Amused Authors

More answers on questions about writing and publishing by Christa Maurice
December 18, 2009, 3:00 pm
Filed under: fiction, publishing, romance, writing

On another site I was asked a bunch of questions about writing and publishing so I thought I’d post the answers here.

Is writing a sole enterprise?

For me it is. I’d like to try working with a partner, but so far, I don’t play well with others.

Do you have a circle of friends that critque each other’s writing or are you a lone wolf never letting anyone else in until it’s ready?

I do have critique partners, but I’ve begun to stop relying on them completely. When I first started working with them, they were invaluable for pointing out the stuff I didn’t realize I was doing wrong. Now I’ve internalized so many of their comments that I don’t have to submit everything. Plus, it takes a long time to run things through my group. I write fast. (The current record is a 66K novel in 11 days.) In my crit group, I post one chapter a week, so in general it takes me >3 months to write a book and <4 to get it critiqued. The math is not in my favor.

I am also a member of Romance Divas which is a large, supportive online community of romance writers. As a writer you end up surrounded by people who don’t really understand what it is you’re doing. They don’t know how long it takes to write a book and get it published. They don’t understand who crushing it is to get a bad review. They are baffled as to why you are excited when your characters take over. Having a group that does understand is priceless.

If you aren’t the lone wolf, how do you choose people to critique?

As with most things I’ve done, I found my CPs quite by accident. I decided I needed an online crit group because I was going to be overseas so I searched Yahoo groups. I found one that appealed and applied to join. Joining required sending in a bio, a sample chapter and doing a sample crit, then the members of the group voted. If they wanted to work with me, they would vote for me; if not, they voted against. That way, when you joined, you had automatic partners. I was voted in with 4 partners, which I later found out was a very high number. As soon as I got in, I searched through the posts to see what they’d said about me and found out that one of the people in the group thought I was going to be a plotless wonder. I don’t remember who it was and it wouldn’t matter if I did. My sample chapter was from Rock Star.

Since then I’ve worked with a number of people. To be honest, I overwhelm people. Most people who think they want a critique partner really want someone to pat them on the head and tell them how clever they are. I want to make my CPs the best possible writers they can be and you have an excellent chance of getting your manuscript back covered in notes if you send it to me. (I just had someone tell me, after I critted her first scene, that she wasn’t ready for such an intense critique.)

So the first thing you need to do is make sure you’re ready for critique. Then go experiment. You need to find someone who understands your genre and is at your level or just above. And both of you need to be able to work together. There’s going to be a lot of hit and miss, but don’t take it personally. You can also work with a beta reader. A beta reader will supply a much lighter critique, but will also not require as much of a commitment from you. I’m a lousy beta reader because I dig in with both hands.

And how did you do so without too much fear of your ideas being stolen?

Listen to me well, no one is going to steal your ideas. Seriously. Writers have too many ideas of their own to want to muck around taking yours. Besides, if they did, the resulting work would be so different that you wouldn’t recognize it. You may have the most brilliant, groundbreaking, amazing idea ever and much of it is still going to be in the execution. I posted the first 2 chapters of Three Alarm Tenant on Gather in the First Chapters contest. No one took them. I posted the first 6 chapters of Rock Star and nobody took those either.

Now coming up with an amazingly similar idea to someone else’s, that happens all the time. Mina Carter needs to get out of my head. She scooped me on the title Playing with Fire and she also put out a book titled Rock Star. (The full title of mine is The Rock Star’s Retreat though.) A few years ago I started working on a sci fi epic. One of the main characters was a starship mechanic who was the sister of the pilot and was a little crazy and could read minds just a little. Her name was Kaleen. About 6 months after I started working on it news of Firefly started circulating. You know, the show that had a starship mechanic named Kaylee and a crazy sister who could read minds? I set mine aside.

Do you have an editor? If so, when did you get her/him and how does that work?

The editors I work with were assigned to me by my publishers. Pam Skochinski is my editor with Lyrical and I have worked with her through three books now so I trust her implicitly. I work with Maria Rogers at Liquid Silver and Helen Andrew at Freya’s Bower. Not to say that Maria and Helen aren’t every bit as good as Pam, but I’ve worked with Pam a lot so I’m a lot more familiar with her style.

In general there are three edit cycles. In the first round (which I refer to the soul crushing round) your beautiful, perfect manuscript comes back covered in notes. After you peel yourself off the floor and out of the fetal position, you make a lot of changes and wonder why they ever bought your story in the first place because there is obviously so much wrong with it. Then you sent it back.

In the next round, your lovely and talented editor has now found a whole new crop of problems that she couldn’t see before because of all the other stuff that was wrong. This round usually isn’t as painful because it’s mop up. The second round of Rock Star with Helen took 20 minutes. Then I spent another 10 minutes sitting in front of the computer trying to figure out what I missed because I could not possibly be done already.

The third round, if there is one, springs from lingering questions in round two. It’ll often be one scene that was a total disaster and required some back and forth to clean up. There’s also little things like extra punctuation or spaces from where you deleted something.

Lastly, you may get a round of line edits where another editor has gone over the work and noticed that the Presbyterian church at the beginning of the book has mysteriously become Baptist during the dance at the end, But I <cough> wouldn’t know anything about that. 🙂
Feel free to ask questions if you want more info on something. I’m happy to help.



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