Thursday, June 18, 2015

How To Strengthen Your Writing By Reading Your Competitions' Reviews

There are numerous ways one can learn the art of writing and publishing a successful novel. Whether your working on your debut or you've been multi-published, workshops, online classes, webinars, reading the bestsellers, and the list of helpful information could go on forever. My favorite and most enlightening resource is to read the reviews of topics similar to the one I've written. The best reviews to read are the one stars.

First, know your genre. I write both Women's Fiction and memoir. When I feel my manuscript is ready for querying, I research the market for published books that are similar to mine. Especially those that made the Bestseller lists. If you write non-fiction, you'll be asked to supply this information as part of your proposal. Check out the reviews on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and Goodreads. 

Below are some statements I've gathered concerning stories of abuse, both in fiction and memoir.

"This couldn't have happened."  
It's your job as a writer to make your story--memoir or fiction--as real as you can. Read through your manuscript. Are there areas where you can slip in facts that prove this sort of abuse did happen, and still happens today in real life?

"The author is just looking for sympathy."  
This comment almost always applies to memoir no matter what the subject matter is. But as the author, it is my job to make sure I'm not playing the pity card.

"This this type of book should include how the author overcame his or her history, not just a diary of wallowing in it."  
It's my job to make sure I include where the main character is now because of what he or she went through. To find the positives of what they learned. That doesn't mean it should always have a happy ending, but it should have a finished ending. One the reader can feel a part of. Like he or she's in therapy. He or she's happy, married, and has children.

"If this was true, why weren't the abuser's arrested." 
In my memoir, this has a high priority for me. It's my job to show why my abusers weren't arrested and why the county took no legal action. If you're referring to a memoir, this needs to be answered. If fiction, this needs to be answered. Anything that happens in real life must also be mentioned in fiction.

"I don't believe a word he/she wrote." 
I have to accept that not every reader is going to believe my story. My story isn't for everyone. It's for the ones who've lived my story in one way or another. Even a grandmother or other family members are affected by what happens to their relatives or family friends. My job is to tell my truths. Leave the nay sayers alone. No matter what book you write, fact or fiction, you will always find those one star reviews on your work. Don't take it to heart.

"Children and teens shouldn't be allowed to read this." 
The most recent book I read was being used in school for teaching purposes. It's not my job to dictate who should or shouldn't read my stories. Honestly, younger children should not read my current story. Teens are fine, especially if they're living in an abusive home or foster home.

"This can't happen in today's world."  
Nobody wants to believe the cruelty that some adults commit against children, but it happens. Parents sexually abuse their sons and daughters, foster parents from Hell do exist in our world today, and divorcing moms and dads use their children to gain financial gains. It's my job to make sure the reader walks away believing that yes, it can and does still happen today.
"Why didn't the school stop it?"  
Again, fact or fiction, it's my job to make sure I tell the reader everything my main character, teachers, or friends did on his or her behalf to try to help. Sometimes social workers don't believe the children. 

It can be quite depressing to read the negative reviews. But it's impossible to please everyone, no matter what your subject matter is about. Some topics will always be tougher than others. Child abuse is one of the hardest to cover. People don't want to believe it happens. It's not your job to change the reader's mind. It is your job to make sure you're factual even in fiction. 
Once you've read the one stars, make yourself feel better by reading some five stars. Study what reviewers liked about the story and why. Then go back into your story and make sure you are doing everything you can to ensure a fast-paced, character-driven, plot loaded, emotional read.

What tips have you learned to strengthen your writing?

Saturday, June 6, 2015


I participated in a literary pitch contest on Twitter this past Thursday called #Pitmad. For those of you who've never imagined the idea of pitching a manuscript in 140 characters, let me tell you that it's both challenging and exciting.

Writers struggle with writing a 300 word query letter, then the one-page synopsis. Thanks to Brenda Drake's innovated idea, writers can now shrink their 300 page manuscript down to about 25 words. Yes, it's intimidating, but if you know your story well, not only will it help you on Twitter, but also for your query and synopsis.

Composing the #Pitmad pitches made me think about my current project. Really think, not just on the surface level, but what the real story is. What the main focus should be. What story do I really want to tell? Women's Fiction focuses on the emotional journey. The character arc and how she goes from point A to point Z.

"After trusting the wrong parent, a woman held hostage by her past must right her wrongs and fight for the neighbor kids' safety.

My main character Lanae was put up for adoption when she was nine years old. Never adopted, she aged out of the system and suffered through horrible traumas and abuses. When she learns that a neighbor left her (husband and) children for three months before returning, Lanae falls apart and must finally face her past. The heart of the story is Lanae's battle within herself.

Can you narrow your entire story down to 25 words? I challenge you to give it a try. Make sure you leave room for #pitmad and your genre (#WF) in the pitch. Concentrate on the center of your story. Who's your main character? What does he/she want? What's at stake if he/she fails? Share your examples in the comments.