Why Real Critics Shouldn’t be “Sugar Coating”

A while back when I first started doing critiques on Wattpad, I noticed a common trend in the posts of the advertising critics. This trend was usually at the bottom, and was under the caption “Sugar Coating.” These critics wrote in their post things like, “I will sugar coat” or “Please let me know how much sugar coating you would like.”

I was baffled. If they weren’t going to be giving honest reviews, then what were they doing? Well, when you look at it, being a Wattpad critic is a great way to get follows or reads on your own story.

Then again, I’m sure that many critics know the backlash we receive when someone doesn’t like what we have to say. I’ve been called a “bully” and a bunch of other names by Wattpadders.

The thing is, we shouldn’t let that stop us. There is no way on earth that I’m going to stop telling people what is wrong with their story because I don’t want them to get upset, or hurt their feelings. I’m not saying you should be a jerk when you go out and critique someone’s story, but you definitely shouldn’t be super nice.

By doing this “sugar coating” and giving them nice feedback when their story actually stinks, you’re only damaging the writer. That doesn’t help them improve and could even lead to cockiness. Because let’s face it, when people tell us our stories are really good, it bumps up our ego a notch.

Ending point: Don’t sugar coat. Be yourself when you critique. If you’re not giving helpful feedback, you might as well not give it at all.

 

Things You Definitely Shouldn’t do if You Want Beta Readers

After four days of completing my first round of edits on my story Knowing You’re There, I am on to the next step in the publishing process: getting beta readers. While I’d love to have a great post for you guys about how successful I’ve been, I have the exact opposite. So, I’ll use my failed attempts to have a laugh and help you guys as well.

So here are five things to NOT do in the process of finding beta readers:

1. Ask Your Friends

This so far just hasn’t been successful for me. If my friends were in the writing field, not busy college students, and were being paid, you would probably have more luck.

2. Ask Your Relatives

I just haven’t even attempted this one after my past outcomes. Three years ago, all I asked my sister for Christmas was to read my short novella Euphoria on Wattpad. I gave her three months to read the 80 page book. Instead, I got a Spongebob DVD. My mom has not read a sentence of Saving Flight 926, the book I started in January.

3. Beg

If your current beta readers aren’t committed, they’re still not going to do it, even when you beg. If they’re busy or uninterested, they’re not going to do it.

4. Not Explain Your Deadlines

While I’m not a beta reader expert and really am kicking myself for not researching more on the topic, surely everyone needs a time where their beta readers should be finished. If you don’t give them a deadline, they may think they’ll have unlimited time. I literally just explained this to my boyfriend, who had no idea.

Necessary, Fluff, or Necessary Fluff?

Today I began my 3rd day of edits on my novella Knowing You’re There.  In case you have not seen my 3 previous posts, I am currently in the process of editing it for publication and found out that my word count was extremely, extremely lacking. About 22,000 short of 50k, the minimum for YA novels.

Anyway, today I started editing chapter 3, and I am pleased to say that the word count has officially moved up to 29k! (whoopee!) While a 500-word extension is great progress, there is one important question in mind: is what I’m adding just fluff?

I think any author would consider every part of their story to be important, unless it’s something extreme. Today I added better transitions into new scenes. Instead of just saying “two days later…” I put a few sentences about what happened each day.  I would kind of just call this “necessary fluff”. The events weren’t super important, but they were necessary to make a better transition to the next scene…right?

So, with that, I have created 3 definitions to separate the additions that writers may want to include in their work:

Fluff: not needed. Excess details, information that serves no purpose.

Necessary Information: character development, moves the plot along, shows the reader something that they need to know.

Necessary Fluff: extends the word count of the story, but also offers slight character development and more specifics.

And there you have it.  Stay toned for more updates as I tackle chapter 4 tomorrow!

My Publishing Journey: Day 1 (Realization, Editing Chapter 1)

After much deliberation, last night I made the decision to put my current book, Saving Flight 926 on hold after seeing how much work it needed.  Today I began the very first steps in my publishing process for my story Knowing You’re There.

Since I haven’t touched the story in over a year, I moved it from my flash drive to my computer, opened it up, and there it was: my beautiful romance story.  And then I looked at the word count of 28,000 words.  That was all.  And I feel stupid, because I could swear that the word count was at least in the 30s, but that doesn’t matter now.

So for a few hours I felt like I was in limbo.  Do I forget the whole thing?  How on earth am I going to add 30,000 words to this story?  I made a forum on Wattpad, where industry professionals told me to just write a new story instead.

For some reason, I’m not going to listen.  A friend in my tech writing class told me earlier, “If you’re f-ing passionate about it, then go for it.”  And I hate to be that naive person whose story has no potential and thinks they can get published anyway, but for some reason I’m going to keep going for it, and keep editing.  The worst that could happen is that I get a better detailed, longer, and cleaner version of my most popular book.

So, I went over chapter 1 today.  Just a few minor things to tweak.  I’m probably going to go back and add some details to extend it a bit more. Today I added almost 100 words.  It’s a small improvement that hopefully won’t more towards the dreaded “fluff” that will have to be removed later anyway.  More updates to come tomorrow!

Torn Between Two Paths

With the start of school, sorority recruitment, and all that senior jazz, I’m happy to say that I’ll be trying to post more often.  So, here’s the topic for today: what do you do when it comes to new books and old books that differ in potential and popularity?  What if you’re in my situation: currently writing a book that isn’t going anywhere, but want to being the publishing process of another, more popular book?

Ask yourself these 5 questions:

1. How much is left? 

This one is quite simple.  How much is left of the book you’re currently working on?  Is it just a few chapters?  Are you at the climax?  Or are you only a few chapters away from the end, but have writers block like I do?

2. Can you focus while having an unfinished book? 

I’m a stickler when it comes to finishing books.  I still lie awake at night thinking about finishing my novel “Runaways” that I started when I was 13. I know that I won’t be able to focus on Knowing You’re There with SF926 not being done.  I’ll keep going back to it.

3. Do I have the time? 

I’ve never been through the traditional publishing route.  Only self publishing, which as many of you know, was probably my biggest disaster ever.  Traditional publishing takes up a lot of time that working on a rough draft for fun doesn’t.

4. What will the benefits of finishing be? 

For me, finishing the horrible first draft of SF926 will mean just that to me: the piece of mind.  Knowing that I finished it, whether I go back to it and try to do anything with it at all.  If you don’t see any reason to finish that first draft right now, then don’t bother.

5. Am I really ready to start this process? 

I’ve been wanting to be traditionally published since I was 13, and even more so when I finished my first book at 16.  Self publishing was hard.  I didn’t have the support of family or friends, I didn’t know a lot about grammar or how to edit.  Now I have a sorority full of willing beta readers and feel like I can catch any grammar mistake.

Do you have support from people around you?  Are you willing to have your story ripped apart by critiques?  Are you willing to stay up late into the night rewriting and editing?  If so, then you’re most likely ready to publish.

Side note:

By reading the above, yes, this is my announcement that I will soon be beginning the process to traditionally publish my YA romance novel Knowing You’re There.  I have no idea what I’m doing and will be posting updates along the way.  I look forward to sharing this journey with you all.

Begging for Reads: Does it Actually Work?

As an author who is considered by Wattpad as “popular” (which I still don’t think since there are people with millions of followers), hitting over 1,100 followers last week, I frequently have other writers post on my message board asking for reads.

This made me wonder: how many other people are they asking?  And why me, in particular? (Other than the fact that they see I have a lot of followers).  Do the other people they ask actually read their stuff?

Personally, I do read the work of someone who posts  on my message board.  I mean, why not?  It only take a few minutes to skim through a first chapter and say, “I like this/this was good, but it would be good to improve on…”  It makes the youngsters super happy.

Anyway, is writing a message on someone’s feed that says, “Hi can you please read my story?  It would mean so much to me!”  an effective way to get reads?  Well, if you post on my feed it is.  But for others who aren’t as kind…I guess the rest is a mystery.

Avoiding Obvious Phrases in Writing

I learned in my creative writing class, almost three years ago (I can’t believe it) in college, about avoiding basic things, such as repetition and avoiding phrases that are obvious.  I’m going to focus on two “obvious” phrases in writing today, both of which I’ve seen many of my editing clients use so many times it’s crazy.

The first phrase: “on my two feet” 

I’ve seen my one client use this phrase in sentences like, “I went to stand on my two feet” or “he put me down on my two feet.”  I mean, if you want, you could use this phrase sparingly, but personally I’d never use it.

Why it isn’t necessary:  Because most human beings have two feet.  Unless your character is an alien with multiple legs, or has a prosthetic leg, it is not necessary to tell your readers how many legs your character has.

How to avoid it: Simple, just chop it off of the sentence.  It reduces wordiness, which is always a great thing.  Ex: “He put me down.” “I stood.”

The second phrase: “nodded my head”

This is simple to do.  For example, “she asked the question, and I nodded my head.”  This, I would actually use VERY sparingly, because for some reason, to me, it doesn’t sound as crazy as the first phrase.

Why it isn’t necessary: Really, what else would you nod? Your foot?  No other part of the human body can really “nod” unless of course, you’re being very specific about something, like your character doing sign language and it looking like their hand is “nodding.”

How to avoid it: Very simple.  Just say, “I nodded.”