Critiques, Endorsements, and Reviews

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A beginning writer asked me what the difference is between critiques, reviews, and endorsements. 

Let’s review what each means in relation to the craft of writing:

Critiques: These are critical evaluations of a person’s literary work. If you are writing, you are likely to be in a critique group where you share your work in progress with other writers. You point out errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation. You also talk about sentence structure, characters, conversation, and many other aspects of the writing craft. The idea behind sharing critiques is to help your fellow writer. Think of these as peers helping each other.

Reviews:  a critical consideration of something. We are familiar with writing reviews of restaurants, businesses, and products. Movies, plays, and events are often reviewed. In regard to books, one writes a short analysis, stating positive and negative aspects of a person’s work. Sometimes the reviewer is also asked to rate the book in terms of “stars” or “happy faces.”

Endorsements: an act of giving one’s public approval or support to someone or something. Endorsements are often written on one of the first pages of a book or on the cover. These are often read by consumers prior to purchase to help them decided whether to buy a particular book—or not.

ECHOES

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Echoes are repetitious words and/or phrases an author may (usually unknowingly) use in their writing.

As an author, and a reader, this is one of the things that irritates me most.

Of all the words there are to choose from, there is no excuse to use the same few words/phrases over and over again.

In a recent book I read, the plot and characters were very enjoyable. However, the repetitious use of several phrases left me shaking my head.

Here are a few examples from that book:

…paused a beat.

…cast a gaze at…

…eyes sparkled.

I have an editing tool that I bought on the internet (see a previous post by me about ProWriting Aid) to help me avoid these pitfalls.

After my critique group gives their input, I do any necessary rewrites. It is at this point that I load my chapter into the tool.

The pages glow with highlighted repetitious words/phrases. Hovering my cursor over each one, I am given suggestions for substitutions. Often, I use these; but just as often, I click on the Thesaurus and choose one I like better.

Doing this, chapter by chapter, works better for me than waiting until the end of the book. Trying to do it that way one time made a believer of me. I will NEVER wait that long again. What a tedious endeavor!!!)

So, that’s the scoop on echoes.

As I finish off, I seem to recall writing about echoes previously. If you didn’t see that post, then this is new material for you.

If you did see it, then please pardon MY ECHO!

 

       

 

ECHOES

 

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One of the first books I can remember reading as a youngster was Heidi.

I was fascinated by the life she led on the mountaintops with her grandfather. I begged my parents to take me on a trip up north so that I could hear my voice echo from the  mountains in northern Arizona.

ECHOES.

Who would have guessed that, years later, I would loathe them???

With so many different words to choose from, writers have little excuse for using the same ones over and over again.

There are a number of self-editing programs out there. Each one is able to help authors avoid this pitfall.

In the program I use, this is found under REPEATS (words) and ECHOES (phrases).

Much to my dismay, I always find that I am guilty of many of these on any given page.

Why do I find myself using the same words so often?

I think it is because once I have used a certain word, it is in the forefront of my mind. Then, when the next occasion presents itself, it is on the tip of my tongue, ready to be quickly and conveniently typed onto the page again.

For example, I actually used the word slipped FIVE times in two consecutive paragraphs—each time, referring to a different one of its multiple meanings:

He slipped into (Got into the car easily).

He slipped. (Fell).

He slipped her five dollars. (Gave someone money without others noticing).

He slipped. (Not meaning to, he revealed a secret.)

He slipped up. (Made a careless mistake).

When my editing program flags one of these multiple uses within close proximity, I often use my Thesaurus to find possible substitutes.

Just another one of those pitfalls authors need to avoid…

Would You Like to See Your Name in Lights?

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Perusing through a quaint bookstore in Bellingham, Washington last week, several book titles caught my eye. (I tend to pay attention to ones that are unusual in some way, either by font, color, or wording.)

However, this time what caught my eye was the size of the authors’ names. Some were downright HUGE—much larger than the titles.

Hmmmm. Authors like JAMES PATTERSON, MARY HIGGINS CLARK, AND TOM CLANCY have enormous audiences who are lined up to buy each new book as it comes out. Their readers follow their NAMES.

I asked myself this question: Is it the quality of the writing that makes certain authors “worthy” of elevating their name to a print size larger than the title?

After all, it seems that the author’s name in large print is akin to having one’s name in lights on the Las Vegas strip or a theatre marquee or a highway billboard. So, wouldn’t it make sense that the writer has achieved some sort of writing status?

Are the days gone by in which clever titles and unique covers draw the reader in?

If the author’s name is LARGER than the title, should that be a clue to the reader that the story is just incidental?

Are big name authors counting on FAME, rather than quality of writing, to sell their books?

Is the size of the author’s name a fair judge of how well their career is going? Or have they simply found a clever way to make readers THINK they are better writers than the actually are…

I wondered if there could be some “rule” about font size.

Researching the subject, I have found no evidence of any such rule. Size seems to be totally unregulated and, thus, completely arbitrary.

One thing I do know is this: if you want to promote your writing, make the TITLE the largest print on the cover. 

If you want to promote your name—or have a recognizable name, already—perhaps you’ll want to use a larger font for it.

Understand that you are in the business of selling books.

Turn the consumers’ attention to that aspect of your book cover that will boost your sales, whether it be your name or the title of your book.

 

Oh, Where Will You Go?

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In elementary school I was taught to separate various words/phrases from the rest of the sentence with commas. Now, my editor tells me that the world of computers—and especially texting, Twitter, and Facebook—have changed the rules. The less use of the comma, the better.

Authors need to stay up on all of the latest information in writing, publishing, and marketing.

One way to do that is by going to meetings of local writing chapters and to conferences. It’s time to plan which ones you would like attend (you can sandwich them between your family vacations and yearly physical exams).

If you are a Christian author, you may want to attend the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference. I try to go at least every three years, myself. Others I would recommend are: Glorietta Writers Conference, Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, Colorado Christian Writers Conference, Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference, and Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

Since these conferences can be expensive and require travel and hotel costs, you may want to begin your conference “experience” at local conferences. Here in Arizona, our local CWOW (Christian Writers of the West) conference, held each January, is always excellent and very affordable.

Other conferences, geared toward mainstream writers are: The Muse and the Market Place (Boston), ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Authors) Conference held in New York City, San Francisco’s Writer’s Conference, and Literary Writer’s Conference (New York City).

Expensive? Perhaps. But well worth it because of the added bonus of networking, opportunities for pitching, etc.

Now that you know, where will you go?

Got GRIT?

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All writers need it.

Successful authors have it.

So, just what is “GRIT”?

According to best-selling author, Angela Duckworth, GRIT is “sustained perseverance and passion, especially for long-term goals.”

We are able to recognize it in ourselves and in fellow writers.

It’s determination to succeed.

It’s that fire in an author’s eyes when asked a question about writing or when a new idea for a book “pops” into their head.

It’s a lamp glowing on their desk at 2 A.M.

It’s that relentless scribbling of notes as the writer attends their umpteenth conference.

It’s that mesmerized look as a writer meets their favorite author in person for the very first time.

It’s hours, days, months, and even years of hard—and oftentimes—lonely work, punctuated with a willingness to forgo momentary pleasures in order to fulfill their dream.

It’s that smile on their face as they proudly display the cover of their new book for the camera while secretly planning the next one in their head.

Brand+ Platform = Successful Marketing

27227677773_5a084bf604Two things (besides great writing) make an author appealing to agents, editors, publishers, and readers: Brand and Platform.

Differentiating one author from another, they make them visible on all of their communication channels.

(My last blog dealt with branding. If you didn’t happen to read it, you can find it archived on www.brendapoulos.org).

The author platform is how an author is currently reaching an audience of readers, or their plan for doing so.

An author must be VISIBLE and INVOLVED on the social networks to stand out among the masses.

So, a platform (the plan for visibility as a speaker, business owner, blogger, website owner, podcaster—as well as a presence on Twitter, Facebook, etc.–is what an author uses to prove that their books will sell.

Both Indie authors, as well as traditionally published authors, must show a willingness to put in time and effort into marketing themselves online.

So, when should an author establish their platform?

“Yesterday” is a great answer.

That’s right.

Since building a platform takes time, experts tell us authors need begin even before they have a book ready to publish.

Most people are on Facebook, so that may be a logical place to start.

Experts tell us that having one’s own website is ESSENTIAL—and there are quite a few that are free, including WordPress and Weebly.

After that, the sky is the limit.

Put in the time.

Reap the rewards.

Remember:  Branding + Platform = Successful Marketing