Showing posts with label guest posts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label guest posts. Show all posts

Guest Post: Why My Critique Partners Are Smarter Than Me

— November 01, 2011 (11 comments)
Susan Kaye Quinn is a regular here at Author's Echo and one of my critique partners. She writes, she blogs, she mothers, and I understand she once politicked and rocket scienced (it's a word now -- shut up). Her new novel Open Minds, which I talked about yesterday, is out now, and to celebrate, Susan wrote like a billion blog posts.

Her book is awesome because it's about a world of mind readers and hidden mindjackers (who control minds). This guest post is cool because it talks about how smart I am. You should probably read both.

Oh, also, she's giving away prizes as part of her virtual book launch party. Information after Susan's post.

This title probably sounds like I'm kissing up to my critique partners. And while they are awesome and deserve all the praise I can give them (especially the ones that critiqued Open Minds), that's not quite what I mean.

Robert McKee, in his screenwriting book Story, talks about how the collective IQ of the audience goes up 25 points as the lights dim down. Every sense is tuned to the visual, verbal, and musical cues on the screen. Years of storytelling in the form of movies, books, and TV have trained the audience's intuition. They know the tropes by instinct, and while they probably couldn't tell you why, they just KNOW that the creepy character in the first act is going to come back and be the villain in the end.

Have you ever watched a movie where you "totally saw that coming"? Yeah, me too.

Writing a story that can keep that hyper-attuned audience in the dark until just the right reveal is an extremely difficult task. The writer has to plant just enough clues, but not too many. Provide just the right mood, but not sloppily slurp into cliché-land. Give just enough romance and meaning and depth to move the audience and not so much that it makes them cringe.

Critique partners are the movie-preview audience of the novel world.

When I was writing Open Minds, I went through round after round of critiques from different sets of writer friends who were generous enough to add their expertise to help make the story better. If you read the acknowledgements page, you'll see what I mean. A LOT of writers helped craft this story into its final form and each contributed an important insight into the story. Any reader can give feedback about whether a story "works" for them, but writer-readers are extra helpful in that they can help pinpoint how to fix it as well.

When I return the favor of a critique, I try to give feedback to my writer friend about how the story would be received by a hyper-tuned reader. But I also try to make suggestions for improvements. Sometimes I leave it vague ("more emotional connection needed here" or "I'm not really liking this character—is that the reaction you want me to have?"); sometimes I get more specific ("Reorder this scene to put the high impact point last" or "We need a kiss here"). When I'm very lucky, a crit partner will ask me to help show how to reword or rewrite a small scene. Somehow these scenes always seem to be kissing related, and I joked with a critique friend that I was changing my business card from "Author and Rocket Scientist" to "Author, Rocket Scientist, and Kissing Consultant." (Note: Yes, there are kisses in Open Minds, but nowhere as many as Life, Liberty, and Pursuit—that was a love story after all.)

I relish these times that I can pay back a small bit of the help I get from my brilliant critique partners.

When my critique partners read my MS, they are hyper-attuned like the readers that I hope will someday read the book. Those readers, as soon as they crack open my book or switch on their e-readers, will become savvy, impossibly smart story consumers. Don't underestimate them. They will see your plot twists coming. They will want to be surprised, moved to tears, made to laugh out loud. If you want to deliver a great reading experience for them, if you want to light up their imagination in a way that will rival two hours in a dark theatre, make sure you pretest your novel with critique partners. They will help you find the sluggish plot points, the stereotyped characters, and implausible action sequences before your readers do.

And if they suggest a kiss, let me know if you need a consultant. :)


When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep.

Sixteen-year-old Kira Moore is a zero, someone who can’t read thoughts or be read by others. Zeros are outcasts who can’t be trusted, leaving her no chance with Raf, a regular mindreader and the best friend she secretly loves. When she accidentally controls Raf’s mind and nearly kills him, Kira tries to hide her frightening new ability from her family and an increasingly suspicious Raf. But lies tangle around her, and she’s dragged deep into a hidden world of mindjackers, where having to mind control everyone she loves is just the beginning of the deadly choices before her.

Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy) by Susan Kaye Quinn is available in e-book (Amazon US (also UK, France and Germany), Barnes & Noble, Smashwords) and print (Amazon, Createspace, also autographed copies available from the author).

The Story of Open Minds (linked posts)
Ch 1: Where Ideas Come From: A Mind Reading World
Ch 2: A Study in Voice, or Silencing Your Inner Critic
Ch 3: I'm finished! Oh wait. Maybe not.
Ch 4: Write First, Then Outline - Wait, That's Backwards?
Ch 5: Why My Critique Partners Are Smarter Than Me
Ch 6: Facing Revisions When It Feels Like Being on the Rack
Ch 7: How to Know When to Query
Ch 8: A Writer’s Journey - Deciding to Self-Publish Open Minds (Part One)
Ch 9: Owning the Writerly Path - Deciding to Self-Publish Open Minds (Part Two)
Epilogue: Finding Time to Write the Sequel



Susan Kaye Quinn is giving away an Open Books/Open Minds t-shirt, mug, and some fun wristbands to celebrate the Virtual Launch Party of Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy)! (Check out the prizes here.)

Three ways to enter (you can have multiple entries):

1) Leave a comment here or at the Virtual Launch Party post

2) Tweet (with tag #keepingOPENMINDS)
  • Example: When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep. #keepingOPENMINDS @susankayequinn #SF #YA avail NOW
  • Example: Celebrate the launch of OPEN MINDS by @susankayequinn #keepingOPENMINDS #SciFi #paranormal #YA avail NOW
3) Facebook (tag @AuthorSusanKayeQuinn)
  • Example: Celebrate the launch of paranormal/SF novel OPEN MINDS by @AuthorSusanKayeQuinn for a chance to win Open Books/Open Minds prizes!

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Guest Post: I Need Help. Who Am I?

— May 19, 2010 (12 comments)
Emmet is an old friend of mine from real life. He's alternately a craftsman, a house painter, a pastor, and despite his confusion here, a moderate-level geek. Right now he's in Africa "doing… you know, stuff." He sometimes thinks digitally at

After reading the request for guest bloggers I was struck by two nearly simultaneous thoughts. The first was, “Hey that sounds like fun.” The second was, “I don’t think I’m qualified to geek-out about drawing, writing, or… well Geekdom.” Don’t get me wrong, I can talk about all that stuff, but only as a visitor and not as a member. If there is one thing I’m almost 73% sure of (other than 82% of all statistics being made up), it’s that no member wants a visitor coming in and telling them how to run the place, it’s just not respectable.

This realization led me to the question, “What am I?” You see, several months ago I was on a hiking trip with a friend. One night we undertook the task of scientifically locking down the specific requirements and nuanced characteristics of many common “titles”.  A non-comprehensive sampling of the list includes, geeks, dorks, nerds, preps, D-bags, A-holes, and jerks. What is the difference between an A-hole and a jerk you ask? Well it comes down to levels of intent, dedication, and self-awareness. Oddly enough, as we basked in the glory of our accomplishment, we mutually confirmed our suspicions that none of these titles fundamentally applied to either one of us. If you disagree, I’m sorry, but you’re arguing with science, nothing we can do about it.

So what am I? I have an aptitude for strategic board games (if you are new to Ticket To Ride and pick up two black cards or a black and a green on your first turn, your destination is L.A. to Miami, trust me, it just is). I have an interest in video games, but I’m inept on a PC. I love LOTR but can’t tell you the name of Gandalf’s sword or make a clever pun in Elvish. I may be treated as an honorary geek or nerd in some gatherings, but the title would be purely situational. I certainly don’t own the T-shirt (you know who you are)(for the rest of you it’s Adam that I was talking about just there, you know with the “Geek” T-shirt and all… classic). 

I’m a fan of movies, but I’m not a “Film buff”. I love The Shatner but I’m not a Trekkie. That said, Seven of Nine is by far the hottest crewmember, or at least was up until the reincarnation of Uhura. Now they would have to fight for it… seriously, can we make that happen? Just checking. Likewise, I like Star Wars, but I fail at being a Fanboy. I just don’t have the energy, plus I’m a bigger fan of at least a dozen other movies. Yes, Han shot first; I mean come on, just because he doesn’t want to hear the odds, doesn’t mean he’s an idiot. When Jabba’s bounty hunter comes for you, you shoot him before he gets a chance to shoot you. Think people, this is common knowledge. I still wouldn’t write a strongly worded letter to Lucas, well okay, maybe for what he did to Jr., but not for the prequels or the continuous editing!

I find myself adept in many groups but not truly a member of any of them. I’d say that I was a poser or a chameleon, but I’m not faking interest, it’s just that my interest is passive and non-definitive. On the Myers-Briggs I’m an INTJ, also known as a “Mastermind”, which is pretty cool but hardly helpful. I mean henchman or wingman would have been more useful. Shoot, even Village Idiot would have been more definitive (stupid higher education).

Am I alone? When viewed comprehensively, are we all too complex to be classified, or am I just a member of a yet to be classified group? 

Please help!

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Guest Post: The Fiction of Writing

— May 17, 2010 (15 comments)
Susan Kaye Quinn is an ex-engineer, writer, and elected official: but mostly she’s a mom. She writes middle grade and young adult novels, and blogs about writing and reading books for advanced readers, ages 8-12, over at Ink Spells.

The general public seems to have this idea that if you write a novel, you will be instantly rich and famous. You will don a tweed jacket or a silk scarf and pose in some odd angled picture that will make you look artistic. You will have masses of people flocking to sign your books as you tour the world, greeting your fans. As an esteemed published author, you can now be grumpy and retire to your hidden forested retreat where you will spin your next eagerly awaited book.


This fiction of the writing life is spun by the media attention focused on famous authors, those few Michael Jordan's of the writing world that are household names. Most of the public, especially readers, assume this lifestyle is enjoyed by all writers. People assume you write to make money, or to be famous, to have that elusive cachet of being a "published author." Although many writers would like to be JA Konrath, paying the bills with their writing, most realize that is unlikely to happen, or if it does, it will be a decade or more into their "writing career." If they are very lucky.

If you tell your family and friends you're not in it for the money or glory, that you write because you love it, or because you literally cannot stop like some literary addict, you're likely a get knowing look that says, "Sure. Sure."

Although your close family are probably well-disabused of this notion already, you may have to repeat it endlessly to friends and well-meaning extended family. Although it's bad enough before you have published, I suspect it is even worse after you have an actual book available for purchase. Because you've made it, right? Everything is sunshine and nirvana, right?

Except when you can't sell your second novel, or the first one performs poorly. Or maybe you have a wonderful run of several books, but then your career stalls out and needs new direction. A career in writing is more akin to a career in acting or music—you're only as good as your last book, and even that doesn't guarantee you'll sell another one.

Now that I've got you thoroughly depressed, here's the upside: There has never been a better time to be a writer.

No, I'm not delusional, at least not about that. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, all the myriad online resources grant you access to a community of writers. Even though your Uncle Sandy and your PTA friend in the pickup line may have no idea what the interior life of a writer is like, you have a host of virtual writerly friends who do. Friends who understand that writing is like bleeding your heart onto the page and who want to talk about plotting and voice and the minutia of craft. Friends who sympathize with the agony of rejection, the frustration of a harsh critique, and who know in their hearts that you write because you love it—because they do too.

My brother is a talented writer, who never published. He gave up in his early 20's, back in the pre-internet days, when writers toiled in isolation. He is in awe of my blog, my crit group, my author facebook page, and my knowledge of agents and the publishing industry.

"This is nothing like when I was writing," he says.

Exactly so. So chin up, lads and lassies! It's a brave new world for writers.

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