One of the best parts of getting stories accepted in anthologies is the fact that you get to meet new people. Because our contributions to "Fright before Christmas," I got to meet Ty Drago, the awesome author of "The Undertaker" series, the super fun and freaky MG zombie series. Not only did he share some of his thoughts on my latest MG horror concept, he invited me to "audition" as associate editor for the eZine he runs. And I passed!
Allegory eZine, a bi-annual magazine for Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and (my favorite) horror. And until June 30th, SUBMISSIONS are OPEN for Volume 30, scheduled for publication in November.
Here's the lineup of other authors who serve on Allegory's editorial board.
TyDrago Managing Editor/Publisher
J.E. Taylor Senior Editor
Julia Nolan Senior Editor
Loretta Giacoletto Associate Editor
Jackie Kessler Associate Editor
Christine Breller Associate Editor
James Miller Associate Editor
Kelly Ferjutz Proofreader
Happy June, everyone! I must send a HUGE thanks to Amber Gregg for continuing to host my It's a Writer Thing series on her incredible blog, "Judging More than Just The Cover."
I’ve been very much looking forward to writing this next post in my It’s a Writer Thing series on feedback. In the first, I wrote about general considerations for receiving feedback, and in the second, I discussed types of feedback.
This time, I’ll be talking about critique partners. As we know, one of our biggest sources of input comes from our critique partners, or CPs. These are trusted friends or colleagues who we give our babies to and hope they’ll thoroughly, but gently, tell us how our darling is flawed. Not an easy role, for sure. When we’re on the receiving end, it can be challenging—like find me a big old bucket cause I may be at risk for emesis challenging—but we’ve already discussed why this is an important process, and we’re strong--right?—so we can get through it.
So, we wrote a story, and we braved feedback from our CP or from multiple CPs, which is even better, therefore, we must be good to go and start submitting or querying. Right?
It turns out, it pays to be strategic about the people we solicit critiques from. Having only one kind of CP can result in feedback that is one-sided or not broad enough. We can suffer from too much here’s-what-you-need-to-do-differently and not enough here’s-what-I-loved. We may get only line edits or suggestions about tightening our prose, but nothing on overarching plot problems. We may get a perspective that is too focused on action and not enough on emotion.
See my point?
Finding good CPs can be a challenge, but actually, if we consider that there are many types of CPs, we can learn to think about how each individual’s input fills an important niche for us. These are the various styles of CPs I’ve encountered in my writing, so far.
The Lover: Ah, the Lover. This is the person who basically hands the MS back and is like: I made a few suggestions, but I pretty much loved it, and it’s awesome, and you’re awesome. PROS: We all need a Lover in our lives; they help us keep sight of our strengths and what’s working in our MS. Lovers can be very hard to find; the whole point of CPs is to find someone to help you make your story better, so what do critique partners do? They critique. If you find yourself a Lover, don’t let him or her go. They’re a rare breed. CONS: The Lover does little to push us toward improvement, and seeking feedback only from Lovers can set us up for failure (i.e., rejection) if there are too many problems in our MS.
The Interrogator: The Interrogator doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about your story, but simply throws a bunch of questions in the margins for you to mull over. Maybe these are things they were confused about (and if one reader has a question, there’s a good chance others will too) or things that seem to be missing. They might want to know more about a character’s emotional/behavioral reactions or what the setting looks like. PROS: Interrogators help us think more deeply about our stories, and they often help
us transcribe more of what is in our heads onto the page. CONS: Interrogators may inspire us to delve too deeply in ways that could result in our veering from the main course of our story, maybe digging into too many details in a spot where keeping the pace tight would work better. They may also get us questioning our choices, so it’s important to remember that just because a question was raised, it doesn’t mean we need to change our MS to address it. Not every time, at least.
The Big Picture Thinker: The Big Picture Thinker (BPT) sees plot threads, character arcs, and themes. They’re good at stepping back and considering our stories from a broad perspective. They’re the most likely to really comment on the overall experience of delving into this WIP. PROS: The BPT can help us see threads that tie various plot lines together, which when strengthened, can add new depth to our WIP. They can tell us where large, important pieces of the plot are missing. Forget to resolve a loose end, the BPT will notice. CONS: The BPT may not be the best at looking at the nitpicky details or helping us with our prose.
The Nit-picker: The detail-oriented Nit-picker bring the most sensitive magnifying glass to our WIP. They’ll be likely to question small details within our scenarios, facts, and are likely to supply every missing comma we omitted. PROS: Did we make a mistake about the exact location of St. Maarten in relationship to Anguilla? The Nit-Picker will tell us. Did our MC start the car before she actually got in it? The Nit-Picker will catch it. Did we put a double period at the end of the third paragraph on page 162? You get the picture. CONS: They may miss the larger, over-arching themes and plot. More subtleties may be overlooked by these folks. In other words, they’re so focused on the trees, they forget they’re in the forest.
The Narcissist: The Narcissist is a bane to the developing writer. There are no PROS to speak of. The Narcissist will turn any feedback session into a chance to reassure themselves of
why they’re so great. They’ll talk about plotting tools you’ve never heard of and that nobody uses. Like a Nit-picker, they may zero in on a particular detail of your story, but not to make sure you fix a problem; it will be to highlight your ignorance. You’ll know you’re talking to a Narcissist when you are able to extract very little actionable feedback and find the discussion going on forever, long past the time when you could listen without wanting to stab yourself in the ears with your red marker. Also, you may want to cry.
is more of a critical type or doesn’t support your writing goals, find your “Mom” via some other close personal connection. A dad can be just as great a CP as a mom, or maybe your sibling, second cousin, or BFF from childhood.
Not only are these categories useful as we consider which CPs to ask for feedback from, they’re also good for our own self-analysis. When it’s our turn to give the critique, we can use these to figure out what kind of CP we are and share that with our writer friends so they can determine whether our feedback will be useful to them at that particular time for that particular story.
Thank you for being with me for this third installment of my series on feedback. Next time, I’ll cover my own process for receiving constructive input in a simple, easy-to-follow set of steps you can begin to use immediately. It will keep you from doing unhelpful things like tear your hair out, hide in a dark closet for obscene amounts of time, and, most importantly, it can help you not give up on your writing (that’s what it’s done for me, at least).
Until then, You can do it. You can write!
Jessica Bayliss Blogs about reading, writing, & other fun stuff