the truth.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Time for a General Rant

I will let a post I left on Rachelle Gardner's excellent blog (here's a link to Rachelle's entry: carry the day on my own blog. There are some issues here on which I just felt the need to comment. Here is my comment:

There are so many issues here, but I will center on the most obvious one. Anyone who is honest knows the key is women readers, who make most of the purchases. (I thought Rachel's article about Pinterest was particular interesting on this note.) And ... and I may be stepping on some toes here ... those readers are being fed by an industry where more and more women agents hold the keys to the kingdom.

Are you a romance writer? Great. There is a strong market for that, with almost all of it driven by women. Do you write mainstream? Better have a good hook for women.

I ran into problems in trying to market my first novel. The main story line sounds dark and ominous, and I had to center on that in query letters. However, there is a great deal of romance in the book, and there are issues women care about (the impact of old family wounds, the impact of the loss of a child, etc.). But that dark and ominous tone within the confines of a query letter gets me kicked to the slush pile in a hurry.

I am learning that to find a spot in this industry you have to find a niche ... make yourself comfortable in a particular genre. I am doing that. Do I write novels that appeal to women? No. I am most comfortable in writing "guy stuff" ... thrillers, but ones in which my protagonist faces serious moral dilemmas. That's the niche I am aiming for ... that smaller market demographic of men who read and want "guy stuff," but "guy stuff" with a difference. It's the result of a lesson I have learned.

On the issue of writers deserving to be paid ... none of us are entitled. I just wish the industry didn't have such rigid walls about content needing to squeeze into a certain category. But the industry has a bottom line ... it has to sell, so it rests on those things it knows are likely to sell.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sorry for the Delay

My blog has been neglected for the past several days, but I have a very good excuse. I have been pouring out the final chapters of my second novel. I still have four or five chapters to go, so this message will be short and sweet. I am pumped!!! by my progress. The chapters I am writing are those ideas that have been there for months, and now it's time to let it all flow onto the page. What a marvelous time.

More later. Thank you all for being my friends.