Saturday, June 9, 2018

My Ideas on How to Enrich a Manuscript by Brenda Whiteside

Last week, on my personal blog, Discover Yourself, I threw a request out to "help me write my book." Although I had hundreds of views, only three readers voiced their opinions...and two of them are fellow authors from this blog. But what is really interesting for me, all three agreed on how I should approach my next series. So I'll be taking that advice and running with it. First, I need a learning curve because I'll be attempting a style I've never used.

I love getting input on my manuscripts. I love, love my editor and I love, love my critique partners. When I lived in Minnesota, I belonged to two critique groups. One group consisted of four writers and the other group was a small group of two, including me. When I moved to Arizona, two of the first group agreed to keep up our relationship via email. My partner in the other also agreed. In Arizona, I joined another group, but I have since moved too far to be part of that group. I remain in contact with one of those writers. I send my chapters to four critique partners via email. These ladies are great and come from varied experiences and genres--erotic paranormal romance, sweet historical westerns, historical romance, and romantic suspense.

The viewpoints and suggestions can be as varied as the genres they write in. But sometimes they actually agree, and when that happens, I listen and learn. If they don't agree, I weigh their critiques and get inspired. For instance:


She’d been in one of her funny-odd moods since the stranger entered the shop earlier during the day. Although her father always called her funny-odd whenever she grew quiet, the term explained exactly the state of mind Zack Peartree’s appearance caused.

In the draft I sent to my critique partners, the funny-odd description was just funny. One CP said they didn't get it. One made a suggestion to use another word, and the other two CPs said nothing. The varied reactions made me think, and I changed it to funny-odd. My tweak pleased all of them.

I guess my point is you can't please everyone all of the time. What I see in a phrase or turn of words or in an approach to a style will certainly be viewed differently by at least some of the readers. But no matter what feedback I get, I can't write without it. My books can only be improved by the viewpoints of others. I won't sacrifice my creative intentions to please everyone, but my writing can always be enriched. And I welcome the criticism.


17 comments:

Margo Hoornstra said...

Fresh eyes on a manuscript are invaluable. IMHO anyway. Lucky you to have access to so much input. We write in virtual vacuums. The exact opposite of how our books are read. Does that make sense?

Jannine Gallant said...

I have one CP (Margo) and she points out things I don't notice. Like the overused word of the book--it's always different for each book. Errors in police procedure. Lack of emotional development when I'm too focused on the plot, etc. etc. My older daughter reads the manuscript and makes comments about phrases sounding old or characters doing something no one their age would do, that sort of thing. My editor is a man, so I get a guy's perspective from him. He tightens up the plot when I stray off course a little. I agree these POVs are invaluable! It's too bad you didn't get more feedback on you blog post, but it's interesting that we all had the same reaction!

Brenda Whiteside said...

Thank makes all the sense in the world, Margo.

Brenda Whiteside said...

Sounds like you get varied and useful feedback on your novels, Jannine. I don't know how I'd write without critiques.

Rolynn Anderson said...

As I said when Leah wrote about critique, critical friends are gems. I've actually written a book on CFG's...Critical Friend Groups...setting up protocols for teachers to use seeking feedback on developing lessons. When I was a principal of a newly opened school, I only hired teachers who were willing to collaborate with other teachers to improve skills (we integrated subjects and worked in teams, too). Anyway, I'm steeped in the concept, Brenda. Writers are desperate to find out if their text creates the emotional responses they were working so hard to engender...that takes a kind of testing, checking with the reader. Your 'funny-odd' example is a good one. It's hard to know how readers will respond to such a term...we have to ask!

Alison Henderson said...

I had four sets of extra eyes on my latest book, and I would never have been able to write it without them. I didn't send it to them until it was "finished," but I knew it had serious problems I couldn't fix alone. They all offered different ideas, but the simple fact that we saw many of the same problems spurred me to come up with solutions.

Andrea Downing said...

Getting good critique partners is a blessing. I haven't personally always been so lucky, but I do take to heart what my beta readers say and, like you, listen to a consensus of opinion. it's similar to entering contests--you get high marks from 2 people and the 3rd thinks your book is a loser LOL. I think it comes down to what they individually like to read, what they're looking for in a good book.

RE Mullins said...

I rely on family to give me critical advice My friends are too nice and the only 'author' cp didn't critique she was just critical.

Brenda Whiteside said...

Rolynn, sounds like your past life provides you with good insight into your new career.

Brenda Whiteside said...

Alison, yes, even if the feedback doesn't match exactly to your vision, it will spark ideas and a solution.

Brenda Whiteside said...

Andrea, yes, no one sees it the same. But personally, I hate contest results. I think those readers (and they are usually writers) have other agendas than helping us.

Brenda Whiteside said...

RE, I'm sad you've not had good luck with CPs. I can't rely on my family. FDW always reads my books and he "feels" when something isn't right but can't always tell me what.

Diane Burton said...

I've been in critique groups and had a solo CP. Then I move and getting together became impossible. I've had online partners, but sometimes I worry that I'm bothering them when they haven't sent anything. It's great to get feedback. I've missed that.

Brenda Whiteside said...

I love my email CPs. We've known each other a long time so we aren't worried about bothering. Plus we're very open to say, "hey, really busy but I'll get to this as soon as I can.

Leah St. James said...

I was part of a great critique group several years ago, but I ended up dropping out because I couldn't keep up with the reading or writing schedule. (I sound so lame.) Now that I'm getting back into a writing habit, I'll have to think about it. Honest feedback is so important.

Alicia Dean said...

I love getting feedback on my WIPs. Sometimes I agree, sometimes I don't, but I always find helpful advice that improves my manuscript.

Brenda Whiteside said...

So true, Alicia. Even when I don't agree, it makes me stop and think. I often come up with a third and better idea.