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!

Writers Conference: A View From the Front

I have just returned from the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference in Elizabethtown, KY. It was a blast! But it was also a tiring venture. Aren’t all conferences? You leave with a ton of business cards from your networking efforts, more friends, greater knowledge and understanding of aspects of the craft, and renewed inspiration. This year, however, I had another level to my exhaustion…I was a workshop facilitator.

And I realized how much I took for granted how nice it is to show up to the conference with naught but your pitch prepared and one sheets, synopsis, and business cards in hand. Not only did I have a couple of weeks of preparation under my belt, I had props, sign up sheets, books to sell, handouts, and a myriad of other things along for the ride (including chocolate).

So, I facilitated four workshops: “Preparing for Liftoff: Launching Your Book”, “Writing a Proposal/Querying” (with my husband), “Basic Characterology”, and “Marketing with Memes”.

It was great to share what knowledge I do possess and encourage other writers at different places in their journeys. There’s nothing like it. And I will look forward to doing so again at (hopefully) this conference next year and others.

I will be honest and say that the thing I enjoyed the LEAST was the panel. Whoa! It was not being put on the spot. It was not the questions…it was being up there with some of the authors I admire and respect the most (and my publisher, to say the least), and trusting my tongue to put forth good answers.

By and large, I encourage all authors and writers to go to conferences, as many as you can (make sure they are reputable, of course). And take that knowledge back to the writers that are newer in the craft than you. And, as the time comes and you have grown in your experience and technique, put yourself out there to teach.

Until next time, Happy Reading! Oh, and Happy Writing!

The Blog Tour has begun!

Here are the stops for “A Convenient Risk” Blog Tour.

*Note: The post for the tour will not be live until the date posted.

June 19: The Reading Addict
June 19: Romance Novel Giveaways
June 19: Reader’s Handbook
June 20: Christine Young
June 21: Buried Under Romance
June 21: Beyond Romance
June 22: Fabulous and Brunette
June 23: Hearts and Scribbles
June 23: Books, Dreams,Life
June 23: Notes From a Romantic’s Heart – review
June 26: Queen of All She Reads
June 27: Edgar’s Books
June 27: LibriAmoriMiei – review
June 28: Book Lover Promo
June 28: Kissing Bandits
June 29: EskieMama and Dragon Lady Reads
June 30: Journey of a Bookseller – review
July 10: A Writer’s Life
July 10: BooksChatter
July 11: Mixed Book Bag
July 12: Unabridged Andra
July 12: Tina Donahue Books – Heat with Heart
July 13: Booklove – review
July 13: charline’s blog and more…
July 14: Wendi Zwaduk ~ Romance To Make Your Heart Race
July 14: Independent Authors
July 17: Readeropolis
July 18: Simpliread – review
July 18: Lorana Hoopes
July 19: Hope. Dreams. Life… Love
July 19: Nesie’s Place
July 19: Mello and June, It’s a Book Thang!
July 19: Two Ends of the Pen
July 20: Straight From the Library
July 21: Long and Short Reviews

There is a $50 Amazon/BN giftcard giveaway for participation in the tour. Details can be found on the tour stops.

“A Convenient Risk” Blog Tour

It is time. The blog tour for “A Convenient Risk” is upon us! And I couldn’t be more excited!

What is a blog tour?

For those of you who have never heard of a blog tour, let me explain. Remember when authors used to do book tours around the U.S.? (Some big name authors still do, but it’s not as prevalent.) Well, virtual book tours, or blog tours, have essentially taken the place of those. The goal is for my book to be featured on 20-40 blogs, opening me and my books to an audience that I would otherwise not have access to.

The blog tours consist of different kinds of “stops”:

  • the spotlight: this is basically the pertinent information about the book – cover, back cover copy, buy links, author bio, and my social media links, possibly and excerpt from the book as well
  • the interview: the blogger has sent me questions, which I filled out, those are posted along with the spotlight info and possibly and excerpt from the book
  • the guest blog: I have written a blog to be published on their website, posted along with the spotlight info, not usually combined with an excerpt
  • the review: the blogger has read the book and posts a review, along with the spotlight information, not usually an excerpt

When is the blog tour?

The blog tour will start on June 19th and is schedule through July 19th, but has the potential for a couple more spots on July 20th and 21st. Next Wednesday, I will post the schedule, so you can follow along. As well, I will post on my Facebook Author page and Twitter each day where I “am”, so you can keep up.

Facebook Author Page: AuthorSaraRTurnquist

Twitter: @sarat1701

Grand Prize

If you follow the tour, you will notice that there a GRAND PRIZE! A $50 Amazon gift card for those who do follow and participate in the tour (making comments and whatnot).

A Convenient Risk

In case you don’t remember this particular book, let me remind you…

He never imagined her heart would be so hard to reach.

Forced into a marriage of convenience after her husband dies, Amanda Haynes is determined she will never love again. Not that it bothers Brandon Miller. He needs her husband’s cattle. She needs financial stability and long-term support for her son and herself. But she never expected to care so much about the running of the ranch. Or the rancher.

Butting heads over the decisions of the ranch, adding to her frustration and grief at her loss. Her wellbeing is soon threatened as their lives become entangled with Billy the Kid and his gang. What has she gotten herself into? What kind of man has she married? Is there any way out?

And so, I wish you happy reading! I look forward to “seeing” you on the tour!

QUERIES: The Good, The Bad, The Necessary

 

In the life of a writer, we all must come to that point when we decide the world should have access to our art. We have babied it and honed it as much as we possibly can. It is at that point. We are as confident as we can be. The dreamer in us has overcome our insecurities.

Then, we find out that there is this, pardon me for being honest, beast of a thing called a QUERY letter. What an undertaking that is! For those of you who may just now be reaching that point, let me explain and (hopefully ease some anxiety for some of you who are, rightfully so, a bit overwhelmed it).

What is a Query?

Basically, a query is an opportunity to share your book in a concise way. To pitch it, in other words. Agents, acquisition editors, and publishers do not have time to read entire manuscripts as they comb through the many submissions in their inboxes each day. So the query letter is a valuable tool for both them and you. It is a snapshot of your book in about eight sentences. Your goal is to get them interested enough to request more information (or open the attachments you sent; note here: do not send anything not requested in the submission guidelines).

The query is NOT a tool that is intended to get them to sign on the dotted line. It is to intrigue them enough to take that next step.

The usefulness of the Query

Once you have the query, you will reuse it many places. It can be tweaked and included in these places:

  • the query letter
  • book proposal
  • your website
  • media kit
  • back blurb (back cover copy)
  • any information you send out about your book

So, as you can see, you want to put a lot of thought and effort into getting it just right, but it will pay off.

Before you Query

For a debut author, you need to make sure that your manuscript is completed and as polished as it can be. A professional edit is not a bad idea. Research comparable titles. These are books that are similar to your in theme, tone, story elements, etc. At the same time, note how your book stands out among the others.

You also want to research the agent/acquisition editor/publisher you are querying. Do they work in your genre? Learn their name and what kinds of books they typically represent. You want to personalize the query as much as you can.

How do you find someone to query? Going to conferences is the best way hands down. You can also look on past conference websites or research your favorite authors’ websites and books to determine their publishers/agents.

The Elements of a Query

SUBJECT LINE

Some submission guidelines will tell you what to put in the subject line. Others do not. If you have freedom to put what you would like. Insert something like “QUERY: historical romance with a marriage of convenience between a widow and a rancher in trouble”.

FIRST PARAGRAPH

You will want to introduce yourself and include why you are personally writing to this agent/editor/publisher, be that a mutual acquaintance that recommended you do so, or that your book is similar in tone to other books they represent, etc.

SECOND (& MAYBE THIRD) PARAGRAPH

You will need a HOOK. This is also your ELEVATOR PITCH. A 1-2 sentence overarching description that intrigues. Often these are rhetorical questions. “What if’s…”. For A Convenient Risk, a pitch may be: “What if a newly widowed young mother is drawn into a marriage of convenience only to find out that her new husband may have ties with one of America’s most infamous outlaws?”

Elevator pitches are a wonderful way to share your book’s main concept if you are riding, say, an elevator with someone in the industry and have only that long to pitch it (thus, why it is called an “elevator pitch”), or if someone asks you what your book is about when you are networking with other authors/readers.

Go on to include about six sentences about the book’s NEED/STORY. This is the essence of the book. We’re talking broad details here. This should be heavy on the front part of the book and, again, intrigue the person reading it. But be concise, don’t trip yourself up on trying to be fancy with the prose. The agent/editor/publisher is more interested in what you have and determining if they should read more. (That doesn’t mean you neglect your writing skills altogether.)

It is important to convey the conflict and stakes for your protagonist. What does your protagonist want and what’s in his/her way? Why is your book worthwhile? They will only care about your story if they care about your character.

FOURTH PARAGRAPH

This is for your writing credentials. Now, as a newbie writer, you may not have many or any. That’s okay. Talk about (briefly) why you wrote this book. What makes you an authority on this topic (more for nonfiction)? List any credits, endorsements, and awards (but not minor ones, and high school awards do not count except in very specific cases). Try to keep as much of your personal life out of the query unless it is related to the book or your platform. I cannot stress brevity enough.

FIFTH PARAGRAPH

Here is where you share the books pertinents. Word count, the fact that it is completed, target audience, comparable titles, and any marketing information. Your target audience is who you think will buy your book. DO NOT put “everyone aged 25-45”. You need to know your audience better than that. Is it women or men? Younger? Older? What kind of books do they like? TV shows?

CLOSING PARAGRAPH

Thank the person for their time/consideration. Mention any attachments and what they include, but again, only if they were requested by the agent/editor/publisher or in the submission guidelines. And, please include your contact information…at the very least, your e-mail address and phone number.

For more information:

If you want more information on Querying and Writing Proposals (proposals are something you may need to work with in this process), there is a great book on this subject: STEP BY STEP PITCHES AND PROPOSALS by Chip MacGregor (which was a great source for double checking my info for this blog post) and you can check out QueryShark’s Blog (http://queryshark.blogspot.com/). QueryShark is a literary agent who goes through queries and gives (sometimes harsh) feedback. But it will help you hone you query-writing skills.

Also, June 22nd-24th, I’ll be talking about Writing a Proposal/Querying at the Kentucky Christian Writer’s Conference. It’s not too late to register! If you spot me, I’d love to chat.

BOOK REVIEW: Melody Delgado’s “Royally Entitled”

Perhaps your summer reading list is as long as mine. Maybe not. But I will be content to keep working my way through this mountain of books and share with you the ones I thought were worth my while. This next one I have for you was a great story with a lead character that was well-developed. But, I’m getting ahead of myself…let me introduce you to the book first:

Royally Entitled

When her family’s cider business is ruined and other local businesses are vandalized, Anika Pembrie wonders if the recent bout of unrest is merely a result of rivalry between local merchants and noblemen or if something more sinister is at the root of the recent crimes. Along her journey Anika befriends Prince Valdemar, future king of Brevalia but their relationship hits many twists and turns along the way. Lady Winifred Paxel Flemming pursues the prince relentlessly. His grandmother, Queen Marguerite, expects him to wed whoever she thinks is suitable, even if it means marrying a foreign princess he’s never met. Anika’s mother, Lady Sarah, wants Anika to help ease the family’s financial burdens by marrying Erland Riccats, National Chairman of the Merchants’ Guild. Lady Sarah also harbors secrets regarding Prince Valdemar’s mother, Princess Karin, who met an untimely death years before. In the end, will both Anika and Prince Valdemar be forced into loveless marriages, or will they be able to outwit their enemies?

My Thoughts

This was a wonderful novel. Great clean Historical Romance. The author got into the story quickly (which had me hooked quickly) and kept me turning the pages. Pacing was good, but there were places where the story felt a bit YA. That’s a hard line to walk between a Clean Read for adults and a YA book. The romance was refreshing and drove the story well. The main character, Anika, is well fleshed out and three dimensional. She was enjoyable to read and cheer for throughout the story.

Rating ~ 4 1/2 Stars

In case you are interested…

If you enjoy clean Historical Romance and like things a bit more on the YA side, this is a book for you!

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Smashwords

also available on iBooks

RESEARCH: Tips on incorporating what you find

Hey, all! Back into my long lost passion – research. Actually, it’s not so much a passion as a necessary evil. I do love history and love learning new things, don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t be writing Historical Fiction/Romance if I didn’t. But there comes a point when research is just tedious, I just want to write the scene.

The dance between fiction and fact

I’ve shared before how, with Historical Fiction/Romance writers, it’s so much a dance…or an exercise in weaving. We thread in fiction and historical fact, hopefully creating a seamless tapestry. If, when writing, the research hits a dead end, work in more fiction. If the fiction begins to dry up, add in more research.

Well, there is a little more to it than that, as you can imagine. What I want to share today is how to get the research from the book and/or reliable website to the manuscript. I was not always so good about this. I have become better as I needed to. The problem is that I have a very good memory. Like, scary good. My husband wishes it wasn’t so good most of the time. But it is.

So, when I would just read over research, make notes here and there, I would then go to the manuscript and find out later that it read pretty much like the primary source. Not because I attempted to copy, mind you. But because of my nearly eidetic (photographic) memory.

What is a girl to do?

Now, when I find that primary source, or that source I have deemed reliable, I make my initial notes. Then I will go back through a few days later and make notes of my notes (not the primary/reliable source). Several days after that, I will do that again–make notes of those notes. That puts the research as much into my own words as I can get it. I then utilize the last set of notes to write my manuscript.

I’ve found this to be, by far, the best way to go with a memory such as mine.

Do you have any tricks/tips that you find useful?