Thursday, December 6, 2007

Critiqual Importance with Anna Campbell and Annie West

Annie West and I met at my first RWAustralia conference in 2001. Our friendship started with her telling me off... Hmm, what’s changed?

I’d bought her first book. It was unread under the bed and I was silly enough to tell her that. The first thing I did when I went home was root out Strictly Business. It was fantastic. Her writing’s just got more fantastic since!

This is a picture of Annie (far left) and me (right), with the fabulous Amy Andrews aka Downundergirl as the rose between us!

We started casual emails which morphed into daily emails which morphed into catching up in person. Somewhere, we summoned courage to swap work, but friendship definitely preceded critiquing. We trusted each other as people before exposing ourselves as writers.

Since then, Annie has made a real splash with her Harlequin Presents/Sexy/Modern books. She writes a sheikh like nobody else, and her Greeks are breathtaking, not to mention the wonderful Ronan, hero of her 2006 debut, A Mistress For The Taking.

Anna, I'm blushing. Such unadulterated praise! Don't get me wrong - when Anna likes my work she says so (one reason I love her!) but neither does she hold back pointing out where things need improving.

To give my perspective of that first meeting. I was surrounded by romance writers, all of whom, I had no doubt were cleverer, more professional, etc, than me. I got into conversation with this enthusiastic, knowledgable, fun woman who announced she'd had my book 'under the bed' for a year. I got that horrible shrinking feeling in my stomach - this was my FIRST book. My first impulse was to tell her not to read it, then scurry away. But I was trying to convince myself I was professional so I smiled (or maybe grimaced) and told her she ought to read it. For some reason that impressed her.

I remember the first time Anna let me read her work. I fervently hoped I'd connect with it, as I had with her descriptions of characters and plots. It was wonderful to discover Anna wrote just the sort of historicals I wanted to read. Oh, that Christian - long dark hair, flashing eyes, warrior build, unbreakable sense of honor and such passion! The heat just smoked off him. Maybe one day he'll be let loose on the buying public.

I loved reading Anna's lush descriptions, intense emotional tangles and satisfying happily ever afters. Her Regency comedies are wonderful even though she's made her publication mark with intense, passionate, 'darker' stories. Anna delved deep with Claiming The Courtesan and again with Untouched, both of which were incredibly difficult for me - I wanted to read, not critique. The good news was two-fold. Firstly, we were on the same wavelength and I noticed things that helped her polish. Secondly, reading her work, how she'd put it together and where she was improving, my own writing became more focused. On top of that, Anna has a keen eye for pacing and emotional intensity that helped me lift my game enormously.

Anna, how would you describe our process?

Do we have one? Actually we're finding a new way of working as it sinks in how pressured life is as published writers. Poor Annie used to suffer through at least three versions of my books as well as numerous bits with desperate "Is this all right?" notes attached. With my third book, Tempt The Devil, Annie saw an interim version six weeks before deadline. I then chained myself to the computer and gave up chocolate (sadly, that last bit is an outright lie!) and using her comments, rewrote the manuscript. She hasn't seen the final version but believe me, it's immeasurably improved!

We read each other's partials before they go to the editor. Then a complete read before the final is due, leaving time to make copious changes. I edit Annie’s complete manuscript in hard copy. It gets me away from the screen and I pick up things I don't see on computer.

Annie, do you have anything to add? Also, something you said long ago stayed with me. You said we were lucky we found each other at the stages in our career that we did. We were both on a similar level and that helped immeasurably.

I'm laughing about your comments on 'process'! Only last night I was desperately trying to read a shortish piece of Anna’s. Unfortunately the comments had to go back the same night. A night of severe storms, power blackouts that played havoc with the computer, plus the usual domestic stuff - teenage angst, late appointments, feeding the family and helping with school projects. I finally had my comments ready and called Ms. Campbell, only to have her snork down the line as I said I was occasionally confused! I ask you! Snorking at a woman who critiques while stirring pasta sauce! A big plus in our relationship is humor.
No matter how pressured things get, we can rely on each other. This publishing world can be so daunting and having a mate, who in Anna's case, also happens to have an eye for a darned good story, is like gold. It's wonderful that Anna reads my draft or hears my half-thought through idea for a new book and doesn't try to mould it into an Anna Campbell story. There's too often a danger that a reader wants to remodel your work into their own style.

Anna, thanks for raising that point about us being at a similar stage. We both had different strengths which we built on, and which the other learned from too. There was a sense of being equals, and of our writing being on a par that strengthened our joint resolve. Though I'd had a book published, it was with a small publisher that went under due to distribution woes. So we were both aiming high, expecting rejections, entering contests and looking at ways to polish our manuscripts till they dazzled an editor. I'm sure the bond forged then helped get us both 'over the line'. As did my comment to Anna that I saw us one day having a published author lunch by Sydney Harbour. The mention of good food and wine kept her motivated! Seriously, the joint faith in ourselves really made a difference. When Anna felt down, I told her all the good things about her work. When I expected another rejection, she perked me up by reminding me how much she liked something of mine.

I agree about the whole being greater than the sum of our parts. Occasionally it drives me mad that you go unerringly to my most fundamental weaknesses. Although after all these years, I hear your voice in my head when writing and I know what needs fixing more times than not.

You’re right about us bringing different strengths to the table. I credit you with taking my writing up that next level to publication standard. For all the laughter and fun (not just when we're drinking!), we make each other push the work as far as it can go.

Another interesting comment is I don't try and turn your stories into Anna Campbell’s. That's a real danger, isn't it? That urge to remake someone else's work in our own image. You avoid that when you look at my stuff too. What other dangers can people find, Annie? Can you name obvious warning signs? Any hints on handling problems?

How come I get the difficult questions? Because I've been burned in the past? Or are you just slacking off, Anna? Let that be a lesson to everyone – CPs make you work!

Before I list negatives, I'd like to reiterate something Anna said. We've developed the trust to listen when the other person says the work could be better. How often I've heard that! Though, being diplomatic (sometimes) Anna says 'it's just not quite up to your usual fantastic standard'. Flattery sucks me in every time.

Negatives. Let me make a little list. We can expand it later if we need to. In my experience, beware of:

Critique groups who only discuss being writers (in the general sense), instead of considering people's work and/or sharing information on market trends/contests, etc. They could be stuck in the cycle of dreaming to achieve and never putting in the work to get there.
Anyone who rewrites your text in their own style. Not just suggestions for change but rewriting the nitty gritty in detail and at length. This can be especially unhelpful if your critique partner doesn't read and enjoy the type of romance you're writing.

Anyone whose comments are consistently destructive rather than constructive. If you feel depressed whenever you get feedback and your CP never finds something to like in your work, your relationship isn’t going to sustain you.

Anyone who gets annoyed because you didn't change your manuscript as they suggested. It's your book! You have the right to determine what goes in.

Someone who continually needs help but doesn't give in return.

A bad critique partner can be worse than no critique partner. CPs aren't for everyone. We're lucky. Maybe because our relationship is based on friendship and a desire for the other to succeed.

You get the tough questions, my friend, because you're the smart one in this partnership. Note - this is how you handle a CP!

What a great list. I agree 100% that a bad CP is MUCH worse than no CP. I know people who stopped writing altogether after a negative experience with a CP. Remember every time you crit that you're holding someone’s dreams. Point out what needs fixing but setting out to crush someone just isn't on. I'd definitely take the "I'm depressed every time she reads my work" feeling as warning to get out!

One reason we work well together is we genuinely want the best for the other person. So the person being critiqued isn't defensive. A good critique is an amazing learning opportunity - there's no rule that you have to take everything as gospel. Listen and be gracious even if you don't agree. Starting World War III over minor points won’t help and it will make the critiquer either back away from saying what you need to hear or not critique you at all. Someone saying your work is fantastic is a lovely ego stroke but it doesn't help you improve. Someone pointing out a problem that makes the difference between selling or not is gold! Cultivate distance. Think about what you hear - if it works, use it, if it doesn't, thank the critiquer and move on.

Does anyone have comments or questions on critiquing? What's worked for you? What hasn't? Is there anything you wish had happened with a CP that didn't? Any stories about critiquing relationships, good or bad? Anyone think CPs are a bad idea?

We’ll pick out favorite comments and the winners will share in a signed copy of Untouched, a signed copy of The Greek Tycoon's Unexpected Wife (not available in the US until May!), a signed copy of For The Sheikh's Pleasure (I dare you not to swoon over Arik) and assorted coverflats and stationery, including the gorgeous Anna Campbell 2008 desk calendar.


Jennifer Y. said...


jo robertson said...

I don't believe it! That Jennifer Y has done it again!!!

Jennifer Y. said...

:) The GR has come back to Georgia! Now for my comment...I am not an aspiring writer...just a I don't really have any experience with CPs, but I am looking forward to reading others' experiences. The world of writing is fascinating to me.

In college though we were supposed to get with fellow students and critique and proofread each others research papers for one of my classes. One of the guys basically just wanted me to write it for him. But instead of coming out and saying that...he would show me a few sentences that made no sense whatsoever and then ask me how I would word them...or ask if he could read mine first to make sure his was done correctly (yeah, he hadn't written anything that made sense or related to the project yet). I realized what he was doing rather quickly and had to kindly tell him I was overwhelmed critiquing and helping others (which was true) and he might want to find someone else to help since I didn't think I would have the time to help him to the best of my abilities. In other words, I won't write it for you and you can't copy mine...but I didn't actually say that to him.

But as I said, that is probably nowhere near what you meant by your question...after all, I am a reader, not a writer.

Christine Wells said...

Er, actually that Jo comment was mine. Cue Twilight Zone music!

Anyway, congrats on the GR, Jennifer Y. Great post, Annie and Anna. I think you two have one of the best critique partnerships around. You're both utterly committed and disciplined enough to stick to a schedule--quite apart from your obvious talent. I don't think it can be a coincidence that you both sold within months of one another.

Thanks for the great insight into your partnership. Great to have you here, Annie!

Jennifer Y. said...

LOL Jo...he missed me and his friends.

Oh, and I have to confess that I have yet to read Annie's work...but I really want to. Her books sound wonderful!

Donna MacMeans said...

Of course the GR returned to Jennifer. He hadn't finished reading Bandita books!

Annie & Anna - how cool that you found each other and stuck with it. I'm afraid I lost my critique partner when serious illness meant a necessary shift in priorities. Now I'm flying solo, and it's a scary proposition. Kudos to your partnership

Annie West said...

Hi everyone! It's very exciting to be here. I thought it was nice of Anna to invite me over. I've been here occasionally in the past and you all seem so friendly I jumped at the chance to participate. Lucky for me poor Anna had the job of posting our blog - I just get to sit and chat! Hey, I like the sound of that!

Jennifer, actually, that's exactly the sort of thing we were talking about. Your college student acqaintance sounds very lazy - all too ready to use you to do his work for him. I bet he didn't get too far doing that. Good on you for picking up so fast what he was up to. Gee, that would put me off critiquing for ages!

And Jenny, you're not alone in not having read my books (G)! They've only been appearing in the last year and it takes a while, I'm told to get your name known, especially if you write series romance. Unlike our Anna who burst onto the scene with CTC!


Annie West said...

Hi Christine,

Thanks for the welcome and for the kind comments. Love the sound of 'obvious talent'! I think I'll just sit and preen for a while.

Yes, it was pretty cool that we sold within a few months of each other. That was a relief too - and we got lots of celebrations!


Annie West said...

Hi Donna,

Commisserations on your solo flying. You're right - that is scary. I remember last year I had some major revisions I was struggling with and where was Anna? Swanning around at the RWA conference while I sweated it out at my desk. Typical!

The funny thing is that we didn't set out to be CPs. Instead it was a matter of becoming mates (or should I say 'friends' here?) and then moving into the critique process.

Off now to give my teen daughter time on the computer. Yes, we currently only have one after a sad crash a few months ago and would you believe she has a major school assessment due tomorrow...


Amy Andrews said...

Well whadayaknow? I click on my romance bandits link and there's my ugly mug!!! Yes, definitely fishing for compliments ;-)

Hi Annie and Anna. You guys DO have a fab relationship which goes to show that two heads can be better than one.
A good crit partner is worth their weight in gold (or chocolate). It's great to just have someone to bounce ideas off.

Annie, I still have your book I bought at conference and you signed in my TBR pile!!!! Can't wait for the Xmas break to get in to it. There's just not enough time for reading anymore - wah!

I was also lucky to be given a copy of Anna's green monster on Tuesday. What a gal!!! Sadly, it's going to have to wait too :-(

flchen1 said...

Congrats again, JenniferY! And boy, did your fellow college student sound like a lame-o!

Annie, welcome, and I'm not really a writer either, but a very happy reader :) I don't have much critiquing experience, except maybe when I was working as an editor for an educational software company. There I often assembled/wrote/cobbled together manuals and other user materials, and had to circulate them to the rest of the product team to solicit their feedback as well. What I hated most was receiving comments or corrections that were completely wrong, wasting time explaining why I wasn't going to make the change, and then having the person mark it again in the next round of review. Don't miss that at all!!

It sounds like you and Anna have a very complementary relationship, and that's a blessing!

I'm looking forward to reading both of your books!

Anna Campbell said...

Rooster! Rooster, come back to Mummy! I'll make you some nice stuffing, uh, STUFF!

Congratulations, Jennifer. You snared him fair and square today!

Amy, you're gorgeous! Now stop asking for positive strokes and go and read the green monster! ;-)

Actually from many years of writing, I think critiquing requires a lot of skills that life does. You know, a bit of consideration, a modicum of tact, a bit of perception, goodwill, humor. See, Annie, you've taught me all the life skills I need!

And do read Annie's books - they're brilliant! I don't even mind reading them 10 times ;-) That's how good they are!

Jennifer, laughed at your lamo friend. Wonder if he found any other suckers out there!

Flchen, doesn't that drive you bananas when people are set in their wrongness??!!! Grrrr! Actually a bad critiquing relationship can teach you patience. Well, I think that's the idea. Never really worked for me!

flchen1 said...

Anna, clearly it didn't work for me either, the building patience aspect ;) I didn't mind the people who were open to discussing the comments, and who would defer to my obviously superior (snort!) knowledge of grammar and the Chicago Manual of Style, but I couldn't stand going back and forth with people who were just plain wrong, and were trying to back it up with "because I'm the manager" or something along those lines.

Of course, I do want my kids to enthusiastically accede (in what universe??) when I pull out the "because I'm the mommy" card, but then again, that's not really a critiquing relationship, right? ;)

Anyway, losing coherency... must go... :)

Keira Soleore said...

HOW?! I had my "squee" post already written in my mind. But I came here and there were 13 comments ahead of me. Too many nimble-fingered folks here at The Lair.

Well, while I was going to go for a trifecta effect, I can still go for a duetta. SQUUUuueeeeee for our Foanna and a SSSSQQQQUUUEEEEeeeeeee for Annie!! Officially welcome to the Bandita Lair.

Now to go off and read your conversation...

Authorness said...

Hi, Annie and Anna! What a lovely CP relationship you two have. Thanks for sharing your tips on how to make it work.

:) Vanessa

Annie West said...

Amy, I thought you were the best looking gal in the photo (don't tell Anna). See, never go to a conference with us. You'll never know where your photo will end up. Actually you should see the fancy dress photo of me and Anna that just missed being used on this site. Scary isn't the word for it. Couldn't agree more about a good CP being worth her weight in choccie. Hm, does that mean I get and Anna's worth of chocolate for Christmas? Something to look forward to!

Fichen, I so feel for you with people who just want to change things to make their mark or because they've got the wrong idea. You immediately made me think of a boss I once had... br, let's not go there. Suffice to say I got to the stage of submitting documents for approval and he'd change them so next time I'd submit an updated version of what he'd approved and then he'd change it to the one I had the time before.... I'm sure it was all ego!


Annie West said...

Hi Keira and Anna and Authorness. I feel like I've lobbed into such a friendly site.

Anna, what's this about you reading my books 10 times. Surely not! (G). Though some of those love scenes got revisited a bit I seem to recall. Snorking here at the idea of me teaching you life skills. You know I'm a shy retiring flower.


Helen said...

Anna and Annie what a wonderful interview you obviously work really well together with a great deal of support and understanding.
Having read a book from both of you I really enjoy both your styles and agree that a book launch on Sydney Harbour would be magnificent and not to far for me to be there.
Have Fun

Anna Campbell said...

Flchen, you made perfect sense to me! But then I'm used to dealing with loons, uh...wonderful critique partners ;-)

Hey, Keira, life isn't the same without a Squeeeee from you! Well, it's quieter for a start ;-) Oh, dear, I must stop using emoticons. They're almost as addictive as Nutella. These days, the GR gets snatched before he sticks his first feather out to test the temperature.

Hey, Vanessa, don't pretend you've never been a drinking, uh...crit session with us. We know better! Lovely to see you here, my friend.

Annie, actually, all jokes aside, ego is the enemy of a good critiquing relationship, isn't it? I once was in a group with someone who just loved to put people down because it made her feel good to make other people feel bad. Gave her some sort of superiority in her own mind. VERY nasty experience!

Helen, I'm hoping to coax young Annie (trying flattery again) to Guildford Library for a talk in the New Year. I'll let you know!

Cheryl said...

My first foray into blogland and what better place to start than the fun RBs.

Fabulous post, Anna and Annie. You two have such a unique relationship - the best critique partnership I’ve ever heard of. What a formidable team! And what fantastic authors.

Amy, get cracking – Annie’s books are great. I’ll never forget my joy and excitement at receiving a signed copy of her first book, A Mistress For the Taking, which set me on the road to falling in love with her heroes. Delish! Annie, you and Anna do alpha males so well – it must be fascinating when you reach that part of critiquing. :)

I’m fortunate to belong to an excellent critique group that is very supportive and knowledgeable. Good critique groups/partners are an absolute treasure.

Helen said...

Annie please say you will come to Guildford Library I would love to meet you.
My last post was cut short because my son daughter in law and grandchildren arrived.
As I was saying friends are such wonderful people although I don't write or have a CP I have some wonderful friends one especially we have been neighbours for over 20 years and rely on each other for so much and I guess this is the closest I have to a CP we have cryed on each others shoulders laughed till we have been crying and given advice to each other always positive and helpful Barbara does a lot of sewing and did me a picture in a frame that says "Friends are like pockets everyone needs them" and this seems to be very true about the two of you.
Thanks for a wonderful interview and am so glad you have each other as CP's because I love your books.
Have Fun

Anonymous said...

Anna and Annie, It’s wonderful to hear you guys explain your trade. I heard some time ago, you two were critique partners and my immediate reaction was; how weird, ‘they’ are like chalk and cheese. Although, in truth I’m not yet sure which of you goes best with crackers. I guess you’ve explained here what true partnering is about. You don’t need to be able to slip into each other’s dress to admire the skill of the seamstress.

Perhaps you are alike, while appearing not to be. You have a history with me. Annie you were first to finish up next to my bed. I read some of you and thought ‘good god’ and put you down while I assessed your skilful boldness.

Putting you down was always going to be a mistake around here ‘she’ thinks that means it’s hers. So I waited, while ‘she’ took you to her eyes, and waited and waited. Eventually I demanded my Annie and after a search, Annie couldn’t be located. We think ‘she’ may have given you to the nursing home. But it was my fault.

I saved my pocket money and snuck out, returning with another couple of Annie’s and wrapped you in a Mechanics illustrated cover, so I could keep you to myself. You’re bold, but gee you’re clever and I’ve decided provocative is a good thing, in a good read.

The other day I walked in all happy and ‘she’ grabbed wrists taking my parcel off me. It’s been occuring often lately. Ever since ‘she’ read Annie, in fact. The parcel had a shinning new Anna inside and I haven’t seen it since. I know ‘she’ is reading it because ‘she’ is locked me in the garden shed, ‘she’ said I’m safer there. When I asked what was to become of me, I was told ‘she’ isn’t up to that chapter yet. Lucky I read a few pages on the way home, or I’d have no idea what’s going on.

I must say I love your point that critiquing being a match of ambition, compassion and empathy.

You guys deserve your success and I admire your individual and combined skill. There is a place beside my bed for both of you. I hope the mechanics illustrated cover doesn’t bother you. --- Thank you, Eric.

Jane said...

In college I also had classes where we had to critique a classmate's paper and vice versa. I found this to be difficult because some people take the criticism of their work to be an attack of their person. I often found myself not offering my true views of their work because I didn't want to step on any toes.

Buffie said...

Congrats JenniferY!! I didn't know you were in Georgia . . . me too -- the Atlanta area. It's great to know the GR is visiting.

Anna & Annie -- I am not a writer but I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your process as CP. What I noticed most of all is that you two have a genuine affection and respect for each other and the work you produce. Isn't it wonderful to have a friend "tell you like it is" and you know that she is not pulling your leg.

PS -- Whoever wins the prize is really, really gonna love Anna's desk calendar. It's gorgeous!

Stacy S said...

I'm not an aspiring writer so no comments on that. But I do enjoy reading about other people experience with their cps.

Gillian Layne said...

So much good information, and I have to run off to the day job! I need to read all this again....

I think (so far, in my fledgling career) that understanding what KIND of crit your partner wants and needs (plot lines, themes, grammatical) is really important. Then you're not wasting time, and you're learning to train your eye as well.

That said, I'm still an abysmal failure at the grammatical crits, but am studying comma rules like mad to improve myself (have NO idea how I made it through college ;0) )

Anna, you know I adore ya!(And that's not just shameless flattery for chocolate :)) Annie, is there ANYTHING better than a sheikh? I don't think so!

Anne Gracie said...

Hey Annie and Anna, one of the things that make you both such brilliant critique partners is the fact that you haven't just committed yourselves to your own work being the best it can, you've also committed yourselves to helping your cp's work to be the best it can be.
So it's not just honesty and trust -- it's dedication and it's true friendship.
And you both deserve every bit of success you get.
And those of you who haven't yet read Annie West's books -- they're fabulous.

Anonymous said...

Lovely interview, gals! Annie, you are officially a Bandita after this! I mean, putting up with Anna AND helping her write her blog? Wow. I'm impressed with your stamina. But the really burning question is, how do you survive all the puns?

Many of you know I am blessed with the BEST CP EVER. She never fails to make me laugh, she's inventive and has so much energy it makes me weak in the knees, and every time I read one of her blogs I yell to the heavens, "why isn't she published yet?!" But she will be. I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever. She's too damn good to languish for long on the other side.

I'm sure everyone who has read Susan's blogs would agree.

Don't you just laugh out loud every time she posts? I shake my head in awe.

Oh, and Annie, I haven't read a Presents in a while (actually, since the days when I read my mom's secret stash while tucked in a closet at my grandpa's house.) I sure would like to start up the old tradition with one of YOUR MASTERPIECES. Enter me in the contest, won't you? Pretty please? Who needs that old Anna Campbell desk calendar, anyway? I just want a Sheik!

Caren Crane said...

Annie, welcome to the Lair! We have been looking forward to your visit. For some reason, Joan put Demetrius (one of her most "popular" Romans) under lock and key when she heard you were coming. Not sure why. ;-)

Jennifer, congrats on snagging the GR a second time! Beware, he may grow restless after he finishes reading all your books. You may want to have an alternate activity planned for him...

Gillian, I'm with you on the shiekhs. Oh, my! For unbelievers, check out Oded Fehr in the Mummy movies. Did I already say, "Oh, my"? *g*

Cheryl, welcome to blogworld! Romance Bandits is a great place to venture out. Eric, great to have you here. Hopefully, 'she' will release your Annie books soon. How unfair not to get first read!

Anna and Annie, I really do think a great critique relationship is worth its weight in IHOP Harvest Grain & Nut pancakes (I promise I don't work for IHOP). I have seen writer friends in bad critique relationships and they were no better (maybe far worse) than the ones Jennifer and Jane had in school.

Flchen1, I have had exactly the same thankless job. Okay, I still have it! *g* It is especially hard when the wrong are clueless in their wrongness!

Helen, how lucky you are to have a dear friend in your neighbor. All my friends live a minimum of across town from me. I would love to have someone so close by!

Amy, you're a beaut! Glad to have your smiling face on the blog today.

Caren Crane said...

Kirsten, I know, right? Presents were what I cut my romance teeth on (after Barbara Cartland *g*). My friend Jennie Lucas just had her first Presents come out this month (The Greek Billionaire's Baby Revenge) and it was so fabulous! I read it and thought, "Presents, where have you been all these years?"

I think I started reading more "serious" books after college and have had to come back around to the books I first loved and adored. Sheikhs! Greeks! Billionaires! What's not to love? I adore the pure fantasy of being swept away to a world where your every need is met and you never have to worry about paying a bill. *g*

terrio said...

Wonderful interview and such great information. I've had negative experiences with a CP and since I'm so early in the going, I'm staying to myself for now. But I think another writer friend and I - who have been friend for some time - are moving into the CP waters much like the two of you did. What we write is very similar and we respect each other a great deal. That is so important. She points out when I've written a bit of brilliance and then tells me what needs tweaking and why it's not working for her.

The wonderful thing is she's almost always right and my work is better for her input.

Christie Kelley said...

I've had good and bad experiences with critique groups. I critique with a group of four other writers. All published except one. We're sort of finding our way again. We used to meet once a month and go through a chapter or two that had been handed out the previous month. But most of us are finding this isn't working as well since we're on deadlines. Some months we just drink wine and plot. Other months we may have 1/2a book or more to go through.

But it took us a while to get to this point. We've had two cps who left, one by choice one not. Being a public site, I'm going to get into the details here.

I also have another writer friend who exchanges manuscripts with me. I try to use her as my whole book read to see if the plot makes any sense.

brownone said...

What an interesting post!

Another non-writer here but the worst for me was when I was working at the corporate offices of a fast food company (one of "The Big Three"). Anyhow, once a year we would get bonuses and raises based on a yearly review. They would have us critique our own performance for the year (which is pretty hard as it is) and then would have two or three anonymous co-workers critique you. UGH!! THAT sucked because if you had a office spat with a co-worker, that gave 'em free license to cut you down. Then the boss and the boss's boss would take you into a conference room to go over the results and talk about what you need to improve or what you are doing well with.

flchen1 said...

Annie, Anna, and Caren--thanks for understanding--I feel loads better for knowing that there are others who've endured the same frustrations. And, Caren (and everyone else), I'm preparing a virtual whack-upside-the-head for the next person who does this to you! These people and their annoying egos indeed! At least you also have wonderful CPs! Whew!! And something to celebrate!

FilmPhan said...

I am just a reader but for the papers that I write for class I have my mom or my sister critique it. They are good at picking out mistakes and helping me correct it to sound better. I help them out too. I never really ask my Dad to read papers because he's not great with grammer and he isn't a harsh critic.

Donna, I am in the middle of "The Education of Mrs. Brimley" and love it! I'm itching to finish it but I have finals next week and no time to study this weekend. Bad idea on my part to start reading a book that I can hardly put down. Text books are a terrible subsitute.

jo robertson said...

Interesting post Anna and Annie. BTW, that second comment isn't mine. Must be Vrai Anna's again!

I think having a CP who's equally matched with you is invaluable. I've only had one CP -- our own Aunty Cindy, but she's grand. I'm sort of a CP-snob; I waited a long time and chose carefully before hooking up with Cindy. It's important to feel GOOD after a session, not worse!

Caren Crane said...

Filmphan, you should know better than to start a great book before exams. Yikes! When I was in engineering school (and had a toddler), I had no time to read anything for pleasure. Had I allowed myself to read, I would never have graduated. Can you imagine? "Hmm...partial derivatives or Lord Bedchambers? Thermodynamics or sable paint brushes?" *g*

Study hard so you can get back to the good books!

jo robertson said...

Hi Cheryl! Lovely to see you here! You definitely started at the top if we're your first Blogland visit ;-)

Mind you, I would say that, wouldn't I?

Thanks for those lovely compliments. I often wonder where I channel these alpha males from. Obviously deep in my subconscious! And you're right, Annie does the most delish heroes. Those two sheikhs (if you haven't read them, click on the covers and order them - you'll be thanking me forever) are just amazing. I've never read better sheikh books and I'm a sheikh geikh from way back.

Helen, that was lovely. I'm so glad you got back to finish your post! You're right - it's the friendship aspect that sustains us more than anything I think. Which doesn't mean Annie hasn't saved me from numerous disasters in my writing. Friends like that are priceless, aren't they?

jo robertson said...

Hmm, I'm never sure with chalk and cheese, Eric, who gets to be the glamour puss! Laughed at the book battles in your house. I'm not surprised you fight over the latest Annie West. And I'm so glad that the occasional Anna gets a look-in.

Jane, that's so tough, isn't it? I've worked with a lot of writers as a mentor and as a contest judge. And believe me, it's too much hard work when you have to walk on eggshells the whole time. A good critiquing relationship goes both ways - both partners have to have good will. And yes, that's happened to me too where I just say, "Oh, that's really great," when I know I'm wasting my time saying anything else. What a wasted opportunity for the person being critiqued and what a waste of my time doing the critique.

jo robertson said...

Buffie, that calendar truly is gorgeous, isn't it? I'm glad you love it too!

You're right - I think that mutual affection and respect (although we do tease each other as you can probably tell) is the bedrock of our critiquing relationship. When you work with someone as closely as this, you've got to be really careful that neither of you has another agenda apart from trying to help the other person make their work as good as it can be. It really is a trust issue. Thanks so much for coming by! It's always lovely to see you!

Hmm, maybe you can stage a raid and kidnap the GR! He's getting a bit too comfy at Jennifer's!

jo robertson said...

Stacy, thanks for popping by. I actually find anyone's work processes interesting (hey, I'm nosy, what can I say?). Glad you enjoyed the interview.

Hey, Gillian, my lovely friend! Mwah right back at ya! Seriously, check out Annie's sheikhs. They're gorgeous alpha males with deeply ingrained senses of honour. Sort of like Gary Cooper in High Noon but dressed up like Lawrence of Arabia. Actually, that's a really good point about working out just what sort of crit your listener needs. When people are starting out, it can be SOOO discouraging if you hit them with everything from point of view problems to comma placement. Pick a couple of areas, or even just one, and concentrate on that. Nobody starts this game doing everything right! I've seen newbies absolutely crushed when they get back pieces of work that look like Jackson Pollock has been painting on them, there are so many comments.

jo robertson said...

Hey, Anne G!!! Fantastic to see you here. Everyone, I've got the wonderful Anne Gracie booked for a guest day on 21st January when she'll talk about the THE STOLEN PRINCESS, the first book in her new series THE DEVIL RIDERS. I love Anne's writing so I'm really excited about this.

Hmm, I knew the landscapes were a mistake in the calendar, Kirsten. I should have had SHEIKHS instead! I still love a Harlequin Presents. A really good one sweeps you away to this glamorous world of high stakes emotion that you just don't find anywhere else. You're right about Susan's posts being fantastic, by the way!

MsHellion said...

You guys are hilarious and dead accurate about CPs.

I belonged to my MORWA chapter, and they had a critique group that met on Saturdays. Every month, two people would bring in a chapter they wanted critiqued and the critiquee could not say anything while the group said their opinions. Our moderator also did try to regulate how you critiqued with a guideline sheet, though there were a few people in the group who failed to understand the instructions and never failed to make you twitch whenever it was your turn to present.

At one of them, I was told by one of the CPs, "I hate your hero. It doesn't matter if he's likeable, he's married and that's all I have to know. He's a jerk; and I would totally throw this book against the wall if I'd bought it." OOOh-kay. Understandable. It's not like I didn't think having a married "hero" wouldn't be a hardsell; I did think she could have been a bit more diplomatic about it.

I didn't write on that book for about 3 years after that, no matter how much my characters begged me to. And if I did secretly work on it, I didn't TELL anyone I was working on this book, the unmarketable wallbanger that it is.

Later, I got a critique group who'd been burned in the past by similar experiences. I'd had enough alone time to build up my confidence that I knew what this story was about, what I was doing that I wouldn't cowtow to every remark made about it. And I'd changed the beginning and had a much better, much more likeable opening--though he was still married.

It was like night and day with the critique groups. When you have the right one, it's like being energized; you want to show off your best work and write-write-write. When you're with the wrong one, you'd rather be set on fire than go.

jo robertson said...

And, Kirsten, you wicked thing, I think Annie has reached a point where the puns are like water off a golden rooster's back. She hardly notices any more!

Oh, Caren, Oded! Wow, be still my beating heart. Whoa, Mummy! ;-) And that's exactly how I feel about a good Presents. You're just swept away! People criticize them because they're pure fantasy. Um, don't you think that's the point?

Anna Campbell said...

OK, something weird is happening. All my posts are coming up as Jo. I mean, Jo, I love ya and all but I couldn't ever BE you ;-) Everything from my reply to Eric down is Anna Campbell even though it says Jo. Let's see what this one comes up as.

Anna Campbell said...

Right, I seem to have conquered my strange out of body experience. Jo, it was fun and I feel MUCH closer to you than I used to ;-)

Terri, I think you're VERY wise! If you don't feel you want another person's input into your work right now, don't force yourself. Especially in the early stages of your writing where you're still feeling your way. Instincts are really important in this game and I've learnt to trust mine. I hope things work out with your friend - sounds like you might have something great happening there. As you say, mutual respect is SOOO important.

Christie, hugs on the negative experience. I had a few of those and they really can leave you devastated. Actually you raise a really interesting point. Critiquing relationships change and evolve as the writers change and evolve. Perhaps just catching up with your fellow writers and talking about the industry and your problems and your successes is doing you as much good as a crit at the moment anyway. I know I get enormous strength from my writing friends who understand how crazy all of this can be.

Anna Campbell said...

Brownone, I read your post and shuddered! Talk about a recipe for disaster! And I'm not making a pun there ;-) Sometimes you see things like that and think, "Just what were they thinking?" I lived through a company where we had to critique ourselves too which was just appalling. I learnt fairly quickly that if I gave myself full marks, everyone else would too. If I pointed out problems, everyone else would too. Guess which strategy I plumped for? So the whole exercise was a complete waste of time!

Flchen, you're definitely not alone! I think most of us have had an experience like the one you talked about.

Filmphan, laughed at you wanting to read Mrs. Brimley instead of textbooks. Really? I'm so surprised. Ha! Ha!

Jo, nice to meet you in your REAL incarnation! Yes, it's so important to come out of a critique feeling good. I'll go back to Annie's very wise comment that if you always feel like slashing your wrists after someone reads your work, DON'T LET THEM READ YOUR WORK! This game is tough enough anyway.

Caren Crane said...

Anna, that's it exactly with Presents. They are pure fantasy! I bought one at lunch, as a matter of fact. I had a coupon at Borders and the cashier asked if I wanted to use it for one of "these little books". Why yes, actually, I did. *g*

Comments like that used to make me twitch, now they make me smile. If only that cashier knew what she was missing in those "little books". She appeared to need a good dose of romance. One of Annie's Presents with a super-sexy--and rich--sheikh would fix her right up.

And Anna, never think we missed the "sheikh geikh" pun!

Anna Campbell said...

Ms Hellion, firstly, hugs on that awful experience. Don't people stop and think, "How would I feel if someone said that to me?" Clearly not! I'm not saying people should avoid the hard stuff but there's ways of saying it that don't leave the hearer crushed and damaged. So glad you hung in there. I know people who would have given up there and then. Especially when you're new and you think everybody knows more than you do. I was in a crit group with a very unhappy woman who liked people to be even more unhappy than she was because somehow that justified her unhappiness. Does that make sense? I ended up just stopping taking stuff to the group (which meant the whole exercise was a bit of a waste of time) because I'd leave with nothing useful and the conviction that I had less talent than your average frozen pea. And the worst part was that she'd read anything you took and then just fling it back at you as if it was contaminated. Brrrrrr! Not a good experience. You can see why I love Annie so much!

Anna Campbell said...

Oh, grrr, to people like that, Caren - and she's supposed to be selling books! There's a chain in Australia that I boycott because if ever I ask about a romance section there, the cashier (who's usually all of about 16) looks utterly horrified that anyone would want to read THOSE sort of books (which is what one of them said to me once). Double Grrrrr! Hope you had fun with your Presents. I've got a pile to read over Christmas when I intend to wallow in Sheikhs and Greeks! And bah to the wowsers who criticize my reading tastes! I'm having fun. They're not!

Cassondra said...

I think it's really cool--this talk about critique relationships.

To the new writers--if you feel rotten when someone critiques your work, don't let them look at your stuff again. Those who critique and are not good at it sometimes forget that part of their job is to show you the GOOD PARTS and what you're doing well. Not just point out the less-than-perfect parts.

One of the difficulties is when one has a strong voice of ones own I think. The stronger your writing voice, the more difficult it is to not rewrite another's work. I've learned to say to my CPS, "okay this is awkward and confused me. I would write this as ___________, but those are my words. You fix it your way, but do you understand why it's not working for me?"

We laugh at each other now when there's something one of us hates but the other refuses to change.

Annie and Anna, what a great "interview" and what a great way to approach an interview. This was a very cool blog.

Cassondra said...

Jennifer y,

Check the rooster's toenails will you? If they need touchup since he had to spend all that time running from Anna's cooking pot, the color is OPI Russian Navy. Can't let him lose his goth look, can we?

I'll never have him again, so you all are going to have to watch out for his toenails.

Anna Campbell said...

Cassondra, thank you! Glad you enjoyed the interview. We ummed and ahed about how to approach this but we wanted to give a flavor of our actual interactions which really was the subject of the blog.

Laughed at your way of critiquing. Actually I think that would work really well - it's a suggestion but you're not being a Nazi about it! And I'm sure Jennifer is off buying nail polish as we speak ;-)

p226 said...

I've shared so very little of my writing with so few, that I don't have much of a frame of reference. Though the criteria laid out in this interview for good versus bad critique may prove invaluable to me in the future in the unlikely event I decide to try to get anything published.

tetewa said...

Glad to here that you both get along so good! I think this is a great thing for fellow authors to share.

Anna Campbell said...

P226, I think Annie's list of warning signs is a really great resource. I wish I'd had it much sooner. When you're new, you tend to think all problems are coming from you which I've discovered isn't always the case. Good luck with your writing!

Tetewa, glad you enjoyed your glimpse into our chaotic relationship. As you can probably tell, apart from work, we have a lot of fun together.

MsHellion said...

I'm totally with you, Anna. Finding CPs like Annie is like finding a soul mate. A writing soul mate. Someone who gets what you're trying to do, but without blowing sunshine up your ass without trying to improve your writing where it could use improving.

Okay that was the WORST sentence in the world. But you know what I mean. Someone who will tell you where to improve, but not leave you in tatters about it. The Diplomat of Critique Partners. A sort of Mary Poppins--a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.

And I know I shouldn't gloat, but I know for a fact the woman who said that to me--still hasn't written past her first three chapters--and *I* finished my novel, thank you much. It might be a wallbanger. It might need HUGE revisions, but I *finished* it. Makes me want to go up to her and nanny-nanny-boo-boo. But I think I'll wait until I publish the book and then do that.

I have to think optimistically anyway.

Annie West said...

Finally up and about after a disturbed sleep - it must have been my subconscious telling me I was missing fun stuff here. Glad to see Anna is already here, waving the flag. Hi mate! Isn't this conversation terrifics? I'm still catching up.

Helen, I'd love to visit Guildford library for a talk. Ms Anna has already mentioned it and I'm looking forward to it. Would be lovely to meet you in person. I could relate to your friends of 20 years that you rely on absolutely. That's how I feel about Anna, though I've only known her for 6. It seems like forever...

Cheryl, smiling at your descriptions of us as a formidable team. For some reason it made me think of a pair of ocean liners. Maybe it's all the food I've been indulging in recently. Hey, thanks for the plug for 'Mistress for the Taking'. That book is alwasy going to be special to me.

Eric, loved your post! A good think I wasn't sipping my tea as I read! Actually I'm proud to be in the Mechanics Illustrated, especially as my dad, the ex-engineer (do they ever stop being engineers) has a stack of them. Glad to hear Anna and I are getting spread around in your neighborhood.

One of your points, Eric, was really interesting - that Anna and I are chalk and cheese. Well in some ways that's correct, but in others no. We've discovered we're pretty much the same personality type (scarily so) and we can relate only too well to the other's reaction to news. Also, we learned ages ago that, take away the period costume and the Italian suits (yes please), in many ways we're writing the same hero. That strong forthright alpha who knows exactly what he wants and is determined to get it, and who has his own code of conduct.

Anna, did you want to add to that?


Caren Crane said...

Ms. Hellion, I had to laugh when I read your post about the married hero. Um, what was Mr. Rochester in 'Jane Eyre'? Oh, right: married. There are many, many ways to write stories which deal with unconventional relationships. People who dismiss a concept out of hand without reading the story are depriving themselves. I think Anna C. may have encountered a few when 'Claiming the Courtesan' came out! *g*

Mary Poppins? Did you mention Mary Poppins? Because you know if you get Susan going on Mary Poppins, we'll never get back on track!

Anna Campbell said...

Annie, perspicacious as ever on the alpha hero comment. Perhaps we should do a joint blog again some time and talk about alphas. It's something the two of us can, talk seriously about for ever! Actually one of the things I do love about you is that generally when I'm going into a spiral, you're not, and vice versa. Means at least one of the liners is still holding onto its anchor ;-)

Hellion, I'm having trouble seeing the formidable Annie as Mary Poppins. Mind you, I am definitely Maria from the Sound of Music. Do you remember a while ago there was a post on Romance Vagabonds (which is a great site Ms Hellion belongs to and if you don't know it, go there NOW!) about how Mary Poppins was the guide to life? Including that imortal hit to the tune of Chim-chim-Cheeree, "Fin-finishy, fin-finishy, finish the book!" Sadly, that has stayed with me forever and I still sing it as I wander the Alps. Um, I mean, sit at my computer and try and fin-finishy another book. Classic!

Anna Campbell said...

Caren, the funny thing is Claiming the Courtesan was, according to people who know the 'rules', an unsalable book right from the get-go. I still remember the first contest which had in big red letters "I'm not reading a book about a HARLOT!" all over it. Snorking at Mr. Rochester - how right you are! If the story's good enough and the characters are compelling, I think you can get away with nearly anything. There are no 'rules' but people love rules so they keep spouting them.

Annie West said...

Jane, I feel for you with the difficult critiquing experience in college. It's happened to me too. When someone says that want honest comment but they don't. Some people are more interested in a general comment rather than blow by blow detail too. I suppose I'm usually pretty careful with my comments if I've never worked with someone before, it's only with Anna that I can be brutally frank. Anna, are you still talking to me?

It's like Gillian says - it's important to nderstand what kind of critique someone is after so you can deliver what will most help them and so you don't waste your time. Great point, Gillian. And I hear you on the grammar. Fortunately Anna has an eagle eye for such stuff. Every so often I try to slip in a semi colon for a little variety and she whips it out if I'm not using it correctly.

Buffie, you're dead right - I think the 'secret' of Anna and me working together well is our genuine affection. Glad it came through in the blog too.

Anne, fantastic to see you here. And thanks for the kind words about my books. Coming from one of my fave authors, that's so exciting!


Annie West said...

Anna, I've just realised you're masqerading here under another name. Are you doing that just to confuse me? Typical... I don't know how you Banditas keep her under control. Or have you given up trying?

Gillian and Caren, so glad I've found fellow sheikh fans. You have Anna to blame for that. I once made the mistake of saying I could never write a sheikh story and she said in that little whiny voice 'by why?' continually till I did. Honestly, she gave me no rest. And I have to say that sleeping over at her place in Sydney, swapping possible titles for sheikh stories, is one of the best CP experiences! And it did lead to some stories I had enormous fun writing.


MsHellion said...

*blushes* You're so sweet to quote my own blogs to me. That's so cool.

I have a blog dedicated to you come Sunday, so do stop by and read it. It's not as "immortal" as Mary Poppins, but it's Untouched as O Holy Night...and I mean it in the best of lights.

Anna Campbell said...

Sadly, Annie, I spend far too much time talking to you!! ;-) Hey, I can't help that I used to work as a subeditor. You should get Vanessa on your case, then you'd know what it really is to suffer for grammar! And I still think Pashing the Pasha has legs, Annie. I want you to write that one!

Goodness, a tribute! To lil ole me (how's my Scarlett, Miss Caren?)? Why fiddle-dee-dee, that's just plumb the nicest... OK, OK, I'll stop. This is hurting me more than you. I loved the MP tribute - although I think I'm going to murder you. Fin-finishy has invaded my life ever since. I can't get it out of my head. Can't wait to see what you'll put up on Sunday. O Holy Night, huh? The mind boggles!

MsHellion said...

Actually I realized you're mentioned in Saturday's blog too. Promotion, promotion, baby. I'm doing my best to insure you make everyone's Christmas list.

Anonymous said...

I have to go with what jennifer y. said before, reader, not a writer, but a working with someone else is omething that we are taught to do from childhood and I think that Anna and Annie make it sound to easy! *G* Wish my relationships went along that well...LOL Have enjoyed reading all of the post today, from Anna,Annie, and everyone else. Made me giggle and that is always a great way to spend the day. Some wonderful advice Anna and Annie, nice to meet you by the way Annie, and even though I'm not planning to be a best seller, I think that I can put some of it to good use. Wonderful to chat with all of you and have a great week -end.

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, I wanna be a Vagabond! All the Banditas do is steal the GR from me and then scoff. Scoff, I tell you! I can see where I'll be hanging out cyberspacely over the weekend ;-)

Amy, so glad you enjoyed our post. I'm so happy I got to introduce Annie to the Banditas mob although she does come round when she gets a chance to leave comments. We really are lucky! But I think we both set out to make this work - that makes a difference!

Cassondra said...

Annie said:

Typical... I don't know how you Banditas keep her under control. Or have you given up trying?

We distract her with the Golden Rooster. Or a gladiator.....

Trish Morey said...

Anna and Annie, I'm so glad you guys found each other because we're the winners. Love your books and just keep on doing what you're doing and I'll be a happy bunny:-)

Great blog and great advice. Great galz too:-)

Caren Crane said...

Hey, I wanna be a Vagabond! All the Banditas do is steal the GR from me and then scoff. Scoff, I tell you! I can see where I'll be hanging out cyberspacely over the weekend ;-)

See there how fickly Anna C is? Watch out, Ms Hellion. This weekend she may be hanging out with the Vagabonds, but as soon as she gets a taste for rooster, she'll be back over here! Of course, if we did musical tributes to her, she might never leave in the first place. Sounds like an awful lot of work, though.

Where did Demetrius run off to, anyway? Can use him as a bribe to keep you from straying, Foanna?

Mel Haack said...

Hi ladies, I think you two are very lucky to have found such a great partnership - based on mutual respect and work ethic... (okay, I admit to sucking up a bit for those signed books.) But seriously, congrats to both of you for finding that special bond! All the best.

Annie West said...

OK, have wrestled the computer back under my control again and will try to catch up with all these wonderful posts. So sorry that it's taking me a while but boy am I enjoying reading everyone's comments.

Hi Stacey!

And I forgot to say to Cheryl - congratulations on your first foray into blogland! I hope it's not your last.

Kirsten, thanks for the official Banditas welcome. Glad you realise what self sacrifice goes into blogging with Madama Campbell AND putting up with the puns (ducking here). Actually, she won't believe me but I have another friend who could pun her into the ground with his thesaurus tied behind his back. Hey, that's wonderful that you have such a magnificent critique partner! Someone who makes you think 'why didn't I think of that' and then makes you laugh wounds perfect. Glad to hear you want to delve into Presents stories again but do be careful saying you're not interested in an AC calendar - you don't want to upset her!

Hi Caren. Now what's this about hiding a popular Roman from me. Hm, Demetrius sounds intriguing! And you're a friend of Jennie Lucas? I can't wait to get my hand on her first Presents story. It sounds terrific.


ChristyJan said...

Well, I'm a reader, not a writer, so I don't know anything at all about the critiquing process. I do love this quote from John Wayne that I try to think about when I've made a mistake, someone has said or done something to hurt my feelings, etc.

"Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday."

Caren Crane said...

Annie, Demetrius is one of Joan's Romans and he sometimes is sent to aid a Bandita in need. 'Nuff said. *g*

Jennie Lucas is, indeed, a friend of mine. She sent me a signed copy of her first Presents, The Greek Billionaire's Baby Revenge, so I have read it already. What a wonderful book! You would never know it was her first with them. She will be burning up the billionaires' sheets with you and the rest of the Presents gang for a long time, I'm sure!

Trish Morey, welcome to the Lair! Mel, great to have you with us. Hey, sucking up is always wecome. *g* Christyjan, I love that John Wayne quote. Who knew the Duke was such a philosopher?!

Caren Crane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jennifer Y. said...

Buffie: I am in the Atlanta area too!

Caren: The GR now has Claiming the Courtesan to read...the other animals are learning to share...although, I think that skunk hid Tawny's book.

Cassondra: the toenails did in fact need a touch-up...only someone had painted the red and green...hmmmm

You all are so much fun...I don't see how you get any CP'ing done...LOL.

Caren Crane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Caren Crane said...

Sorry for the triple-posted comment. I think my PC hiccuped! It wasn't that I had posted illicit comments about Demetrius--really!

Annie West said...

Terrio, commisserations on the negative experiences. But it sounds like your new friend is terrific. The best anyone can do for you is tell you what isn't working FOR HER. And if she also points out your strokes of genius she's a winner!

Christie, what's wrong with just drinking wine and plotting instead of reading text? While I adore Anna's ability to whip through my work (cue sound of lashes, please) and tell me what needs work, our sessions raving about plot are pure gold. We're on the same wavelength and it really helps me cement new ideas. I think your sessions sound great.

Brownone - ooh, critiques of your performance at work. Those can be nasty, especially if there are 'interesting' personalities involved.

Filmphan - I think you hit the nail on the head when it comes to critiquing - choosing someone you trust. Isn't that what it's all about?

And Jo, I agree totally. It's important to feel good after a critique session. This is all about giving and receiving useful support. If you feel like you're down in a hole after talking to your CP it would be so hard to keep going.

Which leads me to Anna/Jo (Ms Confusion). Thanks, dear, for all those lovely comments about my books - I'm sitting here blushing! But don't let that stop you... Actually I loved that description of my sheikhs as like Gary C in High Noon dressed as Lawrance. Can I use that? Please?

I think that one of the things that helps me and Anna work together is simply the fact that we love each other's work. Anna can tell you how I swooned over her latest book, UNTOUCHED. It was SUCH a chore to read it more than once (he, he).


Annie West said...

Ms Hellion, I'm wincing in sympathy at your experiences. They sound just awful. And to feel you have to work on your story secretly... gr, that just makes me burn. Found it so telling that the negative critiquer hasn't got past her partial yet and you've moved far beyond - good on you! I remember being told my hero was a wimp and my heroine was a loser (or maybe it was the other way around) - fortunately not by Anna on a bad day. I had a chapter trashed thoroughly by someone who has never finished a book. Ever. Who's laughing last? But boy was it painful getting a head on attack with not one positive comment!

You're absolutely right about feeling energised after a good CP session. Anna, we need to add that to the list for the future.


Annie West said...

Cara, you made me smile with your reference to 'little books'. I've heard much worse. And YAY to you for using your voucher to buy some. That's what I loke about Presents stories - the fact that they are pure fantsy. The sort of thing I can curl up with and just escape.

Hi Cassondra, glad to hear you liked the style of our blog. Anna has good ideas some times, doesn't she? I like the sound of the way you critique. Point out where you got confused or where it seems awkward is always such a help - it is for me, anyway, receiving comments.

P226 - I'm pleased that this post has helped you. Best of luck with your writing.

Hi Tetewa, and thanks for the feedback.

Anna, I'm chuffed to hear that you like my list so much. Interesting that I wrote it in about 2 minutes - it just flowed. Could that be experience speaking? Bad experience? You wish you had it earlier - well I wish I had it earlier too. Though to be honest I don't begrudge the negative experiences now, I've got something much better. And before anyone asks, NO, Anna is not available as a CP. She's mine, all mine...


Annie West said...

Anna, what ARE you rabbiting on about? You as Maria in the Sound of Music? Yes, I can just see you dancing across the hills in a dirndl. No you'd be back at the house cracking the whip over your poor CP. Snorking here at the thought of me as formidable. Or is that an unPC allusion to my superior height?

That's OK, dear, you indulge in your fantasies and I'll read on.


Annie West said...

Amy, thanks for popping by to say hi. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post.

Trish, how nice to see you here. I felt all gooey inside when I read your comments. What a nice girl you are. And such compliments coming from another of my favorite authors is just fantastic. Wow what a way to start the day.

Hi Mel, I can't see anything wrong with sucking up in the hope of getting books. Makes perfect sense to me! You go for it.

Christy Jan, thanks so much for the John Wayne quote. I'd never heard that one before. It pays to remember the importance of a fresh start. Will cling to that when I leave here and go off to work on my revisions.


Annie West said...

Caren, now I'm intrigued. I want to meet this Demetrius!

Waving bye for now as my editor has just sent revisions through and I promised I'd get straight onto them. I'd better go and tackle them. Will look in later.

Thanks everyone for the invigorating discussion and the warm welcome.


Keira Soleore said...

Foanna, who can resist that beaming face in that first picture or even in your author photo? I know I have fallen deep under its spell.

Annie, what cheek of that enthusiastic person whom you met for the first time in 2001, announcing not that she had her own unpubbed manuscripts under her bed, but your own dear pubbed baby. What utter cheek! And a rather unauspicious begining to a lovely friendship, wouldn't you say?

Foanna, you have a process to your maddness? I thought it was more like clutch your hair and cuss a blue streak when you hit a rought spot. And clutch by clutch you come closer to writing The End.

I like editing on hardcopy, too. I find I tend to overlook mistakes in grammar far more easily online (as all the Banditas well know after having had to decipher my posts.)

Annie, you must be a saint. How can you think that the person for whom you worked so hard in the midst of evening family madness only to have her snork at you is FUNNY.

You two bring tears to my eyes. You have such a fabulous friendhsip. It's one that's going to last for many, mnay more years to come.

Keira Soleore said...

This has been such a wonderful discussion. Just read everyone's comments. Annie, loved your list. Thankee.

Foanna, I can't dance worth a fig, but I can squee like the banshee.

The rooster tends to be in Georgia so much that soon he's going to be a Georgian Rooster (hur!).

Anna Campbell said...

Goodness me, you're a talkative lot! Thanks so much for giving my friend Annie a great welcome. I'm trying to talk her into coming back one day to talk about alphas. She's absolutely fascinating on the subject. Or perhaps it's just a fascinating subject ;-)

Amy, so glad you had a good time with us today. Our relationship is easy because Annie West has an angel for a critique partner. Haven't you worked that out yet? I thought it was obvious! ;-)

Trish, one of my favourite writers and favourite people wrapped up in one person! Lovely to see you here. Awwwww, thank you for those kind words. Have you been drinking? ;-)

Anna Sugden said...

Welcome Annie and what a fun post you and Anna concocted. I swear I could hear your voices!

I'm another who's had good and bad experiences. I have some wonderful friends who critique for me and a great crit group here in NJ. Trust is key, and the ability to be constructive ... we also need to understand that it's not personal!

For me, the most important thing is to be able to trust the judgement of the person critiquing. Then, it's understanding how we all work and the kind of critiquing needed. The process/requirements can be a boon or or a bust! And when it's bust - learn to cut your losses.

I'm blessed to have some great critiquing pals. I wouldn't be where I am without them!

Anna Campbell said...

Hmm, Caren, Demetrius as a bribe? Does he arrive bearing a GR? If so, I think we can talk!

Mel, sucking up works for me! Although I think you need a bit more practice... Thanks for coming over, and congratulations again on the SpaceCoast Contest final! Banditas and friends, Mel has become a bit of a contest queen down in Oz over recent years!

Christyjan, what a great quote! And I thought he only talked about pilgrims ;-) Thanks for sharing that with us! What wise words.

Nancy said...

Anna and Annie, what a cool story! You two seem to click really well, so it makes sense that you could critique well together.

All the comments from our visitors who're primarily readers but have had a critique experience were interesting. I guess most people who make it through school have had such an experience at some time or another. I've been lucky in my cps. My first critique group grew very close, though the group later split because of the time involved. I still adore those women, though!

Anna Campbell said...

Hmm, Jennifer, wonder if CTC will frighten the GR into behaving next time he's here. Either that or he'll be requesting haggis for his breakfast, the wee wicked Highland chicken!

Actually, Christie, on a marginally serious note, the chats with Annie are often the most productive parts of our partnership. I find I come up with some amazing ideas just in reply to something she's said. Mind you, the alcohol always helps!

Haven't I told you how I think of your sheikhs yet, Annie? That's definitely the picture I get - sort of Peter O'Toole crossed with GC. And believe me, it's a pretty picture indeed ;-)

Anna Campbell said...

Annie, you're right - those bad experiences taught me a lot. How NOT to give criticism, for a start. Actually I think we often learn a lot more from our bad experiences than our good ones! Or do I just think that because I write Regency noir? Oh, and thank you for those lovely words about Untouched, my friend! Snorking about the Georgian rooster. Perhaps I should chase him with a Georgian rake?

Actually, sadly, if they were casting the SOM, I suspect I'd be the Baroness rather than Maria. I can't catch a ball to save myself (remember the funny scene where she tries to bond with the children?).

Keira, you should see me in a bad mood. SCARY!!! Just ask Annie! But thank you!!! And clearly you've been spying on me as I work! If you taped me, I turn the air blue!

Anna Campbell said...

Anna, you're so right. If it's not working, get out. If it is working, treat that person like gold. By the way, you can imagine how noisy Annie and I can be when we get together.

Nancy, you're right about things that make a good critiquing relationship are things that help in 'real' life too.

Phew! And I think I've caught up! Thank you, everyone, this has been great fun!!!

Trish Morey said...

Caren, thanks for the welcome! I have to say, any friend of Jennie Lucas is a friend of mine. She's a doll. A clever doll and great writer actually as she spends her third week in the Waldies in a rather lofty spot with her debut book! Congratulations Jennie! And she's a noodler. What more can I say?:-)

Anna and Annie, how come you missed out on being noodlers? You have talent, gorgeousness and are thoroughly nice people to boot. Just think, we could all get al dente together!

Hard to resist, I know:-))

Anna Campbell said...

Trish, I've commented over on Noodlers so often recently, I think I almost AM a proto noodle! (That's a noodle full of protein, in case you were wondering!). And you leave me friend Al Dente alone. He's mine once I've finished with Demetrius. Groan!

Gillian Layne said...

Did I tell you I'm sitting on my copy of Untouched?

If you experienced my day job right now, you'd understand; the chaos will just suck the joy out of anything! So I'm waiting until Xmas break (hello, Dec 20th!) and parking my caboose by the fireplace with a bottle of, of course it's not all for me...hiccup...and enjoy reading it with no distractions.

Now of course I've got time to snag me a copy of the Sheikh's Pleasure as well! :) It's going to be a great Christmas....

Annie West said...

Just popping in between a slash and burn on a chapter (sigh).

Keira, you're obviously a soul-mate! Thank you. Anna tells everybody the story of me 'telling her off' when we met, when in fact all I did was tell her she should read my book instead of keep it with the dust bunnies. You're the first to understand how it felt for me. I'll lap up the sympathy.

As for the other night when she snorked down the phone at me after a night of family madness. It was actually quite funny. I'd finally got the dinner going and was standing there, just finishing page 3 while absently stirring pasta sauce when the phone rang. Of course it was just out of reach and none of said mad family was around (typical) so I had to drop the ms and the sauce and hare around the bench to grab the phone, only to discover it was Anna, ringing to tell me not to bother reading it as I was busy. Good thing she was in another state at the time - I'd just got to a good bit in my reading!

Anna, are you sure you didn't slip up with your typing when you said you were the angel in the relationship? Sure it's not me?

Seriously though, if you're still talking to me dear CP, I'd love to come back some time to chat about alpha heroes. You know it's a subject dear to my heart. No, I'm not fascinating on the subject, it's just that they're such an endlessly interesting subject...


Annie West said...

Hi, Anna (S). Two Annas and an Annie - sounds like a recipe for confusion. I liked your point about trusting the judgement of someone who critiques your work. That's why I worry when people tell me their mother/husband/best friend loved it but they haven't given their work to anyone else. Someone who has a sense of what will make a darned good, saleable romance is a great starting point.

Nancy, thanks so much for mentioning the time involved in critiquing. Good on you! We haven't really touched on that and it's a biggie. I think you have to be careful not to underestimate how much time this may add to your writing process. Hopefully time well spent, but you need to factor it it. Then there's the reciprocal assistance you give. It can get a bit fraught when we both have deadlines, can't it, Anna?

Gillian, I do hope you enjoy both Untouched (I KNOW you will - I defy anyone not to!) and For the Sheikh's Pleasure over Christmas. Relaxing with some good books sounds fabulous. I've got Trish Morey's Christmas story and a pile of others on my bedside table jst waiting for some down time.

Anna, you mentioned the idea of you in a bad mood. Perhaps this a cue for me to mention the time you sat me down on your sofa with your ms while you sharpened your carving knife for about 15 mins (truly, she did!) and wouldn't let me leave the sofa. Scary doesn't begin to describe it.

Trish, I love the idea of being al dente with you! How cool. Anna, giggling at the idea of you as a proto noodle - it sounds like a fossil - an early life form.

On that note I'd better make a swift exit before Anna clobbers me.


Jennifer Y. said...

Me and GR checked back in and you guys are a riot! LOL

Annie West said...

Hi Jennifer, glad to see you checked in again, and that you enjoyed the posts.


Anna Campbell said...

Ya know, Annie, the knife story is a it like you telling me off at our first meeting. Clearly there were perception going on. I remember being sweeter to you than pie. Is that the incident you're talking about?

You've been a fantastic guest, my friend. I hope you get your rewrites done in your normal brilliant style. Huh! Who am I kidding? I'm going to SEE them!!! Thank you for visiting the bandits and we'll definitely talk about the alpha male thing at a later date. Sounds like great fun.

And Gillian, don't sit on Untouched! You'll crease it. Put it nice and quietly on the bookcase and step away. That's right, ma'am, just step away! ;-) Hey, the wine sounds great. Can I visit? I'll bring some nice Aussie red!

Joan said...

Ah, ah, ah Anna.....I'M the one who holds Demetrius' chain, er social calendar. :-) When he heard the Aussie accents on today's blog he hid, under the bed.

Welcome, Annie. I'm one of the "have to work 12 hour shift" Banditas, so sorry I'm late.

CP. Great topic. My first handful of critiquing experiences included someone who wanted critique given TO her but offered nothiing in return (except circling adverbs)
That didn't last long.

I'm with a group now...four ladies who write in totally different sub-genres (historical, RS, category and YA). We've been meeting about 2 years and we've had our growing pains but we're all better writers for it.

Now, off for a hot soak..."Demi, will you scrub my back?" :-)

Trish Morey said...

Who is this Demetrius dude? I think I'd like to meet him. And if he's not into Aussie accents, I promise to keep quiet a while:-))

(And you hush your mouth too, Anna C!)

Joan, your crit group sounds great. I reckon 4 or thereabouts is about as bit as you want a crit group to get. Otherwise you're running a big risk of manuscript by committee, the kiss of death.

Of course, if you're really lucky, like A&A here, you don't need four. I love their "she said:she said" blog. Can't beat a good double act.

Thanks for the distraction today you guys. Can you tell I've got a book due Monday - ack!

doglady said...

LATE to the party AGAIN!!! Fabulous interview Anna and Annie. Sign me up for the Sheik Lovers' Club!!! Oded Fehr, Rudolph Valentino (hey, I like the strong silent type too!)Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia - THOSE EYES!) Now, as to critique partners - I am very fortunate in mine. Of course there are the Passion's Slaves (Hi Gillian!)They are a great group of ladies and always ask what kind of critique are you looking for and then try to deliver it. They will read the same chapter over and over if you ask. Then there is Sherry in Arizona. She won Chapter One of the Avon FanLit event. She and I have a deal. We HAVE to send each other five pages a week to crit. The person who fails to do so must buy the other one a tiara! It is a FanLit joke in the same vein as the GR (Do NOT Southern fry him, Jennifer!!) Then there are my two best friends, whom I call my Sisters! One writes YA and the other writes Regency. They are invaluable to me on a daily basis as they are constantly saying "What are you working on? Are you writing? Why NOT!!!) One is a wiz at grammar and logic. The other is a wiz at emotional and historically correct content. The thing all of these ladies have in common is this. They care enough about what I write to be brutally honest in the best possible way AND when I say I am keeping something they don't get huffy about it. I know of at least one occasion when Sister #1 said "They are going to hammer you for this alliteration." It was during the Avon Event. I gave it careful consideration and said "Screw 'em. I like it. It stays." That particular chapter won Chapter Three of the contest. I think a really great crit partner hears your voice, sometimes better than you do and helps you to write your best story. Oh and anyone who has NOT read UNTOUCHED yet WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR??? Adopt Gillian's plan - a cozy fire, a bottle of wine (Earl Gray did it for me) and prepare for one of the most satisfying romantic reads ever.

Robyn said...

Dear Both,
I'm shouldin on you. Yes, you should definitely blog together again.
The camaraderie between you is infectious, something that was obvious at the first workshop you did together.
And Anna, no, I don't think Annie should write about the 'legging' Pasha. There has been enough Pashering sailing off...
However, if you decide to go ahead with it, Annie, then I've first hand experience, from my Young Opera days but you'd better be quick. Wouldn't want a glass of fizz to intefere with my memory.

Aunty Cindy said...

Sorry to be so terribly LATE but could NOT pass up the opportunity to WELCOME ANNIE to the Lair!!!

I'm late because I just submitted my REVISED manuscript to my editor! YAY! (It was due the 15th but of course, Aunty will be cruising then.) And I NEVER would have made it, probably never would have SOLD the book without the help of my INCOMPARABLE CP! Yes, I mean YOU, Jo-Mama!

I've had good CPs and no-so-good ones. Some that started good but went bad... Whoever said CP relationships evolve AMEN! And sometimes not for the better. I had one who was a GREAT CP, until she sold. Suddenly she had "NO TIME" to critique my work because she "had deadlines!" But I was still expected to drop everything and critique a chapter or a partial or whatever she needed. Um.... I don't THINK so!

But like I said, Jo-Mama is THE GREATEST in the CP department! She is the GRAMMAR QUEEN and as for diction and word choice... she really COULD write the book, and SHOULD!

Again, SOOO glad to have you join us today Annie. You and Anna have a great thing going and I hope it lasts 4 EVAH!


Anne Gracie said...

The wonderful Trish Morey said:
"Anna and Annie, I'm so glad you guys found each other because we're the winners."
Found?? Found?? There was no 'finding" -- they were introduced to each other by some incredibly perspicacious, almost spookily psychic person--oh yes, that would be me! (modest blush)
And all right, I don't actually *remember* doing it, but I am assured I did, and hey, it was at a RWA cocktail party and there were several hundred people milling about and it was very dark, but still, I claim aaaallll credit for this truly brilliant pairing. ;)

Anna Campbell said...

Joan, sounds like D is happy where he is! Actually that's a really good point - I actually think one of the things that works FOR us is that we work in different genres. Keeps us fresh. Well, I'm fresh. I don't know about old AW!

Trish, quiet? I'm sorry, I can't say anything! I'm speechless ;-) Now, you get back to your deadline. I want another book of yours to read. I've got THE BOSS'S CHRISTMAS BABY in the TBR pile for Christmas and then I want another one. Chop, chop, TM! The fans are waiting ;-)

Hey, Pam, you have a Kritique Kennel! What a wonderful selection. Actually, I'm not surprised people want to work with you. I WANT TO WORK WITH YOU!!! And thank you for those lovely words about UNTOUCHED, my friend!

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Robyn, thanks for popping by! A glass of bubbly never hurts. In fact, I have a feeling Annie couldn't launch on pashing the pasha without some alcoholic fortification.

AC, congratulations on getting your edits in. I can't wait to read this book. I'm a sucker for a man with a brogue and I'm guessing that a mystery set in Ireland might feature one or two of those. Actually, I'm so happy about you and Jo Mama and Susan and Kirsten - it's amazing you all finalled in the GH at the same time so you could all become Banditas. Sort of fated somehow, huh? My wonderful CP was already burning up the halls at Harlequin Presents when I finalled in the GH or perhaps she might have joined us too.

AG, that was quite a fateful cocktail party apart from the fact that it cost me $40 and I got one lukewarm glass of champagne and one teeny weeny shortbread heart! Me? Remember a grudge? NEVAH! I distinctly remember meeting you - funny how fateful encounters can happen. You had just published your wonderful Sheriff contemporary comedy and were telling us about how you'd never been to Montana so went to Anne McAllister for local colour. I loved that book - I wouldn't swap your historicals for anything but I'd love you to write another contemporary comedy like that! It was absolutely hilarious!

Trish Morey said...

Anna wrote - AG, that was quite a fateful cocktail party apart from the fact that it cost me $40 and I got one lukewarm glass of champagne and one teeny weeny shortbread heart! Me? Remember a grudge? NEVAH!

AND one very exceptional cp! Methinks you got a bargain:-)

But yes, I agree, the world needs more Anne Gracie romantic comedies. Hey, the world needs more Anne Gracie books, period. And more AC's and more AW's come to think of it. What are you doing chatting? Get to work!

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, TM, methinks perhaps the world needs more TMs too. And you're right - lukewarm champagne? Shortbread heart? $40! One fantastic crit partner? Priceless. Could it be I'm quoting the MasterCard ad because it's Christmas and the poor thing is doing overtime? Thanks for coming over and playing with us, Madame Noodler!

Lily said...

I always have wondered how authors read a book only for their pleasure... I am sure the temptation must be intense... how do you let go and slide in the shoes of a simple reader (aka, not a writer)

Do you end up critiquing the book you are reading or even worse, wish that you had written a certain paragraph in that book or even worse, feel a bit jealous because the book you are reading is great and you wished to have written it!!

A very curious reader, who loves both your books! It is really nice that you are such great friends :)

Anna Campbell said...

Hi, Lily! That was lovely, thank you. As you can see, we tend to take the mickey out of each other but at base there's tremendous respect and fondness. Well, at least I hope so!

That turning off the internal editor when you read thing is a real problem! I find when I'm polishing a book, my brain is in such a groove of critiquing every word that I just can't read historical romance. I can read outside my genre - the further the better sometimes, like mysteries or nonfiction. Actually at such a time, nonfiction is my refuge. I think it appeals to a different part of my brain and the awful editor doesn't come out with her pen when I'm trying to relax and enjoy something. And I read stuff that makes me green with envy all the time. Which is great! Envy is another word for inspiration! When I read Christine's SCANDAL'S DAUGHTER in a competition, I went bright green, it was so good. I went green with envy when I read THE SMOKE THIEF by Shana Abe. I went green with envy when I read AND THEN HE KISSED HER by Laura Lee Guhrke. These are just examples but I'll stop now or I could go all night. Often I get envious when I read something that I knew I just couldn't do as well, no matter how I tried. But then, the world would be a boring place if every author had the same good qualities, wouldn't it? ;-)

Annie West said...

Gee, you go off for 5 minutes (well, a couple of hours) and look at all the posts!

Anna, you have your version of the meeting I have my version of the Wiltshire! Believe me, seeing you poke your head out from the kitchen brandishing a carving knife and with a manic gleam in your eye whenever I turned a page WAS scary.

Hi Joan. Nice to meet you. The 12 hour shifts sound just horrible. But your crit group of four sounds fab. Hm, wondering about your Demetrius though. Scared of a little Aussie accent? Obviously he's met the wrong sort of girls from down under (not looking at anyone in particular).

Trish, thanks for the 'good double act' comment. Much appreciated, especially since I've seen you and Yvonne Lindsay in action at the RWAus conference. That was such fun!


Annie West said...

Hi Doglady, great to hear from another sheik lover. Yes!!! to Peter O'Toole's eyes in Lawrance. Didn't that movie look just fantastic? Hm, wonder if I could write a blond sheik? No, no, no more sheik's for a while. I'm currently revising one and .... no!
Love the sound of Passion's Slaves. What a great name. It sounds like you've got the critiquing all sewn up.

Robyn, I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I certainly had fun, especially as Anna did all the hard work. There should be more of that, I feel. So if she's up for it I'd certainly blog together again. We might wait though till she's recovered. Did I tell you, CP, that you've done a great job?

Robyn, I'm intrigued by this first hand knowledge of yours - sounds fascinating.

Anne and Trish, yep, wasn't that a fabbo conference, despite the lack of bubbly at the cocktail party. (Note to people thinking of attending an Aus conference - this is NOT usually a problem). And yes, Anne, I'm suitably grateful for the intro. Talk about a lifechanging event! And yes, I remember the chat about your sheriff. When are you going to do another contemp comedy in between your historicals? Though if it means delaying your next historical, just forget it.


Annie West said...

Hi Aunty Cindy, thanks for the warm welcome and YAY to the revised ms sent to your editor. I'm so jealous. I shouldn't be here, I should be tackling the scrawl I've put all over chapter 11. I love it that you feel you wouldn't have sold your work without your CP. Anna and I feel like that too!

Hello, Lily. What a great question about trying to read for pleasure. I see Anna has already answered you. I'd just add that all the time I read books I wish I'd written. Several times I've offered Anna the job of writing my next one but she screams and runs away. It's fantastic to read something so good that you're not mentally editing, you're just reading. Bliss!

Thanks everyone for the truly warm welcome you've given me. It's been lots of fun. And I've thoroughly enjoyed your thoughts on how and when to CP or not.

Special thanks to Anna too. You're great, mate. Thanks for inviting me along and keeping me company!

Best wishes, everyone,

Anna Campbell said...

You're most welcome, Annie. Any time! Haven't we had fun today in the lair. Thanks, everybody, for a great day!!!

Anonymous said...

One last question please:

Anna and Annie,

Sorry to keep popping up interrupting you guys, from more important activities and people; but.

I have this question that bugs me in relation to critiquing and I suspect you guys know one (or two) version(s) of the answer.

Back when you were both want-to-be authors. How did you develop the personal confidence to say what was working and what wasn’t for each other? What I mean is. I will freely explain what works for me, but feel a little lacking when it comes to explaining what works for the rest of the world. So it’s hard to feel helpful for others. And, have you needed to alter your critique style to accommodate each other as you’ve grown into (towards) such wonderful authors?

(I know that’s two questions – four if you both count each other)

Thank you (in advance)

Eric (again (still))

Anna Campbell said...

Eric, that's a really good question. But basically this business is subjective - I bet you've read a book you thought was the best thing since sliced bread and other people have hated it. I think I'm saying you can't speak for the rest of the world. You can only speak for yourself. But hopefully there will be other readers out there who will respond as you do. What Annie and I had when we started working together was a lifetime of reading romance so we had an idea of what made a compelling story. At least as far as we ourselves were concerned.

I actually don't think I've radically changed my critiquing style although, as Annie so politely pointed out, I'm probably slightly blunter than I used to just because I trust Annie to take it in the spirit in which it was meant.

Annie, what do you think?

Caren Crane said...

Eric, I think Anna C hit it when she said you can only speak abut what works for you as a reader. Most writers read a lot and have definite tastes. As you learn more about technique things like Goal/Motivation/Conflict or POV, it's easier to tell someone why something didn't work for you.

The "why" is the key for me in a critique. If something isn't working, I study it until I can say, "The hero's action wasn't properly motivated" or "This seems out of character for the heroine". That sort of feedback is helpful, because it helps the writer see what s/he didn't get on the page. We usually know what we meant to convey, but it doesn't always get out there!

I think if you are worried about providing quality feedback, you are on the right track. Best of luck in your critiquing!

Annie West said...

Caren and Anna, excellent response to Eric's questions. You're so right, Caren, about needing to say why something doesn't work for you. That is the thing I as a writer always want to know. My approach to fixing the problem may not be the same as Anna's (though it often is) but if she can put her finger on what it is about the section that bother her then I've got something to build on.

Eric, all I can ever do is say what doesn't work well for me. That's a given. I can't second guess Anna's readers/editor/agent and so far she's never held that against me. As Anna said, this business is subjective. However, she also made the point that we'd read an awful lot of romance before we started critiquing so we had a reasonable idea of what works. So if you know the genre and think about why something isn't working, you can usually provide some useful feedback. Having said that I've been known to say to Anna that there's something in that para or page that just isn't quite working but I can't put my finger on it. She may reread and feel the same and if she doesn't that's fine.

I don't think we've changed our style of critiquing. As Anna says, I may be more inclined to go straight to the nub of the issue these days, as she does, but that's probably it.

Best of luck with your own critiquing.


Anonymous said...

Thank you ‘guys’ --- The wisdom and professionalism you freely offer is miles ahead of what’s available in the bar at the local RSL.

Anna and Annie, if I even grow up I want to be just like you.
Thank you ‘guys’ --- The wisdom and professionalism you freely offer is miles ahead of what’s available in the bar at the local RSL.

Anna and Annie, if I even grow up I want to be just like you.

Caren firstly I apologize for ignoring you earlier, if you were in that bar room, I know the quality and tone of the place would be immediately obvious. I looked you up. You have fuelled my passionate desire (addiction) to form an opinion about an author’s creation. You’ve received a cyber ear tag; there is a small corner of a foreign bookshelf waiting for a sensible editor. (A good ‘C’ is so rare to find (here)).

I’m beholden to you (three).