Wednesday, November 21, 2012

3 Writing Questions Answered

Some of the things that help us grow as writers have nothing to do with the craft of writing at all. It's those periphery questions surrounding the process of writing, getting feedback, and how to handle a manuscript before and after you've written it that help you learn so much more than the mechanics of storytelling and wordsmithing.

Recently, I got an email from a blog reader who had three really great questions. Asking questions like these is how we learn how to navigate the novel-writing world. No questions are stupid. Thanks to this reader for asking, and finding a way to ask, these questions.

The reader, whom we will call "Terry" said she'd just finished writing a book in a particular genre. Through a family connection, she knows an established author who writes in a different genre. Terry said she asked the author if he would read her novel and let her know how it is.

Terry asked me*, [1] "Is it wise to ask someone who writes in a different genre to read your stuff before it is published? [2] I know people send stuff to authors to hopefully get a blurb on a book cover...Which I really don't care if he "blurbs" it or not.... I just want him to let me know if it publishable. [3] I wonder if it is a good idea to send out an unpublished manuscript to anyone."
*I have edited her actual words for the blog

First, let's answer the big one.
1. Is it wise to ask someone who writes in a different genre to read your stuff?
If the person you asked is a published author or a seasoned writer, then yes, having them read your stuff is going to be helpful for you. They'll bring a whole host of knowledge to your finished product, including plot, character development, mechanics, voice, and flow. It doesn't matter what genre you writer in and the author writes in, he or she is going to be able to give you seasoned feedback honed by years of his own experience.

However, it is true that someone who is steeped in a genre different from yours is going to have less applicable feedback when it comes to plot elements that are specific to your genre. And that's where you need to be careful. My old writing group had a few members who wrote in a different genre, and who didn't read my genre, and in fact didn't particularly like my genre. Their critiques of my work consistently asked me to do different things with my character that were inconsistent with my genre.

That being said, there's no reason why a writer who writes in a particular genre wouldn't also be a reader of several genres--and maybe even tried his or her hand at other genres.

So, be careful, but go get that critique. If the person critiquing your work is a die-hard romance writer, she may not have the insights you need for the greatest success. But she will have a sense of other writing elements, and for that reason every critique partner offers a good opportunity for feedback.

2. How do cover blurbs work? 
Terry said, "I know people send stuff to authors to hopefully get a blurb on a book cover...Which I really don't care if he "blurbs" it or not.... I just want him to let me know if it publishable." This isn't really a question but I wanted to mention here that cover blurbs are something that are typically negotiated by your publisher unless you are self-publishing, in which case you are likely approaching authors yourself for endorsements. You should definitely care if an author blurbs your cover, because he's putting his name on the line for your work. But of course, asking for a cover endorsement and asking for an is-my-work-shite-or-not critique are two totally different things.

3. Is it a good idea to send out an unpublished manuscript to anyone?
Yes! A thousand yesses! So many yesses that it sounds like a room full of snakes! This is how you get valuable feedback that will make your work better! If your worry is that someone will steal your work, you really shouldn't. This is not something that typically happens. Send it! Grow!

Thanks for the questions, Terry. I hope these helped and I hope others will chime in on these in the comments.






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