How to critique your partner's work.

Thursday is my day to post at Sisters in Scribe and as always, I'm copying my post here :) For farther discussion on this post, hop over to

This won't be a how-to post, so much as a what-works-for-me post. And what works for me, may not work for you and your partner, but you never know until you try. The reason behind this post, or really the thought behind it, is that I've seen some pretty poor critiques--NOT FROM THE SISTERS, but on random writer websites--and it made me realize that there are a lot of aspiring writers out there, who mean well but don't know how to give honest feedback.

**insert random thought: this popcorn is ah-may-zing**

First things first, and this is a tough one for me, read through the entire manuscript you are given without making edits. Make notes to yourself if you need to, but leave the text alone until you know the outcome. When you know where you'll end up, you can better decide how to get there.

Next, keep in mind that every writer has a unique voice. You may have the desire to totally change the tone of every sentence to fit your vision. But it's not your vision. It's hers, and you need to respect her voice. That doesn't mean you can't help her reword something so it sounds better, or change the structure of a sentence to make it stronger. It just means that Lauren Kate's Luce, is not Lisa McMann's Janie.

Third, be respectful, but be honest. It does not help ANYONE to pussyfoot around sensitive comments. You might not want to tell a random writer that you think "this" sucks, but if she's your BFF, you'd be doing her a service. On that note, if you are the one receiving the crit, you have to be open to suggestions and not take it personally. So, be respectful, but be honest and also be sure to point out the things you like and what you'd like to see more of.

Finally, when doing a thorough critique, it is most helpful to your partner to work line by line, leaving comments on how you think it could be better, what isn't clear to you as a reader, where there is a loop-hole, if something is out of character, a misspelled word etc. When working in MS word, you should have a "Review" tab. Click that and select "track changes". This will show any edits you make in the text. There you will also see "add new comment". To use that feature, highlight the text you want to comment on and click "add a new comment" and type out your comment in the bubble.

In closure, write out an "over all" message. Tell the writer what you loved, what you hated, what you think she can add or leave out. And it's always nice to end on a positive note :)

Do you have any successful critiquing tips to add? We'd love to hear 'em!

Contest for Writers! --free crit!

MG and YA author Angela Ackerman, represented by Jill Corcoran of The Herman Agency, is giving away another free first chapter critique on her blog --

Angela did my first chapter when I won her last contest and I can not even begin to tell you how awesome it was. Angela rocks. Go enter.

Waiting on Wednesday: Week 5

WOW is hosted by Breaking The Spine.

This week!
Twilight: The Graphic Novel

Make fun all you want, but I think this is awesome! I'm not a total Twihard, I'm not in love with Edward (or Jake's abs), I know Stephenie Meyer didn't create Vampires, blah blah blah... But I enjoyed the books and graphic novels are fun! And in my experience, boys like graphic novels more than novels. And anything that can get my nephews to read, I like.


I realize I haven't been posting a whole lot lately. Reason being, I am MAD busy over here! So far 2010 has been an amazing year full of opportunity for Husband and I.

He's starting work at a new company in February, going in at a senior position. We've had to do a lot of preparing for this, considering they'll be sending him to Italy in three weeks.

On top of that, I've had TWO of my works accepted for publication, and I might have one or two more. Can't give you any more details on that yet, (hope it's okay that I tell you that much) but as soon as I can, you know I will. I will post the heck out of it. And thanks to author Shannon Delany (13 To Life: A Werewolf's Tale) for pointing me in the right direction, I'm working on a retelling of a Ukranian Folklore and a non-fiction article for a children's magazine. Wish me luck!

And of course there is the never ending work on my own manuscripts and the group ( and home. Speaking of which, I need to climb to the top of Mt. Laundrest today.

Big things are happening. Big things.

Blog Awards

Today I received two blog awards from Valerie at Thanks, Valerie!

First up is the Happy Award!

Rules:State 10 things that make me happy. Pass the award along.

Ten things that make me happy:
Reading a good book
Accomplishing a goal
Going out for coffee with Husband
Horseback riding
Acceptance letters :)
Chatting with a good friend
Visiting family
Watching a good movie

Blogs I am giving the Happiness Award to:

Rules: List ten honest things about myself and pass it along.
Ten honest things about me:

I would rather read than do most things
I love all things vampire
I have a big crush on Elvis Presley
I ride a motorcycle
Sometimes it scares me
I love Husband like nobody's business
I enjoy being a mom
I drink my coffee with whole milk and raw sugar
My favorite color is red
I like old things

Blogs I am giving the Honest Scrap award to:

Signed Blood Promise giveaway

Don't forget, the contest for the signed hardcover of BLOOD PROMISE by Richelle Mead is still going on at Sisters In Scribe!

Deadline for entries is Thursday FEBRUARY 4th!

In My Mailbox Week 2

In My Mailbox is brought to you by Kristi at The Story Siren.

This week in my mailbox:

Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard
Ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley
I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder

First three I bought, forth was given to me by Gayle Forman (If I stay).

And in YOUR mailbox this week?

I Should Be Writing: Happy 2010 and 200 Followers Contest!

Valerie--one my my crit partners, a Sister in Scribe--is giving away a number of books on her blog! I Should Be Writing: Happy 2010 and 200 Followers Contest!

Sisters in Scribe: CONTEST!!!


CONTESTS!! Autographed Blood Promise!

In honor of the New Year, and to show our appreciation to all of our followers for making our blog the awesomeness that it is, SISTERS IN SCRIBE is giving away one hardcover copy of

Vampire Academy book 4
Blood Promise!

This book is new, never been opened past the title page and...drum roll...It is AUTOGRAPHED!
That thing at the top of the middle pic is a shadow. Don't worry--book is mint. To read an excerpt from the book go to


Waiting on Wednesday: Week 4

WOW is hosted by Breaking The Spine.

Most of the books I am waiting on, do not have covers, some without titles! SO I am going to use this WOW to branch out from my usual genre of choice, and bring you something I think is way cool.


Product Details

  • Pub. Date: February 16, 2010
  • Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children
  • Format: Hardcover, 208pp
  • Sales Rank: 107,779

oduct Description

I sit in your class

I play by the rules

I'm young

I'm fly

I'm black.

In 9 stories and 13 poems, Sharon G. Flake gives readers insight into the minds of a diverse group adolescent African American males. There's Tow-Kaye, getting married at age 17 to love of his life, who's pregnant. He knows it's the right thing to do, but he's scared to death. James writes in his diary about his twin brother's terrible secret, which threatens to pull James down, too. Tyler explains what it's like to be a player with the ladies. In a letter to his uncle, La'Ron confesses that he's infected with HIV. Eric takes us on a tour of North Philly on the Fourth of July, when the heat could make a guy go crazy. Still, he loves his hood. These and other unforgettable characters come to life in this poignant, funny and often searing collection of urban male voices.

Teaser Tuesday!

I don't normally do these, but I just typed this out and I'm in a sharing mood :)
From my current YA novel:

The same warm wave of desire flowed from his skin to mine. This time, there were no buttons to trip our fingers, but he didn’t try. Instead, he held me and I held him. Like he was a normal boy and I was a normal girl, and this was a normal night.

Strange Angels: Review

Product Details

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Razorbill (May 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595142517

Synopsis from

Dru Anderson has what her grandmother called “the touch.” (Comes in handy when you’re traveling from town to town with your dad, hunting ghosts, suckers, wulfen, and the occasional zombie.)Then her dad turns up dead—but still walking—and Dru knows she’s next. Even worse, she’s got two guys hungry for her affections, and they’re not about to let the fiercely independent Dru go it alone. Will Dru discover just how special she really is before coming face-to-fang with whatever —or whoever— is hunting her?

Dru Anderson makes the mistake of not telling her dad, a hunter of the Real World, when she sees her grandmother's owl. A mistake that could have cost him his life. Twice.
This book grabs you from the opening line and doesn't let go, even after you close the back cover. Dru reminds me of Dean Winchester from the hit TV series, Supernatural (AWESOME show btw), and although there are some similarities in their pasts Dru is a unique character in a world all her own. If you're a fan of supernatural, I recommend this series. The action never stops and the underlying plots keep you turning the page to find out how it all unfolds.

Author Event! Richelle Mead

Last night, Vampire Academy author Richelle Mead, graced our fair city with her presence. And she read to us! She told us there will be six books in Rose's story, the Fifth Spirit Bound, comes out in May 2010 and she said we should see book six, untitled at this point, in December of this year! AND!!! There will be another six books told from another character's POV! One of the more secondary characters in VA steps forward and we'll see how that character sees our beloved Rose Hathaway. Exciting right?!

I won't do her the injustice of posting the funny face pictures. You know, when you're talking, or about to laugh and your face does that funky twisty stuff? Yeah, I won't show you those. I like her too much.

Richelle and I

Richelle reading from SPIRIT BOUND

STAY TUNED because I'm going to do a very special post on my critique group blog: on THURSDAY! You don't wanna miss it!

New Release! The Mark

THE MARK by Jen Nadol is out TODAY! and to celebrate her book's Birthday, Jen is hosting a super giveaway!

Sisters in Scribe: Richelle Mead in NYC tonight!

Check out my post on Sisters in Scribe: Richelle Mead in NYC tonight!

Be sure to check it out ;) And come back later in the week for a very special update.

Body Finder--Contest!

Kimberly Derting is giving away TWO signed ARC's of her book, The Body Finder!

You have to check out this awesome book trailer!

Sisters in Scribe: Outlining--Dun! Dun! Dun!

Check out my weekly post on Sisters in Scribe!
Sisters in Scribe: Outlining--Dun! Dun! Dun!

First Lines and a Contest!

First lines are important. Reading that sentence makes you ask--why? Right? And you read on to learn the answer. That is the answer--because they create an initial reaction from your reader. Your first line will tell your reader what type of person your narrator is, or it might entice them to read on to get an answer. Whatever reaction your first line gets, it needs to make the reader want more.

YA Highway, a group of YA writers, is hosting a new contest. Submit the first line of your WIP (work-in-progress) for a chance to win a one page critique from the YA Highway gang, AND an autographed copy of Bran Hambrick by Kaleb Nation!

Hop over to their blog for the contest rules, and a peek at some GREAT first lines!

Waiting on Wednesday: Week 3

I've posted a little bit about this book before, so really I'm cheating by making it my WOW, but...
WOW is hosted by Breaking The Spine.

Shannon Delany
13toLife.jpg image by chosenbuffy100

Release Date: June 22nd 2010

13 To Life has an interesting beginning. Author Shannon Delany was the first-ever cellphone novel winner in the USA with her serial novel, 13 To Life. Her simple textnovel grew into a multi-book deal with St. Martin's Press! You can still read the original at

When junior Jess Gillmansen gets called out of class by Guidance, she can only presume it’s for one of two reasons. Either they’ve finally figured out who wrote the scathing anti-jock editorial in the school newspaper or they’re hosting yet another intervention for her about her mom. Although far from expecting it, she’s relieved to discover Guidance just wants her to show a new student around—but he comes with issues of his own including a police escort.
The newest member of Junction High, Pietr Rusakova has secrets to hide--secrets that will bring big trouble to the small town of Junction—secrets including dramatic changes he’s undergoing that will surely end his life early.

Happy Birthday, Elvis Presley!

Today marks the 75th would-be birthday of The King, and to celebrate I will be drinking coffee from my Elvis mug, staring at my autographed picture from the '68 comeback (black leather! whew!) and listening to him sing all day and watching his movies on TCM. Really, not much different that a normal day for me, but it'll feel special.

And for YOU! I'm going to snag and share photos that I love off the internet.
In no particular order.

Elvis Aaron Presley(originally Aron to match his twin brother Jesse Garon--still born)
January 8th 1935-August 16th 1977

Hee hee hee

Homo Fictus

I post on Thursday over at The Sisters in Scribe. Feel free to read and join this discussion over there!

Characters are the soul of your novel. You can't have a good novel without darn good people to play the parts. I'm no expert on characterization, really no expert on anything, but I read a lot. Any anyone who reads can tell you that fictional characters are a whole lot more interesting than real people.

Nobody wants to read about a plain Jane. Jane needs to be so pretty, the sunset looks like a macaroni sculpture. Or so ugly, a hairless dog is cute. Jane needs to be more cunning, more resourceful, or less if that's how you want her. She needs to love more, hate more fight more.

In The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri (1946), Egri describes characters as being three-dimensional. The first dimension being physiological--height, weight, age, race, physical appearance--all these factors will shape the characters life experiences and it is important that you know them all. The second sociological -- what is her social class, what neighborhood does she come from, who were her parents, what's her view on religion, money, sex etc. And third,psychological--temperament, fears, phobias, talents, habits, fantasies and the like.

As writers we often run in to the dreaded "writers block" and many times, it could just be that you don't know your characters well enough. If you don't know them, you can't make them do what you want them to do. Or better yet, you don't know what they want to do in the potentially horrible situation you've stuck them in. And if you haven't stuck them in a potentially horrible situation, you don't have a story.

Your character might be a shy girl, a wallflower with a nose like Tom Cruise, but when she's faced with a dilemma she should woman-up! But whatever she does, it needs to be in character. And at the same time, your characters need to change and grow throughout the course of your novel. Hey, if it was easy everyone would do it.

Think about a memorable character in a book you've read. I'll go with Rose Hathaway from Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy. Rose was more or less abandoned by her mother, a Guardian, and raised by the academy. She has anger issues toward her mom, but she has a strong sense of her duty as a Guardian because of it. She is willing to put Lissa before her because it's what she was taught. It's so ingrained in her, that she can't not do it. Lissa comes first. Period. Rose never even stops to consider why.
Rose falls in love with Dimitri but she knows he is her mentor, and he will also be Lissa's Guardian. If they love each other, Dimitri and Rose both know they'd protect one another over Lissa, and Rose, because of who she is, can't let that happen.
Sure she feels like it isn't fair, and as the series progresses, you'll see Rose pulling away from that mind set little by little, but that is her character changing and growing and still being Rose Hathaway.

So, how do you get to know your Homo Fictus?
There are a number of different approaches. You need to find which one works best for you. Some people, myself included, write out a biography for each main character. It is information that won't be in your book, but stuff you have to know for yourself in order to create a fully fleshed-out pretend person. How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey gives some really great examples on this.
Some people, like my lovely friend A.J. Spindle, create an index card for each character, even the ones she hasn't written yet.
You can interview your characters. "Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia." ~E.L. Doctorow. Sit down with pen and paper and pluck one of your characters from your head, and ask him or her a few questions.

Author: Jane, I still don't understand why you hang out with Megan. She's rude to you. She trash talks you behind your back. She stole the guy you liked before he even knew it!

Jane: *sighing* I dunno. I guess I feel like I owe her. We were friends when we were both in the group home and Megan stood up for me a lot when we were little. She's really not a bad person.

I know that's crap and you can do a lot better, but you get the idea. You get a sense of who Jane is as well as Megan just from that one little answer. I didn't even know Jane or Megan ten seconds ago, but now I know the Megan has some serious inner conflicts and Jane, a pushover she may be, is understanding and forgiving. So let's say Megan finally pushes Jane to the edge and a stiff wedge is shoved between them. Something terrible happens to Megan, and she needs Jane. Do you think Jane will walk away? Or will she be there for her former friend?

Character building can be fun, but it can also be tiring. It is work, after all.
What has worked for you when created well-rounded three-dimensional characters?
What didn't work?
What have you read about but haven't tried?

Another Nifty Contest for Writers!

Author Carrie Harris (NO PAIN, NO BRAIN--Delacorte 2011) is offering up a free MS critique over at her blog! All you have to do to enter is comment.

Good luck!

Percy Jackson and the Olympians - The Lightning Thief

Product Details

  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion; 1 edition (March 21, 2006)
  • Language: English

Twelve year old Percy Jackson is about to get kicked out of yet another boarding school. The difference this time, is that he's just vaporized his pre-algebra teacher but nobody, except his odd friend Grover, seem to know anything about it. But Percy's own mother knows this is just the beginning. She sends Percy to Camp Halfblood, and the journey isn't an easy one. Percy learns he is a demigod--the son of a Greek God and a mortal woman--and when Zues' lightning bolt is stolen, young Percy is the prime suspect.

This book surprised me. Percy is a fun character and I loved the easy mix of mythology and the modern world. Everything fit seamlessly, from his ADHD and dyslexia, to "Crusty", the mattress salesman. And I thought the description of the gods fit perfectly! It had me laughing and rooting for Percy, Grover and Annabeth throughout the entire book.

I don't read a lot of mid-grade novels. but I loved this one. And the movie looks great!

Contest for Writers!

Literary Agent, Mary Cole of the Andrea Brown Agency, is at it again! Enter to win a 15 page critiqu of your finished YA/MG manuscript!

The Dark Divine

The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

Product Details

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: EgmontUSA (December 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1606840576

PProduct Description: from Amazon

Grace Divine, daughter of the local pastor, always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared--the night she found her brother Jude collapsed on the porch, covered in his own blood--but she has no idea what a truly monstrous secret that night held.

The memories her family has tried to bury resurface when Daniel returns, three years later, and enrolls in Grace and Jude's high school. Despite promising Jude she'll stay away, Grace cannot deny her attraction to Daniel's shocking artistic abilities, his way of getting her to look at the world from new angles, and the strange, hungry glint in his eyes.

The closer Grace gets to Daniel, the more she jeopardizes her life, as her actions stir resentment in Jude and drive him to embrace the ancient evil Daniel unleashed that horrific night. Grace must discover the truth behind the boy's dark secret...and the cure that can save the ones she loves. But she may have to lay down the ultimate sacrifice to do it--her soul.

When I first read a review for this book, before I started reading it, the reviewer compared it to Twilight. While I may not be a total twihard (is that in the dictionary yet?) I did enjoy that series, but I found no similarities.

This book is completely original, imaginative and full of awesome! I loved Despain's spin on werewolf lore. The history behind the werewolf in this book is as interesting as the story of Grace and Daniel. The story unfolds and tiny snippits are revealed at exactly the right moment to may you say, "holy cannoli!"

The Dark Divine is easily one of my favorite books of 2009.

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