Good Critiquers Make Suggestions

Is this controversial? I don't know, though I've heard people say they don't like it when critiquers suggest ways to fix things or (gasp!) try to write the scene in their own words. "It's my novel!" they say. "How dare they try to write it for me!"

Me? I love it. Sometimes it's because the critiquer is a much better writer than I am, and I steal their suggestions outright (with permission, of course). But most of the time I love suggestions because it helps me really see what the problem is.

For example, one early beta reader said some action scenes felt "flat." That alone could mean a lot of things, so I asked if he could give me an example. He came back with a little over a page of my novel, revised and rewritten as he would have done it himself.

I loved it. I kept some of his sentences and phrasing, but also I replaced a lot of his stuff with something that better fit the voice/character/situation. But most importantly, because of those suggestions, I learned. I now understand more of what makes action flat or tense and am able to apply the same lessons to my other action scenes. I couldn't have done that without his suggestions.

When critiquing for someone else, you do want to be careful about making suggestions/rewrites. Some people take it badly, and you need to word your suggested revisions carefully.

But not for me. Rewrite and suggest revisions all you want. I'll take it for what it is: your opinion. But it's better than an opinion because it's specific. And that's what a good critique is.

What do you think? Do you like specific suggestions/rewrites in your critiques, or do they ruffle your feathers?

When Your Agent Asks You For Revisions

To me, writing a novel -- trying to make a dozen characters and themes and motivations and goals all fit together in one comprehensible mass -- feels like trying to solve a Rubik's Cube.

It takes years, but then one day I'm all, "Holy crap, I did it, guys! I finished the cube!"

Even better, I show it off to agents, and one of them says, "That's a great looking cube. Can I represent you?" And, well, you know how that goes.

Then my agent says, "Now before I can submit this to publishers, I want you to try and put these pieces in, too."

And I'm all:

Stupid Rubik's Cube.

In Which I Work Up the Nerve to Edit Something

There's a lot of waiting coming up in the next few months, in which I have to just hope that Air Pirates is good enough. In which I have to write the next thing. The thing is, I have at least two finished drafts sitting on my computer, one of which probably will be the next thing, but I'm having trouble working up the nerve to edit them.

This is what's going on in my brain, then. Welcome to the crazy.

Brain: Work on Post-Apoc Ninjas. It's pretty good, and it has a lot of the same feel as Air Pirates.

Me: But I'd have to rewrite over half of it. It's so much work! Can't I just work on this New Shiny over here?

You'll have to rewrite that draft, too. It's less work to revise Ninjas.

But what if it's not? What if I write something that's mostly good on the first try?

Has that ever happened before?

. . . But if I rip out half of Ninjas, it'll feel like I wrote it for nothing.

Look at it this way: you still have half of a good novel.

What if I rip out more than half?

It's still part of a good novel. It's more than you had before you wrote it.

But what if I revise Ninjas and it's still not good? All that work will be wasted!

That's what you say before you start every draft.

I'd have to revise it AGAIN!

Look, what's it worth to you to write a good novel?

I HAVE written a good novel. It's called Air Pirates. Have you read it?

And how many times did you revise that?

. . . I hate you.

So long as you finish something.

Answers (and...nothing, just answers)!

Susan Kaye Quinn asks: Katniss or Hermione?

Cool as Katniss is, I think she'd be a bit too crazy for me. Plus I gotta go with the book girl, even if she is a bit pretentious about it. Hermione.

maine character says: Your bio says you were a software engineer. Which OS do you prefer, what software do you use for your writing, and can you hack me a ticket to the Super Bowl?
I was a software engineer. I've worked on every OS that matters (okay, that's not true; I've never worked on Haiku, for example). Mac OS is the prettiest and most fun to use. Linux is the cheapest and most versatile. But Windows always wins out as a compromise between price and pretty.

For writing, I'm content with my archaic combination of MS Word, Notepad, and actual paper (the latter usually for maps).

And lastly, if by "hack" you mean "sell you one I got off of e-Bay," then sure!

Matthew MacNish asks: Have you seen Eden of the East? It's an Anime my daughter got me into recently.
I have not. Though the premise looks interesting. Is it good and can I (legally) stream it online?

Myrna Foster asks: Do you raise any of your own food?
Um, sort of. We share land with our friend who is much better at the whole growing-stuff-to-eat-it thing. The only food I really use from our yard is holy basil which, honestly, looks and acts exactly like a weed, except delicious.

Erik Winter asks: What about your day-to-day will change if Air Pirates becomes a massive success?
Is it sad that I think about this all the time? I want to say, "Very little." Taking care of all these halflings is more than a full-time job already, and I can't/don't want to step it down much. On the other hand, the internet has proven AWESOME for connecting with people, and a lot of the halflings will start school in the next year or two. We'll see. I'll work on a "regular" success first though, and build up from there.

"Anonymous" asks: Where are you taking your wife on your date next week?
I'm thinking Coach's Pizza, where maybe we can watch season 2 of The LXD. Sound good, Beautiful?

Boy that's going to be awkward if you're not who I think you are.

K. Marie Criddle asks: Of all the Joss Whedon ladies out there, which one would frighten you the most if you crossed her the wrong way?

This lady:

Question Time (and INCARNATE Giveaway Winner!)

The winner of my INCARNATE giveaway is...

Myrna Foster! Congratulations, Myrna. E-mail me with an address and preferred edition (hardback, Kindle, Nook book, etc), and I will get your copy of INCARNATE to you, post-haste!

The rest of you: go buy your own!

Also IT'S QUESTION TIME! Ask me anything you want in the comments -- serious or silly, professional or totally inappropriate, about writing or Thailand or who would win in a fight between the Emperor and the Lord Marshal. Seriously, WHATEVER. They will be answered next week.

For example: "Q: Adam, who were the other finalists in the giveaway?"

A: I'm glad you asked! Here they are:
  • "What kind of defense mechanism is this? A giant cat comes and we turn into YARN?"  -- K.D.Aziz
  • "Ninja Cat skill #2: camouflage."  -- Lori M Lee
  • "I've got him!  Run, run, run!"  -- Angela Brown
  • "The humans told me yarn was for playing. The humans lied."  -- Lexie B.  
  • "It's on my back, isn't it?"  -- Myrna Foster

INCARNATE Giveaway Finalists

On Monday, we had a caption contest to win a copy of Jodi Meadows' debut novel INCARNATE. You guys did not make it easy to choose finalists, and I am incredibly glad I decided not to pick the winner myself.

That's your job now.

Without further ado, here's the picture and the finalists:

The poll is open until Friday, when I reveal the finalist's names and announce the winner. If for some reason the poll isn't working, you can vote in the comments.*

ALSO, even though you can no longer enter captions for MY contest, any caption entered on this form is eligible for Jodi's grand prize drawing until Monday, Feb 6th, 11:59 pm EST!

So get voting!

If you refer to the captions in the comments, specify them by name, not number -- the poll randomizes the order each time the page is loaded.