JD is back to have a discussion about critiquing. Every author needs some critique and helping critique others is a great way to learn.
We talk about things we’ve learned through critiquing and some best ways to handle the feedback from others.
all right. Jd, welcome back to the second half of the podcast where we talk more author things and our topic we’re going to talk about critiquing. But before we do that you have written a couple books already and you’re working on more. So what are some things you have learned that you’re doing different now than you did at the beginning?
Are, is there any software that you’re using now that you didn’t or any like for me, when I first started, I had a lot of my sentences start with i n G words, which is one of those things that’s frowned upon. So that was something I had to learn and do different. And I know a lot of authors start off using like some software and doing something different.
Some people outline and. Or don’t outline, and then they learn to outline things like that. So just anything that you may be doing different or learned that you are doing now? Now I think it’s not, I think learning to write the whole time. I don’t see, ’cause once I. Incorporate that in.
I’m not realizing that I have I realize that I’ve learned it, but I can’t. I can tell the difference, but I more, it’s more of what I have learned about. Writing that I think that everybody should know that you don’t realize when you start writing is that once you publish then it’s like you have to market.
We, it’s not it’s not like you get to write and that’s all you get to do. It’s okay, I have to go out and tell people about my book. I have to do, this is the big one for me, which I’ve just started doing, I can’t believe I’m doing it, is I’m doing speaking engagements. Wow. Nice. I was just like no, I will never do that.
I will never do that. And now I’m doing them because I can do ’em online. So it’s oh, I can do that now. But I am still like I just realized how much you have. There’s so much more to writing than just writing. It’s like you have to market yourself, you have to be on social media all the time, and I’m not an attention kind of person.
I, I actually don’t like attention. I like attention from my books. I like them. It’s like they’re separate from me. You can like my books, but I don’t want you to, I don’t want any attention at all. But I really, it’s almost like I’ve been writing for 20 years. And I, but I’ve as a hobby writer, but I think I’ve been doing it as a professional for three to four years of really doing it all the time and stuff.
But even now, I’m like, maybe I should have waited and published because now I don’t have as much time to write because I’m always doing. Something for my books. Like now I’m doing the audio for my books. So that’s a whole new thing that I’m doing that I didn’t expect that I’d be doing or speaking, or marketing and social media.
And it’s just like I, it’s can’t I just have enough money so I can hire somebody to do that? So I don’t have to do that. So I can just write, I just wanna be in my little heidi hole. Writing on my little books, everybody leave me alone. Let me write on my book. I think a lot of authors have that feeling and they come into it with, I’m gonna write and have a big successful book and then I won’t have to do anything but write all the time.
And there’s a lot of authors that fight that the I don’t want do anything except right. I agree. I don’t think very many authors have that choice. Not new authors starting out anymore. And like these publishing houses, they’re great ’cause they, they do their best, but they have a lot of authors.
Yeah. So even though they are special to you and they do publish you and stuff like that, you really have to be aggressive and, do. I, it’s just hard. I’m not an aggressive kind of person. I just, I am, I think I’m a lot like my characters and Okay. I’m over here. I’ll be quiet. I’m just, so how are you getting the speaking gigs and where have you been doing those?
I actually was invited to a classroom, so I did a one in a classroom, and then I had a librarian who asked me to do, she was having a library event, so I got to go to different classes in, she had it at the library, so I did an online in, she was in Kansas. They were in Kansas. So I just did the online event when I could get on there Nice.
And answer questions and talk. And sh actually, she, sh she’s been very helpful. She’s finding me more people to, she, she loves the books, so she is oh, we gotta find other people. So she’s been helping me, which is Oh, that’s great. Yeah. Yeah it’s nice when someone else too is enthusiastic about your books and wants to help you out.
So that’s, but I was surprised that I actually liked the speaking engagements that I was just yeah, I was very surpris. And were you mostly speaking to kids or adults? I was speaking to kids. So were you talking about your book or about writing itself? Both. Both. Okay. So they could just ask me questions.
I, I need to get more organized, but like I said, that’s another thing that I’m gonna have to do that’s gonna take away from my writing time. I. It’s all these little things that you just don’t think about, you need to prepare for certain things. So doing this obviously is marketing.
What are some other things you’re doing with marketing? You talked about speaking gigs, you talked about the contest to put your book out there. Is there anything else you’re doing to get the word out to. Get, do some marketing. Right now I decided I am taking this writing course from the Rupert Writing Academy.
Yep. And where we met. Yep. And they were saying, you should do something crazy. So my do something crazy is I am posting on Instagram. For a writing challenge every day for the month of May. Nice. So I am not that type. I, it’s so hard for me to do that kind of stuff. So I’ve been doing it every day so far.
And speaking of the Rhubarb Writing Academy James l Rhubarb is wonderful. I know there’s tons of courses out there. There’s tons of things like this, and I’ve gotten several. I’ve looked at several. I’m assuming you’ve seen some of them out there also. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah.
What makes this one the Writing Academy with James and Taylor is. It’s not just okay. And let’s work on getting you published in an email list. They start off with talking about your brand and how to brand and how people think about buying. So it’s a very comprehensive thing that’s more than just.
Write a book and put it out there. Which I think is unique to a lot of these types of things, which in my mind makes it a very good course. Oh yeah. Because, especially too, ’cause they’re focusing on the marketing that all of us writers don’t know how to do. And they want you to have, the thing of it is they’re setting you up for a career.
They’re not just setting you up for, oh, just get out a couple of books. They’re helping you prep for your career. Yeah. And a lot of authors, and I think that there’s a lot out there that would look at go I don’t wanna talk about this, I don’t wanna talk about this.
I just wanna, how do I get my book so I can sell it? And they’re missing the point. That’s exactly what the course does. It’s just, not a, not the typical. If you take this pill, all your. Answers will be right there. It doesn’t work that way. JD, we were going to talk about critiquing, and this is an area I think a lot of authors have trouble with.
Let me ask what, tell me about some of your critiquing experiences. I will, I’m gonna start out with, I have I was in a critique. I was in like, I had this great God story where God brought me to this amazing critique group. That just had ended up having like award-winning authors. We had an agent in there.
It was like a big deal, but I don’t know how, God just put me in there. So I had a good I had a good start, but now I am, I don’t have a critique group. I. I don’t have a writing partner, and I’m just like exactly the opposite, which I’m trying to figure out myself. Do I need a, I think I need a critique group.
I do have for, I have people who will read my books, but they’re not necessarily really writers. They’re, just readers. But more of, I think what I know very well about critique is how to accept one and what to do with it. And I was going to ask you about that. It, was it easy for you to accept critique or has it been difficult?
I am very good at receiving critique. And I, it doesn’t, I’ve only had one bother me. I have this great story about critique just because, which I am going to share because it just really gives you an, a good example of two different, it’s a critiques on the same book. So when I submitted Melanie on the move, I submitted it the exact same thing to two different contests.
Okay, so one I ended up winning and the other one I got back one of the most hurtful critiques I’ve ever had. Oh yeah. And I was just like, and I. I’ve I’m an analytical kind of person, so I think I’m okay about it ’cause I can analyze it to death until I can understand it and process it. It, she, I think it was more she was, I.
Because she was making fun of my writing and I’m like, how could you make fun of me? I just don’t under, I don’t mind you critiquing me, but making fun of me is just a little bit too much. I can’t handle that. There’s no, that’s not critiquing. That’s, there’s no place for that at all for anybody.
I have told people before, I have no problem if you wanna tell me. What you liked or didn’t like and what is good and not good, and suggestions and anything like that. Even if you absolutely hated it and you tell me why you hated it, I’m good with that. But when it’s a personal thing that’s not critiquing that.
That’s I hope you’ve avoided them since then, right? I have. I have. But the thing of it is I think she was just trying it to be clever in the way she was telling me. Oh, you did this, ha. And I was just but the thing of it was okay, even though I didn’t like her critique.
What she said, I changed because I knew she was right. I didn’t like how she told me. I didn’t like that at all. But she was still right. And I think a lot of people that, when you get critique, you need to like, you gotta analyze who’s critiquing me, is this person? ’cause a lot of people too, I will critique them and they just will just blow it off.
I’m just like I’ve been, I’ve been writing for 20 years. You don’t have to, at least listen to what I have to say. I’m a reader too. I’ve been reading like, practically my whole life and, they just want people to say it’s okay. And it’s if you want me to just tell you what’s good, I can tell you that, but do you wanna get better?
And I think that’s the important part and it’s a difficult balance because not everybody can be a good critiquer. They can’t give good feedback on things, and I. You, even if somebody critiques well, they may not really fit with your type of writing or your story. So even if you find 20 people that are good at providing critiques, two of them may totally give you the opposite and not even really nail it with what you were doing.
I, I had a book coach for a while that I finally. Cut it off because I, I realized after every time we talked, my, my thinking was, man, she just does not get what I’m writing. She, and it wasn’t the ego of I write better than she can. It was really she was saying things like I, I don’t understand why you put this here, and, oh, I suggest you make this like this.
I’m like that doesn’t fit at all. And so we, I cut it off and I found people sense and it’s, that are much better. And I have a, an author I know that spent years writing a book and gave it to me to give some feedback. And I did. And every single one of the items I said I, this isn’t.
Really that good. And here’s why. This could be improved. This could be changed. I don’t understand this. Every single one of those he came back with. You don’t get what I’m writing. No, you’re wrong. You can’t, that’s not the right way to do it. And I’m like why ask me to critique it if you’re gonna tell me everything I’m critiquing is wrong?
So as the author, you have to find the right people, and you have to be open and willing to hear what they’re saying too. I agree. Yeah. So do you go to, you said you don’t have a critique group now. Have you done multiple critique groups? Do you do online critique groups? What have you done?
I think on, it’s so hard ’cause I, it’s hard for me ’cause I wanna know the people who I’m with, the online ones, I wanna know who I am, what their background is. I love that. Like teenagers are loving and publishing books right now. I love that they love to do that, but at the same time, I’m like, I wanna encourage them.
And I know they can be helpful to me, but there’s a lot of things, of experience that they don’t know. So it’s hard ’cause I’m just like, I want someone who’s more my peer rather than if I wanna mentor somebody, I have no problem wanting to mentor somebody or, get their feedback.
But I want, I wanna know who they are. I just don’t wanna just throw it to, to people and see. I know there are online ones. There’s a few good communities. SCR file, I believe is the one that I’ve gone to that I kinda like. I just don’t always have the time to be reading lots of other people’s stuff to get enough.
Points that I could then put my own stuff up there. So I’m in the same boat. I’m in the same boat. I’m just, I like, I want, I wanna read everybody’s ’cause I think that’s fair. But at the same time, it’s another thing that, like we were talking about before, with marketing, it’s, this is another thing, right?
Do I have time to be critiquing other people? You don’t think about that. And another thing I found, I went to several. Good groups at some local libraries, but what I found was, There wasn’t enough time to be critiquing a whole book, so you would bring in a chapter or a short story, which can be good if you’re new and you need some feedback on a short story.
But if you’re writing a whole novel, just getting a critique on one chapter and then six months later the next chapter, it doesn’t help a whole lot. And then the people critiquing it. Can’t help you with the overall flow of the story, they can just focus on that one chapter. So the feedback isn’t necessarily always as good, and that’s difficult.
Yeah I totally agree. It’s really hard to find the right people. It really is. But I, one, one of the things. Some authors don’t realize this, but reading other people’s stuff and critiquing it is also good practice for reading and editing your own stuff. Plus then, like you said, to make it fair, if you are reading somebody’s book hopefully they’re reciprocating and reading your book to provide feedback for each other.
Have you found any other, like kids authors with picture books that you’ve done any critiquing with? I actually know a couple of middle grade writers that I talk with and besides me. Yeah. And some some children’s books, but it’s hard, like it’s. I feel like every time I go somewhere I don’t exactly fit in because like I really like to be in the community of like speculative fiction because I like to write my YA and adult stuff.
And so that’s the kind of the community I’m in right now. And so finding, but being a children’s book author, That doesn’t mean anything to them. They’re not interested and they don’t realize, oh yeah, she writes this stuff too. But I have to find, it’s been I have found a few friends and stuff.
We it’s not hard to I don’t know. Do you think it’s difficult to you write middle grade, so we do can critique, but I’m thinking about picture books. And how to get critiqued on picture books because for me I think that one I just do myself. Now, one of the other things, and I mentioned I had a book coach for a while and I know that can be, if you find the right person, that can be great to help with your story and get the critique at any level you might need.
’cause hopefully it’s a professional book coach. Maybe somebody that also does editing, or somebody that’s a professional author like James. He’s my coach. Oh you do calls with him every month. Yeah. But he’s been helping me more on the marketing and getting my confidence up, I think.
Okay. Rather than I haven’t sent. He’s been reading, he’s read my books after they’ve been published and he and I talk audio books since he does so many audio books and I do too, or I’m trying to start that. You’ll have to tell him I said hi. I’m pro I’m gonna be talking to him in a couple weeks.
He’s actually go beyond my podcast here soon. Oh great. I’ve got an episode with him. Yeah, he’s a, he’s gonna be a great guest. He’s got that wonderful voice too, right? That podcasting voice. Yes. So have you thought of going to a library or something and offering to start a critique group yourself?
No, just one more thing to add to the list. That’s, were you reading my mind? So yeah it’s just hard ’cause I, I think a lot of the times when you go and do that, I think I would be finding more new writers, which like I said, I don’t mind helping mentor people, but I don’t know if I want to help mentor a lot of people.
I. And then plus that you’ve got, I think too, what’s been hard to find a critique group too is that they only wanna critique a certain type of writing. Yes. So it’s I don’t really wanna be in, I write four different genres, really. I don’t wanna be in four different critique groups.
And like you said before, it’s hard to find someone that. You’re going to get along with that can give you good feedback and good critique on your writing. And then someone that’s actually gonna read it and do that instead of skimming through it and giving you one or two suggestions that don’t help.
So I really, truthfully my mom’s the one I know you use. People say, don’t use your mom. My mom can give me criticism. And help me. ’cause she is, I always, I feel like the same way about people that you care about when you critique their books, even if you’re very close to them.
I feel like, if you had a hair sticking out of your nose, I’m gonna tell you, I don’t want you to go out in public with something like that, so I will not, I’ll make sure your book is decent enough to go out there. And I think though it’s, and they say family and stuff it’s hard.
And I agree because they think they’re gonna hurt your feelings if they tell you about a problem or something that’s bad. And that’s the other problem with finding a critique partner is I. If they’re afraid to. If they’re afraid they’re going to hurt your feelings, then they’re looking at it as something personal.
But I look at it as this is for business and it’s my book and it’s professional. You can give me the negative feedback. You can tell me what you don’t want. Like about it, because I’d rather hear that now than get it published and get a one star review and hear it from people who I don’t even know because then that’ll sink the book.
I’m trying to fix these problems now. And I think family, a lot of times, unless they’re also writers they don’t get that. I know I, I love my wife but I know just about everything I give her. She’s that was great. Okay, good. Glad you liked it. But my son, he will go through and mark things.
He’ll cross things out. He’ll write notes and. He doesn’t find everything. I don’t think any critique partner finds everything, but he gives me some really good feedback that has helped me at times. Oh, that’s good. Yeah. My husband he’s a nonfiction reader, so he’s very difficult. I’ve made him read my books, but it’s like pulling teeth, but I’m like, just please.
Just ’cause he, he does a lot of professional writing. He does like contracts and stuff. Okay. So he is very, he can be very helpful, but he doesn’t think he could be helpful ’cause he’s bored. But I, I’m like, I don’t care. I understand. You don’t wanna read about a little girl. I get that.
The good thing is a lot of middle grade isn’t super long, so not forever, but I’ve been, truthfully, I’ve been surprised ’cause of a lot of like older gentlemen have loved Melanie on the move. Really? I was just like with the same with Marigold as I found little boys. Like really little boys.
Love it. Because and I was just like really surprised about both. I’m like, oh, I didn’t know I had this audience. Wow. I’ll have to keep that in mind. Yeah. Alright. Jd it’s been really good conversation. Do you have any other comments on critiquing? Let’s see. I’m thinking. That’s okay.
I love the dis I loved our discussion. I think it was great. Yeah. I just wish it, I hope it’s helped somebody. Yes. I was hoping too that they would think about that when they get a review as well. I think critiquing and review, it’s you know how when you get reviews on, what to focus on and stuff.
Yes. Too Because I, oh I should add, sometimes when you have critique the reason why people are not critiquing you well is maybe they’re not your audience. Like when you were talking about your book coach, she wasn’t your, the reason why she couldn’t be helpful, she wasn’t really your audience.
She probably, that’s what I’m guessing. Anyway. Part of the problem is it takes a little experimenting and a little experience in writing yourself to realize I. Who works good as a critique partner or coach, and who wouldn’t? I was new, so I was like, oh, a coach. Great. Yeah. Jd before we go, do you have any advice for new authors?
I would just say to it’s a lot of people want just making sure you’re doing it for the right reason. Are you really passionate about writing or do you just wanna write a book? Because there’s a because if you just wanna write a book, just write a book. I don’t really have advice for that.
Just write a book. But if you are passionate about writing, really try to learn as much as possible. I. Never stop learning. Always try to better yourself in your writing and give yourself forgiveness too, because you’re gonna get better and you’re gonna be like, Ooh, I wrote that and it wasn’t so good.
But it’s that was what you were writing back then and you just improve, right? Yeah, definitely. Keep going and keep writing. That’s, I think some people spend too much time on one thing, editing. Forever when they should write lots of things and get better doing it. That, because I think you get better faster doing that.
I think that’s great advice, which I’m probably going to take and you write. Children’s pictures in middle grade. A lot of people don’t understand that even if you wanna write novels at mystery whatever, you can write short stories. And because you can get short stories done quicker, you can write multiple genres and improve your craft.
Just writing a bunch of short stories and you’ll, if you write 20 short stories, by the time you get to the 20th one, your craft will be way better than if you spent the same amount of time re-editing one novel. For that, the same length of time. But that’s what I’m discovering about myself.
That’s great too because then you’re building an audience, right? If someone reads one of your little short stories, then they will go, oh, I like this writer, and they’ll read your next one and your next one. That’s a way too, to grow your audience. Yes. And there’s ways you can then market those short stories.
Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Joy d it’s been great talking to you today about your books and about critiquing. I appreciate you taking some time to speak with me and everybody on the podcast. I am so appreciative to be on here. It was a lot of fun, and thank you for making me feel so comfortable. Oh, great.
Tell Jim that that way. I’ve talked to him next week, so I’ll put that on my list of things I need to tell him. Okay, great. Thanks. Thank you. Thank you for listening to Discovered Wordsmiths. Come back next week and listen to another author, discuss the road they’ve traveled, and maybe sometime in the near future it might be you.