Getting and Giving Reviews

I got a review for my contemporary romance, The Widow:

what a wonderful story! i’m not normally into contemporary stories or “internal” stories (ones that deal with emotions and thoughts). i blush to admit that if something’s not exploding every five minutes or if there’s no dragons/spaceships/time travel/etc, i just can’t hold my focus.

but this story kept my attention through to the end.

one quibble: normally i truly appreciate things to be kept down to the need-to-know. by that, i mean i get impatient with the type of writing that goes on and on and ON and after fifteen minutes’ reading, the character has managed to get in the door and take off his coat. in the case of The Widow, however, it’s a bit *too* spare. i can see her as the 1920s model – but only as a faceless mannequin. same with the other characters – i cannot visualize them. not sure what’s missing, but something is.

the other thing is that the last bit, describing how his art finally takes off, is rushed. there was no hint that their relationship was evolving – i’d gotten the impression they’d parted ways. perhaps a mention of, for example, “she clapped wildly as he was presented with [something or other]” or “after yet another wildly successful gallery show, they collapsed onto yet another hotel bed” or whatever.

i think otherwise it was wonderfully done – the line about being stuck in a moment is fantastic and really encapsulates the book, like she’s trapped in a bubble that finally goes “pop!”

I’m really pleased, because I must confess that no one read this story before I published it. Normally I consider that a cardinal sin, but I don’t actually know a lot of people (none, really) who like contemporary romance. In fact, I never read contemporary romance and this is the first such story I’ve ever written.

Then why did I write it? Because it was there. I used my tarot-plot cards, laid out a plot, and instantly came up with the story. So, given that it was all a big experiment–from using the tarot-plot cards for the first time, to writing contemporary romance, to publishing something without first getting feedback off the record–I’m pleased that it did so well.

The reviewer makes some valid points–and I may redo the ending (ah, the benefits of an e-book!)–but overall, it seems to be a win. (And if Ms. Hare is reading this, be sure to get my debut novel, Acceptance, which is coming out in October; there are vampires and a very large body count. I think you’ll get your fill of action.)

The more I read about marketing, the more conscious I am of providing reviews/feedback when I read, because that’s so important both to help the author sell a book and–when the book sucks–to help them improve it and/or the next one.

But question for the other author/reviewers out there: I know people can feel guilty about giving a bad review to something you’ve been asked to review (been there, done that), but do you ever feel paranoid that an angry author will come back and give you a bad review just out of revenge? Is it something that makes you hesitate to leave a review? Do you hold back comments that you wouldn’t hold back if you were just a reader (and not also a writer)?

MACE for Plotting Stories

My attorney gave me a book to read: Legal Writing in Plain English. And while my work computer has been backing-up, scanning, diagnosing, blue screening, rebooting, and generally failing, I’ve been reading bits and pieces of it.

It has a good system for planning research papers, but it can also apply to writing fiction (although, admittedly, I’m not the type of person to do this; I rarely pre-plot; most of my ideas come as I actually write).



– This is the stage where you do your brainstorming. If you have plot cards, this is when you use them and jot down what they suggest. If you come up with any other interesting ideas, character names, settings, etc., write them down.

Architect – This is the stage when you take your brainstorming ideas and select those elements which will actually fit together in a story (be sure and save the discards for future use, though). Get a loose plot outlined. If you need to do research, now’s the time.

CarpenterThis is when you actually write your story (or research paper). I always recommend working on the NaNoWriMo principle, which is make yourself a word-count (or page-count) goal–something fairly ambitious–so you will be forced to write without editing.

Editor* – This is when you actually do your editing. I recommend at least the following number of revisions:

  1. Check for plot holes; clear up inconsistencies; strengthen characters, dialogue, and descriptions; make changes suggested by pre-readers; make sure you don’t abruptly switch POV.
  2. Double-check facts.
  3. Make sure every sentence makes sense; read your dialogue aloud and make sure it sounds like something someone would actually say; cut out unnecessary sentences and words.
  4. Proofread for tense, grammar, punctuation, and typos.
  5. Format for e-book or print.

*The original book referred to this as the “judge” stage, but that word doesn’t created a neat acronym; besides, “editor” has more meaning to writing folks.