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Ask Editor Alison #20 (right in here!)

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Ask Editor Alison #20 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Tue Sep 04, 2012 10:16 am

It's September, my favorite month! Why, you might ask?

  • It's that time that transitions to jacket weather in the North East (where I'm from), and jacket weather is my favorite weather.

  • It's my birthday month. (Though I don't hold with those who think you get to celebrate for a whole month. That's just not fair.)

  • It's another month to chat with my favorite WriteOn teens!


I can't believe this is the 20th session! So come at me with your best questions about writing, books, the publishing world, or anything else you might want to ask. I can't wait to try to answer 'em.
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Re: Ask Editor Alison #20 (right in here!)

Post  Rachel on Thu Sep 06, 2012 10:44 pm

Hi Editor Alison! *waves* Sorry I've not been here yet; the semester is eating my face and WIP all at once.

Basically, I want to ask a question about voice and critique-rs. Specifically, what does one do when receiving a critique that seems to take issue with one's style more than anything else, and how can one avoid a situation like that? This has presented itself as a problem recently, so I'm thinking my way around it a bit.

Also, I have a September birthday as well. Write On! group birthday party? We could have digital cake.

Thanks for sticking around with us these 20 sessions! You're absolutely invaluable. I can't thank you enough. I love you

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Re: Ask Editor Alison #20 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Fri Sep 07, 2012 11:19 pm

Rachel - I might be slow on my answer, but I'm here!

I think you're questions a really interesting one. If someone doesn't like your style, what are you to do? It's terribly hard to change style. So some preliminary questions to think about: Is it really the style, or some more specific more technical aspect? Like, are you using lots of short, snappy vignettes that jump from aspect to aspect when the critiquer thinks something more fluid would better serve your narrative? Or is it the way you've chosen to approach your narration? Sometimes, when someone says it's a style thing, it's actually something that's more concrete, and when you can id the ACTUAL problem, you can come up with ways to solve it.

But if it's really a style problem your reader is having, that's not something that's easy to fix without undergoing a total overhaul. And I suspect that that's not really where you want to be going right now.

I think one thing that it's really easy to forget is that not every book is going to be right for every reader. And there's nothing wrong with that. For instance, I have trouble with memoirs, and with books that try to take a memoir framework. Something about them just irks me.


One thing that your critiquer may need to consider is that even though this is not a style they particularly like, can they help you see where the more technical problems arise? I may not LIKE memoir, but I can still step back and ID that the narrative structure may need adjusting or there's an abundance of description that isn't focusing to serve the point.

Is any of that helpful?
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Re: Ask Editor Alison #20 (right in here!)

Post  Rachel on Sat Sep 08, 2012 9:34 am

It does, thank you! I was...highly conflicted. On one hand, said critique (which wasn't from anyone around these parts, just for the record) actually did help me with certain aspects of the piece, even though the critiquer's particular comments focused more on my style than anything else. I think that it may be that this particular critiquer and I simply had too different likes/dislikes in terms of narrative style even in terms of reading choice, and so it bled over into the critique.

Anyway, yes—thank you very much! It's very helpful.

On a similar note...how ought a soon-to-query writer use comp titles? I'm nowhere close to needing comparisons, but I've thought about it in passing, and it seems very challenging to strike the right balance. It seems like it'd be easy to come off as saying, "My dystopian is the next Hunger Games!" when all you really mean is, "Fans of the Hunger Games might like Dystopic Story." (just an example—my WIP is not dystopian at all) What's a writer to do?

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Re: Ask Editor Alison #20 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Sat Sep 08, 2012 11:32 am

As and editor, I have to comp books ALL THE TIME, and it can be a very tricky business. The trick is to get the right balance to make your book aspire without overselling.

Rule 1: Don't go anywhere near the mega books. I have yet to read a pitch that says "It's the next Hunger Games or Harry Potter" and actually felt that I got what was promised. It makes me skeptical from the start.

What I find really works is the "X meets Y" formula. Think of books (or even movies) that have elements of your novel and merge them together. Egmont has a middle grade that we called "The Adams Family meets Cheaper by the Dozen."

Sometimes I think using an age element to something familiar also works. I think of The Luxe series as a teenage Edith Wharton (or, in the above scenario, Edith Wharton meets Gossip Girl). Lex Thomas's Quarantine is a teenage Lord of the Flies.

But, if I can be a little preachy, good comping comes from knowing what's out there. Another reason you need to read, read, read.
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Re: Ask Editor Alison #20 (right in here!)

Post  Rachel on Sat Sep 08, 2012 3:42 pm

Makes perfect sense—awesome. Thanks so much! Smile

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