Learn how to enjoy having your work critiqued by Sherry denBoer

via Sherry denBoer Author

Learn how to enjoy having your creative work critiqued might sound like an impossible assignment, but, in my experience, releasing the dislike or fear is about mindset.

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog post, the value of creating relationships with critique partners, I remember the jitters that came when first handing off a manuscript for critique.

Like most things precious to us, we don’t want to have our work dissected, altered, and criticized. We want it to remain whole, unchanged, and pleasing just as it is. And sometimes, we believe that our creation reflects us; so, critique it, and you critique us. We don’t enjoy hearing about the parts of our creation, and thus about us, the creator, that might need improvement.

But why are we so fragile about this? I can only speak for myself. Maybe you can relate.

When I first received a critique of the first draft of my manuscript, the many red markings in the margin (or wherever they fit) rose from the page like warning signals of personal failure. Even when I told myself I’d be okay with whatever came back to me, those pages of red markings were difficult to digest… at first. The next day, after I’d slept on the comments, interestingly, I felt differently about them. One or two of the comments immediately stood out; their improvement to my work was undeniable. If one or two comments made that much of a positive difference, what might all the rest do?

And just like that, I transformed from a wounded ego to an eager creator once more-more excited about my project than ever.

Instead of fearing failure or personal judgment, I experienced renewed excitement about my manuscript, and deep gratitude for the person who’d taken the time to read it, and the care to comment so generously.

My mindset had changed. The critique experience became thoroughly positive; it became a lesson in which I quickly found great value. I was now excited to contemplate and evaluate each thought or suggestion given to me. I moved through each comment with care and consideration. For each critique provided, one of the following occurred:

  • I accepted a critique suggestion outright;
  • I used the clear misunderstanding of a critique remark to change a manuscript description, plot element, character intention, word choice, or another such manuscript-related component. Each change brought a noticeable improvement;
  • Each change brought a noticeable improvement. I reworked a critique to better suit the intention of my manuscript;
  • I altogether discarded a critique.

Sometimes, well… I’d say, most of the time, we’re too close to our work to see objectively where it needs improvement.

Here are a few examples of errors or omissions we can too easily miss:

  • Words that don’t convey the meaning we intend;
  • Improper use of pronouns;
  • Improper use of tense;
  • Repetition of phrases or words or overused expressions;
  • Use of clichés;
  • Misspelled words;
  • Holes or gaps; the missing bridges that connect the plot or scene structure;
  • Creation of a character who lacks depth or isn’t relatable to the reader;
  • Inconsistencies in the timeline or other details.

In time, handing a manuscript or some other heartfelt creation over to a peer for critique becomes easier. We,

  • Move past worrying about being judged and get back to the business of producing the best creation we can;
  • We see the remarkable value in each critique—even the critiques that at first seem too heavy-handed or harsh;
  • Each remark becomes a path to improvement of creation and craft.

To enjoy having your creative work critiqued might sound like an impossible assignment, but, in my experience, releasing the dislike or fear is about mindset.

This is a guest post by Sherry denBoer and you can read the original version here.

You can also find Sherry on Twitter.

If you would like to publish a guest post on here then please do reach out.

5 Great Author Tools Worth Trying At Least Once by Savannah Cordova

Great writers deserve worthy tools — and if you want to publish a book, you’re going to need a lot more than just pen and paper! Luckily, there’s an author tool out there for every step of the publishing process, from organizing your initial ideas to formatting your final product.

This list avoids the obvious word processors like Google Docs and Microsoft Word, instead focusing on author tools that fit into more specific niches. They’re all either free or offer free trials, so you can test each one and decide which tools work best for you!

1. Plottr

First on my list is a fantastic tool to help you jump-start your story. Plottr, as the name suggests, allows you to plot and organize your work in detail. You can chart character arcs and subplots scene-by-scene, with color-coded lines for easy visual comparison. Additionally, you can create separate notes for character traits, settings, and more. And if you’re not sure where to start, Plottr also offers over a dozen reliable story structure templates to help!

Pricing: Free trial for 30 days, yearly subscriptions ranging $25 to $65 (depending on the number of devices you use).

Lay out characters’ individual arcs with color-coded threads, referring to the upper-hand
chapter headings to keep track of when each plot point occurs. (via Plottr)

2. Evernote

Evernote is another excellent tool to help you stay organized. Gone are the days of messy drafts and random thoughts crowding up your phone’s notes app — with features like to-do lists, PDFs, and voice notes, Evernote will lend structure to your thoughts for optimal organization and productivity. You can even sync your notes across devices so you’ve got your best-selling ideas with you at all times! It’s not just for writers, either; whether you’re jotting down a grocery list or brainstorming for a book, Evernote will ensure you never lose the plot.

Pricing: Free basic plan, $7.99/month for the Personal plan, $9.99 for the Professional plan.

3. Reedsy Book Editor

The Reedsy Book Editor is a free online production tool which formats your book as you write, producing a ready-to-print PDF (or an EPUB if you’re writing an ebook). With built-in goal reminders and the ability to work collaboratively with an editor, the RBE will help you stay on top of your writing schedule and keep all your work in one place. It’s the perfect author tool to try out if you’re looking for a clean, distraction-free interface to solve all your formatting woes.

Pricing: Free with email signup.

Formatyour book with chapter headings, an auto-generated table of contents,
and even front and back matter for when you publish. (via Reedsy Book Editor)

4. Grammarly

Before you find an editor, you’ll want your manuscript to be as polished as possible — otherwise you’ll end up paying for edits you could have done yourself. Grammarly is just the tool you need to nip these errors in the bud. Not only will it check your spelling and grammar, but the Premium version also gives tips on style, tone, and clarity. All this should make your self-edit go much more smoothly — and like Evernote, you can use Grammarly across devices and purposes, for everything from your personal manuscript to work emails.

Pricing: Free basic plan, $12/month for Premium plan.

5. Cold Turkey

Finally, if you’re easily distracted and need a little external discipline to help you focus (don’t we all sometimes?), Cold Turkey is your new best friend. It lets you block different websites and apps when you want to stay focused; this could be just Twitter, or the entire internet. Compared to similar tools, Cold Turkey makes it much harder for you to stop the block once you turn it on, so you’ll be forced to stay on task — which is honestly a godsend on days when you have to write, but feel like you’d rather do anything else.

Pricing: Free basic plan, $39 for lifetime Blocker Pro.

Cold Turkey also provides stats on which websites and apps you use the most,
so you know which platforms are most important to block. (via Cold Turkey)

Remember, there’s nothing wrong with needing a little help with your creative process. With these varied new additions to your toolkit, you’ll be one step closer to finishing — and publishing! — your next amazing book.


Savannah Cordova is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects self-publishing authors with the world’s best resources and professionals. In her spare time, Savannah enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories.

Featured Image via: by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Is Goodreads Any Good for Authors?

The title of this post alone will probably stir some level of reaction from those in the online publishing world and I think its time we talked about Goodreads in detail. I am very much aware that Goodreads is aimed at readers and the platform may be a polarizing topic for debate but we’re going to look through that and try to decipher whether or not its actually beneficial for the modern day author…

Disclaimer:

Much like it says in the title I will state here that this post is aimed at authors, and yes I am aware readers use Goodreads much like I do as a reader. This post is also my opinion from experience of many years as both an author and reader. Those who wish to defend Goodreads as a reader, take it elsewhere because this one is for authors and I have nothing against any reader who uses Goodreads. This post is also just my opinion which doesn’t need to be taken seriously if it upsets you in anyway. I cannot and do not wish to control how you feel so my advice is if you feel so strongly about defending Goodreads then like most things on the Internet, then scroll on by and don’t read this post.

My reasoning behind this post?

Over the many years I have spent active on social media there have been only a few occasions where I got myself into an argument that led to a toxic situation. One of them funnily enough started with me venting about Goodreads and then someone had to use capital letters in a reply to inform me Goodreads was for READERS and not authors. Arguments went back and fourth. People got unfollowed and notifications were turned off in result. I think at one point I was accused of being aggressive – Twitter right? I’m also pretty sure somebody even gave one of my books a one star rating over on Goodreads because of this argument. So of course these days I tend to stay right in the middle and don’t really tweet about anything polarising – I often see folks complain about getting into arguments on the Twitter. My advice: try not to tweet about stuff that will spark heavy debate or passionate opinion…

Very recently I saw on another platform a rather high profile indie author said they no longer look at Goodreads for the sake of their mental health and so it got me thinking. Then my bloggy sense started tingling because we need to talk about it. Truthfully, there are so many authors who live in fear of being ‘review bombed’ on Goodreads I think it’s worth addressing. What is review bombing? Well it’s a term that comes from an angry mob forming online who band together and give an author’s works low ratings on Goodreads – yes this happens and it sometimes goes unnoticed by the platform, or so I have heard. When you publish a book, you essentially build yourself a glass house that will forever be vulnerable. For some this might be a revelation but it is something I now live with, it’s common knowledge that some folks will stoop to responding to me by just rating my book with a single star. This happens to many authors all the time.

What is Goodreads?

I always like to include those of the beginner persuasion in these things and well if you are new to authoring and the online book world you’ll eventually come across Goodreads which is basically the Facebook for books online. To me, it’s a little clunkier and outdated but you can compare it to FB in essence. Authors can list their works, create profiles and even join some groups which over the years I have found quite useful – especially the indie author ones and this is probably the most social part of the platform.

For the reader side of things and probably what the site is more suitable for, you can leave reviews and probably the most important tool for me as a reader/reviewer is the ability to create a ‘to be read’ list (TBR). This way I can track what I have said I would read and review – now this falls down if a newbie author hasn’t listed their work. Top Tip: Even if you never use Goodreads again, list your works so readers and reviewers like me can find them and then remember to read them.

Slipping from my control: My Goodreads Experience

Another disclaimer:

As mentioned above, this account contains my opinion. I’ll happily admit it might not be ‘right’.

Apart from using Goodreads to track my reading/reviewing endeavours a once bright eyed indie author (me) jumped into the foray of the platform and listed his books. Now for a beginner author, Goodreads feels good. You’ve listed your books and maybe a few folks have even reviewed them. Because its normally close friends and supporters the ratings of your works will probably be quite high, to begin with. Happy days. But then things will start to slip away…

I suppose all books go through this, but after some time a book’s rating will start to go down as it picks up more reviews. And so sometimes after a big book promo I’ll see the rating of my book tank along with my mental health. Now who’s leaving all of these low ratings? Well they are not always low but the way the rating system works always seems to be against good ratings. After some years my books ratings slipped from my control even though after publication they aren’t really mine anyway. Recently I made a pact with myself to not really care about the overall rating of my book’s on Goodreads. This was a mental health driven decision. And yes I know that reviews are going to happen, I have no problem with that.

There appears to be a culture beneath the surface of Goodreads where readers can just torpedo a book with one star, even without explanation. These ratings don’t require proof of purchase and normally aren’t even moderated by the site, not to mention they help nobody. Many times I have seen authors campaign to have an abusive review taken down – you’d think they would automatically be flagged these days – as I said, outdated and also a hot bed for potential toxicity in my opinion. Let the dumpster fire burn…

This isn’t just me venting about receiving low ratings or taking shots at Goodreads because in all honesty I don’t have that many, but from my experience the whole one star torpedoing is real and I can even correlate some I’ve received to every time I have shared my honest opinion online… joke, or is it? If you really want some heavy opinion on Goodreads then all you have to do is Google it and you’ll see.

Personally and my own conclusion is that Goodreads shouldn’t be taken that seriously for authors if it stays how it is. How can we if it isn’t basically made to be troll free or at least effort is put in to do that? It is linked to Amazon so I don’t think the whole verified purchase eligibility to leave a review concept would be that hard to set up. That kind of falls down with books that are inherited or gifted so options are thin. Its become a little bit like the wild west in that respect and so if its going to be like that then I can’t take it seriously. For the sake of my mental health, I hardly look into detail at my book’s reviews on the platform, that’s what Amazon is for. (yes I know Amazon are involved with GR’s ownership)

There is however a silver lining to this because I do use Goodreads in a social capacity. The groups can be very helpful for both authors and readers. I tend to lurk mainly in the ‘Support for Indie Authors’ group which boasts several thousand members and is a message board that covers so much from basic book formatting to book promotion. There are other like minded authors out there and the groups are a good way to find them. The support level in these groups is beyond fantastic and really a credit to the platform.

Asking the wider community…

Seeing as I have an engaged responsive Twitter following full of authors I decided to take the plunge and just ask them what they think of Goodreads as a platform for Authors. The response I got was actually a little unexpected because at first nobody said anything…

Now my tweets always stir some responses but when it came to the subject of Goodreads, nothing. This is an immediate red flag because although some authors did eventually respond it says way more than I needed to know – authors are most likely hesitant to give their opinion of Goodreads in fear there will be repercussions that will negatively effect their work’s rating. Is this the modern book world we live in? Its kind of worrying and sobering but probably the true reality of how potentially toxic things can get on social media. (Remember this blog post is an exploration and my opinion, I’m not taking shots at Goodreads in any capacity).

I did however receive a number of private messages from fellow authors requesting not to be named. Their experiences were all similar and all of them mentioned the one star review thing so they would rather talk to me privately which I respect. We are all trying to maintain an image online after all. Some authors mentioned bullying, tactical reviewing so a reviewer can climb the ratings, books receiving bad reviews before release and even abuse. A major point that all of these authors mentioned also was the lack of response or action Goodreads took on certain issues. The site in my opinion appears rather unregulated and in the 21st century something that probably needs looking at.

So my tweeting efforts weren’t a success but that didn’t stop me from using the search bar to find some more author related experiences. I have opted not to include twitter handles to protect authors from any potential repercussions.

As you can see it’s polarising and of course mentions the reading experience side of things which the platform is aimed at but you can see the whole troll review thing is a problem.

Conclusion

From everything laid out I think we can at least try and put together some concluding points that authors tend to have in common. Is Goodreads any good for authors? Well here are my findings in bullet points.

  • It’s a good idea for authors to list their books on the Goodreads even if you don’t actively use it. At least that way readers can put them on their lists.
  • Goodreads would be a much better place for authors and readers if everyone was transparent about the review bomb thing – these one star review bombs help nobody and yes I know readers are entitled to their opinion but manners comes to mind.
  • That one star review bomb thing is a glaring problem but partly a mob culture that is external to Goodreads so they are not fully responsible but should at least acknowledge it.
  • Furthermore, Goodreads would benefit from introducing a review system where people have to write a sentence or two as opposed to ‘hitting and running’ because these type of empty ratings help nobody.
  • Some of the author groups contain some real value and resources that can’t be found anywhere else.
  • Goodreads can just be used as a reader only platform which I tend to do these days.
  • If you are going to use it as an author be prepared for ratings to slip potentially.

My humble opinion doesn’t really matter but it’s obvious to see authors mentioning the same issues so perhaps a little modernisation of the platform is required. As I’m writing this, today is the first day I’ve decided to no longer check my book’s ratings on the platform. They only seem to get lower – that’s my experience anyway. As a reader I will continue using the platform to post reviews and list books I want to read. My primary take away is for authors to just remove themselves from something if isn’t beneficial but if you do enjoy the platform as an author then go for it.

Everything laid out stands as a lesson for anyone potentially looking to get themselves on Goodreads and most of what I’ve said is based upon my own experience and some opinion. But what’s next, can authors go to another similar platform that might feel a little easier to use and feel fresher on the whole?

Going elsewhere

The wonderful thing about the internet is variety and even in the book world which is seemingly monopolised by Goodreads. There is another awesome platform I use. BookBub, they have own site that’s fresh and personally I think its a decent space for authors. You can review books and connect with others. Check out my profile and if you are an author get yourself a profile and list your books on there. At least that way if they are listed on the site you can then apply for a featured deal – the book promotion holy grail – more on that here.

Final Thought

Overall Goodreads is a subject many authors tend to tread lightly on and I might be risking some incoming hatred but remember this post is just my opinion and not an attempt to shutdown the site or anyone who has left a low rating for a book. Goodreads does have a place in online authoring and probably will for a long time. If you do leave a comment reminding me that Goodreads is for readers then I will probably just ignore it.

I know reviews are just opinions and there isn’t much I can do about that. If you do have any grievances then do please leave them in the comments and not through rating my books on Goodreads.

So finally, what do you think of Goodreads for Authors? (and don’t tell me the site is for readers because I know that seriously…)

Thanks for stopping by.