Saturday, August 14, 2010

Welcome Guest Blogger Laurie J. Edwards

Laurie J. Edwards is with us today to talk about rejection letters and how to improve your chances, writing mistakes, and the little green-eyed jealousy monster. Take it away Laurie!

After spending years honing my craft, attending workshops and critique groups, and writing, writing, writing, and then rewriting I know how much time and effort most people put into honing their craft. So I admit I was jealous when a writer I met at a workshop told me she’d never taken a writing class or joined a critique group but she had written an 85,000-word novel in a month—and not even for NaNo. She just decided one day that she wanted to be a writer, and, presto, one month later, she had a complete novel. As she described it, the novel just flowed out of her. She said it came to her in a flash, and she felt as if all she had to do was dictate it.

I’ve had that happen to me on occasion, and I love being in that zone. But never with a whole novel. Bits and pieces here and there, yes. But the parts in between took a LOT of work. So I sighed and tried to contain the green-eyed monster twisting inside me, taunting, “So why can’t you do that? Why did it take you 20 years to get a book published? What’s wrong with you?” I admit it made me feel discouraged, and I wondered why I’d had to put in such long, hard hours to eke out a book. OK, so she only had 3 children, whereas I had 5, but still…

This writer was quite proud of her book and assured us that she was so sure it was publishable that she didn’t feel it needed revision. She’d had a few people read it, and they all loved it. She’d gone through and tweaked a few words and phrases, but she’d already started submitting. Sigh…

Several months later, she offered me the opportunity to read it. Everyone she’d sent it to had rejected it, and she was wondering why. Could I tell her what I thought?

I read the first page. Everything about it screamed amateur—from the head hopping to the lack of plot to the plethora of exclamation points to the misspellings that spell check hadn’t caught (there instead of their; are rather than our). What would I tell her? Where to start?

“Who read this for you?” I asked.

She smiled. “My mom, my husband, and my sister. They all loved it.”

Ah, amateur mistake #1: asking family members’ opinions of your writing

Mistake # 2—believing them when they tell you it’s great

Mistake #3—thinking writing is so easy anyone can do it

Mistake #4—not getting professional evaluations before you submit

The list could go on and on, but I want to concentrate on the fourth mistake. The most valuable resource any writer can have is a critique group. If you don’t have one, join one ASAP. Find an online group if there are no groups that meet in your area. Look for members who are supportive, but honest. Only other writers will have enough knowledge to tell you the truth and explain how to fix problems. But remember, if you want to be a professional and get published, you can’t have a thin skin; true writers welcome criticism and editing suggestions. Whatever you do, don’t send any submission out without first running it by a critique group. If other writers have evaluated your manuscript and made suggestions to improve it, you have a much greater chance of getting an acceptance letter. And isn’t that what we’re all after?

I couldn’t have gotten published without all the guidance and instruction I received from fellow writers. And my CPs are my biggest cheerleaders. Best of all, they’re often your first sales.

So what’s the best advice or words of encouragement you’ve ever gotten from a CP? We’d love to hear it. And one commenter will win a free e-copy of Summer Lovin’.

INFO ABOUT Laurie J. Edwards and Summer Lovin’

Laurie J. Edwards is the author of 2 published books--"Summer Storms" in the anthology Summer Lovin' (Wild Rose Press) and the biography Rihanna (People in the News) from Lucent and more than 1000 articles in national publications and educational databases. She is presently under contract for a book about pirates and is completing 3 romance novels.

SUMMER LOVIN' is a collection of love stories by authors Dara Edmondson, Laurie J. Edwards, Mona Ingram, Kimberlee R. Mendoza, Sydney Shay, and June Sproat about life on a ranch, summer jobs, sandcastle competitions, the tragedy of a flood, and falling in love with a rock star.

Laurie's story in the anthology is "Summer Storms": Sixteen-year-old Paige nearly drowns as she rescues a Pomeranian trapped in floodwaters that sweep through her town. Chase, the hottie who saves her, wants to help her and her mother, but Paige won't accept charity. And can she risk him unmasking the family secret she's kept hidden?
Laurie's website/blog is and an excerpt for Summer Lovin' is at . People can also friend her on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.


Jana Richards said...

Hi Laurie,
Thanks for joining us here on the Prairies today. Welcome!

You write YA romance as well as adult romance. What do you see as the differences? What can you say/do in an adult romance that you can't in a YA novel? Or vice versa?


Karyn Good said...

Warm welcome to the Prairies today, Laurie.

You hear about writers who prefer to go it alone and don't have other writers read their work or seek critiques. I don't know how they do it. I need the knowledge and objectivity of fellow writers and I'm blessed to have been offered both. My writing group and writer friends are valuable resources for me.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing with us today!

Jana Richards said...

Karyn, I totally agree. The feedback I've received from writing friends has been invaluable. Remember our plotting party? We have to do that again sometime.

Aside from enjoying feedback from other writers, it's just nice to be able to talk about writing with people who understand. Writing can be pretty solitary, so it's nice to come out of the writing cave occassionally and mingle with real live people.


Laurie J. Edwards said...

Hi, everyone! Thanks so much for having me here today. I was so buried in my latest project that I completely lost track of time. One of the big differences between YA & adult romances (depending on the publisher, of course) is not so much what's allowed. Some YAs are just as "realistic" in what they portray as adult books, but it's that they need to be faster reads--less description and more plot. With teens so used to the fast pace of video games, etc., the story has to be gripping to keep their attention.

And, Karyn, I totally agree about needing other writers.

Cate Masters said...

Great post, Laurie! Of course, you know how much I appreciate my critique partners. I'd be lost without the expert guidance, objectivity and yes, cheerleading when I need it. Best of all, each brings a unique perspective to the table that's invaluable. Congrats on your release!

Bernadette said...

The best advice I've ever gotten in crit group was spoken to the part of me that resists making changes because I can't see how they could possibly work: "Just try it. What do you have to lose?" The scenes in question, once rewritten, are without a doubt the best of my life. I therefore second Ms. Edwards' advice: If you don't have a crit group, get one. Make sure they're tough and honest, but kind, caring and supportive. A bad crit group will destroy you. A great one will make you a star!

Vince said...

Hi Laurie:

I was at a writer’s conference, at Crested Butte, last month and the most lively and most argumentative topic was about critique partners.

Overall there seemed to be more complaints than support. Many felt that CPs were like the blind leading the blind. This is when both the CPs are new or unpublished. Some writers said no one got to see their WIPs until they were sent to their editor. This included husbands. Others told horror stories about how they had to disband a group, 5 – 7 members, to get rid of a bad CP. They secretly regrouped at a later date. A few additional groups mentioned similar ploys!

I think CPs are like spouses. Some are good and some require protective orders.

From what I heard, I think the best CP situation is a two-way relationship between two published authors who understand each other and who are different enough to be a value to each other.


Bonnie J. Doerr said...

I love my crit partners, too! Hey, they put up with me, how can I not love them? Thanks for sharing that story, Laurie. I guess there was a time when we were all clueless about our writing. It's good to be reminded of how far we've come.

Lisa said...

I don't know where I'd be without my critique group! As for the best encouragement I've gotten from a crit group member, it came from our group's most thorough critic. She told me she loves discussing my manuscripts with me because I always have a rationale and can defend my choices intelligently! Sure sounds a lot better than "you need to listen more because you're too argumentative"!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Yay for crit partners!

Hey Laurie, I could really relate to your post. I went through 3 or 4 crit partners before I found my current ones. One of them has been with me for 2 yrs now and is my staunchest supporter as well as BFF. :D And because of that, I know that any suggestions she makes is because she truly wants me to write the best book possible. And yes, she has many suggestions. LOL

Gwen and I really balance each other out because I'm really good with the details and consistency of the plot, while she can see holes in the character and spiritual arcs, the conflict and the pacing. Together, both our books have strengthened.

Great post, Laurie.

Anita Mae.