5 Tips for Evaluating Writing Feedback and Advice

Writing feedback is great–but only if you know what to do with it. A healthy sense of your own Push, a clear mind, and a system for managing feedback will keep you on track with your vision and give you fresh insight and motivation.

I’m headed to the Realm Makers 2017 speculative fiction conference this weekend. I’ll be taking pitches for Uncommon Universes Press and mentoring authors on every stage of the journey.

And one thing I’ll make sure each author know is that they should evaluate every piece of advice and judgment they receive. Including mine.

Naturally, I think I’m fantastic at giving advice and feedback. Comes from being a teacher, coach, editor, and a kind-hearted know-it-all who really loves to fix problems and help people succeed.

But I’ve also been on the other side. I’ve gotten great advice from well-meaning people. I’ve gotten horrible advice from well-meaning people. I’ve gotten great advice from people who could be technically, scientifically classified as “meanies,” and I’ve gotten bad advice from meanies too.

The fact is, nobody’s perfect. The “meanie” person giving you feedback could be giving you good advice, but is just very blunt and/or hasn’t had their coffee that day. Or they could just be spiteful (because those people exist too). The kind and sweet person could be giving you bad advice, but doesn’t want to hurt your feelings or is just an indirect communicator. Or they could be really inexperienced (those people exist too).

And we’re all human. So even your perceptive of the individual could be suspect, colored by any preexisting relationships, personality clashes, emotional attachment (or lack thereof) to the manuscript, or even whether or not you’ve had coffee.

A healthy vetting process is vital to receiving, understanding, and processing writing feedback. Make sure you’re prepared with these five tips.

5 Tips for Evaluating Writing Feedback and Advice

1.) Take notes. Write everything down. Always save the notes they emailed to you, even if you don’t like them. You might think you’re a fast processor, but it is vital to give yourself time to process and glean whatever you can from their advice after thoughts, prayers, and consideration. If you really figure out later that it’s not useful, then you can delete/erase/burninate the feedback.

2.) Give yourself time. Don’t immediately try to understand everything, especially if it’s critique that points out flaws. Go through it in stages when you’re in a healthy, balanced state of mind. For some people, this might be half an hour. For others, it might be half a month. If you’re getting online help, take a step back and exercise or cook or do something else to clear your head. If you’re at a writing conference or workshop, step back and put the notes away. Have a glass of wine, go out to a coffee shop, watch a movie, or do whatever else you need to give yourself vital distance from your work.

3.) Remember your Push. Return to your notes, your motivation and vision statements, your direction for this manuscript, and the purposes behind its creation. Get clear and solid in your worldview and mindset, not so that you can cling to it excessively, but so you can understand your own biases and preferences. Those biases and preferences aren’t bad, but the purpose of feedback is to be challenged as well as encouraged.

4.) Get a variety of feedback. Publishers. Agents. Editors. Fellow authors. Readers. Feedback from all of these individuals can give you a solid sense of what you have, what you need, and where you’re going. Try to go for people who read and are familiar with you’re writing and trying to achieve. Also, always be gracious to the person giving you feedback, even if you don’t like it or agree with it. Grace is a professional and personal quality that never goes out of style.

5.) Evaluate the person you’re getting feedback from. Hopefully you’re getting feedback from people familiar with your genre and field, but sometimes that beta read gets sent to a broader audience, or you wanted to test out your project with an agent who is curious about your romance, but does more with action-adventure (and they had a free appointment at the conference).  It is fine to step outside of your comfort zone, but be aware that their feedback might not be normative. However, if you’re finding that your work is connecting more with the non-normative readers, then that might be a clue that you’re really in a different genre and don’t know it.

You may not fit into any genre boxes or conventions at all. You may just have to build your own box, tweaking your story’s exterior and setting a little to reach your readers (sadly, online websites and bookstores don’t have a special “steampunk + crime novel + middle grade + pseudo-memoir” section) while still keeping your core Push and stories as strong and as vibrant as you are. Never give up on your book just because it doesn’t fit in. Get out your writing tools and get to work!

Need advice? Sign up for a free 1:1 with me. I specialize in figuring out that sweet spot in drafting and marketing so you can Write Inside Out with freedom, clarity, and purpose.

Above all, keep seeking feedback. Whether easy or difficult, getting critiques is vital to the writing process and improvement in the craft. And your book is worth it.

Greetings Authors! Please share any other tips, thoughts, or feedback in the comments. I love talking with you!

 

Revise It! Recruiting and Using Reader Feedback

Beta Readers

Reader response can be one of your most important resources in the revision process–or it can derail everything and leave you confused and insecure in a corner, wondering why you even bother writing. Here are several steps to making your reader recruitment process smooth, easy, and effective.

Notice I didn’t say painless.  You’re asking for reader response, after all. You want to know what’s working and what isn’t now so you can process and fix it before you go onto the editor step. So a little(ish) pain is part of the deal.  😉

Before you go into the reader feedback stage, go back and make sure you’ve evaluated your reasons for revision. Get solid on your vision so that you know what questions to ask your readers, and you can evaluate their input effectively.

Readers can come a couple of flavors:

  • Cheerleaders – These are readers who read along as you’re drafting your manuscript. Their main job is to keep you accountable to goals and encourage you to keep going. Some writers don’t use cheerleaders, preferring to create free and solo, away from anyone else’s critique. Others (like me) swear by them. While I’ll do short works without cheerleaders, for me writing is an inherently social endeavor, so I need the constant feedback of my circle of readers to keep going.
  • Alpha Readers – Also called first readers. One or two people who read your manuscript just for the joy of it. Alpha readers only comment when they’re really jarred of the narrative or confused by something. I don’t necessarily use these because my cheerleaders tend to give me quick readers summaries after I finish a manuscript.
  • Beta Readers – After the alpha reader(s), the beta readers are your major source of reader feedback. Whereas alpha readers give unprompted reader-response, beta readers often get a list of questions or concepts to skim for and check. They’ll give your manuscript a more detailed look-over according to your specifications, often in exchange for an advance look at your epic story or as part of a beta read swap.
  • Gamma Readers – Readers who go over the manuscript in later stages and offer specific feedback. Can also be brought in at the end for endorsement purposes and final feedback about genre/audience for your work.
  • Specialty Readers – these can come along anywhere in the process, but they’re singled out for specific purposes. They might include sensitivity readers if you’re dealing with a particular area that you aren’t familiar with in terms of life experience, race, sexuality, disability, culture, religion, etc. They might also include readers with specific technical knowledge or expertise who can give feedback on whether or not your content sounds plausible.

Guidelines for Using Reader Feedback

  • Evaluate your reasons for revision. Again. Evaluate your reasons for revision. Clarity of purpose is one of the most valuable tools you have as a writer.
  • Decide what kind of readers you want to use. You don’t have to use all of the ones listed, and you may have some super-specific extra-special top-secret psi readers that you use for the ultimate in feedback.
  • Choose readers who actually enjoy your genre. They will inherently understand the tropes and expectations. Plus, if they like the story, they might sign up for ARCs and be able to give endorsements or reviews!
  • Use multiple readers. I would recommend three beta readers at minimum to give yourself a good variety of feedback. Using more than three is fine, but it can be overwhelming to process. Using less means you won’t have the varied perspectives. Also, if you can, try to have readers from different backgrounds or skill sets.
  • Compose a list of questions. Give them to beta readers so they have specific areas to look for. This can ensure higher quality feedback and be really helpful for your readers.
  • Compare feedback to your purposes. Make sure you hold strong in your vision, but also be open to getting new perspectives on your writing. That is the purpose of feedback, after all!
  • Be gracious to your readers. These are individuals who have given their time and energy to read your work and help you out. Gratitude is a great and classy response. Some authors list significant readers in their acknowledgements, while others offer free ARCs or do beta read swaps.

Note: at this point I’d love to make a huge shout-out to my awesome cheerleader readers and beta readers, who are incredibly supportive and picky at the same time. Y’all are amazing!

Greetings Authors! What kinds of readers do you use? Got any other tips for using reader feedback? Wanna acknowledge some awesome readers in your life? Give a shout-out in the comments!

Revise It! Evaluating Your Story Revision Goals

Why are you revising this manuscript?

Writing inside out means always coming back to the goals, motivation, and heart of your story. It means owning your deepest truths and convictions and then infusing them in every aspect of the writing process.

It’s owning your Push.

Good revising takes good planning, and good planning starts with knowing what your goals and mission and Push are for your story. Even if you’re revising this story on a ‘have-to’ basis because you’ve been blessed with a contract, returning to your own motivations will enable you to tap into more enthusiasm, energy, and productivity when you’re in the depths of “where the crap did THAT sentence come from?” or its sibling, “who wrote this? A five-year-old? Oh wait, no. I did. Whoops!” or their cousin, “holy infodump, Batman!”

Yes, those are quotes from my own self-revision process, lest you think that editors and coaches are somehow superheroes who can crank out perfect manuscripts with breathless ease. While expertise can make story-crafting easier, every writer still has to travel the same journey in revisions and self-editing.

Evaluating the revision process makes ultimately your life easier and gives you quantifiable goals that can work within your revision schedule.

Evaluating Your Story Revision Goals

Why do I need to revise this story right now?

If you’re under a deadline, this is easy to answer. You committed to producing the product, and now you’ve gotta buckle down and do it. The next step is just to figure out how to fuel your brain and creativity to get the job done.

If you’re not under an imposed, necessary deadline, consider carefully what would serve you and the story best. Setting aside your manuscript and allowing it to breathe is a part of the writing process and allows your brain to rest–and this doesn’t just mean novel manuscripts.

A romantic spoof short story I recently released, Hearts Ablaze, was written three years ago in a flurry of satirical creativity. Then I set it aside and worked on other things. When I returned to the story this past March and realized it was actually good, I was evaluating the story with three additional years of experience, not just wishful thinking.

Three years is an extreme example, but always consider the possibility that setting work aside could be part of your process.

What are three reasons I wrote this story? 

These don’t have to be deep, complex reasons. They could be a message on your heart, a desire to have fun, or an excuse to entertain yourself. One reason could easily be “because the owner of the magazine asked me” or “because I want to enter this contest” (although in both of those cases: why that magazine or that contest?). The important thing is that you know those reasons and that you write them down (or at least keep them in mind). Your three story reasons are your focus and your encouragement as you revise.

What are my publishing plans for this story?

Your plans may already be decided by the publisher or the contest. Otherwise, what do you plan to do with this piece? Are you writing a short story to tease out a future release? A quick novella to experiment with a concept? Are you working on a series of books? How do you plan on publishing them? Once a year? In quick succession over a year? If you’re looking to query a series for traditional publication, I strongly recommend outlining as much as possible ahead of time to show the house, and if possible, have more than one book written.

Or maybe you wrote this story for fun and don’t have any future plans. That’s fine too! That was a main reason why I wrote Hearts Ablaze. Just tuck the story away for later or keep it as a fun brain-game–but always stay open to possible publishing urges!

What does my ideal reader look like for this story–and what would I want them to say about it?

Picture your ideal reader. What do they look like? What do they wear? What kind of activities do they enjoy? What do you want that reader to notice about your story? Picture your ideal book review from that reader. Other than “I just bought a hundred copies” 😉 what would you want that review to say? Sure, you can’t actually choose what reviewers say, but you can revise your content to meet reader and genre needs (while still honoring your vision). This is a really helpful exercise when submitting to magazines and contests, because in those cases you already have the readership in line, which makes them easier to target.

Who can I share this story with?

You know your story best, and your excitement for that story is contagious! Part of writing inside out is knowing your motivations and passions and sharing those naturally with potential readers so they catch the fire. However, this passion can get stalled if there is anything in your work that you’re not comfortable owning.

Consider now the reactions of friends, family, and your present/future fan base. If there would be disapproval or concern over you authoring your story, that doesn’t mean you can’t go ahead. It does mean you should evaluate how much you want to invest in the story, whether you want to adjust anything during revisions, and how you want to present it to others. If you’re in a job that mandates a certain degree of self-censorship, consider using a pen name. Otherwise, this question at least forces you to understand the core of your story and identify your audience so that you own whatever controversial subject matter you’re working with.

Why do I like this story?

Always come back to this. Your feelings towards the story will always come through. Yes, an editor can help filter those things out, but why force yourself through something you aren’t enjoying? Especially if you have to write this for a deadline, make a list of things you like just to remind yourself of why you’re at this. Invest in your delight of your story and ‘bank it’ in different ways so that you can pull from that passion when you’re in the depths of seemingly endless detailed rewrites and revision. Make Pinterest boards. Collect articles or objects that inspire your work. Make playlists. Sketch. As a bonus, all of this passion can make marketing easier when you get to that stage!

Your story is worth your investment of time, passion, and purpose. And if after all of this, you’re feeling flaccid and indifferent, I ask again:

Why are you revising this manuscript?

Greetings, authorsmiths! I’d love to hear your answers for any/all of the questions above in the comments–and if you’re in drafting mode, I’d love to hear what your WIP is about, and what makes it so awesome!

 

Revise It! The Miniseries: Six Steps to Unpacking Your First Draft

First draft story revisions are just like unpacking after moving homes–especially if you move the way I do.

There is a world where items are meticulously packed into just the right boxes and loaded with absolute precision into just the right location in the moving truck.

I’ve moved over ten times in my life, and I do not live in this world.

In my world, no matter how carefully I pack, for some reason there are all these little random bits and pieces everywhere that still have to go in boxes or something portable while people are loading the truck.

IMG_20170623_124106594
Actual boxes of random.

This is basically how I finish drafting a story too. I’m a plotter/pantser hybrid. Once I’ve outlined enough and have a list of scenes, drafting is mostly a straight-forward process.

Until the end, which is usually late at night because I’ve determined that I WILL FINISHED THE THING NOW. I cling desperately to the threads of the plot and shove all possible bits of climax and falling action and resolution in their spots, and then collapse with what is hopefully some kind of profound ending. Ish.

Then come the self-edits and revisions. Figure out where all those pieces are packed and hope that all of my best-laid goals and plans came through in one piece.

Rather like the toaster oven I’m still trying to find.

First draft book edits and revisions

 

Revise It! The Miniseries: Six Factors to Unpacking Your First Draft tackles six key areas in content revisions to get your first draft into great condition! And while there are a lot of different ways to revise, there are some fundamental sweeps that pretty much every manuscript needs to express your vision, please your readers, and, if your content editor is like me, get that lower rate due to being a fantastically-solid piece of self-edited work.

Maybe you’re a plotter that writes super-clean drafts. If so, then another checklist to make sure your revision goes super-quick can’t hurt so you can excel even more.

Maybe you’re a pantser who trusts that somewhere in that mass of words is a great story. I believe in you! But a great revision makes sure the world sees your brilliance.

And if you’re somewhere in between like me, welcome to the club! We have cookies. Once I find the cookie sheets and cookie mix to bake them. And probably a mixing bowl.

Cookie Quote

Ahem.

Revise It! The Mini-Series includes the following:

  • Get multiple flavors of readers (alphas, betas, etc) and learn how to process their input effectively.
  • Clean up your characterization and create three-dimensional characters who are irresistible to readers.
  • Sort out your plot with quick and easy organizer checks that clarify your original, beautiful vision.
  • Figure out how to identify and ditch boring parts (always keeping your genre and target audience in mind).
  • Learn to manage pacing, not just to speed up your story, but also to hold the pause button on significant moments of high emotion and drama.

Note: I’m not numbering these factors because everyone’s brains work differently, and if your process is working efficiently with your brand of creativity, then awesome! If your process isn’t working for you, then all I have to say is: 30 minute author coaching. Contact me and be there for the fun! 🙂

Greetings Authors! What are you working on lately? What is one area where you are strong in revising and self-editing? What’s one area where you could improve?

How to Beat the Blank Page and Write

We’ve all been there.

You sit down after a long day. You’re tired, but you made it. Your kids are at a sitter, or your dishes are getting ignored in the sink, or you’ve finally gotten off social media. You’re ready to write.

And then: nothing. Absolutely nothing. All of those brilliant ideas for your manuscript, blog post, article, or what-have-you are gone.

The screen is blank.

You glance at the clock. You’re down to fifty minutes of precious writing time before you have to get on to the next task, because you write in the margins. You don’t have the luxury of trying to wait for the muse. You have to get content onto paper NOW.

All of those thoughts only make you freeze up more. You decide to go on a walk. All you feel is relief that you’re away from your computer. Divine inspiration? Not there.

What about online writing gurus and experts? Surely they have an idea? You hop online just for a second, just to scroll through a few blogs and websites of successful writing experts and authors.

Man, these people look way more put-together than you. Look at those shiny websites! Even their posts look awesome. And who did those book covers? Yikes! How are they that famous that quickly? Is this normal? What are you even doing?

Maybe you’re not cut out for this. The doubts churn in your stomach.

Thirty minutes gone. What? No. How did time go so fast? This is not fair. Okay, focus. Gotta get this done. Otherwise, you won’t have any time until tomorrow. Professionals work best under deadlines, right? And you’re a professional. You’re making time. You’re doing things the right way.

The blank screen still looms large. You have nothing.

Maybe you are nothing. What’s the point? Clearly, others are doing this all the time. Let them do it. You can binge watch TV or scroll Pinterest.

What does it matter anyway?

I’ve been there. As one of those crazy writing-in-the-margins types, I know what it feels like to scrape away at that time, while wondering if it’s worth it. To fight for those hours and minutes and hope they add up to something meaningful to put out there to readers.

Good news: they do!
Bad news: only if you get actual words on the page.

And we’re back to that grand question of: HOW?

 

how to beat the blank page and write

 

1.) Remember your push
Write down the reasons Why YOU write, why your words matter, where you came from, what’s your story. Have these reason sticky-noted on your computer desktop. Get some writing partners who are there just to encourage you to keep going. Much is made of critique partners, but I’m a personal fan of the writing cheerleaders for the drafting process. Sometimes you don’t need feedback. You just need someone who believes in you, no matter what.

2.) Allow yourself to relax
Put on some music. Give yourself a little time to scroll your favorite Pinterest boards or research some new concepts. It isn’t wasting time, especially if that research is fueling your thoughts. Better fifteen minutes of solid writing than an hour of trying to stare at the screen without inspiration.

3.) Let your mind wander
Daydreaming is underrated. Humans are not, in fact, content machines. Eventually, we all give out. Take a bit of time to pray. Meditate. Breathe deeply. Do whatever you need to center yourself and clear out any issues from the day. If you’re having to write at a public place, put in earbuds to make your own inner space.

4.) Chase some plot bunnies
Got an idea you just GOTTA explore, but it isn’t on topic, but you just can’t stop thinking about it? Take 5-10 minutes and write it out to clear your brain. This isn’t wasting time. This is helping you to focus. Enjoy. Let yourself have fun and expand your creativity!

5.) Manage your environment
Earbuds are your friend. So is your favorite beverage or treat. Do whatever you need to get yourself in the mood, even if it feels weird or people don’t ‘get it.’ I tend to get bored with one location, so in college I was the Migratory Studier. I used to study one subject in the library, another subject in a friend’s dorm room, and a third subject in the girl’s bathroom in the student center (they had the comfiest couch there). Yeah, it was odd, but it worked for me, and it wasn’t making anyone else’s life difficult (actually got into some fun conversations in the bathroom).

6.) Accept that your process is different from everyone else’s
Process-development is discussed more in the visual arts field, but we writers need it just as much to free us from the pressure of perfection. You will never write exactly like your favorite writing expert. And you don’t have to. Even if it seems like they are succeeding out the wazoo, and if you just listen to their every thought and follow their every step, your life will get better. Learn what works for you, develop it more, take bits and pieces from others, and never be afraid to say “you know what, that method might have made you write five best-sellers, but it doesn’t work for me. And that’s okay, because we’re different people who have different brains and lifestyles. I will keep trying until I figure out me and make it work.”

7.) Accept that your work won’t be perfect
Stay away from books or blog posts or articles that make you insecure about your own writing. The authors wrote those books, blog posts, and articles, edited them, and proofread them. Trying to compare your drafting to their finished, polished work is comparing a mixing bowl of brownie batter to a fully-baked pan of brownies.
And give yourself some credit. Call in cheerleaders to point out where your drafting is excelling. Because brownie batter can taste darn delicious by itself.

8.) Give yourself a day off. Yes, I mean it.
Consistency is celebrated in the writing and content-creation community. But seriously. People get sick. Life happens. Yes, if you have a deadline, you gotta buckle down and meet it. But days of rest are necessary for health and wellness. Better you take some time off, recharge, and deal with life than continue forcing yourself to try and create when It. Isn’t. Working. The world will not end. The internet won’t go anywhere (unless the zombie apocalypse happens, and then you have other problems to deal with). And you will be far more refreshed and ready to go. Concerned you won’t go back to writing? Call on your cheerleaders to hold you accountable and remember your Push.

Beating the blank page and writing can be a daily battle (or an every-other-day battle, or a weekend battle–call it a “whenever-you-have-time” battle!). But winning that battle is 100% worth it, because you are getting words out, having fun, and moving forward. And every step is worth it!

I love learning more about you! What’s an important part of your writing process? Got any other recommendations for solving Blank Screen Syndrome? Share in the comments!

Essentials Elements of a Great Story Ending

News flash! I’m stepping down from my position as a full-time English and public speaking instructor to focus full-time on editing, writing, publishing, speaking, and coaching. I’ve been preparing for this for months, but in the last few days, with the craziness of the spring play out of the way and the seniors already off on their annual trip, it’s finally sinking in.

I’m leaving.

More than that, I am finishing this stage of my life and moving on to a new one. And that can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. More than ever, I am focusing on ways to make this a strong finish for myself, my students, my fellow faculty, and even my classroom! And I’m laying the groundwork for my future career at the same time.

Finishing is finishing. And the stages of finishing a career path can be remarkably similar to those of finishing a story well. Here’s a checklist to make sure you’re finishing your story well.

story ending essentials

1.) Consider the genre conventions – hit all the notes for your type of story.

I work at a private school. The way I finish here is different than if I worked at a public school or a tutorial or a college.

In the same way, make sure you finish right for the type of book you’re writing. Romances often like HEAs (happily-ever-afters). In mysteries, you need to solve the actual mystery. In horror, there better be one creepy/haunting conclusion. When revising and editing, make sure you’re hitting those notes.

2.) Keep the same quality all the way to the end.

Teaching during the last two weeks of school can be brutal, especially if the weather outside is beautiful and you’re trying to teach advanced grammar. So what I do is plan some of my most interesting projects at the end of the year. Instead of tapering off, we go out with a flash of fun.

In the same way, don’t treat your book’s ending like “oh good it’s DONE.” When drafting, try to keep the excitement going through the finale. End with a wedding, a funeral, something momentous. Or at least great dialogue. Revise to polish your ending to a shine. Leave your readers with a great finish.

3.) Finish the character arcs – with each character, even the minor ones.

Even on the last day, I plan on greeting every student with the same warmth and interest as I did at the start–and continue checking in on their future plans! After all, life goes on for everyone!

Treat your characters the same way. It’s tempting to lose sight of those minor characters, but the mark of a good story is keeping track of all of the characters and where they end up (when possible–short stories and novellas can get away with disappearing characters more easily). Invest in all of your characters until the end and give them the send-off they deserve.

4.) Wrap up the narrative – and leave it open for the future. 

I’m not planning on coming back to this particular school (in fact, my husband and I are moving five hours away). However, I’m keeping open communication when I can with students, faculty, and staff. Relationships are valuable, both in and of themselves, and because you never know when reconnecting could be mutually beneficial.

In the same way, make sure to tie up all plot in your story in a satisfying way. What this looks like depends on the story, and again, length effects it. Some short stories and flash fiction can end right after the climax (and my novella Storm Warden actually flip-flopped the climax and the resolution). But generally, make sure your resolution actually resolves everything in your conflict in a satisfying way.

AND don’t forget to leave things a little open. If you’re writing a trilogy or a series, this is essential, but even if you’re not, chances are fans of your “absolutely-only-one-book story” might just want some prequel information or maybe a spinoff story or two. This is a good thing. It means they can’t get enough of your work! And having additional little stories can be great to throw on newsletters, blog posts, or even as a Kindle freebie or 99 cent deal.

5.) End with your readers’ favorite things.

Which of course means food and goofy videos–well, in the case of my students. End-of-the-year parties are a great way to celebrate conclusions.

In terms of your book, a feast might not be the ideal ending (although you can’t go wrong with treats, right? 😉 ). But during the revision process, take into account beta reader feedback and make sure you’re finishing strong with more of the same stuff they enjoy. Happy readers make for continuing readers (and happy reviews). If your readers liked the snark all the way through? Have snark at the end. If they’re there for the romance? Make the end have the most feels. Remind those readers why they’re reading your book–and why they want to yell at you to finish the next one!

6.) Make everything clean and tidy(ish). 

Naturally, I’m going to leave my classroom packed up and organized as much as I can, as well as invest in a hefty amount of dusting. But it won’t be perfect (especially not with that contact cement stain under the table–whoops!) And I’m grateful for the summer cleaning crew.

In the same way, make sure your book ending is tight and solid–but don’t stress about perfection. As a writer, perfection will never exist. What you’re doing is better than perfection: it is unique, beautiful, thoughtful, intelligent, and potent. Aim for all of those things–and then invest in a good editor or proofreader to deal with the details.

Any other tips for ending a story well? What are your favorite story endings?

 

Why You Should Write Unrealistic Fiction

One of the perennial questions on the internet is “how do I write for the opposite gender?” After that, you usually get the whole argument about who can (and can’t) capture the true essence and mystique of a specific gender. Then, the whole argument of “realism” is brought up.

Therein lies the core issue. Realism.

Writing fiction has nothing to do with being realistic. Authors are creators carefully crafting characters and scenes and stories to reach their readership. You don’t have to justify or impress anyone else other than yourself and your target audience.

why you should write unrealistic fiction

Realism doesn’t matter in writing – but here’s what does: author convictions, story plausibility, reader expectations, and genre conventions.

Author Convictions

You are writing this story. It is your story. You gotta live with it and at the end of the day, you’re selling it, either to an agent, a publishing company, or directly to readers. Ultimately, you have to be satisfied with how it turns out. Know your Push, your essential motivation, and use it to keep going.

Story Plausibility

This is where story structure and writing craft come in. Get your problem and solution sorted out, make sure your story follows an outline (either by plotting, or by self-editing after you finish pantsing), strengthen your characterization, and go over your whole manuscript multiple times. Bring in beta readers (preferably at least three for varied opinions), use a critique group, hire an editor, and try to fill in every plot hole and issue you can. Master those fundamentals of fiction as much as you can.

Genre Conventions

Now the concepts of realism and ‘proper story technique’ are turned upside down. You see, genre conventions are the general structures and expectations of specific genres. Is it realistic for people in novels to be incredibly attractive? Nope, but in certain kinds of genre romance, they both better be knockouts. Is it realistic for all of those urban fantasy men to be devil-may-care, gritty masters of snark or all of those urban fantasy females to wear tight leather and love swords? Nope, but it often goes with the territory.

You can of course thwart genre conventions, but depending on which ones you choose to overturn, beware that it could turn off readers, no matter how good your writing craft. Also, ‘telling’? That’s a bonus in some genres (and some authors are really good at it). What about the dreaded ‘purple prose’? Well, some high fantasy goes over the moon for all the lush over-descriptions, whereas some fast-paced adventure novels drop bits of description as if they are precious, rare diamonds. The key is to know the conventions of your genre and have confidence in how to keep them (or break them smartly).

Reader Expectations

Reader expectations are often tied into genre conventions. This is a good thing, because you’ll know how to deliver what your readers want, be it thrilling cliffhanger endings for suspense or happy ever afters for romance. To know reader expectations, haunt book reviews, book blogs, and book club discussion areas. Also, grab a second round of beta readers to give purely reader-response.

The good thing is that readers often expect different things than authors. They want to be entertained, pleased, surprised, comforted, thrilled, mesmerized, shocked, and/or anything else that is considered part of the deal. Depending on the market area, they may overlook typos, spelling, or grammar errors, but they can be far less forgiving if you fail one of the expectations (couple doesn’t get together, plot twists don’t twist, etc).

Marketing tip – make sure your book cover, blurb, and overall presentation hit the targets for your genre and reader expectations. Otherwise, you could be attracting the wrong kinds of readers and that does not lead to good reviews (consider how frustrated suspense readers would be to get a sappy romance, or how annoyed high fantasy fans would be to get a stripped-down action-suspense plot). Granted, you could still get negative reviews for other reasons, but don’t let off-target marketing be one of them!

So go ahead–write unrealistic fiction! Make your characters strong, potent, memorable. Make your stories incredible. Improbably probable. Weave your plots well and reach into the hearts of your readers. Revise, tweak, resubmit, refresh to get things just right.

And enjoy every minute of it.

What are your favorite genres? What are some genre conventions? Do you keep them or turn them upside down?