Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My Views on Judging and Critiquing by Jaclyn Di Bona

You will be surprised at what you can learn by critiquing and judging someone’s manuscript. Sometimes, you can spot your own mistakes by judging others. You’ll learn that when you enter a contest, you are going to love, or be hurt by what someone says about your baby. Read it over carefully and if you receive two similar critiques then you need to go over your manuscript.

We need to be constructive, not destructive in your critiques. Not everyone does. In one of my first contests, my heart stopped when a judge said she hated my heroine. She found her to be a ‘bitch.’ Her words. How’s that for a stopper? I figured that was because my heroine came across as a woman proud of who she was and what she’d accomplished.

Another said: ‘who wants to read about two forty-year-olds?’ I felt like yelling, “Hey, we over forty are not dead to romance.” I should say not. Especially when we write romance and I read eight to ten romance books a month.

That reminds me. August is around the corner and I need to remind B&N to hold Terry Spear’s new book for me. Seduced By The Wolf. It’ll join her other four.

You need to learn the difference between show and tell. This took me a while and I’m still learning.
Telling: She looked confused as she read the letter.
Showing: Her brows wrinkled as she read the letter.
Author Shirley Jump is great at showing and telling. Check her out.

An editor suggested I go over my manuscript and delete 50% of my passive words. Had, has, have, was, were and the ly adverbs words. Great. I found my story moved faster.
I had one heck of a time with POV until I put my heroine in pink and my hero in blue. Worked like a charm. Especially when the editor said no more than 3 POV in one chapter.

WHEN YOU’RE DONE WITH YOUR BOOK. HERE’S 20 POINTS YOU CAN USE TO DOUBLE CHECK. I FORGOT WHERE I OBTAINED THIS, BUT IT IS GREAT.

1. WILL MY FIRST SCENE GRAB THE READER
2 HAVE I WRITTEN A UNIQUE STORY
3. ARE MY CHARACTERS CONSISTENT IN THEIR ACTIONS
4. ARE THE CHARACTERS 3 DIMENSIONAL? DID THEY GROW WITH THE STORY
5. CAN THE READER IDENTIFY WITH THE HEROINE?
6. HAVE I LET SECONDARY CHARACTERS OVERSHADOW OR DISTRACT FROM THE HERO/HEROINE
7. IS THE CONFLICT TOO EASILY SOLVED? IS THEIR CONFLICT A DRIVING FORCE THROUGHOUT THE BOOK
8. DOES EACH CHARACTER HAVE A DISTINCT VOICE? WHEN THEY SPEAK, DOES THE DIALOGUE MOVE THE STORY.
9. DOES THE PACING OF MY STORY BUILD CONSISTENTLY TOWARD THE CLIMAX AND RESOLUTION? DID I AVOID A SAGGING MIDDLE?
10. DO MY ENDING SCENES TIE UP ALL LOSE ENDS PROPERLY?
11. HAVE I DELETED ALL EXTRANEOUS WORDS LIKE—WERE/WAS, ALMOST, NEARLY, VERY, COULD? ARE ALL UNNECESSARY ADVERBS AND ADJECTIVES GONE?
12. IS EVERY SCENE NECESSARY, OR DID I PAD FOR LENGTH?
13. DID I LET MY RESEARCH SHOW BY TELLING MY READER MORE THAN WAS NECESSARY
NECESSARY FOR MY STORY?
14. IS THERE A GOOD BLEND OF DIALOGUE AND NARRATIVE?
15. ARE MY SENTENCES OR PARAGRAPHS TOO LONG?
16. DID I USE ALL 5 SENSES?
17. DID I PING-PONG POV
18. FOR EVERY ACTION WAS THERE A REACTION?
19. ARE MY LOVE SCENES SENSUAL OR DOES IT READ LIKE A MANUAL?
20. IS THE MANUSCRIPT NEAT AND GRAMMATICALLY CORRECT?
Jaclyn Di Bona

21 comments:

Mona Risk said...

Jaclyn, thank you for a fantastic list that should be very useful for self-editing.

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Hi Jaclyn,

I try to be careful how I word suggestions when I judge a contest, especially after a judge wrote on one of my mss. "Your hero is a jerk." Ouch!

As a judge I want to encourage not discourage.

Thanks for the checklist. :)

Carolyn Hughey said...

Great post, Jaclyn!

I think we've all experienced those less than thoughtful comments from judges. Even though some of them have been "trained", there are those people who just can't help themselves. Being tactful takes thought.

I had a mentor tell me my novel was like a "chocolate chip cookie dough that couldn't be fixed", and shortly after her comment, I had a contract to be published.

This is a good reminder to be kind but helpful when offering your opinion.

Sheila Tenold said...

Great post, Jaclyn!

I recently judged a contest. My heart went out to a new writer. I hoped the other judges would be kind in their criticism. Killing hope is a cruel and thoughtless act.

I'm hopeful she'll study our craft and find herself a winner. She may not final in the next contest, but if her new scores and the judge’s comments reflect her improvement then she’ll see herself in a different light. One that says I can succeed if I’m willing to persevere.

Jill James said...

Jaclyn, great list for editing. So sorry about the judge not liking your heroine.

JACLYN said...

Thanks Mona,

I've kept the list pinned to my computer. I try to use it whenever I'm judging or critiquing. And just self-editing.

Jaclyn

JACLYN said...

Dawn,

Your hero is a jerk." Ouch!

OUCH! is right. When I get a bad negative critique, I look at the judge's credentials. I either take it or shrug with a "what does she know?" :-)I usually go to someone in the group and see what they have to say.

As a judge I want to encourage not discourage. EXCELLENT ATTITUDE.

Jaclyn

Lee Lopez said...

Wow the judge who didn't like your heroine must be the same one who hated my hero, because he wore a cowboy hat. Yep, she marked me down because as she put it, "who wears cowboy hats?" Well, I guess she obviously wasn't from central Cali, or Texas...Another marked me down because my hero had a mustache.. I can go on and on, but get edit ideas.

JACLYN said...

Carolyn,

Being tactful takes thought.
I couldn't agree with you more.
And sometimes ingenuity. :-)

I had a mentor tell me my novel was like a "chocolate chip cookie dough that couldn't be fixed", and shortly after her comment, I had a contract to be published. LOL

Marvelous.

Jaclyn

JACLYN said...

Sheila,

Killing hope is a cruel and thoughtless act. I agree.

I just finished judging a contest and one entry needed a lot of work. I assumed she was new at writing because she made so many mistakes.
I picked out all the correct and unique things in her entry and encouraged her to join a critique group. I mentioned we all went through this at one time or another.
I felt guilty at not being able to give her a higher grade.

I love your, "I can succeed if I’m willing to persevere."

Jaclyn

JACLYN said...

Jill,

Jaclyn, great list for editing.

Thanks, I can't remember where it came from, but I use it as a guide in everything.

So sorry about the judge not liking your heroine.

That's okay. I find it hurts, but you grit your teeth and think, I'll prove her wrong.

A famous author, said to me when I complained, "If you can't stand the heat, get the hell out of the kitchen."
Not everyone will like what you write.

JACLYN

JACLYN said...

LEE,

Wow the judge who didn't like your heroine must be the same one who hated my hero, because he wore a cowboy hat.

You just made my day. I had to laugh about cowboy hats. I wear one and I figured if Diana Palmer, one of my favorite authors, can wear a hat, so can I.

Yep, she marked me down because as she put it, "who wears cowboy hats?"
Tell her to look me up.

Well, I guess she obviously wasn't from central Cali, or Texas...

Another marked me down because my hero had a mustache..

I don't like mustaches either, but I'd never mark someone down because the heroine likes to be tickled while she's being kissed. LOL
We are all differednt. That's what makes the world go round.

Jaclyn

Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde said...

Hi, Jaclyn!! Thanks for wanting Leidolf's story in Seduced by the Wolf! The lettering is silver and the book cover is beautiful!

Great editing tips. I had to laugh at the no cowboy hats...I live in Texas. But the cookie dough comment had me shaking my head. You can always fix chocolate chip cookie dough. Add some more chips! :)

Just take what you can use in critique sessions and ignore the rest is my advice! :)

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

It seems we've all had discouraging comments from judges. What a shame a person doesn't realize the impact they are making on someone's writing career when they are misinformed or cruel. In one contest I had one judge give me a perfect score and another tell me my story was so bad she wouldn't read it if it was the last book on earth. Luckily for me, I have great writing friends who picked me up off the floor and pointed out that the other judge said it was perfect. Doesn't it make you wonder how one story, two judges can be so far apart?!

morgan wyatt said...

I want to read about two forty-somethings in love. It gives me hope.:)

Great post, Jaclyn.

Clarissa Southwick said...

What a great list. I'll have to try it out. Thanks.

JACLYN said...

HI TERRY,

Hi, Jaclyn!! Thanks for wanting Leidolf's story in Seduced by the Wolf! The lettering is silver and the book cover is beautiful!

NO PROBLEM. Book cover maybe beautiful, but it's what you write inside that thrills me. Can't wait to read Seduced by the Wolf. I want it autographed, so it'll go along with the other 4 on my shelf.

Great editing tips. Thanks.

Add some more chips! :) Yup! The more the better. Yum...

Jaclyn

JACLYN said...

Paisley,

What a shame a person doesn't realize the impact on someone's writing career when they are misinformed or cruel.
Oh, right you are!

Luckily for me, I have great writing friends who picked me up off the floor... LOL
and pointed out that the other judge said it was perfect.

Doesn't it make you wonder how one story, two judges can be so far apart?!

That's what happened to me. One loved it the other called my heroine a bitch. In my Autumn Love. Two strong willed 40 year olds. I wrote it with my husband in mind. He's an alpha male through and through. Drives me nuts at times and it was fun writing my heroine being the alpha female.

Jaclyn

JACLYN said...

Morgan,

Never lose hope. As my mother used to say: "It darkest before the dawn."

Great post, Jaclyn.

You're welcome. You're doing great on your WIP. Keep up the good work.

Jaclyn

JACLYN said...

Clarissa,

What a great list. I'll have to try it out. Thanks

You're welcome. If you enter a contest, you'll find that the score sheets run along the same line.

Jaclyn

Joanne said...

Jaclyn,
Your list was very helpful. I always try to be kind and encouraging when judging manuscripts. Great post!