Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Cooling-Off Period: Handling Criticism Effectively

Photo from Dodog
So, I recently finished another round of revisions on the first book in my new romantic comedy series from Entangled Publishing. The revisions were slight, but that has not always been the case. Sometimes, a publisher will ask for huge, sweeping changes--like, this-book-sucks-so-start-all-over changes.

And that's when I step back to cool off.

My dad had a favorite saying that I'm sure most parents have in their arsenal: "Think before you speak or act." I say the same thing to my own children. I also say it to myself--every single time I receive a critique or editorial letter.

Writing is personal, but if you are pursuing publication, it's important to realize it is also a profession. Sometimes, pushing aside feelings is essential in order to succeed.

You've labored on a project that obviously is dear to your heart or you wouldn't have invested the time and effort to write it. Then, you turn it over to someone who doesn't hold it dear. Sometimes they don't even like it--heck, sometimes they hate it. The thing I always keep in mind is that just because someone doesn't like what I have written, it doesn't mean they don't like me. It's totally separate. Maintaining this separation is difficult sometimes.

Here's my strategy for handling critique:

1. Read the critique notes (or editorial letter) carefully without responding at first. Send a brief thank you note to let them know you received their suggestions. Nothing specific. Same with oral critique in a live critique group. Listen. Really listen. Say nothing. When you've heard them out, thank them for their suggestions. If you are unclear on a point they made, ask questions without any explanations or defensiveness.

Do not explain why they didn't like it or "get" it. If they were confused, perhaps it is a valid point. As a writer, I know exactly what I mean. If the reader doesn't get it, it is probably my fault.

2.  Give the information time to cure and your emotions time to cool down. This is the most important part. When I receive revision suggestions from my critique partners, agent, or editors, I read them several times and then set them aside for 24-72 hours before I respond or begin revising. (Of course, I send an immediate "Got it. Thanks!" but nothing else.)

This curing time enables me to recover from my initial reaction, which is always more dramatic than necessary. After one to three days, I've had time to process the suggestions logically, rather than react emotionally.

My editor for Shattered Souls sends hard copy editorial letters. She once told me that she has a client who puts the letter in the freezer after reading it so that it isn't sitting out. After a few days, she pulls it out of the freezer and is ready to go. Both letter and author have had a "cool down" period (the letter, literally).

I don't have to lock my revision letters out of view, but I do keep myself from responding or making changes right away.

3.  Consider the source.  Enough said, probably, but I'll elaborate. Who gave you the critique? Is this the first time you have received suggestions from this person? What is his or her professional writing status: new writer, established writer, published author, published author in your genre, agent, editor?  The way you handle your response should be the same, regardless (calm, genuine gratitude), but the weight you give to the suggestions will be different.

4.  Decide what fits your vision for the project and what is necessary to meet your professional goals. You don't have to make every change, even for your publisher, but your decisions should be logic-based and not emotion-based. Once again, as a writer, it's hard to step back and be objective about our "babies." I've made quite a few changes at my editor's request that I didn't object to, but didn't wholeheartedly buy into either.  After making the changes, I realized how brilliant the suggestions were, so for me, there is a bit of a cool off even after the changes are made.

5.  After cooling down and making the changes that resonate with you, send another genuine thank you. You don't need to explain why you didn't make all of the changes (Unless it is your agent or editor, then sometimes it's necessary).  You don't need to discuss the changes in-depth. I try to thank critique partners and beta readers for specific suggestions I found most helpful. Personalizing it makes the person who took the time to read and remark on my project feel the time spent on me wasn't misplaced or unappreciated.

I'm sure there are folks who can jump right in without a negative reaction to criticism, but most writers aren't like that. Those words in that manuscript came from deep inside and are personal. So, give yourself a cool down period. Rushing into revisions or reacting immediately when you feel defensive will not only make your revisions less effective, it will potentially alienate you from the very people trying to help you become a better writer.

Do you have any tricks or tips for keeping it cool? Share them in the comments. 

Wishing everyone a fabulous week.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

$100 Giveaway Celebrating Chance of a Lifetime

I'm so excited for the upcoming release of Chance of a Lifetime, my third contemporary romantic comedy from Entangled Lovestruck. It comes out November 16, 2015.

To celebrate, we are giving away two $50 gift cards to either Barnes & Noble or Amazon. You can enter the contest by clicking the Rafflecopter image below.

If you've completed one of the tasks in the past, enter your username or whatever it asks and you will be entered even though it is not a new action. 

Good luck, everyone! 


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Love Me to Death on Sale!

Love Me to Death, one of Vampire Book Club's Top Ten Books of 2014, is on deep discount until October 4!

It's on sale for only 99 cents on most sites, including, Amazon, B&N, iBooks, Google, and Kobo.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Help Needed Keeping the Balls in the Air


I'm writing three different projects right now in three different genres. I want to single one out and work only on that one until it is finished, but all are critical schedule-wise, and I have so much trouble ignoring the others. It's that old "grass is greener" problem. 
Bouncing back and forth between different worlds and voices is difficult and is possibly not the best way to approach things. 
I have so many balls in the air from my writing, to parenting, to taking care of me, I'm worried one of my suspended balls will slip through my fingers and fall to the ground. 
How do you do it? Suggestions or tips for organization? Tools you like or use? Methodology that keeps you sane? Let me know in the comments or on social media. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Kindle Daily Deal 7/2 Sleeping with the Boss

I'm so excited! Sleeping with the Boss, book one in the Anderson Brothers Series is a Kindle Daily Deal for 99 cents for one day only, on Thursday, July 2, 2015!

About the Book

Seducing the enemy has never been so tempting... 
For the last five years, bookish Claire Maddox has been living for the dying. Now that her stint as caretaker is over, she's off to see the world. She needs quick cash first, so a temp job at Anderson Auctions seems perfect, especially with the unexpected benefits, including the hottest man she's ever laid eyes--or hands--on.   
Former Marine William Anderson has been burned one time too many. His military training makes him the perfect man to flush out the spy undercutting his family business, but no amount training can prepare him for the kind of undercover work he'll have to do when the sexy new temp is implicated. Desire lands them in bed...but duty may cost him his heart.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Neighbors with Benefits

Woo hoo! My next contemporary romantic comedy, Neighbors with Benefits, is up for preorder! This book was a blast to write. It has everything I love--a quirky heroine, a hero with a hard shell but a gooey inside, and a cantankerous dog.

Release date is June 30. You can read the first chapter HERE.