WRITING WOES: Critique or Criticism

I have written before about reviews and how I handle them…and some tips for others. But, today, I want to dig a little deeper and discuss the difference between CRITIQUE and CRITICISM. I have received both in my life and in my writing career. Once upon a time, I was an Educator for the Disney Company (teaching animal science at Disney’s Animal Kingdom), and it was a “high feedback location”. Meaning…we gave each other a lot of advice, pointing out strengths and “opportunities for growth” among our peers. Don’t get me wrong, I came to enjoy it. That kind of feedback only makes you stronger and better at what you do. But what about when it’s not so helpful? Is it then criticism? Or not?

CRITIQUE

What does Webster say about “critique”?

CRITIQUE: (noun) a detailed analysis and assessment of something, especially a literary, philosophical, or political theory; (verb) evaluate (a theory or practice) in a detailed and analytical way.

I like to thing of critiques as an honest, unbiased view of someone’s work. The intent is to help someone improve the work or their craft. The language used in a critique is overly positive and helpful, while still pointing out opportunities for improvement. The receiver of the critique may not alway like it (as the critique giver may point out flaws and errors), but it is not intended to be antagonistic or hurtful.

CRITICISM

Let’s check out Webster’s thoughts here…

CRITICISM: the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes; the analysis and judgment of the merits and faults of a literary or artistic work.

Criticism, by definition (as you can see) is expressing disapproval. The language is generally overly negative. And the intent is not always to help the artist. I’m gonna say it…sometimes it is just as your mother said…someone making themselves feel better by pushing another down. There will be a complete lack of positives in a review that falls into the “criticism” category.

So what?

How does this help you? Understanding and identifying the difference will help you handle the feedback. Critiques should be taken at face value. There will most likely be some valuable insight for you to mull over at the very least. Criticisms, on the other hand, may not have anything helpful and you may just need to dismiss them out of hand. It is art, it is subjective…if the feedback is not going to better you or your work, let it fall by the wayside.

Feedback and reviews are inherently a nothing more than a meter stick for you. How is your work being received? Even if the answer is “not well”, don’t let that discourage you. It is YOUR art. Take what you can from the critiques, banish the criticisms from mind, and move forward.

Happy Writing!

AUTHOR MARKETING: Newsletters

While I’m on this marketing kick, I thought we should talk about the newsletter. It is one of the most important tools a writer/author has for marketing. There is a lot we can do on Facebook and Twitter as far as posting and tweeting and getting information out there. But the truth of the matter is that we don’t own those platforms. As unlikely as it is, we could wake up tomorrow and it would all be shut down. But the e-mails you accumulate through your website and speaking engagements are yours.

How do I get those e-mails?

There are several ways to grow your e-mail list. One is simply by having a blog or website where people can engage with you and sign up if they like your content. Offer them more of a glimpse into your life through the newsletter. More exclusives, freebies…something.

One of the things I have done (which is not my original idea) is to write a novella that is available for free (on ebook) to anyone and everyone who signs up for my newsletter. That adds value.

Recruiting people to your newsletter through contests and the like can help grow your list. Sign up for my newsletter and I will draw a name to win a free (blank). Be wise, though, you cannot attach the prize to something they must purchase in any way, shape, or form.

What do I do now that I have an e-mail list?

Start a newsletter! I use a newsletter service called MailChimp. I used to send out a newsletter every 3-4 months, but now I am trying to get one out at least every other month. But the key to the newsletter is that you need to provide something of value to the recipient. A recipe, news of free book downloads, a sneak peek…something. And let them see into your writing life a bit. Give them a peek behind the curtain, so to speak.

And be consistent about sending out the newsletter and providing valuable content. Keep your audience wanting more.

Happy writing!

The Importance of Scheduling Rest

I am weary. Anyone else? This summer has been busy. And I don’t mean “we’ve been doing a lot”. I mean “it’s been crazy, no weekends free, running around all the time” busy. So I am drained. Do you ever find yourself this way? Overtired, overstressed, and under-recovered? That’s me right now.

How did it get to this point? Is it just because of the busyness? Or could it be more than this? Perhaps I should have taken better care to rest.

The Cadence of Life

There are 24 hours in a day. But it is not meant for all of those hours to be spent in action. No less than 6-8 of those hours are designated for rest (if you’re lucky).

There are 7 days in a week. But, for most of us, our work schedules allow for days off that there might be rest. Even God ordained that we take a day for rest.

There are many Psalms that include the word “Selah”. It is my understanding that there is some debate as to the exact meaning of this word. But what is agreed upon is that it indicates a break, a pause in the music. So, just as with life, there should be a pause in activity, a chance for a breath, for silence.

When we go against the rhythm…

As we see, it is not intended that we go without ceasing. Our bodies demand daily rest and we were created for weekly rest. So, why do we often not honor this? We as a society, I fear, have become so caught up in the busyness, the doing, that we fail to recognize our own need for rest. We put if off until later. As if that makes any sense. Yet we do…I do.

We can only violate this rhythm for so long. Then our very bodies will rebel. It is true. How many of you have gotten so worn out that sickness claims you. Then you are forced to rest. When your body is not well rested, it can no longer operate at its optimum level, leaving us vulnerable to things that our immune system would otherwise fight with little trouble.

So, what’s the answer?

Obviously, we have to choose. Choose rest. But that’s not all there is to it. If it were, that would be easy.

We must choose what fills our days and our lives. And we must accept that we cannot “do it all”. There must be priorities and we must decide that our life will reflect them.

It’s one thing to say that “my family comes first”. It’s quite another to turn off Facebook and listen to my daughter’s drawn out story of her hour chasing a bug because it’s important to her. That’s a choice.

Shutting off the laptop at night to allow your body the sleep it requires is a choice.

Taking that only weekend of the summer you have free and setting it aside for you is a choice.

Your choices may require others to sacrifice for you, too. My husband will need to keep up with the kiddos while I take that one weekend to regroup and rest. But my wellbeing is important to me. To him. To our family. A worn out mommy and wife does none of us any good.

Choices.

Decide what is in your life, what you delegate to others (you will have to), and what you pass on altogether.

Choose.

Prioritize.

But, above all, make time for rest.

Author Marketing: Facebook Groups

Hello, all! I hope this post finds you well and enjoying summer. Read anything good lately? I am in editing and marketing mode myself. Even working through my vacation. But I have a writing/relaxing weekend coming up later in July and I canNOT wait!

So, like many of you, I don’t have all the time in the world to market my books. Nor do I have tons of drive/patience for it either. As some of you may already know, according to the Myers-Briggs personality assessment, Author and Promoter personality types are on the opposite spectrum from each other. No more wondering why we find marketing so difficult and “out of our comfort zones”, eh?

Well, how are we going to make the most of our time and efforts? By choosing. We can’t do it all. Especially if writing is not your full time job. Especially if you also have children who are small and need a lot of attention. Especially if…[insert what calls for you time here].

One of the ways I make the most of my time is Facebook. It is a great tool. Not necessarily the most important tool (newsletters and your e-mail list may ultimately be the most important, but that’s for another blog post), but a great tool nonetheless.

What are Facebook Groups?

We are all familiar, I hope, with the concept that we can (and should) post on our Facebook page and Facebook Author/Writer page about what’s happening in our writing lives, in our “normal” life, etc. And maybe some of you are even aware of Facebook Groups for buying and selling things like clothing (LuLaRoe, here I come!).

There are Facebook Groups for books. Specified by genre and subgenre and whatnot. The idea is that readers of Historical Romance, for example, join the page to discuss books in that genre and find new reads. Authors of that genre will also join the page and put forth their books, alerting that market of their existence. So, authors and readers of like genres can connect.

Sign me up! How do I get set up?

There is a search box on your Facebook page. Type in your genre “Historical Fiction”, “Christian Books”, “Suspense”, etc. Then join GROUPS that pop up that look interesting to you. Make sure to read their specifications. What they allow authors to post and even if they allow you to promote on that page (some do not).

Once you have a list of groups going, you need to keep track of when you can post where. I only belong to groups that allow posting on any day at any time. I don’t want to have to keep that much information in my head or in my binder. I need it to be easy, not more difficult. I keep a list of the groups in a table with columns where I can mark the date I post in that group. Most groups only allow you to post once a day.

How often should I post then?

I generally post once a week in all the groups. And I’ll pick a book to post for each week. I could post a different book each day, but, again, I want this to work for me. I also don’t want the members in these groups to get tired of seeing my name. That might have the opposite effect of what I’m wanting…over-saturation…wearing them out.

What do I post?

I make memes to post in the groups. Visually, they are more appealing and they generally get more interaction. Just posting your title, buy link, and cover gets old real quick. Here is an example of what I would post:

Amanda needed the stability of marriage and the long-term
support for her son. But she didn’t expect to care so much
about the ranch. Or the rancher. Read more about “A
Convenient Risk” at: http://saraturnquist.com/convenient-risk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you need more information about making memes, check out my blog post here.

So, you’ll need memes containing either a review quote or 65-word-or-less pull quote from the book. Then a tweet-length intriguing statement to post above the meme with a link to your website page or where the reader can buy the book.

And that, my friends, is pretty much all there is to Facebook groups. I cannot stress enough that you follow their guidelines. And keep it respectable.

Happy Marketing!