Critique and other feedback! What makes crit useful and not, how to know what to take and what to discard (Spoiler: it doesn't get easier), and what we can learn about giving useful critique.
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Good morning, everyone! This is Jeffe Kennedy author of epic fantasy romance I'm here with my first cup of coffee.
Happy Chair dance.
Ah, today is Monday August Fourteenth and those of you on video or those of you astute of hearing and I know you are out there will have quickly identified that I am indoors today by the sound of the chime. Perhaps by other cues. My earring is twisted up. Ah, it's a stormy morning here in Santa Fe woke up to lightning and thunder and the wind is rumble tumble and a little bit of rain. No lot. Like get we have more rain I think I told you all that we did get half an inch on an evening last week which was like oh when you get like eight inches of rain a year half an inch at once is a real blessing.
Um, so it's um, yeah, little too blustery to be out in the grape harbor this morning but I had a great weekend and I got to spend a lot of time in the grape harbor this weekend. A lot of it. Um was root. Reading Minerva Spencer's upcoming release which you all will love Selina when we'll start with that. Um I actually had a super fun day on Saturday I had to run a bunch of errands and. My bestie Megan Mulry said why don't I tag along on your errands which she just never does never has done that before and we turned out to be great shopping buddy. She said where are you going and I listed my very mundane stops I needed to make it's. She said those are that all sounds great. Um, so it was fun. We you know, passed a garage sale and she's like Google garage sale and I was like do you want to stop it. She said yes and she said Charlie never wants to stop for garage sale. So I was like okay we went to the antique mall and I found. All the things that I was looking for and we had lunch and I got my hair done if you're on video you will see I am now reread it I think we're finally getting to Goldilocks here. The first time this is my new hairstyle is right because my one that I've had for 12 years
Selfishly decided to retire just because he had a retinal detachment I mean what about my names 13 years Twelve Or Thirteen Years it's it's hard when someone that's like been your you know that you've worked with like that for so many years. Beables on you. What's the nerve. Ah so anyway, new hairstylist gal First time wasn't enough last time way too much so I'm hoping this time. It's Goldilocks, although not actually goldlocks.
You know what I mean.
So yeah, it was um it was a super fun, fun time and got let down this weekend so largely caught up on SFWA stuff which is good because I am going on vacation at the end of this week
We're leaving on Friday flying to San Diego to the beach and I will be gone through Wednesday so already my birthday on the beach which is my favorite thing to do so um. No podcasts Friday or Monday sorry about that and possibly not the following Friday because I get back and it's bubonicon but I will be with my darling Kelly Robson she is toast master of bubonicon. So maybe we'll do a little podcast. And when I looked at my schedule I was wrong I don't go to book on a comment until Friday afternoon so there will be a podcast a week from friday.
So um, yeah, it's been a discombobulated couple of weeks and we'll continue to be today is big push to get Oneira revision to agent Sarah. To write her synopsis and put in some um tweaks tweaks and revisions. It's um I think I can get I didn't get as much done on Friday as I would have liked. Ah. And I'll talk about that a little bit. Um, in fact, that's what I'm going to talk about today I don't have to like preface it I want to talk about critique giving and receiving critique. Ah it is just something that. This is another one of those things that I wish I could tell you all that this changes and it just doesn't is figuring out what critique to listen to so it's very interesting with Oira agent Sarah has asked me to add a chapter. Now one of my readers and and let me tell you let's see I had um, not going to name names I'm trying to do this. What let me count without you all listening.
Good thing I did that offline because it took me a really long time to count who read it I have different people read things at different times. So um, 5 people read onera for me 6 counting Assistant Carien who read it kind of before everybody else and she doesn't really give me critique. She just tells me if she likes stuff and what she likes. Um, there would have been another person but. My friend had to bail because she's so actually it was one nervous Spencer who I mentioned earlier. She's been so crunched on this release and she got sick so she was like I'm so sorry I can't do this one for you and I said that's my because I've got agent Sarah who basically asked me to flesh out 1 thing and add this chapter. And then there's another and the rest are all accomplished author friends. Well actually let me walk that back all but 1 are accomplished author friends. The other one is a new person to me ah critiquing for the first time who is. And accomplished author has won a lot of awards and done well but a long time ago and this is relevant because um and I'll come back to that so one of my accomplished author friends asked for the same chapter edition that Sarah asked for.
And so that's great that makes it really easy when you get more than 1 person identifying ah a need in a book then you I mean that's that's a gimme otherwise they all picked out different things. So um. But I will name Jim Sorenson I mentioned already. Ah Jim gives great critique. Ah, he's just really concise he gave me a bunch of like little line edits where he was like really you know this kind of thing picked up typos but also. And noted like where he laughed or loved something but he also you know like gave me just a couple of inline comments saying did this really take hours that kind of thing which is very useful and he picked out 1 thing that I agreed with it was ah a basic world building thing. It was something I'd started to put in. And took out and so actually I was able to pull it from my outtakes I keep an outtakes document when I revise and so I just grabbed that paragraph and put it back in I'm gonna have to smooth it a little bit but I I mean clearly clearly I think he's right because that one resonated I knew. That it was going to be. Um, yeah I wondered if if someone would pick it out and he absolutely zeroed in on so his comments were very easy to deal with Sarah's are also very concise in a way. Um, another one of my friends.
Um, some things are useful but others I felt like she's almost trying to move it more towards how she would write something. Um and I think her comments are perfectly valid if this were going to be a different kind of book. But I am. I actually not using most of her comments. She did some in-line edits and I went through hers on Friday and put those in so that's easier. Um, and then I'm going to leap forward to um Grace Grace Draven who I guess I'm also naming. Ah, Grace ah, and I talked last night she pinged me on Facebook and she had finished reading over the weekend. She'd been reading for a while but you know she's been dealing with a lot of stuff but she finished reading for me over the weekend and. And so I thought that this was very funny because she she had sent me a couple of notes along the way saying I'm not sure this phrase works for me and that kind of thing those those little comments are very easy to deal with because it's like what jumps out. Ah so. I'll be able to get hers pretty easily and the 1 thing she wanted to talk about was a little bit longer. Um and and it's interesting because the thing that she picked out nobody else did but she started telling me about she said I think you have a missed opportunity here which is a great way to put things.
Ah, missed opportunity. Ah you know because it's like well I don't have to do it but and so she started telling me how this one part I needed to like make it more awful, really dig into it and I started laughing and I said is this the Chicken guts thing and she started laughing too and she's like I was thinking that this is the chicken guts thing. So what this is is a long time ago. Um, one of the first time I think was actually the second time that Grace ever gave me critique and I'd asked her specifically to help me with something. Ah, and I know it was a while back because it was um on the telling of the hawk which I probably wrote in 2015 something like that and Grace had read The Mark of the Tala. I had read Master of Crows. We'd become friends and The Talon of the Hawk is the third in that series and my editor had come back and said that he felt like this final fight scene wasn't vivid enough. It wasn't long enough I needed to expand it my people this has always been my problem I you know I don't like my fight scenes. Um, so I mean this goes way back. So ah, I'd asked.
Grace to look just that fight scene and this is something I do fairly often if I know that there's a problem with something I will you know ask someone that I know is good at it and to to look at it and give me insight so Grace. This is like it first or second time doesn't matter so she's talking to me about what I can do to improve this site scene. This fight scene. Um, where our heroine actually gets disemboweled I mean yeah, that's gross. But so. Grace starts going into this whole thing about how she's like so you need more of this sensory detail. She said think about the sound of chicken guts hitting the floor and I'm like excuse me and she's like you know that. How it sounds when a pile of chicken guts hits the floor and I'm like Grace darling I don't think I've ever heard chicken guts hitting the floor and she's like you can imagine it! So it's like. Yeah she's like you know and how they smell that smell of the viscera and all of this and I'm like oh my god but so um, we have referred to the chicken guts thing a few times over the years ah
But this was like as she's explaining to me like I should make this one piece more vivid and and actually what she's asking for. Interestingly um I can do it won't take much and I can layer in just a bit more of these. These images that she wants this sensory detail and it's going to feed into this scene. It's really not even a full chapter this scene that agent Sarah is asking for and that um, my other writer friend ah suggested that I put in. Um i. Think I'll be able to get that in there. So um I just thought that was amazing.
The other person who gave me feedback put and so this is a newer writer and I think it's interesting because I was really waffling over the the feedback from my writer friend. Who said that your bestselling author you know who I said that I thought was trying to write it in a way that she would write it. Um, if I were going to change the genre of the book I would take her input. But I'm not going to do that and it's interesting because I mean this is a slower paced book and even grace said if you you know you're going to have people complain. It's immersive. It's it's a it's. You bi there. It's impossible to describe apparently. Um, it's almost a stately pace. It is not a y a fantasy pace. It is not a romantic see pace and so I could change that up. But I'm not going to because that's not what I'm writing in this book and Grace and I had a great conversation about this because it's like you know you have to accept that some readers are going to complain about you know, like this slow pace but it depends on you know, like why are you writing a thing and this is a book that.
Dropped on me from out of the sky and there's a huge part of me I mean it practically wrote itself and I want to honor that I want to honor that this was a gift and not try to make it be something else. Um, sometimes I mean. Yeah, this is why I am you know not working in environmental consulting but writing books because it matters to me what the book is and I don't necessarily want to groom it to market some things I will but not necessarily everything. Um, so anyway. It still gets in your head when you get these feedback from people The newer writer spent a tremendous amount of time and I know she wanted to do a really good job for Me. She's a good Friend. We're going to be exchanging work. She's also come out Of. An intensive workshopping background and I realized she spent a lot of time giving me a lot of feedback and it's interesting because everybody really likes this book you know and she started out by saying I Love this Book. It got me through a really difficult few days all of this and she's like. But that said here are some things you could do and I realized partway through that she was giving me all of this feedback that if I were workshopping an early version of a story would be useful but not really for something that.
Is pretty much done and and it kind of got in my head some and that's it's not in a bad I mean it's not a bad thing I I had to it was an interesting exercise for me because I started thinking about. All the things she suggested I could do with the story that I haven't done and this is the part that doesn't get easier is when you get editorial feedback whether it's crip from friends or what have you you start thinking? Oh you start doubting yourself. And it's really hard not to doubt yourself for your work and that way I'm still coming back to this idea of that I really need to honor this work right? that I don't want to change it up. Um, you know so all of her ideas were good. It was all. None of it was poorly conceived or any of those things but it was not useful for this stage of the story where as someone like Jim or Grace they're able to. 0 in on. Okay here is a completed work. Are there any flaws that are not working for the book as it is now. Um and that's that's a skill I mean I I feel like we all have to be able to do that for each other How do we um.
Tell people how to improve a work or shore up failings in a work without asking the them to fully revise the work. Um, yeah, so skills on both sides of the fence here right? It's not really a fense of the divide of the table. The table is a better analogy. Um, knowing what critique is useful What your vision for the work is knowing that you will never please everybody right? There's always this feeling of you want to ever runa away bestseller that everybody loves. Um, you know it's like well if you want this book to be force wing which is all the buzz right now then you would have to do these things. It's like no, that's not what this book is and um I don't know if I could make this book be that I don't think I could even if I wanted to which I don't.
So that's my rundown. Um, yeah, so probably probably almost certainly no podcast on Friday it's my birthday on Tuesday and I am going to be I'm going to be Ken. And going to beach. Ah all right? You all have a wonderful couple of weeks. However, it is before I come back to go out and do good things and and yeah, give give good feedback receive it with good heart. And I will talk to you? All you all take care bye bye.