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Saturday, August 11, 2007

I tear because I care

I should be working on my book, but I heard from one of my crit partners today and I wanted to speak a little about the strength of a good review.

I don't mince words---or I try not to anyway. I don't think that helps people when you sugar coat your review. Writing is hard enough, but if you're not honest, not clear about what worked and what didn't, you waste the time of the person who submitted his work, purposely leading him down the wrong (rose-colored) path.

Don't do that to people. If they are serious about getting published they deserve the truth. If they can't handle the truth that's a different problem. I'm talking about writers who are chomping at the bit to excel at their craft.

One of my all time favorite reviewers used to preface each of her reviews to me with, "I tear because I care." That always softened the blow just before she tore me a new one. LOL…I always needed a day to recover from her crits. But holy moley, she knew her stuff. To this day, I try to follow her example.

I won't review just anyone. They have to be serious writers who won't wilt every time someone points out a flaw in their stories. I'm not going to mother you and let you cry on my shoulder.

On the flip side, I will answer your follow-up questions and brainstorm with you until the cows learn to play accordion. If I go through the trouble of reviewing, you have me for the life of that story.

I know I am a good reviewer. People (sometimes total strangers) seek me out on a regular basis because they'd seen my review on some board or someone else told them about me. Because of time constraints, I have to limit who I review. My regular partners take priority. But I have friends too who need an occasional virgin eye and I will read their stuff if I have a spare couple of hours.

I've been very lucky in that I've had some incredible reviewers show me the ropes. And the only way to become a good reviewer is to review often and with an analytical eye. Play devil's advocate. Show the author not only what he missed, but what he could try.

Remember that the reviewer plays one very important role. He gets to see all your mistakes before an agent does. When you find someone that good, never let him go. I can't tell you how many times my reviewers have saved my bacon.

They are gold.

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